23 November 2004

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University

Clair H. Hershey, Editor


1.01  The Father of Rice Revolution: Dr Gurdev Singh Khush
1.02  The Next Green Revolution
1.03  The Global Crop Diversity Trust enters into force
1.04  Consultation on proposed amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act of Canada
1.05  India's new patent regime may pose challenges to farm sector
1.06  Plants and Intellectual Property: An International Appraisal
1.07  Wheat, maize and food security
1.08  Conventional plant breeding in US Senate draft appropriations bill
1.09  Brazilian farmers will be allowed to plant genetically modified soybeans
1.10  China could release GMO rice as early next year
1.11  Transgenic crop planting area in China approaches 3 million hectares
1.12  ICRISAT 'harnesses biotech for the poor'
1.13  AgBioForum special issue: Progress, achievements and constraints for plant biotechnology in developing countries
1.14  Invitation to support an open letter to DG of FAO
1.15  Fortified Food: Complex Regulatory Issues Make It A Distant Dream
1.16  Scottish Crop Research Institute scientists boost potato carotenoid levels almost 6 fold
1.17  Warning issued on GM maize imported to Mexico
1.18  U.S. calls NAFTA Environmental Report "flawed, unscientific"
1.19  CGIAR draft guidelines for GMO detection in genebanks
1.20  Sterile male potatoes 'make GM field trials safe'
1.21  Fungus resistance genes found in tomatoes
1.22  Possible aphid resistance in soy traced to gene
1.23  USDA confirms soybean rust in United States
1.24  Defense mechanisms in some plants believed bred out by humans
1.25  Scientists using DNA to detect pathogens on seeds - New method will be much quicker and more accurate than existing techniques
1.26  Understanding how plants silence their attackers
1.27  Gene found to help soybeans repel aphids
1.28  Key Plant Enzyme Defends Against Multiple Infections
1.29  Eco-friendly disc to store data on corn
1.30  New Way to Boost Grain Crops Drought Tolerance
1.31  Precision breeding: a new genetic technique providing international opportunities for crop improvement
1.32  Conversion of flower organs into leaves
1.33  Researchers can cross non-interbreeding plants
1.34  Aluminium tolerance gene from wheat will accelerate the development of crops that can handle soil acidity problem
1.35  Researchers uncover how infections combat plant immune responses
1.36  Gene exchange between species is aided by parasitism
1.37  Latin American potato network to help Africa and Asia
1.38  Strengthening Agricultural Research in Africa
1.39  Harnessing the power of partnership in wheat improvement
1.40  National Barley Breeding Program to be created in Australia
1.41  Update 10-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews
1.42  Update 11-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.01  Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientists View of Genetically Modified Foods
2.02  Maintaining the genetic integrity of CIMMYT seed collections: new maize and wheat gene bank operations manual

3.01 Overhauled site for
3.02 The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter
3.03 Manihot illustrations available
4.01 (None posted)





1.01  The Father of Rice Revolution: Dr Gurdev Singh Khush

Dr Khush is one of the global leaders on crop breeding and a major brain behind the development of productive rice varieties and the Green Revolution in plant breeding. Born in the
village of Rurkee in Punjab, this son of a farmer finished his Bachelor of Science from Punjab Agriculture University and went to University of California, Davis, to do his PhD. He in fact worked as a laborer in a canning factory in England to earn his money to go to America. At the age of 25, Dr Khush completed his PhD in genetics in less than three years after joining the University of California. In 1967, Dr Khush joined the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Manila and he was there till 2000 and since the past few years he has been with University of California, Davis, as adjunct professor.

Dr Khush, who joined the IRRI after postdoctoral studies on tomato breeding, became principal plant breeder and head of the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biochemistry Division, and took IRRI to the vanguard of developing 300 new rice varieties and trigger the green revolution in
Asia. Dr Khush may not be a household name. But his rice varieties touch the lips of every person in Asia. In the last 35 years, he and his team at IRRI in Manila introduced several varieties like IR8, IR36, IR64 and IR72. IRRI rice varieties and their progenies are planted in over 70 percent of the world's rice-fields. The rice production around the world in 1966 was close to 257 million tonnes and today it has increased to over 700 million tonnes.

Source: BioSpectrum (
India), via AgBioView
5 October 2004

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1.02  The Next Green Revolution

Africa is hungry and Americans would like to help. But we've been helping the wrong way - by providing emergency food aid rather than enabling African farmers to produce more food. Last year the United States generously gave $500 million of emergency food aid to Ethiopia to help people survive the drought year. And how much did we provide to African farmers to help them be more productive over the long run? A small fraction of that amount - $4 million.

As a result of the Green Revolution in the 1960's, 70's and 80's, crop yields soared in
India, China and Latin America, enabling them to break free of extreme hunger and recurrent famine. Indeed, these agricultural changes allowed countries like China and India to become the emerging markets they are today.

Africa - which stretches from the southern edge of the Sahara to the Limpopo River on the border of South Africa - is finally ready for its own Green Revolution. Crop yields there are miniscule, an average of 1,500 pounds of cereals per acre compared with 2,300 pounds in India and 4,900 pounds in China.

For better harvests,
Africa's farmers need four things: nutrients for the soil, which can be provided by both mineral and organic fertilizers; small-scale irrigation and technologies for collecting rainwater; sturdier, higher-yield seeds; and a corps of master farmers, trained in up-to-date agricultural techniques, who could be posted in villages and would be able to provide advice. By introducing these measures, Africans could triple food production by 2015.

Unlike the Green Revolution of the 60's, an African Green Revolution doesn't have to be based on technologies and practices that hurt the environment. Land can be reclaimed not only through appropriate fertilization but through more environmentally sensitive techniques. For starters, there's agro-forestry, which involves planting trees that replenish the soil with nutrients like nitrogen. Farmers could also learn low-till or no-till farming techniques and be encouraged to plant pest-tolerant crops, which would cut down on insecticide and pesticide use.

What's more, small-scale irrigation projects like ones under way in northern Ethiopia can bring water to parched areas more effectively and economically than the large, expensive dam projects of old. Finally, after soil and water are taken care of, biotechnology can help, by fortifying African food crops against droughts and pests, and by increasing the nutritional content of staple foods.

A rise in crop yields would do more than end hunger. Raising the productivity of Africa's villages would also raise the status of the women on the continent. Women do much of the farming in Africa today, growing 80 percent of the food there - and they work mostly without tools or modern technologies. If farming was easier, women would be freer to find work off the farm, more girls would be able to stay in school and children would have better food to eat. History has shown that women's empowerment in turn leads to lower population growth and to advances in children's health and education. In addition, using locally grown foods in feeding programs for infants and children will generate additional demand, helping African agriculture to strengthen itself.

Given the possible rewards of African renewal, the price tag is small. Key investments on the order of $50 per person per year in tropical African villages would put the continent on the path to long-term sustainable development. Additional annual aid from the developed world might therefore be around $25 billion, a small fraction of what we spend over the long run on emergency food aid, disease epidemics and fighting terrorism and violence in failed states.

If we take these simple steps - and promote good governance in African countries - the continent has the potential to go from basket case to trading partner. A sign I saw at a Florida bait shop says it all: "Give people a fish and they will eat for a day; teach people how to fish and they will eat for their lifetime and ...they will buy fishing equipment."

Pedro Sanchez, a 2004 MacArthur fellow, directs the Tropical Agriculture Program of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Source: New York Times, via AgBioView
6 October 2004

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1.03  The Global Crop Diversity Trust enters into force

Rome, Italy - -The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an initiative to conserve in perpetuity the Earth's most crucial agricultural biodiversity, entered into force on 21 October 2004 as an independent international organization.

-Link to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization:
-Link to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
-Link to International Plant Genetic Resources Institute  (IPGRI)
-Link to the Global Crop Diversity Trust:

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1.04  Consultation on proposed amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act of Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched an internet-based public consultation on proposed amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act. A consultation discussion paper is available for review on the CFIA Web site at

Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) is a form of intellectual property rights that provides plant breeders with exclusive rights to produce and sell propagating material, e.g. seed, cuttings, etc., of their new plant varieties. Amendments to the PBR Act are necessary for Canada to ratify the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Canada is one of 57 countries which are members of UPOV, including the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan. The PBR Act is administered in Canada by the CFIA.

The issues presented in the discussion paper include, among others:
-extending the minimum period of variety protection;
-extending rights to include cleaning, exporting and importing propagating material of a variety;
-allowing one year of sale of a variety prior to application;
-allowing commerical sales of a variety under interim protection while the application is pending; and
-exceptions to the breeders right (e.g. farmers' right to save seed for their own use, and the use of protected varieties for plant breeding and research)
The consultation discussion paper was prepared in consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's PBR Advisory Committee, which assists in the application of the PBR Act. The Advisory Committee includes representatives of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Seed Growers' Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Horticultural Council, Flowers Canada, and the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation.

All comments received during the 60-day consultation period will be reviewed and considered in assessing the feasibility of proceeding with amendments to the PBR Act.

8 November 2004

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1.05  India's new patent regime may pose challenges to farm sector

India is set to amend its Patent Act, 1970 for the third time with a view to meet its commitments to WTO by January 1, 2005. The amendments are proposed to be consistent to the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS - 1994).

Patent Act, 1970 was amended for the first time in 1999 and for the second time in 2002 which came into effect from May 20, 2003. The third amendment is slated to provide patent product regime in pharmaceuticals, food and chemicals, including agro-chemicals. Granting patent rights over micro-organisms, microbiological and non-biological processes for production of plants and animals are also likely to be covered under the third amendment.

Though India opted for sui generis system for protection of varieties and enacted a law for the purpose, it is likely that the transgenic seeds developed through human intervention may be covered under the new patent regime. The biotech industry in the country is eager to seek such a protection citing Article 27 of the TRIPS agreement. The TRIPS agreement has stipulated three criteria for patent rights namely novelty, inventive step and utility. In tune with Article 27, the second amendment to the Patent Act effected from May 20, 2003 has inserted a new definition of invention which reads : invention means new product or process involving an inventive step and capable of industrial applications.Though the second amendment has excluded plants from the patent regime, it says that biotechnological processes to develop unique plants can be covered under patents.

Keeping in view the past events and likely developments in the near future, the upcoming third amendment to the Patent Act may, therefore, pose new challenges before the farm sector. In this context, the policymakers has a duty to ensure that several protections given to farmers like for saving seeds for the next season under the Plant Varieties Protection & Farmers Rights Act are not diluted. Similarly the community rights ensured under National Biodiversity Act should not be ignored. The challenge, therefore, before the government is to develop a holistic view of the entire intellectual property rights (IPR) regime in the country. The second amendment to the Patent Act has a provision for disclosure of the geographical origin of the biological material and notifying certain depositories for biological inventions.

The TRIPS agreement has not defined micro-organisms and microbiological processes. Here the question is whether the micro-organisms existing freely are patentable or their mere isolation in pure form are patentable or human intervention in establishing a level of novelty in the discovered micro-organism is needed for patenting. The USPTO verdict of the case Diamond vs Chakraborty in 1980 establishes that human intervention leading to a novelty in expression can be patented. It says : respondent's mico-organism plainly qualifies as patentable subject matter. His claims is not to a hitherto unknown natural phenomenon, but to a non-naturally occurring manufacture or composition of matter - a product of human ingenuity having a distinctive name, character and use... His discovery is not nature's handiwork, but his own...

Next question is whether a product produced by a micro-organism which is known can be patentable or the process is patentable. In absence of clear definition of micro-organism and micro-biological process in the TRIPS agreement, the country's policymakers need to drawn a distinctive line between the product of human intervention leading to novelty and those freely occurring in nature.

Claims in gene patent applications may pertain to genes or partial DNA sequences, proteins encoded by these genes, vectors used for transfer of genes, genetically modified micro-organisms, cells, plants and animals and the process of developing a transgenic product. These may lead to multiple rights owned by multiple actors called patent thickets over a final product. Hence there are problems of not only patent thickets, but also of royalty stacking and reach-trough claims. Reach-through claims are research tool patents such as patents on markers, assays, receptors, transgenic animals. Reach-trough claims results in royalty stacking. These complexities need to be resolved so that the farmers does not end up paying heavy sum in royalty.

The food sector in the country will also have to face new challenges in the new patent regime.

Different processes and products will become patentable. There is, therefore, a need to document all the traditional processes as well as products with a view to reduce the number of controversies over claims for patent rights.

Source: Financial Express via
10 November 2004

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1.06 Plants and Intellectual Property: An International Appraisal

The journal Science has just published an article on intellectual property rights and their impact on agriculture in developing countries. The lead author is IFPRI research fellow Bonwoo Koo.

"Plants and Intellectual Property: An International Appraisal"


Much of the debate on the implications of intellectual property (IP) for protecting plant varieties occurs in the absence of an understanding of the specifics of the rights in particular jurisdictions, a practical sense of the rights claimed or granted, and their evolution over time. Moreover, existing information highlights rich-country developments, with little attention to developing countries. This Policy Forum reviews the approaches to plant-related IP protection worldwide, with data on the applications of plant breeders' rights, and discusses possible implications of IP protection for food production and human health.

The briefs are available for download in PDF format as an entire document or by individual brief.

Entire Set of Six Briefs
(PDF 1.6MB)

Brief 1: Policy, National Regulation, and International Standards for GM Foods
by Peter W. B. Phillips
(PDF 72K)

Brief 2: Biotechnology, Trade, and Hunger
by Eugenio Díaz-Bonilla and Sherman Robinson
(PDF 57K)

Brief 3: Intellectual Property and Developing Countries: Freedom to Operate in Agricultural Biotechnology
by Philip G. Pardey, Brian D. Wright, Carol Nottenburg, Eran Binenbaum, and Patricia Zambrano
(PDF 93K)

Brief 4: Accessing Other People's Technology
by Carol Nottenburg, Philip G. Pardey, and Brian D. Wright
(PDF 92K)

Brief 5: Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights: Developing Countries, Agricultural Biotechnology, and the TRIPs Agreement
by Konstantinos Giannakas
(PDF 66K)

Brief 6: Conserving Genetic Resources for Agriculture: Counting the Cost
by Bonwoo Koo, Philip G. Pardey, and Brian D.Wright
(PDF 94K)

For more information on this subject from IFPRI:

November 19, 2004

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1.07  Wheat, maize and food security

The International Maize and Wheat improvement Centre (CIMMYT) promotes research on wheat and maize to increase food security in developing countries.

In this article, Masaru Iwanaga, CIMMYT's director-general, discusses the importance of pushing research on the two cereals further, and of setting up appropriate regulatory frameworks for genetically modified wheat and maize crops.

Iwanaga describes the technological challenges that agricultural researchers face, the role the private sector plays in bringing improved crops to poor farmers, and how to overcome the public controversy surrounding genetically modified crops. On this last point, he says biosafety regulations that are the same across national borders are of key importance.

Link to the full IFPRI Forum article

29 October 2004

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1.08  Conventional plant breeding in US Senate draft appropriations bill

Competitive Research Grants.--The Committee supports the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program [NRI] and provides funding of $183,000,000 for the program, an increase of $18,973,000 from the fiscal year 2004 level. The Committee includes a general provision to make 20 percent of these funds available for a program under the same terms and conditions as those provided in Section 401 of the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998.

The Committee remains determined to see that quality research and enhanced human resources development in the agricultural and related sciences be a nationwide commitment. Therefore, the Committee continues its direction that not less than 10 percent of the competitive research grant funds be used for USDA's agricultural research enhancement awards program (including USDA-EPSCoR), in accordance with 7 U.S.C. 450i.

(The following section by AMT)

Classical research.The committee notes the substantial increase in public and private sector research related to genomics, genetics, and other breakthrough biotechnology developments. However, this shift in emphasis has resulted in a decline in classical research in the animal and plant sciences. The committee encourages the department, especially in the establishment of priorities within the national research initiative, to give consideration to research needs related to classical plant and animal breeding.

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

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1.09  Brazilian farmers will be allowed to plant genetically modified soybeans

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva was cited as approving a controversial executive order late Thursday allowing farmers, just as the planting season in the world's second-largest soy producer goes into high gear. The story says that the measure, published in an official government newspaper Friday was contested by environmentalists, who want to keep Brazil's ban on genetically modified crops because of fears they harm the environment. The story says that the move was a victory for agriculture biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., which needed the order to collect royalties from Brazilian farmers who use cloned or smuggled versions of the company's popular Roundup Ready seeds to cut production costs. The story explains that after losing profits for years from widespread illicit use of genetically modified soy seeds in Brazil, U.S.-based Monsanto started collecting the royalties last year when a similar executive order was passed. Greenpeace was cited as stating that Silva's government for again finding a way to legalize a crop banned in 2000, adding, "It is a sign of disrespect to Brazilian society to allow a variety of GM to continue being cultivated that hasn't passed an adequate environmental review." The story adds that experts estimate about 30 percent of Brazil's soy is grown with genetically engineered seeds, but the figure is near 90 percent in Brazil's southernmost state, where the seeds were first introduced in the 1990s after being smuggled in from neighboring countries with no bans on them.

Source: Associated Press, October 15, 2004
Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

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1.10  China could release GMO rice as early next year

China, the world's top producer and consumer of rice, could release its genetically modified rice as early as next year, as pressure mounts to boost domestic production and spur farmer income.

China has long been seen as the pioneer in GMO rice, while the plant has slipped off the priority lists of Western private researchers who have focused their efforts on other commodities such as soybeans, corn, cotton or wheat.

"This technology is more or less ready for commercialisation," Jikun Huang, a director of the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Science, told Reuters.

"You cannot hold it back too long when you have invested a lot of money. It would boost Chinese agricultural productivity and increase farmers' income," he said from Beijing.

Scientists in China believe Beijing is likely to give the green light for commercialisation of insect and disease-resistant GMO rice as soon as next year after more than six years of trials.

The move would be in stark contrast to Monsanto Co's decision in June to halt controversial plans to introduce the world's first GMO wheat in Canada and the United States

An official at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing declined to elaborate but said field studies would take at least a year and there was no timetable set for the commercialization.

Greenpeace is already concerned about China's next move, however.

 "GMO rice poses risks to human health and irreversible environmental threats," said Greenpeace spokesman Sze Pang Cheung.

"It can reproduce and interbreed with natural organisms, spreading to new environments and future generations in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way," he said in a statement.


China is already the world's top grower of insect resistant GMO cotton, known as bacillus thuringiensis cotton, which has been effective in controlling damage from the bollworm pest.

Dayuan Xue, professor at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, is concerned about GMO rice after studying the environmental impact of BT cotton in China.

He fears GMO rice pollen could contaminate the other 75,000 conventional rice varieties in China, the birthplace of rice.

"We are concerned about the commercialisation," he said. "The gene-flow is a problem and it is dangerous."

Pressure to launch GMO rice comes at a time when Beijing faces a tough task in raising the country's grain output and in narrowing the income gap between farmers and urban citizens.

After 2003 grain production slid to 435 million tonnes from 457 million tonnes the previous year and a record 512 million in 1998, Beijing is encouraging farmers to grow more grain, such as rice or wheat.

China's 2004 rice crop is expected to rise to about 180 million tonnes from about 161 million last year, the lowest since 1994. The output is helped by many farmers in the south resuming growing early rice, but China still has a supply deficit of about 10 million tonnes.

Some pro-GMO scientists believe biotechnology could really help Beijing's efforts to boost production if it allows hybrid rice varieties, including BT rice, cowpea trypsin inhibitor gene rice and disease resistant Xa21 rice.

Huang said field trials in Hunan and Fujian provinces showed GMO rice boosted yields by 4 to 8 percent, and allowed an 80 percent drop in pesticide use, he said.
"I estimate if China commercialises GMO rice now, by the year 2010 China can gain nearly $4 billion per year," he said. "Consumers also get benefits. When production rises, prices drop ... half of the benefit would go to consumers."

Huang estimated China has spent 1.6 billion yuan ($193 million) on biotech research in 2003 - double the figure three years earlier, with 200 million yuan going on rice. But Xue was not as convinced

"Benefits would not be so big," he said. "The rice bollworm is a problem in some provinces of China but not everywhere." (Additional reporting by Niu Shuping in Beijing).

Source: Reuters via

19 October 2004

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1.11  Transgenic crop planting area in China approaches 3 million hectares

The acreage planted to transgenic crops in China has increased sharply since 1998 to reach nearly 3 million hectares by the end of 2003.

Most countries and areas in the world now plant transgenic crops, of which the United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil and China rank forefront.

According to Luo Yunbo, president of the Food College of the Chinese University of Agricultural Sciences, the main transgenic crops in China are cotton, sweet pepper, tomato and animal microorganism. At present, about 90 percent of the cotton crop is from transgenic plants.

The transgenic crop planting areas mainly locate in East China's Anhui Province, Beijing, North China's Hebei Province, central China's Henan Province, southeast China's Fujian Province and East China's Jiangsu Province.

Recently, China has formulated 25 transgenic crop test standards and safety evaluation standards, and 15 more are being formulated. China will also build 42 transgenic crop test institutions. The National Agricultural Transgenic Plants Safety Office was established in 2001, responsible for transgenic food safety.

Source: Xinhua News Agency via
1 November 2004

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1.12  ICRISAT 'harnesses biotech for the poor'

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in Hyderabad, India, is using biotechnological tools to improve the performance of orphan and poor man's crops like groundnut, pearl millet, chickpea, and pigeonpea. Dr. Farid Waliyar, head of the biotechnology program at ICRISAT, told South Asia journalists attending a media workshop that transgenic work is being done only for major and widely distributed stresses, and when no sources of resistance are available in cultivated germplasm.

Waliyar enumerated ICRISAT's biotech research projects, among them being  enhanced drought tolerance of mandated crops; improved crop resistance to pests (shoot fly, stem borer, Striga in cereals; pod borers in legumes); increased crop resistance to viral, bacterial, and fungal plant pathogens; better food, feed, and fodder quality plus efficient hybrid seed production systems; and more efficient conservation and utilization of germplasm resources.

Dr. Kiran Sharma, head of the transformation laboratory, reported that the first ICRISAT transgenics are now in contained field trials. These are groundnut transgenics with resistance to the Indian peanut clump virus, and pigeonpea transgenics for legume pod borer. For more information on ICRISAT's work on transgenic crops, email Kiran Sharma at 

Source: Crop Biotech Update,
October 15, 2004
Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

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1.13  AgBioForum special issue: Progress, achievements and constraints for plant biotechnology in developing countries

Guest editors: Nigel Taylor, Lawrence Kent, and Claude Fauquet Volume 7, Number 1 & 2, 2004

Preface: Continuing the Effort - R.N. Beachy

Plant Biotechnology in Asia - R.A. Hautea & M. Escaler

The Status of Plant Biotechnology in Africa - J.A. Thomson

Agricultural Applications of Biotechnology and the Potential for Biodiversity Valorization in Latin America and the Caribbean - W. Roca, C. Espinoza, & A. Panta

Prospects for Bt Cotton Technology in India - R.B. Barwale, V.R. Gadwal, U. Zehr, & B. Zehr

Global Impact of Insect-Resistant (Bt) Cotton - J.P. Purcell & F.J. Perlak

Rice Biotechnology: A Need for Developing Countries - S.K. Datta

Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond - D. Gonsalves

The Potato Story - W.K. Kaniewski & P.E. Thomas

The Challenges and Potential for Future Agronomic Traits in Soybeans - T. Conner, E.H. Paschal, A. Barbero, & E. Johnson

Progress and Challenges for the Deployment of Transgenic Technologies in Cassava - N. Taylor, L. Kent, & C. Fauquet

Transgenic Cotton in Mexico - G. Traxler & S. Godoy-Avila

What's the Holdup? Addressing Constraints to the Use of Plant Biotechnology in Developing Countries - L. Kent

Consumer Acceptance of Genetically Modified Food Products in the

Developing World - K.R. Curtis, J.J. - McCluskey, & T.I. Wahl

Social Constraints on Crop Biotechnology in Developing Countries - G.D. Stone

Why We Partner: Collaborations Between the Private and Public Sectors for Food Security and Poverty Alleviation through Agricultural Biotechnology - R. Horsch & J. Montgomery

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1.14  Invitation to support an open letter to DG of FAO

The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research has taken the initiative of writing an open letter to the DG of FAO in support of a recent report that this organization has produced on agricultural biotechnology. Up to now this letter has been subscribed by almost 700 scientists (economists and biologists ).The letter and the list of current signatories can be found at the following web page: We are still collecting supporting signatures.

From this page it can be downloaded also the FAO's Report on biotech (Sosa 2003 - 2004).

Prof. Vittorio Santaniello
Department of Economics and Institutions
University of Rome " Tor Vergata "
Via Columbia 2
00133, Rome

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1.15  Fortified Food: Complex Regulatory Issues Make It A Distant Dream

Biofortified foods research in the country might see the fruits only after a decade. It might be a distant dream to have fortified foods for the poor. Complex regulatory issues are among the reasons behind the delay, experts say.

While the agenda is indeed to provide food to the poor, having the tools of biotechnology through tissue culture, marker-assisted selection, comparative and functional genomics and genetic engineering, which are the inevitable waves of the future, it might take long before it fructifies, according to Dr KK Sharma, scientist, at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT). There were many issues in plant genetic engineering which were yet to be discussed, he said.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), in coordination with the Directorate of Rice Research, along with few state agricultural universities is working to develop Golden Rice containing higher levels of Beta Carotene targeting Vitamin A deficiency among the masses.

Under the HarvestPlus programme, ICRISAT has also proposed to work on edible vaccines for rabies and Vitamin A for improving Beta Carotene levels in groundnut and improving sulphur amino acids in pigeonpea.The research aimed to make not only "Golden Rice", but also Golden Mustard and Golden Peanuts, he said.

Highlighting transgenics, Dr Sharma pointed out the next generation of transgenic crops will be marker-free transgenic plants, plant-based vaccines, enhanced nutritional content, plant-derived plastics and polymers, besides controlled gene expressions.

While agricultural biotechnology has the potential to reduce levels of natural toxins in plants, provide simpler and faster ways to identify and remove pathogens and increase food supply to support growing world population and decreasing agricultural space, Dr Sharma also cautions on the risk assessment of transgenics. There has to be precision in plant breeding, which will take care of deploying transgenics else the risks might be very high, he said.

Dr Sharma informed that some of the bottlenecks are lack of efficient protocols for transformation and genomics, availability of novel genes and effective promoters, lack of scientists, research facilities and lack of proper biosafety regulations in most developing countries of Asia and Africa.

Source: Financial Express (India), via AgBioView
12 Oct 2004

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1.16 Scottish Crop Research Institute scientists boost potato carotenoid levels almost 6 fold

Invergowrie, Scotland
Various fruits and vegetables are attractive to consumers due to their eye-catching colours. The idea that some of these self-same colours might be indicators of health giving or protective properties is being studied at the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

The red, orange and yellow colours of fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, citrus fruits, peppers and tomatoes are mainly due to pigments called carotenoids

Carotenoids are believed to protect against cancer, heart disease and deterioration of eyesight in the aged. More than 250 million people mostly in the third world are deficient in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, increasing risks of child blindness, immune problems and other serious conditions. Potatoes are eaten daily by millions worldwide, yet the vast majority of varieties have zero or very low levels of carotenoids, hence the white or very pale yellow colouration.

A scientific paper just published in the Journal of Experimental Botany describes how scientists at SCRI have used biotechnology to boost potato carotenoid levels almost 6 fold, increasing the amount of beta-carotene to levels higher than in Golden Rice which is also being developed to aid nutrient deficiencies in the third world.

SCRI scientists hope to transfer improvements in the nutritional fortificationof potato to developing countries if a multi million dollar bid to the Bill and Melinda Gates Global Challenge in Human Health Programme is successful.

Professor Howard Davies, one of the co-ordinators of a European Commissions SAFE FOODS consortium and leader of the Gates Foundation bid said Where potato is an important staple crop nutritional  enhancement will provide major benefits.  This is not always possible using traditional breeding approaches. However, it is up to individual developing countries to decide how to use the technologies.

Dr Mark Taylor, the research leader for this project at SCRI, said This development is a breakthrough and shows the potential we have to use biotechnology to improve levels of important nutrients in a staple part of our diet.

Publication details of the scientific paper:
Metabolic engineering of high carotenoid potato tubers containing enhanced levels of beta-carotene and lutein.
Laurence J.M. Ducreux, Wayne L. Morris, Peter E. Hedley, Tom Shepherd, Howard V. Davies, Steve Millam and Mark A. Taylor  (2004)
JXB Advance Access published on November 8, 2004 doi:10.1093/jxb/eri016

November 15, 2004

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1.17  Warning issued on GM maize imported to Mexico

Genes from genetically modified (GM) maize imported into Mexico from the United States have entered local varieties, are likely to spread, and will be very difficult to remove, according to a major report released this week.

It says that while there is no evidence that the genes pose threats to human health or the environment, action should be taken to reduce the risk of them spreading and to conserve the biodiversity of maize varieties in Mexico.

The report was released on Monday (08 November) by the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), which was set by the North American Free Trade Agreement and reports to the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States. The CEC estimates that 25-30 per cent of maize imported into Mexico for human or animal consumption is genetically modified. It warns that small-scale farmers could experimentally plant the grain that government agencies have distributed to rural communities. The resulting plants could then pollinate local varieties growing nearby.

Any genes transferred in this way could persist indefinitely if they are beneficial or neutral to the local varieties and their removal "is likely to be very difficult and may in fact be impossible", says the report.

However, it notes that it is unlikely that the transfer of a small number of individual genes have any "major biological effect" on the genetic diversity of Mexican maize. It goes on to say that transgenic maize did not appear to have any effect on other plants and animals such as insects found in Mexican maize fields, but that specific studies have still to be conducted.

The CEC's 16-member panel which includes a former executive of the Monsanto company and the chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science made a series of unanimous recommendations.

The panel said transgenic maize imported to Mexico should be labelled, and milled at the point of entry to prevent genes from spreading to native varieties. The genetic modification of maize to produce pharmaceuticals or industrial compounds that are incompatible with food and feed should also be prohibited, they say.

Efforts to protect Mexican maize varieties should be supported, according to the CEC. To this end it recommends the development of a quality assured seed programme from which farmers could not only acquire seeds but could also have their own seeds tested for presence of foreign genes.

In a joint statement issued in response to the CEC report, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Trade Representative called the report "fundamentally flawed and unscientific".

"Key recommendations are not based on sound science, and are contradicted by the report's own scientific findings," says the statement. "Implementing many of the report's recommendations would cause economic harm to farmers and consumers in all NAFTA countries and restrict international trade."

10 November 2004

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1.18 U.S. calls NAFTA Environmental Report "flawed, unscientific"

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,Washington, D.C.
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative,Washington, D.C.
Joint statement
November 8, 2004
Washington, D.C. -- (November 8, 2004)

The United States issued the following Administration statement regarding the Secretariat of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) report on genetically modified maize (corn) "Maize and Biodiversity: The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico" released today. The Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Trade Representative issued this joint statement.

"This report is fundamentally flawed and unscientific; key recommendations are not based on sound science, and are contradicted by the report's own scientific findings. The authors acknowledge that no economic analysis of their recommendations was conducted, and that many of these recommendations are based solely on socio-cultural considerations.

"While the report's authors recommend that biotech maize be treated differently from other modern maize hybrids, science tells us the opposite. In fact, the findings of this report echo the prevailing science, supporting our view that biotech maize will have no greater or lesser effect on maize genetic diversity than other modern maize hybrids.

"The report also fails to consider the potential benefits of biotechnology. As the national science academies of Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China and India noted in a joint report, 'GM technology should be used to increase the production of main food staples, improve the efficiency of production, reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and provide access to food for small-scale farmers.' Biotechnology offers the world enormous opportunities to combat hunger and protect the environment.
"Implementing many of the report's recommendations would cause economic harm to farmers and consumers in all NAFTA countries and restrict international trade. For example, requiring U.S. corn exports to Mexico to be milled at the border would increase the cost of U.S. corn significantly, negatively affecting Mexico's livestock producers and consumers. Milling corn before transport also raises quality concerns and increases shipping costs, exacerbating the problem. Perhaps most troubling, the report itself acknowledges that this and other recommendations would do nothing to preserve maize biodiversity.

"We are disappointed that this report was leaked before the United States, Canada or Mexico had a full opportunity to review it, and that a member of the Advisory Group spoke publicly about the report before its official release. The final report was delivered to the Parties on Sept. 14. We take these issues seriously and have been using the designated 60-day review guideline to develop a thoughtful response which would ensure that the public is fully informed of the nature of the recommendations in this report. Some have suggested the United States sought to delay or obstruct its release. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather the United States and other Parties were simply adhering to the review procedures associated with reports of this nature. While we disagree with many aspects of the report, we believe that our substantive response will set the record straight on this issue."

Source: AgBioView
9 November 2004

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1.19 CGIAR draft guidelines for GMO detection in genebanks

The Genetic Resources Policy Committee (GRPC) and the Science Council of the CGIAR organized the workshop Technical issues associated with the development of CGIAR policies to address the possibility of adventitious presence of transgenes in CGIAR ex situ collections from 30 August-1 September 2004 in Rome, Italy.

The meeting was attended by technical experts from within and outside the Future Harvest centers, including CIMMYT. Representatives of all stakeholders, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the private sector, NGOs and farmers were also invited. They explored ways and means to handle the unintentional presence of transgenes in germplasm collections, with the goal of providing technical inputs into a process that would enable each of the Future Harvest Centre genebanks to draw up procedures aimed at preventing the unintentional introgression of transgenes into the collections.
Based on the technical information from the workshop, the Genetic Resources Policy Committee drew up the draft guidelines. These draft guidelines are being circulated widely for further consultation and input by all stakeholders, with the expectation that a final version will be issued before April 2005. The individual Future Harvest genebanks of the CGIAR will then use the guidelines to draw up their policies.

CIMMYT has already implemented additional testing and other measures to address concerns about transgenes and its germplasm collections. Most recently, CIMMYT produced an updated operations manual, to further enhance and strengthen the collection and screening activities of its genebanks.

Click here to see CGIAR draft guidelines for GMO detection in gene banks.

Source: CIMMYT news via
November 2004

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1.20 Sterile male potatoes 'make GM field trials safe'

A genetically modified (GM) variety of potato able to resist a major crop pest does not threaten other organisms, and because the plants produce no viable pollen is unlikely to pass genes to related varieties, according to research published yesterday (11 November) in Nature.

The researchers, led by Howard Atkinson at the University of Leeds, UK, say their method ensures biosafety without challenging the value of the precautionary approach to the introduction of GM crops in regions where many closely related species exist. The precautionary approach could, according to the Nuffield Centre of Bioethics, prevent poor farmers and consumers in developing countries from reaping the potential benefits of modified crops.

Atkinson and colleagues in Bolivia, Peru, and The Netherlands inserted a gene from rice into potatoes to protect them from a microscopic nematode worm that causes tens of millions of dollars of damage in Andean countries by reducing crop yields.

The gene produces a protein cystatin that interferes with the nematode's ability to digest protein in its diet. By ensuring that the gene is only active in potato roots and not the part of the plant above ground, or the potato tuber itself, the researchers minimised its potential for interaction with non-target species.

The gene would therefore not enter the human food chain, although cystatins already occur in the human diet in rice and maize and are also present in saliva, so are considered unlikely to pose risks to human health.

By comparing the insects and microbes associated with GM potatoes, non-GM potatoes and other non-GM crops, the researchers showed that the addition of the rice gene had no more effect on non-target organisms than common agricultural practices such as choice of crop.

However, they found that pollen from GM potatoes can spread over short distances to related varieties and species, giving rise to hybrid offspring carrying modified genes. Because the gene protecting GM potatoes from nematodes might also benefit these relatives, there is a risk of such plants becoming invasive.

To overcome this problem, the researchers inserted the rice gene into a variety of potato called Revolucion. Potatoes have male and female parts in the same flower but Revolucion is 'male sterile'. It fails to produce viable pollen and cannot pollinate other potato plants or their wild relatives. This, say the researchers, "provides a basis for initial field trials of nematode resistance or other traits of value without gene flow from the potato on trial".

"This approach is practical for crops such as potato and banana that can reproduce asexually," says Atkinson.

Yesterday's paper in Nature, written by Carolina Celis of Wageningen University in The Netherlands, says that transgenic planting of potatoes in the Andes should be limited to male sterile cultivars until concerns about possible spread of genes to related species are investigated experimentally. Celis and colleagues say the findings mean there is no need to invoke the precautionary principle to bar field trials of their GM potatoes.

"We seek to carry out field trials of the technology for potato and banana in areas where no wild relatives exist, such as in China in the case of potato," Atkinson told SciDev.Net. "We would also like to test Revolucion under field conditions in the Andes in isolation from other related plants to assess the benefits and to show a lack of environmental impact on non-target organisms".

Source: SciDev.Net via AgBioView
12 November 2004

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1.21  Fungus resistance genes found in tomatoes

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research reports that Dutch researcher Marco Kruijt has discovered two genes, Cf-4 and Cf-9, which provide resistance against the fungus Cladosporium fulvum in several wild tomato species. Cladosporium fulvum causes a fungal disease in tomato plants.

Kruijt explained that the fungus was probably already a pathogen of the ancestral tomato species, and the resistance genes may have been retained in various modern wild tomato species. He also demonstrated that DNA exchange between the various Cf genes has led to a new Cf resistance gene.

Email Marco Kruijt at for more information regarding his research.

Source: Crop Biotech Update,
15 October 2004

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics,Cornell University

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1.22  Possible aphid resistance in soy traced to gene

Researchers at the University of Illinois have recently identified a single-gene source of aphid resistance in soybean. The gene, tentatively designated Rag1, is dominant, making it easy to introduce into commercial varieties by backcrossing using marker-assisted selection.

Current cultivars do not contain the gene, but testing on ancestral lines stored in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soybean Germplasm Collection revealed that two varieties - Jackson and Dowling - carried the aphid resistance gene. The lines, however, have not been commercially available for the last 30 years.

Aphids can decrease soybean yield by stunting plants, transmitting viruses, distorting leaves, and reducing seeds in a soybean pod set. Infestations can be controlled by insecticides, which can cost as much as 20 to 25 dollars per acre to spray. With the recent discovery, as well as the potential ease with which the trait can be introduced into commercial lines, researchers predict that soybean seeds with the resistance gene may be available on the market within the next 5 years.

For more information, visit the National Soybean Research Laboratory at Read the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update, 5 November 2004

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

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1.23  USDA confirms soybean rust in United States

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 The U.S. Department of Agricultures Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today confirmed the presence of soybean rust on soybean leaf samples taken from two plots associated with a Louisiana State University research farm Saturday.

While this is the first instance of soybean rust to be found in the United States, the detection comes at a time when most soybeans have been harvested across the country. As a result of the harvest, the impact of the fungus should be minimal this year.

Soybean rust is caused by either of two fungal species, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, also known as the Asian species, and Phakopsora meibomiae, the New World species. The Asian species, the one found in Louisiana, is the more aggressive of the two species, causing more damage to soybean plants.
USDA will dispatch its soybean rust detection assessment team, composed of scientific experts and regulatory officials, to the site within 24 hours. The assessment team will work closely with Louisiana State Department of Agriculture representatives to assess the situation and conduct surveillance around the detection site to determine the extent of the disease spread.

Soybean rust is spread primarily by wind-borne spores capable of being transported over long distances. At this point in time, based on predictive models, APHIS believes that the detection in the U.S. is related to this years very active hurricane season. While the harvest for this year is complete, during next years planting season, producers will need to watch for symptoms of the fungus such as small lesions on the lower leaves of the infected plant that increase in size and change from gray to tan or reddish brown on the undersides of the leaves. USDA and the soybean industry have been cooperating on awareness efforts and will amplify those efforts now that the disease has been found in this country. Lesions are most common on leaves but may occur on petioles, stems, and pods. Soybean rust produces two types of lesions, tan and reddish brown. Tan lesions, when mature, consist of small pustules surrounded by slightly discolored necrotic area with masses of tan spores on the lower leaf surface. Reddish brown lesions have a larger reddish brown necrotic area, with a limited number of pustules and few visible spores on the lower leaf surface. Once pod set begins on soybean, infection can spread rapidly to the middle and upper leaves of the plant.

Soybean rust can be managed with the judicious use of fungicides. However, early detection is required for the most effective management of soybean rust. Monitoring soybean fields and adjacent areas is recommended throughout the growing season.

Fungicide applications can reduce yield loss, depending on the plant developmental stage, time when soybean rust is detected, and fungicide application method. Efficacy information for producers on fungicides is available through state university extension services.

For more information, visit APHISsoybean rust hot issuesWeb site at

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

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1.24  Defense mechanisms in some plants believed bred out by humans

Humans and animals have a "fight or flight" response to danger, but plants can't flee. They originally had a built-in defense system to protect them from bugs and injuries, but some plants that were cultivated to serve humans' needs lost the ability to defend themselves. So costly pesticides that are sometimes harmful to the environment now defend the plants from the same things they used to be able to fight on their own.

Asim Esen, biology professor in Virginia Tech's College of Science, and David R. Bevan, biochemistry professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, received a four-year, $711,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the specific interaction between an enzyme and another protein, both of which are believed to be involved in helping plants defend themselves against pests. "If we can understand how the plant defense system works, we can optimize it in such a way that plants can defend themselves without using pesticides," Esen said.

"Plants have been around for millions of years and defended themselves before chemical pesticides," Esen said. However, because of selection of plant traits by humans, some plants can't even propagate themselves now. Eight thousand years ago, maize, or corn, could both defend itself and drop seeds to grow a new generation. But as humans selected for the cob and the ear, they made it impossible for the seed to get out and disperse itself; so maize now can't sustain itself. "We mutilated it," Esen said. "It can't survive on its own."

However, maize can still defend itself. Esen and Bevan are looking at the way its defense mechanism works. Young maize--the young seedlings and any growing tissues and organs--has two enzymes that help protect against insect attacks. Beta-glucosidases reside in the plastid of the maize cells, and their substrate DIMBOA-glucoside resides in the vacuole part of the cell. Usually, the two do not meet each other in an intact cell. However, when an insect starts gnawing at the young maize, it breaks the cell compartments. The enzyme beta-glucosidase breaks the DIMBOA-glucoside down into glucose and DIMBOA, and the DIMBOA is toxic to insects. However, 14 of 463 inbred lines of maize tested in a study seemed to lack the enzyme. They are called NULL.

Using spectrophotometric detection, Esen and Bevan found that all the NULL lines actually did have active beta-glucosidase, but the enzyme became aggregated and could not be extracted efficiently. From this discovery, the scientists knew the enzyme was there, but something was keeping it in the large aggregate.

Using a procedure called gel filtration that separates proteins according to size, the researchers then found that the cause of aggregation was another protein, the beta-glucosidase aggregating factor (BGAF), which NULL lines produced in excess. They isolated BGAF and proved its aggregating activity.

After further study, the scientists found that BGAF was a hybrid protein with two distinct regions or domains, a disease-response region and a carbohydrate-binding region (lectin). In nature, the two occur as separate proteins, but in all the grass species studied so far, they were fused, probably millions of years ago in the ancestors of the grasses. Such things usually happen as accidents (mutations), and, if advantageous, they get selected and passed to future generations.

Surfaces of cells have glycoproteins that lectins recognize by their carbohydrate portion and bind to. The BGAF's lectin region is similar to lectins that recognize mannose sugar. Esen and Bevan hypothesized that one of the functions of BGAF is in defense when foreign cells, such as bacteria, fungus, or viruses, try to enter the cell. BGAF probably binds foreign cells, marks them, and recruits other components of the defense system to eventually arrest the development of the foreign elements and kill them. So the beta-glucosidase-BGAF aggregate is involved in defense, Esen said, and behaves much like a football team that surrounds the ball carrier and keeps him from moving.

The researchers' project is to understand the interaction between beta-glucosidase and BGAF--how they recognize each other and bind so tightly. Thus far, they have evidence of three genes that make BGAF, but they need to find out which one, which part of the molecule, is recognized. They will do that through genetic engineering--changing the gene for BGAF, producing the protein in bacteria and yeast, and then testing it with the enzyme.

The ultimate goal is to provide evidence of the biological function of the binding and aggregation, understand the defense system, and produce plants that can once again defend themselves--to reengineer the plants in an artificial setting to enable them to do what they could originally do: survive on their own.

18 November 2004

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1.25  Scientists using DNA to detect pathogens on seeds - New method will be much quicker and more accurate than existing techniques

Using DNA technology, University of Georgia scientists are working to develop a quicker, easier way to detect pathogens on plant seeds.

"We started this project in light of our nation's concern over biosecurity in agriculture," said Ron Walcott, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.


"Our goal is to develop a system that can detect pathogens in seeds," Walcott said, "whether they were put there intentionally or unintentionally during the seed production process."


Funded by USDA grant

Iowa State and Clemson scientists will work with Walcott on the four-year project. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative's Animal and Plant Biosecurity Program will fund it with a $900,000 grant.

"Seeds for our country's food crops are produced around the world in various countries, including Thailand and China," Walcott said. "Then they're shipped and sold in the United States. Hard labor is still heavily involved (in seed production), so there are always risks of introducing exotic pests."

The current methods used to screen seeds for fungi, bacteria and viruses can take weeks. The researchers' goal is to develop a quicker, more accurate and precise testing method.

New method will be quick, effective
"As an example, one of the currently employed tests requires that seeds be planted and grown out to determine if a pathogen is present," Walcott said. "This is time-consuming. And unfortunately, this test is expensive to conduct. And there's a risk of failure, depending on the level of seed infestation."

With current methods, he said, it could take weeks to develop a technique to detect a new pathogen suspected to be intentionally introduced into the nation's seed supply.

"If it were a case of bioterrorism, we'd need to know as soon as possible," he said. "We have a lot of techniques available now, but the methods are neither effective nor reliable."

Scientists now use up to five tests to detect different pathogens, he said. A goal of this project is to develop one test that would be used to detect all seed pathogens.

Uses DNA and RNA technology
The new detection method will rely on both DNA and RNA to find out whether pathogens are present.

"Plants have DNA just like we do, but some viruses have only RNA," Walcott said. "The plan is to use a technique called magnetic capture hybridization to capture and detect the presence of pathogen DNA/RNA in a seed sample."

DNA and RNA are the molecules that encode an organism's physiological characteristics. These codes include sequences unique to the organism.

"By relying on specific DNA or RNA sequences, highly specific and sensitive detection assays can be developed," Walcott said. "As such, this approach is highly applicable for the detection of low levels of pathogens in seeds."

To apply this technique, scientists crush a sample of seeds and mix crude nucleic acids from the seed extract with magnetic, polystyrene beads.

Just like fishing
The beads are coated with single-stranded DNA, which hybridizes or binds specifically to the pathogen's DNA. The scientists recover the beads with a magnet, then amplify the DNA by polymerase chain reaction.

"It's like fishing, but we use mirror-image DNA instead of night crawlers as bait," Walcott said. "This method is highly sensitive and efficient and can work for a wide range of seeds and pathogens. Most important, the turnaround time is just a day."

As a starting point, the research team is focusing on two watermelon diseases that Georgia growers fight: bacterial fruit blotch and gummy stem blight. The next phase will include detecting diseases of tomato, onion, wheat, corn and soybean.

"Once we have the system going, we will have the capability to detect more seedborne pathogens," Walcott said. "If a new one that's not in our database is introduced by terrorists or Mother Nature, it will just take a couple of days to add it to the system."

Source: Georgia Faces via
10 November 2004

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1.26  Understanding how plants silence their attackers

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich have today explained the control of an important biological process (so-called RNA-interference) that contributes to plantsability to regulate genes and to defend themselves against virus attack.

RNA-interference (RNAi)[1] is a relatively new discovery in biology that we know is very important in controlling plant and animal development and in plant resistance to virus disease, says Dr Robert Sablowski (leader of the research project at the JIC). Our discovery shows us an unexpected way in which this important process can be switched on.

Active genes produce short-lived multiple copies of themselves (rather like photocopying a recipe) These copies are molecules called messenger-RNA (mRNA). The information in the mRNA is read by the cell to make a product and that product will then have an effect on the biology of the cell. If the mRNA copy carries a mistake or is damaged, it could make a defective product. To prevent this from happening cells have quality control systems that check mRNA and destroy defective copies.

Cells may also need to get rid of mRNAs made by viruses, to stop them reproducing themselves. This defence mechanism, based on RNAi, is triggered by an unusual type of RNA (double stranded RNA) which is made by viruses when they reproduce themselves.

RNAi is sometimes triggered when genes are introduced into plants by genetic modification. When this happens, the mRNA made by the gene is destroyed, thus the product of the gene cannot be made and so the gene can have no effect in the cell although the gene is present it is silenced. It is not clear why the plant recognises some genes as foreign and a target for RNAi.

The JIC team have found that gene silencing can be triggered by mRNAs that are targeted for destruction by the natural mRNA quality control mechanism[2]. If too many defective copies of a particular mRNA accumulate, then the cell turns them into double stranded RNA and this triggers RNAi. Thus plants can silence foreign genes if their mRNA does not function smoothly along with the rest of the plant's mRNAs.

Although this work was done in plants, it has implications beyond plant biology. RNAi has become an important tool because it allows scientists to switch off genes at will and so see what their role is. Although RNAi was originally discovered in plants, it also functions in animals, including humans, and has potential therapeutic applications.

The discovery is reported in this weeks edition of the international science journal Science[3].


[1] RNA-interference describes the phenomenon where double-stranded RNAs cause the targeted breakdown of homologous mRNA. This is now known to occur in a wide range of organisms, both animals and plants.

[2] The JIC scientists' findings demonstrate that de-capped mRNA is the likely template used by the cell to make the double-stranded RNA that triggers RNAi. The work originated from finding mutant plants that silenced a foreign gene at high frequency. The mutated gene was XRN4, which encodes an RNAse implicated in the turnover of de-capped mRNAs. Thus, when plants cannot efficiently destroy de-capped mRNAs, they are diverted into the RNAi process.

[3] A Link Between mRNA Turnover and RNA Interference in Arabidopsis
S. Gazzani, T. Lawrenson and R. Sablowski. Published in Science on Friday, 05 November, 2004.

4 November 2004

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1.27  Gene found to help soybeans repel aphids

University of Illinois researchers have found a soybean gene that makes the plant resistant to aphids, a discovery that soon could provide a natural alternative to the application of expensive insecticide.

Soybean seed carrying the genetic trait could be available within five years, researchers say.

"It's a very, very important discovery for the soybean farmers in the U.S.," said Bryan Hieser, a Minier farmer who serves on the United Soybean Board, which helped pay for the research. "Last year, the top half of Illinois suffered economic aphid damage up to 15 bushels per acre.

The discovery could help farmers save thousands of dollars spent on chemicals. It costs $12 to $15 per acre to buy and apply insecticide to kill plant-eating aphids, said Ken Dalenberg, who farms near Mansfield and serves on the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board, which also put money into the research.

Aphids have not bothered farmers this summer, but last year they were so prevalent that millions of acres of cropland were sprayed, said Glen Hartman, the lead researcher and a plant pathologist at the USDA's National Soybean Research Laboratory on the Illinois campus. The genetic resistance "may reduce insecticide use significantly," he said.

The gene was found among more than 16,000 lines of soybean germplasm stored in U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soybean Germplasm Collection at the university, said Curtis Hill, a senior research associate.

"We screened all the commercial (varieties) grown in this area and found nothing resistant," he said. "The next step was to look at the ancestors for the current cultivars."
After checking hundreds of varieties, the researchers found two old lines that were grown in the South but haven't been commercially available for 30 or 40 years, Hill said. Both had strong resistance to aphids.

They have a strong antibiotic effect on aphid biology that prevents development of aphids on the plant," Hill said.

The gene occurs naturally and crossbreeding does not involve artificial genetic engineering, he said. "This has had nothing to do with biotechnology at all," Hill said. Further testing revealed the resistance was coming from a single dominant gene, and the researchers developed molecular markers that help locate the gene, Hartman said. That makes the trait easy to quickly breed into commercial soybeans.

"This is one that can be fast-tracked into our current varieties with payback in a real short period of time," Dalenberg said.

Seed companies are evaluating the technology and the effectiveness of the resistance in soybeans grown in the heartland, said Virgil Sparks, director of soybean breeding at the Garst Seed Co.
"There's a lot of work to do to get that gene into varieties that are grown in the Midwest," he said.

John Soper, soybean research director for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., called the research "an exciting find." The company is determining whether the technology can be integrated into its own research program, he said.

The researchers have applied to patent the method for determining whether the gene is present, and seed companies wishing to breed the trait will first have to obtain a license from the university.

"It prevents a single company from taking advantage of getting that single gene and using it on their own," Hartman said.

(See original news release: University of Illinois researchers identify gene with resistance to soybean aphids)

Source: The Associated Press via
4 November 2004

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1.28  Key Plant Enzyme Defends Against Multiple Infections

VPEg is an Enzyme that regulates programmed cell death in plants

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Oct. 7, 2004 Scientists from the University of California, Riverside have identified one of the key enzymes that trigger programmed cell death, an important process plants undergo in fighting off bacterial, fungal or viral infections. The development holds out hope of improving crop yields, which are dependent on plants being able to fend off multiple types of pathogens.

The findings, outlined in a paper titled VPEg Exhibits a Caspase-like Activity that Contributes to Defense Against Pathogenswere reported in the Sept. 23, online issue of Current Biology, and involve research on the key plant protein, vacuolar processing enzyme or VPEg, in Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, that is required for this process.

Programmed cell death (PCD), which occurs naturally in all multi-cellular organisms, is the regulated elimination of cells that happens during the course of development, as well as in response to bacterial, fungal and viral infection.  Caspases are a family of proteases, or enzymes that degrade proteins, which play an essential role in initiating and carrying out programmed cell death in animals.

Caspase-like activities have also been shown to be required for the initiation of programmed cell death in plants, but the genes controlling those activities have not been identified.

Natasha Raikhel, Director of the UCR Center for Plant Cell Biology, and her former postdoctoral researcher, Enrique Rojo, have now shown that this key plant protein contributes to defense against bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens in plants by activating programmed cell death pathways.

They have discovered that mutants lacking this protein have an increased susceptibility to these pathogens. These results have significant influence in the outcome of a diverse set of plant-pathogen interactions and suggest that this key plant protein is likely involved in a variety of processes that range from stress and defense responses to proper development during aging.

This is an important discovery because it demonstrates a previously unknown mechanism through which plants control cell death. Programmed cell death is a universal process that all multicellular organisms must control throughout growth and development,explained Raikhel. Since PCD plays such a central role in a wide variety of physiological processes, the VPE pathway for controlling PCD likely has a huge impact on this process in plants.

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, was carried out from 2002-2004 in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and the Center for Plant Cell Biology (CEPCEB) at UC Riverside and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Besides Raikhel and Rojo, UCR co-authors of the Current Biology paper include Clay Carter, Jan Zouhar, Songqin Pan, and Hailing Jin. Co-authors from other institutions include Raquel Martin, Manuel Paneque and Jose Juan Sanchez-Serrano of the Departamento de Genética Molecular de Plantas del Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid, Spain; Frederick M Ausubel and Julia Plotnikova of the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; and Barbara Baker of the Plant Gene Expression Center at UC Berkeley & the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Related Links

Current Biology's Web site is at
Natasha Raikhel's Web site is at

Contributed by Ricardo Duran (

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1.29  Eco-friendly disc to store data on corn

TOKYO (AFP) - Giving a new meaning to the term grassroots music, Pioneer Corp. said it had developed a next-generation disc made of corn to let the eco-conscious consumer dispose of data in the soil.

The Japanese electronics maker said the Blu-ray optical disc, which can be written once and stores 25 gigabytes of data, is 87 percent natural polymer derived from corn and biodegrades.

"If the starch polymer is incinerated, it will not emit dioxins and any other harmful chemicals," the company said.

While the disc can theoretically be eaten, it is coated by a 0.1-millimeter (0.004-inch) thick layer of resin and is too hard for even the strongest teeth.

Pioneer has yet to decide when to market the disc.

Source: Agence France-Presse, 4 November 2004:

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

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1.30 New Way to Boost Grain Crop's Drought Tolerance

UC Riverside Team Finds That Lowering Enzyme Increases Drought Tolerance in Corn

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside report the development of technology that increases the tolerance of grains crops to drought by decreasing the amount of an enzyme that is responsible for producing the plant hormone ethylene.

UCR Biochemist Daniel R. Gallie led the research, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation and the California Agricultural Experiment Station. The findings will be published in the December issue of The Plant Journal in a paper titled ACC Synthase Expression Regulates Leaf Performance and Drought Tolerance in Maize.

Ethylene is vital in regulation of plant responses to environmental stresses, such as flooding and drought, and to attack by pathogens. But often, ethylene initiates leaf death in response to adverse conditions, sacrificing less essential parts of a plant to protect the growing tip, responsible for producing flowers, the reproductive organs of plants. Gallie said that he and his research team have examined the role of ethylene during plant growth and development since 1997.

In the most recent study, conducted by UCR researchers and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, an Iowa-based developer and supplier of seed to farmers, the authors targeted ACC synthase, an enzyme required for the production of ethylene, screening thousands of plants for naturally occurring mutants that were deficient in the enzyme.

The researchers isolated several such plants, and one in particular that produced substantially lower levels of the hormone. Leaves from this mutated plant remained functional and maintained photosynthetic function longer than non-altered plants.

In addition, the plants were more resistant to the effects of adverse environmental conditions. Surprisingly, by reducing the level of ethylene, all the leaves of the altered plants contained higher levels of chlorophyll and leaf protein, and functioned better than control leaves.

Thus, they are better able to survive conditions of drought and remain productive,said Professor Gallie, who led a research team that included UCR Colleague Todd E. Young and Robert B. Meeley, of Pioneer Hi-Bred. Erratic rainfall and conditions of drought have plagued farmers from time immemorial, and are responsible for substantial losses in crop yield when they do occur.

For several years, Gallie said, a number of studies on global climate have predicted an increase in global temperature, and regional conditions of drought, which may have already begun.

Increasing drought tolerance in crops is highly valuable to U.S. and world agriculture now, and will be even more critical as our environment continues to change as a consequence of global warming,said Gallie.

The findings by Gallie and his research team suggest that ethylene controls the level of leaf function under normal growth conditions, as well as during adverse environmental conditions.
Gallies research with corn opens the door to producing crops better able to withstand periodic losses in rainfall, including grains, which are the most important direct source of food for livestock and for a majority of humans.

Our discovery will assist farmers who depend on rainwater for their crops during those years when rainfall is low, particularly those who grow crops in arid areas, such as exists in many developing [is he is okay with this change] countries,said Gallie. As global warming continues to change our own environment in the U.S., our work will be important in helping U.S. farmers continue to produce the food we need even as our climate becomes unpredictable.

Future inquiries will most likely focus on how ethylene may regulate other aspects of plant growth and development, such as during flower development and root growth, Gallie added.

News Media Contact: Ricardo Duran

17 November 2004

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1.31 Precision breeding: a new genetic technique providing international opportunities for crop improvement

A new technique which uses the tools of genetic engineering but does not introduce foreign DNA into a crop plant has been developed by Crop & Food Research.

Dr Tony Conner, who has been applying genetic modification tools to crop plants since the mid 1980s, has led the research team. He says the new technique has been welcomed by the international research community.
Over the years Dr Conner has often provided a scientific point of view in the public debate surrounding GM. He says one of the publics main concerns has been the use of GM to transfer genes between unrelated organisms.

To me, the real appeal of this new technique is that while it uses the tools of genetic modification, it does not introduce genetic material from unrelated species.

Precision breeding only transfers genetic material which would naturally cross with a particular plant. Were only using genes which are already available to traditional plant breeders. But we can transfer those genes responsible for a particular characteristic into a new plant very precisely, in one step.

In hindsight this seems like an obvious development for genetic modification but science is like that. No one thought you could find the necessary gene sequences in plants to do this they usually come from bacteria. But we found them and this has opened up vast new possibilities.

He is pleased the technique has been developed in New Zealand. This technique will have huge benefits for crop breeding both in New Zealand and internationally.The intellectual property is held by Crop & Food Research, which is a government funded research institute responsible for adding value to the New Zealand economy.

Dr Conner presented his technique at three recent international science conferences in Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. It will be presented at a New Zealand conference in November.

It was received enthusiastically by the science community and regulators, particularly those working to improve food production in the third world.

Plants produced using this technique are, by definition, not transgenic and this means the compliance costs involved in gaining approval for commercial use are minimised. This makes it viable for the technology to be used to develop cultivars suitable for local conditions in third world countries.

Precision breeding also presents a viable option to develop improved cultivars of crops grown on a smaller scale around the world.

Dr Conner says while the technique is particularly valuable in crops which are propagated vegetatively, such as potatoes, fruit trees, cassava and sugarcane, it will also have a role in the breeding of major crops such as maize, soybean, rice and wheat.
He says once the genomes of the worlds important crops are sequenced, precision breeding will become increasingly valuable. It provides us with a tool to go into germplasm banks and find all the alternative variants of a gene, select the best one for what we want, and then insert it into the target crops in a single step without any foreign DNA.

The idea which led to the development of precision breeding occurred to Dr Tony Conner in 1999 when he took nine months out from research to look after his young son. His first difficulty was in persuading people that precision breeding would work a difficulty he has since overcome.

As a frequent science commentator in the public debate surrounding GM through the 1980s and 1990s, he was well aware of public concern regarding the transfer of genes from one species to an unrelated species. The new technique seemed to him to be a socially responsible way forward using the tools of genetic engineering.

To achieve success, Dr Tony Conner had to develop a vector system which only transferred DNA which was naturally available to breeders. He did this by identifying DNA sequences which occur within a particular plant genome and then used these to assemble vectors for gene transfer.

As a result, although the plants are derived using the tools of molecular biology and plant transformation, they are not transgenic they do not contain genetic material from unrelated species. This raises important questions around the definition of GM, which has implications for regulators worldwide. It also means that the traditional tests used to detect whether or not a plant has been genetically modified, are not applicable.

Dr Conner started by designing a vector system for precision breeding in the species Arabidopsis thaliana, which has the smallest known genome of any crop and is often used by plant biotechnologists trying new techniques. He designed and developed a binary vector for Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer in which all the DNA sequences destined for transfer to the plant were based on sequences which occur naturally in the Arabidopsis thaliana genome.

Dr Conner and his colleagues have now successfully demonstrated that the vector based on A. thaliana DNA can be used to transform A. thaliana. The genetic makeup of the resulting plants mimics chromosomal rearrangements of the endogenous DNA sequences equivalent to micro-translocations that could also arise during mutation breeding.

Precision breeding vectors have been developed for a wide range of plant species. They are now being tested in Solanaceous species, including potato and petunia.

Scientists' understanding of plant genomes is advancing rapidly as the DNA of major crops are sequenced. This knowledge will increasingly enable researchers to identify specific genes of interest which code for a desired crop trait.

November 16, 2004

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1.32 Conversion of flower organs into leaves

More than 200 years ago, the poet, philosopher, and natural scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made the remarkable suggestion that flower organs represent modified leaves. By analyzing mutations in four different but related genes, researchers have found that these genes are critical for the conversion of leaves into flower organs.

Although people have wondered about the mysteries of flower formation for ages, scientists have carried out molecular studies on flowering only during the last two decades. Numerous genes controlling flower development have been identified during this time. Many of the studies have focused on the small weed Arabidopsis thaliana, which possesses the typical set of flower organs--sepals (typically outer-most in the flower whorl), petals, stamens, and carpels--and have relied on a traditional genetic approach, where mutations in key regulatory genes lead to alterations in flowering. Although exceedingly powerful, such an approach nevertheless often fails to reveal the essential nature of closely related genes that are functionally redundant. Functional redundancy refers to the situation where two or more genes play very similar roles and must be simultaneously inactivated if the abnormal characteristic is to be observed. For example, recent studies had shown that a so-called triple mutant, lacking the activities of three closely related genes, produces flowers that consist only of sepals.

If flower organs represent modified leaves, and if this recently discovered triple mutant has only sepals, is it possible that mutations in another gene might convert these sepals into leaves? New work, by Gary Ditta and coworkers in the laboratory of Martin Yanofsky at the University of California at San Diego, has identified such a gene. The gene, SEP4, is closely related to the three genes corresponding to the triple mutant previously characterized by Yanofsky's group. When the researchers constructed the quadruple mutant, they found that the flowers consisted only of leaf-like organs. Together, these studies show that four closely related genes, all of the "MADS-box" class, are necessary for the formation of sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels and that the loss of activity of all four genes results in the conversion of flower organs toward leaves.

Gary Ditta, Anusak Pinyopich, Pedro Robles, Soraya Pelaz, and Martin F. Yanofsky: "The SEP4 Gene of Arabidopsis thaliana Functions in Floral Organ and Meristem Identity"

Publishing in Current Biology, Volume 14, Number 21, November 9, 2004, pages 19351940.

Source: Cell Press,
8 November 2004

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1.33 Researchers can cross non-interbreeding plants

Researchers of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Cultivation, Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences (St. Petersburg) jointly with their colleagues from Germany and Finland have grown up new lines of Solanum cultivated plants via the somatic hybridization method hybrids of wild species of plants of the Solanum family with cultivars of tomato and potato, that posess new useful properties.

Potato and tomato the plants that occupy the honorary place in the menu of mankind belong to the Solanum family. So do multiple wild species inhabiting Mexico, they are inedible, but possess the qualities interesting to selectionists, such as disease and vermin stability, salt-tolerance, psychrotolerance. However, this interest has remained theoretical up to recently: the majority of wild species was reluctant to interbreed with cultivars. Therefore, the researchers of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Cultivation, Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences (St. Petersburg) jointly with their colleagues from Germany and Finland set about cultivating new Solanum species via the somatic hybridization method.

There exist different methods for introduction of required genes into the cultivated plants genome. Genetic engineering which is now much talked about is only one of them and far from being the most important if we recall the centuries-old history of selection. Interbreeding of species and lines, pollination of one plant by the pollen of the other are still used by selectionists. However, such interbreeding, particularly the interspecific interbreeding does not always work well. In the 70s-80s, a new method emerged that allowed to overcome the barrier of non-interbreeding: somatic hybridization.

Non-gametal cells are called somatic, they are not related either to pollen, or to the germ of the seed, they are taken, for instance, from the leaf. Cultivation of a full value organism from a somatic cell is called cloning. Animal cloning is one of the most outstanding achievements in biology of recent years, as for plants, cloning is the most commonplace familiar to anyone who implanted a violet leaf or a pussy-willow cutting. In the laboratory conditions, researchers can grow a full value plant from a small bit of tissue (to this end, specially cultivated mass of dedifferentiated cells called callus is used), and from a single cell.

However, another way can be chosen: to make two cells belonging to different plant species merge. (These cells deprived of hard membranes are called protoplasts.) That gives rise to hybrid cells, which combine gene material and properties of two plant species, including those species that cannot be interbred in standard ways.

One more important thing should be kept in mind. Mitochondria and chloroplasts are microbodies that possess their own genome and propagate in the cytoplasm. Mitochondria account for the cell energy supply, chloroplasts are responsible for photosynthesis. Obviously, a lot of important agricultural properties of plants are particularly connected with them. In case of common propagation, a plant gets mitochondria and chloroplasts only through the maternal line: as a rule, mitochondria and chloroplasts are absent from the male gametal cell. In case of somatic hybridization, both parties make equal contribution, a selectionist being able to make additional benefit from this fact.

The Russian-German-Finnish experiment involved cultural varieties of Solanum tuberosum potato, on the one part, and wild Mexican varieties of the same Solanum genus, on the other part. After the cells merged and plants were regenerated from the hybrid tissue, the researchers carried out recurring reciprocal interbreeding with the cultural variety until a potato line with stable genome was obtained. Similar experiments were carried out with tomato and its wild congeners. Certainly, the researchers checked thoroughly what the hybrid genomes represent. It was demonstrated in practice that some hybrid lines do possess new useful properties, for example, increased stability to virus diseases.

Journalist often ask researchers of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Cultivation when they are going to make kitchen gardenersfavorite dream come true and will cultivate the tomato-potato, which will have tomatoes on the branches and tubers under the ground. In Germany, such a hybrid was created back in the 80s, but unfortunately, neither fruit or roots of the regenerated plant were edible. Further experiments will show if the problem can be successfully solved.

10 November 2004

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1.34 Aluminium tolerance gene from wheat will accelerate the development of crops that can handle soil acidity problem

In a world's first, scientists from CSIRO Plant Industry and Japan's Okayama University have isolated an aluminium tolerance gene from wheat which will accelerate the development of crops that can help battle Australia's $1 billion soil acidity problem.

Acidity affects more than 40 per cent of the world's arable land, limiting agriculture when naturally occurring aluminium dissolves and inhibits root growth in sensitive plants.

The CSIRO team, led by Drs Manny Delhaize and Peter Ryan, and their Japanese collaborators, isolated a wheat gene that enables roots to exude malate, a normal constituent of plant cells, binding aluminium into a non-toxic form and protecting roots from damage.

"Acid soil can be improved by using lime but it takes decades to correct acidity at depth," Dr Ryan says. "By combining liming with acid tolerant crops and pastures, nutrient leaching can be reduced and acidity effectively managed."

"Aluminium tolerance is not present in many crop and pasture species, including barley, so they cannot be improved by conventional plant breeding. But as a single gene is responsible, gene technology is an ideal way to introduce the tolerance trait.

To test the gene's effectiveness, scientists used genetic technology to introduce the gene into barley - a plant normally very sensitive to aluminium.

"The experimental barley showed a high level of aluminium tolerance in both hydroponic culture and acid soils," Dr Delhaize says.

While CSIRO is not planning to release an acid soil tolerant GM barley, the gene is already used as a molecular marker for tracking aluminium tolerance in standard wheat breeding trials.

"Since the marker is based on the aluminium tolerance gene itself, it can be used to select for the tolerance trait in breeding as a perfect marker, improving the acid soil suitability of wheat by non-GM methods."

The research was undertaken in collaboration with scientists at Okayama University's Institute for Bioresources, and is detailed in March Issue 5 of The Plant Journal and in an October issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

4 November 2004

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1.35 Researchers uncover how infections combat plant immune responses

Genetic Suppressors of Immune Response in Plants

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Nov. 2, 2004 Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, with colleagues at the University of Florida and at UC Davis, have uncovered how viruses circumvent the immune response of plants.

The findings were published in the Nov. 2 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a paper titled Three Distinct Suppressors of RNA Silencing Encoded By a 20-kb Viral RNA Genome.  UC Riverside Associate Professor of Plant Pathology Shou-Wei Ding, at the Center for Plant Cell Biology, and UCR colleagues Rui Lu, Wan-Xiang Li and Michael Shintaku, co-authored the paper with Bryce W. Falk at UC Davis and William O. Dawson at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center.

RNA silencing is a recently discovered defense mechanism against virus infection in plants and invertebrates. For successful infection to occur, viruses must be able to suppress the RNA silencings antiviral response.

Our results demonstrate that citrus tristeza virus (CTV) produces three proteins that are suppressors of RNA silencing and each inhibits RNA silencing in a distinct manner,said Ding.

CTV is one of the most important virus pathogens affecting citrus worldwide, causing significant economic losses not only from disease, but also from the need to remove CTV-infected trees. Since viral suppressors are also known to interfere with plant development, further analyses of the CTV suppressors will explain why CTV is capable of such destructive effects. One approach for the control of CTV in a number of labs is to genetically engineer virus-resistant citrus trees.

Our findings will help improving the efficacy of this approach, e.g., by directly targeting the CTV suppressor genes,Ding said.


Our work indicates for the first time that viruses may have to produce more than one suppressor of RNA silencing to overcome the antiviral immunity,he added. Secondly, one of the CTV suppressors identified is mechanistically novel as it inhibits spread of RNA silencing without interfering with intracellular RNA silencing.

As a result, that type of suppressor cannot be identified by the methods in wide use today by labs around the world.

The California Citrus Research Board, the UC-Biostar program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the research.

Professor Shou-Wei Dings Faculty Web page is at:

The pdf version of the article on the Web is available at:

Contributed by Ricardo Duran (

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1.36 Gene exchange between species is aided by parasitism

Indiana University

Gene exchange between species plant species is made possible by their parasites, according to an Indiana University Bloomington report in this week's Nature.

IUB biologists' discovery that genes can move from plant parasites to plant hosts complements a report by University of Michigan and Smithsonian Institution scientists in the July 30 issue of Science that showed the opposite -- that genes can move from plant hosts to plant parasites. Taken together, the findings establish plant parasitism as the first known medium for "horizontal gene transfer," the exchange of genes between individuals of different species.

"Plant parasitism has emerged as the first solid mechanism of horizontal transfer in plants," said IUB biologist Jeff Mower, the Nature report's lead author. "Other mechanisms also are likely to be important but, as of yet, they remain in the realm of speculation."

In their report, Mower, Distinguished Professor of Biology Jeff Palmer, postdoctoral fellow Sasa Stefanovic and graduate student Gregory Young report two new examples of horizontal transfer of the important mitochondrial gene atp1 from parasitic flowering plants to weeds in the genus Plantago. Three Plantago species possess both a normal, functioning copy of atp1 and a second defective atp1 that bears a striking resemblance to the atp1 gene found in parasitic "dodders" in the plant genus Cuscuta. Evidence suggests Plantago weeds acquired the defective atp1 through horizontal transfer recently -- not more than a few million years ago.

The dodders' manner of attacking plants suggests a way DNA could have traveled between parasite and host, the IU scientists say. As part of their parasitism, dodder cells penetrate the cells of their hosts, making it possible for errant parasite DNA to sidestep several obstacles on its way into a host cell.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

10 November 2004

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1.37 Latin American potato network to help Africa and Asia

Latin American potato breeders, researchers and farmers have formed a network to share expertise and technologies with their counterparts in Africa and Asia to improve food security and farmers' incomes there.

The network Platform for Innovation was created in September at a meeting of potato experts from ten Latin American countries at the International Potato Centre (CIP), in Lima, Peru.

It is expected to be of most benefit to potato growing countries such as China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and those in Central Asia such as Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which lack the technology and genetic diversity found in Latin America.

Latin America where the potato originated has more than 200 varieties of potatoes, adapted to different climates, agricultural systems, geographical conditions, crop pests and diseases.

"We have a rich biodiversity to offer in terms of nutrition, productivity and resistance," says Stephan de Haan, an agronomist in CIP's crop improvement and genetic resources department.

The importance of the potato in Latin America, he says, has resulted in much research into the crop.

Potatoes are the fourth most important food crop worldwide after wheat, rice and maize. According to CIP, annual production approaches 300 million tonnes worldwide. More than one-third comes from developing countries.

While average yields in North America and Western Europe can reach 40 tonnes per hectare, yields in developing countries are usually less than half that. This is mainly due to crop pests and diseases, which are especially damaging when the genetic diversity in a crop is low.

According to de Haan, the network will promote technology transfer, develop training programmes, foster the diffusion of improved seeds, share databases of genetic material, and build research partnerships.

"A cooperative network could greatly facilitate the exchange of seeds and genetic material," says de Haan, adding that intellectual property rights for genetic resources have substantially limited the sharing of such material between countries.
The Platform for Innovation is at a planning stage, establishing contacts with countries and organisations interested in joining it. These will include research centres, national agriculture agencies, universities, non-governmental organisations, farmers and farm organisations, and the private sector.

Locally active people from other participating institutions will manage its activities, and CIP will revert to being one of its members.

The network should be fully active by June 2005.

9 November 2004

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1.38 Strengthening Agricultural Research in Africa

A brief from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

The current decline in per capita food production in Africa signals an urgent need to revitalize agricultural research. Accomplishing such a task will require addressing many issues, including demand-led approaches, accountability, building of critical mass, avoidance of duplication, sustainable financing, and capacity strengthening. This brief cannot address all these issues; instead it focuses on generating common Africa-wide goals and priorities and on collaboration for maximum impact, suggesting approaches for consideration by those responsible for African agricultural research policy and implementation.

10 November 2004

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1.39 Harnessing the power of partnership in wheat improvement

In the dry agroecologies of the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region, especially in the cold highland areas, rural farming communities depend on wheat for food and income. These communities face formidable obstacles. The wheat crop is vulnerable to diseases and pests, and farmers are forced to cope with the challenges of irregular and variable rainfall, a short growing season, and few prospects for agricultural diversification. As a result, poverty and hunger prevail in these areas.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) share a commitment to work together to help these communities through wheat improvement research. The approach is to complement the efforts of national agricultural research systems (NARS) across CWANA with the best of ICARDA's regional and CIMMYT's global wheat research programs.

This report presents selected achievements in CWANA of our two centers, the Government of Turkey (which graciously hosts the Turkey/CIMMYT/ICARDA program for winter wheat), and our many other partners. Our work in CWANA goes beyond exchanging seed and information to addressing major regional issues such as the precarious livelihoods of winter wheat producers and options for improvement; the urgent need to prevent disease epidemics in an environmentally responsible way; the complex soil health problems that reduce wheat yields; and the non-chemical control of Sunn pest, an insect that drains the nutritional and economic value out of wheat.

The research described here would not have been possible without the combined skills and resources of a large number of our partner organizations. We are also grateful to the donors who have made these achievements possible, and we welcome further opportunities for collaboration that will help nations in the region achieve sustainable agricultural advances to improve livelihoods.

Read the entire article at

Adel El-Beltagy,Director General,ICARDA
Masa Iwanaga, Director General, CIMMYT

November 2004

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1.40 National Barley Breeding Program to be created in Australia

Plans to bring barley breeding into a nationally-coordinated program have moved a step closer with leaders of the breeding programs agreeing on the need for structural change to keep Australian programs internationally competitive.

A meeting of the National Barley Breeding Steering Committee with representatives of all barley-breeding states and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has now agreed formally to pursue the creation of a National Barley Breeding Program.

A national program would raise the level of barley breeding to not just provide growers with improved varieties, but also ensure breeding programs are in-step with market forces.

The steering committee, at a meeting in Adelaide on 21 October, said that Barley Australia should be recognised as the peak industry body, which will provide market direction to the breeding programs.

GRDC managing director, Peter Reading (photo), said the intention was to meet the needs of growers for better varieties, plus the needs of the malting, feed and special-purpose end-users.

He said a national program would deliver improved efficiency through increased collaboration and integration, and still have the capacity to cater for specific regional or end-user requirements. This strategy is in line with the Grains Industry Strategic Plan, Towards a Single Vision for the Australian Grains Industry that was launched at Grains Week in April 2004

A key part of the proposal is to also establish a national intellectual property sharing program. This would provide for:

-A focus on national gain
-Minimum IP exchange impediments
-Full license freedom of access to elements such as germplasm, molecular markers and soft ware for all subscribing programs
-Incentives to encourage national collegiate behaviour

The steering committee will discuss its plans with Barley Australia and the wider industry with the objective of developing a National Barley Breeding Programby the end of February for implementation from July 2005.

Full details of the proposal can be found on the GRDC website at - Australian Barley Breeding Program future directions.

4 November 2004

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1.41 Update 10-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews

From The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 15 October 2004

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
E-mail address:
FAO website
FAO Biotechnology website (in Arabic,
Chinese, English, French and Spanish)


(Articles selected by the editor, PBN-L)

1) FAO Biotechnology Glossary translated into French

The FAO "Glossary of biotechnology for food and agriculture", published in 2001 as FAO Research and Technology Paper 9, has now been translated into French, entitled "Glossaire de la biotechnologie pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture". Apart from a translation of the over 3,000 terms and definitions contained in the original English glossary, the 427-page publication also contains an additional English-French vocabulary of biotechnology-related terms. The French translation was compiled by M. Atallah, with an extensive revision by M. Tepfer and A. Eggen. The publication is available both in PDF and as a searchable database, at Alternatively, contact to request a copy of the publication.

6) OECD - Inventory of biotechnology statistics

As part of its STI Working Paper series, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry (STI) has just published "Biotechnology statistics in OECD member countries: An inventory" by B. van Beuzekom. The 109-page report describes the current state of biotechnology statistics in OECD member and observer countries. It is an update of the original document, which was released in 2000. See,2340,en_2649_37437_33707013_119684_1_1_37437
,00.html or contact for more information. 

7) IPGRI - Publication on international law and plant genetic resources As part of its Issues in Genetic Resources series, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), one of the 15 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, has published "International law of relevance to plant genetic resources: a practical review for scientists and other professionals working with plant genetic resources", edited by S. Bragdon. This 124-page publication contains 11 chapters, one on phytosanitary and biosafety measures. See or contact for more information.

8) IPGRI - Online learning modules about molecular markers in biodiversity

Two complementary learning modules, developed jointly by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and the Institute for Genomic Diversity, Cornell University, with the goal of promoting the educated application of molecular techniques in biodiversity studies are now available on the web. They are intended for scientists with a minimal background in genetics and plant molecular biology, but with a working knowledge of plant genetic resources and issues concerning their conservation and management. Volume 1, by M.C. de Vicente and T. Fulton, is entitled "Using molecular marker technology in studies on plant genetic diversity" while Volume 2, by M.C. de Vicente, C. Lopez and T. Fulton, is entitled "Genetic diversity analysis with molecular marker data". See or contact for more information. EVENTS at

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1.42 Update 11-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews.


(Articles selected by the editor, PBN-L)

 1) FAO Biotechnology Glossary - Spanish translation The FAO "Glossary of biotechnology for food and agriculture", published in 2001 as FAO Research and Technology Paper 9, has now been translated into Spanish. The publication is available, both in PDF and as a searchable database, at The French translation of the glossary was also published by FAO in October 2004. Contact to request a copy of either the Spanish or French glossary.

9) Genebanks and molecular genetics - Expert consultation publication As Number 11 in its Issues in Genetic Resources series, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has just published "The evolving role of genebanks in the fast-developing field of molecular genetics", edited by M.C. de Vicente. In addition to an introductory chapter by the editor, the publication includes five papers that "will be a valuable reference for those interested in genebanks and their relation with the modern, fast-moving fields of the molecular sciences". Papers in the publication are based on discussions held during an expert consultation meeting in Le Spain in November 2002. FAO, FECYT (Fundacispa! para la Ciencia y la Tecnologi, INIA (Instituto Nacional de Investigaci9 Tecnolog`Agraria y Alimentaria), IPGRI, SGRP (CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resources Programme) and USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) collaborated with organising the meeting and/or publishing this document. See or contact for more information

14) Workshop on adventitious presence of transgenes in CGIAR ex situ collections The Genetic Resources Policy Committee and the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) jointly organized a workshop entitled "Technical issues associated with the development of CGIAR policies to address the possibility of adventitious presence of transgenes in CGIAR ex situ collections" on 30 August - 1 September 2004 at the headquarters of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), Italy. The general objective of the workshop was to provide technical inputs to initiate a process to develop a system-wide policy (or policies) concerning how to respond to the probability of unintentional introgression of transgenes into the ex situ collections held by the international agricultural research centres of the CGIAR. Based on technical information from the workshop, the Genetic Resources Policy Committee drew up "Draft guidelines for the development of Future Harvest centres' policies to address the possibility of unintentional presence of trangenes in ex situ collections". See the workshop presentations, the workshop report and the draft guidelines at or contact for more information.

15) IPGRI publication - Descriptors for genetic markers technologies The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has recently published "Descriptors for genetic markers technologies" by M.C. De Vicente, T. Metz and A. Alercia. This list of descriptors is an effort to define community standards for documenting information about genetic markers and is targeted to researchers using genetic marker technologies to generate and exchange genetic marker data that are standardized and replicable. See or contact for more information.

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2.01  Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientists View of Genetically Modified Foods

Joseph Henry Press, Washington, DC, 2004. 366 pp. US$24.95. ISBN 0-309-09205-1

In Mendel in the Kitchen,  Nina Federoff (an expert in plant molecular biology and genetics at Pennsylvania State University) and Nancy Brown (a science writer) present a clearly written history of plant breeding that focuses on the new field of genetic engineering of crops. They emphasize the many contributions that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) now make toward increasing food supplies while at the same time raising the nutritional levels of some foods.

In the initial chapters, the authors review early plant breeding research, such as development of hybrid corn, that featured the transfer of genes within crop species. This approach made enormous contributions to fostering the growth of crop yields during the Green Revolution.

 Though highly successful, these efforts at improving the qualities and yields of crop plants through breeding were relatively slow compared with the advances propelled by subsequent developments in the fields of molecular biology and genetic engineering. Formerly, plant breeders had to depend on manipulating (through the establishment and crossing of selected lineages) the genetic material within a particular crop to increase yields. Now genetic engineering technology provides a means by which beneficial genes can be relatively rapidly transferred between different plant species or even taken from essentially any other organism and introduced into crops. For example, as the authors point out, this technology has been used to improve the resistance of winter rye, carrots, and other crops to freezing conditions.

 Federoff and Brown present a strong case that plant breeding and genetic engineering have made and will continue to make substantial contributions to our food supply. Certainly, increased awareness and appreciation of the potential benefits of GMO research will enlarge the scope to cover additional dimensions, such as the development of perennial grain crops. Researchers from many disciplines, social scientists, and any readers desiring a broad perspective of the rewarding applications of genetics in agriculture will find Mendel in the Kitchen most helpful.

Source: Excerpted from Science, vol. 306, p. 815, 29 October 2004.

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2.02  Maintaining the genetic integrity of CIMMYT seed collections: new maize and wheat gene bank operations manual

In 2004, CIMMYT restructured its research programs into six new global and ecoregional programs. One of these, the Genetic Resources Program, is now home to CIMMYTs maize and wheat germplasm banks. This new organizational structure indicates the high importance and visibility that CIMMYT places on our role as custodians of maize, wheat, and related species genetic resources.

One of the first priorities of the program was to update the operations manual for the germplasm banks. The result of this effort is this publication, the Wellhausen-Anderson Genetic Resources Center Operations Manual. The policies and procedures outlined in the manual represent those currently being used in the introduction, evaluation, maintenance, regeneration, and distribution of genetic resources at CIMMYT. By following these procedures, CIMMYT ensures that the genetic resources entrusted to it in its germplasm banks are available to the world and that they maintain their genetic integrity while under CIMMYT's custodianship.

Click here to see the manual.
Click here to see CIMMYTs guiding principles for developing and deploying genetically engineered maize and wheat varieties.
Click here to see CGIAR draft guidelines for GMO detection in gene banks.
November 2004

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3.01  Overhauled site for announces that they have just overhauled the site and have given it a new look. If you have information to share, send it to or post it on the site. is a non-profit website dedicated to news, events, and discussions regarding plant breeding. It is supported by readers who - when finding something interesting online - submit a brief synopsis and hyperlink(s) to the original stories on the web.

Ideally, submissions also include hyperlinks to other web sites with additional relevant content. By simply clicking on the "Comments" link below each posted submission, each accepted submission also provides the initial thread for a forum discussion where other readers may subsequently submit comments, rebuttals, follow-up links, or further information regarding the initial posting. also includes job postings, weekly reading material of the University of Wisconsin Journal Club, convenient links to journals and analysis tools, a tongue-in-cheek poll, and more. This announcement is an open invitation to the plant breeding community at large to read, contribute, and participate on At this point, is a personal endeavor of Joshua A. Udall. Anyone interested in contributing either with content or funding can contact Josh Udall directly .

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3.02 The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter

Newsletter No. 19, 2004 is now on-line at the following URL:

It is published and distributed annually by the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (IAS), CSIC, Apartado 4084 - C/ba, Spain with the help of funds from the Crop and Grassland Service (AGPC), Plant Production and Protection Division, Agriculture Department, FAO. Peter Griffee (AGPC) collates and checks the articles and, if suitable, forwards them to the Editor - Josern¤ez Mart¥z of IAS for decision on publication, revision and formatting.

Newsletter 19 - 2004 has 130 pp + vi. There is a foreword by the editor, notices for readers and there are 28 contributions: 17 on sesame and 11 on safflower. At the end is an up-date to previous editions on a directory of sesame and safflower workers.

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) has 6 papers on breeding and genetics, 9 on agronomy and 2 on pests and diseases.

Breeding and genetics:
Genetic Architecture of Yield and Yield Attributing Characters; Genetic Variability and Correlation Studies for Seed Related Traits; Fitness, Adaptability and Ayalas Paradox; Analysis of Variance and Frequency Distribution of Different Characters; Correlation Studies in F2, F3 and BIPS Populations and Techniques for Improving the Efficiency in Crossing.

Comparison of Root/Shoot Traits Between Certain Mutants and Parents; Productivity and Economic Viability; The Performance of Twelve Genotypes in the Rainfed Vertisols of the Kordofan Region; Effect of Different Nitrogen Levels, Clipping and Growth Regulators on the Growth and Yield; Adoption of Integrated Nutrient Management Practices; Stability of Varieties Under Different Population Densities; Influence of Organic Manures and Urea in Combination with ZNSO4 on Growth and Yield Enhancement; Effect of Growth Regulators on Retention of Floral Pedicels and Capsules and Comparative Efficacy of Oil Cakes and NPK in Combination with Azospirillum on Growth and Yield Enhancement.

Pests and diseases:
Efficacy of Foliar Spray on Incidence of Diseases and Field Evaluation of some Plant Products against the Sesame Shoot Webber and Capsule Borer, Antigastra catalaunalis Dup.

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) has 3 papers on breeding and genetics, 4 on agronomy, 2 on pests and diseases, 1 on extension and 1 on fatty acids.
Breeding and genetics:
A Further Contribution to Distant Hybridization; Correlation and Path Coefficient Analysis and Analysis of Morphological and Genetic Diversity of Domestic and Foreign Germplasm.

Influence of Seed Size on Vigour and Productivity; Seed Storage Studies; Comparative Effect of Gibberellins and their Inhibitors on Growth and Flowering and Physiological Evaluation of Cold Tolerance in Winter Varieties.

Pests and diseases:
Response of Different Genotypes to Major Insect Pests and Leaf Spot Diseases and Evaluation of Genotypes against Fusarium Wilt.

Extension Approach for Popularization in Madhya Pradesh.

Fatty acids:
Leaf Fatty Acid Composition in Safflower Lines with Contrasting Seed Fatty Acid Profiles.

Contributed by Peter Griffee, FAO-AGPC

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3.03 Manihot illustrations available

From the Missouri Botanical Garden, Manihot illustrations are available online from Plantarum Brasiliae icones et descriptiones hactenus ineditae : iussu et auspiciis Francisci Primi, imperatoris et regis augustissimi / by Ioanne Emanuele Pohl. Online go to URL:

Go to Volume 2 the list of illustrations, there are 25-30 Manihot illustrations.  For example-

If you like them please say thank you to

Contributed by Jan Salick
Curator of Ethnobotany
Missouri Botanical Garden

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4.01 (None posted)

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* 8-10 December 2004. ASTA's 34th Soybean Seed and 59th Corn & Sorghum Seed Conferences. Chicago, IL, USA Contact: 225, Reinekers Lane, Suite 650, Alexandria, VA, USA; Tel: +1 (703) 837 8140; Fax: +1 (703) 837 9365; URL:

* (NEW) 10-21 January 2005: Plant functional genomics and molecular genetics, Santiago, Chile.
This practical and theoretical course, organised at the University of Chile as part of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology's training programme, is divided in two parts. The first part (open to all interested persons that register, deadline 6 January) is a series of lectures given by invited speakers and the national faculty. The second part (limited to 14 students, that receive a fellowship from the organizer committee, deadline 30 November), is a practical course consisting of a series of experiments that will be developed by the students.

For more information: E-mail; Website:

* (NEW) 9-11 February 2005: Workshop. The way forward to strengthen national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity. Organized by: FAO's Crop and Grassland Service, Rome, Italy
Objectives: (1) To present and discuss the results of the survey carried out to assess plant breeding and biotechnology capacities in selected countries; (2) to identify priority crops and ecologies to focus activities to strengthen national capacity to use plant genetic resources; (3) to help FAO design a strategy to strengthen national capacity to sustainably use plant genetic resources

Key points for discussion:
- Strategies to strengthen national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity
- Crop, country and/or regional strategy
- Balance between plant breeding and biotechnology
- How to achieve sustainability to use plant genetic resources
- Role of CG Centres
- Role of donor agencies
- Role of strong NARS
- Role of private sector
- Policies to enhance private sector investments
- Enabling policies for public and private actions
- Advice on future consultations

For more information: E-mail:

* (NEW) 14-18 February 2005: 6th ISTA/FAO workshop on electrophoretic methods and PCR-techniques for variety verification and GMO detection, Kingston, Jamaica
This hands-on training workshop is for seed testing analysts from the Caribbean region. The aim is to train seed technicians in advanced methods for the verification of species, cultivars and hybrids as well as for qualitative and quantitative GMO detection.

For more information: E-mail:; Website:

Organized by: Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources Service of FAO and the International Seed Testing Association

* (NEW) 5-7 March 2005: The Role of Biotechnology for the Characterisation and Conservation of Crop, Forestry, Animal and Fishery Genetic Resources
International Workshop, Villa Gualino, Turin, Italy.
The workshop includes three sessions on the status of the world's agro-biodiversity; the use of biotechnology for conservation of genetic resources; and genetic characterisation of populations and its use in conservation decision-making. There is also a poster session and a session on the final results from the ECONOGENE project.

For more information:
Contact: Organising Secretariat

Organized by: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Fondazione per le Biotecnologie, the ECONOGENE project and the Società Italiana di Genetica Agraria.

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

* 29 March 1 April 2005. Plant genetic resources of geographical and 'other' islands. Conservation, evaluation and use for plant breeding (Meeting of the EUCARPIA Section Genetic Resources), Castelsardo (North Sardinia), Italy
Info: S. Bullitta
Via Enrico de Nicola
07100 Sassari, Italy
Tel.: ++39 079 229332 Fax: ++39 079 229354
Download: First Announcement (MS Word)

* (NEW) 18-21 April 2006: The 13th Australian Plant Breeding Conference -- Breeding for Success: Diversity in Action, Christchurch Convention Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The conference aims to highlight the economic, sociological, and environmental benefits of plant breeding in Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia. Organized in conjunction with the New Zealand Grassland Association Inc., it will be based on six core themes: Benefits from plant improvement, genetic resources in a genomics era, environmental challenges and opportunities, plant gene technologies, added value products, and parallel breeding of plants and associated organisms

Additional features include field tours through New Zealand, to highlight practical innovation across the agriculture, horticulture, and forestry industries; and a master class in plant breeding, which will use practical examples and computer models to demonstrate the application of quantitative and population genetics in plant breeding.

For more details, visit, or email Helen Shrewsbury, Conference Secretariat, at

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

* 4 - 9 May 2005. 11th International Lupin Conference, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1st Circular is available at: Contact:

Submitted by George D. Hill, Secretary/Treasurer International Lupin Association ( At our meetings we have usually had a substantial number of submissions from Plant Breeders.  I would expect that it will be the same at this meeting.

* 6-10 June 2005. 5th International Triticeae Symposium held in Prague, Czech Republic ( Contacts: Vojtech Holubec and Frantisek Hnilicka

* 13-17 June 2005, Murcia (Spain): XIII International Symposium on Apricot Breeding and Culture.
Info: Dr. Felix Romojaro and Dr. Federico Dicenta, CEBAS-CSIC, PO Box 164, 30100 Espinardo (Murcia), Spain. Phone: (34)968396328 or (34)968396309, Fax: (34)968396213, email: Symposium Secretariat: Viajes CajaMurcia, Gran Via Escultor Salzillo 5. Entlo. Dcha., 30004 Murcia, Spain. Phone: (34)968225476, Fax: (34)968223101, email:

* (NEW) 16-19 June 2005: XI International Asparagus Symposium. Horst/Venlo (Netherlands Info: Ir. Pierre Lavrijsen, Asparagus bv, PO Box 6219, 5960 AE Horst, Netherlands.
Phone: (31)773979900, Fax: (31)773979909, email: or, web:

* (NEW) August 2006: IX International Conference on Grape Genetics and Breeding, Udine (Italy): Info: Prof. Enrico Peterlunger, Università di Udine, Dip. di Produzione Vegetale e Tecnologie Agrarie, Via delle Scienze 208, 33100 Udine, Italy.
Phone: (39)0432558601, Fax: (39)0432558603, email:

* (NEW)  13-19 August 2006: XXVII International Horticultural Congress, Seoul (Korea) web:

* 12-14 September 2005 Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century, at Iowa State University -- A conference engaging diverse stakeholders interested in strengthening our public plant and animal breeding capacity.

The conference is announced by RAFI.  It is a follow up to a meeting held in 2003 in Washington DC on the same subject.  The proceedings of the 2003 meeting are on the web site at   The contact person is Laura Lauffer, 919 542 6067

Please share this information with other plant breeders

* (NEW) 12-16 September 2005: III International Symposium on Cucurbits. Townsville, North QLD (Australia): Info: Dr. Gordon Rogers, Horticultural Research and Development, PO Box 552 Sutherland NSW 2232, Australia. Phone: (61)295270826, Fax: (61)295443782, email:

* (NEW) 1-5 December 2006: Brazilian Cassava Conference, Brasilia, Brazil. An International Conference on Cassava Plant Breeding, organized by Professors Nagib Nassar and Rodomiro Ortiz. The conference will discuss cassava breeding and food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, management of cassava reproduction systems, cassava polyploidization and chimera production, cassava genetic resources, and enriching cassava contents.
For more information, contact Prof. Nagib Nassar at or Dr. Rodomiro Ortiz at

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

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Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published every four to six weeks throughout the year.

The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio Guimaraes (, Margaret Smith (, and Anne Marie Thro ( The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

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