29 March 2005

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor


1.01  Plant breeding and the public sector: who will train plant breeders?
1.02  CAST paper examines ethics in agriculture
1.03  Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute presents 10-year baseline projections
1.04  Some 36 countries worldwide face serious food shortages, says FAO report
1.05  The call for maize mounts in Asia
1.06  Corn demand in developing countries to surpass wheat and rice needs
1.07  The US Postal Service 2005 Commemorative Stamp Program honors Barbara McClintock.
1.08  Proposed changes to Canadian Plant Breeders' Rights Act will have no impact on producers purchasing seed lawfully
1.09  New report offers "road map to the future" of crop variety registration in Canada
1.10  China is close to production of 'safe' genetically engineered rice
1.11  GM crop tests get green light in Tanzania
1.12  Tilling: Harvesting functional genomics for crop improvement
1.13  Unraveling the mystery of modern potatoes' origins
1.14  Preserving the world's agricultural crop diversity as a resource for future food security
1.15  CIMMYT research team aim is to breed high yielding maize that also resists infection by Aspergillus flavus
1.16  Researchers track yellow pigment genes to boost Canada's durum success
1.17  Sustained soybean rust resistance issue for Brazilian breeders
1.18  Defenseless plants arm themselves with metals
1.19  New winter hulless barley has high protein
1.20  Marker-assisted breeding leads to new millet hybrid
1.21  Report shows root crop as potential carotenoid source
1.22  Maize genome database earning acclaim from researchers, says National Corn Growers Association
1.23  Plants defy Mendel's inheritance laws, may prompt textbook changes
1.24  Understanding rye and rice may help farmers improve wheat
1.25  Genaissance and Monsanto team up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to map soybean genome
1.26  Monsanto unlikely to resurrect biotech wheat
1.27  Oasis Horticulture (Australia) and Suntroy Flowers (Japan) form a new research and development company
1.28  Update 4-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews
1.29  HIV pandemia: Could vaccines produced in plants be the way out?
1.30  Vaccination against tears and sniffling
1.31  Bacteria hard working cleaner of the environment
1.32  Food allergy hope
1.33  Switzerland reaches a crossroad
1.34  Plants like to be poisoned

2.01  Farmers' Bounty: Locating Crop Diversity in the Contemporary World
2.02  Special-rate memberships in Crop Science Society of

3.01 The FAO Biotechnology Forum e-mail conference

4.01  Asian Rice Foundation grants
4.02  Fellowship programme for African scientists

(None posted)





1.01  Plant breeding and the public sector: who will train plant breeders?

Overview of a Plant Breeding Symposium held at Michigan State University
9-11 March 2005
The Henry Center for Executive Development
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 
An international symposium was recently hosted by the Plant Breeding and Genetics Group at Michigan State University entitled

Representatives from Corporations, Foundations, Research Centers and Universities came together to discuss global concerns about the decline in numbers of plant breeding programs.

The meeting was led off by five invited talks including:

-Plant Breeding Training in North America - Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger (Professor, University of Nebraska)

-Plant Breeding in the Private Sector of North America Dr. Fred Bliss (Senior Director, R & D Special Projects, Seminis Seeds)

-Plant Breeding Training in the International Sector - Dr.Gurdev Khush (Former Head of Plant Breeding, IRRI)

-Building Capacity for International Plant Breeding:  What Roles for the Public and Private Sectors? - Dr. Michael Morris (Senior Economist, World Bank)

-Assessment of National Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Capacity Worldwide - Dr. Elcio Guimaraes (Senior Officer Cereal/Crop Breeding, FAO)

After the invited talks, the meeting participants met in breakout groups to discuss three topics and make recommendations to the group as a whole. The topics were:
-What kind of training do plant breeders need, and how can we most effectively provide that training?

-How will we provide improved varieties of minor and subsistence crops in the future?

-How can the public and public sector most effectively partner to train plant breeders?

The organizers are now in the process of collating the talks and reports for publication. Periodic updates will be provided at

Contributed by
Jim Hancock
Michigan State University

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1.02  CAST paper examines ethics in agriculture

The use of biotechnology in agricultural production is one area that raises ethical concerns. "By analyzing arguments and positions on ethical issues, a better understanding of the criteria or standards that should govern an individual's actions can be evaluated and thus lead to judgments about what counts as being ethically right and wrong," says a recent issue paper on "Agricultural Ethics" of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST).

The issue paper discusses a method for addressing ethical issues, as well as topics and issues that general public discussion such as food safety, environmental impacts, food security, and agricultural biotechnology. It concludes with the idea that institutionalizing ethics is the responsibility of people in the food system. "Agricultural institutions need to develop a base of expertise in signaling the nature and importance of ethical concerns, with the expectation that developing the base will lead to more effective decision making in the future," CAST added.

CAST is an international consortium of 36 scientific and professional societies that interprets and communicates science-based information on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource, and related societal and environmental issues.
The full paper can be accessed on the CAST website at
Read the full reports at

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

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1.03  Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute presents 10-year baseline projections

Washington, DC
 Solid prices, stable economic growth globally and a weak dollar in industrialized trading countries will keep U.S. agricultural exports strong for the next 10 years, according to the projections the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) presented to Congress this week. Sanitary and phytosanitary concerns, however, will continue to plague meat markets in the short term and will partially offset the growth in exports of coarse grains.

FAPRI, an economic research group with centers at Iowa State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, prepares 10-year baseline projections intended for use by policymakers and other planners in the agricultural sector.

Other highlights from FAPRI's 2005 agricultural outlook:

In 2004, with strong grain and livestock prices, total
U.S. agricultural exports recovered from earlier downturns and increased by nearly 5 percent in volume and nearly 11 percent in value. This year, export volumes increase by 2.5 percent but weaker wheat and oilseed prices and low meat exports bring the total value down by 4 percent. The value of U.S. exports increases 20 percent by 2014 with a long-term shift to high-value exports and a rebound in meat exports.

The loss of major meat export destinations after a
U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was confirmed sent beef exports down by 83 percent and dropped the U.S. share of total meat trade to a record low. Despite the lost markets, the closing of Canadian borders to meat trade has kept U.S. meat prices high.

Because the
United States took quick measures to restore consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef, beef markets are expected to reopen in 2005. FAPRI expects trade to reach pre-crisis levels after three years. Continuing strong growth in pork and poultry exports, coupled with the beef market reopening, enable the United States to regain its meat trade share at a level near that of the early 2000s.

Benefiting from trade shocks from BSE in beef and from avian flu in the broiler industry, world pork production and trade are projected to reach 110 and 4.24 million metric tons, respectively, by 2014-2015. The European Union loses market share, going from 45 percent to 33 percent, because of higher feed costs (due to a meal and bone meal ban), appreciating currency and strict animal welfare and environmental regulations. All other major competing exporters, including
Canada, the United States and Brazil, gain market share.

The depreciation of the U.S. dollar against most other currencies in industrialized countries tapers off and ends by 2008.
Australia, Canada and the European Union recover from weather-related stresses and become strong competitors in crop markets. The United States loses competitiveness relative to Latin American countries as the U.S. dollar appreciates against most Latin American currencies. The effects are especially acute in meat markets, since the Latin America region has benefited from the BSE crisis in North America.

Grain prices remain high, given strong import demand on world markets, especially in
China, where wheat imports were 7 million metric tons in 2004. Wheat prices remain above $145 per metric ton. Corn prices steadily increase, from $95 to $114 per metric ton. The United States, Argentina and Hungary are among the countries benefiting from strong world market conditions and increases in grain use. The U.S. corn market share increases from 64 to 73 percent over the projection period.

FAPRI foresees greater concentration in soybean production.
Argentina, Brazil and the United States increase their combined production share from 82 percent to 85 percent of world production. World soybean production reaches 273 million metric tons by 2014-2015, an 18 percent increase from 2004-2005.

Brazil overtakes the United States as the largest soybean producer and exporter in the world, holding a 35 percent share of world production and a 51 percent share of world trade by the end of the period. U.S. production and trade shares drop to 30 and 28 percent, respectively. China, the world's largest importer of soybeans, expands its imports from 35 to 47 percent of total world imports by 2014-2015, whereas imports of the EU-15 remain stable at around 16 million metric tons.

The multi-year FAPRI projections provide a starting point for evaluating and comparing scenarios involving macroeconomic, policy, weather and technology variables in world agricultural trade. More information is available at the
Iowa State ( and University of Missouri ( FAPRI Web sites.

15 March 2005

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1.04  Some 36 countries worldwide face serious food shortages, says FAO report

Rome, Italy
Worldwide, 36 countries need external food assistance, while 11 countries face unfavourable prospects for their current crops, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report released today. "The causes are varied, but civil strife and adverse weather predominate."

According to the February issue of Foodcrops and Shortages, the highest number of countries facing food emergencies continues to be in
Africa, where 23 countries need external food assistance. The report warns that the food situation in Eritrea is of "serious concern" saying "successive years of inadequate rains have seriously undermined crop and livestock production."

Sudan, FAO estimates that the harvest will be below average due to conflict and drought. By contrast, the food situation in Ethiopia has improved, partly as a result of a good weather.

Kenya's poor second season maize crop will exacerbate food shortages in parts of the country, while Somalia's good secondary harvest will improve food supplies in main agricultural areas, the report says.

Food and crop situation in southern Africa is mixed
In southern Africa, FAO says prospects for the 2005 main season crops are mixed because of "delayed, erratic and generally below normal rainfall during the first half of the season." The food security situation for vulnerable populations, particularly in
Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland, is precarious during the current lean months. In western Africa, the food situation remains critical in Mauritania, while in Côte d'Ivoire insecurity continues to disrupt agricultural and marketing activities.

Impact of Tsunamis still stalks many Asian countries
Asia, the earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunamis of 26 December 2004 "caused a large number of deaths and destroyed livelihoods of millions of people in several countries. The worst affected include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Thailand." The report says that more than 1.3 million people have received food assistance and adds that relief operations have "entered the recovery and reconstruction phase."

The majority of the people affected by the earthquake and the tsunamis made their living from agriculture and fisheries, or were employed in related enterprises. According to the report, the fisheries sector was hardest hit, but localized severe crop and livestock losses were also suffered. Losses of rice stocks are likely to be important and the report warns that salt water may prevent farmers from cropping for one or more seasons or force them to adopt more salt tolerant crops and varieties with low productivity.

The reports says that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) still needs international assistance to meet its minimum food needs despite recent gains in food production.

China to become net cereal importer
Total cereal production in China is forecast by the report to increase by 11 percent over last year, as a result of good weather, strong prices and government support policies. However, China is still expected to switch from being a net exporter to a net importer in the 2004/2005 marketing year, when they are expected to import about 3 million tonnes of cereals.

Iraq, FAO says that recent precipitation is expected to have a favourable impact on winter crops, for harvest from May 2005. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Health, acute malnutrition among children younger than five years of age increased to 7.7 percent this year compared to 4 percent two years ago.

A good harvest is expected in
Afghanistan and Asian countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, owing mainly to favourable weather conditions.

According to the report, a reduction in cereal production is expected in the European Union in 2005 after the bumper crop last year. An increase in the set-aside requirement will result in a reduction in the area sown and the report says it is likely that yields will fall back from last year's highs.

Western Hemisphere sees generally favourable crop prospects
Overall prospects for wheat, maize and paddy crops are favourable in South America, except in Ecuador and Peru where the report says production of maize and rice may be affected by dry weather at sowing.

Central America, the report says that first and second season maize and bean crops have been damaged by dry weather conditions and food assistance is being provided to the affected families. "Food assistance continues to be provided in Haiti to families affected by recent floods and droughts."

Despite generally favourable weather conditions so far this winter in
North America, the report say the latest information points to reduced wheat output in 2005 in the United States, as the area sown to the main winter crop has been reduced by 4 percent compared to the previous year. The main 2005 crops in Canada have still to be sown, but FAO says early indications point to a possible decrease in output this year due to reduced plantings and expected lower yields.

Australia's 2004 cereal output remained about average, but well down on the previous year's record after several major producing areas were struck by drought conditions. Early prospects for the 2005 summer coarse grain crop are very favourable, the report says.

FAO's Foodcrops and Shortages is published three times a year in February, May and October. It is posted in full on the FAO website at this URL:

28 February 2005

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1.05  The call for maize mounts in Asia
El Batan, Mexico

The demand for maize in Asia is expected to skyrocket in the next two decades, driven primarily by its use for animal feed. In the uplands of seven Asian countries, however, demand is also increasing in the farming households who eat the maize crops they grow. CIMMYT and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have recently completed a project promoting food and livelihood security for upland farmers in
Asia who depend on maize for food and feed.

By 2020, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that demand for maize in all developing countries will surpass the demand for wheat and rice, with
Asia accounting for over half of this growth. Responding to these predictions, teams of researchers visited farmers in the uplands of China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to discover ways in which maize technologies could improve livelihoods.

To further develop maize improvement recommendations, national workshops and seven publications built upon the farmer surveys. Careful planning and appropriate procedures on the part of scientists and policy makers will ensure an easier transition as farmers face the oncoming demand. A clear message that emerged from the study in
Vietnam, for example, was the need to help farmers apply sustainable practices to avoid degrading natural resourcesparticularly in fragile, marginal settingsas the demand intensifies.

These conclusions were drawn by researchers conducting rapid rural appraisals with farmers in commercial and semi commercial systems in the up- and lowlands of these seven countries. The second stage of fieldwork entailed more in-depth participatory rural appraisals in marginal, isolated areas and involved village leaders and groups of farmers. Details on the sociological, agro-economical, environmental, and technological aspects of maize production were assembled, and the resulting publications can be viewed, downloaded, or ordered here.

In addition to CIMMYT and IFAD, the project involved collaboration with IFPRI, Stanford University, senior officials of national research programs, and ministries of agriculture.

February, 2005

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1.06  Corn demand in developing countries to surpass wheat and rice needs

By 2020, demand for corn in all developing countries will be greater than its demand for other cereal crops like wheat and rice, with Asia accounting for over half of this need. Increasing demand for animal feeds as well as the growing number of households will make this situation a reality. This prediction of the International Food Policy Research Institute encouraged teams from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to promote food security for upland farmers in
Asia who depend on the crop.

The teams worked with farmers in the uplands of
China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to discover ways in which corn technologies could improve livelihoods. An insight in Vietnam, for example, was the need to help farmers apply sustainable practices to avoid degrading natural resources-particularly in fragile, marginal settings-as the demand intensifies.

CIMMYT has made available, on its website, publications on the results of its farm visits and participatory rural appraisals. It gives details on the sociological, agro-economical, environmental, and technological aspects of corn production on a per country basis.

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

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1.07  The US Postal Service 2005 Commemorative Stamp Program honors Barbara McClintock.

This issuance honors four American scientists: geneticist Barbara McClintock, mathematician John von Neumann, physicist Richard Feynman, and thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs.

For each stamp in this block of four, artist Victor Stabin created a collage featuring a portrait of the scientist and drawings that are associated with major contributions made by the scientist.

Text on the back of the stamps highlights their achievements:

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) conducted maize plant research that led to her discovery of genetic transposition-the movement of genetic material within and between chromosomes. In 1983, this pioneering geneticist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Stamp image can be viewed at:

Contributed by Ronnie Coffman
Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.08  Proposed changes to Canadian Plant Breeders' Rights Act will have no impact on producers purchasing seed lawfully

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Proposed amendments to Canadas Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) Act will not impact Canadian farmers who are acquiring seed lawfully, says an organization that represents Canadian private sector innovators in crop development.  Producers who are currently operating in compliance with the legislative and regulatory requirements of the PBR Act and the Canada Seeds Act have nothing to fear and will see no impact from these suggested changes,says Lorne Hadley, executive director of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA).

The proposed amendments will help to insure that those benefiting from the development of new plant varieties will support those innovators. stated Lorne Hadley Executive Director of the CPTA.

Canadian seed industry views on the proposed amendments have been misrepresented in the public press and at public meetings by some organizations advancing various agendas, Hadley explains.  This information has been harmful to the process and created confusion in the countryside on the purpose of the proposed PBR amendments.  It is essential that we remain focused on their real impact, which is a fair balance of protection of the interests of both farmers and plant breeders.

The ability of a farmer to save their own crop as seed for use on their own farm the following season is actually strengthened under the proposed changes to the PBR Act.  The current act does not address farmers privilege, therefore this ability is a traditional custom not protected by law.

The vast majority of farmers legitimately buy pedigree seed from their local seed dealer or seed grower to gain access to a new, better performing, variety,says Hadley, and, for this majority, the proposed changes just reinforce the good management practices they are currently using on their farms.

In fact,he continues, the proposed amendments will help ensure that, through their support of plant breeders and technology innovators, these farmers will continue to benefit from the development of, and access to, these new plant varieties.

The CPTA is the lead industry organization empowered to raise awareness of the value of PBR and other mechanisms of intellectual property protection to plant agriculture. The CPTA also monitors the seed marketplace and, when necessary, undertakes enforcement activities.

1 March 2005

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1.09  New report offers "road map to the future" of crop variety registration in Canada

Calgary, Alberta
The curtain began to lift on a new era for Canada's multi-billion crops industry at the 2005 meeting of the Prairie Registration Recommending Committee for Grain (PRRCG) in Winnipeg.

Following years of dramatic changes in agriculture, crop science, intellectual property rights, international protocols and a range of associated issues, the key players in
Canada's crop variety registration system responded with updated visions for overhauling the system and setting the stage for a new generation of progress.

Also providing a crystal ball were new crop lines recommended for registration, which promise to fill Prairie fields over the next several years. The PRRCG's four subcommittees - the Wheat,
Rye and Triticale Subcommittee, the Barley and Oat Subcommittee, the Pulse and Special Crops Subcommittee and the Oilseeds Subcommittee - all recommended the registration of innovative crop lines with valuable production, market and end-use benefits.

Producers and others can get an overview of all the key changes and recommended crop lines in the new
Meristem Land and Science 2005 PRRCG Report: Road Map to the Future. The report was produced by Meristem Information Resources, Ltd., an independent, Calgary-based communications company, and sponsored by Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), a major research funding organization for farmers in Western Canada.

If all goes as planned, the 2005 PRRCG meeting will be the last for the organization, which has decided to dissolve and shift powers for recommending varieties to its four crop-specific subcommittees, allowing them to become independent recommending committees. In 2005, the subcommittees worked through a range of administrative issues to prepare for that transition, leaving everything in place for implementation in 2006.

"The newly created recommending committees would have the option of using their existing membership in the Western Expert Committee on Grain Breeding (WECG) as a basis to meet in a common forum and conduct business of mutual concern," says Dr. Scott Duguid, PRRCG Chair. "Since there's strong support for retaining this function, the approach we're pursuing is to dissolve the PRRCG but retain the WECG part of the mandate and continue the meeting function under the WECG banner."

In other meeting action, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which for more than five years has conducted a landmark review of the variety registration system, unprecedented in its scale, presented the principles shaping an updated regulatory change proposal expected to be tabled in spring 2005.

Canada's seed sector, which has participated in a major self-assessment over the past two years, presented recommendations from this Seed Sector Review, outlining how its findings will feed into the variety registration change process and an ongoing consultative process.

"Though the PRRCG wields tremendous influence on the crops industry in
Western Canada, it has traditionally operated with a low profile in the context of more dramatic industry news and discussions," says Brad Brinkworth, Senior Editor, Meristem Information Resources. "However, this has changed greatly in recent years as the power and importance of crop development has expanded, and as variety registration has become a focal point for discussion and decisions on some of the most pressing issues of the day."

The 2005 PRRCG Report includes complete lists of the crop lines recommended for registration, along with a description of the key traits they include. The report also features highlights of discussion at the meeting, including several articles on major issues affecting crop development, along with background information on PRRCG mandate and processes.

The 2005 PRRCG Report is developed as a service to western Canadian farmers, industry and the broad stakeholders in Canadian crop development. Producers and others can access the full report on the
Meristem Land and Science Web site,, or through the Western Grains Research Foundation Web site,

10 March 2005

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1.10  China is close to production of 'safe' genetically engineered rice

Beijing, China
Reuters via Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology's As Reported in the News
As early as this year, China could start commercial production of a new breed of genetically engineered rice, says Reuters.

If adopted, it would be the world's first large-scale plantation of a major transgenic food crop and, some scientists say, would provide an environmentally friendly answer to the food problems of the world's poor.

But those who fear that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) present a danger to the natural crop balance say
Beijing's haste to develop the rice has more to do with a drive to bring the income levels of its farmers in line with others who have prospered more from China's red-hot economic development.

Scientists in
China, the world's top rice producer and consumer, say Beijing is looking to mass produce Xa21 rice, which contains a gene from an African wild rice.

Government officials have remained tight-lipped about plans to introduce any form of GMO rice.

The Xa21 strain, which was developed through publicly funded international research, is resistant to bacterial blight -- one of the most serious crop diseases in
Africa and Asia, which can cause devastating yield loss as it spreads in water droplets.

As it derives from a wild rice gene, it has emerged as front-runner in the race to be the first GMO rice crop, ahead of insect-resistant BT rice, which contains a toxic bacterial gene.

The scientists say
Beijing hopes Xa21 will help convince skeptics of the safety of genetically modified organisms, while moving China a step forward in its quest to become a global leader in biotechnology.

"Many scientists in
China think the Xa21 rice is relatively safe for the environment and health, as its gene comes from a wild rice," Dayuan Xue, professor at Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, told Reuters.

China approve commercial production of the rice, it would be the first time that the country had approved a large GMO project since 1999, when a global consumer outcry over the safety of genetically modified foods persuaded the government to stop, according to the Reuters report.

It would also be in stark contrast to Monsanto Co.'s decision last year to halt plans to introduce the world's first GMO wheat in
Canada and the United States.

At present, herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant soy, cotton, corn and rapeseed account for most of the GMOs grown commercially worldwide. Of the four,
China has allowed only GMO cotton.

Clive James, chairman of the ISAAA, a group with industry and public foundation support that promotes biotech as a way to halt global hunger, sees huge significance in
China's Xa21 project.

"In the near term, the one single event that is likely to have the greatest impact is the approval and adoption of ... (GMO) rice in
China," he said in a 2004 report.

"That will herald a new chapter in the debate ... which will be increasingly influenced by countries in the South (developing countries), where the new technology can contribute the biggest benefits and where humanitarian needs are the greatest."

Jia Shirong, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, said that -- after eight years of laboratory study and field trials -- his team had applied to the government to start commercial output of Xa21 hybrid Japonica rice in the central province of Anhui, half the size of Italy.

"The field performance has been excellent," Jia told Reuters in a telephone interview. "Farmers can reduce yield losses and chemical use. Our research data showed that the transgenic rice is as safe as the traditional rice."

Jia said the Xa21 strain was created through international cooperation that included the participation of the International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology (ILTAB) in the
United States, partly funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Pamela Ronald, from the
University of California at Davis, identified and cloned the Xa21 gene in 1995 from a wild species native to Mali.

With the help of ILTAB, she transformed the gene into a cultivated species.

Many scientists from the International Rice Research Institute had worked on the wild rice species from
Mali since 1977 and found it could withstand various bacterial blights.

Some say there is no need for Xa21 as there are already rice varieties resistant to bacterial blight. "The introduction of the GMO rice means taking an unnecessary risk," said Sze Pangcheung from Greenpeace in

Xue from the Nanjing Institute said
China had had problems with insect-resistant GMO cotton, of which it is the world's top grower. In some areas, farmers needed as many chemicals as before, because the number of non-targeted pests increased, he said.

"We should take time and look at it more carefully," he said.

But asked about the possible commercialization of Xa21 rice, Ronald told Reuters: "It would be a big step for consumers ... There is a lot of potential in this technology."

She said the
University of California at Davis, which has the patent for the Xa21 gene, distributed it without charge for research purposes and for use in less developed countries.

If a company wanted to commercialize a product using the gene, it would pay royalties into a fund Ronald established in 1996, so that some of the financial benefits would be shared with

Asked if
China needed to pay for the patent, she said: "Usually in China, you have government agencies that distribute seeds free to farmers. In that case, there are no fees."

"If a farmer plants a seed with Xa21 in it, he or she can harvest the seed and save some for replanting," she added to the Reuters report.

11 March 2005

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1.11  GM crop tests get green light in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Deodatus Balile

Tanzania will this year begin its first field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops. The first plants to be tested will be cotton modified to resist attack by insect pests, including a caterpillar known as red bollworm that feeds on cotton and causes bollworm disease.

The plans were announced by Wilfred Ngirwa, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, at an international workshop on GM crops held in Arusha in 7 February.

Tanzania cannot afford to be left behind by technologies that increase crop yields, reduce farm costs and increase profits," said Ngirwa.

The government-run trials expected to begin before October will be supervised by researchers from Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, whose laboratory studies have shown that the GM cotton kills caterpillars feeding on it.

The research will be conducted in the Mbeya, Rukwa and Iringa regions of
Tanzania's southern highlands, where cotton production was suspended in 1968 in an effort to stop the bollworm spreading to the rest of the country.

Since then, farmers in the region have largely grown sunflowers to sell to processors who extract oil from the plants. But the growers have complained that the industry offers little financial security due to the small local market for their crops.

According to Paul Ntwina, the member of parliament for Songwe constituency, that the introduction of GM cotton would be good news for farmers in southern

"I am glad we will be able to produce cotton," Ntwina told SciDev.Net. "Technology is likely to be our liberator".

Job Lukonge of the Tanzania Farmers Association told SciDev.Net it was good that the government had decided to start its GM trials with cotton instead of a food crop, as it would avoid the contentious issue of having GM products in the human food chain.

Lukonge said the association was glad that GM technology was within reach, but said
Tanzania does not have the necessary skills to handle it if it proves to be harmful.

If successful, the GM cotton trials are likely to pave the way for wider use of GM crops in

Growing or germinating GM crops is currently illegal in
Tanzania, but the government is keen to embrace the technology (see Tanzania looks abroad for GM advice). It has developed a policy paper on the legislative framework needed to govern GM production, which Ngirwa said will be presented to the National Assembly in April.

By starting its GM trials, Tanzania will become the seventh African country to do so, following Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Of these,
South Africa is the only country producing GM crops commercially.

28 February 2005

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1.12  Tilling: Harvesting functional genomics for crop improvement

Charles Paul (Max) Moehs
Since the first publication describing the technique of TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes) in 20001, this method of reverse genetics has been widely adopted by the academic community for use in model organisms, including Drosophila, zebrafish, and Arabidopsis. Now a recent paper by Slade et al.2 highlights its potential for crop improvement.

Slade et al. describe the application of TILLING to the identification of an allelic series of variants in the granule-bound starch synthase I (GBSSI) gene in hexaploid and tetraploid wheat. GBSSI or Waxy plays a critical role in the synthesis of amylose, which, in addition to amylopectin, comprises the starch fraction of the seed. Reduction or loss of GBSSI function results in starch with a decreased or absent amylose fraction, which is desired for its improved freeze-thaw stability and resistance to staling compared to conventional starch.

Prior to Slade et al.s work, wheat breeders had developed breeding lines of waxy wheat, although no waxy wheat is yet grown commercially. The conventional breeding approach, however, took considerable effort over many years to find rare spontaneous knock-out alleles of GBSSI in germplasm collections of wheat landraces using time-consuming phenotypic screens such as SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of waxy proteins. The search for natural knock-out alleles of GBSSI in bread wheat is complicated by the presence of A, B, and D genomes in allohexaploid bread wheat and A and B genomes in tetraploid pasta wheat. GBSSI is encoded by a locus found on the 7A and 7D homoeologous chromosomes, and, due to a translocation, on the 4B chromosome. In addition to the difficulty of finding naturally-occurring knock-out alleles of the waxy locus, plant breeders have had to contend with the necessity of removing associated unadapted traits from landraces when introgressing the recessive waxy trait into elite wheat germplasm.

In their paper published in Nature Biotechnology, Ann Slade and her colleagues at Anawah, a company focused on the commercial applications of TILLING, use the identification of extensive allelic series of the waxy genes in both hexaploid bread wheat and tetraploid pasta wheat as a demonstration of the power of TILLING for practical crop improvement. TILLING is an updated version of mutation breeding, a technique that has been practiced for decades by plant breeders. TILLING differs from mutation breeding, however, in the method of mutation detection: while traditional mutation breeding has been used primarily for readily observable phenotypes, such as plant height or disease resistance, TILLING detects the mutation directly in the DNA sequence of the gene of interest. Because the mutation is not required to have an immediately observable phenotype, TILLING is a method of reverse genetics that can be used to test hypotheses about the functions of any desired candidate gene.

The basic procedure of TILLING is straightforward; it involves 1) the creation of a large genetically diverse population of plants; 2) the high throughput identification of individual plants whose genotype predicts a phenotype of interest; and 3) the evaluation of these individualsphenotypes for the accelerated development of novel cultivars that exhibit traits of interest. It combines random mutagenesis of seeds with an alkylating agent such as ethyl methanesulfonate (
EMS) or other mutagenic agent with the targeted identification of induced alterations in the genes of interest.

Chemical mutagenesis with alkylating agents produces a high density of point mutations, including missense and nonsense mutations. The combination of the high density of mutations in an individual plant with a large population of plants results in the creation of multiple lesions in any desired gene. These lesions are subsequently identified by screening the DNA of the M2 progeny of the mutagenized seeds. PCR is used to amplify genes of interest with fluorescently labeled gene-specific primers in pools of DNA from M2 plants, and then mismatch-containing duplexes are created by melting and reannealing the PCR fragments. The heteroduplex DNA is identified by cleaving the mismatch with a specific mismatch-recognizing endonuclease3 followed by sequence analysis. Finally, phenotypic analysis of the selected plant and its progeny is carried out. The selected plant serves as the parent in subsequent breeding generations, and the segregation of the desired SNP can be followed with molecular markers4.

A key parameter in any TILLING project is the mutation frequency achieved in the TILLING population. In this regard, the work by Slade and colleagues is unique since they found a mutation frequency of one in 24 kb in hexaploid wheat and a frequency of one in 40 kb in tetraploid wheat. This is approximately five fold higher than had been observed in Arabidopsis. Slade et al. report that their mutagenized population showed few apparent visible phenotypes attributable to the mutagenesis, and they hypothesize that this is due to genetic redundancy inherent in this polyploid crop. Because of this remarkable mutation frequency, Slade et al. identified 196 new alleles in the A and D genome waxy genes in only 1,152 individual plants screened in their hexaploid TILLING population, and 50 new alleles in only 768 individuals in their tetraploid pasta wheat TILLING population. These allelic series in both hexaploid and tetraploid wheat included multiple truncation and splice junction mutations as well as numerous missense mutations with predicted deleterious effects on the function of the waxy enzyme.

One plant was found to have a truncation mutation in the D genome locus as well as a missense mutation predicted to severely affect enzyme function in the A genome homoeolog. Because the Express cultivar used to generate the TILLING population has a naturally occurring deletion of the B genome homoeolog, progeny of the plant having induced mutations in the D and A genome homoeologs included homozygous triple mutation-containing plants. Iodine staining of one of these plants confirmed the near-null expected waxy phenotype.

These new alleles in GBSSI in wheat represent a useful resource for breeding a range of waxy and partial waxy wheats, but even more importantly, this work represents proof-of-concept for TILLING other genes whose modification may be desired in wheat or other crops. In order to identify new alleles via TILLING in wheat, homoeolog-specific primers are required. In the case of Waxy, the sequences of the three homoeologous sequences were already known, which facilitated primer design. Future wheat TILLING of other genes is likely to require additional molecular research to develop homoeolog-specific target primers and will be more complex for genes that are members of gene families.

Ann Slade and her colleagues at Anawah have convincingly shown that TILLING is a technique with considerable potential for crop improvement. It represents an extension of the use of spontaneous and induced mutants in plant breeding and allows the direct identification of beneficial nucleotide and amino acid changes in genes with known functions and their use as the genetic markers for selection. The range of alleles that can be developed via TILLING in a short time is unparalleled and unlikely to be found elsewhere in the pool of germplasm accessible to plant breeders (including landraces and undomesticated relatives). Because the TILLING population is a permanent resource, the results of basic scientific research can be efficiently translated into crop improvement as new information about the functions of potential gene targets becomes available.

McCallum CM et al. (2000) Targeting induced local lesions in genomes (TILLING) for plant functional genomics. Plant Physiology 123, 439-442
Slade AJ et al. (2005) A reverse genetic, non-transgenic approach to wheat crop improvement by TILLING. Nature Biotechnology 23, 75-81
Oleykowski CA et al. (1998) Mutation detection using a novel plant endonuclease. Nucleic Acids Research 26, 4597-4602
Neff MM et al. (1998) dCAPS, a simple technique for the genetic analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms: experimental applications in Arabidopsis thaliana genetics.

The Plant Journal 14, 387-392. March 2005

February 2005

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1.13  Unraveling the mystery of modern potatoes' origins

When it comes to veggies, almost everyone can agree on potatoes. But despite its popularity, the common brown potato has a colorful history that some researchers are still disputing.

While potatoes are believed to have arrived in
Europe in the 1500s from the South American Andes, Agricultural Research Service botanist David M. Spooner has uncovered DNA evidence showing that early potatoes also came from South America's southwestern coast, in lowland Chile.

From outward appearances, modern potatoes would seem to have Chilean ancestors. European potato plants have wide leaflets like Chilean ones, and both are "long-day adapted," which means they require the longer days of summer to form tubers.

But in the 1930s, researchers started challenging the notion of the Chilean connection, arguing that the first potatoes to reach
Europe came only from the Andes. They claimed Chilean potatoes couldn't have survived the long journey from their native country, down through the Straits of Magellan and across the Atlantic.

According to Spooner, who works in the ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit at Madison, Wis., potato seeds can last several years and so could have easily survived the trip. But even more compelling are data he recently assessed with colleagues at the
International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, and the Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla, India.

The researchers surveyed an assortment of potatoes from
India considered to be remnants of some of the first potatoes to Europe. They found that these descendants share specific molecular traits with potatoes from Chile--not the Andes.

Still, some argue that Chilean potatoes weren't introduced to
Europe until after the famous 1840s Irish potato famine, to rescue the crop from the rot-causing late blight fungus. But, as Spooner points out, Chilean potatoes aren't known for having resistance to late blight.

With an increased understanding of modern potatoes' true ancestors, scientists can better preserve the world's potato plants to breed future varieties and realize the crop's natural disease- and insect-resistance potential.

Agricultural Research Service, USDA
ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
18 March 2005

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1.14  Preserving the world's agricultural crop diversity as a resource for future food security

The challenge to preserve the world's agricultural crop diversity as a resource for future food security will be discussed in
Canberra Wednesday, 23 March.

Agrifood Awareness Australia will host a seminar by Mr Julian Laird, Director of Development at the Global Crop Diversity Trust, head-quartered in
Rome. Mr Laird will outline the progress of the newly established Trust and its role in meeting the food needs of a growing global population.

"We are delighted to host Julian Laird in
Australia to talk about the work of the Global Crop Diversity Trust in preserving the world's agricultural crop genetics", said Professor John Lovett, Chairman, Agrifood Awareness Australia Limited and observer on the Trust's Interim Panel of Eminent Experts.

"The Global Crop Diversity Trust has been established to halt the loss of irreplaceable crop diversity so that genes from current and past crops and their wild relatives can be harnessed for future varieties," said Mr Julian Laird.

"The United Nations predicts that the world population will pass nine billion by 2050, an extra two and a half billion mouths to feed, and without a concerted effort now to protect our agricultural raw materials we will simply not be able increase yields to meet this predicted demand," said Mr Laird.

"The Global Crop Diversity Trust was established to provide a continuous and reliable source of funding to preserve crop genetics around the world, and it hopes to raise in excess of $260 million to do this," said Mr Laird.

"Agricultural biodiversity is under threat from habitat destruction and displacement by improved varieties," said Mr Laird. "As a result, guaranteeing facilities to conserve, manage and reproduce the diversity of crop varieties into the future is integral and the growing number of governments, industry and foundations supporting the Trust reflect this."

According to the Trust, there are well over a million crop varieties which have evolved over thousands of years through a dynamic interaction between nature and careful selection and breeding by farmers and plant scientists.

"All of
Australia's food crops have been introduced from other countries, so we rely completely on the genetic diversity that exists elsewhere," said Professor Lovett.

Australia generously contributes to the work of the Global Crop Diversity Trust through AusAid, the Australian Government's overseas aid program, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is being set up by a partnership between the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. It will serve as an element of the fundraising strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which came into force in 2004. To achieve its aims, the Trust will raise and disburse funds and, in particular, build and manage an endowment whose proceeds will provide a permanent source of financial support for collections around the world.

The mission of the Trust is to ensure the long-term conservation and use of crop diversity for food security worldwide. The Trust will:

1. promote and assist the development of an efficient and effective system for conserving crop diversity around the world;

2. help salvage the word's most important collections of crop diversity and guarantee their permanent healthy and safe management;

3. provide funds to upgrade and build the capacity of collections seeking to become eligible for ongoing support.

For further information:

22 March 2005

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1.15  CIMMYT research team aim is to breed high yielding maize that also resists infection by Aspergillus flavus

El Batan, Mexico
 Simple Screening for a Complex Problem

A CIMMYT research team is using an old but effective technique to get a head start on some very advanced crop science. Their aim is to breed high yielding maize that also resists infection by a dangerous fungus. As part of a USAID-funded project, the team uses ultraviolet or black light to identify maize that inhibits Aspergillus flavus, a fungus that produces potent toxins known as aflatoxins.

The fungus is particularly widespread in maize-growing regions of
Africa, and the aflatoxins it produces can cause health problems in those who ingest it in high doses. By starting with elite maize varieties, those that already cope well in drought and high temperatures, and that resist damaging insects, the project hopes to produce a "package deal" for farmers: maize lines can survive these conditions and resist Aspergillus flavus.

No continent is immune from the Aspergillus problem. During 1988-1998, losses from aflatoxin damage in the
US exceeded USD 1 billion. The United States has set an upper permissible aflatoxin level of 20 parts per billion in food, and the European Union has even stricter tolerances. A carcinogen, aflatoxin was recently linked with the deaths of more than 50 people who consumed contaminated grain in Kenya. A study in West Africa found a strong association between aflatoxin levels in children's blood and stunted growth. "There is no easy quick-fix to this problem," says Dan Jeffers, CIMMYT researcher overseeing the project, "but when a solution is found, everyone wins."

By collaborating with scientists in the
US, CIMMYT is better able to accomplish its goal of helping resource-poor farming households who consume their own maize. "We want to combine useful traits that will lessen the incidence of aflatoxin in the crop," says Jeffers. "By crossing maize varieties that already are drought tolerant with those that resist Aspergillus, commercially viable and attractive lines should emerge." This holistic approach will provide better varieties to collaborators and eventually to farmers.

The kernels vibrate as they shuffle down the tray of the light box. Healthy kernels appear faded under the black light, but the infected grain glows. Jeffers and his team will use the fluorescence data to choose the maize lines that show the least amount of fungal infection. "The most promising materials will then be used in further studies to look at aflatoxin levels," Jeffers says.

February 2005

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1.16 Researchers track yellow pigment genes to boost Canada's durum success

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
New research could help Canada develop a new generation of high pigment durum varieties to strengthen its position in top world markets.

A study at the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development Centre aims to pinpoint the genes responsible for bright yellow pigment in durum, a trait that is desired by foreign markets. The three-year study is funded in part by the Endowment Fund, which is administered by Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF).

"This study will help ensure that Canadian durum wheat producers remain competitive with other wheat producing nations, such as
Australia," says lead researcher Dr. Curtis Pozniak, a durum breeder. "The high pigment cultivars AC Navigator and AC Avonlea have demonstrated the market opportunities for this type of material in the U.S. and Venezuela."

Pozniak plans to identify the genes contributing to yellow pigment in durum, develop molecular markers to track them and then build tests so breeding programs can produce varieties that help Canadian producers keep their stronghold on world durum markets.

Canada currently holds about 60 percent of world trade in durum. By 2008, that will decrease, according to the Canadian Wheat Board, by 10 percent, largely due to the emergence of Australia as a major force in durum breeding and biotechnology.

The high yellow pigmentation of durum translates commercially to bright yellow pasta. Understanding the genes that do this will speed the development of new varieties and keep Western Canadian farmers on top.

To date, little work has been focused in this area. However in previous research, the study's co-researcher, Dr. Ron Knox, has located the chromosome regions where genes for yellow pigment can be found.

Pozniak says finding the chromosome region is like finding the town the genes live in. With this information, his team can now go into the town, find the genes and confirm that they are responsible for high pigmentation.

He also says that because the gene sequences for yellow pigmentation have already been characterized in rice and maize, there is an available DNA library to compare with. "Rice is a model species for grass species like wheat and barley in terms of genome organization and structure," he says.

Once the genes are found on the chromosome, Pozniak's team will compare two lines on each end of the pigment spectrum to develop markers, which are segments of DNA that indicate the desired genes are nearby. Varieties W9262-260D3 (low-medium pigment) and Kofa (high pigment) will be used as the endpoints.

Following that, the markers will then be used to build a multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) strategy. This will allow breeders to select the desired pigment genes in one step.

More information on the durum pigment project is available in the March edition of Western Grains Research Magazine, now on the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) Web site, Western Canadian wheat and barley growers are major investors in breeding research through the Wheat and Barley Check-off Funds, administered by WGRF. The Research Magazine offers "Ideas and issues for farmer research investors."

The Endowment Fund, the original core fund of WGRF, has supported over 200 research projects since 1983. Research Reports on many of these projects are available on the WGRF Web site,

2 March 2005

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1.17 Sustained soybean rust resistance issue for Brazilian breeders

In an attempt to control a clever adversary, Brazilian researchers are working to build a genetic arsenal that will allow farmers to continue a long-term fight against Asian soybean rust. Development of disease-resistant cultivars has become a primary goal in
Brazil, according to Jose Francisco Ferraz de Toledo, a scientist with Brazils Embrapa soy research center.

But rust presents a special challenge because of its high degree of variability it can develop several races within a short period and high spore dispersal capacity.

To date, Embrapa has identified several highly tolerant soy breeding lines. But because of rusts variability, researchers also are studying genes that provide lesser levels of tolerance but could bolster straight resistance traits.

One variety now in final yield trials has shown continued resistance and should be available in another year for use in central
Brazil. But Toledo noted several initially promising resistant genes now are susceptible to rust.

The rust seems to be clever, so we need to have a fungicide at hand, Embrapa head of rust research Jose Tadashi Yorinori advised
U.S. scientists and producers visiting the Embrapa facility last week. Because of the diversity of Brazilian varieties, Toledo reported, we cross just about everything with everything in the program,in search of materials with added tolerance or that may slow or delay the disease cycle, thus allowing farmers to escape with just one (fungicide) spraying.

They are aided by what Yorinori termed an important clueto resistance. The disease does not kill leaf tissue around its tell-tale, spore-bearing pustules, although tan-colored, generally harmless lesions appear around the pustules.

Embrapa scientists discovered that in some lines exposed to rust, brown or red lesions appear as leaf tissue dies, indicating resistance.

The rust fungus needs living tissue to grow, Purdue crop scientist Greg Shaner explained. By sacrificing a few cells, the host plant is protecting itself. You get a lesion, you get damage, but you don't get very much sporulation (spore release), so the epidemic isn't able to build up.Though Embrapa focuses on varieties suited to Brazils specific climatic and agronomic conditions, Pioneer breeder Paul Stephens noted the genes will transfer,opening the door to biotech rust solutions.

Given uncertainty about prolonged natural resistance, rust tolerance would appear to be the ideal trait for a biotech approach, he suggested.

Incorporation of genetic material from other species also could offer promise if (soybean resistance) traits don't hold out, Stephens said. One major question is whether the economic impact of a soybean disease epidemic would outweigh
U.S. consumer concerns about GMO crops.

In that regard,
Brazil, which has grappled nationally with biotech approval even as southern Brazil growers routinely raise Roundup Ready beans, could become an important proving ground for GMO rust resistance.

The South Americans now have an issue. If they come up with a biotech solution, that could bode well for getting it approved and into domestic use, Stephens told FarmWeek.

Source: FarmWeek, Illinois Farm Bureau via
February 25, 2005

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1.18 Defenseless plants arm themselves with metals

A group of plants that uses metal to defend against infection may do so because the normal defense mechanism used by most other plants is blocked.

Purdue University researchers found that this group of plants produces, but does not respond to, the molecule that triggers the infection response used by nearly all other plants. The molecule does, however, allow this group of plants, called metal hyperaccumulators, to store high levels of metal in their tissues, rendering them pathogen resistant.

This research is part of a larger gene discovery initiative involving Purdue's Center for Phytoremediation Research and Development, a multidisciplinary research center dedicated to developing a "molecular toolbox" to provide the genetic information to develop plants to clean up polluted sites. Technologies developed at the center will be commercialized through a partnership with the
Midwest Hazardous Substance Research Center, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional hazardous substance research center.

John L. Freeman, Daniel Garcia, Donggiun Kim, Amber Hopf, and David E. Salt
Constitutively Elevated Salicylic Acid Signals Glutathione-Mediated Nickel Tolerance in Thlaspi Nickel Hyperaccumulators
Plant Physiol. 2005 137: 1082-1091.

Progress is being made in understanding the biochemical and molecular basis of nickel (Ni)/zinc (Zn) hyperaccumulation in Thlaspi; however, the molecular signaling pathways that control these mechanisms are not understood. We observed that elevated concentrations of salicylic acid (SA), a molecule known to be involved in signaling induced pathogen defense responses in plants, is a strong predictor of Ni hyperaccumulation in the six diverse Thlaspi species investigated, including the hyperaccumulators Thlaspi goesingense, Thlaspi rosulare, Thlaspi oxyceras, and Thlaspi caerulescens and the nonaccumulators Thlaspi arvense and Thlaspi perfoliatum. Furthermore, the SA metabolites phenylalanine, cinnamic acid, salicyloyl-glucose, and catechol are also elevated in the hyperaccumulator T. goesingense when compared to the nonaccumulators Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and T. arvense. Elevation of free SA levels in Arabidopsis, both genetically and by exogenous feeding, enhances the specific activity of serine acetyltransferase, leading to elevated glutathione and increased Ni resistance. Such Samediated Ni resistance in Arabidopsis phenocopies the glutathione-based Ni tolerance previously observed in Thlaspi, suggesting a biochemical linkage between SA and Ni tolerance in this genus. Intriguingly, the hyperaccumulator T. goesingense also shows enhanced sensitivity to the pathogen powdery mildew (Erysiphe cruciferarum) and fails to induce SA biosynthesis after infection. Nickel hyperaccumulation reverses this pathogen hypersensitivity, suggesting that the interaction between pathogen resistance and Ni tolerance and hyperaccumulation may have played a critical role in the evolution of metal hyperaccumulation in the Thlaspi genus.

11 March 2005

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1.19 New winter hulless barley has high protein

Blacksburg, Va.
Virginia Tech's Small Grains Breeding Program is developing a new type of barley that lacks the fibrous covering. This new hulless barley offers producers an alternative grain for both traditional and new markets, including food, feed, and ethanol.

The price for winter barley has declined since 1996. Even though winter barley was an integral component of the region's cropping system, growers stopped producing it because it was not profitable. The Small Grains Breeding Program work is aimed at reversing this trend. It has focused on improving and diversifying barley's end-use quality.

"Traditional hulled barley cultivars that have higher starch and energy content, therefore, better feed quality, such as cultivars named 'Thoroughbred' and 'Price,' have recently been released by Virginia Tech," said Carl Griffey, professor of crop and soil environmental science at Virginia Tech. "Similar to wheat in appearance, ulless barley is significantly higher in starch content and significantly lower in fiber than traditional hulled barley," he said. Virginia Tech released the first winter hulless barley cultivar, "Doyce," in 2003.

The breeding program is developing both traditional soft red winter wheat cultivars and new cultivars with unique and high-value end-use characteristics such as higher protein content, quality, and white seed color. The Virginia Tech wheat cultivars "Tribute" and "Renwood 3260" have a unique protein quality, making them suited for specialty products. The cultivar "
Pearl" is the first soft white cultivar developed and released from the program. Production of such high-value specialty grains offers producers an economic alternative to commodity markets.

The Small Grains Breeding Program continues to work on more new cultivars that help provide solutions to agriculture problems. Another of the projects aims to develop wheat and barley cultivars resistant to pests and so require fewer chemical inputs. For example, producers would obtain higher yields of a safer and higher quality grain that is resistant to Fusarium head blight, commonly referred to as scab. Scab problems have occurred on an annual basis during the past decade, and severe epidemics nearly devastated the crop in
Virginia during 1998 and 2003. Scab-resistant wheat cultivars developed at Virginia Tech include "Roane," "McCormick," and "Tribute."

15 March 2005

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1.20 Marker-assisted breeding leads to new millet hybrid

With the help of marker assisted breeding (MAB), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Haryana Agricultural University (HAU) have developed a new pearl millet hybrid resistant to downy mildew (DM). The hybrid, designated HHB 67-2, is the first ever product of marker-assisted breeding in pearl millet to be released for cultivation in

DM is caused by invasion of the fungus Sclerospora graminicola. Infection of millet at early stages of development can result in stunted growth of the plant, or even death. Infection at later stages results in failure of grain formation. In years of severe DM attack, up to 30% of the pearl millet harvest can be lost.

To develop the new hybrid HHB 67-2, parental lines of the original hybrid were improved for downy mildew resistance through marker-assisted as well as conventional backcross breeding programs. The gene for downy mildew resistance was added to the male parent, H 77/833-2, through marker-assisted breeding using ICRISAT elite parent ICMP 451 as the resistance gene donor; while the gene for DM resistance was added to the female parent, 843A/B, from ICRISAT line ICML 22, through conventional backcross breeding.

For further information, contact Dr CT Hash at

From CropBiotech Update, 4 March 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.21  Report shows root crop as potential carotenoid source
In Potentiality of Cassava Cultivars as a Source of Carotenoids, Dr. Nagib Nassar of the University of Brazil and colleagues show that one of foremost food sources of several tropical countries also has the potential to curb malnutrition. Their findings are published in the online journal Gene Conserve for the month of March.
In their experiments, the researchers screened cassava clones and interspecific hybrids, and, through colorimetric methods, found that a clone named UnB-400 contained high levels of lutein and trans-B-carotene. UnB-400 was found to have 236 mg/g of lutein, compared to zero in other cultivars; and 2.2 mg/g of trans-B-carotene, which is considered sufficient for the average daily requirements of adults consuming half a kilogram of cassava daily.
Both lutein and beta-carotene are potential antioxidants. Beta-carotene, in particular, is the precursor of Vitamin A, and has been shown to prevent heart disease and cancer, and lower the incidence of cataracts and macular disorders. Cassava, for its part, is both a cheap and abundant crop, and the Brazilian government is currently seeking ways to incorporate it into local wheat flours for enhanced flavor and nutrition.
Read the complete article at

From CropBiotech Update 22 March 2005:

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

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1.22  Maize genome database earning acclaim from researchers, says National Corn Growers Association

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) today said the effort to map the maize genome is gaining critical momentum, as more than 120 researchers from 35 academic institutions have now accessed, a web-enabled database that features previously unavailable corn genome sequencing information.

Scientists say the web site, which features data donated by an industry consortium of Monsanto Company, DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and Ceres Inc., offers a wealth of formerly inaccessible information that will expedite completion of the corn genome sequence. NCGA launched the database, which is hosted by the
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, in July 2004.

There are only little pieces of gene sequences available in the public domain, and in the past its been very difficult to find completed gene sequences,said Dr. Jo Messing, director of the Waksman Institute and professor of molecular biology at
Rutgers University. The private collection ( offers a lot of those missing pieces.

There are about 1.8 million sequence reads available on maizeseq, compared to about 400,000 available publicly, so we now have access to more than four times what was previously available,he said.

Completion of the genome will facilitate important new research into crop genetics, Messing added. Current plant genome research is conducted on rice or Arabidopsis (a member of the mustard family), the only two species with completed sequences.

A complete maize genome will enable a lot of valuable research that couldnt have been done before,he said. Right now there is new exploration being done on rice and Arabidopsis because their sequences are widely available. Finishing the maize genome will allow us to do similar research on corn.

Finishing the genome map will not only revolutionize plant research, but it also will offer untold benefits to corn growers and consumers, according to Gary Davis, a member of NCGAs Research and Business Development Action Team.

A complete understanding of the genome will allow the industry to develop new traits that help us to produce corn with enhanced value and utility,said Davis, a corn grower from
Delaware, Ohio. Well be able to grow corn that better suits the specific needs of our customers.

Davis said a broad range of academic institutions from around the world have utilized the database. Land grant universities such as the University of Illinois, Oregon State University, Kansas State University and the University of Minnesota have accessed the site, as well as international institutions such as Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences, the Danish Institute of Agriculture Sciences and the University of Hamburg (Germany).

Genome data are being made available to the general scientific community for use in not-for-profit research, subject to the terms and conditions of a user agreement obtained through NCGA. Potential users must first complete a licensing agreement with NCGA before accessing the information at

15 March 2005

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1.23  Plants defy Mendel's inheritance laws, may prompt textbook changes

Contrary to inheritance laws the scientific world has accepted for more than 100 years, some plants revert to normal traits carried by their grandparents, bypassing genetic abnormalities carried by both parents.

These mutant parent plants apparently have hidden templates containing genetic information from the preceding generation that can be transferred to their offspring, even though the traits aren't evident in the parents, according to
Purdue University researchers. This discovery flies in the face of the scientific laws of inheritance first described by Gregor Mendel in the mid-1800s and still taught in classrooms around the world today.

"This means that inheritance can happen more flexibly than we thought in the past," said Robert Pruitt, a Purdue Department of Botany and Plant Pathology molecular geneticist. "While Mendel's laws that we learned in high school still are fundamentally correct, they're not absolute.

"If the inheritance mechanism we found in the research plant Arabidopsis exists in animals, too, it's possible that it will be an avenue for gene therapy to treat or cure diseases in both plants and animals."

The study is published in the March 24 issue of the journal Nature.

Pruitt and collaborator Susan Lolle found that Arabidopsis in which each parent plant had two copies of a mutant gene could produce progeny that didn't show the parents' deformity, but rather were normal like the grandparents. Under Mendelian laws, the offspring should have shown the same mutation.

The first clue that the classic inheritance rules didn't always apply was the discovery of normal flowers on some offspring of mutant plants. In the deformed parents, the flowers were fused into tight balls. But in the grandparents and 10 percent of the grandchildren, the buds become 1-millimeter-long, bright white flowers that fully opened and radiated out from the center of a cluster.

"If you take this mutant Arabidopsis, which has two copies of the altered gene, let it seed and then plant the seeds, 90 percent of the offspring will look like the parent, but 10 percent will look like the normal grandparents," Pruitt said. "Our genetic training tells us that's just not possible. This challenges everything we believe.

"We've done a lot of experiments, described in this paper, that show none of the simple explanations account for this skipping of generations by an inherited trait."

The scientists kept the plants in isolation so they couldn't accidentally crossbreed with plants that didn't have the mutated gene, called hothead, that causes organ fusion like that seen in the flowers. The researchers used molecular markers - bits of DNA that help identify and locate genes in organisms - to determine whether a plant carried normal or mutant copies of the genes.

"It seems that these hothead-containing plants keep a cryptic copy of everything that was in the previous generation, even though it doesn't show up in the DNA, it's not in the chromosome," Pruitt said. "Some other type of gene sequence information that we don't really understand yet is modifying the inherited traits."

Although the hothead gene tipped the researchers off to this unconventional inheritance cycle, Pruitt believes that this particular DNA sequence is just a trigger for the phenomenon. He suspects that a number of other genes and the proteins they produce are involved in activating this process.

"We need to understand more about the molecular mechanics of how this process works," Pruitt said. "Then we will know exactly what role this gene plays."

Pruitt's team already knows that animals don't have hothead genes, either normal or mutated, so the scientists must investigate which genes might affect this novel inheritance in both plants and animals.

There are probably a lot of other triggers yet to be discovered, and this mechanism for inheritance may require a different trigger to make it work in animals," he said.

Once scientists understand more about the mechanism, they then may be able to manipulate it to modify genes already in plants and animals in order to correct mutations that cause diseases and abnormal growth.

Though further research is required to learn how this form of inheritance happens and how it can help improve plants or animals through gene therapy, Pruitt said the discovery has opened an important new line of thinking.

The other researchers involved with this study were Jennifer Victor, a former Purdue graduate student now at
Butler University; and Jessica Young, a botany and plant pathology laboratory technician. Lolle, a Purdue research scientist, is currently at the National Science Foundation.

Genome-wide non-Mendelian inheritance of extra-genomic information in Arabidopsis

Susan J. Lolle*, Jennifer L. Victor, Jessica M. Young & Robert E. Pruitt* (Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, 915 W. State Street, West Lafayette,
Indiana 47907-2054, USA)
* These authors contributed equally to the work
A fundamental tenet of classical Mendelian genetics is that allelic information is stably inherited from one generation to the next, resulting in predictable segregation patterns of differing alleles1. Although several exceptions to this principle are known, all represent specialized cases that are mechanistically restricted to either a limited set of specific genes (for example mating type conversion in yeast2) or specific types of alleles (for example alleles containing transposons3 or repeated sequences4). Here we show that Arabidopsis plants homozygous for recessive mutant alleles of the organ fusion gene HOTHEAD5 (HTH) can inherit allele-specific DNA sequence information that was not present in the chromosomal genome of their parents but was present in previous generations. This previously undescribed process is shown to occur at all DNA sequence polymorphisms examined and therefore seems to be a general mechanism for extragenomic inheritance of DNA sequence information. We postulate that these genetic restoration events are the result of a template-directed process that makes use of an ancestral RNA-sequence cache.

23 March 2005

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1.24  Understanding rye and rice may help farmers improve wheat

ARS News Service
Nearly 40 percent of the world's arable land is too acidic to grow wheat, mainly because of high aluminum levels in the soil. But an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist hopes to make wheat more aluminum-tolerant by using a gene from rye, a cousin of wheat.

J. Perry Gustafson, at the ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit in
Columbia, Mo., and cooperators discovered the Alt3 gene in rye several years ago. Alt3 makes rye tolerant to aluminum, which is usually found just below the topsoil. But then the researchers had to physically map the rye gene, so it can be transferred into wheat by marker-assisted selection and breeding.

To do that, the group turned to rice, because it is genetically similar to rye and wheat. Among these cereals, there is a high degree of genetic similarity--what scientists call synteny. A complete DNA sequence and gene map of rice has already been established. Since many of the genes in rye and rice are in the same order, finding exactly where the aluminum-tolerance candidate gene is in the rice genome may help researchers find its location in rye.

Gustafson's group was able to narrow the gene's location to a tiny region in rice, but it has not been able to utilize the rice DNA sequence to find the Alt3 gene in rye. The research, however, was not in vain. Gustafson found that rice is a great source of DNA markers that can be used to map the rye genome.

Rice has the possibility of being used to find many agronomically important genes in other cereals as well. Researchers may be able to use the rice DNA sequence information to identify genes in other cereals that can improve grain quality or naturally protect the crop against diseases.

The research has been published in the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

21 March 2005

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1.25 Genaissance and Monsanto team up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to map soybean genome

Aim is to improve soybeans
An agreement between Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Monsanto Company and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is expected to provide U.S. soybean plant breeders with new technology for more accurate and efficient plant breeding research.

The projects intent is to map single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) DNA markers in soybeans, creating a detailed molecular genetic map of the soybean that includes a large number of SNP DNA markers along with pre-existing SSR (simple sequence repeat) markers. In addition, all of the map position information and use of soybean SNP markers covered by the agreement will be freely available to all
U.S. soy breeders and geneticists, creating the first publicly available map of its kind.

A SNP is a specific location along a chromosome where there is a variation in the genetic sequence. This variation can be used as a genetic marker. Scientists often use genetic markers as a tag to identify the specific location of a genetic trait on a chromosome. By tagging the desired trait, plant breeders can breed plants more efficiently and more accurately.

Monsanto is proud to be a part of this important research initiative,said Monsanto's Global Genotyping Lead Robert Reiter. We hope that our work with Genaissance and the USDA will lead to a better understanding of the soybean, and help develop ways to deliver improved soybean varieties faster and more efficiently, putting new technology into the hands of public soy researchers.

The collaborators plan to make the information available in Soybase, the USDA Soybean Genome Database, and dbSNP, the
National Center for Biotechnology Information SNP database, as well as publish the information in scientific journals, so plant breeders have access to the important data.

The SNPs that are being mapped were discovered at the USDA, ARS Beltsville, Md., with support from the United Soybean Board.

Because all of the SNPs are located in genes, the result of the work will be a genetic map that defines gene-rich regions of the soybean genome, said Perry Cregan, USDA-ARS researcher. It is the gene-containing regions that are of greatest interest to soybean breeders and geneticists who want to develop genetically superior soybean varieties with enhanced seed quality, greater disease resistance, and superior drought tolerance and yield.

"What we learn from this research will be critical in our search for additional insights into ways to improve the characteristics, production rates, and disease resistance of a variety of field crops, including soybeans, and other plant species," said Gerald F. Vovis, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Genaissance Pharmaceuticals.

ARS scientists in
Beltsville, Maryland, discovered the soybean SNPs and saw value for public researchers in having the SNPs mapped. As part of the agreement, Monsanto will provide funding to support the mapping, which Genaissance will perform, given its expertise as a SNP genotyping services provider.

9 March 2005

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1.26  Monsanto unlikely to resurrect biotech wheat

Chicago, Illinois
Monsanto Executive Vice President Jerry Steiner was cited as telling the Reuters Food Summit in Chicago Wednesday it was unlikely to resurrect any time soon its project to develop genetically modified wheat, which was suspended in May last year, adding, "Would we bring it back next year? It's highly unlikely. & The product has to make sense economically and we have to make best use of our resources."

Even wheat industry leaders, who said biotechnology could lead to improved profitability for struggling wheat growers, warned that Roundup Ready wheat could devastate exports of all
U.S. and Canadian wheat.

Source: Reuters via
16 March 2005

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1.27  Oasis Horticulture (Australia) and Suntroy Flowers (Japan) form a new research and development company

SYDNEY, 18 February 2005 Australian-owned and the largest seedling supplier to the Australian nursery industry, Oasis Horticulture today announced the development of a major R&D joint venture with Japanese beverage giant Suntory Limited, effective from February 18th, 2005. The joint venture will operate under the name Bonza Botanicals, with staff from
Australia and Japan working together to develop new plant varieties and provide international distribution of these genetics through the company's own channels and other independent distributors.

With a strong history in plant R&D, Oasis Horticulture and Suntory both hold a strong international reputation in the plant biotechnology arena. The combination of these skills and expertise through their shared investments in Bonza Botanicals will aim to generate innovative intellectual property and new generation plant biotechnology, opening doors to commercialisation opportunities and synergies between two culturally diverse organisations to benefit the global nursery market.

For more information please contact:
Sarah Creelman
McGregors International

Contributed by Andrew Bernuetz, PhD
Bonza Botanicals Pty Ltd

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1.28  Update 4-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Selected items)
We welcome your feedback and encourage you to tell your colleagues or contacts about this e-mail newsletter. Instructions for subscribing (and unsubscribing) are given at the end of the Update. In addition, instructions for subscribing to FAO-BiotechNews-Fr and FAO-BiotechNews-Esp, the French and Spanish versions of FAO-BiotechNews respectively, are also given at the end.

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 18-3-2005 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)

1) FAO-BioDeC database expanded - Forestry sector In 2003, FAO launched an on-line searchable database called FAO-BioDeC providing information on crop biotechnology products/techniques in use or in the pipeline in developing countries (including countries with economies in transition). The database has now been expanded to include data from the forestry sector. In addition, some initial data from livestock has now been included while the crop sector data has also been updated. FAO-BioDeC now contains over 2,000 entries from crops, 700 from forestry and 100 from animals. The database is still evolving and verification and regular updating of information in the database is also being done through a network of national correspondents that have volunteered for the task. See or contact for more information or if interested in volunteering to be a FAO-BioDeC national correspondent. Ideally, correspondents should be working in the public sector, specialising in agricultural biotechnology or in a related area, and they should be up-to-date with the status of development, adoption and application of biotechnologies in their country. There are currently 55 correspondents in 52 countries (

2) Characterisation/conservation of genetic resources - Workshop proceedings On 5-7 March 2005, an international workshop was held in Turin, Italy entitled "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forestry, animal and fishery genetic resources", organised by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology, the Fondazione per le Biotecnologie, the ECONOGENE project and the Societe taliana di Genetica Agraria. Proceedings of the workshop have now been made available on the web. The 20 papers, covering applications of molecular markers, cryopreservation and reproductive technologies, are organised in the following way: Session I on the status of the world's agricultural biodiversity; Session II on the use of biotechnology for conservation of genetic resources; Session IV on genetic characterisation of populations and its use in conservation decision-making. Session III presented results from ECONOGENE, a European Union funded project combining a molecular analysis of biodiversity, socio-economics and geostatistics to address the conservation of sheep and goat genetic resources and rural development in marginal agrosystems in Europe. The workshop was held as part of the build up to Conference 13 of the FAO Biotechnology Forum. See or contact to request the proceedings by e-mail.

3) FAO e-mail conference - Biotechnology and characterisation/conservation of genetic resources The FAO Biotechnology Forum is devoting its next e-mail conference to the role that biotechnology (with tools such as molecular markers or cryopreservation and reproductive technologies) can play in the characterisation and conservation of crop, animal, forestry and fishery genetic resources in developing countries. To discuss and exchange experiences on this theme, we invite you to join the conference. This will be the 13th conference hosted by the Forum since it was launched in 2000. The conference, as usual, is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. It begins on 30 May and runs for four weeks, finishing on
26 June 2005. All e-mail messages posted during the conference will also be placed on the Forum website ( To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two lines: subscribe BIOTECH-L subscribe biotech-room1 Those who are already Forum members should leave out the first line of the above message, to register for the conference. For more information, contact

4) Codex Committee on Food Labelling - 33rd Session The 33rd Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL) takes place on 9-13 May 2005 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Item nr. 5 on the agenda is "Labelling of foods and food ingredients obtained through certain techniques of genetic modification / genetic engineering". See the meeting agenda at (in English, French and Spanish), some background to the CCFL's work on labelling of GM foods, at, or contact for further information.

12) Proceedings of the 8th Asian Regional Maize Workshop On 5-8 August 2002, the 8th Asian Regional Maize Workshop was held in
Bangkok, Thailand, co-sponsored by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Department of Agriculture of Thailand, and Kasetsart University, Thailand. Proceedings of the workshop, whose theme was "New Technologies and Technology Delivery Systems for the New Millennium," are now available, edited by G. Srinivasan, P.H. Zaidi, B.M. Prasanna, F. Gonzalez, and K. Lesnick. Papers in the proceedings deal with molecular tools for maize improvement, genetics and breeding, crop management, biotic and abiotic stresses affecting maize, technology adoption and dissemination, and country reports. See or contact for more information.

13) Generation Challenge Programme e-mail newsletter As part of a new initiative, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) approved for implementation in 2003 three pilot Challenge Programmes (defined as a "time-bound, independently-governed program of high impact research, that targets the CGIAR goals in relation to complex issues of overwhelming global and/or regional significance, and requires partnerships between a wide range of institutions in order to deliver its products") called 1) Water and Food 2) HarvestPlus and 3) Generation. The Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), whose aim is to "harness the rich global heritage of plant genetic resources and create a new generation of crops that meet the needs of resource-poor people", has 5 sub-programmes: Genetic diversity of global genetic resources; comparative genomics for gene discovery; trait capture for crop improvement; genetic resources, genomic, and crop information systems and, finally, capacity building. The GCP publishes an e-mail newsletter providing updates from the programme, including capacity building opportunities (e.g. a diversity/breeding course for national agricultural research systems (NARS) scientists in
Pretoria, South Africa, 22 May to 3 June 2005). See the latest newsletter at or contact to be added to the mailing list.

Do not hesitate to tell other colleagues/contacts about FAO-BiotechNews. If they wish to join, they should send an e-mail message to leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-L 3. To join FAO-BiotechNews-Fr (the French language version of FAO-BiotechNews), send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering the following one-line text message: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Fr-L The Welcome Text that subscribers receive on joining the e-mail list, describing its aims and scope and how it works, is available at (in French) 4. To join FAO-BiotechNews-Esp (the Spanish language version of FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Esp-L The Welcome Text is available at (in Spanish)

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1.29  HIV pandemia: Could vaccines produced in plants be the way out?

March 2005
By Daniel Schneeberger, Checkbiotech

Although a HIV-vaccine would be highly desirable, so far no candidate have shown adequate efficacy when administered alone. However, a subunit vaccine produced in plants could be the solution.

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech Director
University of Basel
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1.30  Vaccination against tears and sniffling

15 March 2005
By Annette Ryser, Checkbiotech

While everybody is enjoying themselves when spring finally begins, people suffering from pollen allergies feel much less comfortable. However, there is hopegenetically engineered birch pollen has considerably improved the traditional immune therapies of allergic diseases

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech Director
University of Basel

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1.31  Bacteria hard working cleaner of the environment

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
By Katharina Schoebi, Checkbiotech

Modern technology can often cause soil and water contamination. The environmental cleansing is not an easy task, because unlike with garbage, dissolved compounds cannot simply be swept or picked up. However, now there is hope that bacteria and plants could work together to clean the environment.

The removal of environmental pollutants, such as cyclic compounds, chlorinated solvents and ammonium wastes, from contaminated soil and water sources is a very important subject nowadays. One way to clean the environment is by phytoremediationcleaning the environment with plants. The pollutants are drawn in the rhizosphere (the surrounding area of the roots) and are then degraded by the plant or by microoorganisms in the plant.

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech Director
University of Basel

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1.32  Food allergy hope

Thursday, March 17, 2005
By Joyce Gramza

Scientists are working to develop vaccines against food allergies. As this ScienCentral News video reports, allergy researchers are using genetics to help create those vaccines.

© ScienCentral, 2000-2005.

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech Director
University of Basel

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1.33  Switzerland reaches a crossroad

16 March 2005
By Robert Derham, Checkbiotech

Now that the EU has started to slowly hoist its sails to catch the global biotech wind, Switzerland finds itself at a crossroad with genetic engineering.

In 2004, the Swiss government voted in favor of allowing field trials with genetically modified wheat to go ahead. They followed that up by rejecting a referendum that would have called for a moratorium on the cultivation of GM crops for another five years.

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech Director
University of Basel

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1.34  Plants like to be poisoned

Thursday, March 10, 2005
By Katharina Schoebi, Checkbiotech

With the intention of avoiding the heavily polluted surface water supplies, there is a growing current trend of drinking water from underground sources. However, these are poisoned with arsenic. Now it has been proposed, that genetically modified plants should be an effective tool in the cleanup of arsenic-contaminated soils and groundwater.

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech Director
University of Basel

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2.01  Farmers' Bounty: Locating Crop Diversity in the Contemporary World

Author: Stephen Brush
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 2004
Reviewer: Stuart Pimm
Price: US$37.50, £25

Biodiversity's three-part definition -- the variety of genes, species and ecosystems -- is best appreciated on a beach, with tropical forest in front of you, coral reefs behind and mountains in the distance. On rainy midwinter days, in a city far away, there is always the local grocery. [&] Rural markets in
Central America will have variously coloured maize kernels of assorted sizes and types. In Andean valleys you may find a hundred kinds of potato. This is the biodiversity that Farmers' Bounty celebrates. It provides insights into questions of distribution, value and survival that apply to biodiversity as a whole.

Link to Nature book review
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2.02  Special-rate memberships in Crop Science Society of America

Plant breeders and other interested scientists from developing countries can become members of the Crop Science Society of America for as low as $12.50.  Membership also includes one electronic journal.  For more information go to the website below:

Contributed by
Russell Freed
Michigan State University

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3.01  The FAO Biotechnology Forum e-mail conference

The FAO Biotechnology Forum ( will host its next e-mail conference from 30 May to
26 June 2005 and that it will be dedicated to the contribution of biotechnology to the characterisation and conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Its provisional title is: "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forestry, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries" The 4-week conference, as usual, is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated.

On the occasion of World Food Day 2004, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged "individuals and institutions alike to give greater attention to biodiversity as a key theme in our efforts to fight the twin scourges of hunger and poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals". He also noted that the unprecedented loss of biodiversity over the past century was a major cause for alarm, where "Many freshwater fish species, which can provide crucial dietary diversity to the poorest households, have become extinct, and many of the world's most important marine fisheries have been decimated. Food supplies have also been made more vulnerable by our reliance on a very small number of species: just 30 crop species dominate food production and 90 per cent of our animal food supply comes from just 14 mammal and bird species -- species which themselves rely on biodiversity for their productivity and survival. There has been a substantial reduction in crop genetic diversity in the field and many livestock breeds are threatened with extinction". In addition, forests are among the world's most important repositories of biological diversity but their cover is decreasing at an alarming rate.

It is in this context of declining agricultural biodiversity, that this e-mail conference will take place to consider the role that biotechnology (with tools such as molecular markers or cryopreservation and reproductive technologies) can play in the characterisation and conservation of crop, animal, forestry and fishery genetic resources in developing countries. To discuss and exchange experiences on this theme, we invite you to join the conference.

Any Forum Member may subscribe. To do so, please send an e-mail message to leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows: subscribe biotech-room1

If you have colleagues that wish to subscribe to the conference, they should first join the Forum i.e. send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two separate lines:
subscribe BIOTECH-L
subscribe biotech-room1

A Background Document for the conference will be prepared and sent to Forum Members before the conference begins.

Submitted by John Ruane, PhD
Forum Administrator
E-mail address:
FAO Biotechnology Forum website
FAO Biotechnology website (in Arabic,
Chinese, English, French and Spanish)
FAO website

p.s. This FAO Biotechnology Forum, launched in March 2000, has hosted 12 conferences so far about specific topics concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture for developing countries. Note, the term "developing countries" in this context is intended to include the "transition" countries (i.e. the central and eastern European countries and the new independent states of the former
Soviet Union).

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4.01 Asian Rice Foundation grants

The Asian Rice Foundation USA (ARFUSA) has grants for up to $3500 for travel, research, education or artistic work about rice in
Asia.  You must be a scholar below 35 years of age and registered at an accredited institution of higher education in the United States.  Applications are due July 15, 2005.   For further information, visit the website below :

Contributed by
Russell Freed
Michigan State University

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4.02  Fellowship programme for African scientists

A new grant scheme was started in 2004 by Rothamsted International. The African Fellows Programme provides access to European expertise for mid-career African scientists. The aim of the Programme is to support sustainable agriculture in sub-Saharan
Africa, by catalysing innovative solutions needed to achieve food security. Projects should aim to develop lasting partnerships and strategic alliances that will help in developing local scientific capacity relevant to sustainable agricultural production. More here:

28 February 2005

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*25-28 April 2005. International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) Ordinary Meeting 2005,
Bangkok, Thailand Register at!

Contributed by Michelle Jenni Nietlispach
Head of Marketing and Communications

*2-5 May 2005. 2nd ISTA Moisture Workshop
Location: Seed Center No. 7, Chiang Mai, Hang Dong District,
Chiang Mai Province, Thailand

Contributed by Michelle Jenni Nietlispach
Head of Marketing and Communications

* 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."

*9-13 May 2005. 6th ISTA/FAO workshop on electrophoretic methods and PCR-techniques for variety verification and GMO detection
Location: University of West Indies (UWI),
Kingston, Jamaica

Contributed by Michelle Jenni Nietlispach
Head of Marketing and Communications

(NEW) 10-13 May 2005. 5th ISTA - SHC Seed Health Symposium
Angers, France

Contributed by Michelle Jenni Nietlispach
Head of Marketing and Communications

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

* 9-11 June 2005. The Second European Workshop on National Plant Genetic Resources Programmes, Belgrade, Serbia,

Please also look for more information on the Belgrade workshop web page that will be continuously updated over the following weeks:

Contributed by Vladimir Pekic

* 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:

* 14-17 June 2005,
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): II International Symposium on Sweetpotato and Cassava - 2ISSC. Info: Dr. Tan Swee Lian, MARDI, Rice & Industrial Crops Research Centre, PO Box 12301, 50774 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Phone: (60)389437516, Fax: (60)389425786, email: web:

* 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:

* 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

* 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:

*September and October 2005. Workshops on cryopreservation in support of conservation of European plant genetic resources. Organized by IPGRI (
Rome, Italy) in collaboration with the partners of the CRYMCEPT project. Sponsored by the European Union Project mission.

The First Workshop will be hosted by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (
Leuven, Belgium), 12-22 September 2005.

The Second Workshop will be hosted by the Institut de recherch0our le developpement (
Montpellier, France), 10-21 October 2005.

Application forms may be obtained from: Dr Ehsan Dulloo at, or at Applications must be received by
31 March 2005.

Contributed by Kakoli Ghosh

* 18-21 April 2006: The 13th Australasian Plant Breeding Conference -- Breeding for Success: Diversity in Action,
Christchurch Convention Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.
For more details, visit
(Editors note: corrected from PB News Edition 154)

* 23-28 July 2006. The 9th International Pollination Symposium will be hosted at
Iowa State University, in the Scheman Building, part of the Iowa State Center of the Iowa State University campus.  The Hotel at Gateway Center in Ames, Iowa will be the headquarter hotel for conference attendees. The official theme of the 2006 International Pollination Symposium in cooperation with Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture  Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action"
For more information please visit

Submitted by Jody Larson, symposium committee
Iowa State University

Additional Notes from Mark P. Widrlechner:
I've volunteered to help organize the sub-theme on pollinators in plant genetic resource conservation and enclosed production systems.  This will involve assembling a small group of interested colleagues who can serve as a sub-theme committee by identifying possible presenters for the oral and poster sessions and helping review the quality of proposed non-invited presentations as they are submitted.  Help will also be needed to ensure that all submissions to the Symposium Proceedings are well reviewed and edited.

1. If you would be interested in presenting the results of your research at the Symposium, or know of other good research that you think would be fitting, I'd very much like to hear from you.

2. If you would be interested in serving on the sub-theme committee or in serving on an editorial board, please do contact me.

3. If you know of any other individuals, who should be informed about this upcoming event, either let me know directly or forward this email to them and copy me. 

Your help in these matters would be MUCH appreciated. 

Mark P. Widrlechner
USDA-ARS Horticulturist
North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station
Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa 50011-1170

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

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

* 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

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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.

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at

Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Contributions may be in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the editor, at We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.

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