2 May 2005

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor


1.01  First intensive investigation of early agriculture in Liangchengzhen suggests rice was prevalent
1.02  Homer Chapman, one of UC Riverside's founding faculty members, dies at age 106
1.03  Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) Act Amendments Consultation update
1.04  More Golden Rice
1.05  Regulating transgenic crops sensibly: lessons from plant breeding, biotechnology and genomics
1.06  GM rice 'good for Chinese farmers' health and wealth'
1.07  New ISAAA information package: 'Molecular Breeding and Marker Assisted Selection' April 28, 2005
1.08  CGIAR drafts guidelines on unintended GMOs in genebanks
1.09  Participatory plant breeding: a fast track to variety development
1.10  Neglected crops 'crucial' to beating hunger
1.11  Preserving the grain crop finger millet
1.12  Poor countries are 'not mining their green gold'
1.13  Preserving wild rice and other crops
1.14  China opens centre of excellence for agricultural biodiversity
1.15  CSIRO develops plants that produce DHA, a healthy omega-3 oil component normally only available from fish sources
1.16  Ohio State University's Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center revives old-style petunias
1.17  Australian researchers looking for 'tough genes' to overcome drought and salinity
1.18  New Nerica rice varieties added
1.19  Rice genome shuffles, loses plastic genes, research finds
1.20  Developing maize varieties tolerant to witch-weed
1.21  Genetic secrets of rice's worst fungal pest unveiled
1.22  Positive reactions to new technique using genetic engineering without foreign DNA
1.23  Researchers discover chemical compounds that help plants deal with gravity
1.24  Researchers unlock mechanism creating jigsaw puzzle-like plant cells
1.25  Wheat diseases affected by pollutant emissions, paper reports

2.01  Population Improvement:
A Way of Exploiting the Rice Genetic Resources of Latin America
2.02  Now in paperback: Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Relatives
2.03  Invitation to submit manuscripts: Propagation of Ornamental Plants
2.04  Editorial policy: Innovation Strategy Today
2.05  IP Strategy Today No 14

3.01 Global Plant Breeding:  a new plant breeding website

4.01  PhD Scholarship from SARDI
4.02  New research grant opportunities for young researchers from developing countries
4.03  Coordinated ag projects in applied plant genomics (CSREES/USDA)

(None posted)





1.01 First intensive investigation of early agriculture in Liangchengzhen suggests rice was prevalent

Archaeologists from the University of Toronto, the Field Museum, and Shandong University announce the results of the first intensive investigation of early agriculture in Liangchengzhen, Shandong in Northern China. The results are published in the April 2005 issue of Current Anthropology. Several thousand crop and weed seeds were recovered by the team at the 4000 year-old Liangchengzhen site, a regional political center in Shandong.

Prior to the investigation, Longshan agriculture was thought to have been millet-based, with rice having little importance. However, nearly half the grains collected in the study were from rice while the remainder was from fox-tail millet. According to radiocarbon dating, the grains removed from the pit date to 2000 B.C.

Modern grain agriculture in
China is a successful combination of local rice and Near Eastern wheat. Several wheat grains were found at the site, indicating that the crop had come across Asia to eastern China prior to any other evidence of western contact in that region. The Liangchengzhen research shows that the rice-wheat complex developed even before the emergence of writing.

"Not only does rice appear to have been more significant for eastern Longshan people than previously suspected but the presence of wheat foreshadows more modern agriculture based on both rice and wheat. Wheat is rare at Liangchengzhen and was likely just being introduced to the region," the researchers contend.

A significant study of this kind has been needed. "Understanding of Late Neolithic food production in
China has been hampered by a lack of palaeoethnobotanical research, "attest the scholars. "Setting such studies in an interdisciplinary framework is essential if we are to understand not only Late Neolithic agriculture but the origins of food production in China as well."

Crawford, Gary, Anne Underhill, Zhijun Zhao, Gyoung-Ah Lee, Gary Feinman, Linda Nicholas, Fengshi Luan, Haiguang Yu, Hui Fang, and Fengshu Cai. "Late Neolithic Plant Remains from
Northern China: Preliminary Results from Liangchengzhen, Shandong." Current Anthropology 46:2.

6 April 2005

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1.02 Homer Chapman, one of UC Riverside's founding faculty members, dies at age 106

Professor Emeritus Homer D. Chapman, a former director of the Citrus Experiment Station and a founding faculty member at the University of California, Riverside, died at the age of 106 on Monday, April 4. He lived in
Riverside between 1927 and 1993, when he and his wife moved to a retirement home in Irvine.

Professor Chapman was one of the early pioneers in the development of leaf and tissue analysis for diagnosing the nutrient status of citrus trees. He contributed substantially to the work in citrus nutrition and soils research that made citrus such an economic powerhouse for
California, and around the world. His leaf analysis standards are used world-wide today.

Contributed by Kathy Barton
UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
University of California - Riverside

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1.03  Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) Act Amendments Consultation update

This document is intended to clarify the role of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Farmers' Privilege and the Seed Sector Review (SSR) as they relate to the PBR Act Amendments Consultation, which ended March 8, 2005.
Consultation Discussion Paper

General Information:
Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) is a form of intellectual property rights, which allow plant breeders of new varieties the exclusive rights to produce and sell propagating material of the variety in
Canada. There are many varieties available in the marketplace that are not protected under Plant Breeders' Rights. Only varieties protected under the PBR Act would be affected.

Agricultural and horticultural varieties already in the marketplace, including heritage varieties do not qualify for PBR. In addition, a variety, must meet certain criteria to be eligible for plant breeders' rights. The variety must be new (may not be sold in
Canada prior to application), distinct (different from all other varieties on the market), uniform (variation from plant to plant is predictable and can be described by the breeder) and stable (remains true to description from generation to generation).

The CFIA administers the PBR Act in
Canada. Approximately 80% of applications in the PBR Office are for horticultural crops and 20% of the applications are for agricultural crops. Anyone having bred a new plant variety, including farmers and growers, may make an application for rights, provided the variety meets the criteria listed above.

PBR Consultation:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) consultation on the proposed amendments to the PBR Act ended
March 8, 2005. The purpose of the consultation was to assess stakeholder views regarding the elements of a potential amendment package. If amended, Canada will be in conformity with the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

These amendments are being proposed to ensure that
Canada's PBR system can continue to offer the same incentives to plant breeding and the introduction of new varieties that are available to our key trading partners and competitors.

Role of the CFIA:
The CFIA administers the PBR Act in
Canada. Enforcement of plant breeders' rights is the responsibility of the holder of the right. CFIA inspection staff do not have any enforcement authority under the PBR Act.

The consultation and the associated discussion paper are the result of deliberations by the Plant Breeders' Rights Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of plant breeders, farmers, growers, industry and other stakeholders. The role of the PBR Advisory Committee is to provide recommendations to the Minister responsible for Agriculture and Agri-Food (AAFC) and the CFIA on the administration of the Act, from a broad stakeholder perspective.

Farmers Privilege:
There are some questions in the public forum regarding the potential impact of the proposed amendments on farmers' rights to save seed.

As with existing PBR legislation, the proposed amendments to the PBR Act would not affect farmers' rights to save and use seeds of a protected variety. This is known as farmers' privilege. The current PBR Act does not prohibit farmers from saving and using seed produced from a protected variety; however, this is not currently stated in the Act.

Canada amends its legislation to comply with the 1991 UPOV Convention, it is proposed that the exemption allowing farmers to continue saving and using seed of a protected variety for their own use (farmers' privilege) be explicitly stated in the PBR Act.

With respect to the cleaning (conditioning) of seed, the intent is not to prevent farmers from having their seed cleaned (conditioned) for their own use.

Fact Sheet - Farmers Ability to Save Seed Produced from Protected Varieties

Seed Sector Review (SSR)
The Seed Sector Review and the PBR Act Amendments consultation are two separate and independent activities. The SSR was an industry-led assessment of the Canadian seed sector and
Canada's seed regulatory environment in the global context. The Review was conducted in 2003 and 2004 and its recommendations reflect the views of the industry participants.

Suggestions for changes to
Canada's PBR legislation were among the recommendations to stem from this review. The Government of Canada is supportive of the SSR participants' efforts to encourage stakeholder debate and build consensus on seed sector issues.

Next steps:
The CFIA is reviewing comments and will seek the PBR Advisory Committees views on the feasibility of moving forward with the proposed amendments.

6 April 2005

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1.04  More Golden Rice

An improved version of Golden Rice, rich in pro-vitamin A, is described in the April issue of Nature Biotechnology. A team of industry scientists in the UK and USA has produced an improved version of 'Golden Rice', which contains significantly elevated levels of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) work that could bring efforts to develop rice strains to help combat dietary vitamin A deficiency closer to reality.

Dietary vitamin A deficiency affects over 250 million people around the globe and can result in blindness and a depressed immune system. Golden Rice 2 accumulates more than 20 times the amount of beta-carotene produced in the original Golden Rice, developed five years ago. Rachel Drake and colleagues engineered the new strain following methodical screening and testing of alternative versions of phytoene synthase the first enzyme in the beta-carotene pathway to find the one that produced the most beta-carotene. Among all the enzymes screened, a phytoene synthase from maize gave the best results. The new version of Golden Rice containing the maize enzyme is an excellent starting point for breeding new varieties of rice rich in beta-carotene.

The original Golden Rice, although a valuable first step, was soon recognized to contain insufficient levels of beta-carotene in its grains to allow practical implementation in the field. Golden Rice 2, however, has the potential to provide about 50% of the required daily allowance of vitamin A for children, although this depends on overall diet composition in particular the amount of dietary oils consumed together with it.

The company developing the new rice strain supports the Humanitarian Project for Golden Rice and intends to donate the strain for further research and development through a research license.

Improving the nutritional value of Golden Rice through increased pro-vitamin A content pp 482 - 487
Jacqueline A Paine, Catherine A Shipton, Sunandha Chaggar, Rhian M Howells, Mike J Kennedy, Gareth Vernon, Susan Y Wright, Edward Hinchliffe, Jessica L Adams, Aron L Silverstone & Rachel Drake
Published online: 27 March 2005 | doi:10.1038/nbt1082
Abstract | Full text | PDF (accessible to subscribers)

April 2005

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1.05  Regulating transgenic crops sensibly: lessons from plant breeding, biotechnology and genomics

The costs of meeting regulatory requirements and market restrictions guided by regulatory criteria are substantial impediments to the commercialization of transgenic crops. Although a cautious approach may have been prudent initially, we argue that some regulatory requirements can now be modified to reduce costs and uncertainty without compromising safety. Long-accepted plant breeding methods for incorporating new diversity into crop varieties, experience from two decades of research on and commercialization of transgenic crops, and expanding knowledge of plant genome structure and dynamics all indicate that if a gene or trait is safe, the genetic engineering process itself presents little potential for unexpected consequences that would not be identified or eliminated in the variety development process before commercialization. We propose that as in conventional breeding, regulatory emphasis should be on phenotypic rather than genomic characteristics once a gene or trait has been shown to be safe.

Nature Biotechnology Volume 23 No. 4, pp 482 - 487 (April 2005)

6 April 2005

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1.06  GM rice 'good for Chinese farmers' health and wealth'

Lei Du

[BEIJING] Genetically modified (GM) rice reduces health risks for farmers and increases their profits because it demands far fewer pesticide applications than conventional rice, according to research in China.

The joint Chinese-US study, published today (29 April) in Science, also shows that one of the two types of GM rice under investigation had slightly higher yields than non-GM rice.

Lead author Jikun Huang of the Beijing-based Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy says the team's goal was to evaluate whether rice modified to resist attack by insect pests could improve farmers' livelihoods and wellbeing.

The researchers found that farmers growing GM rice reduced their pesticide use by nearly 80 per cent.

"In fact, 62 per cent of farmers who cultivated GM rice didn't use any pesticide at all," says Huang. In contrast, farmers growing conventional rice sprayed pesticides on average 3.7 times each season.

Farmers growing GM rice spent just 31 yuan (under US$4) per hectare on pesticides, while those growing conventional rice spent close to US$30 per hectare.

The benefits of GM rice were not only economic, the study found. Pesticides which contain toxins that kill insects by affecting their nervous system can also be toxic to people.

According to Huang, tens of thousands of Chinese farmers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year, and hundreds die because of exposure to the chemicals.

Huang's team found that while up to 11 per cent of farmers growing non-GM rice had symptoms of pesticide poisoning, none of those growing GM rice did.

"The study shows that there is vast potential for gains, both economic and health-wise, from adopting GM rice," says David Zilberman, an agricultural economist at the
University of California, Berkeley.

The research was done in
Hubei and Fujian provinces as 'preproduction trials' the final stage of testing before a GM crop can be approved for commercialisation in China.

Huang is optimistic that the government will approve the GM rice soon.

If so, says Zilberman, "it will lead to the adoption of GM rice in other Asian countries".

Huang and colleagues compared 123 household farms growing GM rice with 224 plots growing non-GM rice in 2002 and 2003.

The two types of GM rice assessed were Xianyou 63 and II-Youming 86. The former contains a bacterial gene that produces a poison that kills insects feeding on the rice, but is harmless to birds or mammals.

The second variety is also toxic to insects but contains a gene from the cowpea plant.
Link to full paper in Science

29 April 2005

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1.07  New ISAAA information package: 'Molecular Breeding and Marker Assisted Selection' April 28, 2005

Pocket K No. 19 on Molecular Breeding and Marker Assisted Selection is now available online on the website of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications - Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology. It discusses the techniques behind marker assisted selection (MAS), how MAS can lead to new crop varieties, and the various methods used by scientists involved in MAS.

The process of developing new crop varieties can take almost 25 years. Now, however, biotechnology has considerably shortened the time to 7-10 years for new crop varieties to be brought to the market. One of the tools which can make it easier and faster for scientists to select plant traits is marker-assisted selection (MAS).

Complete document in PDF format (large file):

Pocket Ks are Pockets of Knowledge, packages of information on crop biotechnology products and related issues. They are produced by the
Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Eighteen other topics are all available at

28 April 2005

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1.08  CGIAR drafts guidelines on unintended GMOs in genebanks

The Genetic Resources Policy Committee (GRPC) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has circulated for comments a draft of the guiding principles for the development of the Future Harvest Centers' policies to address the possibility of unintentional presence of transgenes in ex-situ collections. The GRPC hopes to recommend its use by the centers of the CGIAR.

Dr. Emile Frison, Secretary of the GRPC and Director General of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) said that consultation was done widely. The GRPC recommended that more efforts were needed to demonstrate the specific nature and qualities of agricultural biodiversity to international groups such as the CBD and its open-ended working group on access and benefit sharing. "Agricultural biodiversity is distinct from the wild biodiversity the CBD generally focuses on," said Frison, "and restrictions on the exchange of agriculturally important germplasm could have negative consequences."

The draft document is available online at Read the IPGRI release by Jeremy Cherfas at

Source: CropBiotech Update 15 April 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Cornell University

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1.09  Participatory plant breeding: a fast track to variety development

Participatory plant breeding (PPB) has been proposed as a way to address three problems of conventional plant breeding, namely its low effectiveness in marginal environments, the long time needed to develop a variety and the poor level of adoption, particularly in developing countries. PPB complements both Mendelian and molecular breeding and being based on the same genetic principles as formal breeding, incorporates and takes full advantage of the use of modern biotechnological techniques.

PPB turns upside down the delivery phase of a plant breeding program by using adoption as a driving element of variety release and certified seed production. Therefore adoption rates are higher, risks are minimized, and last but not least, the investment in seed production is nearly always paid off by farmersadoption.

These advantages are particularly relevant to developing countries where large investments in plant breeding have not resulted in production increases, especially in marginal environments.

There are currently more than 80 programs worldwide using PPB in a number of different countries and crops ( ICARDA is currently using PPB in
Syria, Jordan, Eritrea and Egypt on barley, durum wheat, bread wheat, lentil and chickpea. The first varieties identified through PPB are already in farmers fields in Syria, Egypt, Eritrea and Yemen.

The NARS in
Jordan and Eritrea are increasingly using PPB as their national breeding strategy.

The ICARDA PPB program has been used by IDRC as one of the six case studies to mainstream PPB.

Vernooy R. 2003.
Seeds that give: participatory plant breeding.
Ottawa: IDRC. Also available at: http:///

Lilja N., Aw-Hasaan A. 2002. Benefits and costs of participatory barley breeding in
Syria. A back-ground paper to a poster presented at the 25th International Conference of IAAE, Durban, South Africa, 16-22 August 2003

Ashby J. A. and Lilja N. 2004. Participatory Research: Does it Work? Evidence from Participatory Plant Breeding. Proceeding of the 4th International Crop Science Congress New Directions for a Diverse Planet26th September-
1 October, 2004 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cleveland D. A. and Soleri D. (eds.). 2002. Farmers, scientists and plant breeding: Integrating Knowledge and Practice.
Wallingford, Oxon, UK: CAB I Publishing International.

Contributed by Salvatore Ceccarelli, ICARDA

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1.10  Neglected crops 'crucial' to beating hunger

T. V. Padma
22 April 2005
Source: SciDev.Net

[CHENNAI] Eradicating hunger will require more research on nutritious but largely ignored crop species, said specialists in agriculture and biodiversity who met this week (19 April) in Chennai, India.

Participants in the meeting said farmers in developing countries should be encouraged to grow a wider range of native crops to provide local populations with greater dietary diversity.

Asia, these crops could include varieties of millet; in the Andes region of South America, tubers and grains such as quinoa, canihua and amaranth; and in Africa, green leafy vegetables.

The current focus on just a few crops means there is "a strong chance that the global community will miss the first UN Millennium Development Goal on hunger by several decades beyond 2015," said Olanrewaju Smith, executive secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are a set of international targets that member nations of the UN have pledged to meet by 2015. The first MDG is to "reduce by half the number of people who suffer from hunger".

Participants in the Chennai meeting said national development plans should make better use of agricultural biodiversity and that there needs to be better access to traditional foods.

The world increasingly relies on a "shrinking food basket" of a few crops to fulfil the dietary needs of its people, said M. S. Swaminathan, chair of the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Of the 7,000 plant species that are cultivated worldwide, just 30 provide 90 per cent of human calorie intake. Three rice, wheat and maize provide more than half of the planet's food.

The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute warns that interpreting the first MDG as meaning that each person gets more food, ignores the fact that malnutrition is also about people not getting enough of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Malnutrition contributes to at least half the of the 10.4 million child deaths each year, according to the institute.

Swaminathan said that tackling malnutrition by increasing dietary diversity would not only help address this 'hidden hunger' but could also help achieve two more of the Millennium Development Goals, namely reducing infant mortality and reducing the number of women who die in childbirth.

The meeting's recommendations are being finalised, and will taken into consideration when the UN reviews progress in achieving the MDGs in September.

More than 100 participants from 20 countries attended the meeting. It was organised by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute and Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilised Species, both based in
Rome, Italy, and by the Chennai-based M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

22 April 2005

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1.11  Preserving the grain crop finger millet

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Sharon Durham, (301) 504-1611,
April 6, 2005

Seeds of finger millet, a staple grain in parts of Africa and India, are now being preserved and studied by Agricultural Research Service scientists as part of the continuing effort to maintain genetic diversity in agricultural crops.

ARS agronomist Melanie Newman, the curator for finger millet and other warm-season cereal, forage and turf grasses, maintains a wide variety of species in the agency's collection. The ARS Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit in
Griffin, Ga., houses the finger millet collection, along with over 83,400 samples of other agricultural crops.

According to Newman, it's crucial to agriculture to maintain a collection with key genetic traits. She and plant geneticist Ming Li Wang are busy genetically fingerprinting the germplasm in the collection to provide researchers with a set of genetic markers needed to evaluate germplasm and identify various traits. Yield and resistance to a fungal disease called blast are important for growing finger millet as a food crop.

Maintaining the collection is vital to future research on finger millet. Researchers have to retain an adequate amount of seed from each sample, or accession. The seeds stored at the
Griffin facility are germinated in specialized chambers, grown in pots in the greenhouse and finally placed in the field. The seeds from these plants are then preserved for future use.

Newman also receives requests for finger millet for nutritional studies to increase its utility as a food staple in developing countries.

Read more about this research in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at:

ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

6 April 2005

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1.12  Poor countries are 'not mining their green gold'

Mike Shanahan

Developing nations could make better use of the potential their natural resources have to yield profitable products such as drugs, says a researcher from the United Nations University.

In her book Regulating Bioprospecting, published today (19 April), Padmashree Gehl Sampath recommends policies for developing countries to implement to encourage fair and sustainable use of their biological wealth or 'green gold'.

Gehl Sampath says that properly regulating the use of natural resources could help build research capacity and strengthen healthcare in developing countries.

In theory, screening biological resources for marketable products a process known as 'bioprospecting' could contribute to sustainable development.

Attracted by the prospect of new drugs, foreign pharmaceutical companies would screen biological resources (such as plants and corals) from a developing nation. When a successful drug comes out of their research, the company would share the profits with the country that the resource was taken from. Agreements would ensure that benefits reach any local communities whose knowledge informed the research.

Thousands of drugs have already been developed from plants, and the diversity of plant life in many developing countries suggests that many more are waiting to be discovered.

In addition, traditional medicine in such countries relies heavily on natural products, which means that local communities already know some plants with the potential to yield drugs.

To ensure that biological resources are not exploited through unfair or unsustainable use, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity allows national governments to regulate access to their natural resources, and recognises the rights of local communities to their traditional knowledge.

However, says Gehl Sampath, most bioprospecting partnerships set up since the convention came into force in 1993 have failed to produce the expected drugs.

In addition, bureaucracy, legal uncertainties and weak regulatory frameworks in developing countries have made pharmaceutical companies hesitant to invest in bioprospecting.

Gehl Sampath says that to recapture the interest of these investors, developing countries should enact laws balancing the needs of drug companies, local communities, and governments, and create relevant institutions to implement the regulations.

She says it is important that these stakeholders do not view bioprospecting agreements as one-off deals to yield high short-term profits. Rather, she says, the agreements should be part of long-term research and development collaborations.

Gehl Sampath says developing countries could improve their healthcare by demanding that pharmaceutical companies help them improve their ability to research and develop their own drugs in exchange for access to their natural resources.

Developing countries have so far been unrealistic about how much they should expect to gain from bioprospecting agreements, she adds.

She warns that developing countries must accept the need to offer incentives to companies to invest "if they are to harness the true potential of these resources".

"Bioprospecting is not a panacea, it is only one solution to the health care problems faced by developing countries," she concludes.

"Gehl Sampath offers a much more realistic and rational basis for fair, wealth-generating bioprospecting deals than we have seen so far," says Graham Dutfield, senior research fellow at the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute,
United Kingdom.

Gehl Sampath is based at the United Nations University's Institute for New Technologies,
Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Link to Gehl Sampath's summary of key policy recommendations in her book Regulating Bioprospecting. (PDF)

Source: SciDev.Net
19 April 2005

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1.13  Preserving wild rice and other crops

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Marty Clark, (301) 504-1024,
April 20, 2005

Nearly half a million samples of plant and animal germplasm are tucked away at the Agricultural Research Service's National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo. But some species do not store well using conventional storage methods.

That's where plant physiologist Christina Walters' team in the Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit plays an important role. Team members find new methods to preserve samples that don't store well.

For example, wild rice seeds don't survive long and don't preserve easily. Many breeders just stick their wild rice seeds in a refrigerator.

Walters found that the water content of seeds can be optimized to make them neither too wet nor too dry. Some drying slows down seed aging and germination but does not hurt the seed. Drying also means less chance that lethal freezing will occur, so the seeds can survive at lower temperatures for longer times. Walters' group has shown that wild-rice seeds can be stored for at least three years at -5 degrees Celsius.

Scientists in Walters' unit are trying to solve a diverse array of germplasm-storage problems. Some recent projects include looking at ways to correctly identify garlic varieties--which are impossible to distinguish by variety name, and difficult to identify by appearance--to prevent unnecessary duplication in storage; trying to assess the genetic diversity of the bristlecone pine, which could be one of Earth's oldest living inhabitants; and developing new methods for storing grape germplasm.

Read more about the research in the April 2005 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at:

ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

20 April 2005

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1.14  China opens centre of excellence for agricultural biodiversity

Beijing, China

The longstanding partnership between the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) received a boost today with the launch of a new phase in co-operation. The joint CAAS-IPGRI Centre of Excellence in Agrobiodiversity Research and Development (CEARD) opened in the presence of Dr Huqu Zhai, President of CAAS, and Dr Emile Frison, Director General of IPGRI.

The Centre will be a focal point for research on agricultural biodiversity with a particular emphasis on neglected crops -- and a training centre for the entire region. It will also host interns and play an important role in promoting cooperation and networking among different actors in the region.

In his remarks at the Centres opening seminar on agricultural biodiversity, Dr Frison praised Chinas efforts to use diversity to boost food production. Planting mixtures of disease-susceptible and disease-resistant rice varieties enables farmers to do away with fungicides and gives them higher incomes from sales of susceptible, but valuable, traditional varieties. Chinese farmers are now experimenting with mixtures of different species and one of the Centres first tasks will be to extend these principles to examine the wider value of genetic diversity in controlling pests and diseases.

In the immediate future, work will concentrate on molecular characterization of buckwheat diversity in
China. This will enable farmers and breeders to develop improved varieties of buckwheat, which is an extremely important crop for small farmers, especially on marginal lands and in mountainous regions. The Centre will also organize a training course on the use of molecular markers for characterization.

The Centre has a branch at
Yunnan Agricultural University and a training centre for biotechnologies at Huazhong Agricultural University in Hubei. It will work with other Chinese institutions in the future as needed.

China is one of the important centres of origin of agriculture,said Dr Frison, and this centre will help to promote the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity for food security, poverty reduction and environmental protection.

15 April 2005

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1.15  CSIRO develops plants that produce DHA, a healthy omega-3 oil component normally only available from fish sources


In a world first CSIRO Food Futures Flagship has developed plants that produce DHA, a healthy omega-3 oil component normally only available from fish sources, and vital for human health.

"Showing that plants can produce DHA in their seeds is a remarkable scientific feat," says Dr Bruce Lee, Director of the CSIRO Food Futures Flagship responsible for the project.

"It is an important first step towards improving human nutrition, reducing pressure on declining fish resources worldwide and providing Australian grain growers with new high-value crops."

DHA and other long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are made by lower plant forms, like microalgae, which are then acquired by fish through the food chain, but more advanced plants that grow on land cannot produce them.

"The prototype plants we developed show for the first time that land plants can indeed make their own DHA and other important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids when we equip them with the required genes," says research team leader of Food Futures Advanced Genetics, Dr Allan Green.

DHA is vital for optimal brain and eye development and is recognised for its health attributes including; lowering coronary heart disease risk, Type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and asthma.

Nutritional authorities recommend a daily intake of at least 500mg of long-chain omega-3 including DHA, yet dietary surveys show that most Australians consume only a tenth of this amount.

To increase intake, many foods are now supplemented with omega-3 oils from fish, but with declining natural fish stocks, and aquaculture's current reliance on fish-based feeds, additional sources of long-chain omega-3 oils are urgently needed.

"Commercially available omega-3 enriched crop plants may be some years away, but they would enable the average Australian to obtain healthier levels of DHA through a wider choice of foods," says Dr Green.

Dr Lee says that this discovery is an example of the successful collaboration of multi-disciplinary science drawing together CSIRO's expertise across the different CSIRO divisions of Plant Industry, Marine Research, Health Sciences & Nutrition, Entomology, Livestock Industries, and Food Science
Australia (a joint venture of CSIRO and the Victorian Government).

"This result positions
Australia at the forefront of global grain research and innovation."

5 April 2005

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1.16  Ohio State University's Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center revives old-style petunias

Columbus, Ohio
April 11, 2005

Petunias with blooms of white, purple, pink, red and yellow populate greenhouses at Ohio State University's Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center (OPGC). Petunias are not uncommon, but what makes these so special is that they haven't been in the public eye for nearly 40 years.

Researchers at the OPGC, located on the campus of the
College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, are restoring the seed viability of heirloom petunias. The seed, which has been sitting in storage at the U.S. Department of Agriculture since the 1960s, was recently transferred to the OPGC.

We were told that the viability of the seed was very low,said David Tay, OPGC director. It was our job to try and save that seed and produce germplasm of the cultivars produced for future research and perhaps renew market interest.

So far, five different open-pollinated heirloom petunia cultivars have been restored and researchers are working on another 25. The plants come in a variety of flower colors and sizes. The petunia, a summer annual, is known for its diverse colors and easy maintenance, both in the landscape and in gardens (including container gardening).

These plants are frozen in time. No one is growing these cultivars anymore,said
Tay. I think there is a renewed interest in some of the old-style flowers. Many people want to grow them but they are just not in the market.

For more information on the project, contact David Tay at (614) 292-3708 or, or OPGC curator Susan Stieve at (614) 292-3726 or

The OPGC, a cooperative effort between
Ohio State and the USDAs Agricultural Research Service, was developed to save, assess and promote the use of herbaceous ornamental plant germplasm. It is the first such undertaking in the world. To date, over 2,700 plant accessions have been collected.

11 April 2005

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1.17 Australian researchers looking for 'tough genes' to overcome drought and salinity

Adelaide, Southern Australia
 by David Ellis, The University of Adelaide
Adelaide has a major role to play in the development of salt-tolerant crops that could potentially feed millions of starving people worldwide.

According to statistics, world food grain production must be doubled by the year 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population.

Even under ideal conditions, it would be difficult to increase crop production much beyond current levels,said Professor Mark Tester, Australian Research Council (ARC) Federation Fellow at the University of Adelaide.

Based at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the Waite Campus, Professor Tester is a key researcher in international efforts to turn the tide of crop production.

With the greatest population increases being in the cities of developing countries, it is an economic necessity that the majority of any increased food production should occur in the countries in which these growing cities are located,he said.

Most crop-growing conditions are far from ideal. Particularly challenging is that increased production must be achieved in the face of decreased land area for cropping, diminishing water resources and worsening environmental constraints, such as drought and poor soil.

There are both practical and theoretical constraints which limit just how much a plant can do!

Globally, cereal production is reduced by approximately one-third due simply to the effects of drought, salinity and low temperatures, Professor Tester said.

The difference between the potential yield and that actually achieved is termed the yield gap. Most practical increases in global food production will occur through the closing of this yield gap. In other words, we need to develop crops, particularly the cereals, that will be more tolerant to the so-called abiotic stresses, notably drought, salinity and low temperatures.Abiotic stresses are a problem not only in developing countries.

The devastating effects of drought and salinity both on the environment and on the farmers of
Australia are all too apparent. Only two years ago, national wheat production plummeted from 24 million down to nine million tonnes as a result of drought.

A recent market analysis of cropping identified drought and poor soil conditions (mainly salinity) as the two most significant factors limiting the yield of cereal crops in
Australia. Salinity alone is estimated to be costing the Australian wheat industry $1.3 billion annually. There is a clear imperative to improve the tolerance of our crops to the harsh environmental conditions that are prevalent in Australia,he said.

The research underway in Professor Testers laboratory is focused on increasing the tolerance of crops to saline soils.

Central to this work is the stark observation that some plants manage to keep growing well on saline soils (tough plants), whereas others grow poorly (the wimps). Were identifying genes that make the tough plants tough, and then moving these genes into the wimps, in order to toughen up the wimps.

The toughness genes may be derived from plants that are closely related to the crops we want to make more tolerant, or else they may be found in more evolutionarily distant plants, that display tolerance to greater extremes than do the crop relatives.

It is not only the presence of a particular gene that is important, but also where in the plant the gene is activated, and when the gene is activated. It is these cell-specific genetic issues that are a major focus of the research program in Professor Testers laboratory.

With the new developments in biology that exploit the power of robotics and computing, extraordinary and exciting new advances are now possible,Professor Tester said.

In large centres such as the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and the Waite campus of the
University of Adelaide, there is now a critical mass of researchers who have the chance to make significant breakthroughs in plant science and crop improvement. We live in exciting times.

Source: via Checkbiotech
25 April 2005

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1.18  New Nerica rice varieties added

The latest batch of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties were recently named by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) Variety Nomination Committee, as based on their performance and popularity in the field. The 11 new varieties have been tested in national programs in
Burkina Faso, Mali, Congo-Brazzaville and Kenya.

NERICA varieties been planted on more than 100,000 ha across
Africa, including 70,000 ha in Guinea and more than 10,000 ha in Uganda. A total of 18 varieties have been characterized and named by WARDA to date, and all are suitable for the upland rice ecology of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
For more information, visit

Source: CropBiotech Update 1 April 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Cornell University

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1.19  Rice genome shuffles, loses plastic genes, research finds

Mitsuhiro Matsuo and colleagues from the Center for Gene Research, Nagoya University, Japan report that "The Rice Nuclear Genome Continuously Integrates, Shuffles, and Eliminates the Chloroplast Genome to Cause Chloroplast-Nuclear DNA Flux." In the report, Matsuo reports that, although DNA sequences constantly migrate from rice chloroplasts to the nucleus, these sequences are continuously shuffled until they are lost. The paper appears in the latest issue of The Plant Cell.

Using the rice nuclear genome database (, which includes >85% of the total genome sequence of Oryza sativa ssp japonica, researchers found that gene sequences are constantly transferred from plastids (such as chloroplasts) to the nucleus, constant gene reshuffling occurs within the nucleus itself, and this reshuffling results in the eventual elimination of plastid DNA sequences within two million years of their integration. Calculations also show that the rice nuclear genome incorporated a large portion of plastid genome at least three times in the past 1.7 million years.

These data indicate that the plant nuclear genome is in equilibrium between frequent integration and rapid elimination of the chloroplast genome, which may explain why plant genomes do not seem to be expanding, despite the frequent integration of plastid DNAs.
Read the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update 8 April 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Cornell University

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1.20  Developing maize varieties tolerant to witch-weed

Nairobi, Kenya
April 18, 2005

By Ken Ramani , The East African Standard via Checkbiotech

Kenyatta University (KU) has embarked on research aimed at developing maize varieties tolerant to witch-weed.

The dreaded weed is seen as a serious constraint to maize production in the country and sub-Saharan

This was disclosed yesterday during the launch of Level two Biosafety Plant Genetic Transformation facility at the university.

Kenyatta University has become the second institution after the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to have a facility to research genetically modified foods.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate has already certified the laboratory to undertake this home-grown biotechnology research.

Education minister, Prof George Saitoti, said Kari and national universities have started using molecular markers to speed up animal breeding efforts through conventional approaches.

"We cannot afford to ignore the use of this and other emerging technologies if we intend to be globally competitive.

Africa had failed to benefit from the green revolution, let us make sure that we reap the gains of biotechnology," said Saitoti.

President Kibaki last year opened the first bio-safety glasshouse in
Kenya at KARI.

The local university and the
University of California are collaborating in the biosafety project funded by the Rockfeller Foundation.

Saitoti said the facility would make a contribution in empowering African scientists to embrace biotechnology to do research that addresses the problems of the continent.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Everret Standa, said KU researchers had entered into a working relation with other institutions such as Kari and Kemri.

He said donors, notably RF, AATF, USAid, USDA and the private sector, are among those that KU researchers are closely working with in the field of genetically modified foods.

Standa said KU welcomes the collaborative efforts and financial support aimed at benefiting farmers and consumers of their produce.

It was further disclosed that during the 2005/6 academic year, KU would admit students from
Sudan, Ethiopia and Tanzania to be trained in agricultural biotechnology with the aim of developing drought-resistant maize varieties.

Education Permanent Secretary, Prof Karega Mutahi, who read Saitoti's speech, said the Attorney General's office had approved a Draft Bill on GMO foods.

"Anytime from now the Bill will be presented to the Cabinet for approval before being taken to Parliament for debate and approval," Mutahi told The Standard.

Other news from this sourceThe East African Standard via Checkbiotech

20 April 2005

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1.21  Genetic secrets of rice's worst fungal pest unveiled

Catherine Brahic
Scientists who mapped the entire genetic code of the world's most destructive rice fungus say their research reveals what makes the fungus so powerful and offers several avenues for research into combating it.

Each year the 'rice blast' fungus, Magnaporthe grisea, destroys enough rice to feed 60 million people.

Its genetic code was mapped in 2002 by a team led by Ralph Dean, director of the Fungal Genomics Laboratory at
North Carolina State University, United States (see Rice fungal killer genome sequenced).

The team's first analysis of the sequence is published today (21 April) in Nature.

The fungus gets its name from the way it blasts its way into the leaves of rice plants by growing a small 'bubble' that sticks to the plant. Pressure inside the bubble builds up until it bursts, allowing the fungus to push through the leaf's protective surface and into the plant.

The fungus can then invade the plant tissue, reproduce and infect other plants. When the fungus infects young rice seedlings it often kills the whole plant. Older plants infected yield little grain.

Dean's team compared the rice blast genome to those of two other fungi that do not kill plants but grow on dead matter. Because the fungi are related, any differences might reveal genes that help M. grisea infect live plants. 

For instance, the researchers showed that the rice blast fungus produces several enzymes that break down the waxy coating that protects rice leaves. The fungi that feed on dead matter do not have any genes that make these enzymes.

Previously, a team had looked at one of these enzymes and decided that the rice blast fungus did not need it to penetrate leaves.

"What they didn't know at the time," says Dean, "is that M. grisea has a whole arsenal of these enzymes."

The data suggests that breaking through the waxy coating is very important for the rice blast fungus's survival.

"Without the genetic sequence we might never have gone back to revisit the story," says Dean.

The researchers also showed that the rice blast fungus has an unusually high number of genes that help fungi respond to changes in the environment around them. Moreover, they showed that some of these genes are 'switched on' when the fungus attacks plant leaves.

They conclude that the rice blast fungus can respond to its environment better than other fungi, and that this could be important in helping it infect plants.

Dean describes the rice blast's invasion of rice plants as "stealth warfare". Rice plants have defence systems that can tell if they are under attack by recognising some of the fungus's proteins. Part of the reason that M. grisea is so successful is that it can adapt its attack to avoid being detected.

It does this with the help of viruses that effectively live inside it by inserting their DNA into the fungus's DNA.

To survive, these viruses need the fungus to reproduce, copying both fungal and viral DNA. By scrambling the fungal DNA, the viruses make it more difficult for the plants to recognise the rice blast fungus, meaning that both fungus and virus have a better chance of reproducing.

"Together they enhance each other's livelihood," says Dean.

He and his team found that the viruses "hide" in very specific parts of the rice blast DNA. Uncovering clues such as this, could help them understand more about how the viral and fungal DNA interact, which could in turn help explain the fungus's adaptability.

Researchers hope that knowing the sequence of the rice blast fungus's genome will help them find ways of enabling plants to better resist the fungus or of disarming the fungus itself.

Combined with the full sequence of the rice genome, completed in 2002, the fungal genome sequence offers a powerful tool for understanding the relationship between the pathogen and the host, and for determining the best way to defeat the fungus.

Click here to see the freely available completed sequence
Link to full paper in Nature
Reference: Nature 434, 980 (2005)

Source: SciDev.Net
21 April 2005

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1.22  Positive reactions to new technique using genetic engineering without foreign DNA

New Zealand
April 14, 2005

By Tim Cronshaw, Fairfax New Zealand Limited via Checkbiotech

European countries with strong lobbying against GM crops have reacted positively to a new technique developed by Lincoln scientists using genetic engineering without foreign DNA.

Most interest in the new way to genetically modify plants has come from Europe, to the surprise of even Crop & Food Research, which holds the technique's intellectual property rights (see related release: Precision breeding: a new genetic technique providing international opportunities for crop improvement, November 2004)

The method called precision breeding allows for the transfer of plant genes without introducing genetic material from another species.

Senior scientist Dr Tony Conner says the research organisation has received many inquiries from around the world since the work was introduced at international science conferences late last year.

"To our surprise (the interest is) largely from
Europe, which is interesting given the concern of Europeans about genetic modification."

It is being warmly received by developing countries in
Asia, South America and Africa, he says.

Dr Conner says
Third World countries often lack the regulations to deal with genetic modification.

He says smaller companies that do not have the big expense accounts of large corporates view it as a means of using the technology.

"There has been a lot of support for the idea. I think people see it as a way forward in the GM debate. It overcomes the big issue of public concern about ethics and how they feel uncomfortable about moving genes across the wide boundaries from animals to plants or bacteria to plants."

Dr Conner says scientific and industry groups recognise that there is still much work that can be done with same-species genetic modification, without causing public concern.

Only genetic material that naturally crosses within the same species is transferred and the method avoids established GM methods using bacterial DNA.

The next stage is to isolate a range of valuable potato genes to improve existing potato cultivars.

The characteristics being targeted include nutritional value, visual appearance and disease resistance.

He admits the work had drawn a mixed reaction.

"We have to recognise that there are portions of the public that we will never be able to convince. But we hope to appeal to mainstream New Zealanders," he says.

Greenpeace spokesman Steve Abel says the main concerns are the lack of knowledge of the effect of releasing new genetically modified organisms into the environment and the random enforced insertion of DNA into a living organism.

"We don't have an ethical issue of GM itself with its lab use. Our concern is of the long-term irreversible effects on environmental release."

Mr Abel says Crop & Food has given the precision-breeding technique a fancy name, but it is still GM and would be regarded as this by an international agreement between countries to manage international trade of live GM organisms.

Dr Conner says the random insertion issue is already present in all crop plants through other advanced breeding techniques and is not a new issue to be concerned about.

Precision breeding is being seen as valuable for any crop and particularly those that are vegetatively propagated such as potatoes and fruit trees.

Crop & Food estimates it could be a year or two before precision-bred cultivars of potato are ready for field testing.

© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2005.

14 April 2005

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1.23  Researchers discover chemical compounds that help plants deal with gravity

A team of biologists from the University of California, Riverside has used chemical genomics to identify novel compounds that affect the ability of plants to alter their direction of growth in response to gravity, a phenomenon known as gravitropism.

The researchers screened a library of 10,000 small molecules, the practice is known as chemical genomics, to identify those that could positively or negatively affect gravitys effect on plant growth, which is closely linked to the movement of proteins through plant cell membranes, a process known as endomembrane trafficking.

Well-characterized bioactive chemicals and their targets identified in the model plant, Arabidopsis, can be used in non-model species to improve agronomic traits and increase crop value,said research team leader, Distinguished Professor of Plant Cell Biology Natasha Raikhel.

The team published its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition of March 14 in a paper titled, "The Power of Chemical Genomics to Study the Link between Endomembrane System Components and Gravitropic Response." The teams chemical genomics approach focuses on the use of small molecules to modify or disrupt the functions of specific genes or proteins. NASA supported the research.

This contrasts with classical genetics, in which mutations disrupt gene function,Raikhel said. The underlying concept is that the functions of most proteins can be altered by the binding of a chemical, which can be found by screening large libraries for compounds that specifically affect a measurable process.

The scientists found 219 chemicals that affected the direction of plant growth due to gravity. Further screens reduced this number to 34, then down to 4 chemicals, which affected gravitropism and the movement of proteins through membranes within the plant cell.

Only one of these resembled auxins, a plant-produced growth hormone involved in gravitropic responses, while two of the four did not work through known auxin pathways. One of the chemicals resembled pyocyanin a product of bacterial metabolism thought to target yeast cell membranes. With chemical genomics, the team could identify valuable genetic characteristics beyond the reach of conventional mutations, which are often lethal when present in essential genes such as those that encode many cellular membrane components. Combined with the formidable genetic mapping and information available from the Arabidopsis plant, chemical genomics is becoming a powerful new tool in plant biology. It is helping scientists better understand protein transportation and genetic signaling in a plants cellular membrane system, which is essential to plant growth, yet is poorly understood.

The researchers can now use the compounds they have discovered to identify target pathways and proteins within the endomembrane system.

Contributed by Kathy Barton
UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
University of California - Riverside

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1.24  Researchers unlock mechanism creating jigsaw puzzle-like plant cells

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have unlocked the molecular give and take that allows cells in thin structures such as leaves to develop in a jigsaw-like pattern, providing the leaf a surprising degree of strength. The findings were published in todays edition of the journal Cell.

Zhenbiao Yang, a professor of plant cell biology at the UCR's Center for Plant Cell Biology and Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, worked with a team of researchers which included Geoffrey Wasteneys from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver; fellow UCR colleagues Ying Fu, Ying Gu, and Zhiliang Zheng.

The findings, described in a paper titled Arabidipsis Interdigitating Cell Growth Requires Two Antagonistic Pathways with Opposing Action on Cell Morphogenesis, explained a complicated and coordinated series of chemical interactions in a group of cellular proteins, known as GTPases (guanosine triphosphatases) that act as molecular switches, which regulate how plant cells grow into interlocking patterns resembling jigsaw puzzle pieces.

These proteins tell one part of a cell to grow outward while telling its neighbor to recede or indent itself in a finely tuned biological dance. The results are structures that, despite their delicate appearance and slenderness, provide the strength necessary to allow the plant to grow and thrive.

The findings point out that these distinct signals play a critical role in the development of leaf cell walls and leaf structures in a controlled and ordered way and that genetically over expressing one or the other leads to cells lacking the interlocking jigsaw puzzle appearance.

While the researchers unlocked a fascinating mechanism of biochemical crosstalk that coordinates cells into tissues, a deeper understanding of how plant cells chemically talk to each other to grow or recede in an ordered way remains unclear.

Contributed by Kathy Barton
UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
University of California - Riverside

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1.25  Wheat diseases affected by pollutant emissions, paper reports

Sarah Bearchell and colleagues of the University of Reading, United Kingdom, recently found, through their research, that their local "Wheat archive links long-term fungal pathogen population dynamics to air pollution." Their findings are published in the latest online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Bearchell was interested in the abundance of two important wheat pathogens, Phaeosphaeria nodorum and Mycosphaerella graminicola, in wheat samples archived in the last 160 years. Using PCR to detect the pathogens, as well as records of weather conditions during the time period, researchers discovered that changes in the ratio of the pathogens over the 160-year period were very strongly correlated with changes in atmospheric pollution, as measured by SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions. Sulfur dioxide is known to affect physiological processes in plants and may impair disease resistance mechanisms. There was no relationship established between changes in the pathogen DNA ratio and changes in lead, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls, or polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Both pathogens studied cause septoria blotch diseases in wheat, resulting in losses of millions of tonnes of grain worldwide every season. The two fungal pathogens frequently coexist on leaves, and both damage plants by decreasing photosynthetic areas of upper leaves that fill grain.
Download the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update 1 April 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Cornell University

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2.01  Population Improvement: A Way of Exploiting the Rice Genetic Resources of Latin America

Edited by Elcio Perpetuo Guimaraes

Ch. 1. Exploiting rice genetic resources through population improvement
 Ch. 2.
Genetic mean and variability in recurrent selection
 Ch. 3.
Selection indices for population improvement programmes
 Ch 4. Using molecular markers in rice population improvement through recurrent selection
 Ch. 5.
Molecular markers as tools for rice population improvement
 Ch. 6.
Participatory rice breeding, using population improvement: a new methodology adapted to the needs of small farmers in
Central America and the Caribbean

Ch. 7. Exploiting the genetic resources of rice in
Argentina through population improvement
Ch. 8.
Improving irrigated rice populations for the temperate climate of Chile
Ch. 9.Advances in population improvement of irrigated rice in
Ch. 10. Advances in the Venezuelan recurrent selection programme for population improvement in rice
Ch. 11. Acquiring a basic understanding of rice population improvement for use in
Cuba Ch. 12. Rice population improvement in Bolivia
Ch. 13.
  CIRAD/CIAT Rice Project: population improvement and obtaining rice lines for the savannah ecosystem
Ch.14. Creating a rice population resistant to Rhizoctonia solani Kühn

Ch. 15. Genetic progress towards grain quality in rice (Oryza sativa L.) through recurrent selection
Ch. 16.
Genetic gain for resistance to blast in a rice population
Ch. 17.
Effects of selection and of recombinations on an upland-rice population

Excerpts from the PREFACE
This publication is the third of a series that aims to document progress made in the advanced use of rice genetic resources in
Latin America. It focuses on the methodology of population improvement used in the context of the network formed by the Group for the Advanced Genetic Improvement of Rice (GRUMEGA, its Spanish acronym). We closely follow the evolution of the activities that this group of institutions have carried out through the hard work and dedication of its researchers. When it began, in the mid-1990s, we saw a group that sought new alternatives to counteract some of the problems of developing new rice varieties. These include the limited genetic progress made for some quantitative traits like yield, and the scarce use of the immense genetic resources available for the crop, which resulted in the release of commercial varieties that had very narrow genetic bases. The changing international scene brought new elements to the free exchange of germplasm, almost leaving on the sidelines, the progress made by countries that do not have breeding programmes to generate genetic variation for selection

Some national programmes opted for using mass selection to improve the general level of the populations and fixing traits that were not of interest but were variable. Others sought to conduct evaluations in the second selfing generation (S0:2), and yet others decided to carry out more than one evaluation and begin in the generation of greatest segregation (S0), and then immediately advance the materials for selection in S0:2. Such focuses and methodological variants indicated that the countries quickly took ownership of the idea and of the materials, and are proceeding confidently towards reaching the specific objectives of their respective programmes.

We cannot conclude this preface without highlighting two aspects that characterize this work. The first refers to the release, in
Brazil, of the worlds first variety for irrigated conditions and derived from a population improved through this methodology, and of the two varieties will very soon be released in Bolivia and Chile, derived from populations subjected to population improvement. The second aspect refers to the importance given by the countries to using genetic resources through population improvement: none of these activities conducted by the national programmes involved in this group of countries was financed externally, each having to obtain resources through adjusting the research portfolios of their own national programmes.

This book is available by contacting the editor, Elcio Guimaraes (FAO/AGPC) at

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2.02  Now in paperback: Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Relatives

The hardcover version of Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Relatives  by Norman C. Ellstrand (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003) sold out after receiving favorable reviews in Nature, Nature Biotechnology, American Journal of Botany, Environmental Biosafety Research and several other journals.

The publisher decided to release the second edition as a paperback to make it at a price accessible for scientists and decision-makers in developing nations.

You can now obtain it at:

Contributed by the author, Norman Ellstrand

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2.03 Invitation to submit manuscripts: Propagation of Ornamental Plants

Dear colleague,

I would like to inform you that the International Scientific Journal "Propagation of Ornamental Plants" is printed 4 times per year from 2005 ( I would kindly invite you to submit your manuscript for publishing. Also, I would kindly ask you to send me your name and family name.

Please do not hesitate to get into contact with me if you need.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ivan Iliev
University of Forestry
Sofia, Bulgaria
E-mail: or:

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2.04  Editorial policy: Innovation Strategy Today

Innovation Strategy Today is an eJournal sharing creative and innovative ideas and experiences about global issues in agriculture, health, and the environment facing developing countries.

Papers must have a problem solving orientation and demonstrate originality and innovation in thinking, analysis, methods or application. Issues related to research investments and management, bilateral and multilateral donor policies, extension, teaching, public-private partnerships are equally encouraged, as is interdisciplinary research with a significant innovation and international development component. Manuscripts, review articles and working papers that offer a comprehensive and insightful survey of a relevant subject, consistent with the scope of Innovation Strategy Today, are welcome. All articles published, regardless of their nature, will be reviewed anonymously by members of the editorial board.

Contributed by  Anatole F Krattiger

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2.05  IP Strategy Today No 14

Dear Colleagues:
We are pleased to announce the publication of IP Strategy Today No 14 containing the following two papers:

Huang WH, JJ Yeh and D Fernandez. 2005. Patent Prosecution Strategies for Biotechnological Inventions. IP Strategy Today No 14-2005. pp. 1-10.

Huang WH,
N Khaleeli and D Fernandez. 2005. Patent Prosecution in Pharmacogenomics. IP Strategy Today No 14-2005. pp. 11-18. Free Publication Orders For free downloads of this and future volumes

As always, you are welcome to download it for free from where you may also subscribe to automatically receive future volumes.

Anatole F. Krattiger
Chair, bioDevelopments-International Institute
Cornell Business and
Technology Park

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3.01  Global Plant Breeding:  a new plant breeding website

Global plant breeding
was organized to provide information and support for plant breeders in all parts of the world, working on all crop plants, in public service and private industry.  See:

The following is copied from the website homepage:

Plant breeding is everywhere in the civilized world, providing new cultivars (cultivated varieties) of useful crops for commercial growers, subsistence farmers, and home gardeners. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization, and plant breeding is the foundation of agriculture. Plant breeders work with field crops (grains, legumes, forages, roots, and fiber), forest crops (lumber, paper, and mulch), horticultural crops (vegetables, fruits, flowers, ornamentals, and turf), and with crops producing medicines or providing environmental remediation.

Plant breeders are involved in the collection of germplasm (seeds and other propagules of land races, local cultivars, undeveloped populations, and wild relatives) around the world, especially from centers of diversity for useful crops. They preserve, evaluate, and distribute the germplasm to those interested in working with the crop. Plant breeders develop new cultivars having higher yield, earlier maturity, better adaptation, improved quality, and higher resistance to diseases, insects, and environmental stresses. Along with other agricultural researchers and extensionists, plant breeders have provided the world's population with plentiful food, improved health and nutrition, and beautiful landscapes.

Submitted by. Todd C. Wehner
Department of Horticultural Science
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 

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4.01  PhD Scholarship (SARDI)

($25,000 per year)
The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) is a leading research and development institute delivering innovation to enhance the food, fibre and bioscience industries and living environmental systems, working in collaboration with state, national and international collaborators, partners and investors. SARDI transfers its knowledge, technologies, products and services through scientific exchange, extension and commercial arrangements, with the principal aim of enhancing the states economic development.

Pulse Germplasm Enhancement Research (PGER) is a new initiative within National Pulse Breeding Program, based at Waite campus in
Adelaide. The Pulse Germplasm Enhancement generates knowledge and novel germplasm for complex plant traits in legume species especially field pea for the advancement and improvement of national pea breeding program to accelerate the release of improved crop varieties. This PhD program has been created to investigate the molecular genetics of reproductive frost tolerance in field peas as part of germplasm enhancement and to create new plant material and structured populations. This project has been funded jointly by South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT) Fund and SARDI to advance the breeding of field pea varieties tolerant to reproductive frost for South Australian farming systems.

Successful candidate will be enrolled full time at the
University of Adelaide ( and will conduct research in SARDI ( under the supervision of Dr Ahmad.

Further information regarding this PhD scholarship can be obtained from Dr Ahmad by phone 08-8303 9483 or by email

To apply, please submit your current CV along with three letters of references to Dr M Ahmad, Senior Scientist, Pulse Germplasm Enhancement Research, SARDI, GPO Box 397 Adelaide SA 5001 or fax 08-8303 9378 or email to

This scholarship is available in July 2005 for three years and is open to Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.

Submitted by Dr M Ahmad
Senior Research Scientist

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4.02  New research grant opportunities for young researchers from developing countries

International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), Japan, are pleased to announce a new call for applications to two Grant/Fellowship competitions.

Both these competitions are in the form of an ordinary IFS Research Grant plus an additional Fellowship component, sponsored by UNU-IAS. To apply, you must fill in the IFS 1st Grant Application Form (or renewal Application Form, if you have completed an IFS Grant) as well as an additional form for the specific Fellowship. The forms are available on the IFS web. Current IFS Grantees are not eligible.

Please consult the IFS web for complete details:

Agriculture for Peace fellowship (APF) competition
The APF competition is open to young researchers from sub-Saharan African countries who fulfil all other IFS eligibility criteria (consult the web). Fellowships will be awarded to researchers that are carrying out research projects that contribute to a better understanding of relationships between agriculture and human security in sub-Saharan African countries.

Science and technology fellowship (STF) competition
The STF competition is open to all researchers who fulfil the IFS eligibility criteria. Fellowships will be awarded to researchers that are carrying out research projects relevant for:
*  policy for technology transfer to developing countries under Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs); and
*  policy on biotechnology development and transfer to developing countries.

Please note, support is available for research projects, not for development or technology transfer projects.

All applications to the APF and STF Programmes must be received by IFS no later than
30 June, 2005 in order to be considered for support.

The benefits of inclusion in the APF and STF Programmes include affiliation to the UNU-IAS and an affiliated Japanese university, one year technical supervision support by a UNU-IAS faculty member and academics from collaborating Japanese universities, and a one-month stay at the UNU-IAS in Yokohama, Japan.  The cost of travel to and stay in
Japan will be covered by the UNU-IAS.

For more information about UNU-IAS, please visit

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4.03  Coordinated ag projects in applied plant genomics (CSREES/USDA)
The above link is to a supplemental NRI request for applications for coordinated ag projects (CAPs) in applied plant genomics.   Due date for CAP proposals is
July 1, 2005.  

The program is open to all applications and is NOT plant species specific.

Text below is pasted in from the RFA:. 

application of genome discoveries and technology to crop or forestry improvement.  & respond to existing or emerging problems, opportunities, and issues    &focus on large-scale translational genomics  & integrate genomic discoveries and technology with breeding practice; accelerate identification of traits of interest directly useful to breeders to develop varieties; train scientists in the practical application of genomics-based tools   & respond to current needs using genomic tools and resources. & take advantage of recent advances in genomics and to translate basic discoveries and knowledge to practical application.  & include but not limited to: development and implementation of easy-to-use molecular markers for breeding; establishment of mapping populations, utilization of functional genomic tools, resources and knowledge; identifying genomic intervals that carry genetic traits of interest (e.g., quality, disease and pest resistance, stress tolerance, etc), implementation of informatics-based tools for breeding; and to the extent possible, effective communication about applied genomics

Some crop groups applied for, and were awarded, conference grants last year, for the purpose of planning coordinated applied plant genomics research.   However, the RFA is not limited to those groups and any crop can apply.   Please call if you have any questions.  You can call  me, or Ed Kaleikau (202 401-1931  and -6030).

Although funding in this program (as in all NRI programs) is highly limited, it is good news that the program is offered again for FY 2005.   FY 2006 is unknown.  If you think this program is relevant for your stakeholders, communicate that to them and to your department head and other colleagues. 

Ann Marie Thro
National Program Leader for Plant Breeding and Genetics
Plant and Animal Systems Unit

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(None posted)


*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

*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. IMPORTANT NOTE FROM THE ORGANIZERS: The Second European Workshop on National Plant Genetic Resources Programmes, Belgrade, Serbia, has been cancelled due to reasons beyond the control of the organizer (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Serbia).

I would like to thank all those potential participants who sent in their preliminary registrations for participation - as well as those who offered support for the workshop, including the Organizing Committee.

To all those who sent a preliminary registration, please rest assured that your preliminary registration will stay on file and you will be immediately informed, if and when the event is re-scheduled.
 Vladimir Pekic
ECP/GR National Coordinator for
Serbia and Montenegro
ECP/GR - European Cooperative Programme for Crop Genetic Resources Networks

* 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:

*(NEW)  4-8 JULY 2005. International Course: Molecular tools for improving crop tolerance to abiotic stress.
Location: Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas (IVIC), Caracas, Venezuela.
Organizers: Dra. Thaura Ghneim (IVIC, Venezuela), Dra. Iris Perez (INIA, Venezuela), Ana Maria`Perez (CIET-UNESCO, Venezuela).
Deadline for applications: May 15th 2005.
Announcement (pdf) and application form (MS Word)
For more information e-mail: or
Contributed by Dra.
Iris Perez Almeida
Unidad de Biotecnología
Apdo 4653 Maracay 2101-A

*(NEW) 17-20 August, 2005 Workshop Announcement: Plant Genomics in
China VI
The 6th Conference of Plant Genomics in china will be held from in
Kunming. This symposium will emphasize new progress in plant genomics

*(NEW) 20 August-
4 September 2005. GCP Training Program: Diversity/Breeding Course - in Thailand, Kamphaeng Saen Campus of the Kasetsart University. The GCP will continue its Training Program with the second of its courses in Analysis of Diversity and Molecular Breeding for NARS scientists.

Course Objectives:
1. Develop conceptual and practical skills in state-of-the-art tools for genetic diversity analysis, linkage mapping, QTL analysis and association mapping to facilitate marker-assisted breeding

2. Empower practitioners in
Asia region to use GCP knowledge, services and products.

3. Foster collaborations among participating scientists, the CGIAR, and other GCP Consortium members, including mechanisms for technical backstopping, re-training and problem solving in the region and establishment of a regional network.

* 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 recherche pour 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

* 2-6 July 2006,
Udine (Italy): IX International Conference on Grape Genetics and Breeding. Info: Prof. Enrico Peterlunger, Università di Udine, Dip. di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientale, Via delle Scienze 208, 33100 Udine, Italy. Phone: (39)0432558629, Fax: (39)0432558603, email:

* 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

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

(NEW) 11-15 September  2006,
San Remo (Italy): XXII International EUCARPIA Symposium - Section Ornamentals: Breeding for Beauty. Info: Dr. Tito Shiva or Dr. Antonio Mercuri, CRA Istituto Sperimentale per la Floricoltura, Corso degli Inglesi 508, 18038 San Remo (IM), Italy. Phone: (39)0184694846, Fax: (39)0184694856, email: 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.

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