30 June 2006

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

Archived issues available at:


1.01  The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB): Overview
1.02  The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB): Report of the Stakeholder Forum
1.03  Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines develops elite food crops, technologies
1.04  African Crops News Service newsletter May-June 2006
1.05  Seed treaty is new hope for food security
1.06  The world's agricultural legacy gets a safe home
1.07  Biotech-L: The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries
1.08  Washington University biologists find regions of rice domestication
1.09  Safe in the bank? Conserving the genetic heritage of maize
1.10  Chinese scientists develop salt tolerant grass
1.11  Research tackles wild rice domestication
1.12  All eyes on potatoes in 2008
1.13  Argentine ministry of agriculture defines limits of "own use" for seeds obtained from previous harvests
1.14  Promising Crop Biotechnologies for Smallholder Farmers in East Africa: Bananas and Maize
1.15  GM cereal resists heat to boost nutrition
1.16  Food companies to test new soybean oil from Iowa State University
1.17  U.S. Agency for International Development provides $20 million of additional funds for West African Cotton Improvement Program
1.18  New pintos resist bean diseases
1.19  A comparison of U.S. and Chinese sorghum germplasm for early season cold tolerance
1.20  Big bang from world wheat breeding bucks
1.21  Chile develops drought-tolerant eucalyptus varieties
1.22  Research reports new cowpea germplasm screening techniques
1.23  Kenya releases new improved bean varieties
1.24  ICRISAT introduces new groundnut variety
1.25  Directed microspore-specific recombination of transgenic alleles to prevent pollen-mediated transmission of transgenes
1.26  Iowa State University plant scientists tweak their biopharmaceutical corn research project
1.27  Plant calcium oxalate crystals keep insects out
1.28  Update 4-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews
1.29  Selected articles from

2.01  BIOLOGY STUDIES, a periodical Journal from Biology department of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná
2.02  New book published: Flower Breeding and Genetics:  Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for the 21st Century

(None submitted)

(None submitted)

(None submitted)





1.01  The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB): Overview

At the first session this month of the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, FAO will propose a global initiative to help developing countries make better use of crop genetic diversity...

At last count, the world's genebanks conserved some 1.5 million unique samples of food crops and their wild relatives, providing the world's plant breeders with an almost inexhaustible source of genetic diversity for crop improvement programmes. In Mexico, for example, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) holds 22,000 maize accessions stored at -3°C in specially design vaults that ensure seed viability for 25 to 40 years.

Now zoom across to Mozambique, where maize is a staple food, to the National Institute of Agriculture Research in Maputo. There, maize seed is stored in refrigerators, and a total of four senior plant breeders serve the entire country, dividing their time between work on maize, cassava and beans. The country's other source of improved maize, the Mozambique Seed Company, has long since abandoned its maize programme following the termination of donor funding. Result: in the years between 1985 and 2001, the institute released just four improved maize varieties that have had little impact on maize production – farmers’ maize yields continue to average a low one tonne per hectare.

The state of plant breeding in Mozambique, and the results of FAO surveys of plant breeding programmes in 44 other developing countries, will be presented during the first session of the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, being held in Madrid from 12-16 June. At a special “side-event”, FAO will propose a Global Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) aimed at helping developing countries to improve their agricultural productivity through sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

“The Treaty's first session is an important opportunity to strike a better balance between the conservation and utilization of crop diversity,” says Elcio Guimaraes, senior officer for crop breeding at FAO. “All the work that has been done to conserve plant germplasm will be futile if local plant breeding capacity is not in place to fully use it.”

Why is plant breeding capacity so important for developing countries?
“All of the countries we surveyed need to increase crop production, both to ensure food security and to increase income in their agricultural sectors. By some estimates, most crops in developing countries are realizing only 20% of their yield potential. Most of the deficit is due to abiotic stresses - unsuitable soils, drought - with the rest due to biotic stresses such as diseases, insect pests, weeds and poor plant nutrition. Plant breeding alone will not bridge the gap, but plant breeders can contribute to higher yields by developing improved varieties that are suited to their countries’ particular agro-ecological conditions, and robust enough to tolerate stresses in areas where fertilizer, chemicals and irrigation are often too costly or unavailable. Another looming challenge is climate change, which is likely to affect crop productivity in tropical regions. Plant breeding programmes will need to use all available tools in adapting to those changes. In addition, developing regions are highly dependent on so-called ‘orphan crops’, such as sorghum, yam, cassava and plantain – those crops are of little or no importance to breeders in the developed world, so little research is being done on them.” 

What findings have emerged from FAO’s surveys of plant breeding programmes in developing countries?
“So far we have completed surveys of 44 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, looking at trends in plant breeding and related biotechnology capacity in the period 1985 to 2005. We found that the capacity for germplasm evaluation and varietal development in most countries is clearly inadequate, owing to massive reductions in public investment in crop improvement. In Africa, where we surveyed 19 countries, in nearly all cases there is less financial support for plant breeding today than in 1985. The result is that the number of plant breeders is much lower than in the developed world. They have limited training in traditional breeding and almost no training in newer technologies, such as marker-assisted selection. Even where a country does have biotechnology capacity, linkages between biotechnologists and plant breeders are poor. In fact, breeders said one of the most important factors limiting their programmes was lack of knowledge of molecular techniques, followed by the lack of laboratory infrastructure to carry out experiments in advanced plant breeding.

“Another major problem is the lack of long-term commitment to plant breeding, both on the part of donors and national governments. While National Agricultural Research Systems should be the first source of funding, resources are simply not available in many countries and most breeding programmes do not even approach sustainability. National programmes are heavily dependent on external funding, which is often short-term. Other constraints we identified are the poor state of germplasm conservation, limited access to international genetic resources, and weak links between breeding programmes and the market - farmers can’t obtain seeds of improved varieties or the varieties that are available do not meet their needs.”

How will a Global Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building improve that situation?
“The main goal of GIPB is to facilitate action to enhance the capacity of developing countries to effectively use plant genetic resources by upgrading their plant breeding programmes and seed delivery systems. Our surveys have highlighted opportunities for a range of capacity-building activities, including training, modernizing procedures for on-station and on-farm trials and testing, and obtaining finished or near-finished cultivars from private and public sources. The GIPB would serve as a clearing house for information, and work with developing countries to identify their needs so that partners in the initiative can then develop plans to provide the required training, germplasm or technologies. Strong, sustained commitment from national government to provide people, facilities and long term support for their plant breeding programmes would be a major requirement for their participation.”

Who would you like to see participate in the initiative?
“Essentially, the GIPB would be a multi-party initiative of knowledge institutions and agencies around the world that have a track record in supporting agricultural research, working in partnership with country programmes committed to developing stronger plant breeding capacity. Partners would include the CGIAR Centers, National Agricultural Research Centers, regional centres of excellence in agricultural research, universities and other academic institutions, professional agricultural societies and NGOs. Farmers would also play a crucial role by participating in setting the goals and objectives of breeding programmes and in local selection activities. Just as important will be participation by the private sector companies.”

How would the Global Initiative work with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Global Crop Diversity Trust?
“Countries that ratify the International Treaty undertake to implement a Funding Strategy ‘to mobilize funding for priority activities, plans and programmes, in particular in developing countries and countries with economies in transition’. So the GIPB might operate as an independent work programme under the policy guidance of the Treaty’s governing body, and as an element within its Funding Strategy. That strategy could use the knowledge generated by the GIPB to orient its priorities. What we envisage is a mechanism that identifies and prioritizes needs for capacity building, then seeks support from GIPB partners. That might entail creation of a steering committee to match donors and country needs. Through consultations such as those we will be holding in Madrid, we hope to create a shared vision of what needs to be done and identify those who can contribute. We see the GIPB as a complement to the Global Crop Diversity Trust - while the Trust focuses on conservation of crop diversity, the initiative would take concrete steps to ensure that developing countries have the capacity to utilize it.”

[box 1]
The power of plant breeding
Plant breeding has been instrumental in boosting crop production in both developed and developing countries over the past century. High yielding varieties of rice and wheat were at the heart of the Green Revolution, which produced a spectacular increase in food production in Asia in the 1970s. In the US, more than half the gains in yields of all major field crops over the past 70 years is attributed to the genetic improvements - for maize, soybeans and wheat, the annual rate of gain thanks to plant breeding is estimated at one to three percent a year.

[box 2]
New varieties can take years
Developing a new cereal variety can take up to 12 years, from the first tentative crosses to its final release into the marketplace. Even more time is required for tree crops. Often from one to three years are needed to collect, evaluate and assemble promising new genetic diversity, followed by several years of recombination and selection to identify new lines suitable for development of superior varieties. It takes a further one to three years to multiply seed and distribute it to farmers. 

[box 3]
The Trust and the Treaty...
Jointly hosted by FAO and IPGRI, the Global Crop Diversity Trust is building a $260 million endowment to help conserve national and international genebank collections. The Trust is an element in the funding strategy of FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which has been ratified by 104 countries. The main objectives of the treaty, which was approved by the FAO Conference in November 2001, are the conservation and sustainable use of plant agrobiodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits. The first session of the Treaty’s governing body (Madrid, 12-16 June) will be the first time the contracting parties meet to discuss its implementation. More on the Treaty and the Trust...

Submitted by Elcio Guimaraes

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1.02  The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB): Report of the Stakeholder Forum

12-13 June, 2006
Madrid, Spain

Over the last 10 years, significant progress has been made in addressing the needs and modalities to improve the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture among governments and global partners. While conservation is vital, it is not enough. Strengthening the capacity of our partners to identify and use new and more useful sources of variation for traits important to them now while enhancing their capacity to easily identify useful germplasm for the future is equally needed. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture supports both conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use. There is, therefore, an important opportunity to improve the balance between conservation of plant genetic resources and their effective use to meet farmer and consumer needs, address food security concerns and contribute to the Millennium

Development Goals.
Sustainable utilization of PGRFA requires plant breeding strategies through continuous and effective use of germplasm through careful characterization, evaluation and documentation. Advances in biotechnology when combined with conventional techniques offer an enormous potential for developing and pursuing such a strategy. However, the lack long term support for national breeding programs,  lack of access to germplasm accessions and/or  promising new technologies, especially biotechnologies, and limitations of trained personnel and institutional capabilities, prevent national plant breeding programs from meeting the needs of developing countries.

The Global Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) was launched to address these challenges in a concerted and systematic manner complementing existing efforts whenever possible. The goal of the Initiative is to strengthen capacities of the developing countries and those with economies in transition to improve their productivity through sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture using better breeding and seed delivery systems.

Stakeholders of GIPB including representatives of developing countries, CGIAR Centers, agricultural universities and research institutes, NGO’s, FAO and the private sector met to discuss the needs for plant breeding and related biotechnology capacities identified by developing country scientists through FAO surveys and the capabilities of GIPB partners to address those needs. Topics for discussion included training in plant breeding and related technologies, potential partnerships for providing technologies and genetic resources, and mechanisms for information sharing between GIPB partners.

GIPB partners including CGIAR centers, universities and the private sector in both the developed and developing world possess capabilities for training relevant to utilization of plant genetic resources to ensure food security and sustainable development at several levels. Visits and scientific exchanges between scientists from among GIPB partners, the organization of work shops, short courses and consortia, and formal degree programs at MSC and PHD levels could be used to effectively train new scientists in developing countries and upgrade the skills in new technologies for scientists already working.

Technology partnerships which could provide screening and trialing methodologies, shared laboratory facilities, and guidance for finding solutions to thematic constraint like abiotic and biotic stresses could offer valuable assistance to developing country programs in plant breeding and utilization.

Genetic resource partnerships would support for efforts by the Global Crop Diversity Trust to strengthen germplasm conservation, characterization and utilization and identify genetic resources available from public and private breeding programs which could benefit developing country breeding programs.

Finally, a mechanism for sharing information among GIPB partners in order to provide access to newly available information in a format that is accessible and organized to meet needs of breeders in developing country programs. This must include guides to direct breeders to information available via the internet and other methods of communication. GIPB would provide information to policy makers on germplasm utilization needs and opportunities and work to raise the level of awareness of plant breeding’s effectiveness in providing varieties to farmers who utilize PGR to produce food.

Conclusions of GIPB workshop participants
Utilization of PGR in addition to collection and characterization offers a major opportunity to improve crop productivity.

-Plant breeding, often without other inputs, is effective and successful in utilizing PGR to develop varieties that improve food security and sustainable development contributing meaningfully to the millennium development goals.

-Developing countries need additional plant breeding capacity and long term support of breeding programs.

-A mechanism is needed to support the involvement of GIPB partners in enhancing and facilitating developing countries utilization of PGR to ensure food security and sustainable development.

Summary and next steps
Developing countries have expressed their needs for being able to more effectively utilize PGR. GIPB partners can address these needs by building the capacity in developing countries in plant breeding and related technologies. There is both the capability and willingness to form effective partnerships within GIPB that can enhance and facilitate the ability of developing countries to utilize PGR. Additional discussions are needed among developing country scientists and policy makers, GIPB partners and donors to identify resources and mechanisms to meet developing country needs. FAO has offered to facilitate this process

Contacts for more information on GIPB:
 Eric Kueneman ( or Elcio P. Guimarães (

Submitted by Vernon Gracen
Consultant to FAO for GIPB
Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Cornell University

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1.03  Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines develops elite food crops, technologies

Los Baños, The Philippines
By Rudy A. Fernandez, The Philippine STAR via SEAMEO-SEARCA

Los Baños White Gold. Sultan cassava. Biyaya peanut. Tiwala soybean. "Sexy" tomato. Sinta papaya. Pag-asa mungbean. NSIC sp (sweet potato). SNAP hydroponics. Modified atmosphere packaging for perishable food crops (MAPP). Eye-pleasing hybrid ornamental plants.

The list lengthens as more high-yielding and disease-resistant food and industrial crops, and viable agricultural technologies are in the pipeline.

As the U.P. Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) observed its 31st anniversary last June 5, it looked back to the past three decades with pride and accomplishment.

No less than Agriculture Secretary Domingo F. Panganiban acknowledged in his anniversary speech: "IPB is one of the country's major springwells from which we draw modern crop varieties and technologies that provide Filipino farmers increased harvests and incomes."

Panganiban, himself a proud UPLB alumnus, also reported that since 2001, the Arroyo administration, through DA-particularly its Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) - has funded 24 research projects and studies.

Dr. Jose Hernandez, new IPB director, reported the following institute accomplishments in plant breeding: "A total of 126 varieties of 33 crops, including 17 varieties of cassava, and 56 varieties of vegetables were approved for release by the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) and IPB Germplasm Registration and Release Office."

Dr. Hernandez added that many of these varieties are being planted by farmers and seed growers nationwide and used in national programs for increased crop production.

At present, he added, IPB maintains more than 45,000 accessions of about 500 species of crops and related species.

The IBP-bred food and industrial crops have been acknowledged for their significant contribution to Philippine agriculture.

Los Baños White Gold (IPB 2006), for instance, is a three-way cross corn hybrid that has an average yield of 6.44 tons per hectare (or almost three times the national average yield of 2.4 t/ha), has 81.25 percent shelling recovery, and matures in 104 days.

Also now in farmers' fields are the all-purpose type cassava variety Lakan 1, the industrial-purpose cassava varieties Sultan 1 and Sultan 7, and the sweet potato varieties UPL Sp-14, NSIC Sp-28, and NSIC Sp-29.

Biyaya-14 and Pn 10 are high-yielding Valencia and Spanish- type peanuts while Tiwala 6, Tiwala 8, and Tiwala 10 are high-yielding soybean varieties adapted to tropical environments.

Now popular among fruit growers is the Sinta, the country's first hybrid papaya variety developed by former IPB director Dr. Violeta Villegas.

While members of the science community are vaunted for their "serious façade," they also do not forget to make people smile-as when the IPB plant breeders named four tomato varieties they developed after four sexy and talented movie actresses-Rica (Peralejo), Ara (Mina), Rosanna, and Assunta.

These high-yielding hybrid and open-pollinated tomatoes have been "making waves" among farmers in places where they have been planted.

Outstanding IPB-generated technologies include the Simple Nutrient Adoption Program (SNAP) hydroponics and the modified atmosphere packaging for perishables (MAPP) technology.

SNAP hydroponics ("water-less" plant growing) is a low-cost system suited for household level and small-scale commercial vegetable production, ideal for small spaces (as in urban areas), uses recyclable materials, and runs without electricity.

The MAPP technology slows down deterioration and extends storage life of horticultural crops. It is suitable for banana, papaya, tomato, sweet pea, broccoli, calamansi, lanzones, and orchid.

For more information about the UPLB-IPB-developed crops and technologies, write/call Director Jose Hernandez.

11 June 2006

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1.04  African Crops News Service newsletter May-June 2006

Nairobi, Kenya
African Crops News Service newsletter May-June 2006
Partial table of contents, relevant to seed professionals
New bean lines pre-released in Kenya
Discovery of bruchid resistance trait in a Malawian landrace of dry beans
Outbreak of virus-like disease on sunflower in Uganda
South African GM maize adoption in 2006
Full table of contents:

Source: AfricanCrops,net

June, 2006

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1.05  Seed treaty is new hope for food security

Emile Frison says the future of sustainable agriculture depends on countries agreeing on how to share genetic resources.

In 1999 scientists identified a virulent new strain of black stem rust disease on wheat in Uganda. In 2001 it slashed Kenyan harvests by more than two-thirds. If this strain, called UG99, spreads to the rest of the world ­ "only a matter of time," according to an expert panel ­ it could destroy 60 million tonnes of wheat a year, or ten per cent of the global harvest, worth about US$9 billion annually (see Global effort aims to tackle deadly wheat fungus).

This week (12–16 June) representatives of more than 100 countries gather in Madrid, Spain, for the first meeting of the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The two are intimately linked because any durable resistance to UG99 will be found in the genes of a variety of wheat or its relatives, and the international treaty's governing body has the chance to make it much easier for farmers and scientists to obtain the raw material they need to secure the future of agriculture, not just from UG99 but from all the other diseases and challenges that threaten food security around the world.

The international treaty addresses a predicament that arose from the climate of distrust, engendered largely by patenting, that surrounded the negotiation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD established the idea that countries could exercise sovereign rights over their genetic resources. Before, it had been assumed that genetic resources were the common heritage of humanity.

According to the CBD, the use of these resources should be regulated by contracts between the owner of the resources and those who wished to use them. For drug companies, who can isolate a single active compound from a plant and calculate the profits reasonably easily, that made sense.

But farming is not like pharmacology. Hundreds of varieties from scores of countries can go into the pedigree of a single modern variety. Agreements are costly and hard to monitor and no plant breeder, public or private, could afford to enter into all the bilateral agreements to use the diversity needed.

The International Treaty cuts through the tangle by establishing a multilateral system for access and benefit sharing. Each country that signs up gains easier access to agricultural plant genetic resources from all the other signatories and a special fund will distribute cash benefits for conservation, especially in developing countries.

There remains, however, one sticking point: the Material Transfer Agreement. This sets out the terms of use for a sample of plant genetic resources, including provisions that ensure recipients cannot restrict further availability and the details of cash payments if a recipient commercialises a variety that makes use of the material.

The agreement is crucial to the working of the treaty, and yet the governing body still has not settled on a final text. Some countries seem to be taking a tough line to keep down the level of payments and the conditions that would trigger them. Others may be looking for the kind of profits they see associated with blockbuster drugs. What is needed is a gesture of trust, to repair the atmosphere of suspicion that has developed over the past couple of decades.

Free exchange of genetic resources is in fact the greatest single benefit of the treaty. Countries depend on one another for their food security to an astonishing and largely unappreciated degree. If the delegates to the meeting sit down to a typically Spanish dish of paella, will they realise that the rice comes originally from southeast Asia, the onions and garlic from central Asia, the saffron from Greece, the peppers, the tomatoes and the chilies in the chorizo from South America?

They may know that the last big epidemic of stem rust in the United States, in the 1950s, destroyed 70 per cent of the wheat harvest. Do they also know that an ancient relative of modern bread wheat, originally found in the Soviet Union, supplied the genes that continue to protect the crop today?

Agriculture is an arms race. Farmers and scientists improve their crops and methods to protect them against pests and diseases; the pests and diseases respond by evolving new ways to exploit unforeseen vulnerabilities. UG99 is just one manifestation of this process, in which the disease once again has the upper hand. There are many, many others.

Solutions, especially for the poorer farmers of developing countries who cannot afford chemical protection, will come from existing crop varieties, but to make use of those resources farmers and scientists need ready access. The international treaty will provide that access, but only if the governing body adopts a workable Material Transfer Agreement that once again opens up the global flow of crop diversity.

This is far more than an arcane technical consideration; it is no less than the future of food security and sustainable agriculture.

Emile Frison is director general of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome, Italy.

12 June 2006
Source: SciDev.Net

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1.06  The world's agricultural legacy gets a safe home

Vault on arctic isle would protect seeds
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006; Page A01

The high-security vault, almost half the length of a football field, will be carved into a mountain on a remote island above the Arctic Circle. If the looming fences, motion detectors and steel airlock doors are not disincentive enough for anyone hoping to breach the facility's concrete interior, the polar bears roaming outside should help.

The more than 100 nations that have collectively endorsed the vault's construction say it will be the most secure facility of its kind in the world. Given the stakes, they agree, nothing less would do.

Its precious contents? Seeds -- millions and millions of them -- from virtually every variety of food on the planet.

Crop seeds are the source of human sustenance, the product of 10,000 years of selective breeding dating to the dawn of agriculture. The "doomsday vault," as some have come to call it, is to be the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe -- the go-to place after an asteroid hit or nuclear or biowarfare holocaust so that, difficult as those times would be, humankind would not have to start again from scratch.

Once just a dream -- albeit a dark one, attractive only in comparison to the nightmare that would precede its use -- this planetary larder is about to become a reality. Today, on the barren Norwegian outpost of Svalbard, the prime ministers of five nations and a small throng of other officials will lay the cornerstone for what will be, in effect, the Fort Knox of seeds.

"We will have the biological foundation for all of agriculture, which is really saying something," said Cary Fowler, executive secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the international organization coordinating the vault's creation with the Norwegian government. "It is a stunning achievement, if you think about it, and it would be about as safe as human beings can make it."

If progress continues during the short building season this summer and next, the high-tech cavern will start accepting deposits from smaller seed banks and agricultural and scientific organizations by fall 2007 under the terms of an international treaty that took effect two years ago.

Then, with a loud clank and the sound of sucking air, the door will close. And the Svalbard International Seed Vault will slip into a subzero slumber -- an insurance policy for human civilization.

Scientists estimate there are 2 million varieties of plants used for food and forage today. That includes an astonishing 100,000 varieties of rice, the major staple of the human diet, and more than 1,000 varieties of banana, a nutritious fruit of global importance.

Seeds from these crops, which can be smaller than poppy seeds and as large as coconuts, are invaluable repositories of plant DNA. They are the raw material that farmers and researchers rely on to develop more productive and nutritious plants that can cope with climate change, new diseases or pests.

About 1,400 seed banks already exist, including large national collections in the United States and China; international ones maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), funded by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations; and small ones at universities and research labs. Seeds are typically stored at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and are periodically removed and germinated to grow plants, whose fresh seeds are redeposited.

But only a few dozen of these banks meet international standards, and even fewer have funding commitments that ensure their long-term maintenance. Indeed, recent surveys have revealed a slow-motion seed bank disaster in the making, with many collections seeing germination rates well below the internationally agreed upon minimum of 85 percent.

Worse, some seed banks have recently been destroyed, the victims of war and unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda and a reminder of the fragility of these resources. A backup bank could resupply regional banks like those.

Perhaps most important, most of today's seed banks are designed to be working banks -- their contents available to breeders and researchers. That means they are inherently accessible and less than totally secure.

"Svalbard is meant to be the bank of last resort," said Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group, a Canadian civil society organization focused on food security. "It's where you go if you can't go anywhere else. It's the backup for the whole world."

The design, described in a recently released feasibility study, bespeaks that Armageddon mentality. First, there is the location: The starkly beautiful and always frozen terrain of Svalbard is, to say the least, off the beaten track. Home mostly to a small community of scientists, coal miners and support staff, it is the northernmost place in the world with scheduled commercial air service.

Arctic foxes, reindeer and polar bears stroll the streets.
Yet it also has the basic infrastructure that's needed, including a modest network of roads and an electrical generating plant fed by local coal.

Plans call for a cavern about 50 yards long, 15 feet wide and 15 feet high. Although it will be built in solid rock, its floor, ceiling and walls will be lined with three-foot-thick layers of high-quality insulating concrete. The door will be opened only once or twice a year, to check contents and add new varieties.

Air handling equipment will bring in outdoor air during the winter months, when temperatures hover around minus 30 degrees. Refrigeration units will be available to keep interior temperatures cold during Svalbard's summer, though scientists expect the equipment will rarely be needed and no one will panic if it occasionally breaks down.

"Even if you waited a couple of years for the serviceman to show up, it won't really matter," quipped Geoffrey Hawtin, a genetic resource specialist based in England who is serving as a senior adviser to the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

"One hears so much about mammoth skeletons and that sort of thing being preserved in the permafrost," Hawtin said. "But this is the first deliberate attempt to use the permafrost to conserve what must be humanity's most important but least-known resource."

The Norwegian government is paying for the facility's construction -- an estimated $3 million, with about half of that for the concrete alone, which must be shipped. After that, annual operating expenses are expected to be $200,000 at first, dropping to $100,000 by year three. The trust has established an endowment that so far has $50 million of the $260 million that will be needed to sustain operations without depleting its principal. Contributions have come from about a dozen countries as well as foundations, seed companies and others.

The vault is one of many strategies being implemented in sync with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which came into force in 2004 and has been ratified by more than 100 nations. The United States has signed the treaty, but the Senate has not ratified it. At the first meeting of the treaty's governing board last week in Madrid, representatives agreed on crucial legal language that will allow nations to maintain essential patent protections while freely sharing their seeds -- an achievement that participants said will greatly facilitate nations' willingness to donate to the Svalbard vault.

Already, Fowler said, CGIAR has promised to contribute samples from its huge network of banks, which hold about 600,000 varieties. And the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the nation's largest seed collection in Fort Collins, Colo., will add holdings that are not in the CGIAR collection, he said.

Seeds will be sealed in aluminum foil and stored in batches averaging 500 per package, depending on seed size. The facility is designed to hold 3 million varieties, assuming an average seed size equal to that of a wheat seed.

Planners had to consider what would happen if global warming continues unabated. Computer models suggest that no matter what, Svalbard will be one of the coldest places on Earth, Fowler said.

And if, as some models predict, global warming shuts down the Gulf Stream and turns the Greenland Sea into a place even more frozen than it is now? It will still be easy enough to keep the door clear of snow, according to the analysis.

Hope Shand, research director at ETC Group, which champions farmers' rights, emphasized that banks such as Svalbard's are just one part of the global effort to conserve plant genetic resources.

"Ultimately," Shand said, "it's the farmers who grow these crops who are the true custodians of crop diversity."

Contributed by Thomas Payne, CIMMYT

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1.07  Biotech-L: The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries

The last e-mail conference (nr. 13) hosted by this FAO Biotechnology Forum was entitled "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries" and it took place between 6 June and 4 July 2005. As part of the build up to the conference, an international workshop was held from 5 to 7 March 2005 in Turin, Italy on the same subject. When the summary document of the conference was sent to the Forum in November 2005, we informed you that an FAO publication was being prepared which would bring together papers from the meeting in Turin and the documents from this e-mail conference. The FAO Working Group on Biotechnology is happy to announce that this book has now been published, entitled "The role of biotechnology in exploring and protecting agricultural genetic resources", edited by J. Ruane and A. Sonnino.

Chapters 1 to 14 of the book are based on papers presented at the international workshop held in Turin (its full title was "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forestry, animal and fishery genetic resources"), organized by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology in collaboration with the Fondazione per le Biotecnologie, the Econogene project and the Italian Society of Agriculture Genetics (SIGA). The remaining two chapters, 15 and 16, are the background and summary documents respectively from the subsequent e-mail conference.

The book contains four chapters on the status of the world's livestock, fishery, crop and forest genetic resources respectively (Section I); two chapters on the use of cryopreservation and reproductive technologies for conservation of genetic resources (Section II); eight chapters dedicated to the use of molecular markers for characterization and conservation of genetic resources (Section III); and two chapters from the e-mail conference (Section IV).

The Table of Contents is given below. The publication is available on the web at A .zip downloadable file containing the complete PDF of the publication is also available under To request a copy of the publication, contact FAO Biotechnology Forum Administrator John Ruane, PhD e-mail: FAO website Forum website FAO Biotechnology website

TABLE OF CONTENTS SECTION I. STATUS OF THE WORLD'S GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE 1. Status of the world's livestock genetic resources: preparation of the first report on the state of the world's animal genetic resources RICARDO A. CARDELLINO 2. Status of the world's fishery genetic resources DEVIN M. BARTLEY 3. Global overview of crop genetic resources BRAD FRALEIGH 4. Efforts towards assessing the global status of forest genetic resources PIERRE SIGAUD SECTION II. USE OF CRYOPRESERVATION AND REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR CONSERVATION OF GENETIC RESOURCES 5. The potential of cryopreservation and reproductive technologies for animal genetic resources conservation strategies SIPKE JOOST HIEMSTRA, TETTE VAN DER LENDE AND HENRI WOELDERS 6. Status of cryopreservation technologies in plants (crops and forest trees) BART PANIS AND MAURIZIO LAMBARDI SECTION III. USE OF MOLECULAR MARKERS FOR CHARACTERIZATION AND CONSERVATION OF GENETIC RESOURCES 7. Use of molecular markers and other information for sampling germplasm to create an animal gene bank HENNER SIMIANER 8. Genetic characterization of livestock populations and its use in conservation decision-making OLIVIER HANOTTE AND HAN JIANLIN 9. Genetic characterization of populations and its use in conservation decision-making in fish CRAIG PRIMMER 10. Molecular marker based analysis for crop germplasm preservation SERGIO LANTERI AND GIANNI BARCACCIA 11. Molecular analysis of gene banks for sustainable conservation and increased use of crop genetic resources MARCIO ELIAS FERREIRA 12. Genetic characterization and its use in decision-making for the conservation of crop germplasm M. CARMEN DE VICENTE, FELIX ALBERTO GUZMÁN, JAN ENGELS AND V. RAMANATHA RAO 13. The role of biotechnology in the conservation, sustainable use and genetic enhancement of bioresources in fragile ecosystems PRASHANTH S. RAGHAVAN AND AJAY PARIDA 14. Genetic diversity in forest tree populations and conservation: analysis of neutral and adaptive variation GIOVANNI G. VENDRAMIN AND MICHELE MORGANTE SECTION IV. DEBATING THE ISSUES 15. Background document to the e-mail conference on the role of biotechnology for the characterization and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries JOHN RUANE AND ANDREA SONNINO 16. Summary of discussion from the e-mail conference on the role of biotechnology for the characterization and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries JOHN RUANE AND JONATHAN ROBINSON

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1.08  Washington University biologists find regions of rice domestication

St. Louis, Missouri
Biologists from Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators from Taiwan have examined the DNA sequence family trees of rice varieties and have determined that the crop was domesticated independently at least twice in various Asian locales.

Jason Londo, Washington University in Arts & Sciences biology doctoral candidate, and his adviser, Barbara A. Schaal, Ph.D., Washington University Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, ran genetic tests of more than 300 types of rice, including both wild and domesticated, and found genetic markers that reveal the two major rice types grown today were first grown by humans in India and Myanmar and Thailand (Oryza sativa indica) and in areas in southern China (Oryza sativa japonica).

A paper describing the research was published June 9, 2006, in the on-line issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Science.

"We look where the genetic signature of clusters on a haplotype tree (family tree)," explained Londo. "We chose samples across the entire range of rice and looked for DNA sequences that were shared by both wild and domesticated types. These two major groups clustered out by geography."

DNA is comprised of vast, varied combinations of chemical subunits known as base pairs. Londo, Schaal and their collaborators concentrated on finding genetic markers shared by both cultivated and wild rice types that ranged from 800 to 1,300 base pairs.

Cultivated rice has a genetic signature that defines it as cultivated, Schaal explained.

"What you do is go out and sample all the wild rice across regions and you look for that signature in the wild," said Schaal, who has done similar work with cassava and jocote, a tropical fruit. "You find that the unique signature of cultivated rice is only found in certain geographic regions. And that's how you make the determination of where it came from."

Schaal said that she was surprised and "delighted" by their results.

"People have moved rice around so much and the crop crosses with its wild ancestors pretty readily, so I was fully prepared to see no domestication signal whatsoever," Schaal said. "I would have expected to see clustering of the cultivated rice, but I was delighted to see geographical clustering of the wild rice. I was thrilled that there was even any sort of genetic structure in the wild rice."

In contrast to rice, other staple crops such as wheat, barley and corn appear to have been domesticated just once in history.

Rice is the largest staple crop for human consumption, supplying 20 percent of caloric content for the world.

By finding the geographic origins of rice, researchers can consider ways to improve the crop's nutritional value and disease resistance, which in turn can help impoverished populations in Asia and elsewhere that rely heavily on the crop.

Londo expects to find even more evidence for differing geographic domestication. He said that by using the database that they've gathered, they could design a sampling to target specialty rices such as the aromatic rices basmati and jasmine.

For instance, one direction that the researchers are going is Thailand, where the Karen tribe has been using multiple landraces of rice for many hundreds of years.

Landraces are localized varieties of rice that have been cultivated by traditional methods and have been passed down many generations, Schaal said.

"We're going to try to find out how landrace varieties change after domestication," Schaal said. "These landraces are ancient varieties, which are high in genetic diversity, thus valuable to breeders looking for new traits."

12 June 2006

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1.09  Safe in the bank? Conserving the genetic heritage of maize

El Batán, Mexico
Keepers of worldwide maize germplasm collections meet at CIMMYT to see how they can work together to protect and conserve these resources.

Farmers know you protect and save your seed corn (maize) to ensure the next harvest. It’s a lesson the world apparently has not learned as gene banks, which could host tomorrow’s harvest of research breakthroughs and unique traits, find themselves nearly as endangered as the maize varieties and wild relatives they seek to conserve.

The meeting of the Maize Germplasm Network, sponsored by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the World Bank, and CIMMYT, was called to initiate a global response to this growing crisis. Experts from around the world met at CIMMYT in Mexico in early May to begin hammering out a strategy for the long-term conservation of maize genetic diversity. Neither national nor international maize collections have fared well of late, as investments in public sector agricultural research have steadily declined and fierce competition for dwindling resources in the agricultural sciences has risen.

“People recognize that these collections have unique materials and are valuable,” says meeting co-organizer Major Goodman of North Carolina State University, “but donors simply do not like to get involved with a commitment that lasts forever, and that is what we are talking about with crop genetic resources collections.”

Ironically, the reluctance to invest in these operations comes at a time when molecular genetics opens new opportunities daily to exploit genetic resources carrying resistance to plant diseases, insect pests, and threats such as drought, soil salinity, and heat stress. Collecting and preserving the basic sources of resistance traits takes on added importance.

Meeting participants found “remarkable agreement” on top priorities, says Suketoshi Taba, head of the CIMMYT maize gene bank and co-organizer of the meeting. At the top of the list, he says, is rescuing landraces and adapted germplasm identified as being endangered­both of maize and its wild relative, teosinte. Also urgent is the need to create proper documentation for all collections, both from the Americas (considered “primary” diversity, being from the crop’s center of origin) and from other continents (known as “secondary” diversity). The ultimate aim is to facilitate use of the collections while reducing redundancies and their costs. Once proper documentation is achieved, it was proposed that partners would work to establish a “meta-database” of existing maize genetic databases. The essential but perpetually under-funded activities of seed regeneration and recollection must also be considered. Finally, participants agreed that CIMMYT should serve as the coordinating institution for advancing the identified priorities forward on the international scientific agenda.

The meeting co-organizers expressed the consensus of the group in stating that the challenges they face are beyond the capacity of any single institution or nation­thus the need for a broad-based solution. They also observed that clearly there are roles, such as the costly long-term maintenance of collections and distribution of seed for research, that are better assumed by large gene banks, such as those at CIMMYT or the USDA maize collection at Ames, Iowa. These banks, however, find it difficult to regenerate varieties that originated in tropical or highland areas, a role better played by national gene banks. Furthermore, the national banks, when properly resourced, can more efficiently collect new seed and distribute seed from collections to local plant breeders and biologists. But those wishing to implement such a division of tasks must first overcome barriers of plant ownership rights, nationalism, phytosanitary regulations, and a tower of database babble that hampers effective documentation and use of collections.

“I am sure that there is a role for the Trust in this work, particularly in securing unique materials, securing landraces, and helping with the backlog of materials that urgently need regeneration,” says Brigitte Laliberté of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “But it is critical to the Trust that a global system and strategy is established whereby there are roles for international organizations and good links with national programs. This meeting was a constructive first step.”

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 5, May 2006 via
May 2006

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1.10  Chinese scientists develop salt tolerant grass

By Wagdy Sawahel
Tall fescue is grown as a forage crop in many parts of the world Scientists in China have developed a salt-tolerant form of grass that they say could be used to help bring millions of hectares of degraded land back into production.

The team led by Wu Zhongyi of the Beijing Research Center of Agro-Biotechnology published their findings on 2 June in the African Journal of Biotechnology.

The researchers genetically modified tall fescue grass (Festuca arundinacea) by inserting a gene from a relative of mustard called Arabidopsis thaliana.

The modified plants had "remarkable salt tolerance", all growing better than non-modified plants under conditions of high salt stress, say the researchers.

Tall fescue is grown widely in Africa, China and South America as turf and as a forage crop for grazing animals, but soil salinity is becoming increasingly problematic in many areas.

"The development of a salt tolerant tall fescue is an important improvement for this species," says Zengyu Wang of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation's forage improvement division.

"This improved grass has the potential to benefit livestock operations that depend on sustainable forage production," Wang told SciDev.Net.

Rongda Qu, professor of crop sciences at North Carolina State University in the United States says more research is needed to confirm the findings and to work out how the inserted gene confers salt tolerance.

Link to full paper in African Journal of biotechnology  [568KB]

Source: SciDev.Net
13 June 2006

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1.11  Research tackles wild rice domestication

The domestication of wild species of crops has allowed us access to more food resources, but has also led to lower genetic diversity of currently cultivated crops. Scientists are now turning to the wild counterparts of today's crops, which will allow them to identify important genetic resources that may help in carrying out future crop improvement. One example is rice, which represents the world's most important staple food crop, and feeds over half of the world's human population. Little is known about Oryza sativa's domestication history from its wild ancestors, Oryza rufipogon and Oryza nivara, and tracing rice's evolutionary history might aid scientists in understanding and making better rice.

Jason P. Londo and colleagues of Washington University, Missouri; Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan; and Cheng Kung University, Taiwan document that "Phylogeography of Asian wild rice, Oryza rufipogon, reveals multiple independent domestications of cultivated rice, Oryza sativa." Their work appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists examined DNA sequence variation in three gene regions of wild rice and cultivated rice, and used their data to map the evolution of today's rice varieties, as well as to determine the number of potential domestication events and regions within south and southeast Asia. They found that: 1) O. rufipogon originated from India and Indochina; 2) Cultivated rice was domesticated at least twice from different O. rufipogon populations, producing today's popular O. sativa indica and O. sativa japonica; 3) Indica rice was domesticated within a region south of the Himalaya mountain range, while Japonica was domesticated from wild rice in southern China; and 4) an additional domestication event may have occurred for Aus rice in India.

Read the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update
23 June 2006
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.12  All eyes on potatoes in 2008

The International Potato Center takes the lead as the United Nations declares 2008 the International Year of the Potato

The potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world and offers great potential as a food source for future generations. Recognizing this, the United Nations (UN) announced on 25 November 2005, at a conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the formal designation of 2008 as the International Year of the Potato.

The UN resolution notes that the potato is a staple food consumed worldwide and affirms the need to focus world attention on the role that the potato can play in providing food security and eradicating poverty in support of achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The resolution specifically mentions the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), so the International Potato Center (CIP by its Spanish acronym), representing the CGIAR, will collaborate closely with FAO to plan, develop and implement UN activities to mark the year. CIP will also take the lead in coordinating and implementing CGIAR activities, taking advantage of other Centers’ experience of year tags.

As the government of Peru nominated the potato to the UN for recognition in 2008, CIP will work with its host government to develop national activities. CIP will also work with its collaborating institutions and donors to highlight the important contribution that the potato can make to poverty alleviation, food security and human health. In addition, the Center will work to intensify research on the potato’s genetic resources, varieties, pests and diseases to continually increase crop productivity.

CIP has established a preliminary web page that will develop into a primary resource as the agenda develops.


Source: CGIAR News via
June 27, 2006

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1.13  Argentine ministry of agriculture defines limits of "own use" for seeds obtained from previous harvests

On 21 June the Argentine ministry of agriculture defined the limits of "own use" for seeds obtained from previous harvests.

The practice of using seeds from a previous harvest to plant the following one, defined by farmers as for "own use", is widespread in Argentina. lt is, however, a practice resented by developers and suppliers of genetically modified seeds because of the ensuing dent in their profit margins.

US company Monsanto has complained for the last two months over what lt considers an "abuse" of the definition of "own use". lt is estimated that only 20% of seeds planted for the last harvest were purchased directly and legally from suppliers. Monsanto has also attempted to have shipments of Argentine soya to the EU confiscated, and allege they have not been paid due royalties.

The resolution, passed by agriculture minister Miguel Campos, is designed to regulate the definition of "own use" and favours the suppliers, both national as well as foreign. Farmers will not have to seek permission from the patent holders of a seed unless "the hectares planted exceed those of the previous period". Nor may the volume of planted seeds be greater than that of the initial legal purchase. The move, according to the ministry, is designed to promote the development of seeds, guarantee their quality and protect suppliers' intellectual property.

The resolution was attacked by the Sociedad Rural Argentina, one of the largest representatives of agricultural interests, who claimed that the decisions had been taken "unilaterally" when farmers were already negotiating the definitions of "own use" directly with suppliers. The organisation added that the resolution must be implemented gradually.
Latinnews Daily

Source: Checkbiotech via
27 June 2006

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1.14  Promising crop biotechnologies for smallholder farmers in East Africa: bananas and maize

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) brief:
Edited by Melinda Smale, Svetlana Edmeades, and Hugo De Groote

Both bananas and maize are devastated by pests and diseases in this region, particularly in the lowland tropical environments. Since chemical treatment of these crops is not economically viable for most smallholder farm families, varieties with genetic resistance could play a vital role in reducing their vulnerability to crop failure. For that reason, national research programs in East Africa have targeted bananas and maize for genetic transformation. These briefs examine the potential impact of transgenic bananas and maize on smallholder farmers.

Includes country specific information from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

All eight briefs available at:
Briefs of relevance to seed professionals:

Brief 19. Assessing the Impact of Crop Genetic Improvement in Sub-Saharan Africa: Research Context and Highlights (PDF 217K)

Brief 20. Crucial Determinants of Adoption: Planting Material Systems for Banana and Maize (PDF 239K)

Brief 23. Predicting Farmer Demand for Bt maize in Kenya (PDF 234K)

Brief 25. Biodiversity of Maize on Farms in Kenya (PDF 216K)

Brief 26. Biosafety and Biodiversity Risks (PDF 219K)

June 2006

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1.15  GM cereal resists heat to boost nutrition

The GM wheat contains a nutritional enzyme that can resist boiling
Wagdy Sawahel

Scientists have genetically modified wheat and barley so the seeds still contain an important nutritional enzyme after cooking.

The enzyme phytase helps people absorb zinc and iron and the researchers say the plants could be used to alleviate dietary mineral deficiency, which affects 2-3 billion people worldwide, primarily in developing countries.

In wheat, phytase looses its effectiveness at 63 degrees Celcius.

The team led by Henrik Brinch-Pedersen of the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences produced genetically modified (GM) wheat plants with phytase stable up to 89 degrees Celcius by inserting a phytase gene from the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus.

Flour produced from the GM wheat had up to six times more phytase than non-GM wheat flour.

Brinch-Pedersen's team also showed that even after boiling the GM wheat seeds for 20 minutes, they still contained enough phytase to allow people to absorb a significant amount of minerals. 

The boiling test reduced the seeds' phytate content by 42 per cent, comparable to what is contained in unboiled non-GM seeds.

Iron deficiency in women and children in poor countries is the main cause of anaemia, which can stunt children's development and cause chronic fatigue in adults (see GM maize 'could help fight against iron-deficiency').

Zinc deficiency increases people's susceptibility to pneumonia and watery diarrhoea, a major cause of death for children in the developing world (see Zinc 'safe' to protect HIV children from deadly illness).

Speaking to SciDev.Net, Brinch-Pedersen said his team had also developed GM barely plants with heat-stable phytases and were planning to do the same for rice.

The research was published on 2 June in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Link to abstract of the paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry doi : 10.1021/jf0600152 (2006)

19 June 2006
Source: SciDev.Net

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1.16  Food companies to test new soybean oil from Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University is introducing the food industry to a new soybean oil, the likes of which they have never seen before. The new oil contains twice the amount of oleic acid found in conventional soybean oil and only 1 percent of linolenic acid.
The food industry tests will determine if the oil can go where no unhydrogenated soybean oil has gone before­into food products (like cereal and energy bars, powdered cheese sauces and non-dairy creamers) that require more stability than previous unhydrogenated soybean oils could deliver.

This is the latest step in the research at Iowa State University to produce soybean oils that do not require hydrogenation, a chemical process that increases shelf life but produces trans fats. Trans fats have been linked to increased cholesterol in the bloodstream and an increased risk of heart disease. On January 1, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring food manufacturers to show the amount of trans fats on nutrition facts labels.

The new oil is the product of research conducted in the university’s agronomy department by a soybean breeding team led by Walter Fehr, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture.
Fehr obtained from scientists at Saga University in Japan a soybean line with about 50 percent oleic acid, compared with about 28 percent in conventional soybeans. The Japanese soybean, developed by conventional breeding, could not be grown in Iowa because it did not mature before frost and its linolenic acid content was too high to avoid hydrogenation. The Iowa State research team wanted to transfer by conventional breeding the genes controlling the elevated oleic acid trait into their varieties with 1 percent linolenic acid that are grown commercially in the Midwest.
"Our 1 percent linolenic acid oil does not require hydrogenation and has been adopted by the food industry in a range of products," Fehr explained. "We wanted to find out if it would be possible to make the 1 percent linolenic acid oil even more useful by increasing its content of oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil. We were not sure whether we could combine the two traits in a variety because it had never been done before."
Much of the research to develop the new oil was accomplished at Iowa State’s breeding nursery in Puerto Rico because the Japanese soybean would not mature in Ames. It was not until the summer of 2005 that the team had a chance to find out if their research was successful.
"We planted seed of potential new varieties last spring at Ames and waited anxiously for the harvest," Fehr recalls. "The results were better than we had anticipated. The oleic acid of the soybeans was greater than 50 percent and the linolenic acid was only 1 percent."
The unique soybeans were developed with funding from U.S. soybean farmers through the Iowa Soybean Association and United Soybean Board. They were processed during June into refined oil and packaged for distribution to the food industry.
Fehr said that the evaluations by the food industry will be extremely important for assessing the importance of elevating oleic acid in soybean oil.
"We know that the 1 percent linolenic acid oil performs very well. The tests by the food industry will determine if elevating the oleic acid has made the oil even better. If the results are positive, soybean breeders will develop varieties with the two traits that can be grown by farmers to expand the market for their crop," Fehr said.
Companies can order free samples of the new oil for testing by contacting Fehr at (515) 294-6865 or

21 June 2006

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1.17  U.S. Agency for International Development provides $20 million of additional funds for West African Cotton Improvement Program

Washington, DC
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today an additional $20 million in funds for the West African Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP), designed to increase yields and incomes of cotton producers in West Africa. The announcement, highlighted during last week's Fifth Annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, reaffirms the U.S. commitment to provide technical assistance for the development of the cotton sector in Africa.

The $20 million announced today builds on $7 million in previous funding provided by the U.S. Department of State and USAID. Collectively, the $27 million will be expended over a three year period, targeting the cotton-producing countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Under the WACIP grants, the program will focus on key activities, such as:
-supporting policy and institutional reform for private management of the cotton sector
-improving the quality of cotton;
-establishing regional training programs for cotton ginners;
-strengthening a cotton biotechnology program;
-expanding the use of good agricultural practices in cotton-producing areas, including soil degradation and pest management; and
-improving relationships between the U.S. and West African agricultural research organizations.

Over the past two years, USAID -- in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the United States Trade Representative, has collaborated with West African countries to strengthen development activities related to cotton. For example, in July 2004, key African Ministers of Agriculture and Trade visited the U.S. and participated in a U.S. cotton industry tour.

In September 2005, technical experts from West Africa met in Benin and agreed on nine interventions to be supported by the WACIP. During the summer of 2005, USAID, USDA and representatives from the private sector sponsored short-term training for soil scientists, entomologists and cotton ginners. Additionally, in January 2005, the U.S. Government, joined by the U.S. National Cotton Council, visited Mali to deliver an assessment report.

Cotton is an important part of the national agricultural and trade programs in West Africa. In fiscal year 2005, USAID funding for agricultural programs in West Africa was $28.6 million, and $140 million for all of Africa.

For more information on USAID's work in agriculture, visit

15 June 2006

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1.18  New pintos resist bean diseases

Washington, DC
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Laura McGinnis, (301) 504-1654,

Five new pinto bean lines released by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) can resist significant bean diseases.

The new lines, known as “BelDakMi-RMR” and numbered 19 to 23, are resistant to common bean rust, caused by the rust fungus Uromyces appendiculatus, and to the common mosaic and common mosaic necrosis viruses. These diseases reduce yield and crop quality and increase production costs.

Scientists at the Vegetable Laboratory, part of ARS' Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center, bred the lines in collaboration with colleagues at North Dakota State and Michigan State universities.

Most commercial bean varieties contain two or fewer disease-resistance genes. The BelDakMi pintos have six resistance genes--more than any other known bean. Each contains four genes for resistance to U. appendiculatus, and two for resistance to bean common mosaic and bean common mosaic necrosis.

According to ARS plant geneticist Marcial Pastor-Corrales, who worked on the project, the pintos are resistant to every known strain of these variable pathogens.

Beans are an economically important crop in this country and a nutritious source of vitamins, proteins, iron, folate, fiber and complex carbohydrates for millions of people around the world.

Read more about this research in the June 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at:

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

12 June 2006

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1.19  A comparison of U.S. and Chinese sorghum germplasm for early season cold tolerance

Sorghum is one of the world’s most important grain crops, and scientists have been seeking to improve it. The introduction of cold tolerance in sorghum cultivars would be very beneficial, as this trait would allow sorghum to be planted in more places, and in the early spring, when soil moisture is higher. To improve sorghum, scientists need to identify a superior germplasm with cold tolerance.

With this aim, Cleve D. Franks and colleagues of the United States Department of Agriculture conducted “A Comparison of U.S. and Chinese Sorghum Germplasm for Early Season Cold Tolerance,” and report in a recent issue of Crop Science. Their research focused on sorghum lines and hybrids from Chinese landrace accessions of the working group Nervosum-Kaoliang; publicly available inbred lines from the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station sorghum breeding program; and U.S. grain sorghum hybrids provided by seed companies.

Chinese accessions were compared with 10 U.S. inbred parental lines and 10 U.S. commercial hybrids for cold tolerance under laboratory, growth chamber, and field settings. After tests and statistical analysis, scientists found that: 1) Chinese lines were superior to the other lines, in terms of laboratory germination rates and field-based rates of emergence; 2) Chinese lines were not significantly different from hybrid lines in growth chamber assays, except for shoot length, for which the Chinese germplasm was higher; and 3) although Chinese lines had higher germination rates and lower germination temperature thresholds, they had no advantage in terms of biomass production.

Researchers thus concluded that the accessions could serve as a source of genes for cold tolerance during the germination and emergence phase of growth in the breeding of better sorghum lines.

Subscribers to Crop Science can read the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update via
9 June 2006

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1.20  Big bang from world wheat breeding bucks

El Batán, Mexico
Global, collaborative wheat research brings enormous gains for developing country farmers, particularly in more marginal environments, according to an article in the Centenary Review of the Journal of Agricultural Science.

Forty years of worldwide, publicly-funded collaborative research to improve the yield potential and stress tolerance of wheat, along with efforts to extend the outputs of this science in developing countries, has lowered food costs for the poor, allowed food supplies to meet the demands of rising populations, brought better harvests worth US$ 3-6 billion each year to farmers, and saved 1.8 billion hectares of natural ecosystems from conversion to farmland, to name a few results.

These and other findings appear in a recent review article by CIMMYT wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds and 1970 Nobel Peace Laureate Norman E. Borlaug­one of a series of papers to celebrate 100 years of publishing by the Journal of Agricultural Science. The review traces how international wheat breeding over the last five decades has evolved into “…a global agricultural strategic and trouble-shooting network that plays a central role in providing food security in the developing world.” Led initially by CIMMYT and later with the partnership of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the network for wheat and related crops provides a forum “…whereby institutional linkages are fostered and maintained globally, not only through exchange of germplasm, but also through knowledge sharing, training programmes, international visits and development of extended partnerships…” According to the article, centers like CIMMYT and ICARDA have also played a key role in collecting and conserving the landraces and other genetic resources that improved varieties have replaced, making those resources available worldwide and, more recently, ensuring that useful diversity is rechanneled into improved cultivars.

“Given its importance and accomplishments, it’s somewhat surprising that global wheat breeding struggles to find investors,” says Reynolds. Also noted by Reynolds and Borlaug was the fact that most of the increased area of adoption of improved wheat varieties since 1977 has occurred in more marginal, rainfed areas, rather than favored irrigated farmlands, and that yield increases from these varieties during 1979-95 were greater in semi-arid and heat-stressed environments (2-3% per year) than in irrigated areas (just over 1% per year).

“Considering the issue of food security and its positive influence on the livelihoods of poor people, it’s clear that publicly-funded international centers provide a continuity in agricultural development that would otherwise be lacking for many countries where economic, political, and social instability are commonplace,” the authors say.

A companion Centenary Review by Reynolds and Borlaug discusses the future of collaborative wheat improvement, in which, according to Reynolds, researchers will apply technology-assisted methodologies and powerful information tools to identify and breed value-added traits into wheat varieties. “At the same time, however, we’ll continue to seek farmer input to increase the amount of useful genetic diversity in the field and the local adaptation of varieties, as well as in testing and promoting conservation agriculture practices.”

Regarding the future, the authors say: “Policy-makers need to balance the appeal of high-risk investments in the latest technologies with the realities of resource-poor farmers, for whom tried and tested technologies offer immediate and reliable solutions.”

To access abstracts or full-text versions of the articles:
- Impacts of breeding on international collaborative wheat research
- Applying innovations and new technologies for international collaborative wheat improvement

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 5, May 2006 via
May, 2006

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1.21  Chile develops drought-tolerant eucalyptus varieties

Scientists successfully identified and propagated valuable genetic material with increased drought tolerance and improved yield through the selection and micro-propagation of genetic stocks of eucalyptus. The project was carried out by the Forestry Institute INFOR, with the support of the Foundation for Agricultural Innovation of the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile (FIA). The initiative is part of a national policy aimed at modernizing and increasing the competitiveness of the Chilean agricultural sector through the use of modern biotechnology tools.

Mauricio Cañoles, FIA supervisor for the project, said the main objective was to obtain improved eucalyptus varieties to increase productivity of forest plantations in the arid and semi-arid regions of Chile. The project required the development of protocols for micro-propagation and for rejuvenating adult tree stocks, and the establishment of suitable laboratory facilities for the clonal propagation of commercial stocks. The optimization of micro-propagation protocols is essential for the incorporation of small-scale producers to the forestry sector, as it allows for a reduction in the growing time of trees. Improved clones can be obtained by interested farmers from INFOR.

Read more at:

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 May 2006

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

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1.22  Research reports new cowpea germplasm screening techniques

Cowpea is widely used as food and animal feed, but it is also beset by viruses and pests. Important viruses include the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and the blackeye cowpea mosaic virus (BlCMV). Together, these two viruses cause cowpea stunt disease, which results in significant losses in the crop. There are available sources of resistance to BlCMV, but these need to be investigated.

A. G. Gillaspie, Jr. of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) reports on a "New Method for Screening Cowpea Germ Plasm for Resistance to Cucumber mosaic virus" in the latest issue of Plant Disease. Gillaspie screened 350 cowpea lines from a core collection maintained by the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS).

To select for CMV-resistant lines, Gillaspie inoculated freeze-dried cowpea tissue with the virus. He employed several assessment methods to measure virus buildup in the infected plants. The candidate lines were subsequently tested in greenhouse and field conditions to confirm resistance. Four CMV resistant lines, as well as four other lines with possible BlCMV resistance, were identified.

Subscribers to Plant Disease can read the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 May 2006

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

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1.23  Kenya releases new improved bean varieties

Three new climbing bean varieties and two bush bean varieties have been approved for pre-release by the Kenyan bean national variety release technical committee. Kenya is the leading bean producer in Africa, however yields are typically low, and demand for beans in the country exceeds local production levels. This is the first time that climbing bean varieties, which have yields three times higher than those of bush bean lines, are released in Kenya.

The new varieties were developed by the Kenyan Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) Kakamega Research Center, the University of Nairobi, Kenya Seed Company, and by Western Seed Company. The lines developed by the public institutions were obtained or derived from the germplasm collection of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and were distributed through the collaborative regional bean breeding program based at the University of Nairobi.

Kenya last released improved bean varieties in 1997. Read more at:

Source: CropBiotech Update
16 June 2006

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

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1.24  ICRISAT introduces new groundnut variety

The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, India, Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, presented the groundnut variety ICGV 91114 to the farmers of the country's Anantapur district at a recently concluded function at the Patancheru campus of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The new variety, developed by ICRISAT, will improve the income of the farmers of the district, while protecting them from drought risk.

The new groundnut variety produces yields of about 10% more than current popular variety TMV2. Farmers of Anantapur prefer to cultivate groundnut, as it can grow on the area's rough terrain, and can survive with little rainfall.

For more information, contact Dr Shyam N. Nigam at, or visit the institute at

Source: CropBiotech Update
16 June 2006
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.25  Directed microspore-specific recombination of transgenic alleles to prevent pollen-mediated transmission of transgenes

Biotech crops that produce non-GM pollen
The lateral gene transfer or “escape” of transgenes into the environment is a major biosafety concern. Pollen from biotech crops could fertilize conventional varieties or wild species, thereby releasing the transgene with potential adverse effects on biodiversity.

The use of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs), which can be used both to develop sterile plants and to regulate the expression of the transgene by the application of chemicals or by a specific set of environmental conditions, have been proposed as a tool to prevent lateral gene transfer. These technologies have however met with considerable opposition.

The possibility of producing essential vaccines and medicines in biotech plants makes the need to prevent lateral gene transfer essential, especially when food crops are used for biopharming. Biopharming can potentially benefit developing countries most, where the lack of infrastructure, road access and refrigeration are often major constrains to delivering required pharmaceuticals to where there are most needed. Edible medicines would be cheaper to produce, purer, easier to transport, and would require no refrigeration.

Can we develop biotech crops that produce GM-free pollen and are also fertile? A team of researchers, lead by Jan-Peter Nap of the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, show us we can. The group generated transgenic tobacco plants that carry, in addition to the transgene of interest, a second gene that will excise the first transgene. The team ensured the second gene is only active during reproduction by using a pollen specific promoter. Transgene removal becomes therefore an integral part of the biology of pollen maturation, and does not require any external stimulus or chemical application. Highly efficient excision of transgenes from tobacco pollen was achieved with a potential failure rate of at most two out of 16 800 seeds (0.024%).

Source: CropBiotech Update via
16 June 2006

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1.26  Iowa State University plant scientists tweak their biopharmaceutical corn research project

Ames, Iowa
A biopharmaceutical corn created at Iowa State University (ISU) is getting a makeover. Researchers are developing the corn into a variety that keeps the therapeutic protein, but eliminates the pollen. And they're using traditional breeding to do it.

ISU researchers have had promising results using the biopharmaceutical corn to treat bacterial diarrhea in pigs.

Now they are shifting their focus. They are developing a male sterile corn that carries the transgene. Because male sterile corn plants do not produce pollen, the new biopharmaceutical variety could be grown in corn-producing states without risk of pollinating traditional corn varieties.

"Pollen movement is the issue," said Kendall Lamkey, interim chair of agronomy and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding. "And that's the most controllable part of the corn production system."

Lamkey, who also directs the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, leads the breeding portion of the research. Kan Wang, the principal researcher, who successfully transformed the corn, is professor of agronomy and director of the Center for Plant Transformation. Both centers are part of Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute, which initiated the research. The ongoing project is supported by the institute and the College of Agriculture.

Lamkey and Wang say it will take about five growing seasons to make all the breeding crosses needed. The first season took place last winter in the Plant Sciences Institute's Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory biosafe greenhouse. The biopharmaceutical corn was crossed with the non-transgenic, male-fertile corn line to produce a transgenic F1 hybrid.

Seeds from that cross are being used this summer in a field trial on remote land owned by Iowa State.

The breeding process in the field trial will not shed transgenic pollen. The transgenic crop will be detasseled. It will be surrounded by rows of non-transgenic corn, which will pollinate the detasseled transgenic plants.

Iowa State received permit approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and from the state for the research.

The research plot is located on less than one-half acre of university land in Marshall county. It is about a half mile away from and was planted 28 days later than the nearest commercial corn. A fence will keep out wildlife. The research exceeds APHIS requirements for field trials of regulated plants.

The seed harvested in the fall will be used in the winter again in the high containment greenhouse. Another field trial is expected to take place next summer.

The 2006 field trial is the latest in a series of transgenic corn experiments led by Iowa State researchers. All have received federal and state approval. The trials have taken place three times in Iowa and once in Colorado.

The research is part of Iowa State's work to evaluate the safe use of plants for the production of proteins for pharmaceuticals and industrial products.

Wang engineered the corn to produce LT-B, a protein subunit produced by some strains of E. coli. Research has shown the ability of the protein to stimulate protective immune antibodies. Other Iowa State scientists have been evaluating grain from previous years' studies to understand how the corn-based pharmaceutical can help protect livestock from bacterial infections.

The system being developed in corn will work with other proteins. Corn is the preferred plant for producing proteins for non-food products.

"It's so easy to manipulate from a breeding perspective, and the pollen can be controlled," Lamkey said. "You can't control the pollen easily in self-pollinating crops like soybeans."

"And from a molecular biology and biochemistry point of view, we know so much about corn," Wang said. "Corn seed is such a good reservoir for foreign protein. And the grain, from a pharmacological standpoint, is the grain best tolerated by humans and animals both. Almost nobody is allergic to corn protein."

Lamkey said Iowa State is uniquely qualified to pursue this research because of access to germplasm and "not many places have the genetic transformation capabilities that Iowa State has."

Lamkey and Wang are considering breeding the transgene into a higher yielding, better seed producing, transformable corn inbred line.

"The line that has been used for this corn is really hard to work with in terms of pollination and seed production. It was bred for the purpose of transformation not the field," Lamkey said.

"The best part of this project is that finally conventional breeders like me are now working with molecular biologists like Dr. Wang," Lamkey said. "We're trying to get something that's mutually beneficial. This hasn't happened enough in the public sector."

23 June 2006

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1.27  Plant calcium oxalate crystals keep insects out

Calcium oxalate is an abundant plant material produced in the form of sharp, microscopic crystals, and has been reported in over 200 plant families, including the species Medicago truncatula. These crystals are known irritants for humans, but can they also serve to keep insects at bay?

Kenneth L. Korth and colleagues of the University of Arkansas and Baylor College of Medicine investigate this issue, and report that "Medicago truncatula mutants demonstrate the role of plant calcium oxalate crystals as an effective defense against chewing insects." Their work appears in the latest issue of Plant Physiology.

The team compared beet armyworm larval feeding preference between wild type and M. truncatula mutants, the latter of which produced lower levels of calcium oxalate crystals. They found that the larva showed a clear preference for tissues from oxalate-defective lines. They also found that: 1) larvae feeding on wild-type plants suffered from significantly reduced growth and increased mortality; 2) larvae feeding on mutant lines began to pupate earlier than larvae reared on wild-type plants; 3) calcium oxalate crystals act as abrasives during feeding; 4) the crystals interfere with the conversion of plant material into insect biomass during digestion, making the crystals both anti-nutrients and feeding deterrents; and 5) the crystals had no negative effects on the pea aphid, a sap-feeding insect.

Scientists suggest that modifying the levels of calcium oxalate in other crop plants could potentially serve as an environmentally friendly means to improve plant defenses. They also suggest that the plant genes responsible for crystal size, shape, and localization be identified, as this could be valuable in developing plants with enhanced levels of resistance to chewing insects.

Subscribers to Plant Physiology can read the complete article at

Source: CropBiotech Update
23 June 2006

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

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1.28  Update 4-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Articles selected by the editor, PBN-L)

2) Publication on FAO Biotechnology Forum translated into Chinese FAO Research and Technology Paper 8, presenting a report of the first six moderated e-mail conferences hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum in 2000 and 2001, is now available in Chinese. The first four conferences dealt with the appropriateness of currently available biotechnologies in the crop, fishery, forestry and livestock sectors, while the remaining two dealt with the implications of agricultural biotechnology for hunger and food security and the impact of intellectual property rights. The publication includes the background and summary documents for each of the conferences, as well as providing an introduction; information about participation in the conferences; general conclusions and, finally, additional references. See (for the 111-page Chinese translation, as well as links to the English and Spanish versions) or contact for more information. The book was co-published by the Scientech Documentation and Information Center (SDIC) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences under FAO's Chinese Publishing Programme.

3) Regulation of GMOs - FAO e-conference summary document The summary document of the FAO e-mail conference entitled "Regulating GMOs in developing and transition countries" is now available on the web. The 14-page document provides a summary of the main issues discussed during this moderated e-mail conference hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum from 28 April to 1 June 2003, based on the 93 messages posted, half of which came from people living in developing countries. The main topics discussed were whether it is important for developing countries to regulate GMOs; how strict a regulatory framework should be; the lack of resources and capacity for regulating GMOs; the approach to risk assessment and risk management; regulation of GM versus non-GM products; centres of origin or diversity; co-ordination and harmonization of GMO regulations between and within countries; public participation/awareness; monitoring implementation of GMO regulations; and liability. See or contact to request a copy

6) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources - First meeting of Governing Body The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a legally binding instrument negotiated by FAO's member states that came into force in June 2004. Its objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use. The 1st meeting of the Governing Body of the Treaty took place on 12-16 June 2006 in Madrid, Spain, attended by some 350 representatives of 120 countries and the European Union. See documents of the meeting (most are in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) at; three FAO press releases at  (21 June), (12 June) and (8 June); or contact for more information

7) Plant breeding capacity: National surveys and new global initiative (GIPB) As part of a global survey that FAO is carrying out to assess plant breeding and related biotechnology capacity, draft national reports are now available on the web for an additional 12 African countries i.e. Algeria, Angola, Cameroon (in French), Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. See the "What's new" section of or contact for more information. The results of this global survey are helping to identify opportunities and gaps to strengthen national capacity to use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. At a side event during the 1st meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, held in Madrid, Spain, on 12-16 June 2006, the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) was launched. The GIPB is aimed at helping developing countries to improve their agricultural productivity through sustainable use of plant genetic resources. See a 'Spotlight' article on the GIPB at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.

8) Biotechnology and biosafety in Ukraine A report on "The status of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety in Ukraine", commissioned by FAO's Research and Technology Development Service (SDRR) and the Regional Office for Europe (REU), has now been published. This 41-page report includes an overview of Ukraine's national agriculture profile; national agricultural policy; status of agricultural research; national biotechnology policy; status of biotechnology research; applications of biotechnology; regulatory frameworks; and state of information and communication needs. See or contact for more information or to provide comments

11) COP-MOP 3 and COP-8 final reports The final reports of the 3rd Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 3), held on 13-17 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil, and of the 8th Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8), held in the same place on 20-31 March 2006, are now available. See (88 pages, 0.5 MB) and (374 pages, 1.43 MB) respectively or contact for more information. 12) World Bank report on IPRs and plant breeding in developing countries The World Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development Department has just published "Intellectual property rights: Designing regimes to support plant breeding in developing countries". This 77-page report is based on a field study of the impact of strengthened intellectual property rights (IPRs) on the breeding industries in China, Colombia, India, Kenya and Uganda. The analysis also makes use of secondary data and interviews with stakeholders from other countries. IPRs covering biotechnology processes and products are considered on numerous occasions e.g. in chapter 5 which examines experiences in the commercial seed sector with plant variety protection and the protection of biotechnology. See or contact for more information.

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1.29  Selected articles from

(Articles selected by the director, Checkbiotech)

Tomatoes to protect against the plague

GM debate continues in EU

France: Seventeen outdoor field tests with transgenic organisms

Despite worldwide growth Europe has little transgenic corn

Science Academies support GM-foods

Innovations council discusses green genetic technology in Germany

German CSU politician supports re-think on transgenic corn

France: GM opponents mobilized

Eating transgenic tobacco prevents cervical cancer

Ethanol boom reaches the chemical industry

University Giessen announces the planting of transgenic barley

Slovakia: Field-test of GM Maize MON810

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech and Access Director
University of Basel

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2.01  BIOLOGY STUDIES, a periodical Journal from Biology department of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná

Since 1978 we are publishing BIOLOGY STUDIES, a periodical Journal from the Biology Department of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná (PUCPR), a renowned catholic university of south Brazil.

Our Journal is a bilingual publication (English and Portuguese) and accepts original scientific papers which have not been published previously or submitted for publication elsewhere. Each volume is composed of several sections dealing with the following subjects: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Botany, Ecology, Education in Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Microbiology, Morphology, Parasitology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Zoology and similar areas. The Journal is published every three months and authors are invited to submit full papers, short communications or communication summaries, scientific notes, article reviews and scientific news.

Recently, the Publishing Committee has made efforts to internationalize our periodical. Therefore, as Chief Editor and on behalf of the Publishing Board I’m writing to invite you to know our Periodical

Also, we would like to invite you and yours colleagues to submit yours manuscripts for publication.

We will be very honored with your visit to BIOLOGY STUDIES, a new channel of science. Thank you for your attention.

Contributed by Luiz Fernando Pereira, PhD
Chief Editor of Biology Studies
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná
Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde
Curso de Biologia, Revista Estudos de Biologia.
Rua Imaculada Conceição 1155, Prado Velho
Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil. 80215-901.

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2.02  New book published: Flower Breeding and Genetics:  Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for the 21st Century

Edited y Neil O. Anderson.  Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.  822 pages.  Hardcover.  ISBN 1-4020-4427-5.   249,00 €

Flowers are essential crops which beautify interiorscapes, outdoor landscapes and enhance human health. Floriculture is one of the fastest-growing sectors of commercial agriculture world-wide with many highly profitable crops. Such a diversity of new and domesticated flower crops is created by public and private sector flower breeders. This book provides a unique and valuable resource on the many issues and challenges facing flower breeders, as well as plant breeders at-large. In these volumes, the first comprehensive assemblage of its kind, a team of 32 international authorities has contributed to make this book a ‘must-have’ reference to research and develop flower crops for the 21st century consumers. Part 1 of this book (flower breeding program issues) contains unique features of interest to horticultural professionals and students, include coverage of plant protection strategies, cultivar trialing methodology, germplasm collection/preservation, preventing invasiveness, and other timely topics. The collective body of knowledge for 24 flower crops (Part 2; crop-specific breeding and genetics) represents the in-depth science and art of breeding technology available for bedding plants, flowering potted plants, cut flowers, and herbaceous perennials. Each author provides crop-specific history, evolution, biology, taxonomy, state-of-the-art breeding/genetics, classical/molecular technologies, species traits, interspecific hybridization, and directions for future development/enhancement.

Of particular interest to all plant breeders is the chapter on Protection (by Penny Aguirre) which covers all forms of plant protection for seed and vegetative crops world-wide.  A chapter on the factors controlling flowering (John Erwin) provides new and vital information which can be used during plant collection, breeding, selection, and domestication.  The issue of invasiveness (Anderson), a priori prevention before market release, specific traits causing invasiveness which breeders can eliminate during domestication, and other topics are also valuable for all private and public sector plant breeding programs.

Contributed by Neil Anderson, Associate Professor
Flower Breeding & Genetics
Director, Invasion Biology Research Consortium
Chair, USDA Herbaceous Ornamental Crop Germplasm Committee
Department of Horticultural Science
University of Minnesota

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Note: New announcements may include some program details, while repeat announcements will include only basic information. Visit web sites for additional details.


* 4-22 November 2006. International training program on plant genetic resources and seeds: Policies, conservation and use, Karaj, Iran

The Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region is the centre of origin and diversity of some of the world’s major food crops. However, this valuable diversity is under threat of genetic erosion. Local landraces are replaced by ‘improved’ varieties; population pressure, urbanization and environmental degradation through frequent droughts, overgrazing and desertification contribute to this process. The informal system, an indigenous knowledge based farmer managed crop production system, remains the main source of genetic resources and seeds for small-scale farmers. International conventions like CBD, ITPGRFA, and TRIPS call for concerted effort in the conservation of the unique biodiversity of this region and for new policy and regulatory regimes in germplasm exchange and use.

Outline of the program
Three one-week workshops of the training program address three areas in the conservation and use of plant genetic resources and seeds: (1) In situ and ex situ conservation strategies; (2) Support of local seed supply and small scale seed enterprises; and (3) Genetic resources, rights and institutional policies. The program is organized as stand alone independent and comprehensive training each of one-week workshop. Alternatively, based on professional interests and institutional needs, participants can combine two or three workshops into a program.

Ex situ and in situ conservation of agrobiodiversity, 4 – 8 November 2006
How can genebanks with ex situ conservation programs and local germplasm conservation programs best combat the loss of crop genetic diversity? This workshop aims to provide the participants with the theoretical background and technical and strategic tools to adequately respond to this question. Answers relate to strategies to manage germplasm collections more effectively. Topics addressed are:

-Concepts of agrobiodiversity
-Setting objectives for genetic conservation programmes
-Ex situ conservation approaches and practices, including collection management procedures
-In situ conservation concepts
-Monitoring on farm conservation
-Natural habitat management

The workshop concludes with the design of management plans for complementary conservation strategies.

Contact person: Dr. Ahmed Amri (ICARDA): E-mail:

Support of local seed supply & development of small scale seed enterprises, 11 – 15 November 2006
How can small-scale resource poor farmers in less favorable and isolated remote areas get access to quality seed of the varieties they prefer? This course focuses on alternative seed delivery mechanisms by establishing small-scale seed enterprises involving farmers and farmer communities, through decentralized seed production and marketing. Topics addressed are:

-Formal and informal seed systems and their interactions
-Tools to support participation
-Support of local seed supply
-Participatory variety selection
-Seed quality: issues and production practices
-Small scale seed enterprise development
-Marketing of locally produced seeds

The workshop concludes with the design of plans to support local seed production, community seed production or small-scale seed enterprise development.
Contact persons: Dr. Zewdie Bishaw (ICARDA); E-mail:

Genetic resources, rights and institutional policies, 18 – 22 November 2006
How to deal at an institutional level with international agreements like CBD, ITPGRFA and TRIPS? This workshop focuses on the practical translation of these policies to the institutional level of biotechnology, plant breeding and conservation. After the workshop, participants have increased their knowledge of intellectual property rights and mechanisms for access and benefit sharing, and enforced their capability to deal with these in research for development. The policies of the Generation Challenge Program (GCP) serve as a reference throughout the workshop. A pre-workshop GCP-distance-learning module on international PGR policies provides a basis for this workshop. Topics addressed are:

-International Genetic Resource Policies
-Systems approach towards institutional implications
-Genetic Resource access mechanisms and Material Transfer Agreements
-Intellectual Property Rights, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights

The workshop concludes with the design of institutional policies on inbound and outbound Intellectual Property and genetic resources.

Contact person: Niels Louwaars (Wageningen UR); E-mail:

For further information on the program please visit the websites of ICARDA: (see: Seed Systems Support), Wageningen International: (see: international education at Wageningen UR, courses), or the Generation Challenge Program: (see: capacity building corner, training courses). The brochure and application forms will be posted very soon in the above mentioned sites.

The organizing committee reserves the right to change the programme if necessary.

Training approach
The training will be experience-based and task-oriented. With their own knowledge and experience the participants are important resource persons to the course. Invited resource persons will introduce topics, after which participants will generally work in small groups on case study assignments. All workshops will conclude with the development of proposals, integrating all workshop topics.

Who can participate?
The training programme is designed for project co-ordinators, senior staff, managers, trainers, programme leaders and other professionals who either from a policy, research, education or a development perspective aim to promote the conservation and use of PGR for agriculture. Participants may come from research institutes, public/private seed companies, universities, NGO’s or other agricultural development oriented organisations and governmental institutes. Applicants should have a B.Sc. (as a minimum) or equivalent background by alternative training and experience. They should have at least three years of professional experience in a relevant field, work in the world’s arid or semi-arid areas, and be competent in the English language.

The training program is organized by:
-International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Aleppo, Syria
-Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR), Wageningen, the Netherlands
-Generation Challenge Program (GCP), Rome, Italy
-Seed and Plant Certification and Registration Institute (SPCRI), Karaj, Iran
-Seed and Plant Improvement Institute (SPII), Kara, Iran

Fees and accommodation
The tuition fee for training is € 500 for a one-week,€ 1000 for a two-week and € 1500 for a three-week training programme. This amount includes administration fees, lecture materials and excursions, but excludes board and lodging and travel expenses. Participants will be accommodated at the training centre of the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute in Karaj, Iran on the basis of full board and lodging at approximately €30-40 per night. A budget including all costs will be sent to you on request.

The admission deadline for application is 15 September 2006. Early application is recommended. Further information and application forms can be downloaded from the website of Wageningen International, ICARDA and the GCP; see the address below. Application forms, including a separate cv should be submitted to Wageningen International by e-mail to:

A limited number of fellowships for nationals of countries from the CWANA region, and/or for professionals of NARS connected to the GCP are available. Candidates who wish to apply for such a fellowship should indicate this on the application form. Fellowships include tuition fees, international and local travel, accommodation, a modest daily subsistence allowance, training materials and medical insurance. Please note the number of fellowships available is limited. We therefore strongly advise applicants to look for sponsorship elsewhere as well.

Contributed by Zewdie Bishaw (ICARDA)



* 2006-2008.  Plant Breeding Academy, University of California, Davis.

The University of California Seed Biotechnology Center would like to inform you of an exciting new course we are offering to teach the principles of plant breeding to seed industry personnel.

This two-year course addresses the reduced numbers of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. It is an opportunity for companies to invest in dedicated personnel who are currently involved in their own breeding programs, but lack the genetics and plant breeding background to direct a breeding program. Participants will meet at UC Davis for one week per quarter over two years (eight sessions) to allow participants to maintain their current positions while being involved in the course. 

Instruction begins Fall 2006 and runs through Summer 2008 (actual dates to be determined)

For more information: (530) 754-7333, email,

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

* 31 July -1 August 2006, Grass Breeders’ Conference, Ames, IA.
Information available at, or by contacting Charlie Brummer, or Shui-zhang Fei (

* 31 July – 4 August 2006. African Rice Congress, WARDA , Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Contact: Lawrence Narteh.

*8-10 August 2006. 7th Plant Genomics Conference, Heilongjiang University , Harbin, China. Contact: Rongtian Li, Zhenqiang Lu, Chunquan Ma.

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

*16 - 19 August 2006.Tropical Crop Biotechnology Conference 2006, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.  Organized by: CSIRO Plant Industry. For more information: Contact: CSIRO Plant Industry .Website:

* 20-25 August 2006. The International Plant Breeding Symposium, Sheraton “Centro Historico” Hotel, Mexico City. Presentations by invited speakers will be published in a proceedings by Crop Science. More information is available at If you are unable to register online please send an e-mail to:

* 30 August – 1 September 2006. XIII EUCARPIA Biometrics in Plant Breeding Section Meeting, EUCARPIA , Zagreb, Croatia
Contact EUCARPIA Secretariat
Event Website
  Meeting Announcement (PDF)
Pre-registration Form (Word Document)

* 10-14 September 2006. First Symposium on Sunflower Industrial Uses. Udine University, Udine Province, Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, Italy.
Sponsored by the International Sunflower Association (ISA)
* 11-15 September 2006. XXII International EUCARPIA Symposium - Section Ornamentals: Breeding for Beauty, San Remo (Italy). 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:

* 17-21 September 2006. Cucurbitaceae 2006, Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa in Asheville, North Carolina, USA (in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains).
Contact: Dr. Gerald Holmes, Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7616, 919-515-9779 (
Conference website:

* 18-20 September 2006.The International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) 2006 Research Conference, Blue Tree Park Hotel ( Brasília, D.F., Brazil. Details of the ICGI 2006 Research Conference will be posted on the ICGI website ( ) as they become available.

* 9-13 October 2006. Second International Rice Congress 2006 (IRC2006). New Delhi, India. Organized jointly by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the theme of this congress is "Science, technology, and trade for peace and prosperity". It comprises four major events: the 26th International Rice Research Conference (including e.g. a session on 'genetics and genomics' and workshops on hybrid rice and on genetically modified rice and biosafety issues); the 2nd International Rice Commerce Conference; the 2nd International Rice Technology and Cultural Exhibition; and the 2nd International Ministers' Round Table Meeting. See or contact for more information.

* 11-14 October 2006 Plant Genomics European Meetings, Venice, Italy.
Contact person:

* 14 - 18 October 2006. The 6th New Crops Symposium: Creating Markets for Economic Development of New Crops and New Uses, University Center for New Crops and Plant Products,The Hilton Gaslamp Quarter Hotel, San Diego, CA
Sponsored by: Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops and Purdue or

* 9-12 November 2006. 7th Australasian Plant Virology Workshop. Rottnest Island, Perth, Western Australia.
For further information contact: Prof Mike Jones, Murdoch University, Perth

* 1-5 December 2006: The First International Meeting on Cassava Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, to be held in Brasilia, Brazil. For more details, email Dr. Nagib Nassar of the University of Brasilia at or visit the meeting website at

* 8-9 February 2007. A national workshop on “Sustaining plant breeding as a vital national capacity for the future of U.S. agriculture,” Raleigh, NC.
Co-hosted by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science North Carolina State University

* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships­Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The Conference webpage can be viewed at:

* 24-28 July 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium, Iowa State University (Note new dates, and see additional details in New Announcements, above). The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action." For more information please visit

* 9-14 September 2007. The World Cotton Research Conference-4, Lubbock, Texas, USA ( There is no cost of pre-registration and if you pre-register you will receive all the up-coming information on WCRC-4.171 researchers from over 20 countries have pre-registered as of today.

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

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

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