PLANT BREEDING NEWS
30 June 2006
An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University
Clair H. Hershey,
Archived issues available at: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html
1. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH
1.01 The Global
Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB): Overview
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
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
1.19 A comparison of U.S.
and Chinese sorghum germplasm for early season cold
1.20 Big bang from world wheat breeding bucks
1.21 Chile develops drought-tolerant
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
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
6 MEETINGS, COURSES AND
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB):
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
“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
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
Who would you like to see participate in the
“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
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
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.
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
1.02 The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding
Capacity Building (GIPB): Report of the Stakeholder
12-13 June, 2006
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
mechanism is needed to support the involvement of GIPB partners in enhancing and
facilitating developing countries utilization of PGR to ensure food security and
Summary and next steps
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
Contacts for more information on GIPB:
Eric Kueneman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Elcio P. Guimarães
by Vernon Gracen
Consultant to FAO for GIPB
Department of Plant Breeding
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1.03 Institute of Plant Breeding of the
University of the Philippines develops elite food crops,
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
The list lengthens as more high-yielding and disease-resistant
food and industrial crops, and viable agricultural technologies are in the
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.
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."
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
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.
high-yielding hybrid and open-pollinated tomatoes have been "making waves" among
farmers in places where they have been planted.
IPB-generated technologies include the Simple Nutrient Adoption Program (SNAP)
hydroponics and the modified atmosphere packaging for perishables (MAPP)
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
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
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
virus-like disease on sunflower in Uganda
GM maize adoption in 2006
Full table of contents: http://www.africancrops.net/news/may06/index.htm
(Return to Contents)
1.05 Seed treaty is new hope for food security
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
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
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
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
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.
however, one sticking point: the Material Transfer Agreement. This sets out the
ensure recipients cannot restrict further availability and the details of cash
payments if a recipient commercialises a variety that makes use of the
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
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
Emile Frison is director general of the International
Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome, Italy.
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1.06 The world's agricultural legacy gets a safe
Vault on arctic isle would protect seeds
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
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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
Arctic foxes, reindeer and polar bears stroll the
Yet it also has the basic infrastructure that's needed, including a
modest network of roads and an electrical generating plant fed by local
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
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
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
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
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.
Shand said, "it's the farmers who grow these crops who are the true custodians
of crop diversity."
Contributed by Thomas Payne,
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The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and
conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing
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
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 ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/a0399e/a0399e00.pdf
A .zip downloadable file containing the complete PDF of the publication is also
available under ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/a0399e/a0399e.zip
To request a copy of the publication, contact Charlotte.Lietaer@fao.org. FAO Biotechnology Forum Administrator John Ruane, PhD e-mail: email@example.com FAO website
http://www.fao.org Forum website http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp
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
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University biologists find regions of rice domestication
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).
paper describing the research was published June 9, 2006, in the on-line issue
of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of
"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.
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
Keepers of worldwide maize germplasm collections meet at CIMMYT to
see how they can work together to protect and conserve these
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
“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
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.
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.”
E-News, vol 3 no. 5, May 2006 via SeedQuest.com
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1.10 Chinese scientists develop salt
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.
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
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
"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]
13 June 2006
Research tackles wild rice domestication
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.
complete article at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/25/9578.
23 June 2006
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
of Plant Breeding & Genetics
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eyes on potatoes in 2008
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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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.
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.
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'
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.
Source: Checkbiotech via SeedQuest.com
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crop biotechnologies for smallholder farmers in East Africa:
bananas and maize
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
Includes country specific information from Kenya, Tanzania, and
All eight briefs available at: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/rag/br1004.asp
Briefs of relevance to seed professionals:
Brief 19. Assessing the
Impact of Crop Genetic Improvement in Sub-Saharan Africa: Research Context and
Brief 20. Crucial Determinants of Adoption: Planting Material
Systems for Banana and Maize (PDF
Brief 23. Predicting Farmer Demand for Bt maize in Kenya (PDF
Brief 25. Biodiversity of Maize on Farms in Kenya (PDF
Brief 26. Biosafety and Biodiversity Risks (PDF
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1.15 GM cereal resists heat to boost
The GM wheat contains a nutritional enzyme that can resist
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
In wheat, phytase looses its effectiveness at 63 degrees
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').
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).
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.
research was published on 2 June in the Journal of Agricultural and Food
to abstract of the paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry doi :
19 June 2006
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1.16 Food companies to test new soybean oil from 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
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
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
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.
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
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."
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
Fehr said that the evaluations by the food industry will
be extremely important for assessing the importance of elevating oleic acid in
"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.
can order free samples of the new oil for testing by contacting Fehr at (515)
294-6865 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
21 June 2006
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Agency for International Development provides $20 million of additional funds
for West African Cotton Improvement Program
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
-supporting policy and institutional reform for private management of the
-improving the quality of cotton;
training programs for cotton ginners;
-strengthening a cotton biotechnology
-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
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 http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/agriculture/index.html.
15 June 2006
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pintos resist bean diseases
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Laura McGinnis, (301)
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
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
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
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
12 June 2006
(Return to Contents)
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
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 http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/3/1371.
CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
(Return to Contents)
1.20 Big bang from world wheat breeding bucks
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
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
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
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:
of breeding on international collaborative wheat research
innovations and new technologies for international collaborative wheat
E-News, vol 3 no. 5, May 2006 via SeedQuest.com
(Return to Contents)
1.21 Chile develops drought-tolerant eucalyptus
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
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
Read more at: http://www.fia.cl/contenido.asp?id_contenido=1011&id_tipo=1
26 May 2006
Contributed by Margaret E.
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Research reports new cowpea germplasm screening
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
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).
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
Subscribers to Plant Disease can read the complete article at
26 May 2006
Contributed by Margaret E.
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
1.23 Kenya releases new improved bean varieties
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: http://www.africancrops.net/news/may06/bean-varieties.htm
16 June 2006
Contributed by Margaret E.
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
ICRISAT introduces new groundnut variety
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 email@example.com,
or visit the institute at http://www.icrisat.org.
16 June 2006
Contributed by Margaret E.
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Directed microspore-specific recombination of transgenic alleles to prevent
pollen-mediated transmission of transgenes
Biotech crops that produce
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
Update via SeedQuest.com
16 June 2006
Iowa State University plant scientists tweak their biopharmaceutical corn
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
"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."
1.27 Plant calcium oxalate crystals keep insects
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
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
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
Subscribers to Plant Physiology can read the complete
article at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/full/141/1/188.
23 June 2006
Contributed by Margaret E.
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Update 4-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews
(Articles selected by the editor,
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 http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/y2729c/y2729c00.htm
(for the 111-page Chinese translation, as well as links to the English and
Spanish versions) or contact firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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 http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C9/summary.htm
or contact email@example.com to request a copy
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 http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/gb1.htm;
three FAO press releases at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000339/index.html (21 June), http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000324/index.html
(12 June) and http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000316/index.html
(8 June); or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
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 http://apps3.fao.org/wiews/wiews.jsp
or contact email@example.com 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 http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0606sp1.htm
(in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact
firstname.lastname@example.org 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 http://www.fao.org/sd/dim_kn4/docs/kn4_060601d1_en.pdf
or contact REUS-Research@fao.org for more information or to provide
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 http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meetings/bs/mop-03/official/mop-03-15-en.pdf
(88 pages, 0.5 MB) and http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meetings/cop/cop-08/official/cop-08-31-en.pdf (374 pages, 1.43 MB) respectively or contact email@example.com 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 http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/Resources/IPR_ESW.pdf
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
(Return to Contents)
1.29 Selected articles from
(Articles selected by the director,
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
University of Basel
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
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.
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
We will be very honored with your visit to BIOLOGY STUDIES,
a new channel of science. Thank you for your attention.
Luiz Fernando Pereira, PhD
Chief Editor of Biology Studies
Universidade Católica do Paraná
Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da
Curso de Biologia, Revista Estudos de Biologia.
Conceição 1155, Prado Velho
Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil.
2.02 New book published: Flower Breeding and
Genetics: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for the 21st
Edited y Neil O. Anderson. Springer, Dordrecht, The
Netherlands. 822 pages. Hardcover. ISBN
1-4020-4427-5. 249,00 €
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
Contributed by Neil Anderson, Associate Professor
Breeding & Genetics
Invasion Biology Research Consortium
Herbaceous Ornamental Crop Germplasm Committee
Department of Horticultural
University of Minnesota
MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
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,
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.
and in situ conservation of agrobiodiversity, 4 – 8 November 2006
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
-Concepts of agrobiodiversity
-Setting objectives for genetic
-Ex situ conservation approaches and practices,
including collection management procedures
-In situ conservation
-Monitoring on farm conservation
The workshop concludes with the design of management plans for
complementary conservation strategies.
Contact person: Dr. Ahmed Amri
(ICARDA): E-mail: email@example.com
Support of local seed supply & development of small scale seed enterprises, 11 – 15 November 2006
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
-Support of local seed supply
-Seed quality: issues and production practices
seed enterprise development
-Marketing of locally produced seeds
workshop concludes with the design of plans to support local seed production,
community seed production or small-scale seed enterprise development.
persons: Dr. Zewdie Bishaw (ICARDA); E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
resources, rights and institutional policies, 18 – 22 November 2006
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
-International Genetic Resource Policies
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
Contact person: Niels Louwaars (Wageningen UR); E-mail:
For further information on the program please visit the websites of
ICARDA: www.icarda.org (see: Seed Systems
Support), Wageningen International: www.wi.wur.nl (see: international education at
Wageningen UR, courses), or the Generation Challenge Program: www.generationcp.org (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.
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
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
The training program is organized
-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,
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: email@example.com
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
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.
Fall 2006 and runs through Summer 2008 (actual dates to be
For more information: (530) 754-7333, email firstname.lastname@example.org, http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/Events/Plant_Breeding_Academy.htm
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: email@example.com
* 31 July -1
August 2006, Grass Breeders’ Conference, Ames, IA.
available at http://www.plantbreeding.iastate.edu/gbc.html,
or by contacting Charlie Brummer, firstname.lastname@example.org or Shui-zhang Fei
* 31 July – 4 August 2006. African Rice Congress,
WARDA , Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Contact: Lawrence Narteh. http://www.warda.org/africa-rice-congress/
August 2006. 7th Plant Genomics Conference, Heilongjiang University ,
Harbin, China. Contact: Rongtian Li,
Zhenqiang Lu, Chunquan Ma. http://www.plantgenomics.cn
* 13-19 August 2006:
XXVII International Horticultural Congress, Seoul (Korea) web: www.ihc2006.org
*16 - 19 August 2006.Tropical Crop
Biotechnology Conference 2006, Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Organized by: CSIRO Plant Industry. For more information: Contact: CSIRO
Plant Industry email@example.com
* 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 www.intlplantbreeding.com. If you are unable to register
online please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* 30 August
– 1 September 2006. XIII EUCARPIA Biometrics in Plant Breeding Section
Meeting, EUCARPIA , Zagreb, Croatia
Contact EUCARPIA Secretariat
Meeting Announcement (PDF)
Form (Word Document)
* 10-14 September 2006. First Symposium
on Sunflower Industrial Uses. Udine University, Udine Province, Friuli
Venezia Giulia Region, Italy.
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:
email@example.com web: www.istflori.it
* 17-21 September 2006. Cucurbitaceae 2006, Grove Park Inn Resort
and Spa in Asheville, North Carolina, USA (in the scenic Blue Ridge
Contact: Dr. Gerald Holmes, Department of Plant Pathology,
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7616, 919-515-9779 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
* 18-20 September 2006.The International Cotton Genome Initiative
(ICGI) 2006 Research Conference, Blue Tree Park Hotel (
http://www.bluetree.com.br/index_ing.asp) Brasília, D.F., Brazil. Details of
the ICGI 2006 Research Conference will be posted on the ICGI website (http://icgi.tamu.edu ) as they
* 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 http://www.icar.org.in/irc2006/ or
contact email@example.com for more information.
* 11-14 October 2006
Plant Genomics European Meetings, Venice, Italy. http://www.distagenomics.unibo.it/plantgems/
* 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
Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops and Purdue www.aaic.org or www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop
* 9-12 November
2006. 7th Australasian Plant Virology Workshop. Rottnest Island, Perth,
For further information contact: Prof Mike Jones, Murdoch
University, Perth firstname.lastname@example.org
* 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 email@example.com
or visit the meeting website at http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/meeting/.
8-9 February 2007. A national workshop on “Sustaining plant
breeding as a vital national capacity for the future of U.S. agriculture,”
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: http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/plantbee/home.html
* 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 http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/plantbee/home.html
* 9-14 September 2007.
The World Cotton Research Conference-4, Lubbock, Texas, USA (http://www.icac.org). 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.
7. EDITOR'S NOTES
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.
newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio
Guimaraes (firstname.lastname@example.org), Margaret Smith (email@example.com), and
Anne Marie Thro (firstname.lastname@example.org). The editor will advise subscribers one to
two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for
REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the
Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html
We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter.
Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the
editor at email@example.com.
Subscribers are encouraged to take an active
part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Contributions may be
in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues;
announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book
announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding;
announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for
information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought
by subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the
editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would especially like to see a broad
participation from developing country programs and from those working on species
outside the major food crops.
Messages with attached files are not
distributed on PBN-L for two important reasons. The first is that computer
viruses and worms can be distributed in this manner. The second reason is that
attached files cause problems for some e-mail systems.
PLEASE NOTE: Every
month many newsletters are returned because they are undeliverable, for any one
of a number of reasons. We try to keep the mailing list up to date, and also to
avoid deleting addresses that are only temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a
newsletter, write to me at email@example.com and I will re-send it.
subscribe to PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave
the subject line blank and write SUBSCRIBE PBN-L (Important: use ALL CAPS). To
unsubscribe: Send an e-mail message as above with the message UNSUBSCRIBE PBN-L.
Lists of potential new subscribers are welcome. The editor will contact these
persons; no one will be subscribed without their explicit permission.
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