PLANT BREEDING NEWS
5 March 2007
An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University
Clair H. Hershey,
Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding
1. NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND
1.01 Sustaining Plant Breeding: Report on a National
1.02 FAO e-mail
conference: Water scarcity and agricultural biotechnologies
scientist wins top award
Donald Floyd named “Breeder of the Year” by the U.S. Turfgrass
1.05 Groundbreaking ceremony for new crop research centre at the
University of Nottingham
1.06 Nigeria initiates Africa's institute of science
1.07 Fighting Hunger in
Africa: Pinpointing the Keys to
1.08 The CGIAR Challenge Programs:
farmers adopt ICRISAT pigeon pea
1.10 Cellulosic ethanol: Fuel of the
1.11 Investing in science: a cautionary tale
1.12 South Africa’s Minister for Agriculture underscores
need for biofortification
1.13 Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology: studies on
1.14 Thirty years of plant transformation technology
1.15 Study confirms vulnerability of California export markets to genetically
1.16 Architectural plan revealed of doomsday arctic seed
1.17 U.S and Brazil sow
seeds for germplasm exchange
1.18 High genetic diversity discovered in Eritrean barley
1.19 Colchicine induced variability: Impact on pollen grains and stomata of
interspecific hybrid in Dianthus
1.20 Smithsonian scientists report
ancient chili pepper history
1.21 Mummy's amazing American maize
1.22 New research highlights impact of climate on
1.23 Asia sets its sight on high beta carotene tomatoes
1.24 Lettuce fights back
1.25 Long-term rust resistance closer for sunflowers
1.26 Natural enzyme deters fall
armyworms and other corn-feeding insects
1.27 Maize seed leaves giant footprint
in Nepal, Kenya and Zimbabwe
1.28 What recognizes what in plant disease resistance?
modification a tool for making vegetables and fruit (even) healthier
1.30 Genetic studies reveal QTL for onion pungency
1.31 Update 1-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews
1.32 Update 2-2007 of
2.01 Induced Resistance for Plant
Defence: A Sustainable Approach to Crop Protection
3. WEB RESOURCES
4 GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01 $100,000 soybean fellowship
4.02 Scholarships for
students studying rice
6 MEETINGS, COURSES AND
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
Sustaining Plant Breeding: Report on a National Workshop
Hancock, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University
Stuber, CALS, Agriculture Research Service, North Carolina State University
A new national coordinating committee of US plant breeders (SCC-80) was
recently established at a workshop hosted jointly by the Departments of Crop
Science and Horticultural Sciences at North Carolina State University. The
committee will actively work to raise awareness of what plant breeders have done
for the nation and how they can contribute to the future vitality of the US
economy. The group will also seek to strengthen US plant breeding capacity by
encouraging improvements in infrastructure and education. The new committee was
established as a Land Grant University Multistate Project. The first slate of
officers is: Stephen Baenziger at the University of Nebraska (Chair,
email@example.com), Philipp Simon, USDA-ARS at the University of Wisconsin
(Vice-chair, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Todd Wehner at North Carolina University
(Secretary, Todd Wehner@ncsu.edu).
The workshop was spearheaded by Ann
Marie Thro, National Program Staff of USDA-CSREES, with the aid of a
national steering committee of plant breeders. About 160 participants from all
over the USA attended the meeting, representing both the public (140) and
private (20) sector. The workshop came in response to concern about the steady
decline in national plant breeding investment over the last 20 years, which has
led to a significant reduction in the number of public plant breeders in the USA
and a substantial weakening of University education programs. Several previous
meetings have drawn attention to the decline in our nation’s plant breeding
capacity, but their message was not nationally audible or sustained through the
establishment of a permanent leadership group.
While the establishment of
a coordinating committee was an important goal of the meeting, most of the
workshop was devoted to discussing the critical role that plant breeders will
play in our nation’s future. The overall tone for discussion was set by a group
of leading experts who presented talks on how plant breeding fits into six
categories based on USDA Strategic Goals: 1) Excellence in science and
technology (Stephen Baenziger and Fred Bliss), 2) A globally-competitive
agricultural system (Ronnie Coffman, Robert Herdt and William Niebur), 3)
Competitiveness, sustainability and quality of life in rural America (William
Tracy, John Navazio and Marcelo Carena), 4) A safe and secure food and
biomaterials system (James Holland and Thomas Isleib), 5) A healthy
well-nourished population (Linda Pollak and Philipp Simon), and 6) Harmony
between agriculture and environment (Charles Brummer and Stephen
All of the speakers began their presentations with examples of
how plant breeders have already played a successful role in advancing national
goals. They reviewed several long term studies that showed that most US crops
have had steady, dramatic yield increases over the last 75 years that are due in
a large part to cultivar enhancement and development. These gains have
come from genetic improvements in biotic and abiotic stress resistance,
alterations in biomass partitioning patterns and improvements in plant
architecture. In many instances, these cultivar improvements have resulted in
reductions in pesticide use and the more efficient use of water and nutrients.
The speakers had many specific suggestions on how plant breeders can
reframe themselves to more effectively capture public attention and contribute
to the strength and stability of agriculture. Baenziger suggested that we need a
better definition of plant breeding that emphasizes “science” rather than “art”
if we want to achieve better recognition of our work. He also commented that it
is critical that our university training programs are maintained and that we
fully integrate the applied and basic approaches to plant improvement. Coffman
felt that we need to more clearly define the role of plant breeders in
generating global stability and world peace. Linda Pollak contended that plant
breeders can describe themselves as food professionals, who can play a critical
role in enhancing food quality, diversity, and nutrition. She also stressed that
we can focus our breeding energies on consumers while not neglecting producers.
Bill Tracy emphasized the need to focus more on value-added traits as an
important way to enhance crop diversity and enhance rural life. Jim
Holland reminded plant breeders that among the major challenges facing them are
keeping pace in the constant struggle against ever-evolving pathogens and
enhancing the biofuel capacity of our crops. Charles Brummer stressed the need
for more niche crops with local adaptations; he indicated that we should develop
completely new agricultural paradigms like perennial polycultures and
After the presentations, the participants broke into six
subcommittees to discuss how plant breeders fit into each of the national goals.
They were asked to answer three questions: 1) How can plant breeding support the
goals, 2) What is needed to assemble a factual and compelling case, and 3) What
partnerships should plant breeding build with others. The subcommittees were
then directed to develop an action plan for the next five years, as well as a
two-year near term plan, which they presented to the whole group at the end of
Out of the group deliberations, a number of common themes
emerged. On the topic of how plant breeding can support national strategic
goals, most groups felt that maintaining the genetic diversity of our crops is a
critical goal, while continuing our efforts to develop well adapted varieties
that are nutritious, productive, resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses, and
that have a place in a value added economy. When asked to describe what is
needed to assemble a factual and compelling case for plant breeding, the most
common observation was that we need to more effectively communicate our numerous
successes, the key being to let community leaders and decision makers know just
what we can provide. On the topic of what partnerships plant breeders need to
build, several groups felt that it will be important to more fully integrate
food and health professionals into our breeding efforts. We also need to engage
consumer groups and local agricultural communities much earlier in the research
and development pathway.
In the action plans of the individual
committees, there was a common call to accumulate success stories and make them
available on a website that is attractive to students and the public at large.
It was also felt that information about the role of plant breeders should be
provided in pamphlet form to K-12, 4-H and Master Gardner Programs. It was
suggested that plant breeders should develop symposia at cross-science meetings
like AAAS, to more fully integrate our field into the scientific community and
raise awareness of our contributions. A strong emphasis was focused on forming
an international society of plant breeders, to put the interests of plant
breeders at the fore. There was also a unified call to form partnerships with
agricultural organizations that successfully lobby policy makers such as the
Farm Bureau, American Seed Trade Association, Economic Developmental Councils
and Commodity groups. It was pointed out by many groups that we must work harder
to provide input when priorities are set for CSREES-NRI programs and the
national initiative on specialty crops. We need to make ourselves heard on the
type of products that will be of value to us and have an opportunity to share in
the resources provided to develop them. A strong call was also made to
strengthen the links between US plant breeders and the CGIAR Centers and
International Programs, as a way to attract new international students to our
programs and broaden the experiences of our domestic ones.
One of the
last orders of business at the meeting, was the election of a chair and
secretary for each sub-committee. These individuals will provide
sub-committee resources to the executive committee and make sure that the action
plans of the various committees are fulfilled. These officers and their
sub-committees were Excellence - David Stelly, Chair (Texas A&M University)
and Craig Yencho, Secretary (North Carolina State University), Global - Robert
Bertram, Chair (USAID) and Jim McFerson, Secretary (Washington Tree Fruit
Commission), Rural America - Marcelo Carena, Chair (North Dakota State
University) and Keith Woeste, Secretary (USDA Forest Service, Purdue
University), Nutrition/Healthy - Linda Pollak, Chair (USDA-ARS, Iowa State
University) and Michael Havey, Secretary (USDA-ARS, University of
Wisconsin), Environmental - Charlie Brummer, Chair (University of Georgia) and
Richard Pratt, Secretary (Ohio State University), Safe and Secure Food - Travis Frey, Chair (Monsanto Inc.) and James Holland, Secretary (North Carolina
State University). A new committee for Education was also established by the
executive group which will be chaired by Tom Stalker (North Carolina
University), with David Knauft as sectretary (University of Georgia).
addition to these officers, liaisons were elected to a number of
professional groups including, Ronnie Coffman, Cornell University (International
Plant Breeding Centers); Bill Tracy, University of Wisconsin (Private Non-profit
Breeders); Steve McKeand, North Carolina State University (Forestry Plant
Breeders); Herb Ohm, Purdue University (CSSA Plant Breeders); Linda
Wessel-Beaver, University of Puerto Rico (ASHS Plant Breeders) and Greg Tolla,
Seminis Vegetable Seeds (NCCPB). Mark Hussey, Texas A&M University will be
the Administrative Advisor of the Committee and Ann Marie Thro will be the
At the end of the meeting, the general
consensus was that the future of plant breeding was brighter. US plant breeders
now have an organized committee with a set of officers. A series of action plans
have been developed that support the USDA goals and will elevate the public
awareness of plant breeding. Clearly the success of the workshop will be
measured by how well these plans are implemented, but for the first time plant
breeders have a centralized and dedicated voice to support our science.
More information about this meeting and plant breeding in general can be
found on the Global Plant Breeding Website: http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/gpb/index.html
by P. Stephen Baenziger
University of Nebraska,
(Return to Contents)
1.02 FAO e-mail conference: Water scarcity and
The FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting
an e-mail conference entitled "Coping with water scarcity in developing
countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?". Organised in
collaboration with colleagues in FAO's water programme ( http://www.fao.org/ag/agl/aglw/), it
is one of the many activities planned to coincide with the World Water Day,
which is celebrated each year on 22 March. This year its theme is "Coping with
water scarcity" and FAO is the coordinating agency within the UN system for the
theme. The primary focus of the conference will be on the use of biotechnology
to increase the efficiency of water use in agriculture, while a secondary focus
will be on two specific water-related applications of micro-organisms, in
wastewater treatment and in inoculation of crops and forest trees with
mycorrhizal fungi. To discuss and exchange experiences on this subject, we
invite you to join the conference. The background document for the conference is
available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C14doc.htm.
The conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. It begins on
5 March and finishes on 1 April 2007. All e-mail messages posted during the
conference will also be placed on the Forum website (
http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp). To join the Forum (and also register
for the conference), send an e-mail to email@example.com leaving the
subject blank and entering the following text on two lines:
Those who are already Forum members
should leave out the first line of the above message, to register for the
conference. For more information, contact
Contributed by John Ruane
Agricultural scientist wins top award
When 76-year-old agricultural scientist Li Zhensheng decided to study
wheat more than five decades ago, he did not expect it to be his life-long
Li was yesterday presented with the 2006 National Supreme
Scientific and Technological Award by President Hu Jintao for his achievements
in wheat studies, which have helped feed millions of people.
senior research fellow at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of
the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is the 10th Chinese scientist to win the
top award 5 million yuan ($649,350) since it was established in 1999.
"But this award should not be given to me alone. It is an honour to be
shared by a group of scientists who have worked to improve food safety for so
many years," Li told China Daily.
Born in 1931 in East China's Shandong
Province, Li is a CAS academician and a former vice-president of CAS.
After graduating from Shandong Agricultural University in 1951, Li faced
a major challenge massive wheat strip rust disease caused by a fungus infection
in northern China.
Called wheat cancer, the disease has a high infection
rate and it could reduce wheat output by half. All types of fungicides were used
but to no avail because of the rapid genetic mutation of the fungus.
After years of work in Northwest China, Li discovered that a herb grass
called Yanmaicao (Elytrigia) with a remote genetic tie to wheat was free from
strip rust disease.
He decided to use the grass and wheat to develop a
hybrid that is resistant to fungus infection. But it was not easy.
nearly 20 years of experimentation, Li finally developed the Xiaoyan series of
wheat, which is made up of more than 70 hybrids.
In the past three
decades, the Xiaoyan series have increased accumulative wheat output by 7.5
Contributed by Victoria Sekitoleko
FAOR in China
and Elcio Guimaraes
(Return to Contents)
1.04 Dr. Donald Floyd named “Breeder of the Year” by the
U.S. Turfgrass Breeders Association
development of a unique turf-type ryegrass is also recognized with patents from
the U.S. Patent Office.
Companies Group is pleased to announce that Dr. Donald Floyd has been
recognized as Breeder of the Year by the Turfgrass Breeders Association of the
American Society of Agronomy (ASA). The recognition was conferred at the
Society’s International Annual Meetings held November 13-16, 2006 in
This prestigious recognition of Dr. Donald Floyd
cited his development of a new turf-type hybrid ryegrass for particular use on
golf courses. As golf courses emerge from winter, their perennial ryegrass
overseeded turf typically persists too long into the spring and summer which
leads to blotching, inconsistency and poor transition to warm season grasses.
Dr. Floyd has created a unique cross between perennial and annual ryegrass (L.
perenne x L. multiflorum), which overcomes this problem. Unlike numerous other
attempts at this type of cross, Dr. Floyd’s grasses have achieved stability
throughout subsequent cycles of seed multiplication. His technique has been so
successful, the first cycle of releases was recognized and granted patent by the
U.S. Patent Office.
Dr. Floyd’s family of “Intermediate” ryegrass
varieties moves transparently from its winter ryegrass cover to summer
Bermudagrass turf. These varieties retain the desired dark color and density of
the perennial ryegrass component, yet transition out, or exit, as quickly and
smoothly as annual ryegrass thereby reducing excessive persistence blotching.
These varieties have already proven successful through millions of pounds of use
in golf course overseeding throughout the US southern areas.
completed his PhD studies in 2000 at Oregon State University, where he wrote an
impressive thesis concerning ryegrass fluorescence. His experience working in
that species is the basis of his expertise in developing the new
perennial/annual ryegrass cross.
Jerry Pepin, Executive Vice-President,
Research and Technical Sales, comments that “Don Floyd has an exceptional eye
for the continually, shifting quality of turfgrass plants. Developing the best
turfgrass varieties is critical to growing and maintaining market share in this
highly competitive industry. The professional work of Dr. Floyd and his
colleagues is crucial in maintaining Pickseed’s strong industry
27 February 2007
(Return to Contents)
1.05 Groundbreaking ceremony for new crop research centre at
the University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham Malaysia
Campus is to collaborate on a new research centre that will focus on oil palm
research using the latest molecular techniques.
The University is
collaborating with a Malaysian company, Applied Agricultural Resources (AAR), to
lead research into genetic improvements that could make the oil palm more
resistant to disease, easier to harvest and more valuable to the
Bill Rammell MP, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and
Higher Education, was at The University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus, at
Semenyih near Kuala Lumpur, to perform the groundbreaking ceremony at an
adjacent site where the AAR Research Centre will be based. Mr Rammell, visiting
Semenyih with five Vice-Chancellors of other UK universities, was also briefed
by Professor Brian Atkin, Vice-President at the campus, on other
AAR is an internationally-recognised centre for plantation
crop research and development. Among the areas that will be explored at the new
AAR Research Centre are the use of DNA to detect illegitimate crosses, tissue
culture mix-ups and other identity-related issues. DNA finger-printing
technology will be utilised to authenticate the in-house breeds and clones for
intellectual property rights.
The laboratory will also seek to hasten
traditional breeding programmes through genetic relationship studies to
determine desirable oil palm breeding partners. In order to speed up the
breeding programmes, marker-assisted selection technology will be developed for
early selection of wanted and unwanted traits at DNA level, rather than
selection after the oil palm starts fruiting and yielding. Traits of interest
include oil quality, tree height and fruit colour.
Construction will now
start on the new facility, which is expected to open in October 2007. It will be
located on a site adjacent to the Malaysia campus.
In the future,
scientists envisage that genetic engineering technology could be used to
overcome the barrier of introducing new traits into oil palm. This technology,
together with marker-assisted selection and tissue culture, could speed up the
production of new oil palm varieties with desirable traits such as high
value oil, disease resistance and amenability to mechanised
Professor Brian Atkin, Vice-President at the Malaysia Campus,
said: “Industry-academic collaboration is an important part of research and as a
research-led university, we are pleased to collaborate with AAR.
centre will also provide facilities for high level biotechnology research for
students from our undergraduate and postgraduate biotechnology
Dr Soh Aik Chin, Head of Agricultural Research at AAR, said: “The decision to locate the Research Centre at an adjacent lot to the Malaysia
Campus is to enable us to leverage on the resources and facilities available at
the School of Biosciences at the Malaysia Campus.
“We are pleased to be
able to collaborate with an internationally acclaimed centre of excellence for
teaching and fundamental research. I would like the AAR Research Centre to
emulate Nottingham’s success and look forward to a successful and fruitful
The groundbreaking was performed by Bill Rammell MP. He
was in Malaysia with a delegation of five vice-chancellors from UK universities,
to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Education, in collaboration with the
Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia, and to meet policymakers and senior
educationalists from both the public and private sectors.
of Nottingham Malaysia Campus opened in September 2000 to become the first
branch campus of a British university in Malaysia and the first anywhere in the
world. The Malaysia Campus is a full and integral part of The University of
Nottingham, UK, and students are awarded University of Nottingham degree
Led by senior academic staff seconded from Nottingham, UK,
the Malaysia Campus offers students the Nottingham experience in a local setting
and yet is firmly rooted in all that is distinctive about UK education innovative teaching and assessment methods, which encourage independent,
13 February 2007
(Return to Contents)
1.06 Nigeria initiates Africa's
institute of science
Design for the new Gulf of Guinea Institute
[LUSAKA] Nigeria has allocated US$25 million to fund the first site of
the African Institute of Science and Technology (AIST).
the Gulf of Guinea Institute will begin this week (20 February) in Nigeria,
after the government's Petroleum Technology Development Fund approved funding
late last year, according to Desmond Akawor, minister of state for the country's
Federal Capital Territory Administrator.
The institute, located in a
240-hectare site in Abuja, is due to open in September. Its research will centre
on several different fields including biological, environmental and mathematical
It is one of three primary sites for the AIST centres for
excellence, announced in 2005 (see 'Quest
to fund African science institutions begins' ) and reiterated at the African
Union summit last month (see 'African
leaders set guidelines for scientific growth' ).
The other sites will
be located in South Africa and Tanzania. AIST will also encompass smaller
affiliated centres throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
AIST, also known as the
Nelson Mandela Institute, is a public-private sector partnership aiming to
produce more African scientists to help accelerate development in the continent.
According to Akawor, AIST will recruit Africa's best students and
scholars to address the continent's problems including public policy, energy,
water, and the environment through quality teaching and research.
it has the potential to be the scientific and technological engine of the
Africa's economic growth, producing the continent's best scientists and
The Nigerian government has provided a governing council
for the Gulf of Guinea Institute and is planning a fundraising dinner for the
project, according to Akawor.
Brian Chituwo, Zambia's science and
technology minister, said the initiation of the Nigerian institute was "a
positive development in Africa's higher education system because it will
concentrate much on research in various fields, which is currently lacking in
most higher institutions of learning in Africa".
21 February 2007
(Return to Contents)
1.07 Fighting Hunger in Africa:
Pinpointing the Keys to Success
Eight European and African
organizations have agreed to work together under the Agricultural Innovation in
Dryland Africa (AIDA) project to achieve a clearer understanding of the
conditions for sustainable agricultural development in African dryland areas.
The AIDA project is funded by the EU and coordinated by the French Agricultural
Research Centre for International Development. The press release states that
while the numbers of malnourished people has fallen in India and China, the
numbers are continuing to grow in Africa, particularly in dryland zones. The
AIDA project aims to pinpoint the determining factors in past failures and
current successes. Very few studies are currently available on this issue, and a
database of this type, backed up by recommendations, "could serve to support
policy decision-making and fairer distribution of resources in favour of
subsistence farming," the press release says. According to the press release,
poverty, trade inequalities, and the difficulty of agricultural development are
at the "top the list of causes" of persistent famine in dryland Africa, and for CIRAD and its African partners,
traditional farming systems have been "overlooked." The press release can be
viewed online at the link below.
GCP Latest News Alerts, 6 February 2007
The CGIAR Challenge Programs: Gaining
The three pilot Challenge Programs of the CGIAR will be
externally reviewed this year, the CGIAR announced in its February story of the
month on the CGIAR website. “We expect that the insights and recommendations
gleaned from the reviews will prove useful not just to the current Programs but
to the new ones” – for which concept notes were due February 5 – “as they decide
how best to organize their research efforts, governance and collaborative
arrangements,” says Manuel Lantin, scientific advisor in the CGIAR Secretariat.
The Secretariat is jointly organizing with the CGIAR Science Council both the
review of current Challenge Programs as well as the process for development of
Cycle 2 Programs. Read more at: http://www.cgiar.org/monthlystory/february2007.html.
GCP Latest News Alerts, 6 February 2007
Chinese farmers adopt ICRISAT pigeon pea
Pigeon pea or cajan is
adapted to the tropics and subtropics where it is one of the most valuable
legumes. It is cultivated for both forage and its edible beans, which are
produced in abundance. The International Crops Research institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has bred pigeon pea varieties and reintroduced the
cultivation of this perennial legume in China. From a cultivated area of 50
hectares in 1999 in two provinces, the area under pigeon pea increased to
100,000 ha in 12 provinces in 2006.
Chinese farmers have found diverse
uses from pigeon pea - prevention of soil erosion, crop diversification, fodder
for cattle and feed for fishes, as a substrate for mushroom cultivation and lac
production, as a vegetable, and for the preparation of food products. These uses
have made pigeon pea into a multi-purpose crop with a large and diverse
portfolio of uses in China.
Read the news release at http://www.cgiar.org/newsroom/releases/news.asp?idnews=536.
CropBiotech Update 9 February 2007
Contributed by Margaret Smith
of Plant Breeding and Genetics
(Return to Contents)
1.10 Cellulosic ethanol: Fuel of the future?
In his Jan.
23 State of the Union address, President George Bush outlined his plan to reduce
the nation's dependency on foreign oil by requiring the production of 35 billion
gallons a year of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017, roughly five times
the current target set by Congress of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.
the most promising alternatives are fuels derived from biological material.
Currently, the main biofuel used in the United States is ethanol distilled from
kernels of corn. There are about 140 corn ethanol refineries nationwide, which
produce more than 5 billion gallons a year. But critics say that corn ethanol
alone won't meet the president's goal of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels
in 10 years, because cultivating corn to use only its grain would take up too
much land. According to the National Environmental Trust, producing 35 billion
gallons of ethanol annually would require putting an additional 129,000 square
miles of farmland-an area roughly the combined size of Kansas and Iowa-into corn
One way to reach the president's objective is offered by
Chris Somerville, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University and
director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Plant Biology. Somerville
advocates increasing the production of cellulosic ethanol, which is distilled
from the fermentation of sugars from the entire plant, not just the
''To expand beyond 12 billion gallons, we need to use the body of
the plants rather than use the seeds,'' Somerville said. He will discuss his
research at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at the annual meeting of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.
plant: A perennial grass
The body of a plant is composed of
polysaccharides, such as cellulose, which can be converted to ethanol by
fermentation. Using the entire plant body as a starting raw material will result
in a higher yield of fermentable sugar per unit of land, Somerville
The ideal plant for producing cellulosic ethanol, he added, is
Miscanthus, a perennial grass native to subtropical and tropical regions of
Africa and southern Asia, which is used as an ornamental plant in the United
What makes Miscanthus so special?
''It uses less water per
gram of biomass produced than other plants,'' he said. ''For example, to make a
pound of alfalfa or spinach requires about 600 pounds of water, while to grow a
pound of Miscanthus requires only about 200 pounds of water.''
to Somerville, Miscanthus produces about twice as much biomass per acre without
irrigation than other grasses, and reaching the president's target of 35 billion
gallons of biofuels annually would require putting far fewer acres of land into
The main reason behind the call for increased
biofuel production is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, not because we
are running out of fossil fuels, he added. ''There are reserves of coal for 200
years at least, and coal can be liquefied into fuel, but it produces an awful
lot of CO2,'' he explained.
Biofuels, on the other hand, are
carbon-neutral sources of energy, Somerville said, noting that plants absorb
atmospheric carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, which compensates for the CO2
that is released when biofuels burn.
environmentalists criticize the use of biofuels by arguing that planting large
quantities of corn or grass to produce ethanol will require widespread
deforestation, which threatens biodiversity. ''It depends on what acres of land
one uses [to plant Miscanthus],'' said Somerville, who advocates growing biofuel
crops on land currently used for food production.
''There's a lot of
deforestation certainly going to take place in tropical regions, because those
countries are going to develop biofuel businesses,'' he said. ''Already in
Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the acreage of palm oil is extending very
rapidly because palm oil can be converted to biodiesel with a quite high
efficiency and very low capital investment. But is it worse for the environment
than climate change? That's the question.''
According to Somerville,
''Climate change threatens biodiversity more than anything that I know. For
example, in British Columbia they are losing each year forests the size of Rhode
Island because of beetle infestation, because it is not cold enough in the
winter to kill the beetles, and they are killing the forest.''
The president's target of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by
2017 ''is very substantive, but Bush did not provide any insights into what he
is going to do to make that happen,'' Somerville said, adding that it will take
seven to 10 years to produce cellulosic ethanol at competitive
''It is certainly possible to achieve Bush's goals technically,''
he said. ''The question in my mind is whether investors are ready to put up the
money required to make it happen.''
Contact: Mark Shwartz
16 February 2007
Investing in science: a cautionary
Science for development will require more than just financial
A growing consensus on the need for more science and technology in
development policies must not lead to excessive expectations.
week (13–15 February), a meeting hosted by the World Bank in Washington gathered
over 300 government ministers, policy advisers, scientists and representatives
of nongovernmental organisations from developing countries. They were there to
discuss how science, technology and innovation can best be harnessed to support
sustainable growth and reduce global poverty.
The meeting represented an
important shift in the World Bank's lending priorities. For more than two
decades, the need for developing countries to build their scientific and
technological capacity remained overshadowed by other goals, including more
direct attacks on poverty. But science is now returning to the fore.
bank's new president, Paul Wolfowitz, said that science and technology (S&T)
are essential to the UN Millennium Development Goals. He urged developing
countries to include support for science, however modest, in their spending
plans (see Invest
in science, says World Bank president).
Wolfowitz's support for
science is welcome. But his caution is also justified. For it would be dangerous
to place expectations too high.
Rash investments could create a backlash
similar to that which occurred 25 years ago, after the promises made for S&T
during the 1960s and 1970s failed to materialise. The sight of expensive
laboratories and equipment lying unused across the developing world led to
disenchantment among donors, many of whom felt their investments had been
More than just investment
The current danger lies in
promoting policies that see S&T as drivers of social progress and
economic development, rather than components of innovation programmes in which
other factors from regulatory policy to education and training are
just as important.
The scientific community is particularly prone to this
one-dimensional approach. Arguing that heavy investment in research and
development is enough to promote economic growth naturally appeals to those keen
to see scientific laboratories flourish across the developing world.
experience has shown that such investment is only part of the solution. The real
challenge lies in embedding science in all spheres of government policy, and
introducing educational, regulatory and fiscal measures to enable innovation to
flourish across the economy.
Until this happens, demands for more money
for science will inevitably be seen as little more than self-interested pleading
from the scientific community.
Venancio Massingue, a former university
professor who is now Mozambique's S&T minister, admitted to feeling
embarrassed during cabinet meetings because his bids for increased research
funding had to compete with those seeking more money for social services such as
food and basic medical care.
Attempts to secure support for S&T
capacity building also risk separation from a country's main economic policies.
Requests for greater support at the World Bank's meeting like those at the
African Union summit last month came mostly from S&T ministers, rather
than the finance ministers holding the purse-strings.
Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of
international development at Harvard University, suggested that it was often
lawyers who, given their role in designing governmental administrative
arrangements, have had the biggest impact on innovation policies in recent
This is not to say that scientists should sit quietly on the
sidelines. Their enthusiasm and commitment is essential for alerting politicians
to the need for science in social and economic programmes. And their direct
involvement, both as advisers and practitioners, is equally important in
ensuring that this is done effectively.
But at the end of the day, as
many speakers at the meeting emphasised, it is political will that counts
Some of this must come from the top. Countries whose leaders are
committed to building science and technology capacity, and integrating it into
effective innovation systems, are more likely to succeed than those with leaders
who simply rely on importing foreign technology.
But equally important is
a bottom-up approach that encourages, for example, the integration of scientific
research into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers the documents required by
funding agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for
countries to receive debt relief. Some African countries, such as Mozambique,
have begun to do this.
Without such an embedded commitment, as well as
popular support, today's enthusiasm for science and technology investment risks
becoming just another passing fashion.
22 February 2007
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Africa’s Minister for Agriculture underscores need for
South Africa’s Minister for
agriculture says food security is not possible without improved, appropriate,
locally enhanced bred cultivars of some indigenous grain crops such as sorghum,
millet and other staple food crops.
The Minister, Ms. Lulu Xingwana also
said the South African government will support African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS)
Project in conducting its research in South Africa and the continent.
Addressing the ABS Open Day Conference at the Agricultural Research
Council (ARC) headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa, the Minister said “The
South African government supports the ABS project in its research and the hard
work that it has put into this venture.”
Ms. Xingwana said in order to
avoid food insecurity, it is important to explore various options that will
enhance the micronutrient content of staple foods such as supplementing people’s
Other dignitaries at the conference included; Dr. Florence
Wambugu, CEO Africa Harvest, Dr. Gatsha Mazithulela, Executive Director CSIR
Biosciences and Dr. Paul Anderson, International Grain End-Use Manager, Pioneer
(a Dupont Company). The three are members of the ABS steering Committee.
Dr. Florence Wambugu applauded the involvement of the Government of
South Africa in endorsing a 20-year biotechnology action plan by Africa’s Heads
of State at the AU summit in Ethiopia.
She called on the South Africa
government to use its influence as a leader on the continent to convince other
African countries to enact laws that create enabling environment for
biotechnology. “I call upon the government of South Africa to use its influence
on the continent and help other African countries to enact laws that govern the
biotechnology sector,” said Dr. Wambugu.
Dr. Wambugu noted that policies
on the continent were not at the same level with new technologies. She urged
African governments to keep on updating policies to meet the challenges of new
technologies that are emerging.
Dr. Gatsha Mazithulela said the decision
by the heads of state to endorse a 20-year biotechnology action plan enforces
African governments’ position on the development of biotechnology on the
“In the ABS project we, as Africans, have pooled our
resources to address an African problem. Funding from primarily the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation has put the objective of improving the nutritional
value of an African crop, within our reach. Because we are realistic about the
limitations of Africa’s infrastructure capacity and human resources capacity in
the science domain, we have made it our mission to weave capacity building into
every fibre of this project. In addition to our African partners, we are
collaborating with some of the developed world’s leading scientists in this
domain”, Dr. Mazithulela said.
Ms. Xingwana, the Minister for
agriculture acknowledged that micro-nutrient malnutrition was a public health
problem of considerable significance not only in South Africa but the continent
at large. She said sustainable approach to enriching staple foods with
micronutrients is to develop improved varieties or cultivars through research
and development and applauded the ABS project for doing this.
of the ABS project is to develop transgenic sorghum varieties that will overcome
most of the nutritional deficiencies affecting the continent. We hope to do this
by substantially improving grain digestibility and making the vitamins and
micro-nutrients more available,” Dr. Paul Anderson noted.
encouraged the ARC and the ABS project to use the best that science has to offer
in addressing agricultural problems unique to SA and Africa. “In particular, you
should explore the possibilities of broadening the food base to reduce
dependence on a small basket of foods, improving the inherent nutritional
quality of food at source and identify integrated approaches to maximize impact
and adoption of new technologies,” she noted.
The African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS)
Project is part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Grand Challenges
in Global Health initiative, a major effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs
against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the world’s poorest
countries. Announced in mid 2005, the grants totaling US$436.6 million covered a
broad range of innovative research projects involving scientists in 33
countries. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to create “deliverable
technologies” – health tools that are not only effective, but also inexpensive
to produce, easy to distribute, and simple to use in developing
news item on this page is copyright by the organization where it originated - Fair use
22 February 2007
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1.13 Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology: studies on
Final analysis of the Pew Initiative on
Food and Biotechnology finds that U.S. state legislatures continue to focus on
agricultural biotechnology: regulating GMOs and support of biotechnology are
most popular topics of legislation introduced in 2005-2006
A new fact sheet and web database released
today by the Pew Initiative on Food and
Biotechnology reveals that agricultural biotechnology continues to be of
interest to state legislatures, particularly with respect to concerns about
marketing, economics and liability – issues that historically have not been the
focus of federal regulatory efforts. During the 2005-2006 legislative session,
134 pieces of legislation related to agricultural biotechnology were introduced
in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
The announcement of findings
marks the fifth time that the Pew Initiative has monitored state legislative
efforts in the area of agricultural biotechnology. As the PIFB project will be
ending in March 2007, this is the final state legislation report.
most recent analysis identified legislative engagement on issues identified in
prior fact sheets, such as liability and contracts, but also highlighted some
new areas of action, such as coexistence between GE, conventional and organic
farmers and producers.
"In the 2005-2006 legislative session, states
continued to balance a diverse set of interests – from capturing the economic
value of agricultural biotechnology to weighing potential conflicts with
existing conventional and organic producers," said Michael Fernandez, executive
director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. "As states grapple
with these issues, some stakeholders may also consider the broader existing
regulatory framework and assess specific state responsibilities as they
encounter situations where regulatory gaps appear to exist."
percent of introduced legislation addressed the regulation of seeds and crops;
22 percent of introduced bills were in support of agricultural biotechnology; 16
percent of introduced bills sought to impose moratoria on GM crops and animals
and 15 percent of legislation addressed rights and responsibilities of farmers
and biotech seed producers by establishing liability for damages caused by
genetically modified crops.
The fact sheet, entitled "State Legislative
Activity Related to Agricultural Biotechnology in 2005-2006," chronicles and
catalogues state and federal legislative activity relating to agricultural
biotechnology in 2005 and 2006. It is accompanied by Legislation Tracker, a
database that archives legislation. These items update a similar fact sheet and
database prepared last year on legislative activity in 2005.
of the research include:
-Of the 134 pieces of legislation introduced in
state legislatures, 27 were adopted (20 percent of introduced bills), compared
with 37 bills (22 percent of introduced bills) in 2003-2004 and 45 (28 percent
of introduced bills) in 2001-2002.
-A new development emerged in
2005-2006 that focused on local lawmaking with 16 bills introduced to preempt
(disallow) local and county regulations on GM seeds and crops.
and New York introduced the most bills respectively generating 44 and 13 pieces,
with Hawaii adopting the most bills (7 pieces).
Fact sheet: http://pewagbiotech.org/resources/factsheets/legislation/factsheet.php
13 February 2007
Thirty years of plant transformation technology
Technology development is seminal to many aspects of
basic and applied plant transgenic science. Through the development and
commercialization of genetically modified crops, the evolution of plant
transgenic technologies is also relevant to society as a whole. In this study,
literature statistics were used to uncover trends in the development of these
technologies. Publication volume and impact (citation) over the past 30 years
were analysed with respect to economic zones, countries, species and DNA
delivery method. This revealed that, following a dramatic expansion in the
1980s, publications focusing on the development of transgenic technology have
been slowing down worldwide since the early mid-1990s, except in a few leading
Asian countries. The implications of these trends on the future of plant
transgenic science as a whole are discussed.
Full article for
Volume 5 Issue 2 Page 221 - March 2007
John Innes Centre,
Crop Genetics Department
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1.15 Study confirms vulnerability of California export
markets to genetically modified rice
released study* finds
that California’s rice industry faces the loss of export markets worth over $200
million dollars in the event that genetically modified (GM) rice is produced
The report makes the following conclusion: “It would
appear that the rice trade in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and to a lesser extent Turkey
has little interest in importing GM rice at this time…Due to the risks involved,
we recommend that the U.S. industry not seek commercialization of GM rice in the
near term [next 3 to 5 years].”
The study commissioned by the Rice Producers of California (RPC) was
conducted by the international affairs and market research firm Bryant Christie
Inc. and has been formally endorsed by the US Rice Producers Association
(USRPA). Bryant Christie evaluated the potential for market acceptance of GM
rice in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. These markets, which account for
approximately 40% of California’s annual rice crop, have a value of over $200
The report also states that even if GM rice were
cheaper, and even if the rice industry conducted an extensive educational
campaign, “there should be a full understanding that the pursuit of [GM Rice]
commercialization could jeopardize existing U.S. rice exports to Japan.” It goes
on to state “Considering that Japan accounts for roughly half of all California
rice export sales, or the equivalent of between 20% and 25% of California’s
annual rice production, loss of the Japanese market could significantly impact
the California rice industry.”
The report comes on the heels of the
August 2006 disclosure that Bayer CropScience’s experimental Liberty Link GM
rice had contaminated the Southern U.S. long grain rice supply. The incident led
to plummeting rice prices (an estimated $150 million within a matter of days),
the closure of several European and Asian markets, and costly testing and
According to Dwight Roberts, USRPA President and CEO, “California has an opportunity to be proactive and adopt strong measures to
protect itself from the market disruptions and rejection experienced in the
South. This incident is your wake-up call.”
RPC is calling for a
moratorium on all open-air GM rice production, laws giving farmers compensation
if they suffer economic damages due to GM contamination, and extensive seed
testing to assure GM-free seed supplies. “The potential long-term benefits of GM
rice have yet to be proven to California growers, and the risks to our markets
are simply too great,” stated Chris Capaul, a California rice farmer from Sutter
Full report: http://calriceproducers.org/RPC_GM_Rice_Report_2.pdf
Rice Producers of California, founded in 1997, represents and
advocates for the interests of California rice producers, and promotes the
economic viability of rice farming in California. RPC is the only organization
that speaks solely for the interests of California’s rice
Source: Source: Rice Producers of California via
20 February 2007
Architectural plan revealed of doomsday arctic seed
'Noah’s Ark' for seeds designed to outlast major rise in sea
level and warming of permafrost
OSLO, NORWAY. The Norwegian
government has revealed the architectural design for the Svalbard International
Seed Vault, to be carved deep into frozen rock on an island not far from the
North Pole. The entrance to the "fail-safe" seed vault will "gleam like a gem in
the midnight sun," signaling a priceless treasure within: seed samples of nearly
every food crop of every country. The vault is designed to protect the
agricultural heritage of humankindthe seeds essential to agriculture of
"This design takes us one step closer to guaranteeing the
safety of the world's most important natural resource," said Dr. Cary Fowler,
Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which will co-fund the
vault's operations and pay for the preparation and transport of seeds from all
developing nations to the Arctic island of Svalbard. "Every day that passes we
lose crop biodiversity. We must conserve the seeds that will allow agriculture
to adapt to challenges such as climate change and crop disease. This design is
as awesome physically as it is attractive aesthetically, and both are fitting
tributes to the importance of the biological treasure to be stored
Construction is slated to begin in March 2007 and to be completed
in September 2007. The vault will officially open in late winter 2008.
"By investing in a global permafrost safety facility for seeds, the
Norwegian Government hopes to contribute to combating the loss of biological
diversity, to reduce our vulnerability to climatic changes, and to enhance our
ability to secure future food production," said Mr. Terje Riis-Johansen,
Minister of Agriculture and Food, Norway.
The site was chosen, in part,
because the ground is perpetually frozen, providing natural back-up
refrigeration that would preserve the seeds should electricity fail. Yet, even
here, project architects had to consider how to offset the potential impacts of
The design will accommodate even worst-case scenarios of
global warming in two main ways. For one, the vault will be located high above
any possible rise in sea level caused by global warming: the vault will be
located some 130 metres above current sea level, ensuring that it will not be
flooded. This puts it well above a seven metre rise that would accompany the
melting of Greenland's ice sheet, or even a 61 metre rise that could accompany
an unlikely total meltdown of Antarctica.
Secondly, scientists determined
the impact of rising air temperatures on the permafrost, which is normally
between -4°C and -6°C (24.8°F and 21.2°F). They found that the permafrost would
warm much more slowly than the air. In addition, the deeper into the mountain,
the colder it will remain. Therefore, the vault will be located an extraordinary
120 metres into the rock, ensuring that rising external air temperatures will
have no influence on the surrounding permafrost.
"Even climate change
over the next 200 years will not significantly affect the permafrost
temperature," says project manager Magnus Bredeli Tveiten, with Statsbygg, the
Norwegian government's Directorate of Public Construction and Property.
To accomplish this, the 120-metre entry tunnel will penetrate through
the permafrost, opening to two large chambers capable of holding three million
seed samples. The tunnel and vaults will be excavated by means of well-known
boring and blasting techniques, with the rock walls sprayed with
In contrast to this utilitarian interior, "the exterior
structure shoots out of the mountainside," Tveiten said. The entrance portal
will be a narrow triangular structure of cement and metal, illuminated with
artwork which changes according to the special lighting conditions of the
Arctic. In the summer months, the entrance "will gleam like a gem in the
midnight sun," Tveiten says. Throughout the dark winter, when the sun never
rises, it will glow with gently changing lights.
The design also reflects
of the project's approach to security.
"We decided early on that there
is no point in trying to hide this facility from the public," Tveiten said.
"Instead we will rely on its presence being well-known in the local community,
so if the public sees something suspicious, they will react to it."
security measures include several sets of reinforced doors between the entrance
and the chambers, the absence of windows, and a video monitoring
Riis-Johansen emphasized the vault's importance to the world
community. "From a global perspective the emphasis is on assisting developing
countries by offering a safe haven for their valuable biological material. I
also hope that the interest that is shown in the Svalbard Arctic Seed Vault will
create increased awareness for the need for conservation and sustainable use of
our genetic resources."
The Arctic seed vault is part of a comprehensive
global strategy being implemented by the Global Crop Diversity Trust to protect
collections of crop genetic diversity around the world.
information on the architectural design contact: Magnus Bredeli Tveiten, Project
Manager, Statsbygg: + 47 22 95 42 22 (o) + 47 91 17 94 41 (m).
Crop Diversity Trust (www.croptrust.org)
The mission of the Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability
of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is
fundamental to fighting hunger and to the very future of agriculture, funding is
unreliable and diversity is being lost. The Trust is the only organization
working worldwide to solve this problem. The Trust is finalizing an agreement
with the Royal Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Norway and the Nordic Gene
Bank to provide for the long-term funding, management and operation of the
Contact: Jeff Haskins
8 February 2007
U.S and Brazil sow seeds for germplasm exchange
effort between U.S. and Brazilian scientists is setting the stage for
significant international exchange of germplasm.
The U.S. Department
of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), is
helping its Brazilian counterpart EMBRAPA develop a new animal genome database. This effort is part of an ongoing
collaboration between the two countries, called "Labex," through which the
United States and Brazil share agricultural equipment, scientists and expertise.
This is the first Labex effort to deal with genetic resources. As part
of the project, Brazilian visiting scientists Arthur Mariante and Luciano Nass
worked with ARS scientists at the National Center for Genetic Resources
Preservation (NCGRP) in Fort Collins, Colo. They collaborated with ARS
scientists on their research, analyzed germplasm storage techniques and compared
genebank management practices.
Program leaders have also arranged for a
Brazilian computer programmer to work with U.S. programmers in Beltsville, Md.,
to develop a new version of the animal germplasm component of the ARS Genetic
Resources Information Network.
Once the database is completed, people
from both countries will be able to query it to obtain information on the breeds
and individual animals whose germplasm is contained in the nations'
repositories. In the future, this information could facilitate the international
exchange of germplasm or tissues for genomic studies.
Read more about the
research in the February 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available
online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb07/seeds0207.htm
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Laura McGinnis firstname.lastname@example.org
5 February 2007
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genetic diversity discovered in Eritrean
The newly discovered barley may help breeders select for
drought and disease tolerance
Researchers have discovered varieties
of barley with a surprisingly high level of genetic diversity in Eritrea, which
could be useful for researchers trying to breed drought and disease resistant
But the scientists warn that the resource could be lost if seed
conservation measures are not improved.
The barley, found in farmer's
fields surrounding the capital city Asmara in Eritrea, has the highest level of
genetic diversity ever discovered. Lead researcher Ahmed Jahoor, of the
University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says he observed that the barley grows under
diverse levels of drought severity, which could be useful to plant breeders
wishing to select the level of drought tolerance needed. He expects to find
genetic variability for disease resistance as well.
Jahoor says the seeds
will be invaluable for improving barley "not only in Eritrea but elsewhere in
tropical highland where barley is grown".
They could be used as a new
source of useful genes that have not previously been used in barley breeding
programmes, and will be available for research purposes through common material
transfer agreement procedures.
However, Jahoor told SciDev.Net that the
new gene pool is under threat due to poor seed conservation facilities in
Eritrea. He urged the scientific community to establish a seed bank to conserve
the genetic resource before it is lost forever.
Jahoor says he has had
difficulties obtaining funding for a seed bank because the Danish government has
stopped supporting Eritrea for political reasons, and other funding agencies
have not committed any funds.
Mike Gale, emeritus research fellow at the
UK-based John Innes Centre, says the levels of genetic diversity that the
researchers found clearly demonstrates the value of international
The research was part of the Integrated Cereal Disease
Management programme that aims to enhance research collaboration between Danish
research institutes, National Agricultural Research Institutes in developing
countries and centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
It was published online in Theoretical & Applied Genetics
last week (6 February).
to abstract in Theoretical and Applied Genetics
15 February 2007
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1.19 Colchicine induced variability: Impact on pollen
grains and stomata of interspecific hybrid in Dianthus
Tejaswini1, Neeraj Tripathi and Paramesh H.
Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore 560 089, India;
1Corresponding author, E-mail: email@example.com
an effort to restore reproductive ability and to improve ornamental
characteristics, in vitro colchicine treatment was attempted in a
selected interspecific hybrid of Dianthus. Protocols of soaking
explant in colchicine prior to tissue culture as well as culturing the explant
on media incorporated with the colchicine were tried to optimize the
concentration for creating maximum variability and to enhance pollen
viability. Explants were soaked in various concentration of colchicine in
combination with varying treatment duration. The resulting in vitro
plantlets were hardened and were observed for pollen and stomatal characters.
Attempt was made for rapid and early detection of variability by screening
pollen and stomata size. Pollen grain size and percentage of viable pollen
grains increased with increased colchicine concentration and treatment duration.
Concentration of colchicine significantly influenced the pollen viability as
well as size of viable pollen grains. Significant impact of colchicine
concentration was also noticed for stomatal number and size on both upper and
lower surface of leaf.
For additional information, or a copy of the
complete paper, contact Dr. Tejaswini at : firstname.lastname@example.org
(Return to Contents)
1.20 Smithsonian scientists report
ancient chili pepper history
Americans Cultivated and Traded Chili
Peppers 6,000 Years Ago
Smithsonian researchers and colleagues report
that across the Americas, chili peppers (Capsicum species) were cultivated and
traded as early as 6,000 years agopredating the invention of pottery in
some areas of the Americas. The researchers analyzed starch grains to trace the
history of chili peppers in the Americas.
Their findings contribute
significantly to the current understanding of ancient agricultural practices in
the Americas. The report is published in the Feb. 16 issue of the journal
When Europeans arrived in the Americas, chili peppers were
among the most widespread of the plants domesticated in the New World. However,
the chronology and precise geography of their origins and early dispersals had
been very poorly understood. Tropical environments, where many chili varieties
were first domesticated and then incorporated into prehistoric farming systems,
degrade most organic archaeological remains, washing away and decomposing all
but the most durable evidence of ancient human activities. Lead author Linda
Perry, of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and colleagues
overcame this obstacle by identifying chili pepper starch grains. The starch
microfossils were found at seven sites dating from 6,000 years ago to European
contact and ranging from the Bahamas to southern Peru.
holds the most extensive reference collection of microscopic plant remains
available to archaeologistsstarch, pollen grains and microfossils called
phytoliths. The team of researchers adding to this collection discovered that
starch grains from chili peppers, members of the genus Capsicum, are shaped like
red blood cells, with a strong, central line or split on the
"Sorting through microscopic particles and finding a type that
distinguishes such an important plant group is like opening a window to the
past," Perry said. "While we once based our understanding of chili peppers on
rare sites with exceptionally good preservation, suddenly we are able to gain
incredible insight into ancient agriculture, trade and cuisine by making these
plants visible nearly everywhere they occurred."
Cultivated chili starch
grains are discernible from those of wild chilies. The remains of these
domesticated chili peppers were often found with corn, forming part of a major,
ancient food complex that predates pottery in some regions.
Capsicum starch grains were found in southwestern Ecuador at two sites dating to
6,100 years ago. The chili remains were associated with previously identified
corn, achira, arrowroot, leren, yuca, squash, beans and palm fruit, adding to
the picture of an early, complex agricultural system in that region. Ecuador is
not considered to be the center of domestication for any of the five
domesticated chili species. A more ancient record of the domestication and
spread of chili peppers awaits investigators working in other regions where wild
chilies were first brought into cultivation.
In Panama, chilies occurred
with corn and domesticated yams that dated 5,600 years before present (ybp).
Chilies were found at a site occupied 4,000 ybp in the Peruvian Andes, with
microscopic remains of corn, arrowroot and possibly potato. In this case, the
chilies were identified as the species C. pubescens. The rocoto pepper, a
cultivar of this species, is still a staple in the Peruvian diet. Newer sites in
the Bahamas (1,000 ybp) and in Venezuela (500-1,000 ybp) also yielded remains of
both corn and chilies.
"It's hard to imagine modern Latin American
cuisine without chili peppers," said co-author Dolores Piperno, Smithsonian
scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and at the Smithsonian
Tropical Research Institute in Panama. "We demonstrate that prehistoric people
from the Bahamas to Peru were using chilies in a variety of foods a long time
ago. The peppers would have enhanced the flavor of early cultivars such as maize
and manioc and may have contributed to their rapid spread after they were
The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
in Washington, D.C., is the most visited natural history museum in the world.
Opened in 1910, the museum is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the
world's most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human
artifacts. It also fosters critical scientific research as well as educational
programs and exhibitions that present the work of its scientists and curators to
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered
in Panama City, Panama, furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its
importance to human welfare; trains students to conduct research in the tropics;
and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and
importance of tropical ecosystems.
Authors: Linda Perry, Smithsonian
National Museum of Natural History (NMNH); Ruth Dickau and Sonia Zarillo,
University of Calgary; Irene Holst, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
(STRI); University of Calgary; Deborah Pearsall, University of Missouri; Dolores
Piperno, NMNH/STRI; Mary Jane Berman, Miami University; Richard G. Cooke, STRI;
Kurt Rademacher, University of Maine; Anthony J. Ranere, Temple University; J.
Scott Raymond, University of Calgary; Daniel H. Sandweiss, University of Maine;
Franz Scaramelli, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas; Kay
Tarble, University Central de Venezuela, Caracas; and James A. Zeidler, Colorado
Funded by: American Philosophical Society; the Concejo
de Desarollo Cientifico y Humanistico de la Universidad Central de Venezuela;
the Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral; the Foundation for Exploration and
Research on Cultural Origins; the Heinz Charitable Trust Latin American
Archaeology Program; the National Science Foundation; the Office of the Provost
at Ithaca College; the Programa de Anthropologia para el Ecuador; the
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History; the Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute; the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada; Temple
University; the University of Missouri Research Board; and
Contact: Randall Kremer KremerR@si.edu
Linda Perry email@example.com
15 February 2007
Mummy's amazing American maize
far-reaching influence of Spanish and Portuguese colonisers appears not to have
extended to South American agriculture, scientists studying Andean mummies up to
1,400 years old have found.
The University of Manchester researchers,
working with colleagues in Buenos Aires, compared the DNA of ancient maize found
in the funerary offerings of the mummy and at other sites in northwest Argentina
with that grown in the same region today.
Surprisingly, they found both
ancient and modern samples of the crop were genetically almost identical
indicating that modern European influence has not been as great as previously
"The entire culture of South America changed when the Europeans
arrived in the 15th century - everything from the language to the whole way of
life," explained Professor Terry Brown, who headed the research in the Faculty
of Life Sciences.
"Maize is the staple food crop of the region but prior
to colonisation it also had a ritual significance - the indigenous people were
amazed by maize and even worshipped it.
"Given the immense changes that
took place in South America following the arrival of the Europeans it is
surprising that this crop has remained unaltered for hundreds of
Professor Brown's research partner, Dr Veronica Lia from the
Universidad de Buenos Aires, added: This is the first time that archaeological
remains from Argentina have been used in ancient DNA studies. As the
southernmost extreme of the spread of maize cultivation before the Europeans
arrived, this region of the Andes offers exciting possibilities in terms of the
genetic diversity it may harbour.
"Our findings reflect the perpetuation,
generation after generation, of the traditions of the native farmers that
inhabit this area."
Using the new facilities in the Manchester
Interdisciplinary Biocentre - a cross-faculty institute at the University -
Professor Brown is now examining the DNA of ancient maize from Peru, up to 6,000
years old, to determine if these much older specimens are also similar to modern
The research was published in the scientific journal
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Link to paper: http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/link.asp?id=96l6572604073w78
For further details contact:
The University of Manchester
14 February 2007
(Return to Contents)
1.22 New research highlights impact of climate on
New research by the Grain Foods CRC showing a direct
link between climate and genetic diversity in wild barley provides new evidence
of the risks associated with climate change and water availability.
Foods CRC researchers at the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics at Southern
Cross University and at the Institute of Evolution in Israel have identified
associations between genetic diversity and climate in wild populations of barley – the first plant domesticated by humans.
The results of the research are
reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the
United States of America, one of the world’s leading science
“This research is timely in that it gives us insights into ways
in which biodiversity might be influenced by climate change,” said Professor
Robert Henry, Director of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics.
“The diversity and distribution of plant populations is likely to be
altered dramatically by changes in temperature or the availability of water in
Professor Henry said the research found,
unexpectedly, that diversity of a defence gene in the wild barley was greater in
“Populations from wetter environments displayed less
diversity. This may be due to the influence of the climate on the
diversity of pathogenic micro-organisms in the soil,” he said.
populations in wetter environments face strong but uniform pest pressures while
in the dryer sites in the desert the pathogens are not as abundant but are more
“This finding illustrates the risks of loss or extinction of
populations from more favourable environments if rapid climate change results in
their exposure to more stressful environments for which they are not
“The impact of climate change is not as simple as we
Professor Henry said wild relatives of domesticated plants,
especially major crops, were key resources ensuring global food security.
“These wild plant populations may be essential to developing strains of
our food crops that can be produced in a changing environment,” he
The researchers involved in the project were Honours student James
Cronin, Dr Peter Bundock, from the Grain Foods CRC, and Professor Eviatar Nevo,
from the Institute of Evolution in Israel.
The work was supported by the
Grain Foods CRC (Contact David Lind, Commercialisation Manager, Grain Foods CRC,
Phone 02 8877 7876) because of the potential influence of the genes on the
nutritional and functional value of grain in human diets.
The next phase
of the research will look at genetic diversity in wild rices in northern
Emma Evans, Centre for Plant
Conservation Genetics, Southern Cross University
Jane Gilmour (Thurs - Fri
Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics
LISMORE NSW 2480
Asia sets its sight on high beta carotene tomatoes
Tomato is an
integral part of Asian and African cuisines. Only a few dishes are not without
tomatoes. Because of its fame as a source of beta-carotene and lycopene, the
World Vegetable Center has designed a new variety of tomato to contain three to
five times more beta-carotene than regular red tomatoes. With the recent release
of high beta-carotene cherry tomatoes in Taiwan, the World Vegetable Center has
secured a steady supply of Vitamin A especially in deficient areas in Asia and
Africa. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the scourges of the developing world, and
about 25 million have become blind from preventable diseases due to lack of
Vitamin A in the diet.
Aside from its nutritional and health benefits,
the high beta-carotene tomato hybrid has also shown high resistance to Gemini
virus and tomato mosaic virus, two of the most destructive viruses that affect
tomato crops. The Center is also developing heat tolerant, disease resistant
varieties that can be grown during the wetter, warmer periods without catching
widespread microbial diseases.
Read the news release at http://www.avrdc.org/news/feature_tomato_2feb2007.html.
CropBiotech Update 9 February 2007
Contributed by Margaret Smith
of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Lettuce fights back arch-enemies
Iceberg lettuce is the
unfortunate target of barrage of an impressive array of microbes. Some of these
microbes are transmitted to lettuce fields by piercing and sucking insects such
as aphids and whiteflies, while others team up microbes in invading susceptible
lettuces. To help iceberg lettuce and its relatives counter the attacks of
stealthy microbes, scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed parent lettuces with
resistance to two major diseases - lettuce mosaic and big vein.
big vein gets its name from the unhealthy, enlarged appearance of veins in
infected lettuce leaves. It is caused by the Mirafiori lettuce big vein virus,
which makes its way to lettuce roots via a soil-dwelling, fungus-like microbe.
Lettuce mosaic, on the other hand, is caused by a virus of the same name. Green
peach aphids can spread the virus from an infected plant to an uninfected one as
they move about a lettuce field. The scientists are expanding on this work by
pursuing other genes that would provide superior resistance to these diseases or
to any of about a half-dozen other microbes that the researchers are
The complete article can be accessed at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb07/lettuce0207.htm.
CropBiotech Update 9 February 2007
Contributed by Margaret Smith
of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Long-term rust resistance closer for sunflowers
disease rust has always been a serious issue for the sunflower industry, and
researchers now believe they may have found a way to beat it.
has been that rust undergoes a sexual cycle to produce new strains that combine
the virulences of the parental strains. The new recombined strains may then
attack newly developed resistant varieties.
But Gary Kong from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and
Fisheries (DPI&F) says that a new management strategy might prolong the
useful life of resistant varieties.
"The situation with rust at the
moment is similar to the one doctors face with the common cold. They have to
keep coming up with new vaccinations as last year's is out of date.
strategy is called gene-pyramiding and relies on an analysis of strains of the
rust pathogen collected over a thirty-year period. This analysis attempts to
predict which strains the pathogen may or may not be able to recombine into a
"Resistance genes that correspond to an unlikely strain
combination are identified and combined in a single hybrid.
resistance genes however, is not as simple as it sounds and we've had to
identify molecular markers for resistance genes so that we can track the genes
through the successive generations required for hybrid development.
"Hybrids using pyramided genes are now being developed for commercial
use. These will have durable resistance to rust - delaying the need to
constantly renew varieties," Dr Kong said.
The research is being carried
out by the DPI&F with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation
(GRDC) and in close collaboration with Pacific Seeds.
continue to monitor and collect different rust strains to build on and refine
understanding of how the rust pathogen is evolving.
This vigilance is
providing assistance to the industry in itself, helping to ensure varieties are
removed from commercial sale as soon as their resistance breaks
"It's hard to tell how much rust costs growers, because outbreaks
are immediately detected and susceptible varieties withdrawn.
a significant cost to the seed companies in having to regularly replace hybrids
whose resistance has broken down.
"There is however no doubt, that
without rust resistant varieties, the sunflower industry would not be viable," Dr Kong said.
"Once we develop varieties that stay resistant for longer -
say 10-15 years rather than the current 3-5 years - it will cut the costs
involved in breeding programs.
"We should have the new durable varieties
available for commercial sale in around three years."
25 January 2007
Natural enzyme deters fall armyworms and other corn-feeding
Furnishing corn plants with genes for
producing the enzyme ß-N-acetyl hexosaminidase (NAHA) may offer a way to fend
off mold-spreading caterpillars and beetles, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studies suggest.
from eggs, fall armyworm caterpillars feed on corn plant leaves before advancing
on the ears, where succulent kernels await. Other caterpillars and beetle pests
feed there, too. When husks are chewed open, kernels can become exposed to
mycotoxin-producing fungi. Insecticide spraying within label recommendations
helps prevent such feeding and contamination. But the practice can be costly to
use and harmful to beneficial insects.
As a possible alternative, ARS
Johnson and Scott
Pinkerton are testing modified strains of corn that produce NAHA throughout
the crop plant's tissues. In laboratory trials at the ARS National Center for
Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., 100 percent of newly hatched
fall armyworms that ingested NAHA-containing leaf tissue from some of the
modified corn plants being studied died within three days.
The degree to
which the caterpillars stopped feeding on all of the modified corn plants
depended on how much NAHA the plants actually produced, the scientists observed.
Corn earworm caterpillars, another pest they tested, were also adversely
affected by NAHA-containing plants.
The team's examination of NAHA and
other enzymes like it is part of a broader effort at the ARS center to develop
novel ways of shielding corn from mycotoxin contamination, which costs farmers
and processors millions of dollars annually in losses. Of particular interest is
determining effective combinations of corn-derived genes that confer
insect-resistance levels equal to those in corn containing the biopesticide
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), but that act against a wider range of pests.
Before studying NAHA-modified corn plants, the scientists used a
purified form of the enzyme derived from jack beans, Canavalia
ensiformis. They consider NAHA a promising defense for corn because it
occurs in foods eaten by humans, such as cabbage and apple, and it targets
chitin, a key component of insects but not of humans or other animals.
ARS News Service
ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
22 February 2007
Maize seed leaves giant footprint in Nepal, Kenya and
Through the seeds that the Technology Adoption through
Research Organizations (TATRO) has been producing, farmers in Africa have more
reasons to smile. The maize seed, which looks small, proved to be prolific.
Small-scale maize farmers of the Regional Agricultural Association Group (RAAG)
in Western Kenya now obtain more than 2 tons of maize grain per
The variety that TATRO grows is called Kakamega Synthetic-I. It
is open-pollinated, drought tolerant and matures earlier than other local
varieties. Kakamega Synthetic-I was released by the KARI research station in
Kakamega, Kenya. Its pedigree can be traced back to the work of CIMMYT and many
partners in southern and eastern Africa to develop stress tolerant maize for the
region's smallholders. The variety has also been released in Nepal, after
small-scale farmers from the mid-hills chose it as one of their favorites in
participatory varietal trials.
The readers can access the complete news
release at http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2007/jan/smallSeed.htm.
CropBiotech Update 16 February 2007
Contributed by Margaret
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
1.28 What recognizes what in plant disease
Plants have an immune system that resists infection, yet
10% of the world's agricultural production is lost annually to diseases caused
by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Understanding how disease resistance works may
help combat this scourge.
In a new study published online this week in
the open-access journal PLoS Biology, Tessa Burch-Smith, Savithramma
Dinesh-Kumar, and colleagues show how one aspect of the plant immune system is
defined by the gene-for-gene hypothesis: a plant Resistance (R) gene encodes a
protein that specifically recognizes and protects against one pathogen or strain
of a pathogen carrying a corresponding Avirulence (Avr) gene.
and its relatives, the N resistance protein confers resistance to infection by
the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). The authors used N, and the TMV Avirulence gene,
p50, to investigate the mechanism of gene-for-gene resistance. Contrary to
current models, which propose that recognition of resistance genes occurs solely
through their leucine-rich repeat domain, the authors show that association is
mediated by a completely different region on N's Toll-interleukin-1 receptor
homology domain, which is structurally similar to animal innate immunity
molecules. These findings provide novel insights into how R proteins recognize
pathogen Avr proteins and should help in long-term efforts to enhance crop
Citation: Burch-Smith TM, Schiff M, Caplan JL, Tsao J,
Czymmek K, et al. (2007) A novel role for the TIR domain in association with
pathogen-derived elicitors. PLoS Biol 5(3): e68.
Contac: Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar
Contact: Natalie Bouaravong
Public Library of Science
published in PLoS Biology are open access. Everything is immediately
availableto read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and
otherwise usewithout cost to anyone, anywhere, subject only to the
condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed.
Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the
Creative Commons Attribution License.
Source: PLoS BIOLOGY (www.plosbiology.org) via
12 February 2007
1.29 Genetic modification a tool for making vegetables and fruit
It is possible to improve the antioxidant action of
tomatoes by a directed change in the production of flavonoids by means of
genetic modification. This has been shown in doctoral research by Elio Schijlen
on the basis of which he hopes to take his degree on Thursday 8 February at the
University of Amsterdam. Schijlen demonstrated that this approach enables
tomatoes to produce larger amounts of specific flavonoids and to let tomatoes
produce flavonoids they cannot produce by nature. The results show that genetic
modification is a possible approach to further increase the health promoting
value of vegetables and fruit.
Flavonoids are frequently occurring and
important metabolites in plants. About 6000 different flavonoids are known to be
involved in various natural processes. The colour of flowers and ripe fruits,
e.g., are often caused by flavonoids. But flavonoids also play an important role
in other plant processes such as pollen production, disease resistance, and
protection against UV radiation.
Because flavonoids are so frequently
occurring in plants, they are a permanent component of our food. Part of the
health promoting effects of vegetables and fruit is attributed to flavonoids. It
may therefore be attractive to increase the amount of flavonoids and/or change
This was why Schijlen, working at Plant Research International of
Wageningen UR, studied the possibilities of steering the production of
flavonoids by a directed change of the biosynthesis route via genetic
modification. He followed various approaches to achieve this. One approach was
to investigate the possibility of increasing the amount of flavonoids in tomato
by means of so-called transcription factors, proteins involved in regulating
Schijlen also investigated the possibility to produce new
flavonoids in tomatoes which might increase the health promoting properties of
tomatoes. For this purpose he used genes form other crops such as grape and
alfalfa, genes that are involved in certain steps in the biosynthesis of
flavonoids in these crops.
Both approaches were found to be successful.
Through genetic modification Schijlen succeeded in developing tomatoes not only
with more flavonoids but also with new flavonoids.
analysis Schijlen demonstrated an increased antioxidant action of tomatoes with
flavones and more flavonoles, two specific groups of flavonoids. In cooperation
with scientists of BASF Plant Science and TNO, the potential health promoting
effects of these tomatoes were tested in feeding studies with mice. Blood
analyses showed that that the tomatoes with increased flavonoids had a stronger
positive effect on blood properties that are characteristic of a reduced risk of
With his results, Schijlen has shown that
genetic modification can further increase the health promoting effects of
vegetables and fruit.
8 February 2007
(Return to Contents)
1.30 Genetic studies reveal QTL for onion
Candidate genes for onion pungency have been reportedly
identified by researchers in New Zealand and the United States. The pungent
flavor and aroma of onions have long been attributed to organosulfur compounds,
but this is the first report of the identification of genomic regions affecting
the trait that have no pleiotropic effects on bulb solids content.
group of John McCallum analyzed progenies from a cross between onion varieties
'W202A' and 'Texas Grano 438'. The researchers have identified a major
quantitative trait locus (QTL) within two closely linked sulfur assimilation
genes, named ferredoxin-sulfate reductase (SiR) and plastidic ATP sulfurylase
(ATPS). These genes were found to control 30-50% of genetic variation in the
storage and sweet onion pedigrees that they have analyzed.
colleagues stated that the association of the two genes with pungency suggests
that mutations in one of these genes may influence the observed variation. They
further recommend that molecular markers within these pungency loci may provide
a practical means to select for onions with lower pungency.
with links to the full paper for subscribers, can be accessed at http://www.springerlink.com/content/u13n67u3037531uk/
Source: CropBiotech Update 2 March 2007
Contributed by Margaret
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Update 1-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews
(Selected articles by the editor,
1) New book from the FAO Biotechnology Forum FAO Research and Technology
Paper 11, entitled "Results from the FAO Biotechnology Forum: Background and
dialogue on selected issues", by J. Ruane and A. Sonnino, has now been
published. The 152-page book presents the background and summary documents from
a series of six moderated e-mail conferences hosted by the FAO Biotechnology
Forum from 2002 to 2005, relating to agricultural biotechnology for the crop,
forestry, animal, fisheries and agro-industry sectors in developing countries.
Three of the six conferences focused on genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
dealing with gene flow from GM to non-GM populations; regulation of GMOs; and
participation of the rural people in decision-making regarding GMOs. Two
conferences covered the entire range of biotechnology tools (including GMOs),
dealing with the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research
agenda and, secondly, applications of biotechnology in food processing. The
remaining conference dealt with molecular marker-assisted selection. See ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/a0744e/a0744e00.pdf
(917 KB) or contact Charlotte.Lietaer@fao.org to request a copy.
Safety assessment of foods derived from modern biotechnology - Workshop report
On 31 October and 1 November 2006, a training workshop on "Safety assessment of
foods derived from modern biotechnology - Biosafety within a Biosecurity
framework" was held in Ottawa, Canada, organized by FAO in collaboration with
the Government of Canada. The summary report of the workshop is now available.
The workshop was held as one of a series of biosafety-related activities within
a Biosecurity framework. The overall objective of the project is to provide a
standardized training package to assist countries in implementing international
texts related to the food safety assessment of products derived from modern
biotechnology. The purpose of the workshop was to pilot test the training
package. See ftp://ftp.fao.org/ag/agn/food/meetings/2006/canada_ws_report.pdf
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
existing regulatory frameworks on plant protection, As part of its FAO Legal
Papers Online series, the FAO Legal Office has recently published "Guidelines
for the revision of national phytosanitary legislation" by J. Vapnek and D.
Manzella. The guidelines attempt to distil the experience gained and lessons
learned during the implementation of FAO legal assistance activities in the
phytosanitary field in recent years, carried out in close collaboration with the
Plant Protection Division of FAO's Agriculture Department. The publication also
takes into account the issue of plants, or plant products, that are living
modified organisms (LMOs) when drafting or amending phytosanitary legislation.
or contact email@example.com to request a copy.
11) UN General Assembly
resolution on the CBD At its 61st session, the General Assembly of the United
Nations adopted resolution 61/204 on the Convention on Biological Diversity,
including its Cartagena Protocol. See document A/RES/61/204 at http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/r61.htm
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Protocol on Biosafety - Meetings documents Official and information documents
are now available on the web for a number of upcoming meetings to be held under
the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The 3rd meeting of the ad hoc Open-ended
Working Group on Liability and Redress in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol
on Biosafety takes place on 19-23 February 2007 in Montreal, Canada - http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=BSWGLR-03.
The 3rd Coordination Meeting for Governments and Organizations implementing
and/or funding Biosafety Capacity-building Activities takes place on 26-28
February 2007 in Lusaka, Zambia - http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=BSCMCB-03.
The 4th meeting of the Liaison Group on Capacity-Building for Biosafety takes
place on 1-2 March 2007 in Lusaka, Zambia - http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.asp?mtg=BSLGCB-04.
The 3rd meeting of the Compliance Committee under the Protocol on Biosafety
takes place on 5-7 March 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=BSCC-03.
Some of the documents from these meetings are available in English only and
others are provided in all UN languages (i.e. Arabic, Chinese, English, French,
Russian and Spanish). Contact email@example.com for any further
14) OECD workshop on impacts of biotechnology On 11 December
2006, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development held a workshop
in Paris, France, on "Measuring the impacts of biotechnology" that was divided
into four sessions: general issues of the impacts of biotechnology applications;
the economic and non-economic impacts; user needs; and methodological issues and
next steps. A preliminary workshop summary plus papers and presentations from
the workshop, including one from FAO on the socio-economic impact of
non-transgenic crop biotechnologies in developing countries, are now available
on the web. See http://www.oecd.org/document/27/0,2340,en_2649_37437_37727259_1_1_1_37437,00
. html or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more
(See end of Update 2-2007 (following) for subscription and
other information about FAO BiotechNews)
Contributed by John Ruane,
Update 2-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews
(Selected articles by the editor,
Two new UNEP-GEF biosafety publications The UNEP-GEF Biosafety Unit has just
released two new publications on the web. The first, entitled "A comparative
analysis of experiences and lessons from the UNEP-GEF biosafety projects", is a
study looking at the 124 countries that participated in the UNEP-GEF Project for
Development of National Biosafety Frameworks (NBF), which began in June 2001, as
well as the 8 countries that participated in the UNEP-GEF demonstration projects
for the implementation of the NBFs. These projects were implemented by the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under the Global Environment
Facility (GEF) Initial Strategy for assisting countries to prepare for entry
into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The 49-page study focuses on
a comparative analysis of their experiences in order to draw out lessons and
best practices applicable to other global initiatives for implementation of
multilateral environmental agreements. See http://www.unep.ch/biosafety/development/devdocuments/UNEPGEFBiosafety_comp_a nalysisDec2006.pdf (1.1 MB). The second publication is a 4-page brief entitled "Building biosafety capacity: The role of UNEP and the Biosafety Unit". See http://www.unep.ch/biosafety/development/devdocuments/UNEPGEFBiosafety_Brochu
reDec2006.pdf or contact email@example.com for more information about either
5) OIE Ad Hoc Group on Biotechnology The report of the
meeting of the OIE Biological Standards Commission (BSC) that took place on
13-15 September 2006 in Paris, France is now available on the web. The BSC is
one of the four Specialist Commissions of the World Organisation for Animal
Health (OIE) and the role of the Specialist Commissions is to use current
scientific information to study problems of epidemiology and the prevention and
control of animal diseases, to develop and revise OIE's international standards
and to address scientific and technical issues raised by Member Countries. A
number of Ad Hoc Groups, including one on biotechnology, work under the auspices
of the BSC and their reports are included as Appendices to the BSC meeting
reports. The OIE Ad Hoc Group on Biotechnology held its first meeting on 3-5
April 2006 in Paris, France and its report is included in this BSC meeting
report (pages 19-33). See http://www.oie.int/downld/SC/2006/A_BSC_2006S.pdf
(562 KB) or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The OIE is an
inter-governmental organisation with 167 Member Countries.
6) Africa Rice
Congress presentations The first Africa Rice Congress was held in Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania from 31 July to 4 August 2006. Organised by the Africa Rice Center
(WARDA), papers at the congress considered the issues of integrated pest
management; socio-economics; natural resource management; technology transfer;
and rice breeding and crop improvement (covering e.g. genomics and use of
genetic markers). Presentations from the congress are now available on the web.
or contact email@example.com for more
This newsletter contains news and
event items that are relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and
agriculture in developing countries. Its main focus is on the activities of FAO,
of other United Nations agencies/bodies and of the 15 CGIAR research centres. 1.
If you wish to unsubscribe from FAO-BiotechNews, send an e-mail message to
firstname.lastname@example.org leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line
text message as follows: unsubscribe FAO-BiotechNews-L 2. Do not hesitate to
tell other colleagues/contacts about FAO-BiotechNews. If they wish to join, they
should send an e-mail message to email@example.com leaving the subject
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FAO-BiotechNews-L 3. To join FAO-BiotechNews-Fr (the French language version of
FAO-BiotechNews), send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org leaving the
subject blank and entering the following one-line text message: subscribe
FAO-BiotechNews-Fr-L The Welcome Text that subscribers receive on joining the
e-mail list, describing its aims and scope and how it works, is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/Welcome-Fr.htm
(in French) 4. To join FAO-BiotechNews-Esp (the Spanish language version of
FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message
should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Esp-L The Welcome Text is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/Welcome-Esp.htm
(in Spanish) 5. To join FAO-BiotechNews-Ru (the Russian language version of
FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message
should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Ru-L More information on
FAO-BiotechNews-Ru is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/fbn-ru.htm
Contributed by John Ruane,
Resistance for Plant Defence: A Sustainable Approach to Crop
Published by Blackwell Publishing
Edited by Dale
Walters (Scottish Agricultural College), Adrian Newton and Gary Lyon (both
Scottish Crop Research Institute).
worldwide are responsible for billions of dollars worth of crop losses every
year. With less agrochemicals being used and less new fungicides coming on the
market due to environmental concerns, more effort is now being put into the use
of genetic potential of plants for pathogen resistance and the development of
induced or acquired resistance as an environmentally safe means of disease
This comprehensive book examines in depth
the development and exploitation of induced resistance. Chapters review current
knowledge of the agents that can elicit induced resistance, genomics, signalling
cascades, mechanisms of defence to pests and pathogens and molecular tools.
Further chapters consider the topical application of inducers for disease
control, microbial induction of pathogen resistance, transgenic approaches,
pathogen population biology, trade offs associated with induced resistance and
integration of induced resistance in crop protection. The book concludes with a
consideration of socio-economic drivers determining the use
of induced resistance, and the future of induced resistance in crop
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Introduction (Ray
Chapter 2: Agents that can elicit induced resistance (Gary D
Chapter 3: Genomics in induced resistance (Kemal Kazan and Peer
Chapter 4: Signalling cascades involved in induced resistance (Corne
MJ Pieterse and LC Van Loon)
Chapter 5: Types and mechanisms of
rapidly-induced plant resistance to herbivorous arthropods (Michael J
Chapter 6: Mechanisms of defence to pathogens: biochemistry and
physiology (Christophe Garcion, Olivier Lamotte and Jean-Pierre
Chapter 7: Induced resistance in natural ecosystems and pathogen
population biology: exploiting interactions (Adrian Newton and Joern
Chapter 8: Microbial induction of resistance to pathogens (Dale Walters
and Tim Daniell)
Chapter 9: Trade-offs associated with induced resistance
Chapter 10: Topical induction of inducers for disease control
(Philippe Reignault and Dale Walters)
Chapter 11: Integration of induced
resistance in crop production (Tony Reglinski, Elizabeth Dann and Brian
Chapter 12: Exploitation of induced resistance: a commercial
perspective (Andy Leadbeater and Theo Staub)
Chapter 13: Induced resistance
in crop protection: the future, drivers and
barriers (Gary Lyon, Adrian
Newton and Dale Walters)
Additional details can be found on the Blackwell
Publishing website: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/book.asp?ref=9781405134477&site=1
Contributed by Simon Joyce
(Return to Contents)
4.01 $100,000 soybean
The United Soybean Board, together with ASA, announces the
Soybean Board Fellowship to promote graduate education in plant sciences
with an emphasis on soybeans. The fellowship provides a $25,000 annual stipend
for up to four years of graduate school. Applications are due March 27;
Reference letters are due April 3.
Learn about this and dozens of
awards and scholarships at:
Scholarships & Awards
Scholarships & Awards
Scholarships & Awards
Source: Societies News Flash (ASA, CSSA,
1 March 2007
4.02 Scholarships for students studying rice
Rice Foundation USA is offering $3,500 scholarships for students studying rice.
Applicants must be students -- American or Asian - below the age of 35,
registered at an accredited institution of higher education, and have a
supporting letter from their national rice foundation associated with <http://www.asiarice.org >Asia Rice
Foundation, Inc or a faculty member of a United States university. Applications
that involve travel and study of US-based students at an Asian location are
We support research and education to improve understanding
of:the role of rice in Asian farming, rice as an element in the art and culture
of Asia, and rice as a food with a unique role in Asia. More information
at http://www.asiariceusa.org/Contact_Us.html Applications due June 1, 2007.
Contributed by Russell Freed
and Soil Sciences
Michigan State University
(Return to Contents)
MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS
Note: New announcements
(listed first) may include some program details, while repeat
announcements will include only basic information. Visit web sites for
*14 May - 1 June
2007. Rice: Research to production. A training course, Los Banos,
Philippines, organised by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and
Cornell University that, among other things, provides participants with hands-on
skills relating to rice breeding, molecular genetics and genomics. See http://www.training.irri.org/activities/documents/2007/RICE%20RESEARCH%20COURSE%20FLYER%202007.pdf
(67 KB) or contact IRRITraining@cgiar.org for more
*21 May – 1 June 2007. Enhancing
agrobiodiversity use: markets and chains, Wageningen International The
-To facilitate greater use of agrobiodiversity,
including underused diversity of major crops and underutilized plant species and
-To create awareness around economic values derived from the use of
-To prepare participants for sustainable management of
agrobiodiversity by providing insights into different strategic approaches
*21 May – 29 June 2007. Conservation & sustainable use of plant genetic resources in agriculture. Wageningen
International, The Netherlands.
The overall objective of the training
programme is to enhance participants’ capabilities to deal with contemporary
issues in genetic resource management. Relevant policies, participatory and
market-oriented approaches receive special attention. The programme aims for
participants and facilitators to exchange experiences and to explore practical
applications for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources
*31 May – 3 June 2007. Symposium on Epistasis: Predicting Phenotypes and Evolutionary Trajectories.
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Iowa's Annual Plant Sciences Institute
Symposium will focus on Epistasis and Gene Interaction.
epistatic interactions, various topics in plant genetics, molecular biology and
biochemistry will be discussed. For more information about the symposium please
contact the symposium office at email@example.com
(Phone: 1-515-294-7978) or visit
CropBiotech Update 16 February 2007
Contributed by Margaret
Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics
*12 – 16 August 2007. The Potato Association of America 91st Annual Meeting,
Shilo Inn Conference Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The Potato Association of
America is the official professional society for those interested inadvancing the potato industry. Section topics include breeding and
genetics, pathology, production management, physiology, and utilization. Abstract submissions are due March 16, 2007. For more information visit the
Contributed by Rich Novy
University of Idaho R&E Center
August 2007. Laying the Foundation for the Second Green Revolution, 2007
Rice Breeding Course, IRRI, the Philippines.
course aims to
-provide the participants with the theoretical knowledge on
modern plant breeding methods and techniques;
-teach them planning and
information management tools and experimental techniques and software for
developing an efficient rice breeding program;
-give the participants the
opportunity to share experiences and lessons with breeders from other
-share to the participants the information on the latest
developments relevant to modern rice breeding and the worldwide exchange of rice
The course is targeted at breeders
and agronomists working on variety development or cultivar testing, and at
research managers with responsibility for rice breeding programs in the public,
private, and NGO sectors.
-Introduction to breeding
program planning exercise;
-Setting goals and identifying the target
-Information management for pedigree breeding
-Factors affecting the adoption of improved varieties;
affecting selection response;
-Efficient approaches to
pedigree and bulk selection;
-Managing plant breeding data with the
International Rice Information System (IRIS);
-Screening for biotic stress tolerance;
-Screening for abiotic
-Experimental designs for controlling field
-Multi-environment trials – design and
-Participatory varietal selection and participatory plant
-Optimizing resource allocation in breeding and testing
-QTL analysis and molecular marker-aided
-International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and
Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and worldwide exchange and utilization of rice genetic
-Intellectual property rights/plant variety protection;
-Development and presentation of action plans for increasing the impact
of participants’ programs.
For additional information, contact
Edilberto D. Redoña
Course Coordinator, Plant Breeding, Genetics and
Dr. Noel P. Magor
International Rice Research
Contributed by Edilberto D.
September 2007. 5th International Symposium on New Crops and Uses: their role
in a rapidly changing world, University of Southampton, Southampton,
1. The context, justification and application of
underutilized crops in a rapidly changing world (Climate change perspective,
Food & nutrition perspective, The regulatory environment for
commercialization of new/ucs)
2. The need for underutilized crops in a
changing world (A view from the market - A subsistence farmer’s perspective -
underutilized crops within farming systems - Commercial farmer’s perspective -
An industry perspective - A supermarket view on underutilised crops marketing -
A donor’s perspective)
3. Success, failures and lessons learned- food & nutritional crops: Case
4. Success, failures and lessons learned-
non-food crops: Case studies (Pharmaceuticals. Bio-energy, Fibre etc and Added
5. Discussion for a) regulatory and b) technical papers
For further information please contact:
Nikkie Hancock (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Colm Bowe (E-mail: CB13@soton.ac.uk)
Please downlowd the registration
*17 Sept. – 12 Oct. 2007. Plant genetic
resources and seeds: Policies conservation and use. Awassa, Ethiopia, 17-28
September; Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, 1-12 October 2007
The overall objective
of the training programme is to enhance the participants' capabilities to deal
with contemporary issues in the management of genetic resources and seeds. The
programme pays special attention to relevant policies and participatory and
market.oriented approaches. It aims for the participants and facilitators to
exchange experiences and work together to explore practical applications for the
conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in agriculture
*8-12 October 2007, Ca' Tron di Roncade, Italy.
Evaluation of risk assessment dossiers for the deliberate release of genetically
modified crops. A practical course organised by the International Centre for
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with the Istituto
Agronomico per l'Oltremare. Closing date for applications is 27 April 2007. See
or contact email@example.com for more
*8-19 October 2007. Molecular
approaches in gene expression analysis for crop improvement, New Delhi,
India. A theoretical and practical course organised by the International Centre
for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Closing date for applications is 15
May 2007. See http://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS07/ND_8_19_October.pdf
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more
*9-14 October 2007. 4th International
Rice Blast Conference, Hunan, China.
Rice blast, caused by the fungal
pathogen Magnaporthe grisea, is one of the most destructive rice diseases
worldwide. The scheduled conference will review the recent progress and discuss
future research directions aiming at better control of this rice disease. More
information at http://www.4thirbc.org.
CropBiotech Update 2 March 2007:
*22-26 October 2007.
VI Encuentro Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Biotecnologma Agropecuaria
(REDBIO 2007), Viqa del Mar and Valparamso, Chile.. This 6th Latin American
and Caribbean Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnology, organised by the REDBIO/FAO
network, takes place every three years. The main themes of REDBIO 2007 include,
among others, genomics, marker assisted selection and tolerance to biotic and
abiotic stresses. See http://www.redbio2007chile.cl/ or
contact email@example.com for more
*12-14 August 2008. International
symposium on induced mutations in higher plants, Vienna, Austria. Organised
by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture,
this will be the 8th in its symposium series dedicated to harnessing and
disseminating information on current trends in induced mutagenesis in higher
plants. The first and last symposia were held in 1969 and 1995 respectively.
Topics to be addressed in the symposium include 'Induced mutations in crop
breeding programs: integration with molecular, bio- and other relevant
technologies' and 'Mutation induction, targeted selection and mutated genes in
functional genomics'. See http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/news-pbg.html
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more
*7-12 December 2008. International
Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics IV Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
* 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 email@example.com, http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/Events/Plant_Breeding_Academy.htm
23-27 March 2007. 2nd International Conference on Plant Molecular
Breeding (ICPMB), Sanya, Hainan, China. www.icpmb.org
* 26-29 March 2007. Biotechnology,
Breeding, and Seed Systems for African Crops, Maputo, Mozambique. Co-hosted
by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de
Moçambique (IIAM). More information at:
* 1-3 April 2007. Course on Molecular Characterization of
Inbred Lines and Populations in Maize, New Delhi, India. View this
announcement in PDF.... Visit
*23-25 April 2007. Targeting Science to Real Needs,
a workshop of the GL-TTP (
Grain Legumes Technology Transfer Platform). Paris, France.
* 21 May – 1 June 2007. Training course on "Promoting agrobiodiversity use: markets and
chains" (Wageningen International) Information and the application
form can be found here " Enhancing
agrobiodiversity use: markets and chains"
Application deadline is 21
Source: Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) Latest News Alerts
GCP Home Page
*10-16 June 2007. 7th International Symposium in
the Series: Recent Advances in Plant Biotechnology (First
Announcement),Stara Lesna, High Tatras, Slovak Republic; The Symposium Secretary
Handles all queries regarding abstract submission, registration, accommodation
and booking of air tickets for invited speakers:
Alena Gajdosova, Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Phone: + 421/37 73 36659
Fax: + 421/37 73 36660
24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on
Plant-Pollinator RelationshipsDiversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa
State University, Ames, Iowa. The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology
Relationships - Diversity in Action."
Symposium organizers are accepting poster submissions online at the website
linked above until 1 March 2007.
Contributed by Jennifer J. Tabke
2007. The 5th International Symposium on Molecular Breeding of Forage
and Turf (MBFT2007), Sapporo, Japan. Register for the meeting and call for
abstracts following the instruction available at http://www.knt.co.jp/ec/2007/mbft/
further information, please contact: Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA,
Contributed by Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA
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
* 27-31 October 2007. 8th African Crop Science Society
Conference, El Minia, Egypt--First Announcement and Call for Abstracts. The
African Crop Science Society (ACSS) and Minia University announce the first call
for abstracts for the 8th African Crop Science Society Conference, which will
take place from 27-31 October 2007 in El-Minia, Egypt. The deadline for
registration is 30 April 2007. For more complete information on
registration and abstract submission, visit http://www.africancrops.net/News/july06/acss8.htm
14-18 September 2008. The 12th International Lupin Conference,
Fremantle, Western Australia firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.lupins.org/
7. EDITOR'S NOTES
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