Agricultural Biotechnologies
Agricultural Biotechnologies in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry  Biotech-banner

The News items relate to applications of biotechnologies in food and agriculture in developing countries and their major focus is on the activities of FAO, other UN agencies/bodies and the 15 CGIAR research centres. The News items cover all food and agricultural sectors (crops, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture, livestock, agro-industry) and a wide range of biotechnologies (e.g. use of molecular markers, artificial insemination, triploidisation, biofertilisers, micropropagation, genomics, genetic modification etc.). New documents are included as News if they are freely available on the web and, for people who can't download them or who wish further information, an e-mail contact is also provided. The News service was launched in January 2002 and all News items posted since then (there were 800 in the first 9 years) are available here. The news and event items on this website are also disseminated through an e-mail newsletter called FAO-BiotechNews that is published in six different versions, one per language i.e. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. To subscribe, send a message to [email protected] indicating which e-mail addresses are to be subscribed and in which language they wish to receive the newsletter.



At the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Parties decided, inter alia, to consider at the 10th meeting (due to take place in October 2020 in China) whether additional guidance materials on risk assessment are needed for (a) living modified organisms containing engineered gene drives and (b) living modified fish, and to establish an ad hoc technical expert group (AHTEG) on risk assessment. The AHTEG has now been established and it will meet online from 31 March to 3 April 2020. Documents for the meeting are available at For more information about risk assessment, see or contact [email protected].


The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) provides access to a wide range of video recordings of presentations by scientific experts from its meetings, courses and seminars. These include numerous presentations from the workshop on “Genome editing applications and beyond”, organised by ICGEB and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on 19-22 November 2019 in Trieste, Italy. See or contact [email protected] for more information.

FAO recently published a collection of abstracts from the 4th International Symposium on Biological Control of Bacterial Plant Diseases. The symposium took place in Viterbo, Italy on 9-11 July 2019 and was organised by the Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Forestali, Università della Tuscia in collaboration with FAO. It provided a forum to discuss the latest research results and developments in the biocontrol of bacterial plant diseases and was organised into nine core sections, including interactions between plants and microbiomes and use of genetics and genomics for innovative control strategies. See the 62-page publication at or contact [email protected] for more information.
On 26 September 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organised a stakeholder steering committee meeting in Paris, France on “Bolstering biotechnology research and education: Building human and institutional capacities for the bioeconomy”. Its objective was to advise UNESCO on the organisation of a conference on this subject as well as consider issues that are pertinent to building institutional and human capacities for the bioeconomy, such as how to promote biotechnology/bioeconomy education and training in secondary and tertiary education and in research institutions, both in the public and private sectors. See or contact [email protected] for more information.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is supported by a number of Specialist Commissions whose role 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 Members. These include the OIE Biological Standards Commission (BSC), which is concerned with developing internationally agreed standards for laboratory diagnostic tests and vaccines for OIE-listed animal diseases of mammals, birds and bees. The BSC meeting reports, including the latest one from 17-20 September 2019, are available in English, French and Spanish at For more information, contact [email protected].


The latest issue (December 2019) of the OECD Biotechnology Update, prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology, is now available. The 32-page newsletter provides updated information on the diverse activities at OECD related to biotechnology, including the safety of novel foods and feeds, BioTrack Online (with a database of transgenic products) and biotechnology statistics. See or contact [email protected] for more information.


The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Center of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology (CEGSB) organised a training course and workshop on “Next generation genomics for developing climate resilient crops” on 10-15 February 2020 in Hyderabad, India. It took place as part of the AdaptNET (Strengthening education, research and innovation for climate smart crops in India) project, funded by the European Commission. See the detailed agenda at and a brief report of the event at Contact [email protected] for more information. 

The International Potato Center (CIP) recently updated its standard operational protocol (SOP056) for the in vitro propagation of potato and sweetpotato, prepared by R. Vollmer and co-authors. It describes the in vitro multiplication of potato and sweetpotato germplasm for international and national germplasm distribution, as well as in vitro conservation, phytosanitary and cryopreservation activities. Using these procedures, the plants are grown under sterile and controlled conditions. The 13-page document is available in English and Spanish at Contact [email protected] for more information.
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences organised a workshop on “Genomics data analysis; Tools, methods and trends” from 30 September to 3 October 2019 at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Researchers from 14 sub-Saharan African countries participated and were provided with practical skills in using genomic data in the field to understand livestock population genomics and improve breeding. A news story providing a brief synthesis of the workshop is available at Contact [email protected] for more information.
As part of its IFPRI Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute has just published "Ex ante economic assessment of impacts of GM maize and cassava on producers and consumers in Tanzania" by R.D. Ruhinduka and co-authors. The 91-page study estimates the potential economic impacts that could be attributed to the adoption of two main genetically modified (GM) varieties of maize and cassava. Economic models and locally collected data are used to estimate the net benefits that eventually would accrue to society should the GM varieties currently under development be commercialized. The work was undertaken as part of the Biotechnology and Biosafety Rapid Assessment and Policy Platform (BioRAPP) project, led by IFPRI’s Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). See or contact [email protected] for more information. IFPRI Discussion Papers contain preliminary material and research results and are circulated in order to stimulate discussion and critical comment.
On 3-6 November 2019, the 7th International Cereal Nematodes Symposium took place in New Delhi, India, organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT) and hosted by the Division of Nematology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). Cereal nematodes, including cereal cyst nematodes (Heterodera spp.) and root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus spp.), are acknowledged as a global economic problem in wheat production systems. Participants discussed the spread of cereal nematodes, strategies to lessen their impact on crops and ways to boost international collaboration on research. Symposium topics included the use of molecular tools for research with cereal nematodes (such as pathogen diagnostics, phylogeny studies and host resistance). A news story describing main outcomes of the meeting is available at Contact [email protected] for more information.

The 74th Session of the UN General Assembly recently considered a number of items where the preparatory documents and/or the resolutions adopted were relevant to biotechnologies. These included ‘Agricultural technology for sustainable development’ (document A/74/238 and resolution A/Res/74/215), ‘Science, technology and innovation for sustainable development’ (document A/74/230 and resolution A/Res/74/229), ‘Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its contribution to sustainable development’ (document A/74/207 and resolution A/Res/74/221) and ‘Agriculture development, food security and nutrition’ (document A/74/237 and resolution A/Res/74/242). The documents and resolutions are available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian at and respectively.


The Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Digital Sequence Information on Genetic Resources was established/extended by decision 14/20 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its 14th meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on 17-29 November 2018. The AHTEG will meet from 17 to 20 March 2020 in Montreal, Canada. Documents for the meeting are available at More information on the background and ongoing work at the Convention on Biological Diversity related to the issue of digital sequence information on genetic resources is available at (in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian). Contact [email protected] for further information.


During the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Parties agreed on a number of activities related to synthetic biology (decision 14/19). One of these was to extend the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology, with renewed membership and new terms of reference. The Expert Group met on 4-7 June 2019 in Montreal, Canada. Documents from the meeting, including the report, are available at Information on the background and activities carried out on synthetic biology under the Convention on Biological Diversity, including a calendar of activities for implementing the elements of decision 14/19, is available at Contact [email protected] for more information.


On 16-18 December 2019, the 3rd joint roundtable on public awareness, access to information and public participation regarding living modified organisms/genetically modified organisms (LMOs/GMOs) took place in Geneva, Switzerland. It was organized under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Presentations and documents from the meeting are now available, including the 5-page ‘Chair’s Summary’. See or contact [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.


The 8th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) took place in Rome on 11-16 November 2019. One of the items on the agenda was ‘Consideration of digital sequence information in accordance with Resolution 13/2017’. By Resolution 13/2017, the Governing Body invited contracting parties, other governments, relevant stakeholders and individuals with relevant expertise to provide information regarding “digital sequence information” on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Information documents IT/GB-8/19/16.1/Inf.1 and IT/GB-8/19/16.1/Inf.1Add.1 contain the submissions of information and views received before and after 17 May 2019 respectively. These documents, as well as the meeting report, are available at The ITPGRFA is an FAO international instrument that promotes the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity of plants which entered into force in 2004. Contact [email protected] for more information.

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