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 indicating which e-mail addresses are to be subscribed and in which language they wish to receive the newsletter.



The FAO international symposium on “The role of agricultural biotechnologies in sustainable food systems and nutrition” took place from 15 to 17 February 2016 at FAO headquarters, Rome. Its objective was to explore the application of biotechnologies for the benefit of family farmers in developing sustainable food systems and improving nutrition in the context of unprecedented challenges, including climate change.


The symposium encompassed the crop, livestock, forestry and fishery sectors and covered a broad range of biotechnologies, from low-tech approaches such as those involving use of microbial fermentation processes, biofertilizers, biopesticides and artificial insemination, to high-tech approaches such as those involving advanced DNA-based methodologies and genetically modified organisms.


A wide range of information resources are now available from the symposium website. These include a four-page summary report describing the objectives, highlights, outcomes and key messages from the symposium (in English, French and Spanish). They also include four FAO multilingual press releases published before, during and after the symposium.


The video recordings of all sessions can also be watched. These include the opening plenary session where keynote addresses were delivered by the FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, and a distinguished group of speakers, as well as nine parallel sessions that were organized around three main themes (climate change; sustainable food systems and nutrition; and people, policies, institutions and communities). These also include the high-level ministerial session involving representatives from eight countries; the five side events organized by external stakeholders; the interactive session involving students from different universities around the world; and the final plenary session, with reporting on the three main themes and the student session as well as closing remarks by Louise Fresco (co-chair of the Advisory Panel) and the FAO Director-General.


Written summaries and slides of the presentations are available. The website also includes frequently asked questions (FAQs), in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish; “voices from the symposium” (video clips of experts interviewed before and during the event); and photos from the symposium. The website also contains a 50-minute FAO podcast released in March 2016, entitled "Can biotech benefit smallholder farmers worldwide?" which looks back at the symposium. Proceedings of the symposium are currently being finalized and will be available soon.


These materials are all available from the symposium website at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). Contact for any further information.


On 23-25 May 2016, FAO organized a technical meeting on the impact of whole genome sequencing (WGS) on food safety management, together with the 9th meeting of the Global Microbial Identifier (GMI). Before the meeting, held at FAO headquarters in Rome, a technical background paper on "Applications of whole genome sequencing in food safety management" was published, prepared by FAO in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). Sessions of the meeting were recorded and are available for viewing. See the meeting website, at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). In addition, on 28 June 2016, FAO with WHO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) organized a side event on WGS and food safety during the 39th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The video recording of this side event is available at For more information, contact


The 9th Session of the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITWG-AnGR) took place at FAO headquarters in Rome on 6-8 July 2016. One of the session working documents, entitled “Review of implementation of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources”, provides a 6-page overview of recent FAO activities, including the finalization, publication and distribution of “The second report on the state of the world’s animal genetic resources for food and agriculture”. This 562-page Report, edited by B.D. Scherf and D. Pilling and launched by FAO in January 2016, provides a comprehensive assessment of livestock biodiversity and its management. The core of information used in preparing the Report came from 129 governments that submitted country reports. It includes several sections relevant to biotechnology, such as those on the state of capacities regarding the use of reproductive and molecular biotechnologies and the state of the art regarding the use of molecular tools for exploring genetic diversity. See background information and documents from the 9th ITWG-AnGR website, at (in English, French and Spanish), and the FAO press release for the January 2016 launch of the Report, at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish). Contact for more information.


The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) is an open-ended intergovernmental scientific advisory body of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Its 20th meeting took place on 25-30 April 2016 in Montreal, Canada, where it adopted 15 recommendations, one of them (XX/8) dedicated to synthetic biology. See the official documents (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) and information documents (in English) prepared before the meeting, plus the recommendations (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) which emerged from the meeting, at Contact for more information.


On 24-27 May 2016, the 15th session of the UPOV Working Group on Biochemical and Molecular Techniques, and DNA-Profiling in Particular (BMT) took place in Moscow, Russian Federation. One of the aims of the BMT, established by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in 1992, is to provide a forum for discussion on the use of biochemical and molecular techniques in the consideration of essential derivation and variety identification. Meeting documents and presentations, as well as the meeting report, are available at Contact for further information.


The latest issue (July 2016) 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 34-page newsletter provides updated information on the diverse activities at OECD related to biotechnology. The many issues covered include biosafety; biotechnology statistics; genome editing; and impact assessment of biotechnology and nanotechnology. See or contact for more information.


On 15-17 February 2016, the FAO international symposium on “The role of agricultural biotechnologies in sustainable food systems and nutrition” will take place at FAO Headquarters, Rome. The symposium will explore how the application of science and technology, particularly agricultural biotechnologies, can benefit smallholders in developing sustainable food systems and improving nutrition in the context of climate change. The symposium takes a multisectoral approach, covering the crop, livestock, forestry and fishery sectors. It also aims to cover the wide spectrum of biotechnologies that are available in these sectors. During the symposium, keynote speakers will address the plenary sessions on 15 and 16 February. A high-level ministerial segment will be held in the afternoon of 16 February. Three parallel sessions will also be held each day. For further information about the symposium, including participation and its advisory panel, see or contact Representatives of non-state actors (civil society, private sector, research/academic institutions and cooperatives/producer organizations) who are interested in attending can express their interest in participating before the deadline (6 December) at 


On 19-22 May 2015, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and FAO organised the International Symposium on Forest Biotechnology for Smallholders in Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil. The symposium covered the development of biotechnologies and their current and potential applications in the forestry sector, with special attention to smallholders and to tropical areas in different country contexts with a focus on improving productivity and supporting wood production by family farmers, including outgrowers. Documents, presentations and the symposium report are available at Contact or for further information.


P.J. Boettcher, I. Hoffmann and R. Baumung from FAO's Animal Production and Health Division, together with collaborators from a number of research institutions worldwide, recently published an article entitled “Genetic resources and genomics for adaptation of livestock to climate change” in the journal Frontiers in Genetics. The report comprises conclusions from the Expert Workshop on Crop and Livestock Diversity for Climate Change Adaptation held in Rome, 8-12 October 2013. The workshop was a collaborative effort among FAO, Bioversity International, the Basque Center for Climate Change and DIVERSITAS. See (300 KB) or contact to request a copy.


The 5th International Cereal Nematodes Initiative Workshop took place on 12-15 September 2015 in Ankara, Turkey. The workshop was organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock of Turkey, and FAO. Proceedings of the workshop are now available, entitled “Nematodes of small grain cereals: Current status and research”, edited by A.A. Dababat, H. Muminjanov and R.W. Smiley. Cereal nematodes are microscopic parasites that invade roots of wheat, barley, oats and other small grain cereals. The 384-page publication contains papers covering the history and status of cereal nematodes globally and regionally; research on morphological, genetic and ecological diversity; development and deployment of host resistance including development and applications of molecular technologies; and investigations into other strategies for reducing the magnitude of economic damage they cause. See (4.5 MB) or contact for more information.


Following a first event in November 2014, a second webinar was organized on 27 May 2015 by FAO, the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that addressed the importance of establishing effective national communication and coordination mechanisms on the topic of biosafety. It was preceded by an online discussion in which countries shared their experiences, challenges and best practices on the national communication and coordination mechanisms in place in their country. The 21-page report of the second webinar is now available at (640 KB). Following recommendations from the second webinar, a third FAO/CBD/OECD webinar on "International databases on biosafety: Training on effective use of data on the databases” will take place on 9 December 2015. This will provide a training opportunity for participants with practical information on how to effectively use the data and knowledge contained in the three databases. For more information on the third webinar, see For further information, contact


At the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which took place in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, on 6-17 October 2014, one of the decisions made was to establish an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Synthetic Biology. A meeting of the AHTEG took place in Montreal, Canada on 21-25 September 2015. Substantive items on the meeting agenda included an operational definition of synthetic biology; the relationship between synthetic biology and biological diversity; and the similarities and differences between living modified organisms (as defined in the Cartagena Protocol) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques. Official and information documents prepared for the meeting, plus the meeting report, are available. See or contact for more information.


On 20-21 March 2014, FAO held the "Technical consultation on low levels of genetically modified (GM) crops in international food and feed trade" at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy. In 2013, FAO carried out an international survey to gather information on the extent and nature of problems incurred with low levels of GM crops in traded commodities and the results of the survey were used to conduct further analyses on trade, economic impact and relevant food/feed regulatory issues. Prior to the meeting, FAO prepared two technical background documents entitled "Low levels of GM crops in food and feed: Regulatory issues" and "Low levels of GM crops in international food and feed trade: FAO international survey and economic analysis", as well as a simple compilation document of the survey results, entitled "The results of the FAO survey on low levels of genetically modified (GM) crops in international food and feed trade". A press release about the FAO survey, published on 13 March, is available at (in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish). All relevant technical documents (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) and all the presentations made at the technical consultation are also available for download at Contact for further information.


The Asian Biotechnology and Development Review has just published the article "Ten lessons from biotechnology experiences in crops, livestock and fish for smallholders in developing countries" by J.D. Dargie, J. Ruane, and A. Sonnino. FAO recently commissioned a unique series of 19 case studies where agricultural biotechnologies were used to serve the needs of smallholders in developing countries. Most involved a single crop, livestock or fish species and a single biotechnology. Based on the case studies, this article presents ten general and interrelated lessons which can be used to inform and assist policy-makers when deciding on potential interventions involving biotechnologies for smallholders in developing countries. See (200 KB) or contact to request an electronic copy.


From the Themes webpage, visitors to the FAO website access a primary entry point for a number of specific topics, communicating what FAO is doing in relation to the subject area and including links to in-depth information. The topics focus on prominent areas of FAO’s work, at both an overarching theme level and in some cases on more specific areas that are of particular interest to specialists, media, the general public, academia and other audiences. The topics include aquaculture, biodiversity, livestock and the environment, south-south cooperation, trade, water and more. Biotechnology has recently been included as a new topic. See or contact for more information.


The January 2014 newsletter from the Animal Production and Health Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is now available. The 43-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of past and upcoming training courses, meetings, projects, news stories and publications. See or contact for more information.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference