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 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.


The January 2014 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is now available. This 32-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. See or contact to request a copy.


On 16-17 October 2013, the Aarhus Convention and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety jointly organized a round table in Geneva, Switzerland, on access to information, public participation and access to justice regarding living modified organisms/genetically modified organisms (LMOs/GMOs). Its outcomes are expected to facilitate further implementation of the Aarhus Convention's Almaty Amendment on GMOs and to contribute to the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol's programme of work on public awareness, education and participation concerning LMOs. See the round table documents and the advanced edited version of the report at or contact for more information.


Article 23 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety requires that Parties shall, in accordance with their respective laws and regulations, consult the public in the decision-making process regarding living modified organisms and shall make the results of such decisions available to the public, while respecting confidential information in accordance with Article 21. In order to facilitate exchange of views and information regarding the techniques of public participation in the context of the Protocol, the Secretariat is holding an online discussion from 28 April to 9 May 2014 on "Techniques for engaging the public". The outcomes will be summarized in a background document for the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP-MOP 8). Parties, other governments and relevant organizations are invited to nominate individuals involved in, or responsible for, promoting public participation to participate in the Forum. See or contact for more information.

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