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.



As part of its Animal Production and Health Guidelines series, FAO recently published "In vivo conservation of animal genetic resources". In vivo conservation is the conservation of a breed through the maintenance of live animal populations. The aim of this 242-page publication is to provide the technical background needed by organizations or individuals who want to set up, implement and monitor in vivo conservation programmes in a rational manner. It describes the tasks and actions that should be undertaken to prevent the extinction of breeds and promote their sustainable use. The use of different biotechnologies, such as molecular markers and various reproductive technologies, is also covered. See or contact for more information.


The Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) initiative was set up by FAO and its partners in 2003 to improve access to scientific information for agriculture sector institutions in developing countries. On 16 September 2013, a special event was celebrated at FAO to mark its 10th anniversary. The initiative currently provides local, not-for-profit institutions access to over 3,500 high-quality, relevant agriculture and life science journals, many dealing directly or indirectly with biotechnology. Access is free for institutions in 78 low-income countries and low-cost for institutions in an additional 38 lower-middle income countries. AGORA is one of the four literature access programmes of the Research4Life public-private partnership and partners of the Research4Life programmes have pledged their continued support until 2020. See (in English, French or Spanish) or contact for further information.


The July 2013 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 40-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 July 2013 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 36-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.


The 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity was on 11 September 2013. To commemorate this event, the Secretariat of the Protocol published a special issue of the Biosafety Protocol Newsletter and released a video highlighting the main achievements of the Protocol as well as a series of short video clips from representatives of Parties and relevant organizations highlighting some of the successes and lessons learned regarding implementation of specific provisions of the Protocol. See or contact for more information.


In 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General announced the launch of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) which mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem solving at local, national and global scales. It is structured around 12 Thematic Groups of global experts that work to identify common solutions and highlight best practices. In September 2013, the SDSN released seven reports by the Groups which were prepared to help inform the discussions around a post-2015 development framework and to complement the SDSN’s flagship report “An action agenda for sustainable development” released in June 2013. One of the reports is entitled "Solutions for sustainable agriculture and food systems" and was prepared by the SDSN Thematic Group on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, co-chaired by A. Dobermann and R. Nelson. Chapter 2 of the 99-page report, entitled “towards a sustainable development path for agriculture and food systems”, also considers the role of biotechnology as a component of sustainable agricultural intensification. See or contact for more information.


As part of its Trade and Environment Review series, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has just published “Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate”. The 321-page report is organized in 5 chapters, written by over 50 contributors, dedicated respectively to key development challenges of a fundamental transformation of agriculture; livestock production: a climate change and food security hot spot; the role of research and technology and extension services (which includes an 8-page commentary about genetic engineering and biotechnology); the role of changes in land use; and, finally, the importance of international trade and trade rules for transforming global agriculture. See or contact for more information.


On 25-27 August 2013, a molecular breeding course in wheat took place in Karnal, India, organised by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The course was held for young scientists from different wheat research stations of India involved in a project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to increase the productivity of wheat under rising temperatures and water scarcity in South Asia. A 38-page laboratory manual, edited by S. Dreisigacker, R. Tiwari and S. Sheoran, that was developed for the course is now available on the web. See or contact for more information.


The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just published “Socioeconomic considerations in biosafety decisionmaking: Methods and implementation”, edited by D. Horna, P. Zambrano and J. Falck-Zepeda. The specific objective of this study is to provide guidance on how to conduct an ex ante economic assessment of a genetically modified (GM) crop when such an assessment becomes part of the crop’s approval process. Using the case of GM cotton in Uganda, the authors propose and develop a methodological framework for the inclusion of socio-economic considerations in biosafety evaluations. See or contact for more information.


A number of FAO books on agricultural biotechnologies are available on request. These include “Socio-economic impacts of non-transgenic biotechnologies in developing countries: The case of plant micropropagation in Africa” and “Marker-assisted selection: Current status and future perspectives in crops, livestock, forestry and fish”. Copies of the FAO Biotechnology Glossary are also available in Chinese, English, French and Russian. These also include “Agricultural biotechnology for developing countries - Results of an electronic forum”, in Spanish, and “Results from the FAO Biotechnology Forum: Background and dialogue on selected issues”, two books which provide the background and summary documents of Conferences 1-6 and 7-12 respectively of the FAO Biotechnology Forum. To request a copy of one or more of these publications, please send your full postal address to


On 4-24 March 2013, the FAO Biotechnology Forum hosted a moderated e-mail conference on the "Impacts of genomics and other 'omics' for the crop, forestry, livestock, fishery and agro-industry sectors in developing countries". Before the conference, a 10-page background document was published, which provides an easily-readable overview of the current status regarding genomics in food and agriculture and briefly discusses some of the main ways in which the knowledge from genomics can be used. About 520 people subscribed to the conference, posting a total of 61 messages, 57% of which came from people living in developing countries. Discussions in the 3-week long conference focused on the challenges and opportunities of genomics, particularly in crops but also in livestock. There seemed to be agreement about the tremendous promise of genomics but recognition that it is still very much an emerging field for developing countries. During the conference there was also general support for establishment of a moderated platform for informal exchange of experiences, data, knowledge and expertise on genomics and other aspects of breeding for the global community. See the background document, and all the messages posted, at For more information, contact This was the 19th e-mail conference hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum since it was launched in the year 2000.


The 36th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission takes place in Rome, Italy on 1-5 July 2013. Documents prepared for this meeting include a 2-page Information Paper (CAC/36/INF/8) about the FAO GM Foods Platform (, which is a new online platform to share information on safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant-DNA plants authorized in accordance with the Codex Guideline entitled “Guideline for the conduct of food safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant-DNA plants” (Guideline CAC/GL 45-2003, annex III adopted in 2008). See or contact for more information. The Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental body which sets international food safety and quality standards to promote safer and more nutritious food for consumers worldwide.


With the support of FAO and the joint FAO/IAEA division, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics is developing a publicly accessible e-learning bioinformatics course on animal viral pathogens. The first module of this course, entitled "Phylogenetics of animal pathogens: Basic principles and applications" is already available on the web. It has been designed as a self-learning module for animal health laboratory staff and is organized in four chapters: basic notions on phylogenetic trees; how to build phylogenetic trees; how to interpret phylogenetic trees; and exercises. See or contact for more information. 


Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are being promoted as an important institutional mechanism for gaining access to additional financial resources, sharing risks, and addressing other constraints in pursuit of sustainable and inclusive agricultural development. In 2010, FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division initiated a series of appraisals of PPPs implemented in certain African, Asian and Latin American countries. The main objective was to draw lessons that can be used to provide guidance to FAO member countries on how to partner effectively with the private sector to mobilize support for agribusiness development. Twelve country reports are currently available and some of the PPP case studies they contain involve use of agricultural biotechnologies. These include the production of monoclonal antibodies and development of a rapid assay to detect white leaf disease in sugarcane in Thailand; the adoption of biogas energy technology in integrated poultry slaughterhouses in Thailand; and the delivery of Rhizobium inoculant biofertilizers in Kenya. See or contact for more information.


Animal production is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. As part of a stream of activities carried out by FAO to identify low GHG emission pathways for the livestock sector, FAO has just published "Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production: A review of technical options for non-CO2 emissions" written by A.N. Hristov, J. Oh, C. Lee and co-authors and edited by P. Gerber, B. Henderson and H.P.S. Makkar. The 206-page publication evaluates the potential of enteric fermentation (i.e. fermentation of feed in the rumen as part of the normal digestive processes of livestock), manure and manure management and, thirdly, animal husbandry practices for mitigating methane and nitrous oxide, i.e. non-carbon dioxide (non-CO2), GHG emissions from livestock production. The section on animal husbandry also covers use of recombinant bovine somatotropin as well as artificial insemination and other reproductive technologies. See or contact for more information.


As part of its Animal Production and Health Paper series, FAO recently published “Lessons from HPAI: A technical stocktaking of outputs, outcomes, best practices and lessons learned from the fight against highly pathogenic avian influenza in Asia 2005−2011”. Since 2004, FAO has been at the forefront of the global effort to fight H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which emerged in Southeast Asia in 2003. The 95-page book documents the result of an initiative by the Regional office for Asia and the Pacific of FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) to reflect on the work done so far to control HPAI in the Asia region, and to identify its impact and achievements, success stories, challenges and lessons learned. Different chapters are dedicated to the topics of coordination, surveillance, laboratory capacity, vaccination, biosecurity, socio-economics, wildlife, communication and advocacy and, finally, lessons learned. See or contact for more information.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference