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 e-mail conference on "GMOs in the pipeline: Looking to the next five years in the crop, forestry, livestock, aquaculture and agro-industry sectors in developing countries" took place from 5 November to 2 December 2012. The 11-page summary document is now available, entitled “An FAO e-mail conference on GMOs in the pipeline in developing countries: The moderator’s summary”, by J. Ruane. The document provides a summary of the main issues discussed by participants during this 4-week conference based on the 109 messages that were posted. From the e-mail conference, a picture emerged of a GMO pipeline that contains a considerable quantity and variety of products, indicating that the new GMOs likely to be released in developing countries within the next five years will continue to be dominated by the crop sector, where a broad range of new crop by trait combinations are in the pipeline, but may also see increased focus on new areas such as GM fish, insects and trees. See (90 KB) or contact to request a copy. All e-mail messages posted in the conference are available at (0.9 MB).


On 22-25 September 2010, the Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010 took place in Phuket, Thailand, jointly organized by FAO, the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) and the Royal Thai Department of Fisheries. It brought together a wide-ranging group of experts and important stakeholders to review aquaculture progress and the further potential of this sector, as a basis for improving the positioning of the sector and its mandate within the global community. The conference proceedings are now available on the web, entitled "Farming the waters for people and food”, edited by R.P. Subasinghe et al. Most of the 896-page proceedings is dedicated to a series of 19 expert panel reviews, three of which consider in some detail the use of biotechnologies in aquaculture, namely expert panel review 1.2 on "Novel and emerging technologies: Can they contribute to improving aquaculture sustainability?" (by C.L. Browdy et al); 3.1 on "Promoting responsible use and conservation of aquatic biodiversity for sustainable aquaculture development" (J.A.H. Benzie et al); and 3.3 on "Improving biosecurity: A necessity for aquaculture sustainability" (M. Hine et al). See or contact for more information.


In 2008, FAO approved a two-year Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project in the Near East and North Africa region entitled "Strengthening capacities towards the establishment of a regional platform for the detection of genetically modified organisms", with Jordan, Lebanon, the Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen as the six participating countries. As part of this TCP project, an advanced training course on "Detection of genetically modified organisms and biosafety for food and agriculture” took place in Aleppo, Syria on 19-24 June 2010, jointly organized by FAO, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the General Commission for Scientific and Agricultural Research (GCSAR). In the context of this training course, a laboratory manual on GMO detection was prepared, edited by A.M. Abdul Kader et al, which is now available on the web. The first half of the 322-page publication is in English while the second half is in Arabic. See the manual (10.5 MB) or contact for more information.


On 9-12 April 2012, the First Asia Dairy Goat Conference took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, organized by FAO, the Universiti Putra Malaysia and the International Dairy Federation, providing a platform to share technical information and experiences and to network for the promotion of dairy goat farming. The 229-page proceedings of the conference are now available, edited by R. Abdullah et al, containing the keynote and plenary addresses as well as research papers covering various disciplines including nutrition, breeding and genetics, milk and milk products and socio-economics of goat production. See or contact for more information.


The final reports of the 6th meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 6), held on 1-5 October 2012 in Hyderabad, India, and of the 11th Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-11), held in the same place on 8-19 October 2012, are now available in all six UN languages, i.e. in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. See and respectively or contact for more information.


Issue number 24 (December 2012) 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 OECD activities related to biotechnology. See or contact for more information.


The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has recently published two manuals, based on the training notes for courses of banana tissue culture nursery operators and farmers in East Africa, facilitated by IITA and Volunteer Efforts for Development Concern (VEDCO). The manuals, both by M. Lule et al, are organized into a small number of modules, each divided into sessions (based on actual training sessions carried out in Central Uganda). The first, entitled “Trainer’s manual: A training course on setting up and running a banana tissue culture nursery”, is for people involved with training of nursery operators, such as extension agents or applied scientists. This 88-page book contains four modules, i.e. introduction to tissue culture bananas; business planning and business skills for nursery operators; practical management of a banana tissue culture nursery; and marketing for nursery operators. The second, entitled “Trainer’s manual: A training course for banana farmers interested in growing tissue culture bananas”, is for people involved with training of smallholder tissue culture farmers, such as extension agents or applied scientists. This 126-page book contains five modules, i.e. introduction to tissue culture bananas; working in groups; how to grow tissue culture bananas; business skills for farmers; and marketing for farmers. See or contact or for more information.


From 5 November to 2 December 2012 the FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting its next e-mail conference, which has the provisional title "GMOs in the pipeline: Looking to the next five years in the crop, forestry, livestock, aquaculture and agro-industry sectors in developing countries". Its goal is to inform the debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the pipeline, considering the specific kind of GMOs that are likely to be commercialised in developing countries over the next five years and to discuss their potential implications. The conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. To subscribe to the conference, send an e-mail to with the following one line in the body of the message (leave the subject line blank):
subscribe biotech-room2-L firstname lastname

Where firstname and lastname refer to the person's first and last name. For example, if the subscriber's name is John Smith, then the line should be:
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A background document is being prepared and will be sent to Forum members before the conference begins and placed on the Forum website, at For more information, contact


As part of its Animal Production and Health Guidelines series, FAO has just published "Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources". This 203-page publication describes in logical chronological order the process of establishing a programme for cryoconservation of animal genetic resources, starting with the process of confirming the decision to implement a cryoconservation programme. The task of organizing the institutions needed to meet the chosen conservation objectives is then described. This is followed by an overview of the types of germplasm that can be cryoconserved, and technical details regarding the physical plant required to set up a gene bank and the quantities of germplasm required to ensure the capture of sufficient genetic variability. Principles of cryopreservation are then explained from a biological point of view and cryopreservation procedures discussed for different species and tissue types. The main body of the guidelines concludes with sections on sanitary measures, data management, legal issues and capacity building. Appendices provide detailed protocols and lists of equipment and reagents for collection and cryopreservation of various tissues for a range of common livestock species. See (3.6 MB) or contact to receive a copy, providing your full postal address (if requesting more than one copy, please explain how they will they used).


The 7th Session of the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITWG-AnGR) takes place on 24-26 October 2012 at FAO Headquarters, Rome. Item 6 on the provisional agenda is dedicated to "Status and trends of micro-organisms for ruminant digestion", for which a working document with the same title has been prepared. This 4-page document introduces and provides a brief summary of Background Study Paper 61, entitled "Micro-organisms and ruminant digestion: State of knowledge, trends and future prospects", by C. McSweeney and R. Mackie. The 62-page study paper provides a historical account of the progress that has been made in rumen microbiology research and gives an overview of the current understanding of the rumen microbial ecosystem. It also addresses the opportunity that new DNA sequencing technologies provide for improving productivity of livestock and the impacts of livestock production systems on the environment. See the working document (CGRFA/WG-AnGR-7/12/8, in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) and the study paper (available under 'other documents') at or contact for more information. The ITWG-AnGR is one of four intergovernmental technical working groups that have been established by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.


In order to document and celebrate the global eradication of rinderpest, an infectious viral disease of cattle, buffalo, yak and numerous wildlife species that has caused devastating effects throughout history, the Secretariat of the FAO Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) organised a series of four events at FAO Headquarters on 12-15 October 2010. This 162-page publication, entitled "Lessons learned from the eradication of rinderpest for controlling other transboundary animal Diseases", brings together papers and discussions from organizations and people involved in its eradication, their reviews of what went well and what did not, and their views on the way forward. The main body of these proceedings comes from papers and discussions from the GREP Symposium (13-14 October), covering issues such as the contributions of molecular virology to rinderpest control. See (840 KB) or contact for more information.


The July 2012 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 31-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of past and upcoming projects, publications and events. See or contact to subscribe to the newsletter.


As part of its Joint Departmental Discussion Paper series, the World Bank recently published "The status and impact of biosafety regulation in developing economies since ratification of the Cartagena Protocol" by M. McLean, M.-E. Foley and E. Pehu. After the introduction, the 25-page paper contains chapters on the impact of the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety regulation; the impact of biosafety regulation in developing countries; and opportunities to advance biosafety regulation. See or contact for more information. This is a Joint Departmental Discussion Paper from the World Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development Department and the Environment Department.


As part of its Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds series, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Environment, Health and Safety Division recently published "Revised consensus document on compositional considerations for new varieties of soybean [Glycine Max (L.) Merr.]: Key food and feed nutrients, antinutrients, toxicants and allergens". This 48-page document updates and revises the original soybean consensus document issued in 2001. The revised document addresses compositional considerations for new varieties of soybean by identifying the key food and feed nutrients, anti-nutrients, toxicants and allergens. A general description of these components is provided. In addition, there is background material on the production, processing and uses of soybean, and considerations to be taken into account when assessing new varieties of these crops. The text also suggests the constituents to be analysed related to food use and to feed use. See or contact for more information.


The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) recently published "Doubled haploid technology in maize breeding: Theory and practice", edited by B.M. Prasanna, V. Chaikam and G. Mahuku. This 51-page manual is primarily intended for maize breeders in the national agricultural research systems and small and medium enterprise seed companies in developing countries who would like to better understand and use the doubled haploid (DH) technology in breeding programs. It is a compilation and consolidation of knowledge accumulated through scientific contributions of several maize geneticists and breeders worldwide as well as protocols successfully developed (in collaboration with the University of Hohenheim, Germany) and used by the CIMMYT Global Maize Program in DH line development, especially in Mexico. See (2.8 MB) or contact for further details.


The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) recently published "Agroforestry tree domestication: A primer", edited by I. Dawson, C. Harwood, R. Jamnadass and J. Beniest. Aiming to synthesise basic information about important tree domestication issues and provide a resource for learners and teachers to use and contextualise for their own purposes, this 147-page manual contains 15 units organised in 5 modules on key topics related to agroforestry tree domestication. Unit 8 is dedicated to "Molecular marker characterisation" while Unit 12, dedicated to "vegetative propagation techniques", also covers micropropagation. See or contact for more information.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference