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.



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.


At the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, FAO has been providing technical assistance to the country in strengthening its institutional and human capacities for the implementation of the National Biosafety Framework and hence the safe handling of living modified organisms (LMOs) or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is doing this through a four-year project which began in 2017 on ‘Implementation of the National Biosafety Framework in Accordance with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety’. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Wildlife Resources and FAO. As part of the project, a biosafety newsletter is published twice a year in English, Sinhalese and Tamil. The latest version of the newsletter (January 2020) is available at For more information about the project, contact [email protected].


As part of its Economic Research Working Paper series, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently published “Global roots of innovation in plant biotechnology” by G.D. Graff and I. Hamdan-Livramento. The 43-page paper aims to trace the evolution of the global innovation landscape of plant biotechnology in recent decades. It uses information from patent documents and scientific publications to identify the sources of innovation in plant biotechnology, where they are located and how they connect to each other. Available at


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently published a 39-page study entitled “Synthetic biology and its potential implications for BioTrade and access and benefit-sharing”. Synthetic biology was identified as an emerging issue meriting further research at the first meeting of the UNCTAD BioTrade Initiative Stakeholder Steering Committee meeting on 17 May 2018. This study was developed based on this request in order to provide guidance and further comprehension of the topic, especially its implications for BioTrade (which refers to activities of collection, production, transformation and commercialization of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability). See or contact [email protected] for more information.


The January 2020 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 related to their work which is in three main areas: animal nutrition, animal reproduction, breeding and genetics and animal health. See or contact [email protected] for more information.


The January 2020 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is now available. The 40-page newsletter gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications and is issued twice a year. See or contact [email protected] for more information.


FAO has just released a major publication on “The state of the world's aquatic genetic resources for food and agriculture”, a 251-page report which assesses the current understanding and use of aquatic genetic resources (AqGR) for the benefit and sustainability of aquaculture. It investigates the trends and looks at the roles of current AqGR stakeholders, research, education and legislation. The main body of information synthesized in the report came from country reports submitted by 92 governments, in response to a questionnaire prepared by FAO. The questionnaire contained a number of specific questions about use of a range of biotechnologies that can be applied to characterise and develop AqGR and the FAO report presents data on the levels of application of these technologies with selective breeding being the most widely applied. The report also drew on five specially commissioned thematic background studies, one of which was dedicated to “Genome-based biotechnologies in aquaculture”, written by Zhanjiang Liu. See the related press release at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish), the report at (5.8 MB) and the thematic background study at


The FAO Regional Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition in Asia-Pacific took place on 11-13 September 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For this meeting, FAO commissioned Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a New Delhi-based policy research institute, to prepare a regional background study to assess the status of application, capacities and the enabling environment for agricultural biotechnologies in the crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries/aquaculture sectors in the Asia-Pacific region. This 173-page working document, entitled “The status of application, capacities and the enabling environment for agricultural biotechnologies in the Asia-Pacific Region” has recently been published, as well as a related 4-page policy brief entitled “Realizing the potential of agricultural biotechnology in the Asia-Pacific region”. See the meeting website at, the background study at (2.3 MB) and the policy brief at (6 MB) or contact [email protected] for further information.


A number of major FAO publications on agricultural biotechnologies are currently available on request. These include the proceedings (organized in eight chapters covering the main highlights) of the FAO international symposium on “The role of agricultural biotechnologies in sustainable food systems and nutrition” which took place on 15-17 February 2016 at FAO headquarters, Rome (on the web at; the 2013 book entitled “Biotechnologies at work for smallholders: Case studies from developing countries in crops, livestock and fish” which documents a series of 19 case studies (on the web at; the "Biosafety resource book", consisting of five modules, based on materials from training courses organized by FAO from 2002 to 2010 (on the web at; and the proceedings (containing ten chapters with an extensive series of FAO background documents and five chapters dedicated to the outcomes) of the FAO international technical conference on "Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change" (ABDC-10), which took place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 1-4 March 2010 (on the web at To request a copy of one or more of these publications, please send your full postal address to [email protected]  


The 17th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) took place on 18-22 February 2019 in Rome, Italy. Agenda item 4 was dedicated to “’Digital sequence information’ on genetic resources for food and agriculture”. The CGRFA considered a working document (number CGRFA-17/19/4) on “’Digital sequence information’ on genetic resources for food and agriculture and its relevance for food security”. It also took note of an 86-page background study paper entitled “Exploratory fact-finding scoping study on “digital sequence information” on genetic resources for food and agriculture”, by J.A. Heinemann, D.S. Coray and D.S. Thaler. The Commission’s Session report and working documents of the Session (all in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) as well as the background study paper, are available at More information about “digital sequence information” is available at Contact [email protected] for more information. The CGRFA is an intergovernmental body established by the FAO Conference in 1983, whose Members include 178 countries and the European Union. It provides the only permanent forum for governments to specifically discuss and negotiate matters relevant to biological diversity for food and agriculture, including all plant, animal, forest, aquatic, micro-organism and invertebrate genetic resources for food and agriculture.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and FAO recently published the 3rd edition of the “Manual on mutation breeding”, edited by M. Spencer-Lopes, B.P. Forster and L. Jankuloski. Following the 2nd edition which was published in 1977, this 299-page book describes advances in plant mutation breeding, including basic irradiation techniques as well as chemical mutagenesis, in both seed-propagated and vegetatively propagated crops. The manual provides comprehensive overviews and guidelines for new high-throughput screening methods - both phenotypic and genotypic - that are currently available to enable the detection of rare and valuable mutant traits and reviews techniques for increasing the efficiency of crop mutation breeding. It provides practical hands-on methods in plant mutation breeding techniques, with clear illustrated step-by-step protocols. See (12.6 MB) or contact [email protected] for more information.


An FAO project to strengthen national capacity on genetically modified (GM) food safety assessment is ongoing in Bhutan. Officials from the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) have been trained through a workshop on "Training on genetically modified (GM) food safety assessment, risk communication and advocacies programme" which took place on 23-27 July 2018 in Thimphu, Bhutan. A training workshop on “GM food safety assessment: Using a real case study” also took place on 4-15 February 2019 in Paro, Bhutan, using a real-case dossier. Summary reports of these workshops are available at (1 MB) and (1 MB) respectively. Contact [email protected] for further information.


On 28-29 June 2018, the “OECD conference on genome editing: Applications in agriculture – Implications for health, environment and regulation” took place at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) headquarters in Paris, France. The conference provided the opportunity to learn and discuss genome editing techniques, their current development and applications in agriculture, the science-based safety considerations associated with their use, and the status of related regulatory frameworks in different countries. Proceedings of the conference are now available. See or contact [email protected] for more information.

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