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.



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.


The latest issue (December 2013) 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 33-page newsletter provides updated information on the diverse activities at OECD related to biotechnology. See or contact for more information.


The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has recently published “Methods and applications of doubled haploid technology in wheat breeding”, by W. Tadesse, S. Tawkaz, M.N. Inagaki, E. Picard and M. Baum. Doubled haploids are genotypes produced through induction of haploids followed by chromosome doubling. Wheat cultivars produced using doubled haploid systems have been released for cultivation in both developed and developing countries. This 25-page manual aims to be a useful guide for wheat breeders, geneticists, biotechnologists, students and technicians. See or contact for more information.


FAO has just published "Biotechnologies at work for smallholders: Case studies from developing countries in crops, livestock and fish”, edited by J. Ruane, J.D. Dargie, C. Mba, P. Boettcher, H.P.S. Makkar, D.M. Bartley and A. Sonnino. This 198-page book documents a series of 19 case studies where agricultural biotechnologies were used to serve the needs of smallholders in developing countries. They were prepared by scientists directly involved in the initiatives who describe the background, achievements, obstacles, challenges and lessons learned from the different case studies. After an introductory first chapter, the next three chapters are dedicated to case studies in the crop, livestock and aquaculture/fisheries sectors respectively. The final chapter summarizes the background, challenges, results and lessons learned from the 19 case studies. See an FAO press release at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Italian and Spanish), together with related Question-and-Answers and a radio interview; read the book at or contact to request a copy, providing your full postal address.


The Third Africa Rice Congress took place on 21-24 October 2013 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, co-organized by the Africa Rice Center and FAO in collaboration with the Government of Cameroon. With its main theme of ‘Rice science for food security through smallholder and agri-business development in Africa’, the Congress took stock of advances in rice science and technology aimed at improving production, processing and marketing practices across the rice value chain in Africa. Attended by over 650 participants from 60 countries, the first two days of the Congress allowed participants to discuss scientific progress through presentations and poster talks, many of which dealt directly or indirectly with the use of biotechnologies, in five parallel sessions. A ‘Cameroon rice day’ was organized on 23 October while the final day included a Ministerial Policy Dialogue. The previous Africa Rice Congress took place in 2010. See (in English and French) for the Congress Declaration, daily digests, abstracts, presentations and more; an FAO press release at (in Arabic, English, French and Spanish), together with a radio interview; or contact for more information.


At the 6th meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in October 2012 in India, decision BS-VI/13 on socio-economic considerations was adopted, comprising a series of activities to be undertaken prior to the 7th meeting to be held in September 2014 in the Republic of Korea. These included a series of regional online real-time conferences which took place on 13 June 2013 for the Western Europe and Others Group and Central and Eastern Europe; 17 June for Asia and the Pacific; 20 June for Africa; and 27 June for Latin America and the Caribbean (in Spanish). See for transcripts of the conferences, plus other related resources, or contact for further information.


As part of its Series on Harmonisation of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Environment, Health and Safety Division recently published "Low level presence of transgenic plants in seed and grain commodities: Environmental risk/safety assessment, and availability and use of information". The scope of this 89-page document covers a situation where seed contains low levels of transgenic seed that have been reviewed for environmental risk/safety and received authorization for commercial cultivation (unconfined release) in one or more countries but not in the country of import. The document covers commercial seed used intentionally for planting as well as commodities (e.g. grains and oilseeds) that can germinate and grow into plants when unintentionally released into the environment during handling and transport or when intentionally used for planting. See or contact for more information.


During the 36th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission which took place in Rome, Italy, FAO organized a side event on 1 July 2013 to launch the FAO GM Foods Platform. The platform shares 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). It also facilitates the effective utilization of food safety assessment in situations of low level presence of recombinant-DNA plant materials in food. See the report of the event at or contact for more information.


In 2007, FAO released "The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture", a comprehensive 511-page publication drawing on 169 country reports and a range of other sources to provide the first global assessment of animal genetic resources and their management. FAO has been requested to prepare an update of this global report for launch in 2015. As part of this process, a country report questionnaire for collecting national data has been agreed upon. National Coordinators for the Management of Animal Genetic Resources, nominated by the respective governments, have the responsibility for organizing the preparation of the country reports and they have been requested to submit their country report before 31 January 2014. The questionnaire includes a 2-page section dedicated to reproductive and molecular biotechnologies, covering aspects such as their availability to livestock keepers, their use in research, the stakeholders involved and their use in animal genetic resources management. People wishing to contribute to this section should contact their National Coordinators. See or contact for further information.


The Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia recently published "Biotecnologías e innovación: el compromiso social de la ciencia" (Biotechnology and innovation: The social compromise of science), edited by E. Hodson de Jaramillo and T. Zamudio. One of the chapters in this 327-page book is dedicated to “La innovación en agricultura como herramienta de la política de seguridad alimentaria: el caso de las biotecnologías agrícolas” (Innovation in agriculture as a tool in food security policies: The case of agricultural biotechnologies) by A. Sonnino and J. Ruane, from the FAO Research and Extension Branch. See (0.5 MB) or contact to request a copy of the chapter.


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.

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