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 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:
subscribe biotech-room2-L John Smith

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.


A new web interface for the multi-lingual FAO Biotechnology Glossary has just been launched, with an improved look and structure to make it more accessible and user-friendly, and with more advanced search capabilities. The new online Biotechnology Glossary will now be updated and edited at regular intervals by a team of international technical experts using VocBench, a web-based multi-lingual vocabulary management tool developed by FAO. The FAO Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture was published in 2001, prepared by A. Zaid, H.G. Hughes, E. Porceddu and F. Nicholas, providing consolidated, comprehensive and accessible definitions of over 3,000 terms and acronyms that are used regularly regarding agricultural biotechnologies. It has proven to be a very popular reference source and has been translated into the five other official UN languages (i.e. Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish) as well as Polish, Serbian and Vietnamese, while the terms have also been translated into Kazakh. See the new interface at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). Comments on the new site are warmly welcome, at


An "International workshop on socio-economic impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops", co-organized by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and FAO, took place in Seville, Spain on 23-24 November 2011. The 133-page proceedings of this workshop, edited by M. Lusser, T. Raney, P. Tillie, K. Dillen and E. Rodríguez-Cerezo, are now available on the web. They are organized in four chapters, with chapter 3 providing background information on the workshop and chapter 4 summarizing the seven main topics presented at the workshop, the discussions from each of the sessions as well as prospects of further research. The seven topics were adoption of GM crop varieties and socio-economic impacts on farmers; aggregated and global impacts of GM technology in agriculture; economics of segregation/coexistence of supply chain; socio economic impacts of GM crops: examples of use in decision-making; economic compensation, liability issues and institutional framework influencing adoption of GM crops; research on consumers attitudes and direct/indirect impacts of GM crops on consumers including health; looking forward: new GM crops in the pipeline and their possible economic and social impacts. See (4.8 MB) or contact for more information.


The FAO Working Group on Biotechnology has recently reprinted "Marker-assisted selection: Current status and future perspectives in crops, livestock, forestry and fish", originally published in 2007. The 494-page book is edited by E.P. Guimarães, J. Ruane, B.D. Scherf, A. Sonnino and J.D. Dargie and is organised into six sections: an introduction to marker-assisted selection (MAS), in chapters 1-2; case studies of MAS in crops, in chapters 3-9; case studies of MAS in livestock, in chapters 10-13; case studies of MAS in forestry, in chapters 14-15; case studies of MAS in fish and shellfish, in chapters 16-17; and the final section is devoted to a selection of non-technical issues relevant to applications of MAS in developing countries, such as national research capacities and international partnerships, economic considerations, the impacts of intellectual property rights, and policy considerations (chapters 18-22). See or contact to request a copy, providing your full postal address.


FAO's Regional Office for the Near East, in collaboration with the Association of Agricultural Research Institutes for the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA), organized a regional workshop on "Agricultural biotechnology network for strengthening regional cooperation and knowledge sharing" on 2-4 July 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. The training workshop aimed to raise awareness of the Regional Agricultural Biotechnology Network of Near East and North Africa (RABNENA) and develop the capacity of the participants on how to operate and use RABNENA as a platform for biotechnology knowledge sharing and collaboration for biotechnology target groups and stakeholders at national and regional levels. See for the workshop presentations and relevant documents, for the network website (in Arabic and English) or contact for more information.


The scientific journal Agriculture & Food Security has just published "Re-orienting crop improvement for the changing climatic conditions of the 21st century" by C. Mba, E.P. Guimarães and K. Ghosh. The paper underscores that plant breeding must be re-oriented in order to generate 'smart' crop varieties that yield more with fewer inputs. It highlights some of the current plant breeding techniques that hold great promise for crop improvement, including marker-assisted selection, targeting induced local lesions in genomes (TILLING), genetic modification, as well as emerging biotechnologies of relevance to plant breeding such as zinc finger nuclease, oligonucleotide directed mutagenesis, synthetic genomics, etc. The paper also recommends adequate policies to enable plant breeding, training of a new generation of plant breeders, establishment of partnerships (including public-private sector synergies), adoption of the continuum approach to the management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture as means to improved cohesion of the components of its value chain, and strengthening the national agricultural research and extension systems of developing countries. See (350 KB) or contact for more information.


The latest Tsetse and Trypanosomosis Information bulletins (volume 34, parts 1 and 2) are now available on the web. Published twice a year by FAO, the bulletins contain both news and scientific abstracts aiming to collate and disseminate current information on all aspects of tsetse and trypanosomosis research and control to institutions and individuals involved in the problems of African trypanosomosis (a vector-borne disease affecting people and animals caused by various species of blood parasites called trypanosomes). The bulletins also include items covering biotechnology applications for disease diagnosis and in trypanosome research, and are available in English and French. See or contact to subscribe.

Search the News items

Free Text
Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference