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.


This 112-page publication entitled "Accessing agricultural biotechnology in emerging economies", published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in May 2003, brings together two framework papers that were presented and discussed at a workshop entitled "OECD Global Forum on the Knowledge Economy: Modern Agricultural Biotechnology in Non-Member Countries", held on 18-19 November 2002 in Paris, France. The first paper, by J. Falck-Zepeda, J. Cohen and J. Komen, discusses methods to assess the impacts of modern agricultural biotechnology, The second paper, by E.J. Trigo, focuses on designing a country and policy typology for developing countries based on their capacities in the field of agricultural biotechnology. Both papers were discussed in the workshop and were revised and updated based on the discussions and written comments received from participants. See (559 Kb) or contact for more information.
The OECD Environmental Health and Safety Division published in May 2003 the "Consensus document on compositional considerations for new varieties of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum): Key food and feed nutrients, anti-nutrients and toxicants". It is number 7 of the Series on the Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds. The consensus documents contain information for use during the regulatory assessment of a particular food/feed product. This consensus document addresses compositional considerations for new varieties of wheat (derived through modern biotechnology) by identifying the key food and feed nutrients, anti-nutrients and toxicants. See or contact for more information.
The report of the 4th and final scheduled session of the Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods derived from Biotechnology (held on 11-14 March 2003 in Yokohama, Japan) is now available on the web. At the session, the Task Force advanced the "Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment on Foods Produced Using Recombinant-DNA Microorganisms to the 26th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC, to be held on 30 June - 7 July 2003 in Rome, Italy) for its adoption. The Task Force also had an open discussion on traceability, as well as an exchange of opinions on potential future work on the food safety assessment of foods derived from biotechnology. See report ALINORM 03/34A at [Additional related information: The Task Force previously agreed, at its 3rd session (held on 4-8 March 2002 in Yokohama Japan), to advance the following texts to the 26th session of the CAC for adoption: "Draft Principles for the Risk Analysis of Foods derived from Modern Biotechnology", "Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods derived from Recombinant-DNA Plants" and "Proposed Draft Annex on the Assessment of Possible Allegenicity" (an Annex of the previous guideline). These texts are included in the report of the 3rd session of the Task Force (report ALINORM 03/34), available on the same website]. Contact for further information.
The "Review of the state of world aquaculture" has just been published by FAO`s Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service. It is a revision of FAO Fisheries Circular 886 (last revised in 1997), which aims to provide policy makers, aquaculture planners and managers, producers and other stakeholders, as well as the public at large, with a comprehensive, objective and global review of aquaculture, including major development trends, issues and prospects. It includes a 16-page article by R.P. Subasinghe, D. Curry, S.E. McGladdery and D. Bartley on "Recent technological innovations in aquaculture", covering the application of different biotechnologies in aquaculture. See or contact FAO for more information.
The first issue of the GFAR Electronic Newsletter for 2003 has been posted. The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) is a stakeholder-led initiative that serves as a neutral forum for the discussion of strategic issues in agricultural research for development. The seven GFAR stakeholders are: national agricultural research systems, international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, advanced research institutes, farmers` organisations, NGOs, private sector, and donors and development agencies. The GFAR Secretariat is hosted by FAO and the GFAR Donor Support Group is chaired by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The newsletter`s objective is to disseminate information on GFAR activities, on events and meetings organised by the various stakeholders, and on important inter-stakeholder initiatives organised or facilitated in the context of GFAR. The newsletter includes an item on two meetings held in March-April 2003, organised jointly by APAARI (Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions) and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, concerning the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology. See or contact for more information.
A first series of sub-regional workshops, each dealing with "Risk assessment and management and public awareness and participation", has been taking place from November 2002 to May 2003 under the UNEP-GEF (United Nations Environment Programme- Global Environment Facility) Project on Development of National Biosafety Frameworks. Reports from the workshops held in Namibia (12-15 November 2002), Mexico (10-13 December 2002, published in Spanish as well as English), Malaysia (21-24 January 2003) and Fiji (18-22 February 2003) are already available on the web. See or contact for more information.
A publication based on presentations at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Cooperative Research Programme workshop on "Ecological impact of GMO dissemination in agro-ecosystems", held on 27-28 September 2002 in Grossrussbach, Austria, is now available on the web. The 16 papers included in the 218-page proceedings, edited by T. Lelley, E. Balázs and M. Tepfer, are organised into the following five sections: genetically modified microbes, gene flow in genetically modified plants, genetically modified virus-resistant plants, Bacillus thuringiensis and, finally, general concepts. See or contact to request a copy by e-mail.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), one of the 16 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, has just published "Agrobiotechnology application in West and Central Africa (2002 survey outcome)". This 107-page document, by W.S. Alhassan, presents an in-depth study of the agricultural biotechnology capacity in seven surveyed countries - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte dIvoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal - where the strengths and weaknesses of the countries surveyed for biotechnology are presented, together with the potential for biotechnology development. A range of other topics, such as the national biosafety situation, is also discussed. See or contact for more information.
Proceedings of the 3rd World Cowpea Research Conference, held on 4-8 September 2000 at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria, are now available. Papers in this publication, entitled "Challenges and opportunities for enhancing sustainable cowpea production", are organised into five sections: cowpea genetics and breeding, cowpea integrated pest management, cowpea contributions to farming systems/agronomic improvement of cowpea production; cowpea postharvest and socioeconomic studies and, finally, biotechnology for cowpea (contains five papers, covering topics such as genomics and genetic modification in cowpea). See or contact for more information.
A training package to help artificial insemination (AI) technicians to improve their performance in AI and field services to assist cattle farmers has been produced under an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) project on information and communication technology (ICT)-based training to strengthen capacity in least developed countries, with the collaboration of the Animal Production and Health Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. The CD-ROM contains seven training modules, together with references, a collection of resource documents and links to websites containing further information on cattle reproduction and AI. See or contact for further information.
At their first meeting (on 21-23 October 2002 in Lucca, Italy), the Parties to the Aarhus Convention (i.e. 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) established a Working Group on Genetically Modified Organisms. The task of the working group is to explore the options for a legally binding approach to further developing the application of the Convention in the field of GMOs, including through possible instruments and to develop selected options for consideration and possible decision or adoption by the Parties at their second meeting. The first meeting of the working group took place on 9-11 April 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting agenda and relevant documents (in English, French and Russian) are available at or contact for more information.
The ICGEB Biosafety Unit Activity Report for the year 2002 is now available. The report provides a brief update of the activities implemented by the Biosafety Unit in the last year, as well as an outlook of possible new programmes that may involve the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in the future. See or contact for more information.
As part of its on-line "Focus on the issues" series, FAO`s Media Relations Office has just released "Agricultural biotechnology: will it help?". This series of nine articles, aiming to provide background information for the non-specialist, describes current and potential applications of agricultural biotechnology, focusing on genetic modification, for animals, crops, fish and trees. It also presents the main arguments put forward both for and against the use of GMOs in agriculture and, finally, provides links to other information sources. See (in Arabic, English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.
The FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture is devoting its next e-mail conference to the theme of "Regulating GMOs in developing and transition countries". This moderated conference covers the agro-industry, crop, fisheries, forestry and livestock sectors and runs from 28 April to 25 May 2003. It is organised by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology and is the first conference to be held this year. The outcome of the conference will be used for the upcoming FAO publication, The State of Food and Agriculture 2003. The Background Document to the conference is available at All messages posted during the conference will also be placed on the Forum website ( You are hereby invited to join the Forum and to participate in the conference !! To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering only the following two-line text message:subscribe BIOTECH-Lsubscribe biotech-room1Those who are already Forum members should leave out the first line of the above message, to register for the conference. For more information, contact
On 27 March 2003, the 20th update of FAO-BiotechNews was posted. This e-mail list, launched in January 2002, provides English-language updates of news and events items relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries. The 20 updates contained a total of 165 items, most of them providing news (mainly about important studies or about reports or documents of relevant conferences/meetings etc. available free on the web) and the remainder providing information on upcoming conferences, training courses etc. The items focus on FAO`s work and the work of its main United Nations (UN) and non-UN partners and cover the crop, forestry, animal, fishery and agro-industrial sectors. For further information, contact To subscribe, send an e-mail message to leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-L
The Secretariat of FAO`s Working Group on Biotechnology prepared an information paper on the Working Group`s activities for the 17th biennial Session of FAO`s Committee on Agriculture (COAG), held at FAO Headquarters, Rome from 31 March to 4 April 2003. At its 15th Session in 1999, COAG made five main recommendations regarding biotechnology and this report describes progress made since then on each recommendation in bringing an interdisciplinary perspective to FAOs work on biotechnology. See (document COAG/2003/INF/4 - in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference