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 Working Group on Biotechnology is pleased to announce the launch of FAO-BiotechNews-Fr. It is the French version of the English-language e-mail newsletter FAO-BiotechNews, launched by FAO in January 2002. The e-mail list will provide updates of news and event items in French that are relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries. To subscribe, please send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering the following one-line text message:subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Fr-LThe Welcome Text that subscribers receive on joining the e-mail list, describing its aims and scope and how it works, is available at (in French). If you have questions or comments, contact
The FAO e-mail conference entitled "Regulating GMOs in developing and transition countries", which began on 28 April, finished on 1 June 2003. There was a large number of excellent contributions, covering a wide breadth of key issues such as why developing countries need regulations covering GMOs, what kinds of regulations they should be, what risks should be assessed within the regulatory framework, how GMOs should be regulated compared to conventional crops and whether economic aspects should be included in the GMO regulatory framework. Roughly 400 people registered for this moderated conference, posting a total of 93 messages. Messages came from people in 19 different countries, with highest numbers from the United States, India, South Africa, Canada and Australia respectively. Half of the messages came from people living in developing countries. The messages are available at or can be requested as a single e-mail (size 154 KB) from
The report of the 17th biennial session of FAO`s Committee on Agriculture (COAG), held at FAO Headquarters, Rome from 31 March to 4 April 2003, is now available. The meeting was attended by representatives of 113 Members of the Committee (which has 124 Member nations plus one Member organisation, the European Community) and by 60 observers including 39 international NGOs. COAG`s main task is to review and provide advice on FAOs programme of work in food and agriculture, including on selected international development issues. Among the items discussed at the meeting was the concept of Biosecurity in food and agriculture as well as FAO`s role regarding biotechnology applications in agriculture. See (document CL 124/9 - in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact Boyd Haight, COAG Secretary, directly or through , for more information.
The 26th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission takes place at FAO Headquarters, Rome from 30 June to 7 July 2003. The provisional agenda for the session includes a broad range of topics such as risk analysis policies of the Commission and consideration of draft standards and related texts (some related to "GM food") submitted by subsidiary Codex Committees and Task Forces to the Commission for adoption. See the provisional agenda and documents at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact for further information.
The FAO Conference, at its 31st session in November 2001, approved the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Its objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use. The Treaty was opened for signature at FAO Headquarters from 3 November 2001 until 4 November 2002, during which time 77 States plus the European Community signed the Treaty. The current status (11 June 2003) is that 21 States have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Treaty. It enters into force on the 90th day after the deposit of the 40th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. Governments that have ratified it will make up its Governing Body. At its first meeting, the Governing Body will take decisions on important matters , such as the level, form and manner of monetary payments on commercialisation, a standard Material Transfer Agreement, mechanisms for compliance, and the funding strategy. Countries may therefore consider it important to be among the first to ratify, so as to ensure that their national and regional interests can be taken into account at this first meeting. See or contact for more information.
The publication entitled "Manejo y gestión de la biotecnología agrícola apropiada para pequeños productores: estudio de caso Ecuador" has just been put on the web. This 73-page study (in Spanish) on Ecuador, considering appropriate crop biotechnology for smallholders, was prepared in October 2002 by J. Wendt and J. Izquierdo for the Fundación REDBIO Internacional with the support of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. Fundación REDBIO Internacional supports and carries out activities resulting from the Technical Cooperation Network in Plant Biotechnology (REDBIO), which is sponsored by FAO. See or contact FAO for more information.
At its 6th session, which took place on 5-9 May 2003, the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) decided that the substantive theme and focus of its work during 2003-2004 will be "Promoting the application of science and technology to meet the Millennium Development Goals". In undertaking this theme, the CSTD will hold a panel meeting in October 2003 to examine the issues and make concrete recommendations to governments and the United Nations system. The CSTD is organising, from 15 June to 15 August 2003, four e-mail working groups to provide input into this panel meeting. The first e-mail working group focuses on the area of "Improving the policy environment for the application of science and technology to development by identifying potential risks and benefits of new and emerging technologies" (which also includes biotechnologies). Anyone can join. For further information, or to join the working group, contact
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in collaboration with the University of Concepción, Chile, is organising a Diploma in Biosafety by distance learning. The course begins in September 2003 and there are 4 weeks teaching on campus in Concepción and the remainder through distance learning. All courses are held in English. For more information, see or contact
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) sponsored the "Global Biotechnology Forum: Africa Regional Consultative Meeting", organised with the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, that was held on 20-23 March 2003 in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the first of four regional meetings to be held in preparation for the UNIDO Global Biotechnology Forum, to take place in Concepción, Chile in 2004. The next Regional Consultative Meeting takes place on 22-25 July 2003 in Brasilia, Brazil for the Latin America and Caribbean region. See a short news story on the meeting at or contact for more information.
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.

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