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), 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.
One of the reports prepared for the 17th Session of FAO`s Committee on Agriculture, discussed on 3 April 2003, is entitled "Biosecurity in food and agriculture". The term Biosecurity covers the introduction of plant pests, animal pests and diseases, and zoonoses, the introduction and release of GMOs and their products, and the introduction and management of invasive alien species and genotypes. The document is based on the outcome of a broad consultation process on Biosecurity, which included an inter-agency meeting as well as an expert consultation in September 2002, specialised studies and bilateral interaction with interested bodies, and which culminated in an inter-governmental technical consultation in Bangkok in January 2003. See (document COAG/2003/9 - in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish). In addition, the final report of the Bangkok consultation has recently been put on the web (see For more information, contact
The 31st Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling took place in Ottawa, Canada from 28 April to 2 May 2003. The Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental body set up to establish international standards on foods. One of the items on the agenda for the 31st Session was the "Proposed Draft Guidelines for the Labelling of Foods and Food Ingredients Obtained through Certain Techniques of Genetic Modification / Genetic Engineering". The report of the meeting (report ALINORM 03/22A), plus the agenda and working documents, are available at or contact for further information.
On the occasion of the third World Water Forum (WWF-3), held on 16-23 March 2003 in Kyoto, Japan, FAO presented a new study entitled "Unlocking the water potential of agriculture". It analyses current trends and prospects in agricultural water management and its relation to food security, poverty alleviation and economic growth. Chapter 3 considers ways of improving water productivity (i.e. ratio of crop output to water input) at the individual plant level, through classical breeding and/or genetic engineering, or at the field and agro-ecological or river-basin level. See a news story on the study ( - in Arabic, English, French and Spanish), an information package on FAO at WWF-3 ( - in English, French and Spanish) or contact for further information or to request a comprehensive CD-ROM specifically prepared by FAO for WWF-3.
The State of the Worlds Forests 2003 was released by FAO on 10 March 2003. This is the fifth edition of the publication which reports every two years on the status of forests, recent major policy and institutional developments and key issues concerning the forest sector. One of its chapters considers the state of science and technology (including biotechnology) in the forest sector, where "resources invested in forest research are alarmingly inadequate and significant imbalances exist between developed and developing countries, government and industry, and different segments of the forest sector". See the publication ( ), a news story about its release ( - in Arabic, English, French and Spanish) or contact FAO for more information.
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Intersessional Experts Meeting on "Maximising the role of planted forests in sustainable forest management" took place on 25-27 March 2003 in Wellington, New Zealand. This meeting, organised with the technical co-operation of FAO, the Center for International Forestry Research and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, had four central themes relating to the role of planted forests: benefits, challenges, ensuring sustainable management and facilitation. Some of the papers (e.g. numbers 2 and 10) discuss the issue of GMOs. See the conference website or contact for more details.
The proceedings of the International Conference on Timber Plantation Development, held on 7-9 November 2000 in Manila, Philippines, have just been released on the web. The conference was organised jointly by FAO, the International Tropical Timber Organization and the Philippines` Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The conference included 5 sessions, with session 3 devoted to "technological breakthroughs in plantation forestry", including discussion on reproductive technologies. See or contact FAO (Rome) or FAO (Bangkok) for more information.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), whose goals are to maximise the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis, organised a "Policy dialogue on biotechnology applications and trade" on 11 March 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland, in collaboration with the United Nations University`s Institute of Advanced Studies. This meeting was part of the Science and Technology Diplomacy Initiative (STDI) established by UNCTAD in collaboration with Harvard University´s Science, Technology and Innovation Program. The STDI seeks to make trade diplomats and policy makers more aware of the scientific underpinnings of trade issues and to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to negotiate and make informed decisions in international negotiations where science and technology play a role. See the opening statement to the meeting by Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, a recent UNCTAD paper (February 2003) giving more information on the STDI ( or contact for more information.

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