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 Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) has just published "A framework for biosafety implementation: Report of a meeting", edited by M.A. McLean, R.J. Frederick, P. Traynor, J.I. Cohen and J. Komen. It is the report of an expert consultation convened by ISNAR entitled A framework for biosafety implementation: A tool for building capacity. that was held in Washington DC, United States on 23-26 July 2001. See (PDF, 491 KB) or contact for more information.
An abbreviated summary of discussions from the FAO e-mail conference entitled "Gene flow from GM to non-GM populations in the crop, forestry, animal and fishery sectors" has just been published. This was the seventh conference hosted by the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture and it took place from 31 May to 6 July 2002. The 2-page document is available at or contact to request a copy. A more detailed summary, including references to specific e-mail messages, was published previously and is available at
In a press release entitled "Bananas not on verge of extinction", FAO responded (30 January) to recent media reports that bananas may be extinct within 10 years and urged producers to promote greater genetic diversity in commercial bananas. FAO pointed out that small-scale farmers around the world grow a wide range of bananas that are not threatened by the disease currently attacking bananas sold mostly in Europe and North America. The press release continues "Fortunately, small-scale farmers around the world have maintained a broad genetic pool which can be used for future banana crop improvement. Banana is essentially a clonal crop with many sterile species, which makes progress through conventional breeding slow and difficult. Because of this, new breeding methods and tools, including biotechnology, will be helpful to develop resistant bananas for cultivation. This does not necessarily mean the use of transgenics". See (available in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.
The Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) was launched in January 2002 to provide access to the major journals in biomedical and related social sciences to public institutions in developing countries. Currently, there are 28 participating publishers and over 2,000 journals involved. While the majority deal with human health, some of the journals focus on agriculture and biotechnology. Access to the journals is free for public institutions in 69 countries (with a gross national product (GNP) per capita below US $1000) and, since January 2003, is available at reduced prices for 43 countries with GNP per capita between $1000-3000. HINARI is part of the Health InterNetwork, a World Health Organization (WHO) led public-private partnership initiated by the United Nations` Secretary General Kofi Annan at the UN Millennium Summit in the year 2000. See or contact for more information.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has recently published a book called "Supporting Africas efforts to achieve sustainable development: Dialogues at the Economic and Social Council". The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and to the United Nations, devoted the high-level part of its annual session in July 2001 to Africa. This 268-page publication brings together the key results of the debates, as well as the panel discussions and papers commissioned in its preparation. The section on agriculture and food security in the context of poverty reduction includes presentations by Jacques Diouf, FAO Director General, on "Meeting basic needs" and by Gordon Conway, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, on "Food for all in Africa: Biotechnology, sustainable agriculture and farmer participation". See`sEfforts.pdf or contact for more information.
At the invitation of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) prepared on 10 January 2003 a memorandum on genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). UPOVs comments are limited to the effect of GURTs on the sharing of benefits arising out of new plant varieties in comparison to the protection provided by the UPOV Convention and do not refer to other possible effects of GURTs. See (available in English, French, German and Spanish) or contact for more information.
MSSD (Markets and Structural Studies Division) Discussion Paper 53, entitled "Successes in African agriculture: Results of an expert survey", by E. Z. Gabre-Madhin and S. Haggblade, has just been published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (January 2003), one of the 16 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research . The paper presents an analysis of results of a survey of experts on African agriculture in which they were asked to identify the instances they considered most important in advancing the state of African agriculture. The successes include breakthroughs in maize breeding across Africa, sustained gains in cassava breeding and successful combat of its disease and pests, control of the rinderpest livestock disease, booming horticultural and flower exports in East and Southern Africa and increased cotton production and exports in West Africa. The paper also attempts to identify key ingredients that appear necessary for building on these individual cases and expanding them into broad-based agricultural growth. MSSD Discussion Papers contain preliminary material and research results and are circulated prior to a full peer review in order to stimulate discussion and critical comment. See (320 KB) or contact for more information.
The FAO Technical Consultation on Biological Risk Management in Food and Agriculture was held on 13-17 January 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand. Biological risk management in food and agriculture is referred to as Biosecurity by FAO and covers food safety, plant life and health, animal life and health and the environment, including the introduction and release of genetically modified organisms and their products. The meeting`s objective was to further explore the scope and relevance of Biosecurity as a holistic approach to managing risks associated with food safety, animal and plant health and the environment. The agenda and working papers are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. See or contact for more information.
In an article entitled "Shaping the future of agriculture" published in January 2003 on the website of FAO`s Agriculture Department, Louise Fresco, the head of Department and FAO Assistant-Director General, responds to questions about world poverty and hunger, globalisation and biotechnology in the context of the food and agriculture sector. See (in Arab, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact to request a copy.
International organisations, smallholder farmers, indigenous and local communities are invited to submit to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), at their earliest convenience but no later than 31 January 2003, their views on the potential impacts of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) on smallholder farmers, indigenous and local communities and on Farmers` Rights. The views submitted will be compiled in a document to be used for a meeting of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on GURTs to be held on 19-21 February 2003, in Montreal, Canada. See (which also contains a list of relevant documentation prepared by the Secretariat of CBD and FAO) or contact for more information.
The second draft of the World Health Organization summary report "Modern food biotechnology, human health and development: An evidence based study" (see FAO-BiotechNews Update 3-2002) is now available for comments. This draft report, accessible through the internet by password only, was open for an interactive discussion, from 6 January to 31 March 2003. For further information, contact
In a letter dated 7 January 2003, Philemon Yang, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP), and Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, update the ICCP National Focal Points about the status of ratification of the Protocol and remind them of the further action that would be required to realising the entry into force of the Protocol without much more delay. See or contact for more information.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has just published "Genetic inventions, intellectual property rights and licensing practices: Evidence and policies". The main body of this 110-page report is based on discussions at an expert workshop held by the OECD Working Party on Biotechnology on 24-25 January 2002 in Berlin, Germany. The workshop was entitled "Genetic inventions, IPR, and licensing practices" and was attended by over 100 private and public sector experts from 18 OECD countries. The objectives of the workshop were to assess the impact of patents on genetic inventions (i.e. patents whose claims include nucleotide (DNA or RNA) sequences) on access to the information and technologies covered by DNA patents and to discuss the challenges they pose for scientists, industrialists and medical practitioners. See (685 KB) or contact for more information.
As part of their "Research at a Glance" series, which aims to provide concise, comprehensive information on complex research issues to researchers and policy analysts, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just published "Biotechnology and genetic resource policies" (edited by P. Pardey and B. Koo). This 36-page publication is the first of a series of IFPRI briefs on biotechnology and genetic resource policies. The six briefs included here cover research conducted by a team from IFPRIs Environment and Production Technology Division and several collaborators. See (630 KB) or contact the editors ( or for more information.
The FAO e-mail conference entitled "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?" began on 13 November and finished on 16 December 2002. There was an open and positive dialogue from people facing diverse realities and holding a wide range of different views. Roughly 350 people subscribed to this moderated conference, where 67 people posted a total of 128 messages, which came from participants in Asia (34% of messages), Europe (18%), United States (17%), Africa (16%), Latin America and the Caribbean (9%) and Oceania (7%). Almost 60% came from participants in developing countries. The majority of messages were from people working in research centres or research organisations, universities or non-governmental organisations. The messages are available at or can be requested as a single e-mail (size 237 KB) from
Two important updates have recently been made to the FAO Biotechnology website. The list of on-line documents published by FAO concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture has been updated to include publications from 2002 (, while the webpage of biotechnology policy documents of FAO members has also been updated ( These pages are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. For further information, contact

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference