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 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
The report of the "Evaluation of the Codex Alimentarius and other FAO and WHO food standards work", commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) and FAO, is now available. This 101-page, wide-ranging review of the food standards work of the two agencies also discusses, in section 4.3.2, Codex`s experiences with addressing the issues of labelling and assessing the health risks of foods derived from biotechnology. See (in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.
A first series of six sub-regional workshops is being organised by the UNEP-GEF (i.e. United Nations Environment Programme-Global Environment Facility) Global Project on Development of National Biosafety Frameworks from November 2002 to April 2003. The documentation for participants includes background papers on "Public participation and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety", prepared by the Institute of Development Studies, and on "Regulation of biotechnology: needs and burdens for developing countries" by J. Kinderlerer. See or contact for more information.
As part of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) is compiling an on-line, searchable database of biodiversity-related access and benefit-sharing agreements or contracts, with a particular emphasis on the intellectual property (IP) aspects of such agreements. The database is intended to provide a means of promoting understanding about the range of approaches that have been taken concerning IP and genetic resources, and may be used as a practical tool for providers of genetic resources who are engaged in negotiations concerning use of their resources. Agreements in the database can, for example, be searched based on the IP clauses involved (e.g. patents, plant breeders` rights) or the applicable law (e.g. national, regional, international). See or contact for more information. International regulatory frameworks concerning access to plant genetic resources include the Convention on Biological Diversity (see and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (see
A draft study entitled "The role of law in realising the potential and avoiding the risks of modern biotechnology: Selected issues of relevance to food and agriculture" is now available on the web. The study was prepared by L. Glowka at the request of FAO following the first session of the FAO Panel of Eminent Experts in Food and Agriculture which underlined the advisability of conducting a comparative study of national regulations concerning biotechnology, including GMOs, exploring the possibility and desirability of harmonizing such regulations. The study was put at the disposition of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture for its 9th Regular Session held on 14-18 October 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome. FAO`s Legal Office intends to publish a revised version in its FAO Legislative Studies series. See (154 pages, 1.6 MB) or contact for more information.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference