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 1st meeting of FAO`s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) acting as the Interim Committee for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was held on 9-11 October 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy. The Treaty`s aim is to guarantee the future availability of the diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and promote the fair and equitable sharing of all benefits. The report of the meeting is now available. See or contact for more information.
In a press release of 5 November 2002, FAO announced that a new partnership to promote and coordinate global investment in the genetic improvement of cassava, an important source of nutrition in tropical countries, has been established. It aims to develop and use biotechnologies such as genomics to produce cassava planting material with improved traits. Founding institutions of this "Global Partnership for Cassava Genetic Improvement" include FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (ILTAB). See (in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.
The International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) and FAO, in consultation with the UNEP/GEF (the United Nations Environment Programme/ Global Environment Facility), have jointly developed a "Decision Support Toolbox for Biosafety Implementation". This web-based toolbox is designed to assist policy makers, biosafety managers and other stakeholders in understanding and applying a biosafety framework for capacity-building and regulatory decision making. Feedback is welcomed on Version 2.0 of the toolbox. See or contact or for more information.
The background document for the FAO e-mail conference entitled "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?" is now available ( The conference runs from 13 November to 11 December 2002 and is the eighth conference hosted by the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture. 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-L
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Forum members wishing to register for the conference should leave out the first line of the above message. To access the background document by e-mail, join the Forum and retrieve it from the archives (instructions are provided in section viii of the Forum welcome text).
At the 9th Regular Session of FAO`s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), held on 14-18 October 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, FAO presented a document entitled "Potential impacts of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) on agricultural biodiversity and agricultural production systems: Technical study" (document 9/02/17/Annex - in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic It focuses on GURTs within cropping systems, with reference to aquatic ecosystems, trees and livestock where possible. It distinguishes between various uses of GURTs: use restriction (technology protection), environmental contamination, and agricultural productivity contributions. Background to the document is described in document 9/02/17 - in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic at The document was prepared using a study carried out at the request of FAO and co-authored by B.Visser, D. Eaton, N. Louwaars, I. van der Meer, J. Beekwilder and F. van Tongeren ( - 628 KB). For more information, contact .
At the 9th Regular Session of FAO`s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), held on 14-18 October 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, the Commission considered a report on "The status of the draft Code of Conduct on Biotechnology as it relates to genetic resources for food and agriculture: report on surveys of FAO Members and stakeholders". The report presents the result of surveys conducted in 2000, among FAO Members and a wide range of relevant stakeholders throughout the world, inviting them to provide comments or advice on the existing preliminary draft Code of Conduct on Biotechnology (presented in 1993). See document 9/02/18 at (available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Spanish and French). Background Study Paper 17 was also prepared for the CGRFA, entitled "Recent developments related to biotechnology that are relevant to the analysis of the survey on the Code of Conduct" ( - 390 KB). The paper provides some perspectives on a selection of recent advances and relates them to the draft Code of Conduct on Biotechnology. For more information, contact .
A study entitled "Opportunities for incorporating genetic elements into the management of farm animal diseases: policy issues", co-authored by S. Bishop, M. de Jong and D. Gray, prepared by FAO`s Animal Production and Health Division, was put at the disposition of FAO`s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) for its 9th Regular Session held on 14-18 October 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome. The document considers the opportunities for utilising quantitative and molecular genetics as additional tools in the strategies aimed at achieving sustainable disease management, and also considers needs and policy issues, in an epidemiological context. Current information on the costs to countries of animal disease and on the inheritance of many diseases is also provided. It is available at (616 KB) or contact to request a copy.
This 208-page Spanish book on global food security, entitled "La Seguridad Alimentaria Mundial Primeras décadas del siglo XXI. El papel de la FAO y el PMA", and written in April 2002 by Ignacio Trueba, is a general study on development, providing an analysis of hunger and poverty in the world and considering the role of FAO and the World Food Programme. Pages 77-82 consider agricultural biotechnology. See or contact for more information.
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) was adopted in June 1998 in Aarhus, Denmark. It is "not only an environmental agreement, it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice". Since adoption of the Convention, five tasks forces and working groups have been established, one of them on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The third and last meeting of this working group was held on 17-19 June 2002 in Geneva, Switzerland. The report of this, and the other, meetings is available at (in English, French and Russian) or contact for more information.
At its annual general meeting held on 28 October - 1 November 2002 in Manila, The Philippines, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) approved the launching of two "Challenge Programs" (i.e. time-bound, independently-governed programs of high impact research), one of which is entitled "Biofortified crops for improved human nutrition". See the proposal at (68 pages) or contact for more information.
This 322-page book, entitled "World Water and Food to 2025: Dealing with Scarcity", is written by M.W. Rosegrant, X. Cai and S.A. Cline and published jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). It considers how policymakers and water users can manage this scarce resource. The role of biotechnology in crop breeding is discussed in pages 187-188. See to access the book (as well as a shorter report) or contact for more information.
The International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) organised a meeting entitled "Next harvest: Advancing biotechnology`s public good" on 7-9 October 2002 at ISNAR Headquarters, The Hague, Netherlands. The meeting focused specifically on GM crop research conducted by public sector institutes in the developing world and the meeting report, by M. Luijben and J.I. Cohen, is now available. See or contact for more information.
The final report of the expert consultation meeting on "Public agricultural research: the impact of intellectual property rights on biotechnology in developing countries", held on 24-27 June 2002 in Rome, Italy, is now available. The meeting was organised by FAO in co-operation with the University of Tor Vergata. Experts from biotechnology research institutions in Argentina, Brazil, China, Cuba, India, Mexico, The Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe attended, as well as representatives from the World Bank, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the International Service for National Agricultural Research, The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, the interim Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, USDA, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Netherlands, the Rockefeller Foundation and the private sector. The 8-page report includes sections on i) setting the scene: identification of constraints, needs and opportunities within public sector research institutions ii) policy issues at institutional, national and international levels and iii) identifying strategies to strengthen public sector biotechnology research for ensuring food security and poverty alleviation. It then concludes with six main recommendations. See or contact for more information.
The latest issue (1 and 2, 2002) of BINAS News, from the Biosafety Information Network and Advisory Service (BINAS) of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), includes three articles as well as sections on news items and upcoming events. See (20 pages) or contact for more information.
On 15 October 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) posted 20 "questions and answers" on their website that were "prepared by WHO in response to questions and concerns by a number of WHO Member State Governments with regard to the nature and safety of genetically modified food". See the 8-page PDF document at (in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.
The Information and Media Relations Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat has prepared a briefing document entitled "The issues, and where we are now" (updated 10 October 2002), which aims to help public understanding about the current WTO agriculture negotiations. Some of the issues involved (e.g. food safety, consumer information and labelling) have potential implications for agricultural biotechnology. See (in English, French and Spanish; in WORD and PDF formats) or contact for more information.

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