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 second newsletter of the UNEP-GEF Global Project on the Development of National Biosafety Frameworks is now available. The 4-page newsletter includes a progress report on the global project, regional updates on countries participating in the project and a summary of the first series of regional workshops. See or contact for more information.
ISNAR (International Service for National Agricultural Research) Country Report 63, entitled "Analysis of a National Biosafety System: Regulatory Policies and Procedures in Argentina" and co-authored by M. Burachik and P.L. Traynor, has just been published. The study focuses on the human and organisational aspects of the Argentine biosafety system. See (size 439 KB) or contact for more information.
A report on the activities, including information dissemination, capacity building and international co-operation, carried out by the ICGEB (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology) Biosafety Unit in the year 2001 is now available on the web. See or contact for more information.
The 20th Session of the International Rice Commission (whose Secretariat is hosted by FAO) is to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, 23-26 July 2002. Two papers concerning biotechnology have been commissioned by FAO for presentation at the meeting and are now available on the web. They are Biotechnology for rice breeding: Progress and potential impact by G. S. Khush and D.S. Brar ( ) and Nutritional contribution of rice: Impact of biotechnology and biodiversity in rice-consuming countries by G. Kennedy, B. Burlingame and V. N. Nguyen ( For more information, contact .
The background document for the FAO e-mail conference on GMOs and gene flow is now available ( The conference runs from 31 May to 5 July 2002 and is entitled "Gene flow from GM to non-GM populations in the crop, forestry, animal and fishery sectors". It is the seventh conference of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture (see
The 30th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling took place in Halifax, Canada, 6-10 May 2002. The Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental body set up to establish international standards on foods. In 1995, the Commission agreed to examine the implications of biotechnology for food labelling. One of the agenda items at the 30th Session is Draft Recommendations for the Labelling of Foods obtained through Certain Techniques of Genetic Modification /Genetic Engineering. See the Meeting Report at or contact for further information.
An advance copy (subject to clearance) is now available of the decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its 6th meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, 7-19 April 2002. See or contact The 279-page document covers some topics relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture, such as the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. The COP calls upon countries to ratify the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, the International Plant Protection Convention and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), which was adopted by the FAO Conference on 3 November 2001. Another decision invites FAO to study the potential impacts of the applications of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) in the framework of the ITPGRFA, and to consider GURTs in the further development of the Code of Conduct on Biotechnology as it relates to Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which will be discussed in the 9th Regular Session of FAO`s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in October 2002.
An expert consultation and workshop on Protein Sources for the Animal Feed Industry took place in Bangkok, Thailand, 29 April 3 May 2002 and was organised by FAO in association with the International Feed Industry Federation. Some of the papers presented covered topics such as the production of synthetic amino acids for feed (Y. Toride), breeding cereals for improved protein quality (S.K. Vasal) and the use of Quality Protein Maize (G. Qi) or GM crops (D.L. Hard) for animal feed. The papers are available at or contact for more information.
The second module of a toolkit aiming to provide a practical guide for countries to assist them in developing their national biosafety frameworks, under the UNEP-GEF Project on Development of National Biosafety Frameworks, has just been published. The module addresses the instigation of surveys and the preparation of inventories in the different sectors pertaining to biosafety and biotechnology within a country. See or contact for more information.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just published Global Environment Outlook 3 (GEO-3): Past, Present and Future Perspectives. This comprehensive 410-page report examines the policies and environmental developments over the past 30 years regarding eight environmental themes - land, forests, biodiversity, freshwater, coastal and marine areas, atmosphere, urban areas and disasters. It then outlines four policy approaches for the next three decades and compares and contrasts their likely impacts on people and the natural world. The final section of the report includes eight fields of suggested action, one of which is to harness technology for the environment and manage the associated risks to maximise the potential of new technologies to deliver substantial environmental and social gains. See or contact for more information.
Louise Fresco, Assistant-Director General, FAO Agriculture Department gave a presentation on The future of agriculture: Challenges for environment, health and safety regulation of pesticides to the OECD Working Group on Pesticides on 4 February 2002, Paris. Highlights of the presentation, which also covered the role of modern technology, especially GMOs, are available at (4 pages) or contact FAO to request a copy.
In connection with the The World Food Summit: five years later to be held in Rome, 10-13 June 2002, FAO has prepared a series of fact sheets on specific issues and topics ( ). One of them is a 2-page pamphlet on biotechnology and food security (in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish). Contact for more information.
The World Health Organization has just published a 241-page report entitled Genomics and Human Health that deals with the likely impact of the genomics revolution on world health, with a primary focus on the implications for developing countries. Although dealing little with the implications of genomics for food and agriculture, many of the topics discussed in the report (such as the latest advances in genomics, the potential impact of intellectual property rights, the relative weight to be given to genomics research versus research into more conventional and well-tried areas, the lack of biotechnology and information technology development in many developing countries and, finally, biosafety and ethical considerations) are highly relevant. See a press release at The report is at (in English, with a French or Spanish summary) or contact for more information.
ISNAR Briefing Paper 47, entitled A conceptual framework for implementing biosafety: Linking policy, capacity and regulation and co-authored by M.A. McLean, R.J. Frederick, P. Traynor, J.I. Cohen, and J. Komen has just been put on the web (12 pages). The framework described is based on contributions made at an international consultation convened by the International Service for National Agricultural Research and held in Washington DC, United States, 23-26 July 2001. See or contact for more information.
FAO Research and Technology Paper 8, entitled "Agricultural Biotechnology for Developing Countries - Results of an Electronic Forum", has been published. It presents a report of the first six e-mail conferences hosted by the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture from March 2000 to May 2001. Each conference was moderated, lasted roughly two months and focused on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries. The first four dealt with the appropriateness of currently available biotechnologies in the crop, fishery, forestry and livestock sectors, while the remaining two dealt with the implications of agricultural biotechnology for hunger and food security and the impact of intellectual property rights. The publication includes the background and summary documents for each of the conferences, as well as providing an introduction; information about participation in the conferences; general conclusions and, finally, additional references. See or contact FAO to request a copy.
FAO Research and Technology Paper 9, entitled "Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture" has been published. The glossary is a revised, augmented version of the "Glossary of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering", published by FAO in 1999 and co-authored by A. Zaid, H.G. Hughes, E. Porceddu and F. Nicholas. In 2001, the process of revising the Glossary was undertaken to update the definitions of this rapidly evolving field and to enrich the number of terms defined. It now includes about 450 new terms, about 100 old terms have been deleted and it contains a total of 3,196 terms and related definitions. The publication is available at or, as a searchable database, at Alternatively, contact FAO to request a copy.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference