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.


FAO is in the process of putting together a comprehensive list of biotechnology policy documents of FAO members (there are currently 183 member countries plus one member organisation, the European Community). The current list, on the FAO Biotechnology site, includes 15 documents from 11 members. The majority are national policy documents, but regional (within country) documents are also included. In addition to the application of biotechnology to food and agriculture, most documents also tend to consider applications to other areas, such as pharmaceuticals and human health care. The list includes the title, date, weblink and language(s) of the documents, as well as an indication of their size. We welcome any comments, especially about additional information or new documents. See or contact if you wish to receive the 2-page list by e-mail or to give your comments.
The July 2002 article in the FAO Legal Papers Online series is by Laurence R. Helfer and entitled "Intellectual property rights in plant varieties: An overview with options for national governments". Although not directly related to agricultural biotechnology, it is worth noting because of the indirect consequences of the topic on plant biotechnology. FAO Legal Papers Online is a series of articles and reports on legal issues of contemporary interest in the areas of food policy, agriculture, rural development, biodiversity, environment and natural resource management. See (PDF, 62 pages) or contact to request a copy.
A recent review in AGRIPPA, entitled "Antibiotic growth-promoters in food animals", considers the use of antibiotics as growth promoters and then examines some of the alternative methods (such as in-feed enzymes, competitive exclusion products or probiotics) for efficient meat production without compromising product quality or safety. The article by Peter Hughes and John Heritage was published in June 2002 in AGRIPPA, which is an FAO web-based journal for electronic publishing of peer reviewed and edited documents. See (52 KB) or contact to request a copy of the article.
The web-based searchable version of the FAO Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture has recently been provided with additional on-line features (e.g. the definitions now include a list of clickable related terms). See or contact for more information.
The FAO e-mail conference entitled "Gene flow from GM to non-GM populations in the crop, forestry, animal and fishery sectors" ran for 5 weeks and finished on 5 July 2002. Almost 400 people subscribed to this moderated conference and 118 messages were posted, focusing primarily on the crop sector, by 61 different people from 25 countries. The messages came from participants in North America (41% of the total), Europe (21%), Asia (18%), Africa (12%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4%) and Oceania (4%). 32 % of messages were sent by participants in developing countries. The greatest proportion of messages came from people working in universities (32%), research centres (24%), NGOs (17%) and private companies (13%). The messages are available by subject and date at or can be requested in e-mail form (217 KB) from
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just released the first "Africa Environment Outlook" report. It provides a comprehensive and integrated analysis of Africa`s environment, including i) an overview of developments in Africa, particularly over the three decades up to 2002; ii) a description of the current state of the environment in Africa (outlining its physical attributes in terms of the atmosphere; land; biodiversity; forests; freshwater, marine and coastal areas; and the urban environment) and iii) a set of scenarios for Africa`s future over the next 30 years. The report concludes in Chapter 5 with a list of 31 recommendations for specific actions by policy makers. This list includes "Urge developed countries to remove agricultural subsidies and apply the precautionary principle to genetically modified organisms" and "Assist African countries in their efforts to gain access to new technologies, particularly information and communication technologies and create conditions for the development of indigenous technologies to enhance economic development". See or or contact for more information.
The `World Food Summit: five years later` took place 10-13 June 2002 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy and was attended by delegations from more than 180 countries. Heads of State and Government unanimously adopted the "Declaration of the World Food Summit: five years later" on 10 June. Regarding biotechnology, the Declaration states "We call on the FAO, in conjunction with the CGIAR and other international research institutes, to advance agricultural research and research into new technologies, including biotechnology. The introduction of tried and tested new technologies including biotechnology should be accomplished in a safe manner and adapted to local conditions to help improve agricultural productivity in developing countries. We are committed to study, share and facilitate the responsible use of biotechnology in addressing development needs". The Declaration is available (in Arabic, Chinese, English French, Italian and Spanish) at or contact for more information.
The report of the 3rd meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP), held on 22-26 April 2002, The Hague, Netherlands, is now available. It is document number 18 at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). For further information, contact
A new version of the Decision Support System for Safety Assessment of Genetically Modified Crop Plants (DTREE) has been released by the Biosafety Information Network and Advisory Service (BINAS) of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). See or contact for further information.
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.

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