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 26th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East took place in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 9-13 March 2002. One of the documents prepared for the meeting is entitled Biotechnology for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the Near East Region and includes a description of the current status and trends regarding biotechnology in the region. See (in English and Arabic) or contact to request a copy.
The 3rd Session of the Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology took place in Yokohama, Japan, 4-8 March 2002. The agenda and working documents are available at or contact for further information.
The 4th Session of the Interim Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (ICPM) (the governing body for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)) took place at FAO Headquarters, Rome, 11-15 March 2002. The IPPC is a multilateral treaty administered through the IPPC Secretariat located in FAO Headquarters. In coordination with the Convention on Biologicial Diversity, a working group of the ICPM is developing specifications for an international standard for phytosanitary measures on pest risk analysis for living modified organisms (LMOs). The document on "Specifications for standards on living modified organisms" (Agenda item 5.6) is available (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact to request a copy.
The 1st Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), Sub-Committee on Aquaculture takes place in Beijing, China, 18-22 April 2002. A working document entitled Aquaculture development and management: status, issues and prospects, which also considers the role of biotechnology, has been prepared by FAO for the Session. It is available at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or can be requested from .
The Food Safety Programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has commissioned an evidence-based study of the human health and development implications of GM organisms and food products. The study began in February 2002 and a draft study report is to be completed by late 2002. The study involves a wide range of stakeholders, including FAO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international organisations. For further information, contact Dr Jørgen Schlundt, Coordinator, Food Safety Programme at
An FAO Forest Genetic Resources Working Paper written by Konstantin Krutovskii and David Neale and entitled "Forest genomics for conserving adaptive genetic diversity" has recently been put on the web. It was prepared for the Forest Resources Development Service in FAO`s Forest Resources Division. See or contact to request a copy.
The Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium were published in June 2001 and have recently been put on the web. The conference was held in Bangkok, 20-25 February 2000, and organised by FAO and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA). The introduction states that "these Technical Proceedings represent the most comprehensive and authoritative review assembled to date of the status of aquaculture development in the world". Among the many interesting articles is one related to biotechnology in aquaculture entitled "Review of the status of aquaculture genetics" by Rex Dunham et al. It is available at or a copy of the proceedings can be requested from the NACA Secretariat in Bangkok ( or from Dr Rohana Subasinghe (, Senior Fishery Officer (Aquaculture) in Rome.
The final Rapporteurs` Report for the conference on `New Biotechnology Food and Crops: Science, Safety and Society`, that took place in Bangkok, Thailand, July 10-12, 2001, is now available (29 pages). The conference was co-sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Government of the United Kingdom, in cooperation with FAO, World Health Organisation, United Nations Environment Programme, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Government of Thailand. See or contact for more information.
A paper commissioned by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization concerning Intellectual property rights (IPR) and biotechnology has been published recently in the free electronic journal "IP Strategies Today". The paper is by Anatole Krattiger and entitled "Public-Private Partnerships for Efficient Proprietary Biotech Management and Transfer, and Increased Private Sector Investments". See or send an e-mail to to subscribe to the journal.
As part of an initiative by the World Health Organisation and leading medical journal publishers, it was announced on 31 January 2002 that more than 1,000 different journals in biomedical and related social sciences will be made freely available on the internet to public institutions in developing countries. Some of the journals are related to biotechnology in food and agriculture. This Health InterNetwork "Access to Research" Initiative is expected to last at least three years. Institutions in countries with GNP per capita below $1000 are eligible for free access to the literature. The institutions need computers connected to the internet with a high-speed link (56k baud rate or higher). See or contact for more information.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was approved by the FAO Conference on 3 November 2001. FAO experts say that it is a unique comprehensive international agreement that takes into consideration the particular needs of farmers and plant breeders, and aims to guarantee the future availability of the diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture on which they depend, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits. See the text of the treaty at (59 K); an FAO press release at or a news story on the signed treaty at For further information, consult or contact
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produced a press release (January 16) about a three year $ 38 million UNEP/GEF global project entitled "Development of National Biosafety Frameworks" which aims to help developing countries prepare for the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety adopted in January 2000. The Biosafety Protocol seeks to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of GMOs that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. See or contact for more information.
The Intergovernmental Group on Bananas and on Tropical Fruits, which is part of FAO`s Committee on Commodity Problems, held its 2nd session in San José, Costa Rica, 4-8 December 2001. The Sub-Group on Bananas evaluated the emerging role of biotechnology in bananas. A report entitled "Biotechnology and Banana Production" was prepared for the meeting and is available at or a copy can be requested from In their recommendations and conclusions from the meeting, the sub-group "cautioned against excluding small farmers from the benefits accruing from the application of biotechnology to this sector".
The European Community (EC) has recently published a review of EC-supported research into the safety of GMOs, spanning the period from 1985 to 2000. The research areas included genetically modified plants and fish, biocontrol, food safety, bioremediation, plant microbes, vaccines produced using GM technology and tools/techniques to track GMOs. See Copies of the publication can be requested from
The November edition of OECD Biotechnology Update is available (it is sent roughly every 6 months). The aim of the Update is to provide information on the diverse activities at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development related to biotechnology. The new edition includes, among others, items on regulatory, trade and legal aspects of biotechnology and gives weblinks and e-mail addresses for accessing additional information and publications. See the Update at or contact
James Dargie, Director of the FAO/IAEA Joint Division for Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and Chairman of FAOs Working Group on Biotechnology, presented a paper entitled Biotechnology, GMOs, ethics and food production at the European Media Seminar on Global Food Security, Stockholm, 14-16 October 2001. See the full article at ; an abbreviated version at or request a copy from .

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