Agricultural Biotechnologies
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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.


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 .
Louise Fresco, Assistant-Director General, FAO Agriculture Department gave the keynote address to a conference on Crop and Forest Biotechnology for the Future, Falkenberg, Sweden, 16-18 September 2001. The talk was entitled Genetically modified organisms in food and agriculture: Where are we? Where are we going?. See full document at (38 K); an abbreviated version at or contact to request a copy.
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