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.



A report on the "Evaluation of FAO’s role and work in food and agriculture policy" was presented to the 110th session of the FAO Programme Committee that took place at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy on 7-11 May 2012. The main purpose of the evaluation was to assess the capacity, role and comparative advantage of FAO in providing policy support to the global community in the areas of its mandate, considering that no evaluation had been carried out on FAO’s work in this area since 2001. It sought to evaluate the extent to which FAO has addressed its core function on articulating policy and strategy options and advice (and policy-related elements in the other core functions) in its work at global, regional and national levels. Under policy analysis, the report considers FAO’s work on biotechnology (paragraphs 223-225). The report is available in five official FAO languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish). The FAO Programme Committee assists the FAO Council in carrying out its duties regarding the development and implementation of the organization's programme activities. See or contact for more information.


The 6th Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) Sub-Committee on Aquaculture took place in Cape Town, South Africa on 26-30 March 2012. One of the working documents presented to the meeting was "Progress reporting on the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), provisions relevant to aquaculture and culture-based fisheries and update on the new reporting system". This document, COFI:AQ/VI/2012/3, summarizes the reporting from member countries, regional fishery bodies and international non-governmental organizations to a 2010 survey, and provides the final revised version of the new questionnaire and reporting mechanism to improve the CCRF reporting process. The Code is a voluntary set of principles and standards applicable to the conservation, management and development of fisheries, which also refers specifically to the use of genetically altered stocks and related obligations of States (Article 9.3.1). A special event was also organized on "Genetic resources and technologies in aquaculture development: opportunities and challenges", supported by a working document (COFI:AQ/VI/2012/9) as well as an information document (COFI:AQ/VI/2012/Inf.9). These documents give a brief overview of the application of technologies, including biotechnologies, in aquaculture development and management. The three documents are available in all six official FAO languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). See or contact for more information.


On March 20, 2012, a half-day workshop on "Facilitating Smallholder Access to Improved Dairy Genetics" was held in Washington D.C., United States of America, coordinated by the World Bank, FAO and other partners. The objective of the workshop was to review and discuss experiences in attempting to increase productivity of smallholder dairy farmers in developing countries, in particular looking at the economics and technical factors influencing access to improved genetics and artificial insemination. Video-recordings and presentations from the workshop are now available on the web. See or contact for more information.


An international conference on "Scientific Developments and Technical Challenges in the Progressive Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in South Asia" was held 13-15 February 2012 in New Delhi, India. It was jointly organized by FAO and the Indian Council of Agriculture Research of the Ministry of Agriculture, India, under the broad umbrella of the FAO/OIE Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Diseases. The conference’s aim was to review the rate of progress in the field of FMD vaccines and vaccination programmes, diagnostics, and the science of progressive control (risk management decision making and programme optimization), and to identify priorities for investment in science that would have greatest impact for regional and perhaps global control efforts, to be presented at the FAO/OIE Global Conference on FMD Control in Bangkok, Thailand on 27-29 June 2012. Presentations and abstracts are available at or contact for more information.


The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat has announced a call for appropriately qualified experts to take part in the Technical Panel for Phytosanitary Treatments (TPPT), Technical Panel on Diagnostic Protocols (TPDP) and Technical Panel for the Glossary (TPG). The TPDP produces diagnostic protocols for specific pests, often involving use of morphological and molecular/biochemical diagnostic techniques. See (in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information. Deadline for nominations is 1 June 2012.


The Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has published an educational module on "Conservation and Sustainable Use under the International Treaty", as part of a series of training materials for the implementation of the Treaty. This module aims at strengthening both technical and functional capacities, by presenting technical background on conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), measures to promote conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA, explaining the legal provisions of the Treaty and providing examples of how these can be implemented by different stakeholder groups. Information on complementary conservation methods, including ex situ conservation techniques such as in vitro storage, cryopreservation and DNA storage as well as the use of biotechnologies to improve effectiveness and efficiency of breeding strategies, is provided. See (in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.


The January 2012 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is now available. This 40-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. The editorial highlights the need for sustainable intensification of crop productivity for food security and livelihood improvement under the negative effects of climate change and variability, including biotechnological approaches to improve genotypes. See (950 KB) or contact to request a copy.


The January 2012 newsletter from the Animal Production and Health Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is now available. The 28-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of past and upcoming projects, publications and events. See (1.6 MB) or contact to subscribe to the newsletter.


At its fifth meeting, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, in decision BS-V/3, requested the Executive Secretary to convene a regionally-balanced workshop on capacity-building for research and information exchange on socio-economic impacts of living modified organisms (LMOs), with the following main objectives: (a) Analysis of the capacity-building activities, needs and priorities regarding socio-economic considerations submitted to the Biosafety Clearing-House by Parties and other Governments, and identification of options for cooperation in addressing those needs; (b) Exchange and analysis of information on the use of socio-economic considerations in the context of Article 26 of the Protocol. This workshop was held on 14-16 November 2011 in New Delhi, India. See the report and all related documents at or contact for more information.


Issue number 23 (March 2012) of the Biotechnology Update, prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology, is now available. The 32-page newsletter provides updated information on OECD activities related to biotechnology. See (700 KB) or contact for more information.


As part of its Policy Research Working Paper series, the World Bank has published "Biotechnology innovation for inclusive growth: A study of Indian policies to foster accelerated technology adaptation for affordable development" by K. Vijayaraghavan and Mark A. Dutz. This paper describes and analyzes public policy initiatives in India to foster biotechnology innovation to meet local needs in healthcare, agriculture, industry and the environment in a more affordable manner. See or contact for more information.


The report of the meeting of the OIE Biological Standards Commission (BSC) that took place on 8-10 February 2012 in Paris, France is now available on the web. The BSC is one of the four Specialist Commissions of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and is concerned with developing internationally agreed standards for laboratory diagnostic tests and vaccines for OIE-listed animal diseases of mammals, birds and bees. Agenda item 4 discussed the review and validation of diagnostic tests, including those based on molecular/biochemical techniques. Under agenda item 5, chapters proposed for adoption in the "Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals" were reviewed, including one on "Biotechnology in the diagnosis of infectious diseases". The BSC also discussed the formation of an ad hoc group to draft an OIE White Paper on new diagnostic technologies, such as direct diagnosis on samples by whole genomic sequencing. See (245 KB) or contact for more information.


The FAO moderated e-mail conference entitled "Strengthening partnerships in agricultural biotechnologies for the benefit of smallholders in developing countries: Discussing North-South, South-South, Public-Private cooperation and more" took place from 14 November to 18 December 2011. Major topics discussed included Public-Private partnerships, South-South cooperation and the importance and modalities of involving smallholder farmers in partnerships. Of the different food and agricultural sectors, most focus was on crops, followed by livestock. About 340 people subscribed to the conference and 76 messages were posted by 48 people living in 25 different countries. Nearly two thirds of messages came from people living in developing countries. See the messages posted, as well as the 13-page Background Document to the conference, at or contact for more information.


The December 2011 volume of the Journal of Biotechnology is dedicated to selected contributions from sessions of the 14th International Biotechnology Symposium, which took place on 14-18 September 2010 in Rimini, Italy. One of the papers included is by J. Ruane and A. Sonnino, from FAO's Research and Extension Branch, on "Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries and their possible contribution to food security". See or request a copy from


On 29 November 2011, the FAO Council adopted the Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, that was agreed by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in July 2011. It contains a set of 18 Priority Activities, several of which are relevant to biotechnologies, such as Priority Activity 9 (on supporting plant breeding, genetic enhancement and base-broadening efforts) and 1 (on surveying and inventorying plant genetic resources for food and agriculture). The original Global Plan of Action was adopted through the Leipzig Declaration in 1996. See an FAO press release at (in Arabic, English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information. FAO is governed by the Conference of Member Nations, which meets every two years. The Conference elects a Council of 49 Member Nations to act as an interim governing body and the Plan of Action was adopted at the Council’s 143rd Session, held in Rome from 28 November to 2 December 2011.


The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) is an international expert scientific committee that is administered jointly by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO). It has been meeting since 1956, initially to evaluate the safety of food additives. Its work now also includes the evaluation of contaminants, naturally occurring toxicants and residues of veterinary drugs in food. JECFA has announced a call for experts to be on its roster of experts for the period 2012-2016. See or contact for more information. Deadline for applications is 15 February 2012.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference