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 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.


Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety have been requested to prepare a national report on implementation of the Cartagena Protocol. As of 13 December 2011, reports have been submitted by 133 of the 162 Parties. See the reports at or contact for more information. These are the second national reports that Parties have prepared. The first ones were prepared in 2007.


A new version of the FAO Biotechnology website has just been launched, with a new look and structure to make it more accessible and user-friendly. Among its new features are a Press Room, a photo gallery and a multilingual search engine, allowing the user to search within all the webpages, documents, news items and e-mail conferences hosted on the site since its original launch over ten years ago. Responding to the requests from its member countries, FAO has been at the forefront in recent years in providing high-quality, updated, science-based, neutral information on agricultural biotechnologies to its Members and their institutions. In doing so, one of its main instruments has been the FAO Biotechnology website, which was launched in English in 2000 and expanded in 2001 to include Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish and in 2007 to include Russian. The new website has a different link structure than the old one, so we encourage you to update your bookmarks or favorites with the new website links. See the new website at (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). Comments on the new site are warmly welcome, at


From 14 November to 9 December 2011, the FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting an 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". Its goal is to enable a fruitful discussion and exchange of experiences about partnerships in agricultural biotechnologies to benefit smallholders in developing countries, covering issues such as the potential pitfalls and benefits of different kinds of partnerships; lessons learned and best practices from past experiences; and relevant advice that can be provided to developing countries or their national research organizations on the subject. The conference covers the crop, forestry, livestock, fisheries/aquaculture and agro-industry sectors, and encompasses the broad range of biotechnologies that are used in these sectors. The conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two lines:
subscribe BIOTECH-L
subscribe biotech-room1

People who are already Forum members should leave out the first of these two lines to register for the conference. A background document is being finalized and will be sent to Forum members before the conference begins and placed on the Forum website, at For more information, contact


At the 13th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, on 18-22 July 2011, agenda item 3.1 was dedicated to "Ways and means of considering the application and integration of biotechnologies in the conservation and utilization of genetic resources for food and agriculture". For this item, the Commission considered working document CGRFA-13/11/3 entitled "Status and trends of biotechnologies applied to the conservation and utilization of genetic resources for food and agriculture and matters relevant for their future development". Additional background information provided for the item included Background Study Paper No. 52, entitled "Biotechnologies for the management of genetic resources for food and agriculture"; information document CGRFA-13/11/Inf.8, containing the report of the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10); and the ABDC-10 proceedings, entitled "Biotechnologies for agricultural development". The report of the meeting is now available, with paragraphs 43-47 covering discussions of this agenda item. See the report and all related documents at or contact for more information. The CGRFA is an intergovernmental body, whose Members comprise 173 countries and the European Union.


As part of its Animal Production and Health Guidelines series, FAO has just published "Molecular genetic characterization of animal genetic resources". The guidelines' broad objective is to provide guidance on performing molecular genetic characterization studies on animal genetic resources. In the 85-page book, a short overview of progress in molecular genetic characterization of animal genetic resources over the last two decades and prospects for the future is followed by a section that provides practical advice for researchers who wish to undertake a characterization study. Emphasis is given to the importance of obtaining high-quality and representative biological samples, yielding standardized data that may be integrated into analyses on an international scale. Appendices provide a glossary of technical terms; examples of questionnaires; an example of a simple material transfer agreement; a summary of software that can be used to analyse molecular data; and the standard International Society for Animal Genetics–FAO Advisory Group panels of microsatellite markers for nine common livestock species. The guidelines were evaluated at workshops in Poland and Austria and subsequently presented to, and endorsed by, the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at its 13th Regular Session on 18-22 July 2011. See (1 MB) or contact to receive a copy, providing your full postal address (if requesting more than one copy, please explain how they will they used).


The FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia website was recently re-vamped to include, among others, webpages dedicated to FAO's work in the region in a number of specific activity areas, including agricultural research and biotechnologies. In addition to English, the webpages are now also available in Russian. See or contact for more information.


On 19-21 January 2011, an international expert workshop entitled "Rift Valley fever vaccine development, progress and constraints" was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, organized under the umbrella of the Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases, a joint initiative of FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The workshop brought together leading experts and policy-makers in Rift Valley fever (RVF) virology, epidemiology and vaccine development. Its objective was to gain consensus and make recommendations on the desired features of novel veterinary RVF virus vaccines, and explore how incentives can be established to assure that these vaccines come to market. The proceedings are now available at or contact for more information. RVF is one of the most serious transboundary animal diseases (i.e. epidemic diseases that are highly contagious or transmissible and have the potential for very rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, and can have serious socio-economic and public health consequences). It is a mosquito-borne viral disease, which causes periodic severe epidemics, mainly involving ruminant animals (sheep, cattle and goats). It is also transmitted to humans causing a potentially fatal disease. Control of RVF outbreaks includes vaccination of susceptible animals and two vaccines are currently available, although each has significant drawbacks. There is a widely recognized need to develop safer and more efficacious vaccines for animals.

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