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.



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.


The July 2011 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 36-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 discusses the challenge of achieving food security under the pressure of climate change. See (5.2 MB) or contact to request a copy.


The July 2011 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 36-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of past and upcoming projects, publications and events. The editorial gives an historical overview of rinderpest eradication, describing the importance of vaccination as well as the development and deployment of diagnostic tests to monitor the success of vaccination campaigns. See (2.7 MB) or contact to subscribe to the newsletter.


The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity is conducting regional workshops on the Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress. Their purpose is to raise awareness and understanding about the objective and provisions of the Supplementary Protocol and to identify needs and requirements by Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety with a view to expedite the early entry into force and implementation of the Supplementary Protocol. The Central and Eastern Europe workshop took place on 16-17 June 2011 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, while the African workshop, organized in collaboration with the African Union Commission, took place on 21-22 July 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. See the documents and reports of the workshops at or contact for more information.


The Conference of the Parties, serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, requested the Executive Secretary to convene, prior to the sixth meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a regionally-balanced workshop on capacity-building for research and information exchange on socio-economic impacts of living modified organisms (LMOs). This workshop takes place on 14-16 November 2011 in New Delhi, India. See the meeting documents at or contact for more information.


Issue number 22 (July 2011) of the Biotechnology Update, prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology (ICGB), is now available. The 33-page newsletter provides updated information on OECD activities related to biotechnology. See (525 KB) or contact for more information.


As part of its IFPRI Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute recently published "Women cotton farmers: Their perceptions and experiences with transgenic varieties. A case study for Colombia" by P. Zambrano and co-authors. The paper explores the differences in perceptions and experiences of men and women in the main cotton regions of Colombia regarding genetically modified cotton. See or contact for more information.


As part of its ILRI Research Report series, the International Livestock Research Institute recently published "Characterization and conservation of indigenous sheep genetic resources: A practical framework for developing countries" by S. Gizaw and co-authors. The 37-page report highlights current approaches and tools for characterization and conservation of sheep resources and presents a model approach synthesising results of a study on characterization and conservation of sheep resources of Ethiopia. See or contact for more information.


FAO has just published the proceedings of the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change (ABDC-10), that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 1-4 March 2010. Entitled Biotechnologies for Agricultural Development, the 592-page proceedings are organized in two main sections. The first contains ten chapters with an extensive series of FAO background documents prepared before ABDC-10 took place. They focus on the current status and options for biotechnologies in developing countries in crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture and food processing/safety, as well as on related policy issues and options, in particular about targeting agricultural biotechnologies to the poor; enabling research and development (R&D) for agricultural biotechnologies; and ensuring access to the benefits of R&D. The second section contains five chapters dedicated to the outcomes of ABDC-10, namely the reports from 27 parallel sessions of sectoral, cross-sectoral and regional interest, most of which were organized by different intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and regional fora; keynote presentations; and the conference report adopted by delegates in Guadalajara on the final day of ABDC-10. See or contact to receive a copy, providing your full postal address.


FAO has just published the "Biosafety Resource Book", based on materials from the training courses organized by FAO from 2002 to 2010 in the framework of its biosafety capacity development projects. The training courses were tailored to meet the needs of biosafety regulators, policy-makers and members of national biosafety committees. The courses aimed to offer them background knowledge critical in the process of reviewing biosafety dossiers and biosafety-related decision-making and to acquaint them with concepts and methodologies relevant to risk analysis of GMO release and biosafety management. The book consists of five modules and special attention has been paid to avoid technical jargon and to keep the modules scientifically accurate as well as accessible to non-specialists. Module A, by O. Brandenberg, Z. Dhlamini, A. Sensi, K. Ghosh and A. Sonnino, is an introduction to molecular biology and genetic engineering. It reviews the basic scientific concepts and principles used in producing GMOs, and provides a brief description of current and emerging uses of biotechnology in crops, livestock and fisheries. Module B, by E. Hodson de Jaramillo, A. Sensi, O. Brandenberg, K. Ghosh and A. Sonnino, is dedicated to ecological aspects. It provides the necessary background information on ecology and evolution needed to analyse and understand the consequences of introducing GMOs into the environment. Module C, by A. Sensi, O. Brandenberg, K. Ghosh and A. Sonnino, is on risk analysis. It provides basic information on biological risks, concepts, principles and methodologies of risk assessment, management and communication, focusing on crop biotechnology and environmental risk assessment of GM crops. Module D, by O. Brandenberg, A. Sensi, K. Ghosh and A. Sonnino, is entitled Test and post-release monitoring of GMOs. It addresses the use and monitoring of GMOs under containment, confinement and limited field trials, as well as the monitoring of commercially released GMOs. Module E, by A.M. Zivian, A. Sensi and C. Bullón Caro, is about legal aspects. It provides an overview of the existing legal tools and frameworks on biotechnology and biosafety, and offers a thorough description of the international instruments that regulate biosafety and their interactions. See or contact to receive a copy, providing your full postal address.


The 13th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) takes place on 18-22 July 2011 in Rome, Italy. Under Cross-sectorial matters, one of the three agenda items to be considered at the meeting is 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 agenda item, FAO has prepared a Working Document (number CGRFA-13/11/3, in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) 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. More detailed information is also provided in the 149-page Background Study Paper by P. Lidder and A. Sonnino, entitled Biotechnologies for the management of genetic resources for food and agriculture. The report of the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) has also been provided as an Information Document (number CGRFA-13/11/Inf.8, in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish), while the ABDC-10 proceedings, entitled Biotechnologies for Agricultural Development are provided under Other Documents. See or contact for more information. The CGRFA is an intergovernmental body established by the FAO Conference in 1983, whose Members include 173 countries and the European Union. It provides the only permanent forum for governments to specifically discuss and negotiate matters relevant to biological diversity for food and agriculture, including all plant, animal, forest, aquatic, micro-organism and invertebrate genetic resources for food and agriculture.


The report of the 39th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling, that took place on 9-13 May 2011 in Quebec City, Canada, is now available. Agenda item 6 was dedicated to "Labelling of foods and food ingredients obtained through certain techniques of genetic modification/genetic engineering" and is covered in paragraphs 120-158 of the report. The Committee agreed to advance the text contained in Appendix III of the report (title Proposed draft compilation of Codex texts relevant to labelling of foods derived from modern biotechnology) to the 34th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (4-9 July 2011, Geneva, Switzerland) for adoption at step 5/8 as a stand-alone document. See the report (ALINORM REP11/FL), together with the agenda providing links to the meeting`s documents, at or contact for further information.


On 8-11 June 2009, the international symposium on Sustainable improvement of animal production and health took place in Vienna, Austria, organised by FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Proceedings of the symposium are now available on the web, edited by N.E. Odongo, M. Garcia and G.J. Viljoen. They contain the contributions to the plenary session and to five sessions that dealt respectively with: interactions among nutrition, reproduction and genotype; effects of nutrition, reproduction, genetics and environmental factors on animal productivity; transboundary, emerging and zoonotic diseases; one health; and achieving food safety and security in the 21st century. Several of the papers dealt directly or indirectly with the use of specific biotechnologies in livestock. See or contact for more information.


The proceedings of the 2nd World Seed Conference, held on 8-10 September 2009 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, are now available, entitled Responding to the challenges of a changing world: The role of new plant varieties and high quality seed in agriculture. They contain the presentations, discussions and conclusions from the one-day Policy Forum and the five sessions of the two-day Expert Forum, dedicated respectively to the role of plant breeding in meeting the multiple challenges of a fast-changing world; importance of plant genetic resources for plant breeding - access and benefit sharing; plant variety protection; importance of quality seed in agriculture; and facilitation of trade and market development. The conference was organised by FAO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), International Seed Federation (ISF) and International Seed Testing Association (ISTA). See or contact for more information.

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Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) Conference