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Sent: 05 December 2003 09:24
Subject: 68: Role of developing countries in MAS
This is from Delphin Koudande, researcher at the National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin.
I am going to comment on the following question from Section 6 of the Background Document: "When should developing countries play an active role in the development of MAS technology (construction of molecular marker maps, detection of association between molecular markers and traits of interest etc.) or when, instead, should they aim to import the technology developed elsewhere?".
I think that developing countries have been playing so far a key role in the development of MAS technologies. Just take a look around the world in many laboratories in USA and Europe, you may find about one tenth of the people working in the lab originate from the so-called developing countries. When it comes to finding out what is being done in developing countries, let us say in Africa, I would rather ask what is the priority in these countries? Given the economics of those countries, we can imagine the part of the budget that is devoted to the whole research programs and the one to MAS. There has been a lot of argument during this conference on the cost of genotyping and what could be the benefit of that compared to the traditional selection program. In developed countries, most of applied MAS in breeding is held by companies. Which companies in Africa are wealthy enough to support equipment and functioning cost in a laboratory to develop MAS? Do we need at present to develop markers or to try hunting for genes or QTLs? How sustainable will such research be in countries where the priority is how to survive?
I think [where?...Moderator] many researchers have been trained in developed countries there is possibility to use markers designed elsewhere. There are areas in which markers can be applied for immediate use like diagnosis or biodiversity assessment. In Africa, I have suggested to tackle research in marker technology on a regional basis or in international institutions like ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute, in Kenya), CIRDES (Centre international de Recherche-Developpement sur l'elevage en zone subhumide, in Burkina Faso) and ITC (International Trypanotolerance Centre, in The Gambia). In my point of view, we can still keep on importing markers from elsewhere.
The major constraints for agricultural production in Africa are water management, conserving soil fertility and pest management.
National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin
01 BP 884 Cotonou
dkoud2002 (at) yahoo.fr
Sent: 05 December 2003 09:30
Subject: 69: Flanking markers // Patenting
My name is Rosan Ganunga and I am working towards my doctoral degree in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Texas A and M University, Texas, USA.
My first contribution is on MAS regarding the message 42 (November 26) by Prof H. Dulieu. My point is to emphasize that when you have you have flanking markers on both sides of the gene of interest, the ability to select for that trait is increased compared to using a single marker. In addition, if the marker is part of the gene of interest, then your chance of selecting for the trait is also greatly improved compared to using a single marker.
My second contribution is on patenting genetic products or inventions. I guess it is not right to oversimplify the cost of patenting genetic products. It requires huge amounts of investment, amounting to thousands of US Dollars, to patent an innovation and it involves so many players. Therefore, for developing countries to go into patenting their products, they must have adequate investments starting from genetic map construction, to patenting the final products. Potential markets for the product must be properly anticipated to make sure of returns to the investment. But are small scale farmers in developing countries ready to pay for the high cost of patented products?
PhD Student in Plant Breeding and Genetics
Texas A and M University,
College Station, Texas, 77845-2474
Email:lawson (at) neo.tamu.edu
Sent: 05 December 2003 17:46
Subject: 70: Marker applications - wheat, maize
[Many thanks to Dr. Manilal William for this message, which raises many interesting issues. We ask participants to try and restrict messages to 600 words...Moderator].
My name is Manilal William, Geneticist, Applied Biotechnology Centre at CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre) - Mexico.
As Kevin Williams (message 37 and 51...Moderator] and others pointed out previously, utilization of markers has helped tremendously in the understanding of complex traits in many cultivated species - for example how many loci control a particular trait of importance and the genomic location of those genes etc. However, the practical applications of molecular markers in any crop species (for MAS) is limited although it is not zero. Many contributors mentioned the limitations; costs, lack of infrastructure etc. in the developing world in order that MAS be used effectively. Some also mentioned the "hype" that biotechnologists had used to promote marker technologies with very limited results. [Message 57, December 1 by Wytze de Lange...Moderator]. All these comments in my view are valid comments to make.
If we take the view that molecular markers are "tools" that plant breeders may use to enhance their efforts, it is a bit naive (and reflects the lack of understanding that some have) for some to question about the acreages planted using MAS technologies because MAS can only be used as tools to select for certain key traits rather than whole plant phenotype which is planted in the field. Part of the reason that some think that there is 'hype' associated with markers is undoubtedly due to unrealistic promises in the form of their potential applications that biotechnologists have promoted over the past couple of decades but it is also possible that plant breeders have misunderstood (at least to a certain degree) what is being discussed in the biotechnology community.
Since CIMMYT works with wheat and maize, my comments are based on our experience and efforts in these two crops. The wheat-related MAS activities are conducted within the Cooperative Research Centre for Molecular Plant Breeding (MPBCRC) that links CIMMYT with several key research centers in Australia. [Mentioned in Message 37, November 25 by Kevin Williams...Moderator].
Wheat is considered by biotechnologists as a species that is difficult to work with - mainly due to its large genome size and the number of linkage groups (with 21 basic chromosomes). It shows very limited levels of polymorphisms at the marker level, making marker development more challenging and therefore more resource intensive. But it has the tremendous advantage that it can be crossed with its wild relatives relatively easily and a number of chromosomal translocations are available that contain many agronomically important genes. When such translocations with desirable traits can be identified, marker development is relatively easy and regardless of the linkage between the marker and the gene, the translocations can be introgressed into different wheats using the marker since there is very little, if any, chromosome pairing between wheat chromosomes and alien translocations. Several major genes conferring resistance to important fungal and viral diseases have thus been transferred to wheat by breeders and markers made available by biotechnologists. At CIMMYT, we are using markers to transfer an alien chromosome segments carrying resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus and a segment of chromosome from Aegilops ventricosa that carries a set of genes for resistance to leaf rust, yellow rust and nematodes. Another area where we are applying markers is to improve root health in wheat (a robust root system would benefit wheat in drought-prone regions of the world). Some of these markers are diagnostic (no recombination between the marker and the gene of interest) and some others have close linkages. When markers are used, we use the approach of screening early generations to make sure of the capture of the gene of interest in segregating material. When diagnostic markers are not available, markers with close linkages are used to increase the allele frequency for the gene of interest in segregating progeny. Without the markers, it would be challenging to screen for certain root diseases in our breeding stations in Mexico due to lack of screening facilities.
Experiments have shown that markers can be effectively used in maize for backcross (BC) breeding. AT CIMMYT, we are using markers (diagnostic ones) located within the opaque 2 mutant (that gives high lysine and tryptophan maize - or quality protein maize, also known as QPM). When a donor (containing opaque2) is used in crosses with several recurrent parents in line conversion activities, markers are effectively used to identify the heterozygotes to be used in crosses in the next BC generation. Protein assays are quite expensive compared to marker assays.
In a crop such as maize, where extensive SSR (microsatellite) maps are available, markers can also be used in backcross breeding not only to select for the target trait but also to select for the genotype of the recurrent parent. Simulation studies have shown that the recurrent parent genotype can be recovered in less than two years using MAS (Ribaut and Hoisington, 1998). For the private industry, where the saved time in releasing a line may have positive financial implications, these approaches can be used effectively although there is considerable investment in using markers to select for the recurrent parent genotype. These approaches also can be used in transferring a desirable transgene such as Bt from one cultivar to another since diagnostic markers for the inserted gene is available when a GMO is available.
In order to support the 'service' activities, that is to provide the services to the maize and wheat breeders at CIMMYT, we have set up a service laboratory. A pre-requisite for these type of laboratories is the capacity to perform large number of DNA extractions in a relatively short period of time and also the capacity for high throughput PCR assays. Obviously, there is a capital cost involved in setting up such a facility but the running operational costs of marker assays that we are performing at CIMMYT is quite low and is cost effective compared to other alternatives. In maize, the service lab conducts approximately 4000 marker assays in helping the maize breeders in QPM line conversion activities and in wheat approximately 5000 assays are conducted for various traits annually.
Another key aspect of marker applications and utilization of markers in the breeding programs is the need for close collaboration between the field personnel such as pathologists, entomologists, breeders with the personnel working in the laboratories. There has to be acceptance by the plant breeders about the utility of markers at least for some key traits that they would like to integrate into the breeding activities as well as there has to be willingness for laboratory personnel to make the extra effort to have better communication with breeders and other field personnel in order to convince them about the utility of markers.
For many third world countries, setting up 'marker laboratories' and running them can pose significant challenges. A marker laboratory, although not prohibitively expensive to set up and operate in the industrialized world, can be challenging in developing countries due to declining financial support for agricultural research from the host governments as well as from the donor community. The objectives and the scale of activity have to depend on the needs of individual situations as well as on the resources available - both human and financial.
One other complication in promoting MAS is the desire or the tendency that even the public sector researchers show in having some intellectual property (IP) rights for markers developed in different research groups. As many have commented, development of a useful marker is a significant challenge. However, even when some markers are available, if their use is restricted due to IP or other ownership related issues, their use would be really limited.
Apologies offered for making a long message.
Reference: Ribaut Jean-Marcel and D. Hoisington (1998) Trends in Plant Science. 3: 236-239.
Dr. Manilal William
Applied biotechnology Centre
m.william (at) cgiar.org