[This webpage contains all of the 88 messages posted during the FAO Biotechnology Forum e-mail conference on biotechnologies and bioenergy that took place from 10 November to 14 December 2008, as well as the Opening and Closing messages from the Moderator.
For further information on the Biotechnology Forum see the Forum website. For further information on agricultural biotechnology, see the FAO biotechnology website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 07 November 2008 12:35
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: Opening of FAO e-mail conference on bioenergy and biotechnologies

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the FAO e-mail conference on "The role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries" !!

You can send messages now (send them to biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org). Messages will be posted from Monday 10 November onwards while the last day for receiving messages for posting will be Sunday 7 December 2008.

We hope that the conference will be interesting, constructive and beneficial and we encourage you to participate actively. We would like to briefly remind you of some of the main points about the running of the conference:

1. Participants should introduce themselves briefly in their first posting to the conference. They should also provide their full address at the end of the message. When a message is posted, we will replace @ in the e-mail address with (at) because of spamming.

2. Messages should not exceed 600 words

3. People posting messages are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf and not on behalf of their employers (unless they indicate otherwise)

4. The Background Document to the conference, sent by e-mail to the Forum members on 21 October 2008, sets the scene for the conference and so we strongly encourage you to read it, especially Section 5 (reproduced below) which lists the kinds of specific questions that participants should address in the e-mail conference. The document is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C15doc.htm. Contact me if you want to receive it within an e-mail or as a PDF or WORD attachment.

5. Messages posted in the conference will later (usually within a day or two) be placed on the Forum website - at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c15logs.htm

6. No messages will be posted with attachments. If you receive a message during the conference with an e-mail attachment, just delete it without opening the attachment.

7. The conference encompasses applications of biotechnologies to crops, grasses, forest trees and micro-organisms and to different bioenergy production systems (first- and second-generation generation biofuels, biogas, microalgal biodiesel) and so brings together people who may have knowledge/experience from one or more of these areas, but not all of them. As terminology is occasionally sector-specific, we ask participants to try and keep this in mind when writing their messages (e.g. giving a brief explanation of any sector-specific technical terms, when first used in the conference).

8. As for all other conferences hosted by this FAO Biotechnology Forum, when it is finished a document will be prepared to provide a summary of the main arguments and issues discussed during the e-mail conference, based on the messages posted by the participants. The summary document will be put on the Forum website and disseminated as widely as possible.

For those of you who joined the FAO Biotechnology Forum recently, we can tell you that this is the 15th e-mail conference that it has hosted since it began in 2000. All publications, background and summary documents, e-mail messages etc. related to these conferences are available at the Forum website - http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp

Finally, we encourage you to tell any potentially interested colleagues or contacts about this conference. A short notice is included below for this purpose.

With our sincere best wishes for a successful conference,

John

John Ruane, PhD
Moderator, Conference 15
e-mail: mailto:biotech-mod3@fao.org
FAO Biotechnology Forum website http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp

*****************

FAO e-mail conference: Bioenergy and agricultural biotechnologies

The FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting an e-mail conference entitled "The role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries". Organised in collaboration with the FAO Working Group on Bioenergy, the conference takes place from 10 November to 7 December 2008 and focuses mainly on liquid biofuels. It covers biotechnology applications for first- and second-generation biofuels and, to a lesser degree, for biogas production and for biodiesel production from microalgae. To discuss and exchange experiences on this subject, we invite you to join the conference. The background document for the conference is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C15doc.htm. The conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. All e-mail messages posted during the conference will also be placed on the Forum website (http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp). To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two lines:

subscribe BIOTECH-L
subscribe biotech-room3

Forum members wishing to register for the conference should leave out the first line of the above message. For more information, contact biotech-mod3@fao.org.

********************
[FROM THE BACKGROUND DOCUMENT]

5. POTENTIAL TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED IN THE CONFERENCE

Some of the kinds of specific questions that participants might wish to address in the e-mail conference are given below:

5.1 For first-generation liquid biofuels (i.e. from grains, seeds, oils):

- As described in Section 2.6, there are currently a number of concerns about first-generation biofuels. Can applications of biotechnology substantially alleviate any of these concerns? If so, how?

- For R+D programmes in developing countries, should applications of biotechnology focus on production of biomass for biofuel purposes or on bioconversion of biomass to liquid biofuels?

5.2 For second-generation liquid biofuels (i.e. from LC biomass):

- Second-generation biofuels, although not yet commercially available, are likely to be a reality in the future. How important is it for developing countries to be involved in the biotechnology-based R+D that will play a key role in their eventual availability? Alternatively, should developing countries prioritise other activities now and use the biotechnology tools/products for second-generation biofuels developed elsewhere (probably in developed countries) when they are eventually available on the market?

- Most of the world's industrial enzymes (60%) are produced in Europe, while the remaining 40% come from the United States and Japan, although countries like China, India and South Korea are likely to play a greater role in the future (Bon and Ferrara, 2007). For conversion of LC biomass to liquid biofuels, use of cellulases plays a key role in the economics of the operation. How realistic is it for developing countries to produce their own cellulases? Can regional co-operation be important here?

- As mentioned in Section 2.3, LC biomass can be converted to biofuels through two major routes, by thermo-chemical or biochemical processing, where only the latter involves extensive applications of biotechnology. For developing countries wishing to produce second-generation liquid biofuels, are there strong arguments in favour of one of the processing routes over the other?

5.3 For other kinds of biofuels

- Production of biodiesel from microalgae is not currently feasible but may be so in the future. As for other future biofuels, such as second-generation biofuels based on LC biomass, should developing countries invest their (generally scarce) biotechnology R+D resources in this area or should they wait until commercial products are available in the future? If so, which aspects should be prioritised?

- Small-scale biogas units are already operating in developing countries. Is there a role for biotechnologies in improving the operation/efficiency of these units? If so, how?

5.4 General questions

- The issue of the relevance for developing countries of bioenergy-related biotechnologies produced in developed countries was discussed briefly in Section 4.1. How important is this issue and what can developing countries do about it?

- Regarding IPR mentioned in Section 4.2, how big of an issue is this in relation to biotechnologies for bioenergy production in developing countries and how should developing countries act to ensure they have access to appropriate biotechnologies for bioenergy production?

- Regarding biofuel production for non-transport purposes (Section 4.3), can applications of biotechnology contribute in a significant way to the non-transport energy needs of people living in developing countries? If so, how?

- First generation biofuels and biogas are currently available, while second-generation biofuels and microalgal biodiesel are still in the pipeline. Should developing countries prioritise their biotechnology resources (people, money etc.) on the range of biofuels currently available or on those showing great promise but which will only be available in the future?

- In the biofuel sector today, some developing countries, in particular Brazil, are key players. In the context of applying biotechnology for bioenergy production, how important can South-South co-operation be so that technicians and experts in developing countries can help each other?

- Are certain applications of biotechnology for bioenergy purposes of major specific relevance/benefit to rural smallholders in one or more regions of the developing world? If so, which ones?

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 12 November 2008 09:22
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 1: Bioenergy - Certain issues and views

[Welcome everybody to this FAO e-mail conference that examines the role that agricultural biotechnologies can play for production of bioenergy in developing countries. About 400 of you have subscribed to the conference, living in all the different regions around the world and working in universities and research institutes, government ministries and non-governmental organisations, United Nations bodies, farmers' organisations and the private sector. It is a unique opportunity to share viewpoints and experiences and to debate the issues described in the background document. The four weeks available for this conference will go very fast, so we encourage you to participate actively right from the beginning to get the maximum benefit from it. Participants are also reminded, as Janaki has done below, to briefly introduce themselves in their first message to the conference and to try to limit their messages to 600 words...Moderator].

Hello! Everybody,

I am Dr P S Janaki Krishna from India. I am working as an 'Associate Professor (Biotechnology)' in the Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad, India. My areas of interest are biotechnology for rural development and emerging issues of biotechnology like intellectual property rights (IPRs) and biosafety, public-private partnerships in biotechnology, waste management and e-agriculture.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate FAO for coordinating an 'Electronic Forum' on a very contemporary and important issue like 'energy security' (which has become equally important as food security in this new/modern world) and how biotechnological interventions can help in achieving this objective through generation of 'bioenergy'.

Following are my views on some of the issues raised in the 'background document'.

By increasing the area of fuel crop production for generation of liquid biofuels of the first generation, there will be burden on food crops which raises the issue of food security versus energy security. Hence, the research and development (R&D) should focus on utilizing the non-food crops for extraction of biofuels and on means to increase their potential by identifying high oil yielding genotypes and developing protocols for large scale production of these crops (isolation of high-yielding tissue culture mutants of Jatropha, Pongamia, etc.). Developing cost effective technologies for utilization of agricultural wastes and identifying microorganisms that can effectively decompose the biomass to yield ethanol etc, isolation of enzymes from these microorganisms are other areas of biotechnological interventions. Though research is going on in this direction, concerted multi-disciplinary efforts are needed as establishing a viable 'bioenergy unit' needs both entrepreneurs and researchers including physiologists, plant breeders, microbiologists, biochemists, chemists and engineers etc. Technology transfer, commercialization of technologies, complying with the national and international regulations, awareness on regulations, quality control, cost are other major issues. Public-private partnerships for waste utilization and establishing the 'bioenergy units' also can be considered. If these units are encouraged in rural areas it can contribute to both farm/non-farm employment generation. However, many countries are lagging behind in exploiting the potential of non-food crops and agricultural waste for bioenergy generation as capacity building is the major issue.

If we can discuss some of the successful case studies also in this conference (from Brazil, US etc.) it would be useful.

Dr (Mrs) P S Janaki Krishna,
Subject Expert (Biotechnology)
Biotechnology Unit,
Institute of Public Enterprise
Osmania University Campus
Hyderabad - 500 007,
India
jankrisp (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 09:53
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 2: Some issues in background document

This is from Liaqat Hayat, Pakistan. I am a civil engineer by profession and have an interest in bio-engineering solutions to energy and environmental issues. Presently I am working as a freelance consultant with the construction industry.

Let me start by thanking FAO for arranging this conference on this important subject. I have the following initial thoughts on some of the issues raised in the background document.

1) Non-food crops needs with respect to biofuel production: What can be done in desert or semi-desert areas?

2) What are desired targets for energy security?

3) Regarding water scarcity, use of wastewater in agriculture after some very cost-effective treatment is an important means. It is treatment cost only which is in its way and biotechnology is an effective method to achieve this.

We need to discuss some sucessful case studies in this conference to draw our conclusions on realistic lines.

Mr. Liaqat Hayat
3-A, Street 70,
Sector F-8/3
Islamabad
Pakistan
liaqathayat5 (at) gmail.com

[The issue of water scarcity, briefly mentioned in Section 2.6 of the background document was the subject of the last conference of this Forum (entitled "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?", held in March 2007). The background document, all messages posted plus the summary document from the conference are available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/Conf14.htm. One of the topics discussed there was indeed the use of biotechnologies to assist in treating wastewater for re-use in agriculture. The background and summary documents from the conference have been brought together into a publication in the FAO Land and Water Discussion Paper series and this publication should be printed and available for distribution next month...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 13:34
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 3: Biofuels - wastewater, lack of commitment

This is from Jan Jansa, senior scientist in the group of plant nutrition at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), Switzerland.

Responding to Liaqat Hayat (message 2):

Efficient biofuel production will need more water than is available in desert/semi-deserts, so water inputs will certainly be mandatory. A water-independent option would be physical light collection using photovoltaics, mirror collectors, or simply water pipes with light-absorbing surfaces (OK, you need a bit of water for the last option).

However, when biofuels are the choice: Wastewater is probably the best nutrient solution available at nearly no costs. This will certainly help plants or microbes to grow, the dirtier the water the better. Attention will need to be exercised with wastewater from industrial facilities, which may carry lots of heavy metals/pollutants. A worry will be a potential biohazard of the wastewater for human/animal health while handling/transporting it, this could certainly be solved. The biofuel production system could and should also work as a biological wastewater treatment facility, winning energy at the same time. Many microbes can degrade even very "difficult" organic pollutants (antibiotics, pesticides, explosives etc.). Such a system will also close part of the nutrient cycles, and contribute to solving widespread lack of nutrient recycling in (agro-)ecosystems. This is because not only petrol, but also resources such as phosphate fertilizers are finite and will be exhausted in the next 1-2 centuries. They are currently being lost from the lands to the seas without any hope for reuse in the next millenia.

The major problem I perceive with biofuels, is the lack of serious interest in biofuels by the society/governments, lack of commitments, and therefore a lack of sustainable funding for R&D from both public and private sources. I cannot believe that research and establishment of sustainable energy future of the mankind is worth less than 1% of the current investment into the collapsing banking system (but the partitioning of finances does reflect this clearly). Who does tell this to the G8 presidents?

This lack of interest and rise of scepticism is certainly also because of the counter-productive and everlasting discussion about competition with food production. At the end of the day, everyone is turning back to the crude oil, undermining our children`s future, running into wars for energy etc. In fact, it makes agronomically really little sense to produce food in some parts of world in a way that is currently done - e.g. maize in equatorial Africa. It is only degrading soils (which is regarded as a resource with zero value anyway), giving only a fraction of the potential yield, and a false hope to the farmers. With current practices, they will anyway end up with bare rock under their feet in 20 years from now.

Would it be economically more sound to produce biofuels in these places using non-food plants (or other technologies), and buy food from more productive areas of the world? At fair conditions and prices... How to establish them in this unfair world? Which currency to use then?

I hope we could talk about these issues openly here. [These kind of issues can be discussed here, but in the context of the theme of this conference i.e. the role that biotechnologies can play for production of bioenergy in developing countries...Moderator].

Dr. Jan Jansa
ETH Zurich
Institute of Plant Sciences
FMG C23
Eschikon 33
CH - 8315 Lindau (ZH)
Switzerland
tel +41-52-3549216
fax +41-52-3549119
email: jan.jansa (at) ipw.agrl.ethz.ch

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 15:19
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 4: Biofuel crops in developing countries

I am K.K. Vinod, Senior Scientist (Plant Breeding) with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

At the outset, let me thank FAO for organising this e-mail conference on the role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries. Going through the background document, I understand that there is a great need to look for alternate form of fuels, and biofuels are one of the best options. There are a few points, I would like the conference to discuss:

a. Energy scarcity is not only a problem with the developing world. Developed countries consume much more of the non-renewable energy sources than developing countries. While developing countries have a more perpetual problem of hunger. Should we look for energy-yielding crops in the developing world over the food crops? We want to make more uncultivable land suitable for food production, and in that process should we accommodate biofuel crops in those reclaimed lands?

b. Biotechnological approaches are costlier, and developing countries may not be able to compromise their research efforts on food biotechnology to fuel biotechnology.

c. What should be the level of adoption of fuel biotechnology over food biotechnology i.e what should be the level of adoption of biotechnologies for food purposes compared to the adoption of biotechnologies for fuel purposes in the developing countries?

d. What would be the role of the developed world in supporting the efforts in developing biofuel crops in developing countries, where land and labour are available?

Dr K.K. Vinod
Senior Scientist (Plant Breeding)
Indian Agricultural Research Institute
Rice Genetics and Breeding Centre
Aduthurai 612101
Tanjavur District
Tamil Nadu
India
Phone: +91 435 2470308
Fax: +91 435 2471195
Cell: +91 94430 81539
kkvinodh (at) gmail.com
Alternate E-mail: kkvinod (at) hotmail.com
Web Address: http://kkvinod.webs.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 16:06
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 5: Sugar cane vs. oil palm

My name is Hanns-Andre Pitot, and I am working as a technical advisor in the fields of water, sanitation and environmental protection for DED (German Development Service) in Adjumani, Northern Uganda. My work includes recycling of organic waste (including human) into fertilizer products. Hence my interest in energy crops, which could give a boost to the local economy in and around Adjumani, as I am seeing it.

I'd also like to thank the organizers for setting up this conference, which is dealing with such a crucial and forward looking topic.

In the background document, I noted that sugar cane and oil palm are the highest yielding crops for bioethanol and biodiesel respectively, with oil palm presently yielding somewhat more, especially if the energy content of the respective fuels is taken into consideration.

My questions to the author and the participants are as follows:

1. How do the two plants compare in terms of their requirements in terms of soil, climate, fertilizer requirements, etc...

2. Once 2nd generation biofuels are developed, what yields could be expected from the two crops?

Best regards to everybody,

Hanns-Andre Pitot
Technical Advisor Water and Sanitation
Adjumani Town Council
Uganda
E-mail: hapitot (at) yahoo.com
Mobile: -256-777090279
DED - German Development Service

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 16:27
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 6: Genetic improvement of jatropha

I am Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy, Senior Scientist working in Mission Biofuels India Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, India. We are into establishing jatropha plantations on contract farming and buy-back agreement for 30 years with farmers. Farmers are cultivating jatropha in marginal and waste lands so that the fuel crop does not replace food crops (food vs. fuel).

We have around 3.5 lakh acres of jatropha plantations spread across 5 states in India, purely on contract farming, wherein we are providing the seedlings at cost to the farmers and services for better management of plantations for higher yield. [1 lakh = 100,000; 1 acre = 0.405 hectare...Moderator]

As developing countries have manpower and land for fuel crops without affecting the food crops; however, going ahead these developing countries require technologies for fuel crops. These technologies would come from developed countries. This way there is less dependance on developed countries for non-renewable energy.

We are working on genetic improvement of jatropha for higher seed yield and oil content through conventional breeding and molecular marker technology. By 2009, we will be evaluating few jatropha hybrids which are having higher yield potential compare to existing planting materials.

I mean biotechnological tools are not so expensive for further improvement of biofuel crops.

Thanks to FAO for coordinating this e-conference and the chance to share my experience and views.

Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy
Senior Scientist
Mission Biofuels India Pvt Ltd,
608, Powai Plaza
Hiranandani Buisness Park
Powai, Mumbai 400076.
India
Email: dr.chalapathy (at) missionnewenergy.com
Mobile: +91-9323623328

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 16:57
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 7: Re Biofuel crops in developing countries

I am PK Gupta, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding at Ch. Charan Singh University (CCS) University, Meerut, India.

I agree fully with the views expressed by KK Vinod (message 4), who echoed the views of many who are concerned with food security versus biofuels. Firstly, the food crops should not be diverted for production of biofuels, and the land where food crops can be grown should not be used even for crops designated as second generation biofuel crops.

In India, there is a major effort for utilizing jatropha for biofuels, and several institutes are using biotechnology to improve jatropha for biofuels. However, one wonders what fraction of fossil fuels can be replaced by these biofuels and at what cost. These aspects are being examined in several parts of the world, but despite the debate several food crops are still being diverted to production of biofuels.

One option is the use of microbes at a large scale for production of biofuel and bioenergy. Major efforts in this direction are being made and the conference should address this issue of increasing use of microbes rather than using food crops for biofuels.

In fact, there is also an urgent need to reduce our requirement for transport fuels, to meet the challenge. The consumption levels of fossil fuels have been increasing at an alarming rate, and more so in developing countries like India. The conference may like to address the issue of whether or not we can reduce consumption rather than using food crops as a replacement of fossil fuels.

I would like to read the views of other participants on the above.

Professor PK Gupta
Hon. Emeritus Professor and INSA Honorary Scientist
Meerut University,
Meerut
India
pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 November 2008 17:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 8: Biofuel crops in desert and semi-desert areas

My name is Uwe Bruenjes and I'm a Mexican entrepreneur who is always looking for advanced technologies for commercialization.

Regarding the possibility of raising whatever kind of crop for biofuel in deserts (mentioned by Liaqat Hayat in message 2), I feel like this is the best option. Granted, the production of palm oil per acre or hectare is higher than for example the production of the tallow-like substance produced by the Chinese Tallow Tree, but palms require good arable land, while the Tallow Tree does very well in deserts. So there won't be any competition with food production. And by the way, in the end the Tallow Tree produces more biofuel per surface area than Jatropha. Furthermore, I could imagine that the leaves and flowers could be composted and little by little improve the quality of the soil.

What do the other participants think about limiting fuel crops to deserts and semi-deserts?

Uwe Bruenjes
Calle Plan de Guadalupe #4025
Col. Los Nogales
Cd. Juarez, Chih. 32350
Mexico
ubrunjes (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 9: Re: Genetic improvement of jatropha

I am Donald Kugonza, an animal scientist in Uganda, but writing as a farmer of Jatropha.

I am happy to note that efforts are already underway to develop improved genetic material (e.g. message 6 by Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy). One key concern for potential farmers is the likely cost of the superior material, when/if it is released. Unless if governments invest in this area, not leaving it to the private companies of this world, who may get more interested in minting more from seed stock than from the oil production. This conference must clearly bring out the issue of energy security versus food security. In Africa, the establishment of forests to meet the carbon challenge is already in high gear, the biofuel efforts must seriously not jeopardize it.

Donald Rugira Kugonza
Department of Animal Science
Faculty of Agriculture
Makerere University
P.O. Box 7062 Kampala,
Uganda
Tel: 256-414-532269 (office),
256-414-389436 (home),
256-782-874551(mobile)
donkugonza (at) agric.mak.ac.ug

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 10: Bioenergy and agave

This is from Arturo Velez Jimenez in Mexico, I'm coordinating the Agave Project. This is a project in the R&D stage. The group fostering the project is formed by leaders of agave producers (two national organizations), one ethanol-related industry association, several biotechnology and energy researchers-scientists (so far eleven universities have been involved) and a couple of business developers. Our aim is to let the world know about the potential of agave to fight climate change, generate wealth and foster sustainable development, especially in poor semiarid regions. Our variety is not for sale. It hasn't even been patented yet. We are in the research stage.

Professor Remigio Madrigal Lugo at the University of Chapingo, Mexico, has developed 3 enhanced high-yield agave varieties (from 3 different species) after 29 years of research. These are not GMO. He also created and maintains the oldest germplasm centre in Mexico. His work is very relevant and we consider the scientific community and sustainable development oriented NGOs should know about it. We firmly believe that agave can play a very important role in providing hope and answers to the environmental and economic distress we are facing.

Agave can greatly contribute to the solution of mankind's worst problems: global warming, overpopulation, hunger, poverty, lack and dependence of oil, stagnation of the economy. The enhanced Agave tequilana weber cultivar developed by Professor Madrigal is the ideal feedstock for a truly sustainable bioeconomy. It produces 3 times more sugars than sugarcane (from 27 to 42 degrees Brix), 4 times more cellulose (26 tonnes/hectare/year) than the fastest-growing Eucalyptus, and 2 times more dry biomass (40 tonnes/hectare/year) than the GMO poplar tree designed in the USA for cellulosic ethanol production, hence fixing 2 times more CO2. No other plant in the world has such potential.

Agave has been used to produce tequila, an ethanol, for nearly three centuries, and can put an end to the 'food vs. fuel' dilemma: It is not food, doesn't disrupt commodities prices, it doesn't compete for farmland, thrives in semi-arid and marginal lands; needs neither watering nor agrochemicals; and needs very little labour. It is also the ideal feedstock for an integrated biorefinery that produces biofuels (ethanol, butanol, green gas, and a basic component for biodiesel production), co-generation of electricity and that produces biochemicals, biomaterials and bioproducts.

Arturo Velez Jimenez
Agave Project Coordinator
Alondra 76-1 Col. El Rosedal
Coyoacan, 04330
Mexico City
Mexico
proyectoagaves (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:34
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 11: Biotechnology experts for biofuel

I am Pablo Garcia Munoz from Mexico, I am an agronomist and I am doing my Ph. D. on Rural Sociology in the Chapingo Autonomous University, Mexico. I am taking interest in how the production of biofuels is going to change the rural society of Mexico and the consequences of it.

My participation has to do with Section 5.4 General questions of the potential topics on the background document to Conference 15 of the Forum:

In a developing country, the scarce available biotechnology experts for biofuel should not do their work independently from each other, neither should they investigate just based on parameters like publication of papers in international journals and in the pursuit of technological routes developed by research centers of the industrialized countries for their economic and rural conditions.

In the developing countries there should be integral bioenergy policies that are locally generated containing precise answers of what for producing biofuels and who is the main subject of the rural development. It is a matter of history that in the absence of those policies and regulations, the industries generate a boom with local feedstocks but finally smallholders are left and the devastated environment.

In this way, it is necessary that the experts in biotechnology of developing countries build their technological appliances considering the energy and market needs of the rural smallholders, considering how these appliances rebound in the relationship between producers and industry, how they can be made on a small scale, how this technology is going to be transferred, and to succeed in benefiting the rural producer with the transformation of their feedstocks.

The rural smallholder should be the beneficiary of the production of biofuels. Agricultural policies have displaced crops, generated degraded lands and marginalised regions, so the biotechnology element should answer the development needs of these regions, not to look at how these regions must adapt to, or be used by, the biotechnology appliances.

Biotechnology experts should work in common with agricultural scientists, extension technicians and learn with the rural people about the endemic germplasm, multiply materials with great potential for diverse agroecosystems, accelerate the process of selection of perennial crops, and offer excellent strains for full fermentation.

Developing countries should form personnel in specific endemic species, in specific processes for local lignocellulosic biomass, to improve small-scale biogas units and the transformation of local by-products for biofuels, assigning tasks to every entity to bring independence from the intellectual property rights of transnational industries as possible, so it is essential South to South co-operation.

In the trend of the nationalization of the oil resources by many countries, specially by democratic governments in Latin America, it makes feasible the introduction of biofuels based on their own needs and technological development.

Pablo Garcia Munoz, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student
Rural Sociology Department
Universidad Autonoma Chapingo
Mexico.
Km. 38.5 Carretera Mexico - Texcoco
C.P. 56230
52 595 952 16 27
Chapingo, Estado de Mexico.
Mexico
pablogarciamunoz (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:35
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 12: Indian jatropha contract farmers // energy security

My name is Paul Upham and I am a UK environmental social scientist at Tyndall Centre Manchester, University of Manchester. With colleagues at Manchester and Kings College London, one of the projects I am involved in is a study of stakeholder opinion of alternative feedstocks for 2030 UK biofuel and bioenergy supply.

Most contributors to this conference so far have been rightly concerned with food-fuel competition and latterly the issue of fuel/transport demand management was also rightly raised. I have a couple of questions and a comment.

Questions: What would the aforementioned contract farmers in southern India grow, if they were not growing jatropha? Does someone have information on this, please? Also, is the land that these farmers are using 'marginal' or not, and how is that being defined? [reference is to message 6, by Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy...Moderator]

A comment: Demand management, especially in the over-mobile, more affluent countries, cannot be the only solution to energy security, but it is nonetheless important. In the UK, one demand management option is enforcement of the 70mph (112kph) speed limit. Anable et al (2006) estimate that this could cut transport carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) per year (relative to 2006) and that a new 60mph limit could nearly double the savings, at 1.94 MtC per year (Anable et al, 2006). These savings compare favourably to the 1MtC net saving (calculated on a life cycle basis) originally expected annually via the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) by 2010 (DEFRA, 2006). In the UK, the RTFO is driving biofuel consumption and is incrementally obligating a 5% blend, though the UK government is now consulting on slowing the pace at which this 5% is approached (http://www.dft.gov.uk/rfa/reportsandpublications/reviewoftheindirecteffectsofbiofuels.cfm)

This is an interesting conference - thanks to FAO.

References
Anable, J, Mitchell, P and Layberry, R, 2006. Quick Hits 2. Limiting speed. (UK Energy Research Centre, Oxford), http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/Downloads/PDF/Q/Quick%20Hits/0610LimitingSpeed.pdf
DEFRA, 2006. Climate Change. The UK Programme 2006. (DEFRA, London), http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/ukccp/pdf/ukccp06-all.pdf

Paul Upham
Research Fellow
Tyndall Centre Manchester
Pariser Building
University of Manchester
M60 1QD
United Kingdom
paul.upham (at) manchester.ac.uk
Tel: 0161 306 3258
http://www.tyndall.manchester.ac.uk/
http://www.mbs.ac.uk/research/academicdirectory/viewprofile.aspx?sid=2273370&prev=2

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:35
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 13: Biofuel vs. food

This is from Bill Wason. I am president of an association involved in sustainable development in Northeast Brazil and also president of a new urban bio-alliance that is developing sister city relations between cities based on sustainability. I also do business development and finance projects in the biofuels sector in various locations globally, fuel and feedstock development.

I have been noting the posts with great interest. Some good ideas are expressed. However, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about food vs. fuel. It assumes that all land is being fully utilized, that we are getting good yields, that there is sufficient investment in infrastructure and that the only option is marginal land. In fact, in most developing countries the opposite is true. Yields are low due to lack of investment, irrigation, fertilizer, crop management and a whole set of agronomic issues. Very little investent occurs in agriculture because there is no structure to obtain long term offtake agreements and little investor interest in the sector because of risk, political and social issues and other factors.

The problem with growing biofuels in deserts is that you need water (except algae), risks are higher, yields are lower, leachate of fertilizer is more rapid, and there are poor soils. However, there are some crops that could do well in that environment and it is certainly a good idea to treat wastewater and use it for crops. Metals contamination can be dealt with in a good wastewater system or through source seperation.

The better view towards biofuels is to look at it as a huge source of investment funds that if directed in the right way will lead to production of both food and fuel on the same land. The production of oil for biodiesel leads to mostly meal (55-80% depending on type) and the meal or other by-products have high food value. Palm has less meal but other byproducts. Investors will invest in biofuel crops in developing countries and the resulting increase in meal can result in large improvements in food availability if this meal is used for meat or fish production. There is huge potential to put in simplified irrigation using small ponds and drip irrigation that is highly efficient and takes advantage of tropical fluctuations in rainfall. It is also important to feed to efficient meat converters (ostrich are much more efficient than cows and taste is similar), tilapia grows very fast, etc.

If you consider carefully good agronomy you will also understand that through either rotation of crops or co-planting you can get significant improvements in yields through co-planting of nitrogen fixing crops that result in fixation of nitrogen that reduces fertilizer inputs while producing valuable food crops. Examples include faba beans (up to 60% fixation of nitrogen), soy, black beans, lupens and other crops. With the right rotation (camelina, sesame, lupens and faba) you can eliminate the need for nitrogen while producing substantial volumes of oil. Other crops such as peanuts do well in sandy soil.

The most important consideration is productivity. Sugar cane has very high productivity per hectare (76 tons). While it is true that only 15% is used for ethanol, the balance can be used to produce 2nd generation fuels fairly easily and this will double the already good carbon balance of sugar cane ethanol. These fuels have better burning efficiency. Ethanol burning efficiency can also be improved if cars are optimized for it like in Brazil instead of optimizing for gasoline. Oil yields per hectare are very important and are a big drawback with crops like castor bean or jatropha, which so far have had poor yields. Anyone that assumes that soy acreage is expanding because of oil demand needs to consider its low yield when making that statement. Soy acreage is increasing only because we keep eating larger and larger amounts of cow meat and it is a good protein meal source. If you want good productivity, plant an oil seed tree with high productivity that does not require replanting every year and has high yields of oil per hectare. Palm meets that criteria but requires rainy areas that often create conflicts with rainforests (Indonesia), although new species of palm that are now being developed would allow doubling of yields on existing acres. Brazil has native trees (macauba) that can achieve 4 to 5 tons of oil per hectare and still allow food production between tree rows. All of these yields can increase if there is good irrigation in place and irrigation with small ponds allows for fish production.

There are also comments made about the inadequacy of biofuels as a solution. This is true if we do nothing about new cars being plug in hybrids or running on air or other options but this will come slowly. The problem is the transition period in new cars and the difficulty with trucks and other diesel engines. You are stuck with liquid fuels for a long time. You can get very large volumes of biofuels if you take existing yields and double them with irrigation and good science and then double the use of biomass with 2nd generation technologies. You also have solid waste that becomes possible with 2nd generation. In the US, conversion of all unrecycled waste could produce 18 billion gallons of fuel at a cost of about $2 per gallon.

If you want progress, insist that we burn liquid fuels more efficiently. Burning efficiency of fuels is only about 86% and much lower in developing countries. With additives, that number can move up to 98% and improve efficiency by 5 to 8%. With lube additives you can get another 5-7%. These solutions are cheap and very cost effective (additives at refinery level of 2.5 cents per gallon).

Biofuels are also blamed for rainforest destruction. While this may be true in Indonesia, it is not really true in the rest of the world. The destruction is occurring but it is mostly because of land grabbing, charcoal production, cattle farms or other factors. If you want to do something about it then make sure you actually get serious about avoided deforestation credits in the next post Kyoto period. It is unbelievable that in 17 years we have been unable to do this in UNFCC and it is time to work outside of it. Cut seperate deals to deal with large emitters like air and ship and tie up huge areas of jungles as carbon sinks. This is both possible and likely and much better than the EU response of trying to cut off all developing country biofuels from their borders with complex and very difficult sustainability and carbon calculations that are open to much dispute.

Bill Wason
biopure fuels
sustainable biobrazil
urban bio-alliance
17815 kings park #553
houston, TX 77058
United States
1 303 895 0249, 1 281 984 7225
brazil
55 61 8151 0665
55 98 3227 7439
willy_wason (at) yahoo.com
www.sustainablebiobrazil.com
www.biopurefuels.com
www.urbanbioalliance.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:36
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 14: Water security // biogas

I am Abdeslam Asehraou, professor of food microbiology and biotechnology at the Faculty of Sciences, University of Mohammed 1st, Morocco, and my research activity is mainly involved in food quality and processing based on microorganisms. And I am a member of organizing and scientific committees of the 1st national workshop on biofuels in Morocco, which will be held in Morocco next week (19-21 of November 2008).

I thank very much the FAO organisation for this conference allowing us, from countries with different levels of development to share our points of view on one subject, which is in my opinion: "security".

Because as it was stated, by Janaki Krishna from India, in message 1: energy security becomes equally important as food security. I agree with you Dr Krishna, but these 2 problems "food security" and "energy security" are separated geographically. When "food security" concerns developing countries, recently "energy security" appears as a new challenge for developed countries.

That's why; I think first of all, we have to share our knowledge on energy, particularly bioenergy. The most recent technologies, resources and benefits should be shared, without damaging the resources of the others. For example, wide number of cultivated lands in developing countries are suitable for biodiesel cultures, but water resources fail in these areas, leading to the statement said: exporting biodiesel is equal to exporting water resources. However, the introduction of adequate cultures in selected areas with high attention to water consumption should improve highly the livelihood of local population, leading to reduction of the rural exodus and illegal immigration.

The bioalcohols production competes directly with food supply, particularly the 1st generation. However, the 2nd generation may be accepted, but with high consideration to water consumption. This technology is more clean and safe for developing countries, in case it's based on microbial bioconversion of wastes to bioalcohols.

The production of biogas is well known as a source of bioenergy more than biodiesel and bioalcohols. This process, based on the fermentation of agricultural wastes to the methane, is experienced in certain rural areas of Morocco. The technology used is simple, and it's benefits are of great importance, since it reduces dependence of the rural population to the energy supply, and it reduces the forest degradation by population for energy supply.

These statements lead us to the other concept: "water security" which is universal for developing and developed countries. So, I think when we plan to produce bioenergy, we have to study the preservation of water resources firstly, food supply after and energy security at the end.

Therefore, in this context, developing and developed countries should act together to select the appropriate kind of bioenergy and technology, according to requirements and resources in water and food of the area in the same country.

Prof Abdeslam Asehraou
Department of Biology
Faculty of Sciences
University of Mohamed 1st
Oujda 60 000
Morocco
FAX: 212 36 50 06 03
e-mail: asehraou (at) fso.ump.ma
e-mail: asehraou (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:37
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 15: Molecular markers // Multidisciplinary collaboration

I am Shashi Bhushan Tripathi, working at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, India. My areas of research interest are molecular markers, gene expression and regulation. We are currently working on Jatropha and Pongamia under various public and private funded projects towards germplasm characterization and genetic improvement.

Molecular marker technology is one of the important biotechnological tools that can help in increasing the productivity of biofuels per unit area of land. However, like other technologies, this technology has little value in isolation. When combined with conventional methods, such as breeding and selection, marker technology has the potential to reduce the overall varietal development time to nearly 50%. As most of the non-edible oil crops are those for which improvement programs have just started or yet to start, molecular markers can provide valuable genetic information to breeders in short time. Several groups working on Jatropha in India have reported extremely low genetic diversity in Indian accessions which may be indicative of large number of duplicate or genetically redundant accessions being treated as separate accessions for genetic improvement and field trials. The most immediate contribution that these groups could provide in genetic improvement of this biodiesel species is by identifying heterotic groups within the studied accessions based on genetic dissimilarity which should be then passed to breeders along with the germplasm for further evaluation of this germplasm for important traits and hybridization.

Sharing of specific information and germplasm is a major hurdle which needs to be removed by developing mechanisms based on reasonable benefit-sharing. As genetic improvement requires support from multiple disciplines, including but not limited to agronomy, biochemistry, pathology and genetics, a free flow of information across research groups from all these disciplines is a must.

I believe, the present conference will help in amalgamation of research groups with complementary strengths for genetic improvement of these non-edible oil crops.

Shashi Bhushan Tripathi, PhD.
Fellow
Biotechnology and Management of Bioresources Division
The Energy and Resources Institute
India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road
New Delhi- 110003,
India.
Tel. (91)-011-24682100 extn. 2528.
(91)-09811870528 (Mobile)
E-mail: sbhushan (at) teri.res.in
Website: www.teriin.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:37
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 16: Are soils and waters enough for feed and fuel?

I am Dr Naima Kolsi Benzina from Tunisia. I am working as an 'Associate Professor' (soil sciences) in the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia. My areas of interest are soil, soil and water salinity, soil fertilization, fertigation, organic and mineral soil amendments, soil pollution and compost agronomic use.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate FAO for coordinating this conference. Following are my views on some of the issues raised in the 'background document':

By increasing the area of fuel crop production, areas for food production are decreased and hunger in many countries can be increased. Before developing fuel crop production, we need to think about needs of feeding production; soil resources; water resources; and to evaluate such cost production competition with food production.

We have to think about water use for the fuel crop production. We have to keep on mind the absolute priority of feeding population against producing fuel. In some areas with limited water volume, one has first to evaluate if this water is enough to water crop production.

Soil resources in many developing countries are also limited. Some of us can think about using desert areas for this production. But we need to know that any vegetal production has both water and soil fertility needs. Deserts lackwater, but also and often they lack the good layer of the soil to produce crops.

Some may think to use these deserts as inert subtracts and to add any needs as fertilizers. Such production would cost a lot, and a liter of such fuel would cost a lot!!!

I think, humanity has to think more about economy of such fuel production. And all researchers have a big responsibility to point on these problems.

Solution of lack of fuel in the world could be in a better thinking on our use of the energy. Economy in this use needs to be adopted either at the industry level than at each person level.

Fuel crop production has to be developed on polluted soil or polluted subtract that never can be used for agronomic production.

Dr. N. Kolsi Benzina
Soil Science and Environnent Laboratory
Institut National Agronomique de Tunisie
43, Av. Charles Nicole
1082 Tunis Mahrajene
Tunisia
Kolsinb (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:38
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 17: Molecular tools and lignocellulosic ethanol

This is from Chitra Raghavan. I am a post-doctoral fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

This message is in continuation of concerns raised by Dr. KK Vinod (message 4) and Prof. PK Gupta (message 7).

What the scientific community is aiming at is to diversify the source of energy (renewable and sustainable) and biofuels is going to be one of the options. With regards to the comment in message 7 that "food crops should not be diverted for production of biofuels, and the land where food crops can be grown should not be used even for crops designated as second generation biofuel crops", I would like to bring to attention the concept of lignocellulosic ethanol.

The current project I am involved with and many other groups are aiming at using molecular tools is to make use of lignocellulosic matter (e.g. straw) from crop plants (post-harvest) for bioethanol production. Therefore, cultivated crops would be used for both food and fuel.

I look forward to comments on the use of lignocellulosic matter as a source for biofuel.

Chitra Raghavan, PhD
School of Applied Sciences,
RMIT University,
Bundoora, Victoria, 3083,
Australia
chitra.raghavan (at) rmit.edu.au

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:39
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 18: Biodiesel projects in rural areas

This is from Liaqat Hayat, Pakistan, again.

I have following comments in response to Uwe Bruenges in massage 8. From the discussion held so far, for countries with food security as an issue, cultivation of biofuel crops may focus on land that would not otherwise be used for crop cultivation. The use of non-food feedstocks such as Jatropha and Moringa trees may also be encouraged so as to have minimal impact on food prices due to biofuel production. Sugar cane and corn in developing countries as feedstock of biofuel may impact adversely food prices for the poor. Jatropha grows well on marginal lands and does not require more than 400 to 500 mm of rainfall per year and can withstand long draught period. Use of algae production, water hyacinth and human waste for production of biofuel in rural set up also need to be used with a multiple benefit scenario. Similarly, small scale development projects linked to biofuel can also play an important role and a key factor if an access to affordable financing is provided as small farmers need working capital for purchase of seeds, equipment, debt and equity financing to built up biofuel businesses.

In order to affectively contribute at small scale level in rural scenario, biofuel projects need following considerations in developing countries:

a) Use of energy crops that can be grown on marginal/desert/semi-desert land requiring limited output (water, fertilizer, equipment and skilled manpower)

b) Support small scale projects that focus on bioenergy and its development for rural communities for income generation.

The above approach may induce small farmers towards producing fuel for their own use or community application in this age of energy scarcity. Biodiesel production is the first step towards this end as it lends itself better to rural communities with biodiesel crops grown on marginal lands. The waste product can also be used as fertilizer, medicine etc. We therefore need to identify compatible technologies for biodiesel in phase 1 of our plans so that small farmers are able to start such ventures without much difficulty. Completion of 1 or 2 successful ventures may lead to more such projects or similar projects on other relevant aspects.

Mr. Liaqat Hayat
3-A, Street 70,
Sector F-8/3
Islamabad
Pakistan
liaqathayat5 (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:39
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 19: Drylands myth

My name is Daniel McGahey and I work as a pastoralism advisor to SOS Sahel International UK which has been working to support the livelihoods and environments of people throughout the Sahel for over 20 years. A Geographer by training, I have been working on social and environmental problems in the world's drylands for most of my career (desertification, poverty, livelihoods), and recently completed my Doctorate at Oxford University. Most recently I have been working on what the biofuel land-scarcity issue and talk of expanding the production of inedible dryland feedstocks into wastelands or degraded drylands means for people living in these areas. There are several major points which we believe these discussions are missing.

First, the potential of existing dryland feedstocks such as Jatropha is being hyped up by bioenergy companies seeking investment in what they want us to believe is a sustainable feedstock. Recent research has been focused at improved varieties under intensive irrigated plantation conditions and we don't know what yields are likely under rainfed conditions in different dryland agro-ecological zones. The crop needs irrigating in areas with less than 500mm/yr rainfall and yields are poor on degraded soils. In reality these crops are competing for prime agricultural land and water needed for food crops.

More fundamentally, the idea that there are vast wastelands just waiting to be converted into biofuel plantations resulting in immediate carbon sequestration gains, increased economic returns and without competing for food security is flawed and refuted by over 20 years of social and natural science. Globally, drylands cover 25 per cent of the world and are home to between 100 to 200 million pastoralists. This land is vital to food security of millions of people for food, fuel, grazing and income.

The idea that these areas are economically useless has recently been challenged. There are direct (i.e. milk, meat etc) and indirect (i.e. environmental services) economic returns from the mobile pastoralists that graze their livestock on these lands and these need to be compared to the costs of converting permanent pastures to biofuels. Pastoralism contributes significantly to national GDP. In Kyrgystan it accounts for 20 percent of GDP. Pastoralism also provides environmental services and is now recognized as the linchpin to solving some global environmental concerns such as biodiversity, desertification, climate change (carbon sequestration in grasslands). As the focus for biofuels is currently resting on more favorable pastoral areas, the cost of losing these dry season refuges is that more degradation and overgrazing occurs elsewhere with resulting carbon losses.

Someone commented that dryland farming is inefficient and degrades soils. In fact many long-term studies have shown that under increasing population pressure and intensive use, dryland smallholders actually improve soil fertility, soil conservation and forests (See Tiffen and Mortimore). No one would deny that an agricultural revolution in Africa is desperately needed and could boost export earnings. There may well be some areas of degraded drylands where growing crops such as Jatropha could improve the environment, provide increased economic returns and rural employment. However, there are some major uncertainties regarding this approach and many questions need to be answered before we rush to back this idea. Unfortunately, as we speak some biofuel companies are exploiting weak policy contexts in Africa and clearing vast areas of pastoral land for Jatropha before clarifying these issues. Business models are also poorly understood and it may be financially unsustainable in the long term. Thus there may be other motives for expanding into drylands and as the crop is toxic to livestock and grows for up to 50 years these changes are permanent and the risks far higher than converting permanent privatized pastures which can be mechanically reseeded. We need to raise awareness of the fact that the world's drylands are not necessarily the panacea to problems created by our unsustainable, carbon hungry lifestyles.

Daniel McGahey
Research Consultant
SOS Sahel UK
The Old Music Hall
106-108 Cowley Road
Oxford
OX4 1JE
UK
DanielMcGahey (at) sahel.org.uk
tel: +44 1865 403305
fax: +44 1865 403306
www.sahel.org.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 14 November 2008 19:40
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 20: Re: Some issues in background document

This is from Dr K Kumaran, Associate Professor in Forestry from Forest College India. My expertise is in the field of tree borne oilseeds and dyes from trees.

Responding to Liaqat Hayat (message 2):

Biofuel production is possible in semi-desert areas with species like Simarouba glauca which could tolerate drought conditions for a long period; but it also needs minimal water for establishment. However, the productivity is directly correlated to the moisture and nutrients only. As Jan Jansa (message 3) was mentioning, wastewater could be used for this purpose but there is a question whether the heavy metals will enter into the chain and finally may lead to more hazardous automobile smokes

Regarding Hanns-Andre Pitot's question (message 5) on sugarcane and palm oil, both the crops need more irrigation; already both are being utilized in India; but oil palm mostly for edible purpose. We have other options like Simaruba and Pongamia pinnata. Simaruba is suitable for varied climatic and soil conditions and it is more drought tolerant. Moreover the seeds contain around 55-65% oilcontent while Pongamia pinnata requires irrigation during peak summer and oil is highly suitable for biodiesel production (already in use in India).

Dr. K. Kumaran, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (Forestry)
Forest College and Research Institute
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Mettupalayam 641301
India
drkkmail (at) gmail.com
Phone: Off:04254222010 Ext. 202
Res:04254225795
Mobile:9443377970
Fax: 04254225064

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:12
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 21: Bioenergetic constraints to feedstock production for bioenergy

This is from two people. From Dr. Ranjit Mitra, who is is a plant biochemist and the former Head of the Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), Mumbai, India. It is also from Dr. C.R. Bhatia, who is a geneticist and plant breeder. He was the former Director, Bio-Medical Group, BARC and later chief of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, New Delhi.

Bioenergetic constraints to feedstock production for bioenergy.

This communication is to draw attention of the conference participants to (1) the bioenergetic limitations in enhancing feedstock productivity through genetic/biotechnology applications and (2) the need for positive energy balance in feedstock production and its processing for liquid biofuels. Bioenergetic constraints originate from intrinsic thermodynamic considerations on production and utilization of basic assimilates and cannot, perhaps, be overcome through genetic manipulations.

Bioenergetic constraints:

Feedstock production for bioenergy, like crop production, is essentially an energy conversion process utilizing the incident light energy and atmospheric CO2 that are converted to chemical bond energy in the form of glucose during photosynthesis. Conversion efficiencies of substrate (glucose) to phytomass were originally estimated as production value (PV), (reference Penning de Vries et al. (1974) in J. Theoretical Biology 45: 339-377), defined as weight of the end product divided by the weight of the substrate required for C-skeletons and energy production. 1/PV gives the amount of glucose required for the production of 1 g of the end product. The PV for carbohydrates, hemicellulose, lignin, proteins and lipids are 0.862, 0.677, 0.465, 0.404 and 0.330 respectively. Thus the assimilate requirements for phytomass with different chemical composition can be estimated. The amount of sugar required for biosynthesis of 1g of leaves, non-woody stem, woody stem and soybean seed respectively are 1.105, 1.153, 1.515 and 2.083 g of glucose. The total energy content of the biomass is always the sum of the heat of combustion values of its components. We have previously analyzed, (references available on request), the bioenergetic constraints in increasing the biological and grain yield, harvest index, oil, protein, amino acid, fatty acid composition of grain and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses in food crops. Similar constraints apply for the feedstock production.

Positive energy balance:

A positive net energy balance (energy input/output ratio) is necessary both for the production of feedstock and also for its processing into biofuels to make bioenergy sustainable and economically viable. Water, plant nutrients and energy remain the main physical limitations even when spare land can be allocated for biofuels. The choice of the feedstocks will naturally vary from country to country depending on their current food production and demand. Among the various options available, increasing the phytomass productivity is the best from bioenergetic and nitrogen input considerations. Improving the harvest index for the grain or enhancing the lipid content in oil rich seeds such as soybean would demand more carbon assimilates. Enhanced fixation of CO2 in the phytomass and its increased sequestration into soil organic matter contributes to reduction in the atmospheric CO2. However, soil as a long term sink for atmospheric C has been questioned.

Current options for developing countries:

At present, developing countries should focus on the identification of the best feedstock option for bioenergy and aim to enhance its productivity with minimal inputs of water, plant nutrients, pesticides and energy. When technologies are ready for conversion of lignocellulosic phytomass from different sources to liquid biofuels, they may turn out to have the highest net energy gain.

Dr. Ranjit Mitra
6 Madhulika, Sector 9-A,
Vashi, New Mumbai - 400 703,
India
ran_41 (at) yahoo.co.in
and
Dr. C.R. Bhatia
17 Rohini, Plot 29-30, Sector 9-A,
Vashi, New Mumbai - 400 703,
India
neil (at) bom7.vsnl.nert.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:13
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 22: Biogas units - methane fermentation and biofertilisers

My name is Ruzena Svedelius. I am a horticulturist and agronomy doctor in Sweden; retired, working for NGO/environment; born in Czechoslovakia; a grandmother - worried for coming generations future. Areas of interest: plant nutrients recycling, bioenergy, bioconversion, quality of soil and substrate for ecological cultivation, sustainable waste and wastewater management, environmental technology, holistic approach in planning...

Suggestions:

I. An efficient methane fermentation in closed systems, with the production of cultivation adapted biofertilizers, is 'The Application of Biotechnology for bioenergy purposes' that would give benefits to all the people in the world as follows: access to renewable energy, lower pollution, improvement of cultivated soils, minimize the use of artificial fertilizers, agro-chemicals and fossil fuels, and give plenty of new life-supporting 'green jobs'.

Methane in biogas can be produced from all kinds of renewable organic material (ROM) originated from plant, animal and microbial biomass, such as organic residues and waste from all human activities and from energy crops.

The two main necessities for success are:

1) To set up international rules/laws (and control of them) based on biology and sustainability;
2) To develop novel technology supporting microorganisms carrying the process.

For successful bioconversion are needed:

a) An appropriate pre-processing system, which includes collecting, transporting, shredding and mixing various types of ROM, and where all factors are adjusted to the requirements of the microorganisms carrying out the bioconversion.

b) Production of several types of batch bioreactors for efficient methane fermentation for various purposes needs to be started. In developed countries they should be equipped with the advanced technology for steering and regulation that is already used in other processes. In developing countries, simple equipment can be used already now - to start as soon as possible - later they can have access to the same advanced systems. Enzymes and other additives can be used for increasing the efficiency of bioconversion i.e. giving a higher yield of energy-rich methane. Methane can be transformed to electricity, heat or used as biofuel for transport. It would be possible to build small or large plants, both in urban and rural districts depending on local needs, in all countries.

c) There will also be produced a second valuable product - biofertilizer - that contains the remaining bioenergy and most of the plant nutrients from the ROM. The bioenergy in biofertilizers is very important for soil microorganisms, and should be evaluated in economical terms.

Regarding increasing soil degradation worldwide and limited water resources in many countries, biofertilizers are necessary for the production of biomass, as they improve the physical, chemical and biological properties of cultivated soils. For example, biofertilizers increase the water holding capacity, cation exchange capacity, elasticity, and microbial diversity and activity of most soils. The importance for soil fertility/productivity is still not highly enough valued. All the positive factors affect positively cultivated crops, food and feed quality as well as human, and animal, heath.

The production of liquid biofuels is doubtful (see concerns in Section 2.6 in the background document). The thermo-chemical processes are expensive and cause emissions to air and water. Neither system is sustainable (ecologically, economically and socially).

Incineration of waste and sewage sludge is the most awful way to destroy ROM in an expensive and polluting manner. Sewage sludge is a product of end-of-the-pipe solution. This system is extremely damaging to water and can be avoided by use of novel hygienic toilets without water, that give possibility to utilize human excreta as one of the feedstocks for effective methane fermentation.

Present composting facilities produce 30% compost - losses of energy and nutrients are obvious as well as polluting emissions. During research on composting in bioreactors, 85% of the feedstock's weight became fertilizer of reproducible quality.

II. My idea is to build a laboratory containing several bioreactors for testing various mixtures of ROM and to describe the best 'recipes' giving fast and high methane production. Remaining organic material will be adjusted to the cultivation needs in ecological farming.

Dr. Ruzena Svedelius,
Nobbelovs Torg 29, SE 226 52 Lund
Sweden
Biological Transformation of Renewable Organic Material
Phone +46 707 33 11 20
E-mail: rsvedelius (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:14
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 23: Relevance to developing countries // Microalgae

My name is Dele Raheem, a food scientist and consultant in the UK with special interest in African and developing countries.

It is interesting to read from contributors on this conference, I have thoroughly enjoyed the background info and related comments. On the relevance of biodiesel and biofuel to African countries, especially as related to the food supply and the current credit crunch, it is worthwhile to prioritise how much effort and technology to be allocated to realise these objectives. It will be worthwhile that the food supply in countries with teeming population (and still increasing) is kept buoyant mainly by diversifying from existing food crops.

The second generation of biofuel i.e lignocellulosic, sounds more appropriate for the needs of African countries. How much cooperation is being embarked upon towards this goal at present? The cultivation of food crops for food and the utilisation of non-edible parts for energy should be appropriate. The case of old and forgotten crops/grains in Africa readily comes to my mind.

The use of microalgae is a good idea and more research on its viability and appropriateness for developing countries will be rewarding. I trust that we will have more light being shed on these vital areas during the course of this FAO e-conference.

May we be inspired and well guided in our decisions.

Dr. Dele Raheem
Broadholme Street,
Nottingham,
United Kingdom
draheem (at) gmail.com
+44 7747156868

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:14
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 24: GM biofuel crops

This is from Julie Newman, Australian farmer (10,000 ha).

How sustainable is the adoption of crops for biofuel? If crops are genetically modified (GM) for fuel, how will contamination of food crops be managed? Currently, the onus is on the non-GM grower to prove a GM-free status of our produce and accept all costs and liabilities for recalling the non-GM product if unacceptable GM content is found. If GM biofuel crops are dangerous to consume, no farmer will accept this risk and farmers will be restricted from growing food crops. It is therefore imperative that it remains possible for farmers to grow uncontaminated food crops that consumers are demanding.

The widespread adoption of new agricultural techniques in industrialised countries such as USA, Canada and Australia, has led to a gradual reduction of number of farmers along with the increase of average size of farms as the "get big or get out" principle has been promoted. As the adoption of new technologies was delayed in developing countries, the change was far more rapid leading to mass migration of subsistence farmers to city slums in countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.

It is claimed there is an increased demand for food and that grain production is at risk with global warming which will result in insufficient food to feed the global population.

Farmers can not afford to grow a crop without a profit. While the corporate sector is profiting well from patents and cost increases in upstream and downstream agriculture, the average farm income is reducing. As high cost agriculture is aimed at high yields that can fail due to adverse seasonal conditions, the risk is high. This will lead to less area being planted or lower yields due to an inability to afford to use "best-practice".

Corporate companies that have invested in biotechnology are driven by the requirement to make money, not to provide a service to the community. Research and development (R&D) investment and alliances in biotechnology is an attraction to corporate companies as there is far more ability to profit from farmers due to restrictive contracts and expensive seeds. The more intellectual property, patents and alliances involved in R&D, the less likely it is that farmers can afford to pay for the product. As it is not an economic proposition for farmers to pay more than a product is worth, any adoption of new technology is restricted by the performance of the technology compared to the cost.

The corporate links with public researchers were originally aimed at profiting from patenting seed and an ability to consolidate the entire food chain. GM crops met market rejection in the food industry which restricted GM crops to soy, corn, cotton and canola which escaped labelling. These crops are used for biofuel and it is reasonable to presume that the aim is also to consolidate the production and development of biofuels. Consolidation of an industry can only result in increased costs to the consumer due to reduced competition.

Policy makers need to be very cautious to ensure that farmers' options are not price prohibitive or restricted to prevent the production of food crops.

Julie Newman
National Spokesperson,
Network of Concerned Farmers
P.O. Box 6
Newdegate, 6355
West Australia
Phone 08 98711562
email: julie (at) non-gm-farmers.com
www.non-gm-farmers.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:15
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 25: Striking a balance between the food and fuel biotechnology

This is from K.K. Vinod again.

Going through the posts in the conference, it was particularly interesting to read the postings from Arturo Velez Jimenez (message 10) and Chitra Raghavan (message 17) who were suggesting the use of cellulose and alcohol from plants. As I understand, lignocellulosic ethanol has tremendous potential in providing biofuels. When I read this together with Mr Jimnez's experience with agave and the history of tequila, I see that agave can be a potential candidate that countries like India should look into, for which agave can grow in desert conditions where reclamation of land for food crops may not be feasible.

Adding more to the alternate sources of biofuel crops in India, I must agree with Dr Kumaran (message 20), where one can think of oil yielding plants like Pongamia glabra (karanja), Madhuca indica and M. longifolia (mahua), Simaruba glauca etc. Besides in India, government is supporting extensively in growing other crops of industrial importance like rubber extensively. Though rubber is grown for latex, its seeds contain about 25-30% oil which is not used except in varnish industries. The states of Kerala and Tripura are annually producing tremendous amount of rubber seeds which are otherwise wasted. There are many studies of using rubber seed oil as an alternate form of biofuel (Ikwuagwu et al, 2000; Ramadhas et al., 2005). Many other biofuel crops including rubber are extensivley discussed in a recent book by Pandey (2008).

Prof P.K. Gupta (message 7) rightly defined the perspective in which the food and fuel crop biotechnology should be looked into. As I understand from the discussions of this conference, there is a general trend emerging that many private entrepreneurs are interested in bioenergy crops and are investing money. Contract farmers of southern India (message 6) for example. As Prof Abdeslam Asehraou (Message 14) rightly pointed out, fuel security is a problem of developed countries rather than of developing countries. So are these private partners in developing countries working towards energy security of the developed world? Profit alone seems to be the motive here. So I still repeat my earlier question in message 4: How should we strike a balance between the food and fuel biotechnology in the developing country? What can a government do to secure that land is primarily used for food rather than fuel in the developing world? Here one must remember that having money in hand we cannot live, we need food to eat.

References:
Ikwuagwu et al. (2000). Industrial Crops and Products, 12(1): 57-62.
Ramadhas et al. (2005) Fuel 84(4): 335-340
Pandey, A (2008) Handbook of Plant Based Biofuels. CRC Press. 300p.

Dr K.K. Vinod
Senior Scientist (Plant Breeding)
Indian Agricultural Research Institute
Rice Breeding and Genetics Research Centre
Aduthurai 612101
Tanjavur District
Tamil Nadu
India
Phone: +91 435 2470308
Fax: +91 435 2471195
Cell: +91 94430 81539
kkvinodh (at) gmail.com
Alternate E-mail: kkvinod (at) hotmail.com
Web Address: http://kkvinod.webs.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:15
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 26: contract farmers // genetic improvement of trees

This from Dr. K. Kumaran, again.

In response to Paul Upham (message 12): For your question on contract farming in southern india, the contract farming has been taken up with a quadpartite approach viz., farmers, industry, research institute and financial institutions. contract farming encourages species like eucalyptus, casuarina, subabul, bamboos for pulpwood and jatropha, oil palm for biodiesel. Contract farming has been taken up mostly in cultivable lands, partially in marginal lands because the system involves cultivation of high yielding clones of above mentioned species.

As a tree breeder for more than two decades, genetic improvement of tree crops is not easily achievable because of its gestation period which is a hindrance for early genetic stabilization of traits. But there is a possibility of developing hybrid clones through selection and mass multiplication by vegetative means.

Dr. K. Kumaran, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (Forestry)
Forest College and Research Institute
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Mettupalayam 641301
India
Phone: Off: 04254222010 Ext.202
Res: 04254225795
Mobile: 9443377970
Fax: 04254225064
drkkmail (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:16
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 27: Scientific debates on 2 biofuel issues

This is from PK Gupta again. In continuation of my earlier message (nr. 7), I wish to draw the attention of participants of this conference to several recent reports, published in the weekly magazine Science, debating the following two issues (see Science, 29 February 2008, pp 1235-1238 (by J. Fargione et al); 11 July 2008, pp 199-201 (letters) and ; November 14 2008, pp. 1044-1045).

(1) It has been argued that land-use change (land clearing through fire and other means for biofuels) and use of degraded lands for biofuels would lead to increased emission of greenhouse gases. Therefore, it is suggested that mainly waste biomass and perennials be used for biofuels. However, these assumptions have been criticized by others (see Science 11 July 2008, p. 199).

(2) The other issue deals with growing switchgrass alone versus growing switchgrass mixed with 15 other native perennial grasses for biofuels. An analysis of 12 years data had suggested that the mixed plots delivered more than twice the yearly biomass per hectare - suggesting that for producing biofuel feedstocks, the mixtures are more stable than monoculture, and more environmentally friendly. In this study, it was assumed that different species occupy different ecosystem niches and perform different functions (e.g. adding nutrients to the soil or resisting drought). Therefore, it was also argued that mixtures of prairie grasses can thrive on marginal lands without energy intensive inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation. In addition, they also argue that mixed crops can boost biodiversity and replenish depleted soils. Therefore, the proposal to grow the mixtures as ethanol feedstocks, published earlier in the 8 December 2006 issue of Science (p. 1598-1600, D. Tilman et al), won appreciation from top ecologists and inspired the U.S. Congress and some states in USA to adopt this idea for growing mixtures in major national biomass-planting program. However, this idea also drew criticism from many agronomists.

Professor PK Gupta
Hon. Emeritus Professor and INSA Honorary Scientist
Meerut University,
Meerut
India
pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 17 November 2008 17:16
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 28: Microorganisms / genetic modification / protoplast fusion

I am Sylvia Uzochukwu from the Biotechnology Centre of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

I agree with Professor Gupta (message 7) that developing countries should look in the way of microbes for biofuel production, rather than using food crops. Africa has poor soils and fertilizers are insufficient for food crops. Using the little there is, to grow crops for biofuel, might aggravate the already desperate food situation in developing countries, especially in Africa.

Using genetically improved Jatropha, grown on marginal lands as mentioned by K. Chalapathy Reddy (message 6), is also a good approach for avoiding competition with food crops. Perhaps genetic modification or protoplast fusion might give faster results than genetic improvement by conventional breeding.

The oil palm yields the highest amount of oil per unit land area, but the problem is that in developing countries such as those in Africa, we don't produce enough of it to meet food uses. So what will happen when it becomes an export for biodiesel? Again, genetic modification or protoplast fusion could give yields high enough to accomodate both food and fuel needs.

Thus, focusing more on microorganisms for biofuels will address concerns associated with food security in developing countries.

Thank you all, and thank you FAO for helping us learn from each other through your e-conferences.

Prof. Sylvia Uzochukwu
Director
Biotechnology Center
University of Agriculture
Abeokuta,
Nigeria
E-mail: suzochi (at) yahoo.com
Phone:+234-803-353-1178

[Protoplast fusion is the induced or spontaneous coalescence of two or more protoplasts (i.e. a bacterial or plant cell for which the cell wall has been removed, leaving its cytoplasm enveloped by a peripheral membrane) of the same or different species origin. Where fused protoplasts can be regenerated into whole plants, the opportunity exists for the creation of novel genomic combinations. (FAO biotechnology glossary, http://www.fao.org/biotech/index_glossary.asp). Using the technique, several new interspecies and intergeneric hybrids have been created (http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/006/T2114E/T2114E09.htm) ...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 20 November 2008 10:12
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 29: Relevance to developing countries // Microalgae and the role of biotechnology

This is from Alessandro Flammini. I am working for the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) Secretariat since 2007, based at FAO Headquarters. Before joining GBEP, I worked in the energy and industrial statistics division of the United Nations Secretariat in New York and in the strategic partnerships and resources mobilization group of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna. My background is in industrial engineering and business management with a special focus on energy.

Responding to message 23 by Dele Raheem: Thank you for the introducing the issue of technology, viability and appropriateness of advanced biofuels for developing countries. The so called 'second-generation' conversion technologies are supposed to circumvent the food-fuel debate using ligno-cellulosic feedstocks to produce biofuels that do not compete with agricultural products, using not specifically dedicated cultures and widening the type of biomass that can be used, including industrial scrap material and a part of urban and agricultural waste. It is clearly important that policies to encourage use of biofuel produced from wastes, residues, and other feedstocks that require little land or land that is otherwise of low ecological and socio-economic value (including unsuitable for food production) are developed. In this context, the alternative options for use of such wastes and residues should also be considered. The enormous increase of available feedstock deriving from advanced biofuel production (from advanced feedstocks like algae and/or from advanced conversion technologies that can deploy the ligno-cellulosic part of the plant) should in this way increase the quantity of biofuels produced with a consequent decrease of costs. Second-generation technologies are already available and technically viable, although processing costs are still high and further research is needed to make these technologies economically sustainable.

One of the most promising feedstocks at this time, in terms of cost effectiveness and efficiency of the overall process seems to be micro-algae. Algae-based biofuel production is currently attracting great interest and important investments from the private sector and it is regarded as the new 'silver bullet' of the biofuel sector. Algae-based biofuels could potentially improve upon the potential negative impacts regarding the environment compared to traditional biofuel production, on top of a number of other benefits (harvest throughout most of the year, use of less freshwater...). The biofuel produced can be customized on the basis of the algal species used and the systems employed (this includes biodiesel, ethanol, aviation fuels like kerosene, renewable diesel, biocrude, biogasoline). Also the energy yields are significantly higher than first-generation biofuel (45000-130000 litre/hectare/year compared to 6000 litre/hectare/year of oil palm, one of the most productive feedstocks available). Algae for biofuel production can be grown in closed photo-bioreactors systems (PBRs), in open ponds, in dark bioreactors and they basically need only CO2 and NO2. Closed photo-bioreactors allow the use of these systems for algaculture in combination with coal power plants, capturing carbon dioxide and fixing it in the biomass produced.

A number of research centres and international organizations are getting more and more interested in these new technologies for biofuel production in order to assess their real impact and the net benefits that could derive in comparison with other energy crops. In this regard, FAO has recently established a working group (the Aquatic Biofuel Working Group) under the umbrella of the FAO Inter-Departmental Working Group on Bioenergy that is addressing the sustainability concerns linked to algae-based biofuel production and its suitability for developing countries.

Since this sector is relatively new for FAO and no official position exists at this time, one of the first activities that the working group is carrying out is to assess the suitability of these technologies for developing countries and their impacts on the three dimensions of the sustainability (environmental, economic and social). To identify the different outcomes in terms of sustainability resulting from selected production paths, as well as related management systems compared to the most common biofuel production paths before concluding that the technology is appropriate for developing countries is paramount. Also, technological capacity is just one of the aspects that should be taken into account along with capacity of institutions and policy-makers, in particular in equatorial regions.

In this context, genetic modification and metabolic engineering are likely to have the greatest impact on improving the economics of production of algae-based biofuel and some specific applications of biotechnologies that might be considered include increasing the biomass yield; increasing the biomass growth rate as well as the oil content in the biomass; and improving temperature tolerance of the microalgae so that there is a reduced need for cooling, which is expensive (see the Background Document of the conference). Certain algae can furthermore synthesize molecular hydrogen, which is an interesting and environmental friendly alternative to today's fuels, as well as a number of high-value co-products (e.g. natural carotenoids, powerful anti-oxidant substances much in demand in the health, food and cosmetics industries) and, to this end, further investments in biotechnology are essential to make the production viable, efficient and deliverable by integrated systems (food/feed/fuel/chemicals).

Currently, two of the main challenges that technology is going to face are in the oil extraction in respect of biofuel production from algae and in the production of resistant and inexpensive enzymes in respect of ligno-cellulosic conversion technologies. It is important to stress that second-generation technologies cannot solve the food-fuel debate in the short term and, although the feedstock to be processed is largely available, it is hard to predict that the overall cost including processing cost will be economically competitive with first-generation biofuels. In the future, a sound policy implementation could solve the problem of economic sustainability between first and second-generation technologies. Although biofuel prices are usually higher than fossil fuel prices, the added social benefit might justify some subsidies and regulations taking into account that the externalities are not currently included in fossil fuel markets. Clear environment-related efficiency criteria and sound process standards need to be established (globally) that internalize the positive (and negative) externalities of biofuels and ensure that the energy output from biofuel production is greater than the amount of energy used in the process.

We welcome contributions from experts that would like to be involved in the work of the Aquatic Biofuels Working Group and that could provide us with best practices they would like to disseminate. If interested, contact me at my e-mail address below. A website will be made available soon to broaden awareness about our activities.

Alessandro Flammini
Global Bioenergy Partnership Secretariat
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
Rome
Italy
Tel. (+39) 06.570.55686
Fax (+39) 06.57053369
E-mail: alessandro.flammini (at) fao.org
www.globalbioenergy.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 21 November 2008 11:48
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 30: Ligno-cellulosic feedstocks for biogas production in developing countries

This is from Ruzena Svedelius, again.

It is a very big challenge to take food scraps and manure and try to figure out the most efficient way to get bioenergy and fertilisers. I try - many others are smiling and arguing. How many of you reading inputs to this conference work with your own hands with bioconversion? I mean in research or on farms etc. I think that persons, who are only reading papers and reports, should be very careful to influence decisions for those that have to survive out there.

Comments to message 23 by Alessandro Flammini (message 29) who wrote: "A number of research centres and international organizations are getting more and more interested in these new technologies for biofuel production in order to assess their real impact and the net benefits that could derive in comparison with other energy crops."

The present problems - access to food and energy in many of the developing countries - should be solved as soon as possible. For that purpose, the simple systems for biogas production are the best solution. As methane fermentation will be improved in developed countries, developing countries can later afford more efficient biogas units. (see Section 4.3 Non-transport biofuels of the background document: "While the major focus today is on production of liquid biofuels for transport purposes, it is also important to keep in mind that the production of biofuels for non-transport needs (lighting, heating, cooking) could have tremendous advantages for developing countries.")

Visiting Uganda and Yemen several years ago, we discussed possibilities to start building biogas units. Unfortunately in those countries they have no resources to build even the most uncomplicated biogas plants. In Yemen, dried cow manure is burned when cooking. During drying the manure evaporation of water means loss of energy. Other emissions like nitrogen and sulphur compounds are polluting emissions and losses of plant nutrients that should go back to cultivated soils.

When cow manure (including urine), and all available organic residues, including human excreta, will be processed locally in closed systems (I visited small biogas units in Vietnam) two valuable products and several other positive aspects will be achieved. Biogas for cooking and lighting, and biofertiliser for improving soils productivity. Carbon sequestration is an extra plus. Only use of organic fertilisers in poor soils (for example in Africa) can build up soil fertility!

Why is there so much talk about ligno-cellulosic feedstocks and ethanol production in the future? Only for supporting the present liquid fuelled cars? Why is it so quiet about gas fuelled cars? Lobbying? Ligno-cellulosic feedstocks are also suitable for methanogenic fermentation for production of biogas. We have to use bioconversion technology based on biological rules. Instead of biogas systems from 1910 (assumed for wastewater management), where water is used as a vehicle for excreta and other organic material, we can in modern facilities blend well-shredded ligno-cellulosic feedstocks that are carbon-rich with animal and human excreta and with other wet nitrogen-rich organic residues. Then mixtures that are well balanced for requirements of microorganisms can be transformed in batch bioreactors to biogas and biofertilisers.

Dr. Ruzena Svedelius,
Nobbelovs Torg 29,
SE 226 52 Lund, Sweden
Biological Transformation of Renewable Organic Material
Phone: +46 707 33 11 20
E-mail: rsvedelius (at) hotmail.com

References:
- Gajdos, R. 1998. Efficient bioconversion of solid and liquid organic waste - Composing and anaerobic digestion in novel systems. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 469:149-156 http://www.actahort.org/books/469/469_14.htm
- Gajdos, R. 1997. Product-oriented composting. From open to closed bioconversion systems. http://chaos.bibul.slu.se/sll/slu/agraria/AGR068/AGR068.HTM
- Proceedings of the 10th international conference of the RAMIRAN network. 2002. http://www.ramiran.net/DOC/E1.pdf
- Sustainable Management of Solid and Liquid Waste. An EU 6th framework programme project. http://eoi.cordis.lu/dsp_details.cfm?ID=26219

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 24 November 2008 12:59
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 31: Bioethanol production from lignocellulosics - cellulases

This is from Chitra Raghavan, Australia, again, with a follow up on application of molecular tools for the production of lignocellulosic ethanol.

The message (number 29) from Alessandro Flammini was indeed very interesting. But in my message here I would like to convey my opinion on the use of biomass from agricultural residues, for example straw and other parts of the crop plant that is left after harvest. This agricultural residue is a significant resource of lignocellulosic complexes that should be exploited for ethanol (or bioethanol) production.

Cellulose present in plants cells is complexed with lignin and hemicellulose. The challenging steps in bioethanol production from lignocellulosics in crop residues is to release the cellulose from the lignocellulosic complex and then to hydrolyse it to oligosaccharides or to the monosaccharide glucose in a cost effective manner. Simple sugars such as glucose can subsequently be fermented for the production of ethanol.

Trichoderma reesei is an industrially important filamentous fungus that secretes large amounts of cellulases (exocellulases, endocellulases and beta-glucosidase) and therefore has potential for producing enzymes for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass materials into industrially useful bioproducts or precursors. There is growing interest in genetically modifying crop plants to produce the enzymes in an inactive form within the plant itself, to be later activated post harvest and activate the self digestion of the crop residue material. This approach would overcome not only the cost impediment associated with adding exogenous cellulase enzymes but also eliminate the need for large bioreactors and processors to produce the exogenous enzymes required for large scale biofuel production.

To enhance the expression of heterologous (foreign) genes in plants, various molecular approaches have been employed to facilitate transcription and translation. So far in this field of research, powerful promoters and signal peptide sequences that control subcellular targetting of the heterologous protein (cellulases) have been employed to enable greater accumulation of cellulases. I refer readers to an excellent review on this approach, by L.E. Taylor et al., (2008) Trends in Biotechnology 26 (8) 413-24, and an article by E.E. Hood et al. (2007), Plant Biotechnology Journal 5:709-19.

Although developing countries are faced with other challenges such as hunger to overcome, I believe there should be involvement in research as discussed above. This approach would overcome the need of depending on developed countries for the enzymes too. Initial cost into such research may be high but would pave a path of independence with regards to biofuels. Crop plants that are grown locally need to be targeted. Plants like Agave and Jatropha could also could be targeted but in the hope that they don't encroach on arable lands. The consequence of generating genetically modified crops for purposes of food and fuel would be a debate by itself but over time I believe the concept would be readily accepted.

Dr. Chitra Raghavan
Post-doctoral Fellow
School of Applied Sciences
RMIT University
PO Box 71
Bundoora 3083
Victoria,
Australia
Phone + (61) 3-9925-7141
Fax +(61) 3-9925-7110
email chitra.raghavan (at) rmit.edu.au

[Trichoderma reesei is the main industrial source of cellulases and hemicellulases used to break down biomass to simple sugars that are converted to chemical intermediates and biofuels, such as ethanol. In May 2008, D. Martinez et al. published in Nature Biotechnology an analysis of its genetic material with particular emphasis on its potential contributions to fuel biotechnology and other industrial applications. See Martinez et al. 2008. Genome sequencing and analysis of the biomass-degrading fungus Trichoderma reesei (syn. Hypocrea jecorina). Nature Biotechnology 26: 553-560 http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v26/n5/abs/nbt1403.html
Also, the two articles referenced by Chitra above were:
L.E. Taylor et al. 2008. Heterologous expression of glycosyl hydrolases in planta: a new departure for biofuels. Trends in Biotechnology 26: 413-424. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0167779908001546
E.E. Hood et al, 2007. Subcellular targeting is a key condition for high-level accumulation of cellulase protein in transgenic maize seed. Plant Biotechnology Journal 5:709-719. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00275.x ...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 24 November 2008 13:02
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 32: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers

This is from Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt and I have just started to work at FAO as a Bioenergy and Environment Officer in FAO's Bioenergy Unit. Since I am going to be dealing with a variety of issues connected with bioenergy, especially looking also at the usefulness of applications for small-scale farmers in developing countries and which options might be provided through biotechnology, I am very interested in this conference and to listen about the different views and information available on these issues.

In particular, I would like some reactions to my question below:
Especially in the light of the participation of small-scale farmers in bioenergy production systems, would biotechnology applications for bioenergy be of interest to these farmers as well, or would they actually exclude small-scale farmers even more from this new production area ?

Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt
Climate Change and Bioenergy Unit (NRCB)
Natural Resource Management and Environment Department;
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
Rome 00153,
Italy
Phone: 0039 06 570 54481; Fax: 0039 06 570 53250
E-mail: christina.seebergelverfeldt (at) fao.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 24 November 2008 15:37
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 33: Biogas units / applications of biotechnologies

This is from Ruzena Svedelius, again, commenting on Section 3.3b of the background document, about biogas.

Biogas units, when both biogas and biofertilisers are produced in a proper way, can positively affect waste and water management, sanitation, cultivated soils, food production, bioenergy utilisation, job creation ('green jobs' i.e. jobs supporting sustainability) etc.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) takes place almost everywhere in nature, such as in human and animal intestines, in garbage bins, in wet soils, at landfill sites, in digesters (bioreactors = reactors where biological processes take place), etc. Anaerobic means without oxygen - oxygen is always present in organic matter and in water and is essential for all living organisms.

Pre-treatment for AD can be seen as cooking for microorganisms. Living in Africa, people have to take the 'raw material' that is available for food. Living in Sweden, I can choose the most suitable 'raw material' and use more advanced recipes. Still, I do not need accurate knowledge about all the kinds of proteins, carbohydrates, enzymes and microorganisms that appear during cooking. The situation is similar when carrying out biogas production. For successful AD we need to know basic 'recipes' suitable for 'raw material' available in Africa or Sweden. In the meantime, we can extend our knowledge.

Plant biomass on average includes 16 essential elements as presented by Sune Petersson, 1984. Dry matter weight in plant biomass contain 45% carbon, 45% oxygen, 6% hydrogen (energy elements?) and the remaining 4% are nitrogen, potash, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, chloride, boron, manganese, zinc, cuprum and molybdenum (macro and micro nutrients that should go back to cultivated soils). On average, about 70% of plant biomass is water and that is the appropriate environment for most of the microorganisms.

My thoughts on applications of 'old' and 'novel' biotechnologies in developing countries:

1) Since a long time ago, 'old biotechnologies' (first-generation?) are applied, using microorganisms when baking, producing cheese, wine and beer, preserving food and feed by anaerobic fermentation (sauerkraut, ensilage) and AD for production of biogas. Efficiency in biogas units can be increased by collecting microorganisms from various cities and using them at other places in the world. When building simple/uncomplicated biogas units, experience/'recipes' on the 'old biotechnology' from Nepal, China, Vietnam, India, Morocco, etc. can be applied. FAO can collect the information and use it as a base for further development of biogas and biofertiliser production. The biofertilisers will improve soils, especially water and nutrients holding capacity. This will decrease the pressure on scarce water resources (comment to Section 2.6c of the background document) and increase crop yields for food. For increasing efficiency, novel equipment is needed - 'product development = new jobs'!

2) The 'novel biotechnologies' (second-generation?) can be used when studying microorganisms and by genetic modification (GM) improving their enzymatic activity. "For example, Tuskan (2007) describes some genome sequencing projects that are aiming ultimately to find genes to produce new enzymes for plant cell wall breakdown." (from 3.2c of the background document). Transport of enzymes is cheap as only small amounts are needed for pre-treatment of some feedstocks. AD "could be accelerated in several ways, such as using more efficient micro-organisms in these processes, although knowledge of these microbial communities is generally still quite basic" (from Section 3.3b of the background document). Instead of 'basic' it should be written 'very poor' !!

I know that many people are against GM. I am also very unhappy when plants are modified for increased use of man-made agrochemicals that negatively affect the environment and our health. It is unsustainable managing of natural resources. What will happen in the long term? Who is responsible? Politicians that set up weak rules? Can FAO influence improvement leading to more sustainable development?

Dr. Ruzena Svedelius,
Nobbelovs Torg 29,
SE 226 52 Lund,
Sweden
Biological Transformation of Renewable Organic Material
Phone: +46 707 33 11 20
E-mail: rsvedelius (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 24 November 2008 15:50
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 34: Relative importance on biotechnology for biofuel production - Uganda

This is from Hanns-Andre Pitot, again

Here in Northern Uganda, the issue is not too much about the kind of biotechnology issues discussed in the background document. It is about how to produce quantities large enough to render biofuels economically feasible. Then it's about attracting investors, predominantly foreign, that would be willing to invest in fuel production facilities. For the second to happen, the first issue has to be resolved. So, it's all about producing large quantities. In that regard, the issues I am seeing are about water and irrigation, in order to get over the dry period of several months we have here, about soil fertility, and about crops that are able to produce high yields under the local agronomic circumstances.

Hanns-Andre Pitot
Technical Advisor Water and Sanitation
Adjumani Town Council
Uganda
E-mail: hapitot (at) yahoo.com
Mobile: -256-777090279
DED - German Development Service

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 24 November 2008 17:56
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 35: Microalgae and biotechnology

This is from Dele Raheem from Nottingham, UK, again.

The current interest in the application of microalgae as a second generation biofuel is commendable and would hopefully generate collaborations among scientists both in the 'developing and developed' countries. I would like to para-phrase from two recent contributions below:

Message 30 by Ruzena Svedelius: "Why is there so much talk about ligno-cellulosic feedstocks and ethanol production in the future? Only for supporting the present liquid fuelled cars? Why is it so quiet about gas fuelled cars? Lobbying? Ligno-cellulosic feedstocks are also suitable for methanogenic fermentation for production of biogas. We have to use bioconversion technology based on biological rules."

Message 29 by Alessandro Flammini: "Currently, two of the main challenges that technology is going to face are in the oil extraction in respect of biofuel production from algae and in the production of resistant and inexpensive enzymes in respect of ligno-cellulosic conversion technologies."

Now a few personal random thoughts:
- What are the implications for oil-rich countries embarking on liquified natural gas?
- Modifications on efficient production of hydrogen in the biochemical reaction: Microalgae produce hydrogen in which light energy is collected by photosynthesis and used to transfer electrons to hydrogenases. The type of hydrogenase that will produce hydrogen at high rates can be modified - this is currently under research. E.g sulphur deprivation of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. So, in the application of this technique it will be appropriate and economical to generate as much hydrogen as possible.
- The right strain of algae? - it was reported that green algae (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) is highly efficient in solar conversion.
- Scale-up and the overall cost?

I reckon countries with abundant energy resources need to assess and analyze the pros and cons of the economic viability at this stage. The cost of production - harvesting and extracting the oils from microalgae such as by ultrasonification from biomass will play a major factor. A country like Australia with lots of non-arable land is frantically leaving no stone unturned in taking advantage of this application (biodiesel from microalgae).

Dr. Dele Raheem
Broadholme Street,
Nottingham,
United Kingdom
draheem (at) gmail.com
+44 7747156868

[The unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii can produce molecular hydrogen (H2) under special conditions. Hydrogenase (an enzyme that catalyses the oxidation of hydrogen) expression in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii can be artificially induced by anaerobic adaptation or is naturally established under sulphur deprivation. (see e.g.
- Kamp, C. et al. 2008. Isolation and first EPR characterization of the [FeFe]-hydrogenases from green algae. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1777:410-416 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18355437 or
- Melis, A. 2007. Photosynthetic H2 metabolism in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (unicellular green algae). Planta. 226: 1075-1086. http://www.springerlink.com/content/u232516325123037/fulltext.pdf ...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 25 November 2008 09:30
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 36: Biotechnology applications and Jatropha curcas

I am Dr. Vijendra P.S. Shekhawat, Biotechnology Department, at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Applied Sciences (MGIAS), Jaipur, India. Earlier, I was associated with the Energy Plantation Demonstration Project Centre, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. I worked for the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) India Micro-mission Project on Biofuel. Later I worked on large scale commercial plantations of Jatropha.

Biotechnology Applications and Jatropha curcas: Making Biodiesel Production Economically Feasible

At first I wish to express my sincere thanks to FAO for organizing this miraculous conference. Contributions have really been precious and informative.

I wish to share some of my experiences, following need to be addressed before recommending Jatropha curcas as a biodiesel crop:

1. High capital input for establishment of plantations
2. Scarcity of uniform planting material (i.e. seeds only; cuttings are not an appropriate planting material) (Needed- Role of Biotechnology !!!)
3. No precise yield estimation
4. A very long gestation period (Needed- Role of Biotechnology !!!)
5. Large land area requirement - At least 15000 ha will be required for an economically sustainable production system of Jatropha (assuming a yield of 1.5 kg/per plant yield after 5 yrs).
6. Problems associated with monoculture of Jatropha. (Needed- Role of Biotechnology !!!)
7. Exploration of crops for co-cultivation with Jatropha curcas, this is a must requirement to make Jatropha plantations economically feasible. (Needed- Role of Biotechnology !!!)
8. Besides biodiesel, possibilities to produce some commercially attractive co-products from Jatropha plantations. Like bio-insecticides for organic agriculture, Curcin based products, utilization of large amount of glycerin produced etc. (Needed -Role of Biotechnology !!!)
9. Irrigation will always be required to have optimum yield, it is not possible to grow Jatropha without enough moisture. (Objective is not only to keep the Jatropha plant alive but to harvest an economically feasible yield. (Needed- Role of Biotechnology !!!)
10. Precise calculations for energy balance
11. Government policies related to land allotment to industries.
12. From industry point of view, it cannot be produced through small scale farmers/contract farming or as hedge on field border. No prudent industry will be attracted towards such a practice.

Dr. Vijendra Pratap Singh Shekhawat
Department of Biotechnology
Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Applied Sciences
JECRC Campus, Opp. EPIP Gate
Tonk Road, Jaipur
Rajasthan,
India
PIN 3030905
E-mail: vijendrapss (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 26 November 2008 09:25
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 37: Re: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers

This is from Pablo Garcia Munoz, from Mexico, again.

Responding to message 32 by Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt:

My opinion is based on the outlook of what is happening in Mexico, practically without any biofuel production but in the sight of the big industries as a feedstock producer and as a germplasm supplier (like Jatropha, Rycinus and other species), but with no direction in bioenergy policy that is evident by the diverse actions of the involved ministries and different levels of government, which is reproduced by the scientific community.

What is very important is that Mexico (although belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD), like many other developing countries, has more than 25% of its population in rural areas without competitive alternatives (even without migration now with recession in the USA), so that's why I emphasize the intrinsic relationship between the kind of technological appliances and the development of smallholders as the goal of biofuel production when participating in solving the pollution problem in big cities (Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey) through production and consumption of reformulated gasoline (RFG) with ethanol from biomass as oxygen additive, and of low and ultra-low sulphur diesel with biodiesel as blends. (About RFG, it is defined at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg.htm : "Reformulated gasoline (known as "RFG") is gas blended to burn cleaner by reducing smog-forming and toxic pollutants in the air we breathe. The Clean Air Act requires that RFG be used in cities with the worst smog pollution to reduce harmful emissions that cause ground-level ozone. The law also specifies that RFG contain oxygen (2 percent by weight)." [*so does Mexican legislation NOM 086 ECOL 1994 and NOM-086-SEMARNAT-SENER-SCFI-2005]. "MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) and ethanol are the two most commonly used substances that add oxygen to gasoline. Oil companies decide which substance to use to meet the law's requirements.").

Pablo Garcia Munoz, M.Sc.
Ph.D. Student
Rural Sociology Department
Universidad Autonoma Chapingo
Mexico.
Km. 38.5 Carretera Mexico - Texcoco
C.P. 56230
52 595 952 16 27
Chapingo, Estado de Mexico.
Mexico
pablogarciamunoz (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 26 November 2008 10:36
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 38: Re: Biotechnology applications and Jatropha curcas

This is from Prof. H.P.M. Gunasena. I am a Professor in Agriculture from the University of Peradeniya; current Chairman of the Asian Center for Underutilized Crops; also the former Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI); Distingushed Research Fellow of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) Regional office, New Delhi; and presently the Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture, Sri Lanka.

The Government of Sri Lanka has accepted Jatropha as a potential crop for biodiesel production. There are several provenance trials which are being conducted by the NGOs and some by the Ministry of Environment. Five species are available in Sri Lanka, of which the best appears to be Jatropha curcas. The agronomic practices are being defined in recent trials. The major issue currently is the land, which appears to be a problem due to the conflicts with other crops like cashew, sugarcane. We have written a book on Jatropha which explains the details on the potential of this crop. Copies could be made available later after it is printed. This book is sponsored by ICRAF south Asia, based in New Delhi. We like to be partners in Jatropha develoment.

Our programme on Jatropha currently involves selection of provenances for different ecosystems. This is being undertaken by different groups, through collection of germplasm of jatropha and testing them out in potential areas. There is also a comprehensive research agenda extending from agronomic practices to harvesting, processing and storage, and then to distillation and blending.

In the crop improvement area, the use of tissue culture for rapid multiplication of superior germplasm is being attempted. This is being done by a university group, presently very preliminary. One major issue in Jatropha is crop improvement for high oil content and quality of oil. It is in this aspect that the biotechnologies will be very useful. The oil content and quality of oil has to be looked into using all potential provenances. Molecular breeding will be a very important area that should be pursued. Marker assisted selection would be ideal to identify and transfer traits that are useful, also as it does not involve gene transfer which may be controversial, even for an industrial crop like Jatropha.

Of course, conventional breeding is being done already in making hybrids. Hybrids are highly applicable, India has already made two hybrids which are in commercial use. They are high yielding with desirable tree form. We are also planning to organize a hybridization programme with the available provenances. The best approach in crop improvement will be to combine molecular breeding and conventional breeding. I also think that it may be desirable to sponsor a crop improvement programme using conventional and molecular methods for the Asia region with potential partners. It can be organized under the auspices of the FAO, cosidering bioenergy as an important area for the future for regional or global energy supplies (in spite of the low oil prices now). I could provide more information for the partners on this later.

Prof. H.P.M. Gunasena,
Advisor,
Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Services,
"Govijana Mandhiraya',
Battaramulla,
Sri Lanka
gunasenah (at) yahoo.com

[Participants in the e-mail conference might be interested to know that on 10-11 April 2008, the "International consultation on pro-poor Jatropha development" was held in Rome, Italy, jointly organised by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Foundation, FAO and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. The consultation was designed to support the recently-approved research grant financed by IFAD, which, inter alia, aims to develop appropriate technologies to intensify biofuel feedstock production, study the economics of rural electrification and assess its impact on poverty. The consultation was organised in 11 sessions, one of which was dedicated to breeding, where applications of molecular markers were also discussed. Presentations and papers from the consultation are available on the web, at http://www.ifad.org/events/jatropha/index.htm - contact v.raswant (at) ifad.org for more information.

Also, Prof. Gunasena above discusses provenances and provenance trials: The term provenance refers to the geographic source of seed or plant material or to the plants from such a source. Often one of the first steps in the domestication of a new plant species is the establishment and analysis of provenance trials, as such trials may reveal whether plants with certain geographical origins are superior to others. See e.g. http://www.fao.org/docrep/93269e/93269e05.htm and http://en.sl.kvl.dk/dfsc/pdf/Publications/GTN_63_int.pdf ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 26 November 2008 13:19
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 39: Re: Biotechnology applications and Jatropha curcas

I am Shashi Bhushan Tripathi, from New Delhi, India, again.

Jatropha and Pongamia are the two most widely pursued biodiesel species, especially in the developing countries. However, the basic information on the biology of these species has just started to arrive.

The center of origin of Jatropha is supposed to be Mexico and Central America. The concept of 'provenance' in Jatropha (especially when applied to Jatropha curcas germplasm from Asian countries) is highly misinterpreted. As rightly clarified by the Moderator in Message 38, the different 'provenances' are expected to be genetically diverse because of their apparently independent evolution with least or no gene flow from other 'provenances'. However, Jatropha curcas being an introduced species in this part of the world, we should not expect any provenance level organization. In fact, we conducted molecular genetic diversity analysis using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers on over 150 Jatropha curcas accessions from different regions of India which did not show any clustering (grouping) based on geographical affiliation of these accessions.

A major problem in Jatropha curcas germplasm of countries where it has been introduced (and these are the countries where it is pursued the most as a biodiesel crop) is its low genetic diversity, which could be either due to introduction of seeds from few genotypes or from geographical sources which are not the center of origin for Jatropha, or both. Therefore, the beginning of genetic improvement could start by bringing genetically diverse material from the center of origin and its performance evaluation under different agro-climatic conditions. The genetic diversity can be easily assessed using molecular marker techniques before starting the performance trials so that we do not end up wasting time in evaluating genetically similar accessions.

Besides introduction of new germplasm, other methods of creating genetic diversity such as interspecific hybridization and induced mutagenesis may be used. In India, several groups are working on interspecific hybridization and several promising genotypes are under various stages of field trials. Tissue culture based techniques, such as micropropagation and dihaploid production, could contribute substantially towards genetic improvement programs of Jatropha. Micropropagation could be especially useful during initial bulking up of a newly developed genotype so that enough nucleus planting material could be generated in a short time. Efficient anther culture protocols need to be developed and utilized to generate dihaploid lines from interspecific hybrids for utilization by breeders in hybridization programs.

Like any other crop, Jatropha too has several problems. Apart from seed yield and oil content, other desirable traits would be synchronous maturity, dwarf and compact tree form which need to be pyramided gradually. With time, we also expect problems such as biotic and abiotic stresses to become more pronounced than before. As emphasized earlier, tackling all these would require a continued multidisciplinary action. [Shashi wrote in Message 15: "As genetic improvement requires support from multiple disciplines, including but not limited to agronomy, biochemistry, pathology and genetics, a free flow of information across research groups from all these disciplines is a must." ...Moderator].

Shashi Bhushan Tripathi, PhD.
Fellow
Biotechnology and Management of Bioresources Division
The Energy and Resources Institute
India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road
New Delhi- 110003,
India.
Tel. (91)-011-24682100 extn. 2528.
(91)-09811870528 (Mobile)
E-mail: sbhushan (at) teri.res.in
Website: www.teriin.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 26 November 2008 14:37
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 40: Tissue culture for Jatropha

This is Vijendra Shekhawat, from India, again, replying to Prof. H.P.M. Gunasena's message 38.

At first, I wish to express my sincere thanks for his valuable contribution. I want to draw your kind attention to one point. Plant tissue culture protocols for Jatropha regeneration have been developed effectively. Protocols have also been given by our laboratory at the University of Rajasthan. However, Jatropha is susceptible to rotting. Young pampered tissue culture raised saplings may be vulnerable to deuteromycetes fungus especially in semi-arid conditions. Survival rate recorded in tissue culture raised Jatropha plants was very low. Further, tissue culture raised plants will be more expensive as, compared to seed grown plants, this will significantly increase the plantation cost. Assuming one hectare will require 1500-2500 plants (0% mortality), it will cost around 5000 Rs (if plants are generated through normal nursery practice). However, this cost would be approximately three times more when tissue cultured plants are used (at least - this excludes the costs of tissue culture infrastructure). Therefore I am afraid tissue culture may not be a prudent idea. [5000 Rupees (Rs) is about 100 US dollars...Moderator].

Dr. Vijendra P.S. Shekhawat
Biotechnology Department
Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Applied Sciecnes
Jiapur, Rajasthan
India
PIN- 303905
E-mail: vijendrapss (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 27 November 2008 10:40
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 41: Re: Tissue culture for Jatropha

This is from Prof. Gunasena, Sri Lanka, again.

Thanks to Vijendra Shekhawat for message 40. Tissue culture protocols are being developed here also. If we can have access to your protocols it will be useful. If they are published, please give the reference. I accept your view that it will be more expensive than seed.

Prof. H.P.M. Gunasena,
Advisor, Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Services,
'Govijana Mandhiraya',
Battaramulla,
Sri Lanka

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 01 December 2008 10:07
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 42: Re: Biotechnology applications and Jatropha curcas

This is from Kioumars Ghamkhar, with a research interest in plant genomic and genetic diversity and evolution from the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture, the University of Western Australia.

My opinions here are only my personal opinions and I am not representing my organisation. [Note, in the FAO Biotechnology Forum, people posting messages are always assumed to be speaking on their own behalf and not on behalf of their employers (unless they indicate otherwise)...Moderator].

I have been reading the messages of this e-conference from day one and found it interesting, although some messages were not as relevant to the subject as I expected.

Regarding Shashi Bhushan Tripathi's message (39), the provenance concept is not an appropriate concept for the introduced species unless they start to be naturalized. Even then, the provenance will not be detected as simply as it is where the origin of the species is. So I am not surprised that Shashi has not found any clustering based on the geographical affiliations in the Indian collection.

To solve, or at least try to solve, the problem of minimal diversity in Jatropha inferred from the amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) data, I suggest an ecogegraphical gap finding study similar to what we did in the paper referenced below. After the gap finding and targeting the gaps for future collection and finally the collecting mission, the best strategy will be to screen the newly collected germplasm by AFLP markers and see where the new germplasm sits in a phylogenetic tree or a biplot of principal coordinate analysis based on important agronomic data such as oil content etc. Then, the most distant accessions within each cluster would be selected for future crosses and breeding programs.

Ghamkhar, K., Snowball, R., Bennett, S. (2007). Ecogeographical studies identify diversity and potential gaps in the largest germplasm collection of bladder clover (Trifolium spumosum L.). Australian Journal of Agricultural Research. 58 (7): 728-738. http://www.publish.csiro.au/?paper=AR06359

Kioumars Ghamkhar (PhD)
Plant Genomics, Diversity, and Evolution
Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA)
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley 6009
Australia
Voice: +61 8 6488 7120
Fax: +61 8 6488 1140
Email: kioumars (at) cyllene.uwa.edu.au ; kioumars (at) clima.uwa.edu

[Dr Naima Kolsi Benzina from the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia sends a message noting that rape (colza) is one of the crops used for biofuel, that they are doing some research in this crop and would be very thankful if someone would provide them with information/references on the following subjects about rape: crop needs (water, nutrients, pH, soil...); roots physiology (particularly P and S absorption); crop stages and needs; some yields. Please send any information directly to Dr. Kolsi Benzina. Address is Kolsinb (at) yahoo.com ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 01 December 2008 11:02
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 43: Biotechnology and ethanol from sorghum

My name is M.J. Vasudeva Rao, President Ag Technologies, Metahelix Life Sciences, Bangalore, India.

I am a plant breeder currently involved in developing sorghums targeted for producing ethanol from sorghum stem juice which are rich in sugars (first-generation biofuel raw material), and also develop sorghum varieties which produce lignocellulosic biomass which can become the raw material for ethanol production (second-generation biofuel). We are currently exploring both conventional genetic improvement technologies and transgenic technology to improve sorghum plants for these two targeted uses.

I have followed with keen interest the conference till now. And, I am interested to know if anyone has any views on sorghum as the provider of raw material for either first-generation or second-generation biofuel production. Also, I am interested to know any views on appropriate genes which may be deployed for production of higher sugars in sorghum stem juice or production of cellulose which is more efficient for processing.

Thanks to FAO for organizing this e-conference which helped bring so many people and points of views together in one platform, especially at times when travelling has become very expensive.

Dr. M.J. Vasudeva Rao
Metahelix Life Sciences
No.3, KIADB IV Phase, Bommasandra
Bangalore 560099
India
www.meta-helix.com
e-mail: vasrao (at) meta-helix.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 01 December 2008 16:04
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 44: Re: Tissue culture for Jatropha

Greetings everyone. This is Bosibori Bett, a research scientist with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Biotechnology department.

Regarding message 40 by Vijendra Shekhawat:

It is good to note that there are already protocols for jatropha tissue culture and regeneration, particularly because regeneration systems have been genotype-dependent (at least for some dicotyledons (dicots) such as sweetpotato). This is encouraging, as KARI might soon be looking at ways of producing clean planting jatropha material which can subsequently be distributed to the resource-poor farmers. In the end this may provide adequate material as a pre-requisite for any biofuel production from jatropha. Secondly, since there has been a highlight on rotting of jatropha, would there be any alternative option of producing clean material, just so that they are not susceptible to rotting? Or does it depend on the geographical area? I feel that this would be a good area to explore.

Bosibori Bett (Mrs.)
Research Scientist
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
Biotechnology Center
P. O. Box 14733 - 00800
Nairobi
Kenya
Tel: +254-020-4444129/37/44
Fax: +254-020-4444144
e-mail: bosiboribett (at) yahoo.com

[Tissue culture technology is used for the production of doubled haploids, cryopreservation, propagating new plant varieties, conserving rare and endangered plants, difficult-to-propagate plants, and to produce secondary metabolites and transgenic plants. The main advantage of tissue culture technology lies in the production of high quality and uniform planting material that can be multiplied on a year-round basis under disease-free conditions anywhere irrespective of the season and weather. For those wishing to get more information about tissue culture, one free publication (1 MB) that might be of interest is "Low cost options for tissue culture technology in developing countries", from the Joint FAO/IAEA Division for Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, in 2004 (http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/te_1384_web.pdf). It describes options for reducing costs in the establishment and operation of plant tissue culture facilities and focuses primarily on plant micropropagation. It includes the basics of tissue culture technology, bioreactors, low-cost options in the design of laboratories, use of media and containers, energy and labour saving, integration and adoption of low cost options, increasing plant survival after propagation, and outreach of material to growers and farmers in developing countries ...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 01 December 2008 17:22
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 45: Re: Relative importance on biotechnology for biofuel production - Uganda

This is Bosibori Bett from Kenya again.

I agree with Hanns-Andre Pitot, as this may also be the case in Kenya. There is an urgent need for exploring ways to produce quantities adequate to render biofuels economically feasible. Water harvesting technologies may be a good option to look into, to deal with the dry spells. For these regions, it would be good to do experiments on the agronomic performance in different agro-ecological zones, look into the breeding aspects etc.

Bosibori Bett (Mrs.)
Research Scientist
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
Biotechnology Center
P. O. Box 14733 - 00800
Nairobi
Kenya
Tel: +254-020-4444129/37/44
Fax: +254-020-4444144
e-mail: bosiboribett (at) yahoo.com

[In message 34, Hans-Andre wrote: "Here in Northern Uganda, the issue is not too much about the kind of biotechnology issues discussed in the background document. It is about how to produce quantities large enough to render biofuels economically feasible."...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 01 December 2008 17:28
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 46: Re: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers

This is Bosibori Bett, again. In response to Message 32 by Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt:

In my opinion, small-scale farmers, at least in developing countries, need sensitisation, and participation of these technologies from the beginning. It would be good to organise small farmer field schools (groups) that can be educated on the importance, the need and how it can improve their livelihoods. Secondly, issues of prioritizing what is more relevant to them would be an integral part in trying to sell these technologies to them. For example, if one small-scale farmer has limited land for use, what would be the priority crop he/she would go for? Is it a subsistence crop, or a crop that would fetch cash from biofuels? However, in my view, if the benefits of using biotechnology applications for bioenergy outweigh the risks for small-scale farmers, then why not go for it?

Bosibori Bett (Mrs.)
Research Scientist
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
Biotechnology Center
P. O. Box 14733 - 00800
Nairobi
Kenya
Tel: +254-020-4444129/37/44
Fax: +254-020-4444144
e-mail: bosiboribett (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 02 December 2008 10:42
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 47: Role of biotechnologies in jatropha/pongamia

This is Dr. S.K. Sharma, Principal Scientist (Plant Physiology) at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Karnal (Haryana), India. We have been undertaking an extensive program to exploit the potential of Jatropha and Pongamia for biodiesel and bioenergy generation and identify the tolerance potential for saline, alkali/sodic soils and irrigation with poor quality waters besides suitable agricultural practices for optimum productivity. We have conducted a series of experiments at CSSRI Karnal and its regional research stations at Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Bharuch (Gujarat) and Canning Town (West Bengal) for the last four years and would like to share some of our experiences with participants:

- Pot studies on Jatropha and Pongamia indicate moderate tolerance to alkalinity (sodicity) up to pH 9.5 and salinity (electrical conductivity (EC) 10.5 deciSiemens per metre (dS/m)) and saline water irrigation (10-12 dS/m).

- Low yields and plant to plant variability is a limitation. Yield variation from a hundred grams to 2.5 Kg were observed in the first, second and third years and the seed yield increased with age.

- Genetic variability in provenances collected from different areas and sources is indicated, thus offering scope for plant improvement efforts.

These findings point out some important and crucial areas where biotechnology has an important role to contribute in successful implementation of biofuel programs.

Biotechnological tools and approaches appear to be very important in overcoming these limitations and providing materials having higher tolerance and productivity to these abiotic stresses such as salinity, alkalinity, irrigation waters having salinity, alkalinity and occurrence of frost. In addition, development of high yielding and uniform plant populations is another important requirement as low yield is a serious limitation in Jatropha, limiting its competitive ability. This will need concerted efforts in the laboratories and successful large scale trials at the field level. This is of utmost importance as, most of the time, success claims of developing better plant materials, made by our friends from biotechnology, are not backed by further efforts for their field validation thereby limiting their transfer and implementation at the field level as observed in most crops. For success, we need multi-disciplinary teams of molecular biologists, plant scientists, agronomists and soil scientists for working in the laboratories and actual field situations.

Jatropha has been reported to be sensitive to the occurrence of frost conditions which do occur in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in North India and other areas having similar weather which are being targetted for such plantations. Our experience shows that application of irrigation prior to the expected frost helps the plants in overcoming the injurious effects of frost. However, application of biotechnology can be quite helpful in improving its tolerance to face such situations and spreading the area of cultivation.

Thanking you and the FAO for providing such an important platform and opportunity thereby bringing experts and other people involved in this area having high importance for the mankind.

Dr. S. K. Sharma,
Principal Scientist (Plant Physiology),
Central Soil Salinity Research Institute,
Karnal- 132 001,
India
Phone : (O) - 0184-2291119 Ext. 127
(R) - 0184- 2291882
Mob. : 91-98961 72185
Fax: 0184-2290480
e-mail: sksharma (at) cssri.ernet.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 02 December 2008 10:57
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 48: Re: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers

My name is Sally Mallowa. I am a plant scientist and am the product development manager for BioCassava Plus in Kenya, which is a Gates Foundation funded project intending to nutritionally improve cassava.

Thanks Bosibori on message 46 and Christina on message 32.

I am convinced that small scale farmers are very sensitive and street-smart to the technologies that are good for them. As with genetically modified products so should the principle be with biofuels and if it improves livelihoods and betters their lives they will go for it.

Hardest hit by the current fuel wood crisis in developing countries are these resource-poor small scale farmers..and biofuels should be a welcome technology. The trick about involving them from the word go..is they want to know when can I have it in my kitchen..and if it will take five years to get there, they lose steam.

Maybe we should have the crop that the small scale farmer can grow for biofuels and generate an income..or biofuels that even she can utilise..first..in the foreseeable future. Then involve the farmer.

Sally Mallowa
Product Development Manager - Kenya
BioCassava Plus
c/o KARI Biotechnology Center
P.O.Box 57811, 0200
Nairobi,
Kenya
e-mail: mallowa (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 02 December 2008 11:41
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 49: Re: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers

This is from Wim Polman, Bioenergy Officer in FAO's Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division at FAO Headquarters, Rome. I am Dutch, have worked 25 years in FAO ESH/SDA, covering about 34 countries in four regions as Rural Institutions Officer at FAO Headquarters for 13 years and 12 years as Rural Development Officer in Asia. Most positive experience at field level with promotion of participation of small farmers indigenous peoples and landless in local decision-making and small farmers including cooperative enterprise development. Publications on http://www.fao.org/world/regional/rap/susdev_rural_devt_regional.asp.

In response to messages 32 and 46 from Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt and Bosibori Bett:

Happily in several Asian countries, e.g. Thailand and India, small scale farmers are already actively engaged through agricultural cooperatives in awareness building, education and skills development on biofuels development for local production, processing, consumption and surplus marketing. These cooperative bioenergy ventures often combine food production with growing of biofuel crops on abandoned or otherwise not used/ unproductive land, for additional income and employment.

What is often lacking in those developing countries is development of positive synergies between farmer cooperative enterprise development as food and bioenergy producers and government bioenergy policies and programs related delivery of support services including access to credit, suitable technologies, extension, faciltation of marketing. Pro-active small farmer focused bioenergy policies would include legislation which enables small farmer cooperatives to operate on the local markets as energy producers and distributors.

The role of small farmer cooperatives is most important to create for its member small scale producers a larger scale economic unit which can negotiate market prices for inputs, access to government support services and better prices on the market. In many cases, small farmer cooperatives are able to purchase processing machinery and tools for production of bioenergy products for its members to become viable food and bioenergy entrepreneurs. Public sector investment in sustainable bioenergy development should include piloting of development and application of suitable processing machinery based upon cost effective first generation biotechnological research for improved on-farm productivity of both by- and end-products for enhancing small farmer income and employment generation.

In 2007, FAO initiated in Thailand a first regional policy dialogue on this topic (FAO-NEDAC [Network for Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific] regional workshop on role of agricultural cooperatives in biofuel development at community level for rural food and livelihood security). This successful meeting led to follow-up field level case studies on small farmers participation in jatropha cultivation processing and marketing for rural livelihood improvement in India and Cambodia and to a request for FAO technical support from the government of Thailand. Most recently, also at FAO Headquarters a first presentation took place of a series of draft country-level case studies covering succesful local bioenergy initiatives for rural livelihood purposes, covering 14 countries in Africa, Central and Latin America and Asia.

Next step could be a technical well prepared meeting between biotechnology practioners and experts on small farmers group and cooperative enterprise development to discuss research and extension priorities and strategies in support of sustainable bioenergy for rural livelihoods of small farmers.

Wim Polman
Bio Energy Officer
Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
Rome 00153,
Italy
e-mail: Wim.Polman (at) fao.org

[For some more details on the 2007 regional workshop in Thailand, see http://www.fao.org/world/regional/rap/highlights_detail.asp?event_id=36398&year=2007 ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 02 December 2008 13:04
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 50: Patents and profitability

This is Julie Newman, a farmer from West Australia, again (see message 24).

While non-cropping biotechnology solutions to enhance bioenergy production mentioned could introduce new potentially profitable industries, using genetically modified (GM) cropping solutions for bioenergy may have the opposite effect of rendering farmland unprofitable and unsustainable if risks are not managed correctly. (Non-cropping biotechnology solutions could include enzymes etc. that maximise efficiency after production rather than manipulating the crop itself, while GM cropping solutions are where a conventional food crop has been manipulated to produce altered biofuel products).

If farmers are to support GM bioenergy crops, it is important that the technology will benefit the farmer, not just the research sector and investors. A major problem with GM crops is that there are so many multiple patents involved and development could be price prohibitive unless very good returns can be promised to investors or alliance partners without eroding the profitability of farmers. If benefits for farmers are available, these can be negated by charging higher costs in order to support the industry and investment partners. While a balance can be struck in an average year, if seasonal conditions result in below average yields, the farmer has outlayed more money than they can earn. When GM cotton failed in India, farmers were vulnerable to very high interest rates charged by loan sharks resulting in an extraordinarily high suicide rate.

While the research sector priorities are patents, partners and progress, the priorities for farmers are profitability and sustainability and a symbiotic relationship is essential. I agree with Bosibori Bett (message 46) that farmer support is necessary and if "farmer field schools" are used to promote the new crop advancements, that the information relevant to farmers is the priority for farmers, not the priorities for the research sector. The information required for farmers is the benefit (agronomic and economic), the alternative (alternative crops and alternative future choices), the risks (can it be segregated, can it be sold?) and the risk management required (if the product can not be segregated and can not be mixed with food crops, it should be contained in small scale well contained areas, not openly grown among food crops).

However, rather than developing the product then collecting the data required for farmer support, it is more important that this information is collected prior to evaluating the project in order to avoid investing in a project that is unmanageable when commercialised. Any decision to develop and commercially release a genetically modified, patented, self-replicating bioenergy crop that could create adverse effects if eaten must be taken seriously as it is extremely difficult to recall from food crops and contamination is inevitable.

Julie Newman
National Spokesperson
Network of Concerned Farmers
66 North Rd
Newdegate, 6355
West Australia
Australia
Phone 08 98711562
Fax 08 98711584
www.non-gm-farmers.com
Email: julie (at) non-gm-farmers.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 02 December 2008 16:52
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 51: Re: Tissue culture for Jatropha

This is from John Atoyebi at the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology at Ibadan in Nigeria.

I believe a developing country like Nigeria must embrace the development of capacities in Jatropha utilisation for biofuel as an alternate source of energy. This might be difficult initially, but might be a way out of the energy crisis. It is presently an interest of our country, particularly our laboratory towards perfecting protocols for tissue culture techniques of Jatropha, targeting those collections existing in the country.

John Atoyebi
National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, P.M.B 5382,
Moor Plantation,
Ibadan, Oyo State,
Nigeria
Tel office 00234-2-2312622
Tel mobile 00234-8033824752
johnyinka (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 03 December 2008 09:31
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 52: Biotechnology for bioconversion of lignocellulosics for biofuel production

This is Anju Arora from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, N.Delhi, India.

I appreciate the initiative taken by FAO to stimulate this discussion and have been following the messages. But I feel not much has been said about actual biotechnology for making biofuels a viable option.

We have been working on getting fermentable sugars from lignocellulosics including agro-residues, forestry residues and food processing wastes. There are processes described for production of cellulases as well as Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation (SSF) and also using genetically engineered organisms for SSF. But I wish to know if these processes have been used on an industrial scale. In the past I have read about genetically engineered strain of E. coli being used for bioconversion of lignocellulosics by some private company in Canada for production of bioethanol.

I am from a developing country where food as well as fuel are big concerns. If we use agricultural and forestry waste for biofuel production, it will be useful in management of crop residues also. People are working on different aspects of this process, as highlighted in the background document, like production of cellulases and making the pretreatment and hydrolysis of polysaccharides a more economical and feasible process. I look forward to any suggestions/breakthroughs/approaches in this regards for conversion of lignocellulosics into fermentable sugars. Definitely I feel all the participants will be happy to get a response from developed countries in this area for development of a viable process for lignocellulose bioconversion.

Anju Arora
Senior Scientist,
Division of Microbiology,
Indian Agricultural Research Institute,
N.Delhi,
India
anjudev (at) yahoo.com

[Section 3.2c of the Background Document to the conference gives a 2-page overview of conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to liquid biofuels, including definition of SSF etc. The document is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C15doc.htm or contact me at biotech-mod3@fao.org if you want to receive it within an e-mail or as a PDF or WORD attachment....Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 03 December 2008 10:52
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 53: Re: Biotechnology and ethanol from sorghum

This is from Ismail Dweikat, University of Nebraska, United States.

Sweet sorghum is an ideal bioenergy crop. It is a very drought tolerant crop with half the cost of corn to grow. With some varieties like Wray, we were able to produce about 10 metric tons of sugar/ha. Also, we have incorporated the brown midrib genes (bmr 6 and 12) into many of our lines and hybrids in an effort to enhance both the digestibility (as animal food) and sugar extraction from the stems. We are in the process of introducing the sucrose isomerase gene into sweet sorghum in order to hopefully double the amount of extractable available sugar as similar work has been accomplished with sugarcane.

Ismail Dweikat
Sorghum/Pearl Millet Genetics
279 Plant Sciences
Agronomy and Horticulture Dept.
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583
United States
Ph. 402 472 5328
email: idweikat2 (at) unl.edu

[Mutations in brown midrib genes can change cell wall composition by reducing lignin and other attributes. Also, researchers in Australia have found that introducing a bacterial gene encoding sucrose isomerase to sugarcane can greatly boost its sugar yields. See below for more information on these two issues:
"Breeders are renewing an interest in sweet (stemmed) sorghums and maize, which are similar in sugar content (but not composition) as sugar cane, as speciality crops for bioethanol production. The sugar and mineral content of the syrups rendered these not amenable to production of crystalline sugar (sucrose), but this is inconsequential for bioethanol production. Breeders have endeavored to breed higher straw digestibility within the limited variability of the genomes of the various crops. Brown mid-rib (bmr) mutations in maize and sorghum have been isolated that have a lower lignin content and much higher digestibility. They have been used to breed forage (silage) maize and sorghum, invariably with somewhat lower yields, which can be economically compensated for by the greater digestibility. The brown midribs are due to mutations in lignin biosynthesis, which lead to slightly less lignin as well as a modified lignin sub-unit composition". (from J. Gressel. 2008 Transgenics are imperative for biofuel crops. Plant Science 174: 246-263).
"Sucrose is the feedstock for more than half of the world's fuel ethanol production and a major human food. It is harvested primarily from sugarcane and beet. Despite attempts through conventional and molecular breeding, the stored sugar concentration in elite sugarcane cultivars has not been increased for several decades. Recently, genes have been cloned for bacterial isomerase enzymes that convert sucrose into sugars which are not metabolized by plants, but which are digested by humans, with health benefits over sucrose. We hypothesized that an appropriate sucrose isomerase (SI) expression pattern might simultaneously provide a valuable source of beneficial sugars and overcome the sugar yield ceiling in plants. The introduction of an SI gene tailored for vacuolar compartmentation resulted in sugarcane lines with remarkable increases in total stored sugar levels. The high-value sugar isomaltulose was accumulated in storage tissues without any decrease in stored sucrose concentration, resulting in up to doubled total sugar concentrations in harvested juice. The lines with enhanced sugar accumulation also showed increased photosynthesis, sucrose transport and sink strength. This remarkable step above the former ceiling in stored sugar concentration provides a new perspective into plant source-sink relationships, and has substantial potential for enhanced food and biofuel production". (abstract of Wu, L.G. and Birch, R.G. (2007) Doubled sugar content in sugarcane plants modified to produce a sucrose isomer. Plant Biotechnology Journal 5: 109-117)...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 03 December 2008 10:53
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 54: Re: Biotechnology and ethanol from sorghum

This is from Sergio Eduardo Contreras. I am an agronomist, with an M.Sc. in plant breeding from the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru. At present, I am professor of plant breeding at the Universidad Nacional Jose Faustino Sanchez Carrion, Huacho, Peru (www.unjfsc.edu.pe). I was reading all the presentations and comments and they are very interesting for my classes and professional work. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

Responding to message 43 of M.J. Vasudeva Rao: My greetings for your work in sorghum for ethanol production. I have noticed that University of Arizona in Tucson are looking for new genotypes for sugar and ethanol. Maybe you can contact them.

Sergio Contreras Liza
Calle El Galeon 136, Surco Lima 33
Peru.
Telefonos: 232 1918 (FAX) - 232 2773 (TRABAJO)
CELULAR: 985-395-323.
e-mail: sergio_cl2002 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 03 December 2008 12:26
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 55: Re: Biotechnology for bioconversion of lignocellulosics for biofuel production

This message is from Jan Jansa, based at ETH (Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich, Switzerland. I am working on nutrient and carbon fluxes between soil and plants, with particular attention to soil microorganisms.

As to my theoretical knowledge and lab experience, degradation of lignin and cellulose are extremely inefficient processes and current efforts to improve both the rate and efficiency of degradation of these biopolymers are not really successful. At best, you can convert few percent of the biomass to fermentable sugars within a scale of several to many days. Economically, it will not pay off at any near future, certainly not as early as we need it - unless there is some unexpected break-through, which cannot really be planned. After all, these compounds were selected through eons of evolution to withstand enzymatic degradation, we shall not be so blind to ignore the nature. If any, these compounds shall be burnt and converted to electricity/hydrogen or other energy carriers as needed, or the heat used directly. I am not a fan of producing gas carriers (either hydrogen or methane) for long-distance transport, it is certainly safer to move the wood around as compared to liquefied methane or hydrogen. Apart from the technical issues above, a worry I have about using plant biomass/residues for energy production is that their removal from the fields can have important consequences for the ecosystem (soil erosion etc.).

Dr. Jan Jansa
ETH Zurich
Institute of Plant Sciences
FMG C23
Eschikon 33
CH - 8315 Lindau (ZH)
Switzerland
tel +41-52-3549216
fax +41-52-3549119
email: jan.jansa (at) ipw.agrl.ethz.ch

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 04 December 2008 09:39
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 56: Reflections on biotechnological research and biofuels

I am Dr. E.M. Muralidharan, working with the Kerala Forest Research Institute located at Peechi, Kerala State in India. My main interests are in micropropagation of forestry species and medicinal plants and use of molecular markers for genetic diversity studies.

I have no direct experience with biofuels but read with great interest the messages in the conference so far. In the context of the developing countries, I think the danger of prime agricultural land being diverted for biofuel production is indeed great, particularly when commercial interests are involved. The misuse of biotechnology can make it worse. There is a spurt of interest by the private industry (at least in India) in biofuel plantations but many of them will be opportunists who have jumped on the bandwagon to make some quick money. Note how, even before any superior selections of proven performance have been made, micropropagated plants of the biodiesel species are being offered for sale. Farmers could be lured by the hype and the promise of high profits into shifting from their sustenance crops to biodiesel crops. Diverting acreage to biofuel is a danger that developing countries facing food shortages will have to avert unless the potential for generating clean energy efficiently from agricultural wastes (second-generation biofuels) is being simultaneously addressed.

We should instead discuss exhaustively all the other options so as to shift focus from conversion of sugar/starch to biofuel to other technologies including improvement of traditional ones. It is my belief that a permanent solution to the world's energy problems would come from advances made in technology for harvesting solar energy through photovoltaics or algae grown on wastewater or in the oceans. Any such technology would be covered by intellectual property rights and become too costly for developing countries to access.

For the present, the developing countries would do well to invest in biotechnological research aimed at modernizing the traditional and simple technologies that work in the rural backyards and will provide both food and energy security. The typical example is the rural biogas plant based on farmyard and kitchen waste that reduces the dependence on fossil fuels or firewood and also generates fertilizer for the farm. In urban areas, the wastewater and garbage could be similarly used. It would be desirable if, along with the popularization of these technologies, biotechnology can improve the efficiency of the processes involved or broaden the range of raw materials that could be used in biogas plants. Selection of most effective microbial consortia in biogas plants and development of enzyme biotechnology for production of second generation biofuels from agricultural and forestry residues are some of the interventions that are within the reach of current state-of-the-art knowledge. What is not efficient enough for an industrial/commercial process might still be good for a small scale farm.

Since many of the biofuel species, particularly the tree species, are in the early stages of domestication, there is great scope for selection of superior strains to suit a range of agronomic requirements - tolerance to salinity, drought, water use efficiency, frost tolerance etc. As has been mentioned already in many of the earlier messages, the use of molecular markers would make the selection process quick and efficient and, coupled with mass cloning of superior selections through tissue culture, rapid deployment of the clones to the appropriate locations is possible. In the rural setting typical of developing countries, these biofuel crops could be part of agroforestry systems as live fences or a multi-tier cropping system rather than commercial monoculture plantations so as to ensure a secure livelihood for small scale farmers. Large scale plantations on non-agricultural wastelands and deserts will be appropriate but feasible only when the 'super-biofuels crops' have been developed through conventional breeding and biotechnology.

Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Scientist, Biotechnology Division
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur, Kerala
India, 680653
emmurali (at) kfri.org
emmurali (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 04 December 2008 09:51
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 57: Re: Tissue culture for Jatropha

This is John Atoyebi again, a scientific officer with the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology in Nigeria.

I must confess my inability to constantly access internet has hampered my contribution to this conference.

Fortunately we just concluded a training at the Centre with Dr Sola Ajayi on information sharing mechanism and this goes a long way to assemble elite materials of jatropha in Nigeria for biofuel considerations. It would be, like I said before (message 51), the interest of our tissue culture lab. to collaborate and assist in mass-propagation of high yielding species, as protocols for this are being perfected. Future high level biotech work is also feasible with the recent trend of events at the Centre.

Also, responding to message 54 talking about biotechnology and ethanol from sorghum: Developing countries don't have some of these genotypes as requested also by one participant. I pray that future projects and research on this can involve Nigeria, especially in solving some of our industrial problems.

John Atoyebi
National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, P.M.B 5382,
Moor Plantation,
Ibadan, Oyo State,
Nigeria
Tel office 00234-2-2312622
Tel mobile 00234-8033824752
johnyinka (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 04 December 2008 16:40
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 58: Biotechnology tools in Jatropha breeding

I am Wagner Vendrame, Associate Professor at the Environmental Horticulture Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. I work at the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) located in Homestead, Florida, USA.

My research at TREC focuses on ornamental plant production and conservation using biotechnology tools, such as plant tissue culture/micropropagation, cryopreservation, molecular markers, and studies on plant cell response to microgravity.

We have a long-term research interest on Jatropha curcas for biodiesel production. We also have interest in its medicinal properties, reportedly anti-malarial activities, and uses of byproducts (biogas, composting).

We believe that biotechnology tools are essential to assist us with a breeding program for Jatropha, as already indicated in prior messages posted in the discussion.

The selection of superior genotypes to fit specific environmental conditions as well as tolerance to biotic (i.e., pests, diseases) and abiotic (i.e., climate, soil) stresses would be a must, thus allowing the expansion of cultivation areas for Jatropha. Molecular markers can assist in the selection process. Hybrids can also be generated using selected/superior genotypes. Mass clonal propagation of selected/superior genotypes and/or hybrids would assure availability of material. Cryopreservation could have a role in preserving germplasm of superior culture lines on a long-term basis.

I believe this discussion is just a starting point in determining the specific benefits of biotechnology in assisting Jatropha breeding and crop improvement programs. My hope is that this discussion will open up opportunities for us to continue talking about Jatropha biotechnology and to develop collaborative efforts.

Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Environmental Horticulture
Tropical Research and Education Center
IFAS - University of Florida
18905 SW 280th St
Homestead, FL 33031-3314
USA
Phone: +1 (305) 246-7001 ext. 210
Fax: +1 (305) 246-7003
Email: vendrame (at) ufl.edu
Website: http://vendrame.ifas.ufl.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 05 December 2008 09:34
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 59: IPR in biotechnologies for bioenergy production

This is from Julie Newman, Australia, again.

In this message, I wish to address one of the questions from Section 5 of the Background Document, about intellectual property rights (IPR) i.e. "- Regarding IPR mentioned in Section 4.2, how big of an issue is this in relation to biotechnologies for bioenergy production in developing countries and how should developing countries act to ensure they have access to appropriate biotechnologies for bioenergy production?"

While the TRIPS agreement (i.e. the WTO's agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) promoted investment to research, it also came with a change from sharing research internationally to blocking research from price prohibitive patents. Research and development is moving rapidly from a public good principle to a corporate profit principle and it causes problems for public researchers and opportunities for corporate investors. As mentioned in section 4.2 of the Background Document: "Zarrilli (2008) notes that forthcoming biofuel technology will be proprietary and points out that strong intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes may mean that access to technology is problematic, especially for developing countries."

To develop a single biotechnology, multiple patents are required for gene sequences, enzymes, promoter genes, marker genes, techniques, equipment etc. It appears much of the patents, intellectual property and equipment involved in biotechnology is owned by Monsanto and Monsanto has been willing to cut deals with research institutes to use this technology free of charge in return for alliances and confidential contracts (e.g. Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO]). If these deals are offered to all global public research institutes, it is anti-competitive and leaves research institutes vulnerable to their intellectual property being mined rather than a more symbiotic relationship being developed. Are researchers finding it difficult to be involved in biotechnology due to the numerous patents involved? What deals are being offered to allow the use of these products and are these deals sustainable and affordable in the long term?

If monopolies are established globally for bioenergy production (and food), the end price will easily be manipulated in order to comply with the corporate principle to make as much money as possible. Policy makers need to be sure that any confidential deals are not heading the research sector or the community to an unaffordable future.

Julie Newman
Network of Concerned Farmers
P.O. Box 6
Newdegate, 6355
West Australia
Phone 08 98711562
Fax 08 98711584
www.non-gm-farmers.com
email: julie (at) non-gm-farmers.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 05 December 2008 11:20
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 60: Pro-smallholder based RD programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development

This is from Wim Polman, again

Are there any examples of "Good Governance" in terms of pro small farmer based reseach and development (RD) programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development?

Is any detailed information available about the role of support institutions (national, local governments, universities, private sector, farmer commodity organizations, farmer cooperatives, NGOs and/or community level development associations) linking RD on biotechnology for bioenergy development with small farmers as producers and consumers of bioenergy products at community level as well as bioenergy entrepreneurs on the market ?

In addition, responding to message 59 by Julie Newman:
This commercialization of RD on biotechnology for bioenergy development start to shape up as another conflictual GMO type of patent policy issue, potentially damaging the livelihoods of small farmers as costly patents on new bioenergy products will drive them out of emerging renewable energy markets.

Wim Polman
Bio Energy Officer
Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
Rome 00153,
Italy
e-mail: Wim.Polman (at) fao.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 05 December 2008 17:20
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 61: Bamboo - biofuel - biotechnologies

This is E.M. Muralidharan from India again.

We have had a good discussion in this conference so far about biofuel crops such as agave, jatropha and sorghum. Perennial crops have advantages like lower cost of establishment and maintenance, multiple harvests, lower impact on soil health and multiple uses like timber, fodder and green manure. I think it is worthwhile to mention in this context the potential of bamboo, a multipurpose woody grass naturally found in many of the developing nations and which can serve as an excellent lignocellulosic feedstock for bioenergy programmes when the technology for second generation biofuels becomes practical. In this message, I also consider biotechnology options for bamboo in this context.

Some bamboo species have as high as 70% cellulose and only 14% lignin. Bamboos are the fastest growing of all plants and have the advantage that harvesting of stems (culms) can be done annually for a long time unlike other tree crops. There are literally hundreds of species of bamboo and these include those that grow in tropical regions and others that thrive in the temperate areas. Bamboo is already extensively used by the rural populace in many developing countries in construction, for making household goods and as food. Besides its widespread use as raw material for the paper and viscose industry, it is fast becoming a substitute for conventional timber in the manufacture of parquet tiles, paneling, plywood and laminates. Residues from bamboo-based industries are currently being used for energy generation through gasification. More efficient biotechnological means of energy production are sure to make bamboo an ideal multipurpose crop for many of the developing countries.

In India, massive bamboo plantation activities have been taken up under government sponsorship and this has created a very high demand for planting material that can be met only through micropropagation. Unfortunately, on the issue of genetic superiority of the clones being propagated, there is much room for doubt since hardly any genetic improvement programme exists in the country. In at least two species of native bamboo, characterization of germplasm, collected from throughout their natural habitat, has yielded unexpected results in terms of higher cellulose and lower lignin content in their woody biomass. Micropropagation of such desirable genotypes and evaluation of the plants in the field needs to be done before embarking on large-scale plantations. Other biotechnological options will include use of in vitro culture and molecular breeding approaches for intergeneric hybridization between bamboo and other grasses (including, but not limited to, the cereal species) to produce plants with faster growth rates, stress tolerance, higher sugar/cellulose content, lower lignin and other agronomic traits of interest. Interestingly, sugarcane-bamboo hybrids have been produced long ago but have unfortunately given no useful outcome.

Perennial, fast-growing, multiple end-use (food/biofuel/timber/industrial biomass) crops are the ideal choice for developing nations. Let us hope that a viable biotechnological solution for energy production from cellulose is just around the corner.

Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Scientist, Biotechnology Division
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur, Kerala
India, 680653
emmurali (at) kfri.org
emmurali (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 05 December 2008 17:35
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 62: Re: Reflections on biotechnological research and biofuels

This is from Ruzena Svedelius, Sweden, again.

Responding to message 56 by E.M. Muralidharan who wrote "We should instead discuss exhaustively all the other options so as to shift focus from conversion of sugar/starch to biofuel to other technologies including improvement of traditional ones."

I agree that biogas plants using feedstocks, that are now managed by 'get rid of' method, both in rural and in urban areas, can very soon generate energy-rich methane in biogas and also biofertilisers, so much needed for production of new biomass. The biogas plants can also transform residues/byproducts from ethanol and biodiesel production (see message 58 by Wagner Vendrame) to biogas and biofertilisers. Is research on anaerobic digestion for more sustainable production of biogas still blocked? Novel bioreactors and more sustainable methods are needed. Each year we can buy new models of cars - why is it so difficult to design and built modern digesters/bioreactors? Perhaps technicians from car industry now can produce for sustainability more important equipment.

Dr. Ruzena Svedelius,
Nobbelovs Torg 29,
SE 226 52 Lund,
Sweden
Biological Transformation of Renewable Organic Material
Phone: +46 707 33 11 20
E-mail: rsvedelius (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 07 December 2008 17:51
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 63: Re: IPRs in biotechnologies for bioenergy production

This is from S.K.T. Nasar, Honorary Vice-President of a NGO called the Maromi Human Resource Development Society (MHRDS) in India. We are a group drawn from academia, farmers' organizations, social activists, government functionaries, political persons involved with policy issues, women's self-help groups etc. MHRDS works in rural areas of West Bengal for livelihood security and women's empowerment through participatory introduction and/or expansion of innovative technologies specially designed for farming/rural families. I am also former Director of Research at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (agricultural university) in Kalyani, West Bengal and former Chairman (Genetics) of the Rajendra Agricultural University, Pusa (Samastipur), Bihar.

I am coming in late to add to comments by Julie Newman in Message 59 about intellectual property rights (IPR).

IPR is losing sheen in the midst of the current global economic meltdown. A new and more equitable IPR regime will most likely emerge over time with increasing emphasis on national laws relating to biodiversity enacted under the International Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Biodiversity laws include life-systems, from the level of 'genes' to that of higher organisms. Developing countries are largely biodiversity-rich and should, thereby, take advantage in terms of biotechnologies applied to biodiversity relating to biofuels. Biotechnologically reconstructed genes/genomes need living systems/cells to produce biofuels despite the fact that 'artificial life' has now been invented. Such a 'synthetic genome' requires a suitable living host among available biodiversity. It is here that developing countries have an advantage. Such life-hosts also require 'food' to sustain own growth and produce biofuels. The input-output economics - biological, mass-culture and monetary economics - need to match with the desired biofuel economics.

Developing countries should protect and utilize all forms of biodiversity, guard against IPR invasion, consider economics and produce biofuels by non-rDNA and rDNA (recombinant DNA) biotechnologies to its global advantage.

Prof. S. K.T. Nasar,
Honorary Vice-President,
Maromi Human Resource Development Society (NGO), Kolkata, and
Former Director of Research,
Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya,
Kalyani,
West Bengal,
India
e-mail: sktnasar (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 08 December 2008 11:52
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 64: Re: Pro-smallholder based RD programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development

This is Dr Janaki Krishna, from India again (message 1), responding to Wim Polman (message 60):

There are some examples for bioenergy production which are appropriate for small holdings like establishing gobar gas plants, generating energy through the use of agricultural wastes etc. I provide here one successful case, from Gujarat, in India - the source of the abstract is http://www.geda.org.in/bio/bio_successstory1.htm where all the details with regard to the community biogas plant are furnished. It is a very good case study involving the community also consisting of small holders in the village: "Methan is a small village in India, having a population of about 5000 persons having about 460 Households. The success story of setting up and efficient management of the project in this village has evoked considerable interest in the Global 'Energy Scenario'. The world bank and the B.B.C. have reportedly shown interest in the coverage of this 'MODEL' plant. The daily biogas use for 5-6 hours by the village households has helped in saving approximately 7800 tonnes firewood, so far, valued of Rs. 35.50 lacs, which otherwise would have been chopped and burnt." [This is one of the biogas plants from the Gujarat Energy Development Agency, a Government of Gujarat organisation, community biogas plants programme (http://www.geda.org.in/bio/bio_community.htm)...Moderator].

There are several such cases where the abundant biowaste available in the villages can be used through involvement of farmers having small holdings.

Dr (Mrs) P S Janaki Krishna,
Subject Expert (Biotechnology)
Biotechnology Unit,
Institute of Public Enterprise
Osmania University Campus
Hyderabad - 500 007,
India
e-mail: jankrisp (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 09 December 2008 18:00
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 65: Re: Pro-smallholder based RD programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development

This is from Joy Clancy from The University of Twente, The Netherlands.

This is in response to Wim Polman's question (message 60) about whether or not there are any examples of "good governance" in pro-smallholder based research and development (RD) programs in biotechnology for bioenergy development. I would suggest that this question is a little too narrow since bioenergy development is relatively recent. Perhaps it might yield more results/examples if the question was shortened to: Are there examples of "good governance" in pro-smallholder based RD programs in biotechnology?

Joy Clancy
Dept of Technology and Sustainable Development (TSD)
Centre for Clean Technology and Environmental Policy (CSTM)
The University of Twente
PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede,
The Netherlands
email: j.s.clancy (at) utwente.nl
telephone: +31-53-4893537(direct);3545(sec)
fax: +31-53-4894850
web site: http://www.utwente.nl/cstm/tsd/
Urban energy: http://www.urbanenergy.utwente.nl/

[Pro-smallholder based biotechnology research and development programs are unfortunately not a topic for this particular e-mail conference which is focusing on application of biotechnologies for bioenergy production. There were, however, good discussions of this topic in a previous e-mail conference of this Forum (Conference 8 on "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?" http://www.fao.org/biotech/Conf8.htm), which might be of interest. The Executive Summary of the conference begins "The agricultural research agenda should be defined using a "bottom-up" approach, based on the needs of local communities in developing countries. The needs and realities of small farmers in developing countries require special attention in the research agenda. Research is very important for developing country agriculture and more public funding of biotechnology research is needed. There is general agreement about the positive role that non-GMO biotechnology research can play in developing countries but opinions are divided about use of scarce agricultural research resources for GMO research. Biotechnology research can and should complement research into conventional technologies"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 10 December 2008 10:51
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 66: Use of cellulases for LC biomass in developing countries

I am Dele Raheem from Nottingham, UK, again.

The background document to this conference raised an important aspect on the conversion of lignocellulose (LC) biomass to liquid biofuels and the use of cellulases in the economics of the operation. [From Section 5.2 of the background document: "Most of the world's industrial enzymes (60%) are produced in Europe, while the remaining 40% come from the United States and Japan, although countries like China, India and South Korea are likely to play a greater role in the future (Bon and Ferrara, 2007). For conversion of LC biomass to liquid biofuels, use of cellulases plays a key role in the economics of the operation. How realistic is it for developing countries to produce their own cellulases? Can regional co-operation be important here?"...Moderator].

The use of enzymes (cellulases) in the conversion of LC biomass in developing countries has a great potential in wealth generation on an industrial scale. Hopefully this scenario will manifest itself in the nearest future. The value of the world enzyme market has rapidly increased recently from 110 million pounds sterling in 1960, 200 million pounds sterling in 1970, 270 million pounds sterling in 1980, 500 million pounds sterling in 1985 to an estimated 1,000 million pounds sterling for 1990, representing an increase from 10% of the total catalyst market in 1980 to almost 20% in the 1990s (Chaplin and Bucke, 1990). With the current interest in the field of bioenergy, this trend will definitely be on the increase. This increase is reflected in the rise in the number of enzymes available on an industrial scale at relatively decreasing cost and the increasing wealth of knowledge concerning enzymes and their potential applications. [Chaplin, M.F. and C. Bucke. 1990. Enzyme Technology. Cambridge University Press...Moderator].

The cost of enzymes for use at the research scale is often very high. Where there is a clear large-scale need for an enzyme its relative cost reduces dramatically with increased production. Investment in this area of business is likely to be a better option in the future for developing countries in turning wastes to wealth. Scale-up operations that utilize cellulases derived from fungal strains (such as Trichoderma reesei, Aspergillus flavus) on waste of agricultural materials as in LC biomass such as cobs from corn, sawdust, baggase etc. The optimal conditions for the production of cellulases and from which substrate the yield is highest, should be given primary considerations. The purification steps on an industrial scale to yield the highest output will play important roles in the economics scale.

The development of any commercial enzyme is a specialised business which is usually undertaken by a handful of companies that have high skills in screening for new and improved enzymes, fermentation for enzyme production, large scale enzyme purifications, formulation of enzymes for sale and dealing with the regulatory authorities. To this end, developing countries need to cooperate more on a regional basis and internationally.

Dr. Dele Raheem
2 Broadholme Street,
Nottingham,
UK
Email: draheem (at) gmail.com
Tel: +44 7747156868

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 10 December 2008 12:39
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 67: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program

My name is Emma Kreuger. I am a PhD student at the Department of Biotechnology at Lund University, Sweden. I am working with anaerobic digestion (biogas production) from lignocellulosic feedstocks.

NATURE HAS THE BIOTECHNOLOGY

I believe that developing countries (as well as developed) do not need to focus on genetic engineering at this stage. There is still so much more to find in nature, we just need to know what to look for, and how to utilize it when found (which is biotechnology). The energy potential in rest products is much larger than what is usually acknowledged. It can be utilized today with our current state of knowledge on biogas production through anaerobic digestion. [As written in the Background Document: "In the absence of oxygen, certain bacteria will ferment biomass into methane and carbon dioxide, a mixture called biogas. In this anaerobic digestion process (i.e. without oxygen), the feedstocks used to obtain biogas may include sewage sludge, agricultural by-products and wastes (especially animal manure), industrial wastes (e.g. organic solid wastes) or municipal solid wastes"...Moderator].

HIGH POTENTIAL IN BIOGAS PRODUCTION

In Sweden the biogas potential from rest products from society (sewage sludge, food waste and industrial waste) and agriculture (manure, straw etc) has been approximated to 1700 kWh (kilowatt hour) per person and year (based on simple technologies and a low conversion degree, the actual potential is higher), forestry rest products are not included. About 70% of this potential can be found in agriculture.

The farming community could strengthen its position in society by converting rest products. In 2004, India and Africa used 4200-4300 kWh per person and year, of which 300-400 kWh was electricity (I'm not sure if the burning of agricultural rest products are included in these figures). If India and Africa have similar amounts of rest products per capita as Sweden, the farmers could supply almost half of the energy demand of the countries by utilising only rest products (figures based on 2004, forestry products not included).

Dr Janaki Krishna (message 64) provides us with an excellent example of a village utilizing the manure in a resource efficient manner. Other substrates can also be added, such as ground straw, pasteurized human feces, industrial rest products etc.

A high utilisation degree of rest products can be achieved with natural microorganisms. 50-90% of the energy in most biomass (including biomass with high content of cellulose and even woody biomass, see Turick et al. 1991) can be recovered in methane without advanced pre-treatment technologies. A nutrient rich residue is left (almost no losses of nutrients during degradation). Non-degraded biomass can be returned to the agricultural land as soil improver or can be separated and used for electricity and heat production through incineration. [Turick, C.E. et al. 1991, Methane fermentation of woody biomass. Bioresource Technology 37: 141-147. Its abstract begins "Woody biomass has been previously considered to be highly refractile to anaerobic digestion without extensive pretreatment. However, this study has demonstrated that high rates and ultimate methane yields may be obtained in batch assays without pretreatment, other than some particle size reduction"...Moderator].

LARGER BIOGAS PLANTS FOR MORE EFFICIENT UTILISATION OF THE SUBSTRATE

Two key features for efficient biogas production is a stable temperature (max 1 C variation) and a stable supply of feedstock. It will probably be easier for larger plants to fulfill these demands and, in this aspect, biogas plants owned by cooperatives are advantageous to single household plants (other aspects are given by Wim Polman in message 49).

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAM

Without sound knowledge about anaerobic digestion, the production of biogas can be very problematic (especially when using waste products other than manure). It will be interesting to hear the responses to the question posted by Wim Polman (message 60) about the role and presence of support institutions as a link between research and development (RD) and small-scale farmers development. To increase this link, I would like to suggest an international education program in biogas production to educate advisors in developing countries.

The education program should include a mix of high-level university education and practical training at biogas plants that utilise mixtures of substrates. Practical training could include work at plants in developed as well as developing countries. Hopefully the experienced plant operators would be willing to share their knowledge. The students will achieve an applicable knowledge in biotechnology and can further teach biogas plant operators. An Internet site for presenting information about biogas plants around the world would also be very useful for developing as well as the developed countries. Is there anyone reading this who is in a position to initiate such a program? This could be an investment of 'help-the-climate'-money that would pay back. Possibly, the EU could support the program.

Finally, I would like to post a question to all readers active in developing countries. How well are the single household or small farm biogas plants working? Do you believe in community level cooperative biogas plants (like the ones referred to in message 64)?

Emma Kreuger,
PhD student
Department of Biotechnology
Lund University
Sweden
emma.kreuger (at) biotek.lu.se
+46 222 81 93
http://www.biotek.lu.se/research/renewable_energy/

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 10 December 2008 17:01
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 68: Thermo-chemical vs. biochemical conversion of LC biomass

This is Uwe Bruenjes, from Mexico, again.

In my opinion we are focussing too much on producing biofuels from biomass, instead of producing biomass FOR biofuels. As I mentioned in my introduction (message 8), I promote environmentally benign technologies. Consequently, I try to stay alert regarding the latest news in this area, so I'm aware that bio-conversion (as opposed to chemical conversion) is extremely slow. How long does it take to convert biomass into methane gas, with an acceptable efficiency? It takes at least days, if not weeks. Nevertheless, I found a process that converts cellulose into combustible hydrocarbons in a matter of minutes. That tells me there is no chance that biochemistry might become the prefered way of producing biofuels one day. Therefore I think here we should focus on producing suitable biomass FOR biofuel production, leaving the conversion process itself to the chemists. That would be more efficient overall.

Last of all, I agree that there is abundant cellulosic waste for this purpose. Apparently it is the most abundant organic matter on Earth. If there was a way to make this substance more readily "convertible", that would be a great contribution to everybody's attempt to alleviate contamination from non-renewable energy sources.

Uwe Bruenjes
Calle Plan de Guadalupe #4025
Col. Los Nogales
Cd. Juarez, Chih. 32350
Mexico
ubrunjes (at) yahoo.com

[This message from Uwe raises for the first time in the conference the issue of the relative merits of the two main approaches to conversion of lignocellulosic (LC) biomass to biofuels, one that may involve biotechnologies and the other no. Further comments on this issue are welcome. Quoting from the background document: "As mentioned in Section 2.3, LC biomass can be converted to biofuels through two major routes, by thermo-chemical or biochemical processing, where only the latter involves extensive applications of biotechnology. For developing countries wishing to produce second-generation liquid biofuels, are there strong arguments in favour of one of the processing routes over the other?"...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 11 December 2008 10:46
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 69: Re: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program

My name is Daniel Komwihangilo, working as a research scientist at Mpwapwa Livestock Research Institute, Tanzania.

I agree with Emma Kreuger in message 67 on the importance of educating farmers and other stakeholders in utilizing different substrates for biogas production. I recall efforts done by an NGO in the early 1990s in Turiani division, Eastern Tanzania, where plastic biodigesters were tried in villages to produce gas for cooking and other household uses. To begin with, there were recorded successes because the NGO involved was also promoting dairy farming project. Slurry from cattle sheds was washed to the biodigester where fermentation was done and eventually gases were produced for energy production. Meanwhile, NGO technicians were always in the villages to supervise the operations. Although there could be other reasons, I can say that it was perhaps because of inadequate education on operations, maintenance and servicing of biodigesters on the side of farmers that most of the biodigesters have today run down. Unfortunately, even the local training institutions did not put interest in inviting staff and students to do further research not only on the operations of biodigesters but also on alternative raw materials that could be needed such as ground straw.

I have noted and quite agree therefore, that efforts of local universities and other research institutions are imperative in furthering utilization of substrate mixtures for biogas production and other biotechnology applications in any country.

Daniel Komwihangilo
National Livestock Research Institute,
P.O. Box 202
Mpwapwa,
Tanzania
e-mail: dkomwihangilo2001 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 11 December 2008 11:15
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 70: Re: Thermo-chemical vs. biochemical conversion of LC biomass

This is Emma Kreuger from Sweden again. Commenting on message 68.

Thermal gasification is indeed a promising technology with high energy efficiency and anaerobic degradation of lignocellulosic (LC) biomass to methane is indeed not a quick process. Most of the degradation occurs during the first 10-30 days, but degradation will continue for many days more. 50-60 days hydraulic retention time is common for LC biomass and it can even be 100 days.

To be able to choose between these two conversion technologies we cannot look only to the energy efficiencies and conversion rates but we also need to know the value of the rest products in a recycling system. During thermal gasification, the nitrogen in the biomass is lost to gaseous forms. Some of the produced energy therefore needs to be used to recapture the nitrogen to produce fertilizer. Many nutrients remains in solid, but oxidized, form that cannot be directly taken up by plants.

In the rest product from anaerobic digestion, the nitrogen from the biomass will be found as ammonium, many minerals such as P, K and micro nutrients will be in a form available for uptake by plants. Ready for recycling.

Are there any comparative studies of the two products? If one would be better than the other, what is it worth? I have only found few articles evaluating the fertilizing effect of the rest product from thermal gasification.

Emma Kreuger,
PhD student
Department of Biotechnology
Lund University
Sweden
e-mail: emma.kreuger (at) biotek.lu.se
+46 222 81 93
http://www.biotek.lu.se/research/renewable_energy/

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 11 December 2008 11:16
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 71: Re: Thermo-chemical vs. biochemical conversion of LC biomass

This is E.M. Muralidharan, from India, again.

In response to the points raised by Uwe Bruenjes (Message 68), I think the reason why the relatively slower biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic (LC) biomass should be preferred by developing countries is that it is a cost-effective and simple process for implementation on the farm and one with multiple benefits. We should also consider that there is potential yet to improve through biotechnology the efficiency of this process. The more "efficient" chemical process would be the ideal choice for urban areas of the developing countries or in situations where LC rich biomass/waste is produced on an industrial scale and the energy produced can be used by the industry itself. Agricultural and forestry residues are currently being wasted on the farms and we need a way to utilize them locally in an environment-friendly manner. Only if the thermo-chemical process can be replicated in small, cheap, on-farm units scattered all over the countryside, would it be suitable for most developing countries.

Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Scientist,
Biotechnology Division
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur, Kerala
India, 680653
emmurali (at) kfri.org
emmurali (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 11 December 2008 11:27
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 72: Re: IPRs in biotechnologies for bioenergy production

This is Gena Fleming, USA national co-representative, International Organisation for Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

My comments address the role of intellectual property rights as well as the inherent risks to genetic engineering.

The curent state of our planet does not allow for much more negotiation with respect to priorities. Ecological imperatives must be respected before economic benefits can be realistically assessed.

Dr. Ruzena Svedelius (Message 33) brings up the comparison between older biotechnologies and newer biotechnologies. I agree this is an important distinction to be made. The former work of fermentation and utilization of other microbial cultures (microbiology) is very different from modern biotechnology (molecular biology/genetic egineering). The former works in alliance with nature, while the latter disrupts fundamental organizational processes of nature. The term "biotechnology", in fact, is being applied only retrospectively to the older technologies in an attempt, I believe, to legitimize the newer technologies. As bacteria are genetically modified to make them industrial factories, the distinction is sometimes obscured.

I appreciate the distinction that many in this conference have made regarding the relative merits of different kinds of technology. Let us continue to examine them carefully and not fall into the trap of "advancing biotechnology" or advancing "science" for its own sake. Rather, let us maintain a critical level of constant assessment and reassessment of the underlying principles inherent to each technology we are advancing, as well as the impacts these technologies will ultimately have on the integrative warp and woof of biologic systems.

We need absolutely to respect organizational processes in nature. The corruption of cellular organization that is incurred by the introduction of foreign DNA from other species, genera, even other kingdoms, is unprecedented. It is only accomplished by force or by processes inherently pathogenic - through gene guns or microbial vectors invading the cell to ferry in the foreign DNA. The natural safeguards to prevent such foreign transfer are the result of thousands of years of evolution. Transgenic engineering is inherently counter-evolutionary. It enhances horizontal gene transfer and destabilizes the genome of the species and by extension, the entire ecosystem.

I emphasize this because I believe there is a concerted attempt being made by corporations to reorganize nature for the benefit of corporations, and much of it is parading under the name of environmentalism. This is especially a problem with U.S. corporations because of two events that occurred in 1980. These were 1) the first patenting of a living organism upheld by the United States Supreme Court which opened the floodgates for the patenting of life forms and 2) The Bayh Dole Act which encouraged corporate-university parternships by allowing federally funded research to be patented and licensing agreements to be made with corporations. Since the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act, the number of patents assigned to research universities has risen more than 80%. It is a matter of policy that researchers for most major research universities are required to submit patent applications for their work.

The end result is that the altering of nature, because it is novel and patentable, has become a goal unto itself where economic incentives prevail. We are choosing to disassemble and rearrange nature instead of facing the hard realities that our way of life (in the industrialized world) simply cannot continue on the same path.

With respect to biofuels, I am greatly concerned about the genetic modification of forest trees in order to support this industry. As you are aware, trees are being engineered with altered lignin and carbon, for pest resistance using Bt toxin (which adversely affects pollinators and beneficial soil microorganisms responsible for soil fertility). They are also being engineered with herbicide resistance, which means they would be sprayed with large amounts of pesticide. Finally, the plants are being engineered for reproductive sterility. Since sterility can't be guaranteed to be expressed 100% of the time, these reproductive aberrations could potentially contaminate our native species of forest trees. In addition, in lieu of reducing emissions, corporations can get "carbon credits" for planting trees - and they are genetically engineering the trees for increased carbon sequestration to get more credit. All of this will increase, rather than decrease, the negative environmental effects on the planet that has been the legacy of modern technology so far. (See the article "GE trees, cellulosic biofuels & destruction of forest biological diversity" - http://globaljusticeecology.org/stopgetrees_about.php?ID=117link).

Genetically engineered bacteria may well make conversion of cellulose into biofuel more efficient; however, it is a grave mistake to think this makes it less expensive. The efficiency will incur increased profits to the corporation holding the patent(s), and the patent will empower the corporation to charge whatever it wants with no competitors. The only purpose of a patent is to exclude others from the marketplace and achieve a monopoly on the market. This raises prices, no matter how efficient the process is. How wise is it to keep multiplying the ways we violate and subvert the natural organizational principles of life just to secure 20 years of increased profits for multinational corporations?

All this to say that many of the "older technologies" hold the key to the wisdom we need to move forward today. They are applicable on a small scale, for regional economies, and do not lend themselves to centralized controls or patenting of life forms. And most importantly, they benefit from a deeper understanding of how nature works in an integrative fashion. They benefit from insight into the inherent transformative capacities of nature that work altruistically for our benefit, rather than disassembling and corrupting laws of nature.

The reason these older technologies have not been supported and developed to their fullest is simply because funding was diverted to the technologies of exclusive, centralized profit. But that road is now racing to its inevitable end. As human priorities evolve, the more ecologically valuable and bioregional technologies will hopefully get the support they have always deserved and the world has always needed. It is not a question of returning to more primitive technology, but rather retaining the fundamental respect for natural principles embodied in these technologies and honoring them as we move forward.

Evaluating these technologies will require a good deal of contemplation; there are a lot of double speak, marketing lingo, patent secrecy, and international laws to wade through. We must be careful to say exactly what we mean. For example, using "biotechnology" to create a biorefinery.... what does that mean? Does it mean creating a bioreactor using natural bacteria and enzymes under optimal conditions, or do we mean genetic engineering? The distinction is crucial.

Gena Fleming, MS, LAc
NCCAOM Diplomate Oriental Medicine,
United States
genafleming (at) gmail.com
phone: 615-305-0395
USA national co-representative, International Organisation for Biotechnology and Bioengineering (IOBB)
http://iobborg.net

[A reminder for participants that, apart from not being about bioenergy per se, this conference is also not about biotechnology (or GMOs) per se. As written in the background document: "This conference is therefore not just about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and discussions in this conference will not consider the issues of whether GMOs should or should not be used per se or the attributes, positive or negative, of GMOs themselves. Instead, the goal is to discuss the potential role that applications of biotechnology tools (including genetic modification) can play for production of bioenergy in developing countries"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 11 December 2008 12:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 73: Re: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program

This is Anju Arora again from IARI, N. Delhi.

I agree that biogas from wastes is a very good option if operated on a cooperative basis in small villages and rural areas so that supply of substrate can be steady and year round. In North India, biogas was started by farmers but was not a success for a few reasons i) constant supply of manure and substrates and ii) also one very important reason was low temperature during winters when the activity of microbes gets low resulting in extremely low methane content in the biogas produced. These reasons were put forward by farmers for biogas not being popular in North India. Is there any way that the temperature of the digester can be maintained fairly warm to ensure good yield of biogas and methane?

Anju Arora
Senior Scientist,
Division of Microbiology,
Indian Agricultural Research Institute,
New Delhi,
India
anjudev (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 11 December 2008 17:28
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 74: Re: Thermo-chemical vs. biochemical conversion of LC biomass

This is Uwe Bruenjes again, responding to Dr. Muralidharan (message 71):

I would like to add to my previous comments (message 68) that these units can still be effective on a relatively small scale. They might not be efficient if used on a small farm, but we are talking about solving a pretty global problem anyway. So we should think about having to gather input from many "sources" or farms, to ensure overall efficiency. [E.M. Muralidharan wrote: "Only if the thermo-chemical process can be replicated in small, cheap, on-farm units scattered all over the countryside, would it be suitable for most developing countries."...Moderator].

We need big, industrial solutions and installations, not small and most likely "homebrew" equipments, like fermenters. In my opinion, fermenters are almost on the level of "hobby gadgets". They are not suitable, for example, for the production of combustibles for car, planes, ships, etc. And, as we all know, these are the major consumers. Only stationary industries (i.e. industries that don't move, as opposed to the case of the transportation industry, for example) could (reasonably) benefit from biogas.

Uwe Bruenjes
Calle Plan de Guadalupe #4025
Col. Los Nogales
Cd. Juarez, Chih. 32350
Mexico
ubrunjes (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 12 December 2008 11:15
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 75: Re: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program

This is Emma Kreuger from Sweden again.

In the background document, "second generation biofuels" refers to liquid fuels from lignocellulose. My question is 'Do the fuels need to be liquid': This question is not directly focused on biotechnology but considering the amount of research efforts put into biotechnology to produce liquid fuels (e.g. enzyme production) it is important to consider what we are focusing on and why, as commented earlier by Dr. Ruzena Svedelius.

Also, responding to message 74 by Uwe Bruenjes:

Methane (the energy carrier in biogas and natural gas) can, contrary to what is claimed in the message, be used for cars, trains, ships and plains directly (there are examples of all) or via electricity. [In discussing biogas, Section 3.3.b of the background document reads: "The resulting fuel can be used for heat, electricity and as a vehicle fuel (after the gas has been compressed and using the same engine and vehicle configuration as natural gas).". For more on this subject, see e.g. Borjesson, P. and B. Mattiasson. 2008. Biogas as a resource-efficient vehicle fuel. Trends in Biotechnology, 26: 7-13, or http://www.eurobserv-er.org/pdf/baro186_a.pdf (July 2008, EU biogas barometer, 2 MB)...Moderator].

For countries that do not have a well developed infrastructure, it is definitely worthwhile to think about what would be the best infrastructure. Gas grids instead of electricity grids, cars that run on gas and homes that produce electricity? Or, are electrical vehicles the way to go? Should everything possible be converted to electricity; biogas, biomass, sun, wind etc. Imagine the air in Mexico city if all cars ran on electricity. Imagine how little energy it takes to transport gas in a pipeline.

Anaerobic digestion does not need to be made by "hobby gadgets" just because it is possible. It can be very energy efficient on an industrial scale. What we convert the biomass to, and how we do it, I do not care about. What is important is the total resource efficiency and the environmental effects.

Emma Kreuger,
PhD student
Department of Biotechnology
Lund University
Sweden
emma.kreuger (at) biotek.lu.se
+46 222 81 93
http://www.biotek.lu.se/research/renewable_energy/

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 12 December 2008 11:18
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 76: Biochemical conversion of LC biomass - GM corn

This is Professor J. Ralph Blanchfield, an independent food scientist and Immediate Past President of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology.

The following may not be on the immediate application agenda, but I am surprised that no contributor so far has pointed out that there is a very well-known biochemical converter of lignocellulosic (LC) biomass, namely the cow. This fact prompted research at Michigan State University (MSU), the results of which were announced in April this year and presented by Mariam Sticklen, MSU professor of crop and soil science, at the 235th national American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans and later in an article "Plant genetic engineering for biofuel production: Towards affordable cellulosic ethanol" in the June edition of Nature Review Genetics, 9: pages 433-443. [The article's abstract reads: "Biofuels provide a potential route to avoiding the global political instability and environmental issues that arise from reliance on petroleum. Currently, most biofuel is in the form of ethanol generated from starch or sugar, but this can meet only a limited fraction of global fuel requirements. Conversion of cellulosic biomass, which is both abundant and renewable, is a promising alternative. However, the cellulases and pretreatment processes involved are very expensive. Genetically engineering plants to produce cellulases and hemicellulases, and to reduce the need for pretreatment processes through lignin modification, are promising paths to solving this problem, together with other strategies, such as increasing plant polysaccharide content and overall biomass" (http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v9/n6/abs/nrg2336.html) ...Moderator].

Quoting from the MSU news story released about this in April 2008 (http://www.news.msu.edu/story/872):

"The enzyme that allows a cow to digest grasses and other plant fibers can be used to turn other plant fibers into simple sugars"..."MSU scientists have discovered a way to grow corn plants that contain this enzyme. They have inserted a gene from a bacterium that lives in a cow's stomach into a corn plant. Now, the sugars locked up in the plant's leaves and stalk can be converted into usable sugar without expensive synthetic chemicals"... "As reported, turning plant fibers into sugar requires three enzymes. The new variety of corn created for biofuel production, called Spartan Corn III, builds on Sticklen's earlier corn versions by containing all three necessary enzymes.

The first version, released in 2007, cuts the cellulose into large pieces with an enzyme that came from a microbe that lives in hot spring water. Spartan Corn II, with a gene from a naturally occurring fungus, takes the large cellulose pieces created by the first enzyme and breaks them into sugar pairs. Spartan Corn III, with the gene from a microbe in a cow, produces an enzyme that separates pairs of sugar molecules into simple sugars. These single sugars are readily fermentable into ethanol, meaning that when the cellulose is in simple sugars, it can be fermented to make ethanol. "It will save money in ethanol production," Sticklen said. "Without it they can't convert the waste into ethanol without buying enzymes - which is expensive."

The Spartan Corn line was created by inserting an animal stomach microbe gene into a plant cell. The DNA assembly of the animal stomach microbe required heavy modification in the lab to make it work well in the corn cells. Sticklen compared the process to adding a single Christmas tree light to a tree covered in lights. "You have a lot of wiring, switches and even zoning," Sticklen said. "There are a lot of changes. We have to increase production levels and even put it in the right place in the cell." If the cell produced the enzyme in the wrong place, then the plant cell would not be able to function, and, instead, it would digest itself. That is why Sticklen found a specific place to insert the enzyme. One of the targets for the enzyme produced in Spartan Corn III is a special part of the plant cell, called the vacuole. The vacuole is a safe place to store the enzyme until the plant is harvested. The enzyme will collect in the vacuole with other cellular waste products. Because it is only in the vacuole of the green tissues of plant cells, the enzyme is only produced in the leaves and stalks of the plant, not in the seeds, roots or the pollen. It is only active when it is being used for biofuels because of being stored in the vacuole."

Prof J Ralph Blanchfield, MBE
Food Science, Food Technology and Food Law Consultant
Fellow, Institute of Food Technologists
Fellow and Immediate Past President (2006-08), International Academy of Food Science and Technology
United Kingdom
Personal Web address: www.jralphb.co.uk
e-mail: jralphb (at) easynet.co.uk

[While on the issue of genetically modifying corn to produce enzymes for biofuel purposes, something recent and related, although dealing with first-generation rather than second-generation biofuels, that might be of interest is that in a news release of 24 November 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it was seeking public comment on a petition to deregulate corn genetically engineered to produce a microbial enzyme that facilitates ethanol production. In the United States, there are two types of ethanol processing plants, dry-grind (accounting for ca. 80% of ethanol production) and wet-milling plants (ca. 20% of ethanol). The corn variety (Event 3272) is being produced for dry-grind ethanol production and it contains the amy797E gene encoding the heat-stable AMY797E alpha-amylase enzyme. Alpha-amylase is used to break down the starch component of the corn into dextrins, maltose and glucose and the product concept is that the Event 3272 grain will serve as the source of amylase enzyme in the dry-grind ethanol process, replacing the addition of microbially produced enzyme. See the news release and documention about Event 3272 corn at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2008/11/deregcorn.shtml and http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2007-0016 respectively...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 12 December 2008 11:31
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 77: Re: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program

This is Emma Kreuger again, responding to message 73 by Anju Arora about heating of reactors for biogas production:

To keep an anaerobic reactor warm during winter time (and at a stable temperature all year) it needs to be insulated. For a cooperative, I believe it should be possible to finance such investments and also to finance electricity generators. Income can be generated by producing and selling electricity (for vehicles or other purposes) or by selling gas as vehicle fuel. Heat for heating the reactor can be collected from the sun or part of the heat produced together with electricity can be used to heat the reactor.

Anaerobic digestion of cellulosic biomass at lower temperatures has been studied in our group, but it was found to be very slow at temperatures below 25 C (Bohn I, Bjornsson L and Mattiasson B 2007, 2 articles). Some studies indicate that 55 C would be superior to 37 C for cellulose degradation (manure contains much cellulose). By using insulation and heat exchange it doesnīt cost much more energy to run the process at 55 C than 37 C.

Emma Kreuger,
PhD student
Department of Biotechnology
Lund University
Sweden
emma.kreuger (at) biotek.lu.se
+46 222 81 93
http://www.biotek.lu.se/research/renewable_energy/

[The two Bohn et al 2007 articles mentioned are probably: i) The energy balance in farm scale anaerobic digestion of crop residues at 11-37 C. Process Biochemistry, 42: 57-64 and ii) Effect of temperature decrease on the microbial population and process performance of a mesophilic anaerobic bioreactor. Environmental Technology, 28: 943-952...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 12 December 2008 15:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 78: Re: Biotechnology applications and Jatropha curcas

This is from Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy, Mission Biofuels India Pvt, again

Indian scenario - In problems we find opportunities

All developing nations should work towards becoming 'energy independent' which is one of the important areas to upgrade them to become developed nations in the near future. Among different types of energy sources, bioenergy through plant- and/or animal-based feedstock has to play a great role to reduce the dependence on non-renewable energy. Plant-based feedstock for bioenergy is one among energy sources which is very promising because of its renewable nature and sustained production with low cost maintenance. Plants yielding oil are considered suitable for production of biodiesel. Since there is huge requirement of edible oils for daily consumption, the best alternate option is to go for non-edible oil yielding plants for Indian conditions. In this context, Indian planners, scientists and industries are focusing on non-edible oil yielding plants as a source of ideal feedstock for producing biodiesel. Among plants; Tree Borne Oil Seeds (TBOs) are found more suitable for biodiesel production and among these are Pongamia (Pongamia pinnata), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Jatropha curcas and Mahua (Madhuca longifolia). Each one of these plants has advantages and disadvantages. However, Jatropha curcas has been projected by and large. This plant has the potential and for sure will find itself in the drivers seat as biodiesel feedstock in coming days; provided the following areas needs to be addressed together.

Jatropha curcas: A potential feedstock for biodiesel

Since it is an introduced species to India long back, so this species has a narrow genetic base. However, many have reported the existence of large phenotypic variation across India and this has been attributed to the influence of local environmental factors. There was a Jatropha Network Project initiated by the Government and it is a collaborative project between institutes/universities/organizations. This project has given lot of details on Jatropha germplasm available and the variability existing for agro-economically important traits within India. For example Indian Jatropha curcas material has the variability for few traits like oil content ranges from 27 to 54 percent, test weight ranges from 1250 to 1720 seeds per kilogram; branching angle, sex ratio, fruiting behavior, tolerance to drought and frost. After this, very few institute(s) started continuing the further work on Jatropha independently and few collaborations with industries; we have started creating variability through intraspecific and interspecific crosses. Earlier it was reported one sucessful interspecific cross but now we have observed seed setting in three interspecific crosses. This has resulted in creating more variability for many traits. There is huge scope for creating variability beyond imagination in Jatropha through conventional breeding program.

Conventional and molecular marker breeding

Currently, efforts are focusing on molecular characterization of the existing and developed breeding materials for developing molecular markers. Progenies obtained from interspecific crosses were involved in back crossing with Jatropha curcas. This resulted in developing more variability for agro-economically important traits like female:male flower ratio, fruit size, seed weight and plant type. With every backcross generation, there was improvement in the traits of our interest. These populations were subjected for molecular characterization for developing markers; however this is in initial stage.

Like this few institutes and companies are working in different direction with a strong genetic base but lack facilities for biotechnological tools to combine with conventional breeding program to jumpstart genetic improvement for seed and oil yield characteristics of Jatropha curcas. On the other side, few institutes/organizations have started developing molecular makers for important traits since they have infrastructure but they do not have access to the diversified germplasm materials. So these developments are happening independently across India and other nations. So for quick improvement in Jatropha seed and oil yield we should come forward for working together to reduce the gaps between the institutes/organizations. Otherwise, after two years also we will be debating the same issues of low genetic variability and low yields of Jatropha; so Jatropha curcas is not-feasible as a feedstock for biodiesel production. We should also understand the intellectual property rights (IPR) issues related to sharing the knowledge, technology, breeding materials and/or the IPR generated during the collaborations.

Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy
Senior Scientist
Mission Biofuels India Pvt Ltd,
608, 6th Floor, Powai Plaza,
Hiranandani Business Park,
Powai, Mumbai- 400076
India
Tel: +91-22-25706216, +91-22-32601001
Telefax +91-22-25706215,
Mob:+91-9323623328
Url : www.missionnewenergy.com
E-mail: dr.chalapathy (at) missionnewenergy.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 12 December 2008 15:53
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 79: Biogas and biotechnology

This is Joy Clancy again.

I wanted to respond to the discussion on biogas and biotechnology. I wrote a paper for the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation (DGIS) on the potential contribution of biotechnology for biogas production in developing countries in 1994. One of the recommendations was that priority should be given to biotechnological research which increases the range of feedstocks, through pre-treatment of biomass, and the development of specialised inocula for hostile environments (for example, in cold mountainous regions where biogas production can drop drastically or virtually cease in the winter months). This could contribute to a reduction in digester cost and an increase in the number of people who have access to the technology by extending the resource base. Nevertheless, it has to be concluded that the major constraint on increased access to the technology is primarily a socio-economic one, related to income levels in rural areas, and not one of lack of access to a good technology.

I don't think that any of my recommendations were taken up and I still think the report is valid!

Joy Clancy
Dept of Technology and Sustainable Development (TSD)
Centre for Clean Technology and Environmental Policy (CSTM)
The University of Twente
PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede,
The Netherlands
email: j.s.clancy (at) utwente.nl
telephone: +31-53-4893537(direct);3545(sec)
fax: +31-53-4894850
web site: http://www.utwente.nl/cstm/tsd/
Urban energy: http://www.urbanenergy.utwente.nl/

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 December 2008 16:17
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 80: Re: Thermo-chemical vs. biochemical conversion of LC biomass

This is Uwe Bruenjes, from Mexico, again.

As a general guideline, I would say it's not so much about what perceivably could be done, but what is the best solution or at least sensible. I am aware that biogas can be liquified, that it can be distributed via buried pipes, that genetical engineering can be helpful, etc. But that's not the point. The point is, does it make sense from an economical and other points of view?

Point One: Biofuel should always come from agricultural residue, to avoid "competition" with food crops (even it is only for space).

Point Two: The conversion process should be simple, fast and easy. Anything else translates at least into higher costs, and possibly huge space requirements.

Point Three: The obtained biofuel should be of relatively high molecular weight - the higher, the better! A fuel that under normal atmospheric conditions doesn't burn (or hardly) is much safer than, for example, methane gas. Perhaps new motors and engines would have to be designed (in fact, they already exist in labs), but if that is part of what we need to solve our environmental problems, let's go for it.

Point Four: Economy rules! Any sophisticated technical solution that comes expensive as long as it is applied, doesn't fulfill our needs and therefore won't last long. As I said above, it has to be simple, fast and easy (to apply).

In my opinion, what has been proposed so far (biodiesel from jathropha, methane gas from manure, etc.) doesn't comply with the demands real life puts on us. Back to the drawing board! What is more, I feel like this discussion should be permanent, because every new proposal requires time to "consult the pillow" and reflect over it. Knee-jerk solutions won't benefit anybody in the long run. We have to establish a set of rules according to which each proposal shouild be evaluated, and only then can we develop a real solution. Though as I hinted before, this solution might be more chemical than biochemical, and in this case we would have to take a second place, providing the chemists with the best input for their process.

Uwe Bruenjes
Calle Plan de Guadalupe #4025
Col. Los Nogales
Cd. Juarez, Chih. 32350
Mexico
ubrunjes (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 December 2008 16:33
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 81: GE trees for bioenergy: contamination risk

This is from Dr. Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. from the Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and the Stop GE Trees Campaign. My background is in ecology and wildlife biology and more recently as an activist monitoring the development of biofuels industries, and their impacts on land use, peoples, biodiversity and climate.

Wood is considered one of the "best" feedstocks for biofuels. It is inedible, hence, it is claimed, will alleviate competition with food production, and is readily available. Trees contain massive quantities of biomass and can be harvested year round. Fast growing species like eucalyptus and poplar can be grown in a wide range of circumstances. There is a very rapid increase in demand for wood by the pulp industry, by utilities switching from fossil fuels to biomass for electricity production, for residential and industrial heat, for conversion to liquid transport fuels and for chemicals and materials production and processing.

Meeting this demand is likely to have dire consequences for forests, even as reducing emissions from deforestation is simultaneously taking center stage in negotiations on climate change mitigation. Companies such as Arborgen and Aracruz Cellulose argue that this enormous demand will be met "sustainably" by "increasing productivity and suitability" of trees by means of genetic engineering.

The genetic manipulation of trees has been underway for some time, first in pursuit of developments on behalf of the pulp industry and now also for bioenergy. Trees have been engineered for a variety of characteristics, including: reduced lignin content, pest and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, fast growth, cold, drought and other stress tolerance, phytoremediation characteristics and others.

However, the contamination risks inherent to widescale release of genetically engineered (GE) trees are of critical concern. The record on contamination involving annual food crops has been dismal (see, for example, the Greenpeace GM Contamination Register), providing little basis for confidence that it is feasible to contain and control contamination. Trees are even more vulnerable as they are long-lived perennials that distribute pollen and seeds over hundreds and even thousands of kilometers. Contamination of native forest species is virtually guaranteed, and once it occurs will be irreversible. Following widespread planting of GE poplars in China, native poplars are already becoming contaminated.

An alliance of civil society groups and NGOs has undertaken an ongoing campaign to prevent the release of GE trees. This alliance involves 146 organizations and has sought a ban on commercial release of GE trees by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 2008, the CBD made a final decision not to adopt the ban. This was made in spite of tremendous support for the ban from the African Group delegates and many others as well as endorsement for the ban from hundreds of organizations representing many millions of people worldwide. The CBD decision to oppose a ban on GE trees was influenced by those signatory countries most heavily invested in GE tree research already, namely Canada, New Zealand and Brazil (who placed a representative of the leading GE tree company, Arborgen, on their delegation). Opposition to GE trees nonetheless continues to strengthen, particularly in light of many new studies indicating the critical role of healthy and intact forest ecosystems to climate regulation.

GE trees are intended to be grown in monoculture plantations. Monoculture tree plantations are a major problem in regions where they are cultivated as they displace local populations and alternative land uses (including food production), deplete soils and waterways, provide little habitat for biodiversity, offer few employment opportunities, and have serious impacts on women (as documented by the World Rainforest Movement [www.wrm.org.uy]). The replacement of native forests by monoculture tree plantations is a major cause of deforestation, and yet, because the UN FAO insists on including plantations within its definition of "forests", this trend continues unrecognized and unchecked. The genetic manipulation of eucalyptus for cold tolerance, in particular, threatens to extend the range in which eucalyptus can grow, which in turn threatens even more communities and forests around the world with the same devastating impacts that have been documented where eucalyptus plantations already have been established.

The UN must reconstruct the definition of forest to exclude monoculture tree plantations, and must adopt measures based on the precautionary principle, to prevent GE contamination of native forests by adopting a global ban on the planting of GE trees. For a detailed review of the status of GE tree research and risks of contamination, as well as discussion of other fundamental issues pertaining to the development of biofuels and forests, please see "The Real Cost of Agrofuels: Food, Forests, Peoples and the Climate" (http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/publications/Truecostagrofuels.pdf).

Finally, while our moderator has repeatedly attempted to steer the discussion towards the core topic of biotechnology applications for bioenergy, a request I have attempted to respect for the bulk of this posting, it is essential that the questions regarding food-fuel competition, allocations of land, water, soil and fertilizer resources, indirect impacts and impacts of intellectual property rights (IPRs) etc. be addressed first. It is likely that a full assessment would determine that moneys and resources now going into biotechnology developments for bioenergy could be put to better use elsewhere. The entire enterprise must prioritize the welfare of local communities and intact ecosystems rather than servicing large-scale export-oriented corporate agribusiness.

Rachel Smolker
Agrofuels Campaign
Global Justice Ecology Project
Global Forest Coalition
PO Box 412
Hinesburg, Vermont,
U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2689
mobile: (802) 735-7794
e-mail: rsmolker (at) globaljusticeecology.org

[Although peripheral to this e-mail conference on biotechnologies for bioenergy production, the issue of biofuels and water is important and was mentioned in some messages at the beginnning of the conference as well as in the last paragraph here. On this subject, I noted that at the end of this November, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), one of the 15 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), released a 4-page IWMI Water Policy Brief entitled "Water implications of biofuel crops: understanding tradeoffs and identifying options" - see http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/Publications/Water_Policy_Briefs/PDF/WPB30.pdf or contact waterpolicybriefing@cgiar.org for more information...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 13 December 2008 16:42
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 82: Re: Biogas production - potential, large plants, education program

This is John Atoyebi, once again, from Nigeria, responding to message 67 by Emma Kreuger:

Sincerely, most interventions as it concerns developing countries are in the area of awareness, education and training about this subject, especially the utilisation of our plants for energy generation. I do not wholly agree that we (developing countries) should forget about genetic engineering for now as discussed in message 67, but rather developing countries must need to be carried along on all issues with respect to the bioenergy topic (germplasm exchange, training, technology adoption) and thats why instead of playing a passive role, we (developing countries) must be encouraged by the developed world to play an active role.

For example, if a developing country claims not to be involved in a GM product, simply because she does not produce such, will she not be having germplasm exchange, regulation, biosafety etc. How then will such be able to identify a GM product if to be taken across her frontiers.

I strongly believe that it is developing countries that need energy intervention most, due to a shortfall in energy production and generation such as gas, biodiesel, among the developing countries.

John Atoyebi
National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, P.M.B 5382,
Moor Plantation,
Ibadan, Oyo State,
Nigeria
Tel office 00234-2-2312622
Tel mobile 00234-8033824752
johnyinka (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:26
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 83: Re: Biotechnology applications and Jatropha curcas

My name is Heike Lipper, I am an environmental scientist in Germany and am a free journalist.

I would like to refer to the comment of Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy (message 78) and other scientists from India.

The possibilities of Jatropha oil are of big interest in the European Union today. Different companies are investing in the opportunities of Jatropha, and biotechnology institutes are involved by research of good yields and non-toxic varieties. Therefore, especially India is of international interest as India is one of the countries with lots of experience in Jatropha investigation, and as the first Jatropha oil from India might arrive within the next months in Europe.

I did read with big interest the comments about Jatropha curcas, as I will arrive next week in India on the issue of Jatropha, for collecting information in terms of its development and the different aspects regarding its affects, writing some article about in Germany.

Therefore, I would like to thank FAO for this conference where people from different areas of the world can take part.

Heike Lipper
environmental scientist
Gut Wienebuttel 1
21339 Luneburg
Germany
e-mail: heike.lipper (at) web.de

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:26
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 84: Thermal conversion vs. bioconversion - biogas

This is from Ruzena Svedelius, again.

Dr. K. Chalapathy Reddy (message 78) wrote that "bioenergy through plant- and/or animal-based feedstock has to play a great role". Yes. Therefore, we all are responsible for production of biomass and not only for energy conversion from biomass. Sustainable systems can never be achieved by thermal conversion because of losses of plant nutrients as environment polluting compounds. Ash does not contain energy important for soil microorganisms. Only by using bioconversion systems, when the non-converted feedstocks are returned to the soil as organic fertilizers, can new biomass be produced without man-made agrochemicals. Many unfertile soils can be turned to agricultural land with the help of organic fertilizers (the positive effects of bioenergy and microbial activity should be calculated).

Uwe Bruenjes (message 68) wrote: "I'm aware that bio-conversion (as opposed to chemical conversion) is extremely slow. How long does it take to convert biomass into methane gas, with an acceptable efficiency? It takes at least days, if not weeks". That's life. The same slow processes happens in our bodies - we do not want to burn up. When using batch system where several bioreactors/digesters are running (like cylinders in car engines), we can achieve continuous production of methane. These digesters have to be well insulated and volume adjusted to the amount of feedstocks that are daily available (dry matter content about 30%).

In message 80, Uwe Bruenjes suggested: "Back to the drawing board!" and "We have to establish a set of rules according to which each proposal should be evaluated, and only then can we develop a real solution. Though as I hinted before, this solution might be more chemical than biochemical...". Chemical is, for example, burning and pyrolysis. An enormous sum of money was used and is still going to support unsustainable waste incineration, how to use ash and for development of expensive chemical processes (including other fossil energy sources) but very little was and still is going to support biological processes (for example, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) budget in EU - 'Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology' can use for research only 1935 million euro while 'Information and Communication Technologies' can spend 9050 million euro. Can we achieve sustainability without food and ecological services? 'Euratom for nuclear research and training activities' receives 2751 million euro for five years 2007-2011, but all other 'energies' only 2350 million euro for seven years 2007-2013. Personal from the European Environment Agency informed us that about 20% will be used for research on renewable energies and 80% goes to fossil energies.)

On Internet we can find many scientific papers dealing with biotechnology but most of the promising results stay there and are not developed for practical use. I am afraid that nobody is so wise that a set of rules can be established. Only "learning by doing" can give success. Biotechnology needs unlimited resources or at least as much as nuclear energy (???) - in other case we have difficulties to survive on the Earth.

In message 76 from Professor J Ralph Blanchfield, we can read that "The enzyme that allows a cow to digest grasses and other plant fibres can be used to turn other plant fibres into simple sugars". Similar comment comes from Emma Kreuger when she mentioned that there are plenty of natural biological processes that we can use for increasing efficiency during bioconversion. She also suggests "an international education program in biogas production" and I would like to add that it will be very fruitful for both developed and developing countries.

John Atoyebi (82) wrote: "I strongly believe that it is developing countries that need energy intervention most, due to a shortfall in energy production and generation such as gas, biodiesel, among the developing countries". That is true, but so-called developed countries are not so well developed that they can secure energy delivery in a sustainable manner (without pollution of environment and with use of knowledge-based technology). Today and tomorrow 10 000 inhabitants in North Sweden are without electricity because of snow. Some days it can be more than 100 000 inhabitants. Big companies have a monopoly to deliver expensive electricity. If local economists and politicians supported building modern local biogas plants, this situation could not happen. Still a problem is that modern equipment for efficient methane production does not exist. As soon as it will be introduced in developed countries, also developing countries will use it. Energy agency and others who should support renewable energies are still supporting fossil energy sources, nuclear energy and incineration.

Thanks to FAO that we could share our thoughts and were allowed to make inputs to discussion on this for survival of all of us important subject. Last question: Is it possible that people working at FAO can influence economists and politicians who are responsible for peoples future? Motivation: Economy should be seen as management of resources. Last decades the management was not sustainable (ecologically, economically and socially) and therefore soil degradation, air, water and food pollution, biodiversity decline and the negative effects on marine ecosystems, on situation in developing countries and also on global financial situation are obvious. Politicians are responsible for setting up frames for market so only sustainable product, processes and services are allowed.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Let's hope that 2009 becomes a more active year for biotechnology than 2008.

Dr. Ruzena Svedelius,
Nobbelovs Torg 29,
SE 226 52 Lund,
Sweden
Biological Transformation of Renewable Organic Material
Phone: +46 707 33 11 20
E-mail: rsvedelius (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:27
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 85: Re: Biotechnology and ethanol from sorghum

This is Srinivasa Rao, a sweet sorghum breeder from ICRISAT, India. My areas of research interest are improvement of sugar and grain yield, adaptability, genotype X environment (G X E) interaction, molecular markers, and candidate gene identification. We are currently working on sweet sorghum under various projects towards germplasm characterization and genetic improvement.

There were few messages on sweet sorghum improvement through biotechnological means. I would like to address possible niche traits that requires immediate attention based on the recent developments.

1. Sweet stalk related traits are having high genotype X environment interaction with comparatively high heritability - identification of stability QTLs (quantitative trait loci) helps here.

2. Candidate gene identification for sugar-related traits based on micro/sequenome technology and their pyramiding.

3. Improving activity of sucrose isomerase without affecting isomaltulose pathway. [Research on sucrose isomerase in sorghum was also discussed in message 53...Moderator].

4. Most of the present-day sweet sorghum genotypes are photo sensitive - bring Ma5 and Ma6 genes to make them photo-insensitive.

5. Inter-allelic interaction and epistasis are predominant for brix-related traits - cautious selection will help to certain extent.

6. Wide hybridization with sugarcane and miscanthus followed by embryo rescue/somatic culture and marker-assisted breeding will help to improve sugar and biomass respectively

I hope this information helps to have a birds eye view of explorable biotech options in sweet sorghum. I congratulate FAO for taking initiative in organising this e-conference.

Srinivasa Rao P
Scientist-Sorghum Breeding
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Patancheru 502 324,
Andhra Pradesh,
India
Fax: 91-040-30713074/30713075
E-mail: p.srinivasarao (at) cgiar.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:28
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 86: A world-wide network of alternative energies

This is from Huberto Noriega Cordova, from Peru. I am a microbiologist and representive from Peru to the International Organization for Biotechnology and Bioengineering (IOBB, http://iobborg.net/).

I suggest the creation of a world-wide network of alternative energies (WWNAE), presided over by the FAO. The WWNAE-FAO will be useful as an advisory source, for diffusion of scientific events, construction of a data bank, planning of annual activities of training in different countries, promotion of scientific research, to create bonds of continuous analysis of certain technologies, to create access to training groups by technological area.

I suggest that:
- Each country identifies its potential alternative energetics.
- Isolation and selection of types of microorganisms that optimise the obtention of bioenergy.
- Creation of groups in every country that promote the investigation and generate the application in a pilot of technology at a suitable level.
- To create a sense of the alternative technologies that are active in their country and to create prospective of the development of bioenergies and its respective annual monitoring.

Huberto Williams Noriega Cordova,
M.Sc. Biotechnology and bioengineering
Universidad Nacional de Trujillo
Representante Nacional de la International Organization for Biotechnology and Bioengineering
Trujillo
Peru
e-mail: wiliams_h9 (at) yahoo.com ; huberto_1 (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:28
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 87: Views from Madagascar

This is Xavier Rakotonjanahary, a plant breeder from Madagascar, working at the Ministry of National Education and in charge of Promotion of applied research. The debate on the application and use of biotechnology for developing countries is of very high interest and I am grateful to the FAO for delaying the closing date for posting message; I had opportunities to be aware of the progress made in biotechnology for biofuel production and will try to respond to the important questions raised by the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels, in view of food security, energy and sustainable development needs.

Production of biomass for biofuel purposes is currently a program of the government and some NGO and projects are actively involved in this activity. It is included in the first-generation biofuels production because the material used is mainly jatropha and, to a lesser degree, sugar cane. So, the aim of the program is to produce biomass and to convert biomass to biofuel. Nonetheless, the first drop of biodiesel or bioethanol is predicted for 2010. However, there is not yet reported any drawback considering food security, as the plantation area for biomass production does not impede on food crop perimeters.

Developing countries should prioritise use of the biotechnology tools/products for the first generation biofuels, which are ready made. Effectively, it is more probable that developing countries will not be able to sustain their research efforts to produce second-generation biofuels, unless regional or international cooperation is contracted for this purpose. Co-operation with developed countries is a prerequisite for developing countries to produce their own cellulase and therefore, it is very much important. In this context, biomass production in developing countries for biofuel could be better understood.

There is not yet argument in favour of chemical neither biological process to produce second-generation liquid biofuels. It is clear, as mentioned by Emma Kreuger in her contributions, that nature has biotechnology and it should be better understood and used in the most efficient way. However, this biological process is known as very slow and it should only be used for producing the first generation liquid biofuels. Developing countries should prioritise their biotechnology resources (people, money etc.) on the range of biofuels currently available. In this context, South-South co-operation is very important so that technicians and experts in developing countries can help each other. Developing countries should also adapt bioenergy-related biotechnologies produced in developed countries in their context; it is very much important that north-south cooperation be effective. Developing countries should ensure their access to appropriate biotechnologies for bioenergy production, by protecting their intellectual property.

In my view, use of biogas production by fermentation is very relevant and beneficial to rural smallholders. However, my concern is that it is still very rare in Africa, although in many Asian countries (Vietnam, India, etc.) it is currently carried out in small villages. For small biogas units to be successful, biotechnological approaches should be simple, easy to access and at low cost. Biotechnologies could play an important role in improving the operation/efficiency of these units if research institutions or organisations, public or private, including FAO, are organising and spreading new small-scale biogas units and training those which are already operational by experience sharing or exchange of materials.

Xavier Rakotonjanahary
Plant breeder
Head, Promotion of Applied research Office
Ministry of National Education
Madagascar
r.xavier (at) simicro.mg

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:29
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 88: General points and the issue of capacity-building

I am John Caesar, a senior lecturer in biology and Head of the Department of Biology at the University of Guyana.

Moderator and participants, please accept my commendation on the insights emanating from this conference. Having followed the discussions on the technical aspects and other related issues, I wish to make a few observations at this closing hour.

Firstly, aside from the low-end type biotechnologies, a number of developing countries would still need some local capacity-building in leveraging the relevant technologies and methodologies. This makes some of the recommendations I proffered during the 2005 e-mail conference of this Forum on "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries," relevant in this discourse as well. Permit me to relate some of these:

I believe a concerted effort is needed in designing a global biotechnology for bioenergy "start-up" projects with the following features:

- Regional and sub-regional groupings of developing countries along similar lines as the UNEP-GEF (United Nations Environment Programme - Global Environment Facility) Biosafety Frameworks project;

- Assistance with the development of national capacity for some aspects of first generation biofuels and, more importantly, second generation biofuels - methodologies, training, assistance with some basic start-up equipment where governments may not be able to afford(?);

- comprehensive national needs assessments in biofuel biotechnologies suitable for both research and development (R&D) and ordinary farmers et al.;

- human, infrastructural and institutional capacity for the development of second generation biofuels where relevant and necessary;

- The need for very small countries with very common capacity challenges and problems needing biotechnological interventions for local biofuels development, to be pooled as clusters in subregions during the capacity building and technical training phases;

- I quote here, with minor additions in square brackets [ ], what I wrote then with respect to training and human resource capacity building:
"a comprehensive scholarship/fellowship programme for developing countries to facilitate the leveraging of [the requisite biofuels-related] biotechnology capacity through [short-term training] postgraduate research in developed [or developing countries with the full capacity in the field] countries. This should be complemented by a five to ten year sustainability programme to help avert brain drain. What is the assurance that they will stay in the regions or developing countries with the kind of salaries there? The twin issues of human capacity sustainability and brain drain in the developing countries will inevitably be a looming threat to effective biotechnology development in developing countries unless we find innovative answers - regional/subregional pools/clusters in biotechnology R&D institutions with reasonably/moderately competitive salaries may be a simplistic but explorable solution;"

- Alternatively, the engagement of willing experts in the field of biofuel biotechnologies in the diaspora can be leveraged in a 'brain gain' model. Guyana has its example involving Professor Suresh Narine, the holder of a Canadian NSERC chair at the University of Alberta. At the invitation of the government, he has been the prime mover in leveraging the relevant technologies and adapting them to the local situation to generate biodiesel from waste oils and fats from the food industry as well as palm oil from a decades old plantation.

- The Chemistry department at my University has also initiated some bioethanol projects on a small experimental scale. We hope to collaborate with the local, on-campus Institute of Applied Science and Technology to amplify these;

- In the case of Jatropha use, the National Agricultural Research Institute has commenced experiments with small-scale Jatropha plantations on degraded bauxite mine spoils. Hopefully, this could help in the restoration ecology and at the same time provide feedstock for jatropha biodiesel sacle-up in Guyana;

- I believe FAO can spearhead a programme for biofuels biotechnology because of the multiple solutions the industry can provide for struggling economies once the relevant life-cycle analyses can be made.

The question of intellectial property rights may be a major barrier for developing countries and may require some international framework for biofuels biotechnology if indeed the use of this technology can save the woodlands, mangrove forests and rainforests for over-exploitation for fuelwood, the concommitant deforestation and related negative impact on climate change.

Genetic modification of tree species for biomass as feedstock may be contentious for some countries at this time if the risks are not fully assessed in the case of biodiversity-endowed countries. The use of cellulases to exploit the pervasive aquatic plants such a water hyacinth could be another possibility where the weed grows abundantly.

John Cartey Caesar BSc(Hons) MSc
Senior Lecturer,
University of Guyana,
Box 10-1110, Georgetown
Georgetown,
Guyana
[National Project Coordinator, UNEP-GEF National Biosafety Framework,
Commissioner (part-time), Public Utilities Commission of Guyana]
Tel.: 592-222-4926;
PhoneFax: 592-222-3596
Email: jccaesar (at) yahoo.com

[John's comments were made in Conference 13 of this FAO Biotechnology Forum, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C13/040705.htm ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod3
Sent: 15 December 2008 16:32
To: 'biotech-room3@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: End of FAO conference on biotechnologies and bioenergy

Dear Colleagues,

The last message, (number 88, from John Caesar), has now been posted so Conference 15 of the FAO Biotechnology Forum, entitled "The role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries", is now officially closed.

FAO established this Biotechnology Forum in 2000 with the aim of providing quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries and to make a neutral platform available for people to exchange views and experiences on this subject. We hope that this conference has lived up to these aims and that you found it informative, interesting and of value. The Background Document to the conference is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/c15doc.htm and all the messages posted will remain on the Forum website for people to read in the future, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c15logs.htm. I will put the remaining messages on the web, in addition to putting all the 88 messages into a single webpage, and will send you a message providing the weblink in the next couple of days.

We strongly encourage you, as Forum Members, to widely disseminate information from this conference. As is standard practice with conferences in this Forum, we also plan to prepare a Summary Document in the future to provide a summary of the main issues discussed during the conference, based on the messages posted and circulate it widely.

For your interest, we can provide some figures about participation in the conference. It ran for five weeks, from Monday 10 November to Sunday 14 December 2008. The number of subscribers rose from 390, when the first message was posted, to 432 when the conference ended. Of the 432 people, 52 (i.e. 12%) submitted at least one message. Of the 88 messages that were posted, 28 came from Asia, mostly from India; 24 were from Europe; 15 were from people living in Africa; 10 from Latin America and the Caribbean; 6 from Oceania and 5 from North America. The messages came from people living in 21 different countries, the greatest number coming from India, followed respectively by Sweden, Mexico, Australia, United Kingdom, United States, Kenya, Nigeria and Italy. A total of 53 messages (i.e. 60%) were posted by participants living in developing countries.

The greatest number of messages came from people working in universities (26) followed by those in research centres (25) or working as independent consultants or in the private sector (17), for non-governmental organisations (11); FAO (4), government ministries (3) or development agencies (2).

Finally, and most importantly, I wish to personally thank all of you who participated actively in this conference, giving your time and effort in order to share your thoughts, views and experiences with the conference.

With best wishes

John

John Ruane, PhD
Agricultural Biotechnology Officer
FAO Working Group on Biotechnology
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)
Room C-685,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome,
FAO Biotechnology Website: http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)
FAO website http://www.fao.org
e-mail: biotech-admin@fao.org


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