[This webpage contains all of the 121 messages posted during the FAO Biotechnology Forum e-mail conference on 'learning from the past' that took place from 8 June to 8 July 2009, 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-Mod4
Sent: 09 June 2009 13:39
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: Welcome to the FAO e-mail conference on agricultural biotechnologies

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to this FAO e-mail conference on "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years" !!

Messages can be posted to the conference any day up until Sunday 5 July 2009 (send them to biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org). No messages have yet been posted.

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 members of the FAO Biotechnology Forum on 4 June, sets the scene for the conference and so we strongly encourage you to read it, especially Section 3 (reproduced below) which provides some specific guidance about this conference. The document is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C16doc.htm (in HTML) and http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/abdc/documents/forumbd.pdf (in PDF, 102 KB). Contact me if you want to receive the document as text within an e-mail or as a PDF or WORD e-mail attachment.

5. Messages posted in the conference will also be placed on the Forum website, usually with a couple of days delay, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c16logs.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 many different kinds of biotechnologies, described in Section 2 of the background Document, involving crops, livestock, fish, forest trees and micro-organisms and different areas of application (e.g. for genetic resources management, disease diagnosis/vaccination or genetic improvement) and so brings together people who may have knowledge/experience from one or more of these topics, but not all of them. As terminology is occasionally sector/subject-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 Forum, when 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 Forum recently, we can tell you that this is the 16th e-mail conference that it has hosted since its launch in the year 2000. All publications, background and summary documents, e-mail messages etc. related to these previous conferences are available on 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 16
e-mail: mailto:biotech-mod4@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: Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries - Learning from the past

From 8 June to 5 July 2009, the FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting an e-mail conference entitled "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years". It aims to analyse past experiences of applying different agricultural biotechnologies in the crop, forestry, livestock, fisheries/aquaculture and agro-industry sectors in developing countries; to document and discuss what has, partially or fully, succeeded or failed; and to determine and evaluate the key factors that were responsible for their relative success or failure. It is taking place as part of the build-up to the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-09) to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico on 2-5 November 2009. The e-mail conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. To join the FAO Biotechnology Forum (and also register for the e-mail 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-room4

People who are already Forum members should leave out the first line of the above message, to register. For more information, including the e-conference background document, see http://www.fao.org/biotech/conf16.htm or contact biotech-mod4@fao.org.

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

3. Specific Points About This E-mail Conference

The general aim of the e-mail conference is to bring together and discuss relevant, often previously un-documented, past experiences of applying biotechnologies at the field level (i.e. used by farmers for commercial production) in developing countries, ascertain the success or failure (be it partial or total) of their application, and determine and evaluate the key factors that were responsible for their success or failure. The conference does not cover experiences in developed countries.

3.1 Issues to be addressed in the e-mail conference

For any one (or combination) of the biotechnologies described in Section 2, considering its application at the field level in one of the different food and agricultural sectors (crops, livestock, forestry, fishery or agro-industry), in any particular developing country or region, and in any specific time period over the past 20 years:

- provide an overall assessment of the experience of applying the biotechnology i.e. was it a success or failure, partial or full (and provide a justification for this assessment)

- based on this, describe some of the key features that determined its partial or complete success (or failure)

- if possible, indicate how transferable these results might be to other a) developing countries/regions b) biotechnologies and c) food and agricultural sectors

- indicate any lessons that can be drawn from this experience that may be important for applications of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries in the future

3.2 Defining success and failure

When considering a certain situation where a biotechnology was implemented in a specific developing country, sector and time period, and attempting to assess it as a full or partial success (or failure), a number of different aspects can be taken into consideration, such as any potential impacts its application had of a socio-economic, cultural, regulatory, environmental, agro-ecological, nutritional, health and hygiene, consumer interest and perceptions, sustainable livelihoods, equity, technology transfer or food security nature. For example, if we consider the use of a reproductive technology such as artificial insemination in a certain livestock species (e.g. dairy cattle) in a given developing country, some of the factors which might influence whether we would consider it to be a success or failure could include the impact that applying the biotechnology had on:

- milk production (the trait of main interest)

- other traits, such as cow fertility and health, that can be indirectly affected (often negatively) by improvements in milk production

- trade (e.g. did use of the biotechnology result in surpluses that led to creation of new trade opportunities? Alternatively, did its use result in closure of some existing markets, e.g. due to regulatory issues?).

- economic returns to the farmer, considering the increased financial returns from increased milk yields as well as any additional costs from using the biotechnology, such as the cost of inseminating the cow, any additional feed or veterinary bills, etc.

- food security (e.g. was more milk produced, leading to greater food security?)

- equity (e.g. was use of the biotechnology restricted to already-rich farmers or did its use also extend to the more food-insecure smallholders; also who gained from sale of the biotechnology itself ? [e.g. were the AI services provided by a foreign multinational company or by a local farmers co-operative])

- consumer interests (did use of the biotechnology produce a negative consumer reaction, resulting in reduced milk consumption?)

- genetic resources (e.g. if AI was used to cross local females with semen from bulls of developed countries, did it result in erosion of valuable genetic resources in developing countries)

- technical aspects related to applying the biotechnology (e.g. did it work properly, was much training/equipment needed for people to use it?)

- any unexpected impacts of using the biotechnology.

The number of potential factors that could influence the overall assessment of the biotechnology as a success or failure (partial or complete) is therefore quite large and, for a given case, some of the factors might be negative and others positive. Thus, the fact that a certain biotechnology has been used (and maybe continues to be used) does not mean per se that it has been a success, although in certain cases, it may be considered as an indicator of success.

A major hurdle to determining fully whether specific applications of biotechnology have been a success or failure is that there is normally a lack of solid, scientifically sound data and documentation about the impacts of their application on people's livelihoods and their socio-economic conditions etc. (Sonnino et al, 2009). Indeed, one of the aims of this e-mail conference is to try and get a better insight and more information on such areas.

3.3 Covering GM versus non-GM biotechnologies

The conference will be moderated and one of the Moderator's main tasks is to ensure that all of the biotechnologies as well as all of the food and agricultural sectors are adequately covered in the conference. As anyone following this area knows, the topic of genetic modification, and GMOs, is one of major interest and has been the object of a highly polarized debate, particularly concerning GM crops. One of the consequences of this is that the actual impacts and the potential benefits of the many non-GM biotechnologies have tended to be neglected. However, to learn from the past regarding applications of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries, the entire range of biotechnologies should be considered as there may be many specificities related to any particular biotechnology tool, regarding aspects such as its financial, technical and human capacity requirements, its purpose (e.g. genetic improvement, genetic resources management or disease diagnosis), its potential impacts etc. For this reason, we ask participants to ensure that all the biotechnologies and all the food and agricultural sectors are covered adequately. In addition, regarding GMOs, discussion in the conference should 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 bring together and discuss specific experiences of applying biotechnologies (including genetic modification) in the past in developing countries.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 10 June 2009 10:25
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 1. Food fermentation - Cassava

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

Firstly, I will like to thank the organizers of this email-conference that enable us to take stock of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last twenty years.

I will address the issue of "Food Fermentation" which is an old tradition and will continue to be relevant in our societies. In many developing countries, fermentation is common at village levels, the microorganisms are spontaneous and they are applied in most cases to traditionally produced foods. There has been a significant interest in the last twenty years to identify and isolate these microorganisms.

As stated in the Background Document: "Certain microorganisms associated with fermented foods in particular strains of Lactobacillus species are probiotic i.e used as live microbial dietary supplements of food ingredients that have a beneficial effect on the host by influencing the composition and/or metabolic activity of the flora of the gastrointestinal tract (Ruane and Sonnino, 2006b)". Research findings on the role of these microorganisms will lead to more novel products or new food ingredients.

Many developing countries, especially where cold storage is lacking, rely on food fermentation to preserve foods. Lactic acid bacteria, play a major part in most fermentation processes, improving flavour, aroma and having a preservative effect on foods.

For example, Cassava (Manihot esculenta, Crantz) is a staple food to millions of Africans. The current efforts on the Integrated Cassava Project by the Nigerian government with collaboration from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to diversify the utilization of this crop is laudable (www.cassavabiz.org). Such efforts need to be intensified and shared with other African countries. This project has been partially successful. There are other promising aspects that will will extend the utilization of cassava industrially:

- Cassava starch and roots were used to produce dried yeast and alcohol industrially in Malaysia. A volume of 100 litres of absolute alcohol was obtained per tonne of cassava.
- The production of L-lactic acid from cassava starch in a bioreactor using Aspergillus awamori and Lactobacillus lactis spp. lactis was demonstrated (Roble et. al. 2003).
- It was also shown that cassava dregs can be employed for the production of phytase after the addition of a nitrogen source and mineral salt (Hong et. al. 2001). [Phytase is an enzyme important in animal feed...Moderator].
- Other useful by-product is cassava peels which can be used to make activated carbon that are efficient as adsorbents for dyes and metal ions (Rajeshwarisivaraj et al. 2001)

These relevant research findings demonstrate the benefits of microorganisms in fermented foods in developing countries and they need to be commercialized at an appropriate level. This calls for the necessary inputs by all stakeholders in establishing cottage industries for fermented foods and useful by-products.

References:
Hong, K., Ma, Y. and Li, M. 2001. Solid state fermentation of phytase from cassava dregs. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 91, 777-785
Roble, N.D., Ogbonna, J.C. and Tanaka, H. 2003. L-lactic acid production from cassava starch in a circulating loop bioreactor with cells immobilized in loofa (Luffa cylindrical). Biotechnology Letters, 25 (13):1093 - 1098.
Rajeshwarisivaraj, S. Sivakumar, P. Senthilkumar and V. Subburam. 2001. Carbon from cassava peel, an agricultural waste as an adsorbent in the removal of dyes and metal ions from aqueous solution. Bioresource Technology, 80 (3):233-235

Dr. Dele Raheem
2 Broadholme Street,
Nottingham,
UK
draheem(at)gmail.com
+447747156868

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 10 June 2009 14:05
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 2. Bt cotton and MAS for crop improvement in India

I am Professor PK Gupta, Professor Emeritus at the Choudhury Charan Singh (CCS) University, Meerut, India. For the last 14 years, I have been involved in developing molecular markers (mainly SSR [simple sequence repeat] and AFLP [amplified fragment length polymorphism]) for marker-assisted selection (MAS) in bread-wheat.

In India, some success has been achieved in two major aspects of the application of biotechnology for crop improvement. These two areas include the following: (i) development and use of GM crops; and (ii) development and use of DNA-based markers for MAS in crop improvement programmes.

The major success in using GM crops in India is the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, which steadily increased, so that currently almost 80% of the cotton area in India is occupied by Bt cotton. In addition, Bt brinjal has been approved for large-scale seed multiplication and it is hoped that Bt brinjal will reach the farmers' fields within the next one year. This has and will bring about major benefit to the farmers, despite the opposition by many NGOs (non-government organizations) against growing GM crops.

The other area of successful use of biotechnology is the use of MAS for developing the following:

(i) superior hybrids of pearl-millet and quality protein maize (QPM)
(ii) two varieties of rice with pyramided genes for resistance against bacterial blight (improved pusa basmati, with bacterial blight resistance genes, xa5+xa13+Xa21; Improved Sambha Mahshuri, with bacterial blight resistance genes xa5, xa13, Xa21)
(iii) several varieties of rice, which are tolerant to submergence, namely Swarna, IR64, CR1009, BR11, TDK1, Samba Mahsuri (these are under field trials in India and Bangladesh)
(iv) several wheat cultivars with high grain protein content (GPC) and resistance against leaf rust (using pyramiding of Lr genes), pre-harvest sprouting (these will soon undergo field trials).

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India has also initiated a Grand Challenge Programme to support meaningful programmes involving crop improvement through MAS (several projects are in the final stage of approval under this programme.

However the pace of success has been slow for the following reasons: (i) there is still opposition against GM crops and therefore there have been court cases and disapprovals by the regulatory authorities, thus slowing down the work in this area and making this exercise rather expensive. This has discouraged many to undertake work for the development of GM crops.

The reasons for slow pace of work in the use of molecular markers are different and involve lack of expertise and motivation with those involved in breeding, and lack of cooperation between molecular biologists and plant breeders. The economics involving the use of marker technology in plant breeding (relative to conventional plant breeding) is another reason for not adopting this technology.

Professor P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Choudhury Charan Singh University (Meerut University)
Meerut 250004
India
Telephone: 91-121-2762505
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 13:56
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 3: Apomixis - cassava - Brazil

This is Nagib Nassar, Professor at the Universidade de Brasilia, Brazil, and editor of the online open acess journal www.geneconserve.pro.br

An example of success in chromosome number manipulation comes from the case of apomictic cassava developed by the University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil. Apomixis means the formation of seed without fertilization, i.e. production of a crop by true seed that came vegetatively giving rise to identical new plants. In this way it offers to crop cultivars superiority of the original variety, conferring on it at the same time advantages of reproduction by seed. In the case of cassava this is important because cuttings accumulate bacteria and viruses leading to deterioration of productivity in further generations.

We found apomixis in this crop associated with chromosome aneuploidy (2n+1 and 2n+2). This guided us to select apomictic plants among progenies of inter-specific hybrids. See details on how this could be done at http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/artigo_44.htm. Related articles on the subject are cited in the same article link. These apomictic cultivars are available at the Universidade de Brasilia for any non-profit international institution should it attend requisite of Brazilian Law (i.e. have approval (authorization) of the Brazilian national council of genetic resources for transferring germplasm abroad).

Nagib Nassar
Professor
Departamento de Genetica e Morfologia,
Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Universidade de Brasilia,
Campus Universitario Darcy Ribeiro,
Asa Norte.
CEP: 70910-900, Brasilia - DF,
Brazil.
Phone: (+55.61) 3349.3253
Fax: (+55.61) 3349.3562
nagnassa (at) rudah.com.br

[For more information on apomixis, I quote from Jeffersen (1994, http://www.biotech-monitor.nl/1906.htm): "Plant reproduction occurs by complex and diverse mechanisms. Sexual reproduction is most common in flowering plants of agricultural importance. Male and female gametes (the pollen and the egg cells respectively) are separately produced with half the normal chromosome number. These combine during fertilization and further develop to give rise to a seed. This seed contains genes derived from both parents in a form that is distinct from both parents so that once that seed germinates a plant of unique genetic constitution is generated. By contrast, apomixis produces seeds through asexual processes. The genetic make­up of the seeds is identical to that of the mother plant. If the mother plant is well adapted to a particular environment or purpose, so will be the offspring. Although many wild plants are naturally apomictic, for instance the common dandelion (Taraxacum sp.), very few crop species are apomictic. This is perhaps not surprising. Over the last thousands of years today's crop species were selected from amongst the numerous edible or fibrous plants by farmers. The criteria for such a choice almost certainly included the plant's ability to segregate variation: to reassort traits through sexual reproduction, and thus to improve under mass selection. This is the very property that apomixis prevents. Thus our small collection of modern day crops probably represents a biased population in favour of sexuality"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 14:15
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 4. Failure of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries - Nigeria

This is from Uchechukwu Chikezie, an MSc. biotechnology graduate and lecturer at the Federal University of Technology (FUTO), Nigeria. I am a female biotechnologist.

I think a major reason for the failures of the agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries is the lack of funds, facilities and properly trained manpower to implement these biotechnologies.

By these, I mean, that the third world countries, do not have enough research facilities and funds to enable them to develop these technologies to achieve the desired aim of increased food yields, better quality food products, disease-resistant foods/animals etc., thereby reducing food scarcity and hunger in the third world.

In most cases, the 'grassroot farmers' are not even aware of these agricultural biotechnologies, and even when they do, these farmers can not implement them to Improve their crop/animal yields because there are no available equipment/facilities and also because they have not been trained to use these technologies.

Even the research scientists in the universities/research institutes face the same problems, and these hamper productive research in the academic institutions. All these and other factors lead to failure of the agricultural biotechnologies in the Third World over 20 years.

It is advised that donor agencies in the developed countries should assist the third world, by making sufficient funds available, training manpower in the agricultural biotechnologies and providing the equipment for implementation of these biotechnologies.

Uche Chikezie
Dept. of Biotechnology,
Federal University of Technology (FUTO),
P.M.B. 1526. Owerri. Imo State.
Nigeria
uchikezie (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 14:28
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 5: Cameroon - Food safety

I am Norbert Tchouaffe, agricultural engineer, in activity at the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature, Cameroon.

My viewpoint is based on food safety. According to the Wikipedia definition, food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness.

As a success in Cameroon, specific efforts have been put in place to address biotechnology development, in particular food safety. In fact, there exist policies for biotechnology development. From the due explicit policies, government has supported private industry and universities to engage in agricultural biotechnology product development. In addition, government has concentrated on providing a policy environment for safe development of biotechnology. There have also been efforts aimed at managing risks associated with agro-biotechnology activities in the country.

As a failure, our higher learning institutes and universities have an important role to play in the developmental activities going around them. Their research needs to be re-oriented towards addressing practical problems in the country based on farmers' needs, which should be demand-driven.Unfortunately, it wasn't the case.

Norbert Tchouaffe
Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature (MINEP),
Box. 8114 Yaounde,
Cameroon
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 14:33
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 6: Re: Bt cotton and MAS for crop improvement in India

I am P.M. Priyadarshan, a plant breeder with the Rubber Research Institute of India.

I have only one point to highlight here: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has been spending huge amount of money for research on genetically modified crops - for making seeds of vegetables, cereals and alike. Still, the Government of India is encouraging purchase of GMO seeds from multi-national corporations like Monsanto and Cargill. When ICAR has facilities to produce its own seeds, why is this encouraged?

P.M. Priyadarshan
Plant Breeder,
Rubber Research Institute of India,
Regional Station, Agartala - 799 006,
India
Tel: Off : 91-381-2355287/2355143 - Extn:205
Tel (personal): 91-9436129992
Fax: 91-381-2354815
alternate mails: pmpriyadarshan (at) rediffmail.com, pmpriyadarshan (at) yahoo.co.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 14:55
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 7: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

This is Nagib Nassar, Professor at the Universidade de Brasilia, Brazil, and editor of the online open acess journal www.geneconserve.pro.br

An example of of GMOs failure may be the case of the transgenic cassava variety developed for resistance to cassava mosaic virus disease (CMVD) by a multinational company. It had its trials of cultivation in Nigeria. After spending more than 10 million dollars in producing this variety, a very few number of farmers plant it now, almost none at all!! This is compared to 4 millions hectares planted now in Nigeria with cultivars that are resistant to mosaic virus disease which came from inter-specific hybridization with the wild species Manihot glaziovii.

Apparantly molecular transformation and introducing foreign genetic material will not improve a crop, because it reached the maximum of adaptation by its present genetic constitution form. Any modification by mutation will harm it and reduce its fitness. This is exactly what happened by introducing mosaic virus disease genetic material to cassava aiming to improve its resistance to this disease. It did improve partially the resistance but productivity of the cultivar dropped drastically.

Nagib Nassar
Professor
Departamento de Genetica e Morfologia,
Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Universidade de Brasilia,
Campus Universitario Darcy Ribeiro,
Asa Norte.
CEP: 70910-900, Brasilia - DF,
Brazil.
Phone: (+55.61) 3349.3253
Fax: (+55.61) 3349.3562
nagnassa (at) rudah.com.br

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 15:57
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 8: Re: Failure of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries - Nigeria

This is from Olusola Oyewole. I am a Professor of Food Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria. I am currently coordinating the Unted Kingdom Government support program to African Universities called Mobiizing Regional Capacity Initiatives (MRCI) at the Association of African Universities, Accra, Ghana. My area of research focus is on Food Biotechnology and Higher education leadership and research systems

As a follow-up to the very informative contribution of Uchechukwu Chikezie (Message 4) to the causes of the failure of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries, I wish to note that many scientists in the developing countries, who work in the field of agricultural biotechnologies have limited avenues for disseminating the outcomes of their research to the people who could benefit from them. It is also clear that because of the dearth of facilities and research funds, much of the agricultural biotechnological research carried out by the Southern scientists was largely done in advanced Northern institutions. The current challenge before us is what we need to do to remedy the situation. Let us also discuss strategies that we can employ to improve agricultural biotechnological research, dissemination and utilization in developing countries.

Prof. Olusola .B. Oyewole,
Coordinator,
Mobilizing Regional Capacity Initiatives (MRCI),
Association of African Universities,
P.O. Box AN 5744,
Accra,
Ghana
Tel. +233-24-293-7782 , Fax: +233-21-774821
oyewole (at) aau.org,
and
University of Agriculture, (Dept. of Food Sc. and Tech.,)
P.M.B 2240, Abeokuta. Nigeria.
Tel. +234-803-335-1814
E-mail: oyewoleb (at) yahoo.com/ solaoyew (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 16:27
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 9: Plant diseases in Cameroon

I am called Tonjock Rosemary, a Ph.D mycology student at the University of Buea, Cameroon.

My area of contribution to this conference will deal with plant disease. Despite substantial advances in plant disease control strategies, in Cameroon and other developing countries the food supply is still threatened by a multitude of pathogens and pests. These plant diseases dramatically decrease crop yields.

A success for Cameroon is the provision of pesticides and fungicides to farmers by the Ministry of Agriculture, which is usually not enough for the farmers, also the provision of tissue cultured seedlings at low cost, but which some farmers can still not afford. Even by the use of these pesticides and fungicides, crop yields are still low, at times below 50%. This is because most plant diseases are resistant to these applications. This may also be due to climate change so we have to tackle this aspect of climate change to make agricultural biotechnology successful.

A failure for agricultural biotechnology in Cameroon in the aspect of plant disease is that there is still a long way for the principles to be intergrated. Firstly, there is lack of funds to carry out research in this area. Secondly, there is a lack of facilities, for example to develop plant resistant genes such as R genes to control plant diseases. There is supposed to be the use of molecular equipments such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and others but the truth is that most of our research institutes and universities have but stores and not laboratories so there is a need to equip them for proper research work to go on. Also training should be done on a regular basis for researchers in developing countries to improve their skills in agricultural biotechnology and finally there should be the dessimination of research work to the farmers through seminars, worhshops and extension work. I think the past 20 years has been a failure for developing countries and we look forward to success in the future if all the problems are resolved.

Mrs Tonjock Rosemary Kinge
Permanent Address:
Department of Plant and Animal Sciences,
Faculty of Science,
University of Buea,
Cameroon

Present Address:
PhD, TWAS-CAS research fellow,
Kunming Institute of Botany,
Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS),
China
e-mail: rosemary32us (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 17:07
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 10: Re: Failure of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries - Nigeria

This is Norbert Tchouaffe, again.

Before proceeding further, I wish to thank Mrs Uchechukwu Chikezie for her contribution (Message 4). I do agree with her that the failure of agricultural biotechnologies is based on lack of facilities and funds; it is a common share in sub-saharan Africa, most of these countries are financially limited. To prosper, Africans need technologies tranfer, but the due technologies should be adequate to fit the local needs.

Norbert Tchouaffe
Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature (MINEP),
Box. 8114 Yaounde,
Cameroon
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 11 June 2009 17:44
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 11: Biotech research in developing countries

I am Jose Moro-Mendez, statistical programmer in a contract research organisation (CRO) in the pharmaceutical industry. In the past, I have been involved in the application of milk recording for smallholder farmers in the tropics in Mexico, and recently, I am involved in animal breeding research in Canada. That is why I am identified with the some of the messages posted so far, and I would like to put in my 5 cents...hoping not to deviate too much from the topic of the conference.

P.M. Priyadarshan (message 6) mentions a conflict that seems common in developing countries: on one hand, scarce funding for some research initiatives (also pointed by Uche Chikezie, message 4), and on the other hand, encouraging the use of germplam owned by multi-national corporations. Getting to the root of that seems to be out of the scope of this conference; however, after Professor Oyewole's message (number 8) it seems appropriate to seek a common ground for success histories (if available).

Here, we have to remember that, despite efforts to involve private sectors, the main source of funds in developing countries is the government (either local or international through various financial institutions). In many cases, that is the justification for the official support of multi-national corporations.

In terms of how to improve biotechnology research in developing countries, Do we need an association-combination of government-multinational corporations? Some would argue that there is a de facto association, so, do we need a middle point? Is there a middle point? Are the present regulations enough? What do researchers in developing countries need to be able to thrive in such association?

Jose Moro, PhD.
Statistical Programmer
LAB Research Inc.
445, boul. Armand Frappier
Laval, Quebec,
Canada H7V 4B3
Tel.: 450-973-2240, Ext.1102
jose.moro at mail.mcgill.ca

[Yes, these kinds of issues, such as the appropriate interphase-relationship between multinational companies and developing country governments, do go beyond the scope of this e-mail conference. However, they may be discussed in the context of specific past experiences of applying agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries and determining/evaluating the key factors that were responsible for their success or failure (be it partial or complete)...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:07
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 12: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

This is from Jens Katzek. I am managing director of a small cluster management company in Germany within a region which is very strong in plant breeding and plant biotechnology and I thought that the comment of Nagib Nassar (Message 7) was very interesting.

Do you have any further information who the company was which invested the 10 million (US ???) dollars into a virus resistant (GM) cassava? And do you know with which companies/scientists from Nigeria they cooperated? And the most important question: Do you know why the project was finished unsuccessfully? Did the molecular approach chosen simply not work, or were the regulatory burdens simply too high or do you know of any other reasons?

Dr. Jens A. Katzek
BIO Mitteldeutschland GmbH
Franckestrasse 3
06110 Halle (Saale)
Germany
Phone: 0049-345 - 27 98 352
Fax: 0049-345 - 27 98 356
E-Mail: Katzek (at) biomitteldeutschland.de
Web: www.biomitteldeutschland.de

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:08
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 13: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

This is Chiedozie Egesi, Cassava Breeder/Geneticist, National Root Crops Research Institute, Nigeria. I am also Product Development Manager (Nigeria), BioCassava Plus.

It is true that a genetically modified plant supposedly resistant to cassava mosaic disease was found not resistant to the disease due to methylation of the introduced gene or some other reasons. However, we should avoid hype and propaganda when we do not support a technology. It does not mean that virus resistance cannot be acquired by genetic engineering. Nigeria has never done any trial with transgenic cassava or any crop at all for that matter - whether in a contained manner or otherwise. However we hope to begin field trials with genetically modified cassava and cowpea later this year in 2 institutions. Even if we have problems with yield and productivity, there is still room for moving the transgene around through conventional breeding (crossing genetically modified plants with non-GM of the same species) and perhaps marker-assisted breeding may make it easier to do this.

Biotechnology is only a tool that should lead to the same end - improved crops for food security and enhanced livelihoods. Several countries are benefitting from the technology. We should try them in a responsible manner to ensure that our environment and health are not put at risk. In Africa, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is an organization that negotiates with big multi-nationals to obtain royalty-free biotechnologies for African countries. This has worked out well so far. Genetically modified Banana and sorghum are already in field trials, while cassava, cowpea and rice are being prepared for the same trial all in confined facilities. These are excluding the Bt cotton already commercialised in several African countries. I should expect us as scientists to be open to research and technologies that will help the poor, not all may work but that is not to say that they will not all work.

Chiedozie Egesi,
National Root Crops Research Institute,
Umudike,
PMB 7006,
Umuahia 440001,
Abia State,
Nigeria
cegesi (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:09
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 14: Failure to adopt technical packages - cattle - Mexico

This is Jose Moro, again.

In my personal experience (Mexico's humid tropics, end of the 1980s and 1990s), aside from few earlier adopters of technological innovations (whose typology can be subject of another message), most of the farmers seemed to express, among others, the following as reasons for failure of adoption of technical packages* for dual purpose cattle:

1) Lack of trained extension agents (which complicated the communication with the farmer)

2) (A combination of) farmer's low income and/or expensive (or limited access to) credit

3) Poor documentation of economic returns (due to the technological practices adopted) which was exacerbated by lack/poor recording (production, financial).

Point 3 led to propose record keeping as an indispensable practice to adopt at early stages. Due to the limited use of artificial insemination (AI), most of the genetic improvement in milk/meat production came from acquisition of genetically improved females and/or the use of genetically improved sires (in both cases, generally from herds with higher degree of 'technification', sometimes from temperate regions). The adoption of some improved practices led in many occasions to an increased frequency of diseases related to improved production (mastitis, metabolic diseases), which resulted in economic losses (veterinary treatments, medicines, milk losses, etc), hence a protective reaction by the farmer was to return to the previous technological stage (i.e. partial adoption of technology, followed by its abandonment).

At present this situation may be different; I am just giving some food for thought, and hope to be getting back to the point.

* A package could include one or more of the following tecnological practices: more efficient grazing to reduce/eliminate the use of herbicides/fertilizers, record keeping, use of artificial insemination (AI), mineral supplementation of cattle, calendar of vaccinations/dewormings, sanitation of milking process, milk cooling, generation of value-added products (i.e. cheese), etc. (O.G. Castaneda Martinez et al, 1993. Grupo ganadero de validacion y transferencia de tecnologia "El Porvenir" : primera evaluacion anual 1993. Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales y Agropecuarias (INIFAP), Campo Experimental La Posta. Publicacion especial no. 2)

Jose Moro, PhD.
Statistical Programmer
LAB Research Inc.
445, boul. Armand Frappier
Laval, Quebec,
Canada H7V 4B3
Tel.: 450-973-2240, Ext.1102
jose.moro at mail.mcgill.ca

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:11
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 15: Re: Bt cotton and MAS for crop improvement in India

I am Dr. Partha P Banerjee, Scientist-Corn Breeding, Hytech seed India Pvt. Ltd., ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India.

Bt cotton (Monsanto, JK Agri Genetics, and Nath Biogene) is a huge success story in India. All three organizations have there proprietary or some collaborative technology. Monsanto's BG I and II are more popular among Indian farmers. As Prof. Gupta mentioned (Message 2), several other crops are in testing stage, including brinjal, corn and rice. There is no doubt that the private sector will lead from the front. In India and some other countries, other GM crop, especially in case of food crops, adoption is slow.

However, marker assisted breeding (MAB) which utilizes natural variation to develop novel germplasm is becoming very popular day by day. In fact, along with government institutes, the private sector is also investing good amount for MAB. Several multinational and national seed companies already started MAB projects in India and are moving very fast but silently. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has done a great job in MAB. It may be a possibility that due to less investment and easily available natural variation within the species or relatives, MAB may grab more attention. Durability advantage of MAB may be another positive in favor of MAB.

Partha P Banerjee, PhD
Scientist Corn Breeding
Hytech Seed India Pvt. Ltd.
Hyderabad,
India.
parthabanerjee (at) aol.in
Cell: +91 9849100026

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:12
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 16: Re: Biotech research in developing countries

I am Farai Catherine Muchadeyi, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Animal Sciences, Animal Breeding and Genetics, Stellenbosch University in South Africa. I have been working on the characterisation of genetic diversity in indigenous livestock genetic resources of Southern Africa and setting up of conservation strategies for important but threatened resources so I have great interest in this conference.

I tend to agree with Jose Moro (Message 11) that scarce funding which I attribute to lack of government commitment is the main issue here. Considering my area of research, there is so much that has been done in characterising African livestock genetic resources for example and most of this was done by individual researchers (students and research fellows), the majority of which was conducted at northern institutions and with funding from such institutions as well. Now the governments task is simply to make use of the available results and technologies and this is where we get problems. Technologies are out there having been developed specifically for the developing world but no one is there to pick them up. Is it because they do not have the infrastructure to do that? Or maybe there is no will? My suggestion is that dissemination of biotechnology findings should be top of the priority on government agendas

Farai C. Muchadeyi (PhD)
Department of Animal Sciences,
Animal Breeding and Genetics
Stellenbosch University
P. Bag X1, 7600
Matieland
Stellenbsoch
South Africa
email: farai (at) sun.ac.za

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:12
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 17: Re: Food fermentation - Cassava

I am Dr Adewale Olusegun Obadina, a food microbiologist/biotechnologist. I lecture in the Department of Food Science and Technology, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Nigeria.

This is an interesting topic and it comes up at the time when many of the western products are taking the place of traditionally produced food products in the developing countries e.g. Africa. I work mainly on the traditionally fermented foods and this will be my focus area for now. Thanks to Dele Raheem for mentioning (Message 1) that "Cassava starch and roots were used to produce dried yeast and alcohol industrially in Malaysia. A volume of 100 litres of absolute alcohol was obtained per tonne of cassava" and for referring to Nigeria as a case study in cassava production.

I wish to state here that Nigerians consume all the cassava roots planted and harvested in the country while many of the countries in Asia, such as Malaysia, Thailand etc., that use this technology of producing by-products from cassava do not consume it. Therefore, there is an urgent need to apply biotechnology technique(s) into the production of these 'common man' foods such as gari, fufu, lafun etc. so that the foods can be readily available as wholesome, of improved and consistent quality. In this area, biotechnologies have not recorded any success over the past years. Most of the research findings in this area have been left in the archives without further action. Therefore. I will summarise for now by saying that there is need for the production of starter cultures for many of the traditionally fermented foods in Africa.

Dr Adewale Olusegun Obadina,
Department of Food Science and Technology,
Bells University of Technology,
Ota,
Nigeria
obadinaw (at) yahoo.co.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:38
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 18: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

I am Larry Beach, Biotechnology Advisor to United States Agency for International Development.

An earlier message (number 7) discussed the failure of a GM cassava developed by a multinational company and released in Nigeria. I am reasonably sure there was never any such cassava. I am not aware that any multinational company is working on cassava, let alone transgenic cassava. The recent approval in Nigeria for a transgenic cassava with proVitamin A is expected to be the first confined field trial for GM cassava.

Please check the facts and provide more information if this is inaccurate.

Larry Beach,
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20523-3800
United States
Email: lbeach (at) usaid.gov

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 15:03
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 19: Phytobiotechnology - Cameroon

I am Kenneth Anchang Yongabi, a clinical microbiologist and doctor of naturopathy. I am currently the coordinator of Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation, an NGO focussing on developing and promoting green solutions to health, environmental and food security problems in Cameroon. We run a diagnostic lab, natural products lab, orthodox clinic and naturopathic clinic and consult on development of integrated biosystems technology leading to zero emissions. I was a former lecturer at the tafawa balewa university for 5 years in Nigeria.

At our clinic we have several patients with terminal diseases taking treatment and we realise that nutrition is key. This is to say that agriculture directly affects health so my interest on agrobiotechnology. It's certainly no gain saying that agricultural biotechnology is pervasive and has come of age. This is revealing in the number and strength of the available technologies ranging from germplasm, GMOs, fertiliser technologies, breeding techniques etc. etc. As is always the case, and as already cited in previous postings, a number of problems militate against effective translation of the abundant know-how to improving the lot of our people, especially in the 3rd world viz funding, political will etc.

I am of the opinion that, even if funds are made available, the improvement of agricultural productivity may not be significant in the developing countries. Unfortunately,developing countries agroscientists have not been able to build on sustainable technologies rooted in their heritage! Agricultural practice is largely colonized, yet there is a rich indigenous knowledge that if carefully built upon could lead to less fundings, high output etc. (will talk more on this later!).

At the Phytobiotechnology Research Station we have developed phytofungicides against a wide range of plant pathogens as well as humans. We have developed plant based coagulants used in purifying waste water for irrigation. A range of technologies based on how people in rural Cameroon and Nigeria practiced agriculture and health has been used and appropriate biotechnologies, simple to apply by even the untrained eye, made. We have plant-based pesticides, nematicides, phytopreservatives etc and, at the moment, since the health of our patients depends more on nutrition, we have a scheme called horticultural medicine where they grow crops and medicinal plants fertilized by anaerobically digested cow dung to improve upon the nutrients and medicinal potentials of the plants as well. We also have set up a pilot scheme where waste is processed to nutrients feeding animals and crops while plant based products used to attend to both plants and animal diseases. In a nutshell, I think agriculture can be improved in developing countries if appropriate technologies are developed, simply and accessible to everyone rather than the over reliance on high tech which is usually expensive!

Dr Kenneth Anchang Yongabi, NMD
member American naturopathic Medical Association,
Coordinator/Medical Consultant Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation
coordinator, African Foundation for Environmentally Sound technologies for Farms and cities
Address:
PRF clinics,
P.O.Box 921,
Bamenda,
Cameroon.
Email:yongabi (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 15:26
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 20: Impact of adopting GM crops in developing countries

My name is Jose Falck-Zepeda. I am a Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC. Most of the time I work with the socio-economic impact of agricultural technologies with an emphasis on agricultural biotechnologies. I am also involved with the evaluation of biosafety decision making processes and biosafety/biotechnology policy issues including an analysis of benefits and the cost of compliance with biosafety regulations. I co-lead and are part of a team of colleagues here at IFPRI working on genetic resources policies (http://www.ifpri.org/themes/grp01.htm) and lead policy component with the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS http://www.ifpri.org/pbs/pbs.asp) with extensive work done in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Just to give a flavor of the type of resources our team has developed and/or publications we have on the impact of agricultural biotechnologies, here is a brief list. We recently published Food Policy Review 10 on measuring the economic impact of transgenic crops in developing countries during the first decade (http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/fpreview/pv10.asp). We have a freely available (and searchable) database on the economic impact literature of transgenic crops called bECON (http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/bEcon/bEcon.asp). We have also published an assessment of human and financial resources for biotechnology research in Latin America including a discussion on limitations and issues constraining further innovation (http://www.ifpri.org/spanish/pubs/dp/ifpridp00860sp.asp).

We are currently finalizing papers and other publications in a set of case studies examining the impact of the actual adoption of insect resistant maize in Honduras and the Philippines, insect resistant cotton in Colombia, and herbicide tolerant soybeans in Bolivia, on farmers.

Our work examining the economic literature and performing field assessments has yielded a series of conclusions that are of use for this e-mail conference. We have found that overall impact of the adoption of transgenic technologies in developing countries has been overall positive, but it masks significant outcome variability between countries, regions, households, crops and traits. Furthermore, we have seen that the level of economic benefits tend to be more dependent on the institutional context than on the technology itself. In essence, issues such as access to credit and complimentary inputs, availability of knowledge and information flows about using the technology and about markets; are critical for determining the level of benefits. More detailed results of our experience will be provided to this conference as time goes along. These results are summarized in Food Policy Review 10 mentioned before.

One other issue is, of course, the link between biosafety, policy and politics and the availability of those crops/traits/technologies of importance and relevance to developing countries. In the case of GM crops, we have basically so far commercial diffusion mainly in four crops (corn, soybeans, cotton and canola) and two traits (insect protection and herbicide tolerance) with quite a bit of products in the regulatory pipeline in developing and developed countries. Although the attention has been centered upon genetic modifications and not on other less controversial technologies such as tissue culture, this may change in the future and then we will start seeing the type of backlash towards agricultural technologies in general.

I am looking forward for this discussion and thank the organizers for this opportunity to expose our ideas and thoughts for discussion with other colleagues around the world.

Jose Falck-Zepeda
Research Fellow / Leader Policy Team Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS)
Environment and Production Technology Division
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
2033 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20006-1002
USA
Tel: +1.202.862.8158
Fax: +1.202.467.4439
Cel: +1.301.787.2586
Email: j.falck-zepeda (at) cgiar.org
Web: www.ifpri.org
My CV wiki: http://josefalckzepeda.pbwiki.com/
Brief Bio/Pubs: http://www.ifpri.org/srstaff/falckzepedaj.asp
Skype User: josefalck

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 15:40
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 21: Issues contributing to past failures - lack of political will

I am Agyemang Kojo, a Senior Research Assistant at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana.

I write to also bring into the picture another pressing issue which has incessantly contributed immensely to the failure of agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years. Before I proceed with my submission, I would also like to commend the organizers of the conference for creating such an international platform for sharing ideas. I recommend that participants actively join in its publicity to others who may or may not be agricultural biotechnology inclined.

The issue I want to bring to the fore is the lack of political will of the political leaders of most developing countries, especially Africa, to encourage and assist research in general, not to talk of the new bud of developmental research - agricultural biotechnology. It is a pity to notice knowledgeable and passionate research scientists find other things (e.g. politics) to occupy themselves. This is all due to the lackadaisical attitude of our leaders to budget for scientific research. Sometimes it looks as if our leaders are ignorant or adamant of the contribution of scientific research to national development.

Take a nice trip to most developing countries and you realize that almost all research projects being carried out in the few thriving research institutions are partly or fully supported by international donors. It is pathetic to deduce later that these international donors or affiliates usually support these projects in their own commercial interest leaving the problems facing Africa and the other developing countries still unattended to. This is 'indirect brain drain'. The question is; why can't Africans research on themselves.

I strongly believe that our governments can save scientific research, and for this matter agricultural biotechnologies, in developing countries by forming a whole ministry for research with simplified bureaucracy for the release of funds. It is also worth mentioning that given the current food and environmental problems facing the world, agricultural biotechnology should be a priority in most research agenda.

Agyemang Kojo
Department of Clinical Pathology
Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research
University of Ghana
Legon,
Ghana

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 12 June 2009 17:03
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 22: Biofertiliser - Common bean - Mexico

I am Humberto Peralta, an academic of the Center for Genomic Sciences of the National University of Mexico (previously the Nitrogen Fixation Research Center). My speciality is the molecular genetics of Rhizobium, a nitrogen-fixing bacterium that forms a beneficial association with common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris).

This message is in order to comment on an experience of a biotechnological application in Mexico. From its foundation, the Center was dedicated to study the molecular basis of the relationship of Rhizobium bacteria with the common bean. This is the second crop in importance in the country, second only to corn, but it is the main source of proteins for an ample sector of the population with limited economic resources.

Nitrogenase is the responsible enzyme of the biological nitrogen fixation of Rhizobium, and coding genes are present in three reiterations in the bacterium genome: two complete with low transcription level; and one with high transcription level, but incomplete and therefore without functional significance. We overexpressed the nitrogenase enzyme by coupling the high transcription level regulatory sequence to a complete nitrogenase version. In this way, we obtained a non-transgenic Rhizobium strain with a 50% increase in seed yield, the higher one obtained to date in this research area, and also with substantial increase of the protein content of the grain. Our efforts for government involvement to promote and apply the resulting biofertilizer were useless. The University transferred the rights to a Mexican private company. Now, the biofertilizer is available in all the country by third year, and forms part of a biotechnological package of training, demonstration and diffusion for its use.

To date, 20 thousand hectares, from a total of 2 million sown in the country, have been biofertilized with very satisfactory results. The use of this biofertilizer represents important savings in the crop, with a cost about 10 times smaller compared with the chemical fertilization. Also it improves the biodiversity of the soil, promotes biological activity and the recovery of some characteristics. Furthermore, the biofertilizer use eliminates the damaging effect of the production and use of chemical fertilizers on the water, the air and the soil. This is the beginning of the common bean biofertilizer era in Mexico. Major work is required in the promotion and education with the agronomists and the farmers.

In the face of the current adverse world-wide economic panorama, this alternative of production becomes more important, because it contributes diverse benefits to the farmers, consumers and environment.

Humberto Peralta, Ph D
Center for Genomic Sciences
Av Universidad 1001
Cuernavaca, Morelos,
Mexico, 62210
PO Box 565-A,
e-mail: peralta (at) ccg.unam.mx

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:04
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 23: Biotechnology: the African experience

My name is Worku Damena Yifru. I am a programme officer for biosafety law and policy in the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

My intervention focuses on why African progress in the development or adoption of biotechnologies has been low. Several African countries, including Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mali, are conducting research (including field trials) to develop biotech products suitable to them. Like the other regions, Africa needs to consider the possible benefits and risks of potential applications of biotechnology very seriously without putting any prior conditions. This need seems to have been recognized when the African heads of states and governments established in 2005 a high level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology which submitted its report in 2007 with recommendations: http://www.nepadst.org/doclibrary/pdfs/biotech_africarep_2007.pdf

The African experience to date is not encouraging. Despite the billions of dollars of foreign aid, the thousands of foreign advisors and the technical assistance received by African countries in the past 40 or 50 years from foreign donors or partners for agricultural or biotechnological research, Africa is still far behind in the development and dissemination of appropriate agricultural technologies or products. One still wonders why knowledge that has brought so much social and economic transformation in other parts of the world seems to be so ineffective in Africa. The reason could perhaps be that the knowledge that Africans 'acquired' through the so called technical assistance, technology transfer, etc. was something that emerged from within the real-world of the other (mostly western) societies as responses to their own doubts, questions and problems, aspirations or as activities of self examination and self interpretation.

Until Africa reaches the stage where African researchers, scientists, innovators or entrepreneurs can define their own doubts, question their own questions and try to solve them in the context of their own thinking methods and values, most of the technologies remain alien to Africa. This is not to imply that Africa needs to re-invent the wheel for every piece of technological product. This does not also mean that reason and science, as they developed outside of Africa have little or no relevance to Africans' problems. Where there is technology to be borrowed, Africa should be able to do so. The point here is, the knowledge and technology that Africans borrow should not always be mimicked but mediated in their own context and used as a means for self-examination and active understanding of the African way of lives, in particular the needs of the various farming and pastoral communities. If Africa is to have any meaningful progress in science and technology in general and biotechnology in particular, every effort should have its roots in knowledge that has accumulated over time from within Africa or knowledge tuned with African realities. As the African Panel report mentioned above strongly recommends, universities in Africa have to play a key role in this regard. Governments should give utmost priority for reinvigorating their educational systems and institutions, and create conducive environment for biotechnology research and development in universities, especially in agricultural colleges and universities. These academic institutions should be reoriented and supported towards tackling real life problems.

In doing so, another trend should also be taken into account and addressed properly. In the past decade or so, a number of African prominent agricultural researchers and policy analysts have left their respective national agencies and joined regional or international agricultural organizations or centres run or supported by international development agencies. While the expertise and contribution of these professionals might still be available at region or sub-region levels, the trend has no doubt resulted in weakening the capacity of national agricultural research organizations and has created knowledge gaps. Synergy of research programmes, harmonization of policy approaches and the creation of centres of excellence may be important and useful in the African context. But at the end of the day, there will be no effective substitution for national capacity.

Worku Damena Yifru (Mr.)
Programme Officer, Policy and Legal, Biosafety Division,
Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Environment Programme
413 Saint-Jacques, Suite 800, Montreal, Quebec
H2Y 1N9 Canada
Tel. (514) 287 7006
Fax. (514) 288 6588
E-mail: worku.yifru (at) cbd.int

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:07
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 24: Re: Bt cotton and MAS for crop improvement in India

This is from Dr. Dudhare. I am Assistant Professor of Biotechnology at Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University, Akola, India. For the last 4 years, I am involved in teaching undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD studies and also studied biosafety issues in transgenic research and I did one year Post Graduate Certificate Course in Biosafety and Plant Biotechnology from Ghent University, Belgium.

I agree with Prof. P.K. Gupta statement (Message 2), that in India we have less space for research in transgenic development, because of our regulatory framework and opposition of NGOs, Most of the NGOs who mainly oppose GMO with some political motivation. They published reports which are mainly based on limited research or very less scientific analysis (death of goat in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Districts of India because of grazing on Bt cotton). I know because of NGOs opposition, scientists rethink on their research and minimize risk involved through GMO research, example like marker free transformation. If NGOs oppose without any motivation and only think about safety of human, animal and environment, then it is very good for development of GMOs.

Nowadays, developing countries lack food and there is a chance of the next world war only for food, as we know what happened last year in Africa. Nowadays, throughout the world there are so many products in market which are genetically modified. As we know, the European Union has strong regulation, they apply all biosafety regulations on the basis of process to product and this is best way to analyze GMO. They also approved some GMO products on limited bases for cultivation consumption in Europe. Then what is problem in India - why can we not approve our product very easily? Why do we require more time than other country to get approved? (like Bt Brinjal). Why we are lagging behind the world and not matching the pace with other countries? Shall we give enough food to hunger people in shortest period?

Dr. Dudhare M. S.
Assistant Professor
Biotechnology Center
Department of Agril. Botany
Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University
Akola 444 104
Maharashtra State
India
Mob. 91-9422179788
Fax. 91-724-2258093
91-724-2258219
mahendra_s_d (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:09
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 25: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

My name is Sandra Sharry. I am Professor of Biotechnology at the University of La Plata, Argentina. I am member of REDBIO/FAO-Argentina and of the International Foundation REDBIO (FRI). I am Research Secretary at the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Sciences. My area of research is Forest Biotechnology and Biotech comunication and education.

I agree with the contribution of Uchechukwu Chikezie (Message 4) and Olusola Oyewole (Message 8), among others, about the funding needs and capacity development. In my opinion, I think that Argentina is an special case and we learned a lot in the last 20 years. In general, all biotech areas are developing in Argentina. The country is one of the world's leading exporters of genetically modified (GM) crops and is a key player in the global politics of biotechnology. Whereas in other parts of the world, including other countries in Latin America, active civil societies and some governments have rejected the technology, Argentina has adopted and created it as a central accumulation strategy. The desirability of this strategy has been secured in material, institutional and discursive arenas of power, producing a particular expression of 'bio-hegemony'. Several national biotech products have been developed and recently, on behalf of the REDBIO Argentina Symposium 2009, a workshop about new national biotech products was held (http://www.redbioargentina.org.ar/Simposio/). Introduction of biotech soybeans in the late 1990s sparked a rapid expansion of production; Bio Sidus has accomplished the production of a hormone for bovine growth from cloned and transgenic calves. These developments usually start in public sector, and then the private sector develops and markets. All this was made possible by:

1. Development of a strong and transparent biosafety regulatory system.

2. Government supports biotechnological undertakings, leveraging communication and information, and improving controls to provide security to consumers. Remarkable, REDBIO (reporting to FAO) is responsible for a communication campaign at primary, secondary and tertiary educational levels and other social sectors.

3. There are various financing instruments granted through Public Bids or Permanent Window (Science and Technology Ministry).

4. Knowledge being the key component in the biotech industry, Argentina managed to leverage its strong research capacity to host and create companies that use or produce biotechnology inputs (Biotechnology Industry Law).

5. The special synergy resulting from the interaction between scientists, producers and government.

However, some questions are still under solution. The time and cost of liberalization and commercialization of the products is very high. So, the impact on the society is delayed. Legislative route is not without the dangers of excessive bureaucratic delays. This situation may limit investment and technology transfer and so, ultimately and paradoxically, thwart state sovereignty. On the other hand, the tendency exists for the debate to marginalize developing countries, by presuming that they do not have expertise in ethics, applying technologies, or developing regulatory frameworks. Developing countries should not be treated as a homogenous block, given the diverse range of economic development and needs in biotechnology. They have to decide which, when and how to develop each biotechnology.

While it is paramount to strengthen the country's research and development (R&D) for better food production, it is also imperative that R&D serves the interests of all the types of farmers (large and small-scale farmers) and all types of agriculture (coexistence). The governments should support and implement farming systems that respond to the needs of all farmers if they are serious in their objective in achieving food security and technological sovereignty. While GMOs have become an economic and political reality, questions regarding their necessity, inherent fairness and safety have persisted. Several governments have been reluctant to adopt this type of agriculture for fear of jeopardizing their domestic markets and precipitating long-term environmental damage. But, the question is: if they do not develop appropriate modern biotechnologies can they achieve technological sovereignty?

Sandra E. Sharry
Secretaria de Investigaciones Cientificas
Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales
Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Argentina
Tel. 54 221 423 6758
Fax. 54 221 425 2346
E-mail: investigaciones (at) agro.unlp.edu.ar
www.agro.unlp.edu.ar

[REDBIO, la Red de Cooperacion Tecnica en Biotecnología Vegetal, http://www.redbio.org/default.asp, is the Technical Co-operation Network on Plant Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, based at the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile. It began in 1990 under the auspices of FAO and by December 2008 comprised 5467 researchers in 738 agricultural biotechnology laboratories in 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:10
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 26: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

I am Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States.

There has been work, which may still be ongoing, by the Danforth Center in the U.S. on cassava mosaic virus (CMV) resistance that has met with serious setbacks, and sounds like it may be the project that has been referred to in this conference. Danforth is, I believe, a non-profit research institute, but has been reported to have received major support from industry (Monsanto in particular).v

In the context of successes and failure, on the failure side should be noted genetically engineered sweet potato for resistance to Sweet Potato Feathery Mottle Virus in Kenya (and reported success with conventional breeding methods in Uganda). This project seems to have used up a lot of monetary resources and scientists' time with no product after a decade of work.

Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
Food and Environment
Union of Concerned Scientists
1825 K Street, NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20006-1232
United States
phone: 202-331-5436
fax: 202-223-6162
dgurian-sherman (at) ucsusa.org
www.ucsusa.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:11
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 27: Nigeria - food sufficiency/security

My name is Chinyere Nzeduru, Biosafety Officer, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria

Over the past three decades, the issue of food sufficiency and food security has been the concern of governments of most developing countries, especially in the sub Saharan Africa. This problem is compounded by the demographic trend in most third world countries translating to more people to be fed. In order to check hunger and malnutrition, many countries have adopted various agricultural development policies with their accompanying technologies, all geared towards providing sufficient food to their citizens. Nigeria, with her teeming population of over 140 million has made several efforts towards this direction without achieving much of the desired goal.

The consequences of the progressive population increase in Nigeria are enormous. These include the competition for minimal land space both for construction and cultivation. This is very serious given the fact that while the population of the country continues to grow, Nigeria's available land remains the same within her boundaries.

Many of the past agricultural development interventions promoted cultivation of large areas of land to increase yield. Nigerian scientists have always been looking out for ways to increase crop yields without having to increase land areas for cultivation. While the various technologies already in use have made remarkable and significant contributions in agricultural development in Nigeria, the potentials of modern biotechnology have been highlighted as one important tool that would help in achieving food sufficiency and food security in the country. Just as Chiedozie Egesi mentioned (Message 13), Nigeria is just about to embark on a confined field trial for 2 crops in 2 research institutions later this year. It is hoped that these trials will be successful and will be taken to the next level in the process of modern biotechnology application in agriculture. However, it is important to note the apprehensions of people regarding the technology of genetic modification and to ensure that human health and environmental sustainability are not compromised in the effort to harness the benefits of modern biotechnology. This is the concern of the biosafety regulators, ensuring that modern biotechnology activities do not impact negatively on human/animal health and the environment.

Chinyere Nzeduru
Biosafety Unit
Federal Ministry of Environment
Environment House
Indepedence Way (South), Central Area
P. M. B. 468
Garki - Abuja,
Nigeria
Tel: +234 9 8703444; Mobile: +234 703 3336570
Email: chicledia (at) live.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:12
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 28: Bt cotton in India

I am Dr. Prakash, working as Senior Vegetable Breeder in Namdhari Seeds, one of the reputed seed companies based in South India.

Since its introduction in 2002, Bt technology in cotton is a huge success in India. Looking at the speed of adoption of this technology, now India has become the second largest producer of cotton in the world with production of 315 lakh bales. Approximately four million growers are cultivating Bt cotton in an area of 225 lakh acres in 2008 from a mere 72,000 acres in 2002, the year of introduction of this technology. [1 lakh = 100,000...Moderator]. Today, nearly 23 private seed companies are actively engaged in using Bollgard I and II events of Monsanto in cotton alone. Some of the public institutes are also engaged in tranferring this technology to the local cultivars of cotton to make sure this technology would be affordable to the poor farmers of India as well.

In addition to cotton, there are over a dozen transgenic crops including eggplant, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, corn and rice that are in the process of getting regulatory approval from the government for commercial cultivation. Looking into the present scenario, next couple of years would certainly be the technological era that Indian growers can look for the beneficial traits developed through biotechnology.

Dr. Prakash
Senior Vegetable Breeder
Namdhari Seeds
Bidadi - 562 109
India
dr.prakash (at) namdhariseeds.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:13
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 29: Failure due to constraints - animal science - India

I am Dr. Kumarasamy, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai, India. This institute comes under the Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, (State Veterinary University status). Major funds are from the state government for salaries and we do research by writing projects and getting funds from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Government of India.

When I was a student, during the 1990s the word biotechnology started gaining importance and we thought that it will revolutionize the world. Of course certain extent in health sector by producing lots of vaccines, drugs etc. But in agriculture also some extent, some genetically modified crops have been developed. As far as animal science is concerned, we lack far behind. There are several reasons that may be pointed our. Few of them are:

- Lack of coordination between agencies

- Lack of coordination between laboratory and land

- Mismatch between objectives and goals of institute, state, nation.

- Lack of encouragement from the administration

- Resource, time insufficiency - schemes are sanctioned only for 3 or 4 years, a breeding scheme should require several generations in animals

- Stringent unwarranted official procedure for implementation of projects etc.

The scientist involved in the research spends most of the time for clerical work for preparation of report or purchase of materials etc.. This should be taken care while sanctioning the project. Most of the research aims for publication of research articles but where is the application part ? We have to identify the problems from the field, it should be result oriented, it should be implemented in the field. Then only the biotechnology will be more effective in future. We hope we will have better future.

Dr. P. Kumarasamy
Associate Professor
Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding
Madras Veterinary College
Chennai - 600 007,
India
Email: pksamy_2000 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:14
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 30: Summarising the failures

I am Walter Ajambang, doctoral student in the department of plant breeding and biotechnology, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.

The advantages of biotechnology over conventional methods are tangible. Biotech methods enable us to save time and money. Success has been made at the level of tissue culturing, enabling research stations to maintain germplasm in vitro.

I will summarize the failures under the following subtitles; Fast moving technology, Patents, Energy and Tax policy.

1. Technology is moving very fast in the developed world. At the moment that scientific equipment is being shipped to Africa, the manufacturer based in the developed country is already preparing a new design. At the time we ask for spare parts, the answer is obvious; we no longer produce such designs. That is why a lady compatriot from Cameroon complained that our laboratories are completely storehouses (Message 9).

2. Patents are now on everything, from protocols through equipment, spare parts to seeds. Although we are not wishing that peoples' right be scraped off their intellectual properties, we expect that price to technologies should be rational to our revenue standards.

3. Power failures are rampant in our towns and laboratories in particular. What will be the result of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification that has suffered two power cuts when running? What about some light dependent experiments? What about the in vitro gene banks? Join me to estimate the loss of this research centre with 32 scientists, more than half with PhD who could not work because the centre was in total blackout for 3 months.

4. Custom duties do not discriminate between research/educational material from commercial material. You will have to pay 40% of cost price for any scientific pin you import. Which funding agency will accept that? They rather ask you to carry out the experiment in their labs. When you return to your empty lab, you may have more time to drink palm wine from our local biotechnology.

Walter Ajambang
Laboratorium Biologi Molekuler
IPB BOGOR
Indonesia
or
IRAD BP243, DOUALA
Cameroon
www.irad-cameroon.org
e-mail: wan_soleil (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:14
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 31: Need to identify real problems - India

This is from Dr. Satish Kumar. I am working as a Molecular Biologist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India, and my group is interested in animal biodiversity and has generated some genomic resources aimed at genetic improvement of domestic buffalo. In addition, we are also involved in creating mouse models of human diseases through gene-knockout and transgenesis.

Dr. Kenneth Anchang Yongabi (Message 19) has raised very crucial issues. I totally agree with his observations. I would go even one step further. Most of the agricultural scientists (including animal scientists) spend time, energy and resources in 'inventing problems' based upon the scientific literature published from developed countries rather than appreciating the real problems facing their own societies. Once the diagnosis is incorrect it is no surprise that the 'solution' would also be no consequence.

If I take an example from my own field of speciality i.e. animal breeding in my own country, we do not have phenotypic records of any reasonable quality on performance traits in domestic animals but most of the animal breeding researchers have gone 'high tech'. The fact is that unless we go back and do some hard work with respect to putting in place some classical animal genetics experiments and collect quality data, the DNA markers research is unlikely to have any impact either in the short term or even in the long term. But then classical genetics is out of fashion!

In developing countries, there is lot of traditional knowledge that needs to be appropriated by our scientists and put in the modern scientific context. I think the first step is identification of the 'real problems' which need solutions rather than trying to create artificial problems and research projects. The other day I happen to review a scientific proposal from a prestigious institution proposing to find quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for milk production in a small ruminant. Let us count our 'sheeps' before worrying about "genes"!

Dr. Satish Kumar, MSc, PhD (Edinburgh, UK)
Deputy Director (Scientist F) and Scientist In-charge
National Facility for Transgenic and Gene Knockout Mice
Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
Hyderabad- 500 007
India
Tel. +91-40-27192890
Fax: +91-40-27160311/ 27160591
email: satishk (at) ccmb.res.in ; satishk.scientist (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 15 June 2009 15:15
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 32: Biotechnology applications - Philippines

My name is Von Mark Cruz, program manager at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

I would just like to add further to Dr. Falck-Zepeda's note (message 20) that for the past few years PG Economics also has reported on the 'yield effect' of biotech crops as well on their socio-economic and environmental impacts. Their reports can be found at their website http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/ .

Here in the Philippines, the Bureau of Plant Industry reports a continuous increase in adoption of biotech corn since their first planting in 2003. Aside from such crops by the private sector, there are many documented applications of biotechnology by government agencies. In rice, molecular markers have helped public-sector breeders in the introgression of disease resistance to new varieties, as well as in conducting purity analysis of hybrid rice seeds. The national genebank has also constantly relied on tissue culture in preserving a backup collection of their banana and yam collection, and on various molecular markers for further studying collection diversity and germplasm management practices.

The use of artificial insemination (AI) in the genetic improvement program of carabao (local buffalo) is also one good example of biotechnology use in native livestock. AI was introduced in the country on cattle and swine. But it is on carabao that a more organized genetic improvement scheme by the government came about, especially with the creation of a national center in 1993. AI has helped in the conservation of native breeds as well as in 'upgrading' its genetics for increased milk and meat production.

I support the notion that political will is very important especially in building capacities and establishing a critical mass of highly trained human resources on agricultural biotech in the developing world. Likewise, governments should provide a favorable environment and resources for conducting agbiotech research and help in the commercialization of products thereof. These on top of being more efficient in communicating and disseminating useful information to stakeholders of the technology as mentioned by Farai Catherine Muchadeyi (message 16). Such extension services should be strengthened in developing countries. In addition, the involvement of the private sector through partnerships in further development of agricultural biotechnology in such countries must be encouraged.

Von Mark Cruz, PhD
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)
c/o International Rice Research Institute
DAPO Box 7777
Metro Manila,
Philippines
Phone: +63 2 5805600 ext 2879
Fax: +63 49 5367216
Email: v.cruz (at) cgiar.org
http://www.isaaa.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:43
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 33: Success/failure of GM crops

I am Eduardo J. Trigo, Argentinian agricultural economist, working on issues related to agricultural technology policy and management, mostly as a free lance consultant-researcher and currently also serving as member of the Academic Council at the School of Graduate Studies of the Agronomy Faculty of the University of Buenos Aires and as an adviser in international relations at the Ministry of Science and Technology and Innovation.

In talking about the success/failure of genetically modified (GM) crops we should be very careful. It is true that on some accounts they may have not delivered what was expected at the beginning of the story, but we should not lose sight of what has been achieved in the little more than ten years that these technologies have been in the market. Soybean and maize production have been significantly increased over this period, and in cases such as Argentina, the impact has been dramatic for the economy of the country as a whole (it is estimated that benefits from this technologies for the first ten years are over 20 billion US dollars with about a million of jobs created, see "10 years of GMO crops in Argentinean Agriculture" Trigo EJ and E. Cap, http://www.inta.gov.ar/ies/docs/otrosdoc/resyabst/ten_years.htm), and those gains were eventually reflected in the international markets of these commodities and through them in benefits to the consumers of the whole world.

Furthermore, millions of small farmers around the world are benefiting from Bt cotton with not only significant farm level economic benefits, but also health and environmental benefits derived from the reduced use of pesticides. In toto, the performance of those technologies that have reached the market is, in my opinion, quite satisfactory. Maybe we should ask ourselves why is it that we don't have more of those success stories, and in answering this there is a lot of controversy. Cost of development? Regulation? Lack of political will?........ All of the above and still some other factors? One line of thought: Why should these technologies be successful where other efforts at technological development have not? The "green revolution" passed by many of the regions/countries that needed it most. Lack of appropriate institutions, input systems (basically seeds) may be pointed as critical issues and GM or any other technologies will not move until we confront those deficiencies. The FAO conference in Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-09) could be a great opportunity to start confronting those issues.

Eduardo J. Trigo
Director, Grupo CEO SA
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
www.grupoceo.com.ar
e-mail: trigoej (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:44
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 34: Success/failures of GMOs for subsistence farmers

This is from Rebecca Bratspie. I am a law professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, United States. My work has focused on regulation of GM crops and the possibilities of aquaculturing GM fish.

I am very interested in the experiences of those of you who have tried to use genetic modification to respond to pressing local concerns, especially those efforts directed at helping subsistence farmers. I would love to learn the details of any successes, as well as of any failures? What do you see as the biggest hurdles? Have you had trouble establishing Freedom to Operate during the development process? What are the hurdles in distribution and support? What infrastructure investments would you prioritize?

I ask these questions because I am interested in how to structure a regulatory system that directs the greatest help to the technologies likely to benefit the poorest farmers.

Rebecca Bratspie
Professor CUNY School of Law
65-21 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11367
United States
718.340.4505
718.340.4275 (fax)
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=89185

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:45
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 35: Rice - NERICA, anther culture, MAS

My name is Baboucarr Manneh, Molecular Biologist at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) in Senegal, where I am presently working on using conventional and molecular approaches to improve the tolerance of rice to salinity and low temperature stress.

Many biotechnological approaches have been successfully used to improve different traits in rice producing varieties that are being cultivated by farmers in many developing countries. In this contribution I will mention only two such successful applications - anther culture and marker-assisted selection (MAS).

The NERICA (NEw RIce for afriCA) varieties of rice that are now widely cultivated in many African countries were developed through conventional breeding and also anther culture. The NERICAs were developed through inter-mating of Asian varieties (Oryza sativa) with African varieties (Oryza glaberrima Steud.) of rice. Crosses between these two species usually produce highly sterile offspring. However, breeders at WARDA have been able to successfully produce fertile interspecifics between these two through backcrossing to the Oryza sativa parent and also by using anther culture techniques to create double haploids and fix desirable genotypes. Thus some of the upland NERICA lines were obtained through tissue culture of anthers from backcross-derived lines. Upland NERICAs are now widely cultivated by farmers in Africa with more than 200,000 hectares under NERICAs across Africa.

The second biotechnological approach, MAS, has successfully been used to transfer a gene for tolerance to submergence into adopted rice varieties in Asia by scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). These stress tolerant, improved varieties such as Swarna and IR64 which are very widely cultivated in Asia, have already been tested and released in some Asian countries. MAS allows precision breeding to enable breeders to introduce only one gene or few genes into adapted cultivars. This will improve the characters of the variety in which it is deficient whilst maintaining the other desirable traits of the adopted variety. Often breeders find it difficult to combine high yield potential and stress tolerance in the same varieties through conventional breeding. Through MAS this is now possible. MAS is now being used by both IRRI, WARDA and several research institutions to introduce biotic and abiotic stress tolerant genes into rice varieties already adopted by farmers. Some of the traits that are being bred for in rice through MAS include tolerance to salinity and low temperature, resistance to RYMV (Rice Yellow Mottle Virus) disease and grain quality traits.

One of the major impediments to the wide-scale use of these biotechnological products in developing countries is the weak seed system in many developing countries especially those in Africa. In many African countries more than 80% of seeds used in agriculture are supplied by the informal system which comprises farm-saved seeds, seed exchanges between farmers and seeds purchased from local markets. Seeds supplied through the informal system are often not of sufficient quality to ascertain good yields. The seeds of NERICAs and MAS-derived varieties are usually multiplied through official channels which often lack the capacity to meet the seed demand for these new varieties. Consequently, at present the demand for NERICA seeds and seeds of MAS-derived varieties in developing countries surpasses their supply.

Other colleagues have already mentioned the lack of enough trained manpower in developing countries which is most acute in Africa where there is a serious shortage of breeders and biotechnologists in many national research programs.

Thus to enable wider usage of these technologies and their products there is a need to reinforce national capacities especially those involved in the seed sector such as the national research and extension systems as well as farmers, farmers' organizations and the private sector.

Baboucarr Manneh, PhD
Molecular Biologist and Coordinator of Abiotic Stresses Project
Africa Rice Center (WARDA)
WARDA Sahel Station
B.P. 96 Saint Louis
Senegal
Tel: +221 33 962 6445 / 33 962 6493 (office)
Cel: +221 77 100 9835
Fax: +221 33 962 6491
B.Manneh (at) CGIAR.ORG

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:46
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 36: Re: Summarising the failures

This is from Professor Oyewole, again.

I agree totally with Walter Ajambang's (Message 30) identified challenges in carrying out biotechnological research in Africa and many other developing countries. The implications are that more funds are needed in developing countries to carry out biotechnological researches. One challenge that he has not mentioned is governmental apathy in developing countries to research, including biotechnological research. We therefore need to promote further dialogues with policy makers coupled with advocacy and education of the society about biotechnology and biotechnological products

Prof. Olusola .B. Oyewole,
Coordinator,
Mobilizing Regional Capacity Initiatives (MRCI),
Association of African Universities,
P.O. Box AN 5744,ACCRA, GHANA ,
Tel. +233-24-293-7782 , Fax: +233-21-774821
oyewole (at) aau.org,
and
University of Agriculture ,(Dept. of Food Sc. and Tech.,)
P.M.B 2240, Abeokuta. Nigeria.
Tel. +234-803-335-1814
E-mail: oyewoleb (at) yahoo.com/ solaoyew (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:46
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 37: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

I am Mr. R. Ademola Usman, Head of the Nigerian Biosafety Office (NBO). In collaboration with other government agencies and stakeholders, the NBO is responsible for the implementation of the Nigerian Government Policy on modern Biotechnology to ensure safety to human health, plants and animals in addition to environmental sustainability.

The cassava product that was mentioned in Message 7 was never field tested, let alone commercialized. However, developing improved cassava varieties is critical to Nigeria's food sustainability and agricultural development. It is important that all safe opportunities are explored to meet this growing demand. We are working to enhance an agricultural system that is tailor made for Nigerians and one that promotes self-sufficiency. The use of biotechnology is one tool that makes reaching these goals possible.

Raheef Ademola Usman
Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development
(Environment House) Independence Way South
Central Area, P.M.B. 468
Garki, Abuja
Nigeria
rusmanson (at)yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:47
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 38: Plant biotechnologies in Venezuela

I am Diogenes Infante, from the National Center for Agricultural Biotechnology (Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia Agricola) at the Institute for Advanced Studies (IDEA) in Caracas, Venezuela. We have here an extensive research program in plant biotechnology in tropical crops, including cassava, cocoa (Theobroma cacao), potato, beans and agaves.

In cassava, after several years we have a developed micropropagation of elite cultivars from our collection and abroad. We started 5 years ago a program to transfer this technology to the producers, creating small micropropagation labs in several regions. The labs have an autoclave, laminar hood, climatic room and a greenhouse plus other minor lab equipment. The personnel are trained in our facility in Caracas. This is an example of how biotechnology can be used by farmers in the countryside. We are actually working in discontinuous system bioreactors, to improve cassava propagation by somatic embryogenesis, and in continuous reactors, first in small scale, 500ml, with the goal to be able to mass produce cassava and other crops especially cocoa.

In cocoa, our main program, we have propagated by somatic embryogenesis around 110 cultivars of fine Venezuelan cocoa trees (Venezuela has the best cocoa in the world), characterized around 1500 samples of cocoa pathogens (fungi) from all around the country, including until now 450 fully characterized with a molecular fingerprint and cultivated phenotype. Also, the molecular interaction between cocoa and phytophthora is in study. Last, we are isolating the mycorrhizas associated with the cocoa tree in different regions with the aim to study their effect in the plants growth and resistance to pathogens.

Also, we are studying the complex metabolites associated with cocoa and cassava. Until now, 60 cocoa varieties have been analyzed for compounds in the roots, stem, leaves and fruit (pod). To fully understand the metabolic process we are working in the sequence of the cocoa tree genome, to be able to correlate metabolic and genetic data in the future. In cassava we characterize the mevalonate pathway, in order to improve performance. For beans, we work on plants resistance to abiotic stress, salinity and drought, characterizing the diversity in our collections.

Now, the question is how to transfer the lab results to the producers and of course which is the research program that has to be established to have results that impact the economy. Above, I gave the example of the small lab facilities we are building up in different Venezuelan states, which are able to produce cassava planting materials by the producers themselves. I think this example must be the guide; it is necessary to create transfer laboratories outside the main institutional facility as an infrastructure to transfer technologies to the producers in the countryside. This is because we scientists are unable to communicate in the proper way with the producers - there is a language barrier, status etc.. However, if we have in the middle some people who can communicate with us and with the producers this can create a two-way communication link, so the lab will receive input from the producers through the regional lab facility and the producers input from the lab.

Finally, I disagree with the people complaining that the main problem in some parts is the lack of funding. The lack of imagination is the main limitation. As an example, one of my postdocs was working on a propagation media using only local ingredients, fruits as a source of vitamins and phytohormones, starch as a geling agent and he was able to propagate cassava and potato in vitro. A lot can be done using imagination and inspiration.

Dr. Diogenes Infante Herrera
Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia Agricola
Instituto de Estudios Avanzados
Caracas,
Venezuela
http://www.idea.gob.ve
dinfante (at) idea.gob.ve
Tel: 58-0212-903-5185
Fax: 58-0212-903-5093
Cel: 58-0416-632-9805

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 16:03
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 39: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

I am Alejandro Escandon, plant biotechnologist. I am working at INTA (National Institute of Agriculture Technology) in Argentina. Also, I belong to REDBIO Argentina, which is the local representation of the REDBIO/FAO network.

I saw that Sandra Sharry (Message 25) described the biotech situation in Argentina. My message is about REDBIO Argentina (http://www.redbioargentina.org.ar/Simposio/). We started with REDBIO, a network of people and laboratories to boost biotech development, 20 years ago and in my opinion REDBIO was (and is) a very useful tool for biotechnology development. Perhaps one of the reasons that, in my country, biotech and GMOs were accepted by the people was the fact that a organization like REDBIO worked learning about the advantages to adopt this kind of strategy to improve the field production. The perception of the public is one of the most important keys for the success of biotech applications.

If well REDBIO did not contribute with financial support for the research topics, we organized symposiums, workshops and courses, for the biotechnology divulgation, I think that working in a network helps for the obtaining of results and products. In this sense, the REDBIO philosophy is, in my opinion, an example to follow in the developing countries, that is to generate points of articulation to facilitate the exchange of ideas between people.

Dr. Alejandro Salvio Escandon
Instituto de Floricultura (CIRN-INTA)
Los Reseros y Las Cabanas s/n
B1712WAA - Castelar
Provincia de Buenos Aires
Republica Argentina
Presidente de REDBIO Argentina AC
Tel.: 54 11 44 81 38 64
Fax: 54 11 44 81 34 97
aescandon (at) cnia.inta.gov.ar

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 16:15
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 40: Failures in dual-purpose livestock - Mexico

This is Jose Moro, again.

In message 14, I mentioned very few possible causes for the low degree of adoption of technology by livestock smallholders in the tropics. After reading all the comments posted so far, I would like to extend a little bit my 5-cent contribution. I rather keep it simple, and hope to send more messages as the discussion progresses to more specific points.

I agree that some failures of application of biotechnologies may be ascribed to lack of appropriate (local) solutions aimed to solve local problems (lack of funds is not necessarily the main problem). In many cases, all these have been negatively combined with lack of coordination between institutions, and mismatch of goals at several levels (institute, state and national) [Messages 19, 23, 29 and 31].

In my experience (Mexico's tropics, dual-purpose cattle), the lack of phenotypic records (here I agree with Satish Kumar, Message 31) was a factor in failures of programs of research/technology transfer for genetic improvement (AI, planned crossbreeding, genetic selection). Unfortunately, even after few farms were included in a centralized milk recording (Moro et al, 1994), it was evident that there was a need for quick, practical applications of the results from milk recording (i.e. producers' requests on how to use productive/financial records for day-to-day management purposes). These requests were not always promptly resolved, hence a degree of disappointment in some producers, and consequently, a vicious circle of lack of (or poorly adopted) technology for genetic improvement. Any technology would need to be benchmarked and evaluated on the basis of accurate records.

Jose Moro, Ph.D.
Statistical Programmer
LAB Research Inc.
445, boul. Armand Frappier
Laval, Quebec,
Canada H7V 4B3
Tel.: 450-973-2240, Ext.1102
jose.moro (at) mail.mcgill.ca

Moro, J, Castaneda, O. and Roman H. 1994. Aplicacion de un sistema de registro de la produccion en ganaderias de doble proposito. VII Reunion Cientifica del sector agropecuario y forestal del estado de Veracruz, Mexico. INIFAP.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 17 June 2009 09:32
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 41: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

My name is Viviana Echenique and I am Professor at the Universidad Nacional del Sur, Department of Agronomy, and Senior Researcher at CERZOS (CONICET), Bahia Blanca, Argentina.

I agree with Sandra Sarry, Eduardo Trigo and Alejandro Escandon (Messages 25, 33 and 39 respectively) about the situation in Argentina but I would like to add some comments. My research and teaching areas are related to plant genetics and biotechnology. The most important technologies adopted in Argentina are molecular markers and GMOs. In the last 8-10 years, public research received more funding to establish networks in order to train students and to develop products in genomics and biotechnology (PAV: vacancy area project and PAE: strategic area project).

PAV was a very interesting experience in organizing a platform working with '-omics'. The second step, PAE, is allowing us to develop products. In our case, related to wheat improvement. Currently, commercial wheat cultivars in Argentina are developed by traditional breeding based on development of genetic variability by artificial crosses, selection and evaluation. Recent advances in the fields of molecular biology, genomics, gene discovery and transformation in cereals have not been widely explored in breeding programs. All these circumstances prompted the creation of the WheatBiotech Project (WB) during 2008. WB is a network of research groups with expertise in DNA-based technologies (genomics, molecular markers, transformation, virus induced gene silencing (VIGS) etc), ecophysiology, end-use quality and phytopathology designed to develop and transfer technology to Argentinian seed companies, promoting a fluid communication between public and private sectors. The final goal of WB is to exploit biotechnological tools to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the Argentinean wheat chain. WB is developed by 12 partners including 7 private breeding companies from Argentina and it has been funded for 4 years starting in 2008.

Related to GMOs, I agree about the economical benefits. This is fantastic. But we need to consider the environmental and social problems related with adoption of a technology. Although in our country the regulation is very strict (transgenic products are carefully evaluated at both laboratory and field level in order to establish the biosafety and risks) when a product is on the market, use of the technology is the responsibility of the farmer, in some cases without careful planning. Roundup Ready (RR) soybean has generated a true productive revolution, reducing considerably production costs. In 20 years, agriculture in Argentina had experienced drastic changes. If we analyze the distribution of crops in our country, it is possible to observe a dangerous displacement to monocultures, strongly accentuated in some provinces. Soybean cultivation, without the recommended rotation to ensure a balance of organic matter and without fertilization to restart the nutrients taken from the soil, is a very dangerous combination for the sustainability of the system. The increase in hectares of soybean has occurred to the detriment of horticulture, milk production, cattle and forage, affecting in general small scale farmers. Also, some forest had been devastated to cultivate soybean with the consequences of reduction in CO2 fixation, contributing to global warming. It is evident that it necessary to plan our agriculture to avoid the undesirable after-effects of monoculture and the detrimental environmental effects of the technology, that it is a very good one, but if it is used in a responsible way. I think that this should be the focus for the future, technology and sustainability for development, with a careful planning of agriculture.

Prof. Viviana Echenique
Departamento de Agronomia
Universidad Nacional del Sur
CERZOS (CONICET)
San Andres 800
8000 - Bahia Blanca
Argentina
Phone: 54 291 4861666 ext 156
Fax: 54 291 4862882
email: echeniq (at) criba.edu.ar

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 17 June 2009 10:15
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 42: Experiences from Philippines - rice

I am Alex Rigor, Senior Science Research Specialist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

We at PhilRice started utilizing biotechnology as a tool more than a decade ago. The most prominent successes with the use of biotechnology, I think, that we were able to achieve is the development of several rice varieties adapted to the Philippines. To date, we were able to release rice varieties suited for irrigated lowland conditions as well as varieties that are tolerant to salinity using tools like anther culture and marker-assisted selection. Recently, through collaborations with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), we were able to recommend for release IR64 (one of the most popular rice varieties in the Philippines) with submergence tolerance (IR64-Sub1). [Submergence 1 (Sub1) is a major quantitative trait locus confering tolerance to submergence (rice plants can survive longer under water). IR64-sub1 was obtained through conventional crossing and marker-assisted back-crossing with IR64...Moderator].

With regards to failure, I think, that (1) we still aren't efficient with use of the technology. For example, using molecular markers such as simple sequence repeats (SSRs), we spend about $4.00-5.00 per marker data point in our lab as compared to $0.30-1.00 that IRRI has reported. Well, one could argue that at IRRI it costs maybe less because they can purchase reagents at a lower price. This may be partially true. But in our case, one of the main reasons for this high cost is that we still have not really optimized the use of these DNA markers. By this, I mean that we still have a lot of failed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification, problems with gel running, etc. In addition, most of our protocols say from DNA extraction to gel documentation is manually done. Therefore, we cannot fully utilize the use of markers in our breeding program. Our current rate of data generation is probably about less than 1,000 data point per week. With maximum capacity and with a lot of staff (more than 10 research assistants) involved, we probably may double this number. My point is that, when we compare this using high-throughput automated equipment, the number I mentioned can be easily done by a single person in less time.

Another reason for failure is the (2) high rate of staff turn-over. A lot of our trained staff in biotechnology usually stay at our institute for only about a couple of years or so. Therefore, projects of these staff are most of the times suspended or prematurely terminated. Currently, the management of our institute is providing incentives to somehow lessen the migration/movement of a critical mass of biotech staff from our institute.

Alex T. Rigor, Ph.D.
Senior Science Research Specialist
Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division
Philippine Rice Research Institute
Maligaya, Science City of Munoz 3119
Nueva Ecija,
Philippines
PH +63 (44) 456-0258; -0285 loc.260
atrigor (at) philrice.gov.ph

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 17 June 2009 12:40
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 43: Biotech research-application disconnect - India

I am E.M. Muralidharan from India. I work at the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Thrissur, in the area of biotechnology of forestry species.

Unlike the case in some of the nations in Africa, as described in the earlier messages, I feel in India there has been no dearth of facilities, funds or expertise in biotechnology research. The liberal funding in the past two decades for setting up facilities and training of manpower by the Department of Biotechnology, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and other agencies has ensured that the nation is mostly self sufficient in most modern technology. However, my opinion is that agricultural biotechnology has hardly produced any benefits yet. Firstly, I think there is too much duplication of research in the important crop species and a lot of the work being carried out lacks a clear objective or perspective in terms of application. Secondly, there is too much emphasis in most organizations (perhaps not in private companies) on purely academic aspects of research. There is not much to be gained by a stand-alone research programme aimed at, say, developing a micropropagation or genetic transformation protocol for a crop species if, at the practical level, the researcher is never involved in applying the technique. Yet that is what is happening most of the time, at least in India. That is one reason you would find dozens of published papers describing in vitro laboratory protocols for a species but which is hardly ever put to use anywhere to actually propagate superior clones for deployment in the field or in developing an improved variety. I feel that the desire of the researchers to improve their career, publish in the best scientific journals or obtain a patent often comes in the way of meaningful research outputs.

Research in biotechnology in public-funded organizations and universities should therefore fit into a comprehensive crop improvement programme involving all areas of expertise that are essential for success. Procedures will then have a better chance of being fine tuned in the lab itself for its applicability rather than for novelty or Citation Index alone. An alternate means of performance assessment of researchers should be in place which does not lay undue emphasis on purely academic research.

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

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 17 June 2009 13:27
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 44: MAS for downy mildew resistance in pearl millet for India

I am C Tom Hash, trained at Cornell University as a conventional plant breeder and working for the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) on development and application of tools for marker-assisted breeding in sorghum and pearl millet. I am based in India and involved in research projects targeting improvement of these two crops in both sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (hopefully with spillover to other regions where these crops are grown globally).

My research group, and our collaborators here in India and in the United Kingdom, have had one major success in applied biotechnology that is having an impact at the farm level here in India. This required development of a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) based genetic linkage map of pearl millet to identify markers for host plant resistance to downy mildew disease, which is the most important biotic constraint to production of pearl millet hybrids in India. This was followed by RFLP-based marker-assisted backcrossing to improve downy mildew resistance of an elite hybrid parental line that was the susceptible parent of the population used for mapping the disease resistances that were the subject of this marker-assisted selection (MAS) program. Marker-assisted breeding of several improved versions of this hybrid parental line was followed up by conventional development, testing, release, seed multiplication and marketing (by both public- and private-sector seed companies) of an improved version of the popular public-sector-bred pearl millet hybrid 'HHB 67'. All of these inter-related activities have contributed to adoption of this biotechnology product in its zone of adaptation in northwestern India.

The new version of the hybrid was released by the Government of India in 2005, as 'HHB 67 Improved', as a replacement for the original hybrid HHB 67 (Khairwal IS and Hash CT, 2007. 'HHB 67-Improved' - The first product of marker-assisted crop breeding in India. Asia-Pacific Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology e-News). Last year F1 hybrid seed was produced to sow at least 300,000 hectares to pearl millet hybrid 'HHB 67 Improved', while this year the area could reach over 500,000 ha if sowing conditions are favorable in Haryana and Rajasthan. The total area sown to the original HHB 67 probably reached a high of 700,000 ha and the combined total area of the original and improved versions may now be marginally less than this although their area continues to increase in Rajasthan.

Compared to the original hybrid, 'HHB 67 Improved' has marginally higher grain and stover yield performance even when downy mildew is not present and otherwise fits the niche previously occupied by the original HHB 67. The original hybrid finally succumbed to downy mildew in farmers' fields about the time seed of the new version started to become available, and this stimulated demand for seed of the more disease-resistant improved version. Without this increased demand from farmers, sufficient seed of 'HHB 67 Improved' would not have been produced by the seed companies to permit timely replacement of the original (which is still on-going).

The research product development and testing chain for 'HHB 67 Improved' was long and had many partners, both here in India and in the UK (Hash et al., 2006; http://www.icrisat.org/Journal/bioinformatics/v2i1/v2i1teamwork.pdf). Marker development, linkage map construction, and initial disease resistance QTL discovery in the UK, marker-assisted backcross improvement of downy mildew resistance of elite hybrid parental line H 77/833-2 at ICRISAT, and initial trials by ICRISAT and our national program partners that identified the best improved versions of HHB 67 as a promising hybrid combinations, were largely supported by a series of research grants from the Plant Science Research Programme of the UK's Department for International Development (DfID PSP) to ICRISAT and its UK-based research partners. Subsequent on-station and on-farm testing of two promising hybrids was supported by our national program partners. Without the active involvement of all of these partners it would not have been possible to breed, test, and release this product, which is now very much wanted by farmers in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Haryana. Long-term (>15 years) support from the DfID PSP management team was a critical contributing factor to this success story, which has clearly demonstrated how research partners with widely disparate interests can come together, each contributing something for which they have comparative advantage, to deliver an appropriate research product targeted to meet the needs of the poor, while each part of the group is simultaneously pursuing its individual interests. However, even this would not have been enough to permit rapid adoption of the improved hybrid if Breeder Seed of the improved hybrid parental lines had not been made readily available to the seed companies involved in its seed production and marketing.

To my mind, the most important factors for this success were the long-term support from the donor, long-term collaboration of the partners, and reasonably strong linkage of the 'upstream' biotechnology end of the series of projects to the more 'applied' plant breeding product development, testing and delivery end. There were serious opportunity costs (for example the donor and research partners decided to restrict support for additional marker development and QTL mapping so that resources could be made available to support demonstration of applied marker-assisted breeding and use of its products in breeding experimental hybrids, and this has ultimately restricted our ability to rapidly follow-up with additional products; and our publication record has not been as good as it probably should have been), but we were able to deliver finished products to farmers before much larger teams working on much better funded crops. Also, benefits to farmers have already exceeded the total research funding support provided by DfID during the period 1990 through 2005 for research activities related to the development and application of marker-assisted breeding tools for pearl millet.

C Tom Hash
Principal Scientist (Breeding)
ICRISAT-Patancheru, Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh 502 324
India
Email: c.hash (at) cgiar.org
Tel: +91-40-3071-3322 (direct) or +91-40-3071-3071 extn 2322

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 17 June 2009 17:04
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 45: GM sweet potato - Kenya

I'm Daniel Kamanga, Director of Communication at Africa Harvest (www.africaharvest.org). As a non-scientist, I'm often fascinated by the kind of debate the GM sweet potato in Kenya elicits. Opponents of the GM technology have framed the issue as a failure. This assertion is the veiled attempt to say that the technology cannot or has not worked for Africa. I beg to differ.

Africa Harvest CEO, Dr. Florence Wambugu, was first involved with the GM sweet potato in 1991 when USAID was offering a post doctoral fellowship, specifically targeting a young PhD researcher with a background in virology and a particular interest in root or tuber crops. Florence had just completed her PhD at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. Her PhD focused on the control of sweet potato virus. At the time - and probably even now - the global average sweet potato yield per hectare was 14.7 tons. Kenya's was only 4.8. The opportunity presented by USAID was undeniably the 'next logical step' for Florence. She later became part of a team that took advantage of Monsanto's royalty-free technology transfer program.

For three years, valuable pioneering work was initiated as she preoccupied herself with trying to establish if the new technology of gene transfer could be used to develop a sweet potato feathery mottle virus resistant potato. In 1994 - after completing her bench-work - she returned to Kenya as the Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a position she held for seven years. It was during that time that the GM sweet potato technology transfer to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) occurred.

What has been framed a 'failure' has in fact been great success. Three major successes stand out:

1. Ensuring the transgenic trials were carried out in accordance with international standards: Being the first GM crop variety in Sub-Saharan Africa was a milestone, but the pioneering nature of the project demanded adherence to strict international standards that stretched all involved. The trials were carried out following consultation and in close collaboration with the very communities likely to benefit from the final product. Again, there was no resistance or destruction on trials, confirmation of a strong foundation of what is happening today;

2. Facilitating Capacity building: Many Kenyan scientists were trained under the project, and have led the county to patriotically support the potential benefits associated with GM technology. Kenyan scientists have been at the forefront of advocating a home-grown approach that will promote improvement and increase productivity of local crops. The quality of debate during the passage of Kenya's Biosafety Bill leaves no doubt why Kenya is a centre of science and technology in the region;

3. Development of the institutional framework in Kenya: KARI now has a bio-transformation lab where skilled scientists can carry out further research in future. KARI and the lab are now in a position to form vital collaborations on related scientific work. For example, KARI is a critical partner to the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project (www.biosorghum.org). Kenya is also a beacon of light in the region with regard to biosafety. Organizations such as Kenya plant Health Inspection services (KEPHIS) have developed relevant expertise and experience out of the GM sweet potato project. KEPHIS monitors all field trials, collects and analyses data to ensure compliance with internationally accepted standards;

4. Facilitate future win-win partnerships support: The GM sweet potato project paved the way for Kenya and the region to benefit from relevant scientific collaborations that through the Bio-transformation lab and new scientific personnel attract research funding and address Kenya specific agricultural issues. The number of similar projects today, attests to the success of the GM sweet potato project;

5. Biosafety law in Kenya: Kenya which is one of a few African countries conducting research in genetic modification. Last year, Parliament overwhelmingly passed a law to govern the technology. Since laws do not happen in a vacuum, one can assume that the passage of the law is one of the unrecognized successes of the GM sweet potato project.

Daniel Kamanga
Director, Communications
5 Hunter Street, Randburg
P.O. Box 3655
Pinegowrie 2123
South Africa
dkamanga (at) africaharvest.org
www.africaharvest.org
(0) +2711 781 4447
(c) +27 82 787 4799

[Although it doesn't say, I presume this message is a response to the comment in the second paragraph of Message 26 by Doug Gurian-Sherman, who wrote "In the context of successes and failure, on the failure side should be noted genetically engineered sweet potato for resistance to Sweet Potato Feathery Mottle Virus in Kenya (and reported success with conventional breeding methods in Uganda). This project seems to have used up a lot of monetary resources and scientists' time with no product after a decade of work."...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 18 June 2009 09:14
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 46: Re: GM cassava - CMVD resistance

I am Paul Anderson, Executive Director of International Programs at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, United States.

I would like to follow up on Message 37 by Mr. R. Ademola Usman regarding the cassava product that was never field tested in Nigeria nor commercialized. I applaud Mr. Usman and the Nigerian government for their commitment to developing improved cassava varieties that will lead to increased food security for the people of Nigeria. The Danforth Center is a committed partner in this project. We strongly support their goal of developing the capacity of Nigerians to be self sufficient in this effort.

I would also like to respond to the setbacks referred to in Message 26 by Doug Gurian-Sherman. He is referring to experimental work to develop resistance to cassava mosaic disease, an extremely devastating disease. The cassava plants to which he refers were generated in our laboratories in St. Louis, USA, in 2003: materials were not tested outside of our labs. To speak of success or failure during the experimental phase of this or other research is not appropriate, as scientists are aware. Encountering problems and solving them is a normal part of the scientific process. Each step of a discovery provides scientists with new information and clues that eventually lead us to the answers to the questions we are investigating.

Biotechnology will play a role in meeting the most pressing challenges facing our generation. Through good science we hope that can discover ways in which to alleviate hunger for all people and sustain our environment for those to come.

Paul Anderson, PhD
Executive Director of International Programs,
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
975 N. Warson Road
St. Louis, MO 63132
USA
pcanderson (at) danforthcenter.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 18 June 2009 09:35
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 47: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

This is Eduardo J. Trigo, again.

I would like to take up some of the comments by Viviana Echenique in Message 41. I think they highlight some of the issues surrounding the biotechnology and GMOs debate. In the first part of my message I will make some general comments, and in the second address some of the specific aspects touched by Ms Echenique in her message.

When discussing biotechnological applications we should not lose sight that we are discussing technological change, not technological 'miracles' and in change - technological and in any other other area of life - there are costs and benefits. Every new technology comes to solve some problem(s), but in turn, creates new ones that need to be managed and, eventually, resolved, most probably through still another new technological concept. This is the history of technological progress, and there is no reason to think that this go around would be no different from other situations in the past. Furthermore, since it is a radical change, biotechnology also brings the need for a new policy and institutional system that fully reflects the characteristics of the new technologies and the processes behind them. One of the issues we probably need to fully confront in today's discussion, is that the policies and institutions that we have today have evolved from and reflect the needs and characteristics of 'conventional' or 'green revolution' technologies, and served well to contain and promote them, but are not well fitted for what the biotech cycle is demanding. Biosafety, intellectual property rights, labeling and segregation, high investment requirements, etc., are all issues that are rather new and 'foreign' to the agricultural research and technology discussion, and if we want to fully benefit from what biotechnology may offer in terms of the sustainable improvement of agricultural productivity and production, we should start addressing the need to move forwards to a better policy and institutional fit.

Now, with comments on message 41: My intention is not to counter-argue, but to put them in context to facilitate the learning process from the Argentinian experience with GMOs. GM crops have meant a real agricultural production revolution, but it is not clear that production increases in these crops have been at the expense of other agricultural activities. In fact, available evidence (see '10 years of GMO crops in Argentinean Agriculture' Trigo EJ and E. Cap, http://www.inta.gov.ar/ies/docs/otrosdoc/resyabst/ten_years.htm), shows that during the first decade of GM crops in Argentina, beef and milk production - both competitive with soybeans in terms of land use - also increased. Most probably, as a consequence of technological intensification in response to the higher land prices, resulting from competition from soybeans.

Environmental costs are also brought up as one of the downsides of GM crops, particularly in connection with deforestation for the expansion of herbicide tolerant (HT) soybean production. This is not a new process, but one that has been underway before the new technologies became available, and clearly a case of policy failure in terms of forest protection and land use planning. HT soybeans availability may have contributed to the process, and even sped it up, but the problem was there independently of GMOs and should be faced on its own merit.

Monoculture and its associated costs in terms of sustainability are also rightly pointed out. Soybeans have significantly increased their participation in the Argentinean agricultural production basket. In spite of the fact that aggregate production has almost doubled, today soybeans represent a larger share of the total than they did ten years ago. No certain answers here, but some leads may help drawing lessons from this experience. HT soybeans never confronted restrictions for export to the major markets - namely the European Union - but other crops, such as maize, did and Argentina, being a major agricultural exporter, put in place a policy of not approving any new GM event which was not already approved in those markets, distorting the local innovative process and upsetting the balance between crops. This and the fact that maize is a more expensive crop to produce and has an unfavourable transport cost to price ratio, triggered the monoculture problem and the associated nutrients loss / soil fertility problems mentioned. Is this a problem with the technology or one of policy failures? Assigning blame is always difficult, but we could agree that here there is more a policy than a technology problem at play. Furthermore, it is estimated that the amount of nutrients lost (phosphorus) is 7-8% of the total benefits generated by HT soybeans. This offers plenty of space for incentives for nutrient replacement by farmers, but there are none in place. These and other environmental issues, should be also balanced against what have been the synergies between GM technologies and no-till agricultural practices in Argentina and their impact on the reversion of soil degradation existing previous to the GMOs and what happened with CO2 emissions. Available evidence regarding both aspects point in the direction of positive impacts ('GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2007', http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk).

Finally, social costs. There is no clear evidence on the impact on small farms, but in any case, whatever happened at this level should be set against the impact on job creation (close to a million during the first decade) and the fact that income from soybean export taxes is a key resource to support subsidies to the urban poor instated by the Government since the 2001 crisis (see Trigo and Cap, cited above).

Eduardo J. Trigo
Director GrupoCEO SA
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
(www.grupoceo.com.ar)
trigoej (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 18 June 2009 13:18
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 48: Micropropagation of root crops - Nigeria

I am Uche Chikezie, Biotechnology Lecturer of the Department of Biotechnology, FUTO. P. M. B. 1526. Owerri. Imo State, Nigeria.

While I commend the micropropagation activities of the National Root Crops Research Institute [NRCRI], Umudike, Umuahia, Nigeria, aimed at micropropagation and production of disease-resistant varieties of our staple root crops, cassava, yam, cocoyam etc., using plant biotechnology techniques. I think these agricultural biotechnologies have not fully succeeded, because not many farmers in this part of Nigeria have benefited from the research activities of this Institute.

This could be because, the NRCRI is not adequately funded for large-scale micropropagation of these staple root crops, and may not have well-developed agricultural extension networks, to distribute their varieties to reach the grassroot farmers, in our rural communities, in the South-East Nigeria, where the NRCRI, is located. In Nigeria, the grass root farmers in our rural communities, constitute large proportion of the agricultural sector, and are involved in food production, to meet the needs of their local communities, thereby reducing food scarcity and alleviating hunger. If most of these farmers do not benefit from the agricultural research biotechnologies of research institutes, such as the NRCRI, in their locality, then I think, such agricultural biotechnologies has not achieved the objectives of alleviating food scarcity and hunger, and therefore, has not fully succeeded, in that region.

Finally, I wish to request that donor agencies in the developed nations assist in adequate funding of agricultural development programs, in our research institutes and develop biotechnology labs. in academic institution, and proper training of staff in agricultural biotechnologies, to achieve full success of these technologies.

Uche Chikezie
Dept. of Biotechnology,
Federal University of Technology (FUTO),
P.M.B. 1526. Owerri. Imo State.
Nigeria
uchikezie (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 18 June 2009 13:19
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 49: Re: GM sweet potato - Kenya

I am Bosibori Bett, a Research Scientist with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) - Biotechnology programme.

I concur with Daniel Kamanga in message No. 45 on the facts that he has stated regarding the GM Sweetpotato in Kenya. I 'testify' that I (amongst others) was involved in the transgenic trials and this experience paved the way for making applications/requests/dossiers; carrying out subsequent confined field trials (CFTs) with other GM crops; and implementing risk management and mitigation measures for the same. Additionally on capacity building, I (amongst others) was a beneficiary of the project where I undertook training in Biotechnology under a grant that funded the second phase of the GM Sweetpotato project (Advancement of Transgenic Sweetpotato project). Capacity and infrastructure has been enhanced and since then there have been numerous collaborations with other institutions in the region and internationally in GM-related work (Genetic engineering, transformation, evaluation of transgenic crops under containment and confinement) etc. These indeed are some of the successes of the sweet Sweetpotato story.

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

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 18 June 2009 17:00
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 50: Re: Biofertiliser - Common bean - Mexico

This is Humberto Peralta, again.

In this message I provide more information about the use in Mexico of the Rhizobium-based bioferilizer mentioned in my Message 22.

In 2003, an agreement was signed between the National University with a Mexican private company, called Biofabrica Siglo XXI, to produce the biofertilizer for common bean. The product, named Rhizofer (derived from 'rhizo' [Rhizobium] and 'fer' [fertiliser]), consists of a one pound-bag, sufficient to biofertilize one hectare (10 000 square meters) of the crop. Additionally, it is sold with a 1 kilogram-bag containing spores of a mycorrhizal fungus, Glomus intraradices, to enhance mycorrhization and help the plant to acquire soil nutrients and to solubilize phosphates. This package is sold for the equivalent of 15 USD, and also includes print material, explanation sessions with Biofabrica agronomists and further assistance.

The biofertilizer has been used mainly in the central and northern regions of Mexico, for example the state of Zacatecas (principal common bean producer in the country). Official institutions, such as the Fundacion Produce (a national farmers association, with state branches) and State governments have published the obtained results.

The scientific publication was in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, 2004, vol. 70, pages 3272-3281 by Peralta et al. -
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=427788

Humberto Peralta, Ph D
Center for Genomic Sciences
Av Universidad 1001
Cuernavaca, Morelos,
Mexico, 62210
PO Box 565-A,
e-mail: peralta (a) ccg.unam.mx

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 19 June 2009 13:31
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 51: Bt cotton in developing countries and measures of success and failure

My name is Dominic Glover. I am a Post-doctoral Fellow with the Technology and Agrarian Development Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. I am also a member of the steering committee for the ABDC-09.

Several contributors in this e-mail conference have referred to the cultivation of transgenic Bt cotton as a 'huge success' among smallholder farmers, for example in countries like India [Messages 2, 15, 28, 33].

It is important to be careful what we mean by 'success' (or 'failure') in the context of this conference. The case of Bt cotton provides an excellent illustration of the reasons why it matters so much.

As Jose Falck-Zepeda [Message 20] has already mentioned, the empirical record on Bt cotton's impacts is not uniform. As his colleagues at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have shown (Smale et al. 2006a, 2006b, 2009), and as I have also argued in a recent working paper (Glover 2009), the overall picture is of broadly beneficial impacts, but that general overview masks considerable variation between farms, farmers, regions and seasons. Below, I will summarise some of the key points. I encourage participants in this conference to refer to those papers for the full analysis and evidence base.

On a purely technical level, Bt cotton could indeed be termed a success. The technology 'works' in the specific sense that transgenic cotton plants produce the Bt toxin, which confers some degree of protection against some of the pests that feed on cotton. In economic terms, at the aggregate level, there is also good evidence that the overall productivity of cotton has increased following the introduction of Bt technology.

However, at the micro scale, the picture is much more complicated. The variation in the outcomes means that, while some farmers have certainly benefited (though not always consistently), others have not. The performance of Bt cotton depends heavily on favourable growing conditions, especially good soils and reliable water. Farmer skill also plays a key role. The impacts also depend heavily on the presence or absence of supportive institutional frameworks.

Bt cotton does not necessarily lead to reduced pesticide use. Some researchers found that Bt-adopters sometimes still spray excessive amounts of pesticides. Others found that Bt technology had a rather marginal impact when compared with the effect of training farmers in integrated pest management (IPM) methods. We know that farmers' decision-making on pesticides is not always guided by careful observation of pest pressure or calculation of the economic costs and benefits of spraying. Even where reductions in pesticide use have been observed, we do not know whether the performance of the technology itself was the driving factor. Based on the available evidence, therefore, it would be a mistake to conclude that Bt cotton has 'caused' a reduction in pesticide use.

In summary, the picture is complex and differentiated. It is always important to ask: 'Success (or failure) for whom? Under what circumstances?'. To label Bt cotton as a great success would be just as crude as to dismiss it as a disastrous failure. We also cannot assume that Bt cotton must be a success merely because it has spread rapidly. The comment in the background document to this conference is very well-made: just because a technology is being used does not necessarily mean it is a social, environmental or developmental 'success'.

The Bt cotton picture is changing all the time. In India, for example, the newly released Bt cotton varieties produced by the public sector may make a tremendous difference to the market and could help to make the technology more accessible to poor farmers. If that were to happen, it would serve as a good illustration of why the institutional context really matters.

Dominic Glover
Post-doctoral Fellow
Technology and Agrarian Development Group
Wageningen University
PO Box 8130
6700 EW Wageningen
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)317 48 40 18
Email: dominic.glover (at) wur.nl
Skype: domglov
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dominicglover

Glover, D. (2009) 'Undying Promise: Agricultural biotechnology's pro-poor narrative, ten years on', STEPS Working Paper 15, Brighton, UK: STEPS Centre
http://www.steps-centre.org/PDFs/Bt%20Cotton%20web.pdf (904 KB)

Smale et al. (2006a) 'Parables: Applied economics literature about the impact of genetically engineered crop varieties in developing economies', EPT Discussion Paper 158, IFPRI, Environment and Production Technology Division.
http://www.ifpri.org/divs/eptd/dp/papers/eptdp158.pdf (342 KB)

Smale et al. (2006b) 'Bales and balance: A review of the methods used to assess the economic impact of Bt cotton on farmers in developing countries', AgBioForum 9(3): 195-212
http://www.agbioforum.org/v9n3/v9n3a06-zambrano.htm

Smale et al. (2009) 'Measuring the economic impacts of transgenic crops in developing agriculture during the first decade: Approaches, findings, and future directions', IFPRI Food Policy Review 10
http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/fpreview/pv10.pdf

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 20 June 2009 17:59
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 52: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

I am Wayne Parrott, professor of Crop and Soil Sciences at the University of Georgia, United States.

I would like to follow up on Viviana Echenique's suggestion that GMOs should be subject to socio-economic analysis (message 41).

Dear Viviana, Please allow me a few comments based on my observations over the past few years of your beautiful country. As I was reflecting on your observations, it strikes me that technology does not exist in a vacuum; therefore its impact is heavily dependent on each country's policies. Everyone recognizes that soybean helped save Argentina from its financial crisis and continues to make substantial contributions to its economic development. Thus, it is not surprising that many policies - some more overt than others - still favor soybean production.

For example, if I was a maize farmer in Argentina, I would have to buy seed (it is hybrid, so saving my own seed is not an alternative), buy nitrogen fertilizer, and then, I still could not be sure if I will be able to get an export permit and thus be able to sell my crop well. The latter two issues apply to wheat as well. In contrast, if I plant soybean, I can save my seed, I don't have to buy nitrogen fertilizer, and I don't pay royalties, which serves to make seeds even cheaper relative to maize if I did buy seed for whatever reason.

So, Argentina's royalty and brown bag and export policies all provide very strong incentives to grow soybean instead of maize. But then, the soybean farmer must still pay a 35% export tax on his product, thus providing an incentive to cut production costs, even if it means using non-sustainable practices.

In the end, it is important to separate impacts due to a technology, and those that result from policies and regulations. Thus, the social and environmental impacts in Argentina would be totally different if the incentives were different, which is why I am not in favor of such studies up-front. Furthermore, I do not understand why GM crops are singled out for such analyses, while other technologies (eg, cell phones, plant breeding, etc) seldom if ever are.

In the end, we all recognize, as you point out, that the use of transgenics does not negate the need for sound agronomic practices. There is a strong group in Argentina that recognizes that even if the incentives are to plant continuous soybean, that such practices are not sustainable. Thus, there is now a movement to implement more sound agronomic practices through several outreach efforts. For example, there is AAPRESID's 'manual on good agronomic practices' which emphasizes things like crop rotation. There is now a program to certify farmers on conservation agriculture. I hope all Argentinians work hard to teach and implement these practices. [The Asociacion Argentina de Productores en Siembra Directa (AAPRESID) is the Argentin no-till farmers association, http://www.aapresid.org.ar/english/institutional_network.asp ...Moderator].

Soybean consumption continues to increase at a rapid rate, so soybean will continue to be planted regardless of whether it is GM or not. It is critical that increased soybean production be accomplished with the lowest agricultural footprint possible. To the extent that biotech helps increase productivity and use less resources, it should be used.

Wayne Parrott
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences,
University of Georgia,
Athens, GA 30602
United States
wparrott (at) uga.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 22 June 2009 12:23
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 53: Re: Bt cotton in developing countries and measures of success and failure

This is from Partha P Banerjee, India, again.

Thanks to Dominic Glover (Message 51) for an excellent discussion and pointing out some crucial issues related to Bt cotton in India.

In the initial phases, private sector Bt cotton hybrids received a setback not due to the gene, rather due to the background. From the time of its commercial introduction in India, Bt cotton spread rapidly. This is true that only the speed of spread of a particular technology may not be considered as the sole factor of its success or failure. But, of course, it is one of the important factors. Cotton is a cash crop and compared to rice farmers of eastern India, cotton farmers are in a better position to realize the benefits of a rather costly technology. Performance of a Bt hybrid should not be confused with performance of the gene. Several Bt cotton hybrids are available in India and not all performance is the same, not due to the gene but the background. From the past industry news it is clear that some of the hybrids in India are of very high demand among the cotton farmers. Dominic writes: "The performance of Bt cotton depends heavily on favorable growing conditions, especially good soils and reliable water." I think this is true for all the crops. This comparison may be considered between a non-Bt and its Bt version under optimum and/or average cotton growing conditions. Comments on these issues are highly welcome from experienced scientists to enrich my knowledge.

Partha P Banerjee, PhD
Scientist Corn Breeding
Hytech Seed India Pvt. Ltd.
Hyderabad,
India.
parthabanerjee (at) aol.in
Cell: +91 9849100026

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 22 June 2009 12:24
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 54: Sudan - plant tissue culture

I am Peter B.S. Gama, Assistant Research Professor at the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), Sudan. My area of specialization is plant physiology and biotechnology. I have worked in one of pioneering plant tissue culture laboratory in Sudan for almost 7 seven years. Our work covered several horticultural crops such as bananas, pineapples, strawberries, cassava, potatoes, sugar cane, recalcitrant trees (date palm, bamboo, citruses and Acasia senegal).

Agricultural biotechnology, in Sudan, is at its early stage. However, there is a rapid shift from what was previously plant tissue culture; virus-indexing; and micro-propagation to molecular biology (marker-assisted breeding and characterization of traits with promising agronomic value). There is an active project of agricultural biotechnology operating in Sudan, particularly at the Agricultural Research Corporation since 1993.

One is the Technical Co-operation Project (TCP) on "Increasing productivity of selected crops using nuclear related techniques", ongoing project SUD/5/030 supported by the FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Subprogramme (http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/field-projects-pbg.html). The project is now entering a decade and half (advanced phase), was initially initiated to focus on mutation breeding of banana (dwarf cavendish) which resulted in formation of the first tissue culture laboratory in Sudan. The tissue culture laboratory established through the national and regional TCP (RAF/5/050) has been extensively used for banana tissue culture and later wheat doubled haploid production. The expected prospects from this project culminated in release of two cultivars. A new banana mutant variety namely ALBEELY BANANA of higher yield was released. This cultivar is widely accepted by local farmers owing to its high yielding potential and demonstrates a superior yield advantage of up to 30% more than local control varieties. Another cultivar "Grand Nain", a high yielding cultivar was also been released for Kassala area. Kassala State is well known for growing bananas in Sudan (for more details, see page 11 of http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/public/pb-nl-17.pdf). The laboratory was also able to provide banana planting materials during critical times of post floods devastation of banana plantation along the Nile banks.

In wheat improvement, anther culture techniques for production of doubled haploids also yielded good results leading to the release of several cultivars including, "Tagana". The latter is a heat tolerant variety for all growing areas, except New Halfa. This project was successful because it played a catalytic role in making the policy of re-introducing wheat to the northern states of Nile River and Dongola a success.

In our case, I would rather conclude that there has been a huge development in agricultural biotechnology following the inception of the first plant tissue culture laboratory back in the 1990s and plant biotechnology laboratory in 2005. As a matter of fact, the plant biotechnology laboratory is a well equipped laboratory also established at the Agricultural Research Corporation, Wad Medani, as a joint venture between FAO/IAEA Technical Co-operation and other infrastructure supported by the Government of Sudan. The laboratory is playing an important role; (1) in molecular characterization of induced mutations and marker assisted selection in crop improvement programmes, (2) as it has been also utilized for rapid identification of haploid plants derived from crosses between different cotton species, and (3) because this facility has become a focal point for consultations in regards to detection of genetically modified plants at plant quarantine checkpoints (phyto-sanitary centers). In that respect, we are likely to expect more to come in the next assessment of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries, especially the sub-Saharan region.

At this stage as such, it is indeed very early to assess whether there is failure or success for the case of Sudan. Nonetheless, development of agricultural biotechnology will not only improve agricultural productivity, it will also significantly contribute to raising of living standards of farmers - in the sub-Saharan countries - via development of good agricultural packages. Having mentioned that, I personally have a view that unless there is a functional initiative for development of agricultural biotechnology in the developing countries, especially the sub-Saharan countries, we will lose most of what would be our original research to other countries and well equipped laboratories due to lack of facilities.

Peter B. S. Gama, PhD
Assistant Research Professor
Plant Physiology and Biotechnology
Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC)
Wad Medani,
Sudan
Office Phone: +249 126 734 498
Mobile Phone: +249 911 711 625
Email: pbatalisgama (at) yahoo.com

[For more information on the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, see its website (http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/index.html), a recent booklet (http://www.iaea.or.at/Publications/Booklets/Fao/fao1008.pdf) and press release (http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/PressReleases/2008/prn200820.html) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 22 June 2009 12:25
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 55: India - sheep - FecB gene

I am Chanda Nimbkar, trained at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and University of New England, Australia, as a conventional animal breeder and working at the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), an NGO in Maharashtra State of India.

We have introgressed the FecB or Booroola gene for prolificacy from the Garole sheep of West Bengal into Maharashtrian Deccani sheep and developed, through backcrossing and using for breeding DNA-tested animals heterozygous or homozygous for the gene, a strain of sheep that is virtually like the Deccani but has 30-50% higher lamb production and is adapted to the conditions under which shepherds on the Deccan plateau rear their sheep. A small amount of supplementary feeding of these sheep is cost-effective and helps to maximize the profit made from rearing this strain which we have named NARI Suwarna. There are about 250 such FecB carrier ewes being reared profitably in local smallholder shepherds' flocks at present. We have been monitoring the performance of carrier animals in these flocks since their introduction in 2003 and also give them training in sheep management and support services for sheep insurance. Forty carrier rams have been bought for breeding by sheep owners, NGOs and State governments and some States have expressed an interest in introducing the gene into their local breeds.

Our partners in this project were the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India, the University of New England in Armidale, Australia and the University of Melbourne, Australia. The funding agency for this project for 10 years (1998 to 2007) was the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Renewal of the grant was a process of periodic reviews and extensions after satisfying the evaluators of reasonable progress. This year we were successful in getting a grant from the Dept of Biotechnology of the Government of India to set up the DNA test at our institute, to fine tune the breeding program and include improvement of other traits of economic importance, such as lamb growth rate, and to expand the dissemination and performance recording in shepherd flocks. Sale of lambs is the main source of income from Deccani sheep rearing and lambs are sold at about 4 months of age. Price of sheep meat is high and has been rising by 10-15% per year over the last several years and is expected to keep rising with the increasing human population. The FecB gene has therefore provided the opportunity for moderate and sustainable intensification of production. This is also a step towards raising the efficiency of resource use. We are able to use the gene and the DNA test (PCR-RFLP) (which are both patented), without paying a royalty because those patents are not valid in India.

We now have a flock of 500 breeding ewes, 400 of which are FecB carriers. At our Institute, we just had one animal breeder and one vet on the project and the rest were Bachelor's degree holders (sometimes from unrelated disciplines) or Secondary School Certificate holders as ACIAR does not pay salaries of 'professionals' and it is difficult to get qualified people willing to work in remote areas. So training of our staff while working was a part of the project. We had tremendous help from our project partners for this. This year there may be some support under a Central Govt scheme for 'integrated development of small ruminants'.

I agree with the statements of Satish Kumar (message 31) and E.M. Muralidharan (message 43) that biotechnology research has to fit into a comprehensive improvement program of crops, animals or anything else, with a strong emphasis on applicability. Otherwise it is going to eat up public funding without delivering the expected progress. This sounds so logical but is very often ignored.

Ms. Chanda Nimbkar, PhD (Animal Breeding)
Director, Animal Husbandry Division
Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute
P.O. Box 23
Phaltan 415 523
Maharashtra,
India
Phone:
Direct:+91-2166-200783
Front Office: +91-2166-262106
Mobile: +91-9960940805
chanda.nimbkar (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 23 June 2009 09:44
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 56: Re: Biofertiliser - Common bean - Mexico

This is from Dr. Sunita Sangar, India. I am getting started to do a research study to look into 1-2 cases of biotechnologies with respect to biofertilizers or biopesticides (say rhizobial strains or others) that have been converted into innovations for their successful application/commercialization at the field level for poor farmers.

Regarding Messages 22 and 50 from Humberto Peralta about an application of bioferilisers in Mexico, this is a good case of biotechnological application for improved biofertilizers. I am also looking for a similar case in India. In India, there has been lot of emphasis on biofertilisers (through various schemed projects) owing to its ecological and economic benefits. However, I wonder if we have cases of this kind where improvements through biotechnology (development of improved inoculant strains with improved genetic understanding) have directly benefitted the poor. Or where have these biotechnologies actually helped poor farmers in India.

Biofertilzers have come up in a big way, but we need good scientific understanding with the use of biotechnology. Has biotechnology served that purpose in dealing with poor peoples' needs? Do we have any examples of success in the past in India with some specific biofertilisers (improved through biotechnology)? If so, were they developed through farmers participation/feedback? Or were farmers mere recipients of these biotechnologies? We have a large population of poor farmers in India and only if biotechnology can cater to their needs can it be called successful.

I am interested in looking at some cases of biofertilisers where biotechnology has played a major role in its application in the past at the field level for the poor and in which regions in India. I have heard that they have been more successful in South India than in North India. Since I am not a biotechnology specialist I would appreciate any knowledge or points of information that could be tapped to understand how biotechnological applications in fertilizers have helped the poor farmers. Also, if there are case studies of failures regarding biofertilisers in the past that would help us to understand the kind of necessary interventions that are needed to make them innovative for the poor, this would also be useful.

Sunita Sangar, Ph.D.
Group Head - Research and Social Initiatives Society for Strategy, Technology
and Delivery for Development(Society STADD)
A-6 DDA, Shahpur Jat
New Delhi - 110049
India
Web: http://www.stadd.com
Mobile: 91-98730-02694
Tel: 91-11-26496962
Telefax: 91-11-26496962
s.sangar (at) stadd.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 23 June 2009 09:59
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 57: Plantains and bananas - Nigeria

I am Happiness Oselebe, Director, Biotechnology Research and Development Centre, Ebonyi State University, P.M.B. 053, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.

I commend the efforts of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and other research institutes worldwide for the generation and dissemination of plantain and banana hybrids for smallholder farmers in Nigeria. However, a lot is still to be done to give this crop its pride of place in our cropping system i.e. increasing their cultivation and generation of improved disease resistant hybrids that will be desirable to consumers.

Most of the hybrids generated in Nigeria are through conventional breeding and cannot adequately compete in the market with the most desirable and acceptable landrace genotype 'Agbagba', in terms of taste, colour and texture at ripening, etc. When placed at par, consumers in most cases would choose the landrace genotype especially for household consumption. There is a need to complement conventional breeding with modern biotechnologies e.g. marker-assisted selection (MAS) that will give precision to breeding activities, identification of the genes for the important traits in the desirable landrace and incorporation into varieties of interest etc. Incidentally, few laboratories apart from IITA are equipped with modern facilities for these high-tech activities. In my University, Ebonyi State University, for example, efforts are being made to scale-up a biotech lab which was established by the University so as to accommodate these activities. In this regard, proposals are continually sent out to donor agencies for possible research grants for the purpose.

Several biotechnologies have been used to generate sucker plantlets in an attempt to increase the cultivation of the crops by Nigerian farmers. These include micropropagation through tissue culture techniques and macropropagation using non soil media. Other source of sucker-plants for cultivation is through farmer to farmer transfer, an avenue that leads to the spread of disease in most cases. Micropropagation could lead to rapid multiplication of disease-free plantlets for farmers. However, it is highly technical, can only be employed in very few research institutes (in most cases for other crops) and is not amenable to the resource-poor farmers who are the main producers of plantain and banana. Some universities, including Ebonyi State University, are trying to establish a functional tissue culture laboratory for micropropagation of mandate crops, although seriously constrained by funds.

Macropropagation on the other hand can be employed at the farm level by researchers/farmers for the generation of sucker plantlet on non soil media, especially sawdust. There is however need for the diffusion of this technology to indigenous farmers nation-wide.

Finally, it is expedient that where possible, donor agencies in the developed nations and other modern biotechnology labs mentor some of the laboratories in the developing countries and universities in terms of funding of agricultural development programs, training of staff in modern agricultural biotechnologies/techniques and equipment acquisition to scale up laboratories for functional research. This will ultimately enhance the application of biotechnology for the enhancement of food production and food availability for the teaming population.

Dr Happiness O. Oselebe
Plant Breeder and Geneticist
Director, Biotechnology Research and Development Centre,
Ebonyi State University,
P.M.B. 053,
Abakaliki, Ebonyi State,
Nigeria.
happinessoselebe (at) yahoo.com

[For more information on biotechnologies and enhancement of Musa spp (plantains and bananas), see e.g. http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/ae216e/ae216e00.htm (a 30-chapter book from 2004) or http://www.academicjournals.org/AJB/PDF/Pdf2005/Mar/Baiyeri%20and%20Aba.pdf (for more background on the situation in Nigeria)...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 23 June 2009 10:41
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 58: Re: Bt cotton in developing countries...

This is from Dominic Glover of Wageningen University, again.

Partha Banerjee (message 53) has added an important dimension to the discussion about Bt cotton, for example in India. In my earlier message (nr. 51), I concentrated on socio-economic and institutional issues, but it is of course also true that a number of technical and agronomic factors also have to be in place before a GM crop technology can deliver its potential benefits.

For example, as Dr. Banerjee mentioned, the first commercial Bt cotton hybrids that were released in India were not well-adapted to all of the locations where they were approved and marketed. As a result, some farmers had bad experiences with the crop in the first season (2002). (For instance, a former sales representative for Mahyco-Monsanto described the MECH 162 hybrid to me as 'the failure variety' in Vizianagram District of Andhra Pradesh that season). Those negative experiences serve to illustrate the fact that, unless the background variety or hybrid is already well-suited to the local growing conditions, then inserting a single gene or a few genes cannot make a very big difference, positively or negatively.

It has been suggested that it is the background variety and not the Bt trait that should be blamed for the failure, but I think it is more accurate to say that it takes *both* a suitable background variety and a functioning gene to produce a beneficial outcome. After all, a gene does nothing on its own. Both of these (technical) features have to be in place (as well as favourable soils, water, temperature etc.) in order for the gene to do its work and a good harvest to be achieved, so that the farmer can reap the benefits. Those are the facts of life that plant breeders, agronomists and (not least) farmers themselves have to deal with.

In my view, we need to pay attention to the means and mechanisms by which a new technology is delivered, applied and operationalised, because those mechanisms make a difference. Thus, it was in my view an unfortunate (institutional) failure that the original MECH hybrids were approved for, and sometimes marketed in, areas where they were not really suitable.

Dr. Banerjee is of course quite right that *any* crop needs favourable soils, water and so on in order to grow well. The point is that, unfortunately, not all farmers have these advantages. Therefore, it is no good expecting a technology like Bt cotton to deliver its potential benefits to the more disadvantaged farmers, so long as they continue to face poor soils, unreliable water, and so on. That is why it is important, in my view, to consider the specific local circumstances (bio-physical, social and institutional) under which biotechnologies need to perform, and to evaluate the positive and negative outcomes in developmental terms (e.g. their effects on labour, incomes, equity, empowerment etc.) - recognising that these impacts will be different for different people in different places and circumstances. This last observation applies to all kinds of biotechnologies, of course, not just to GM crops.

Dominic Glover
Post-doctoral Fellow
Technology and Agrarian Development Group
Wageningen University
PO Box 8130
6700 EW Wageningen
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)317 48 40 18
Email: dominic.glover (at) wur.nl
Skype: domglov
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dominicglover

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 23 June 2009 10:44
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 59: RE: Bt cotton in developing countries...

I am Patricia Zambrano, Senior Research Analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC, United States.

I would like to add to Partha Banerjee (Message 53) and Dominic Glover (Message 51) on the experience of Bt cotton. We recently published some results for Bt cotton in Colombia. Our initial findings show that overall farmers in Colombia benefited from the technology. The results, nevertheless, are not generalized for all cotton growing regions or for all farmers in the country. We emphasize that results are specific, as is the case in other studies, to one growing season that had particular agroclimatic conditions. In fact, in one of the regions there was one of the most prolonged droughts of the past 10 years, that obviously affected results of both Bt and non-Bt cotton fields. The most successful results are seen in the areas that have irrigation, better lands, and count with more farmer-friendly associations, which in Colombia provide farmers with inputs and credit. Our study identified the important role that such institutions play in the adoption process (see Tripp 2009 for a comprehensive analysis) and at the same time uncovered the lack of timely information about the technology in hands of farmers.

The most recent experience in Colombia with Round-up Ready (RR) cotton, not covered in our study as commercialization of these varieties had barely started when we did our case study survey in 2007-8, appears to be much less successful. GM cotton varieties in Colombia, as in other small-size adopting markets, are the same ones commercialized in the USA and South Africa. The initial Bt variety first commercialized in Colombia is a variety that is isogenic to an imported but well-adapted conventional variety; this was not the case for the new RR and stacked varieties. According to documented information from our in-country partner, the Colombian Cotton Confederation (CONALGODON), farmers in some regions of Colombia suffered important losses with these new RR and stacked varieties imported from the USA. Lack or incorrect information about crop management and herbicide application appears to have been one of the causes of these losses. A more detailed study needs to be done to assess these losses, and to try to separate what is more a result of a not well-adapted variety (choice of germplasm), poor crop management and specific agroclimatic conditions rather than a result of the technology itself, as some farmers appear to be claiming. Again the situation pinpoints to the importance for a successful biotech adoption of having timely and correct information about adequate practices and good regulatory practices in place.

Patricia Zambrano
IFPRI
2033K Street NW
Washington DC 20006
United States
p.zambrano (at) cgiar.org

References:
- Tripp R. (ed) 2009. Biotechnology and agricultural development: Transgenic cotton, rural institutions and resource-poor farmers. Routledge Explorations in Environmental Economics 19. London: Routledge.

- Case study for Colombia:
Zambrano, P., L. A. Fonseca, I. Cardona, and E. Magalhaes. 2009. The socioeconomic impact of transgenic cotton in Colombia. In Biotechnology and agricultural development: Transgenic cotton, rural institutions and resource-poor farmers, ed. R. Tripp. Routledge Explorations in Environmental Economics 19. London: Routledge. Chapter 8. Pp. 168-199

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 24 June 2009 09:40
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 60: Markers - mapping populations - tef - wheat

I am Harjit Singh, former Expatriate Expert/Professor of Plant Genetics under the Agricultural Research and Training Project (ARTP) of the World Bank in Ethiopia. Earlier, I was involved in the development of populations for molecular mapping/tagging at the Biotechnology Centre (now School of Agricultural Biotechnology), Punjab Agricultural University, India for traits of economic importance in wheat.

I agree with Prof. Gupta (Message 2) that reasons for the slow pace of work in the use of molecular markers include lack of motivation with those involved in breeding and lack of cooperation between molecular biologists and plant breeders. Due to lack of interest of plant breeders, not many populations for molecular mapping and tagging have been developed in field crops. In India, the success in identification of molecular markers in wheat through collaborative work among the Choudhury Charan Singh (CCS) University, National Chemical Laboratory, Punjab Agricultural University and others could become possible as the populations for mapping/tagging were already planned and developed at the Biotechnology Centre of the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. [Regarding markers, Professor Gupta's message noted that some success had been achieved in India in the development and use of DNA-based markers for marker-assisted selection (MAS) in crops; briefly described some varieties that had been developed with MAS; and, finally, considered why the pace of success had nevertheless been slow...Moderator].

Leaders in the above said collaborative program on wheat had been successful in motivating postgraduate students/postdoctoral students to work towards development of molecular markers for MAS in bread-wheat. More interaction between plant breeders and molecular biologists would lead to conceptualization and development of mapping/tagging populations in the field crops of interest to the developing countries.

For example, Tef (Eragrostis tef) is one of the main cereal food crops in Ethiopia, which is largely grown in Ethiopia only. Obviously, other countries may not have priority to initiate work on molecular mapping/tagging in this crop. Fortunately, breeders at the Melkassa Agricultural Research Center, Nazreth, Ethiopia could realize this need and developed recombinant inbred (RIL) populations from intraspecific and interspecific crosses. This led to development of molecular genetic map and quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of agronomic traits in Tef in collaboration with Cornell University, USA. In the absence of such populations conceived and developed, there would have been no molecular genetic studies in the crop of this developing country. This indicates the importance of development of populations themselves by the breeders of developing countries even if they, for the time being, lack full-fledged facilities to do molecular work themselves. Motivation of postgraduate students at the Haramaya University, Ethiopia led to development of mapping populations in other crops of interest to Ethiopia.

Another good news is that developing countries like India have developed some populations for basic research useful in genetic enhancement of crops like wheat. Development of a recombinant inbred (RIL) population from a cross of Triticum boeoticum (AbAb - a diploid wild species) and Triticum monococcum (AA - a cultivated diploid wheat species) at the Punjab Agricultural University, India has lead to development of a molecular linkage map at diploid level in wheat (through Swiss funded international collaboration). Development of similar populations involving related species of crops of interest to the developing countries would go in a long way to strengthen crop genetic enhancement in the third world.

Harjit Singh
Brampton,
Canada
Telephone: 1-905-9152183
E-mail: harjit1770 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 24 June 2009 10:43
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 61: Starter cultures - fermentation

This is Dr Adewale Olusegun Obadina, Nigeria, again.

The fermentation process of indigenous fermented foods in developing countries is more craft-based rather than a technology-driven process. Hence it relies more on labor than mechanization and science. Hence the critical success factor depends on how to drive the industry from art to technology driven fermentation. Some of these factors that can contribute to the success are basic infrastructure of suitably equipped laboratories, constant supply of good quality water and reliable power supplies, institutional capacity to facilitate research and development and government supportive national policies.

Starter culture development is one of the steps towards the transition from art to technology driven fermentation system. Part of the successes can be traced to the

- Production of more starters (koji starter) for soy sauce

- Production of safer indigenous fermented pork sausage (Nham)

All in Asian countries, but there is still a large gap in the development of starter cultures for almost all the indigenous fermented foods in Africa and some in Asia such as Som Fug. Even though the important microorganisms for their fermentation have been identified, no attempt was made to develop them into starter culture. One reason for the failure is because the industry is still at the household level and the manufacturers do not see the benefit of starter culture technology but view the technology as the burden to the cost of production. [A starter, or starter culture, is a culture containing microorganisms used to start a food fermentation. Production of soy sauce involves 2 fermentation steps, koji fermentation and morami fermentation. The Aspergillus fungus is used in koji fermentation and starter cultures have been developed for this purpose. Nham is an indigenous fermented pork sausage in Southeast Asia prepared from ground pork, pork rinds, garlic, cooked rice, salt, chilli, sugar, pepper and sodium nitrite. Starter culture technology has been introduced to the commercial production of Nham which has greatly improved the quality and safety of Nham. Som Fug is a traditional fermented fish paste - fermentation takes about 2-4 days at ambient temperature and tends to be dominated by lactic acid bacteria...Moderator].

In view of the potential of application of biotechnology to alleviate the problems of food security in developing countries, there is need to improve traditional fermentation process and products in these countries. Way-forward:
(a) Funding support for research. That is, more research is needed on process standardization and controls, and nutritional benefits of fermented foods.
(b) There is need for capacity building on biotechnology and especially on starter culture technology. There is a dearth of trained manpower in many developing countries with knowledge of biotechnology. This may account for the low development and adoption of this technology in these regions.
(c) The traditional processing of many fermented foods in Africa countries has been found to be tedious and time consuming. This is due to the poor and crude fermentation equipment used in many cases. Fermenters (bioreactors) with control parameters will need to be developed for the various fermentation processes.
(d) Awareness: There is need to promote the awareness among the society on the beneficial potentials of biotechnology and the need to improve traditional food biotechnology with modern day knowledge.

Dr Adewale Olusegun Obadina
Department of Food Science and Technology,
Bells University of Technology,
P.M.B. 1015,
Ota,
Nigeria
234-805-887-9249
obadinaw (at) yahoo.co.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 24 June 2009 18:20
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 62: El Salvador - tissue culture

My name is Mario Antonio Orellana Nunez, I am working at the Universidad de El Salvador, single public university of El Salvador, and the oldest too. I have been working in biotechnology since 1986, specifically in tissue culture.

Our experience about the biotechnology in the last 20 years is a little difficult. In our university, we worked on this subject since 1986 in the class and some activity in the laboratory. We were the first institution that created the first laboratory in tissue culture, then continued others. In this moment, I think that we have seven laboratories in tissue culture in our country. In 1989, we held the first national meeting "workshop" about tissue culture with others institutions and then 1991 the first national "congress".

In our country we worked in the different laboratories in the liberation of plants for farmers. In our university, we worked on plants free of Pseudomona solanacearun, specifically Musa BBA type bugloe (in the university) and other laboratories worked with virus-free plants of potato and other laboratories worked with sugar cane, varieties purified. All these plants were provided to the farmers. There is one private laboratory that is working with Musa sps and they are working with farmers. They provide genetically uniform plants. Other laboratory are working only on coffee plants. They work on hybrid coffee plants and then are reproduced by tissue culture and then the plants are distributed to some farmers for the evaluation.

In our university, we don't have a specific institution about biotechnology and in the country too. We have people that have postgraduate in biotechnology but they are working in different activities and they do not have a common center. We have at the university one laboratory of molecular biology in health and two laboratories of tissue culture. In summary, we haven't advanced in biotechnology like other countries in our region such as Costa Rica.

About the modern biotechnology in our country, I think that we have only 3 labs about molecular biology and I am not very sure, but I think that we don't have some activity about genetic engineering.

We need more support as country and university too. The biotechnology is important for our country, because we can use differents tools for the agriculture.

Mario Antonio Orellana Nunez.
Universidad de El Salvador
Facultad de Ciencias Agronomicas.
Departamento de Fitotecnia.
Ciudad Universitaria San Salvador,
El Salvador C.A.
Telfax (503) 2225-1506 and 2226-2043,
cell phone: (503) 7860-6527
m_orellan (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 10:48
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 63: Experiences with low cost micropropagation

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

The message by Diogenes Infante (nr. 38) points to a good approach in bringing micropropagation technology to small regional labs run by the producers. Even though the technology has come of age, I think too little has been done the world over to harness its full potential, except perhaps by the ornamental plant industry. There is also a lot of scope for simple 'low cost micropropagation' for several crop species. One can learn from the orchid industry in Thailand where micropropagation is done in small household labs. This is the kind of technology that should work in all developing countries for a wide range of crops. In my own experience with forestry species, low cost and simple micropropagation technology for bamboo, teak and several medicinal plants appears feasible and I am now looking at the possibility of training small groups consisting mainly of rural women and setting up small production units.

I would like to learn through this conference about the aspects that are to be considered when such a technology is being transferred from 'the lab to land'. I expect it to be quite different from a transfer of technology to a private entrepreneur.

The publication on 'Low cost options for tissue culture technology in developing countries' (http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/te_1384_web.pdf - 1 MB), gives a good overview of the low cost options in micropropagation.

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

[The 106-page publication he refers to above was released by the Plant Breeding and Genetic Section of the joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture in 2004. It was prepared on the basis of contributions made at a meeting on "Low cost tissue culture technology for developing countries", held on 26-30 August 2002 in Vienna, Austria. 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-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:04
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 64: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

This is Viviana Echenique from Argentina again.

This is a short comment about molecular markers and marker-assisted selection (MAS) in breeding programs in Argentina. The second part of my email is related to GMOs.

Related to wheat breeders and MAS:

Wheat breeding in Argentina is conducted in general by small-medium size companies. Most of them lack their own laboratories and scientists or technicians trained to develop or implement molecular markers to assist selection. In general, these companies have established collaborations with different institutions, in general public institutions like Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria (INTA), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (CONICET) institutes or universities in order to have access to the MAS technology focused mainly on introgression of disease resistance genes, and end-use quality.

When we tried to apply for the project we had to have the agreement of the private sector, the final users of the technology, and that agreement meant to put an amount of money. It was a very difficult task to organize the project because in our country (I do not know about the rest of Latin America), private companies do not like to (or are not get used to) invest in long-term research projects (and four years is not so long? I think), at least this was our experience. Breeders want results in short time without spending money! I understand that now wheat is not a very profitable crop but we need to think about the future and go ahead developing our own technology, especially if you look around at other countries with economies based on commodities like Australia, Canada, USA. Although exhausting, it was a good exercise for the researchers to negotiate with companies.

At the end, the project was granted and the companies agreed to support part of it. And now we are working together in our first year of the project. I think the next step will be easier if they feel that we can understand each other and breeders can use our results in breeding programs. This is not the first approach with companies, but is the first one as a network. Still I think we need for the near future, between researchers and breeders, a transference unit to bring lab facilities to the companies or the companies themselves organizing their own laboratory facilities to make use of the technology.

Related to GMOs and Messages 47 (Eduardo Trigo) and 52 (Wayne Parrott), I know it is a very complex situation, with many variables. When the conquerors from Europe came to America centuries ago they did it with the tools they used to work in their countries, some of them not well suited for the conditions here in our pampas. They modified the environment but this was a slow process (more than 200 years). Biotechnology was a revolution in only 20 years! We need to face up with it and analyze the benefits and problems. I know about the good program of the Asociacion Argentina de Productores en Siembra Directa (AAPRESID), the excellent regulatory program of the Comision Nacional Asesora de Biotecnologia Agropecuaria (CONABIA) and the change in our economy that transgenic soybean represented. But we still need to be careful and analyze the variables and not minimize the risks of harming the environment considering long term impact of these technologies. It is a highly profitable extremely recent technology which has been widely accepted by farmers in a very short time period.

Viviana Echenique
Dpto. de Agronomia (UNS)
CERZOS (CONICET)
San Andres 800
8000 - Bahia Blanca
Argentina
email: echeniq (at) criba.edu.ar

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:09
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 65: Biotechnologies - Nepal

My name is Dhruba Pathak, a citizen of Nepal. My educational background is in M.Sc Toxicology from Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi, India. I used to be part-time lecturer in Toxicology in National college, Lazimpat in Nepal.

I would like thank FAO for organizing the email conference. Although, my current profession is not in the field of biotechnology. However, I have some idea about biotechnology in Nepal.

I don't see a single biotechnology company/institution that is famous in Nepal. The only known reason is lack of resources and skilled manpower. The Government does not have the resources to support potential candidates to pursue their goal in biotechnology, which directly implies that biotechnology doesn't fall under the government priority in Nepal. If in past twenty years, the developed nations had given the chance or significant scholarship to motivated students, we might already have made a biotechnology domain in the farmers field than in the book.

Dhruba Pathak
PhD student
School of Biology, Department of Neuroscience
Studentski trg, 11000
Belgrade, Serbia
Phone +381-11-3812-611
Mobile: +381-64-533-6400
Email: pathakdhruba (at) gmail.com
www.bio.bg.ac.rs

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:14
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 66: Re: Markers - mapping populations - tef - wheat

I am Professor P.K. Gupta from Meerut, India (Message 2) again in response to the message by Harjit Singh (Message 60).

I wish to emphasize that although development of mapping populations is very important and has given rich dividends in detection of important quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for a variety of traits in a number of crops, leading to the use of these markers for marker-assisted selection (MAS) in a number of crops, there is yet another powerful approach that needs to be exploited. This is "Association Mapping", which has proved its utility in humans and also in some crops like maize, rice, barley and wheat. It would be desirable to exploit this technology further due to following reasons; (i) mapping populations have the limitations of exploiting genetic variation associated with only two genotypes used as parents with each mapping population; and (ii) it takes time to develop a mapping population in a crop where no mapping populations have been developed. Therefore either one needs to utilize multiparent advanced generation intercrosses (MAGIC) to exploid wider range of variation or else utilize association mapping involving large and diverse germplasm.

Also, in MAS, generally marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) has been the major approach to be used with conventional plant breeding, but one needs to exploit forward breeding, where traits or QTLs from both parents are combined and no background selection is really needed. This is being practised in Australia for marker-assisted wheat breeding programmes. Marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) is another approach, which has been tried by Monsanto in corn, soybean and sunflower, but needs to be practised by plant breeders in developing countries for all major crops.

Professor P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Choudhury Charan Singh University (Meerut University)
Meerut 250004
India
Telephone: 91-121-2762505
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:30
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 67: Some perspectives on Philippine biotech

I am Sonny Tababa, managing the biotechnology affairs of CropLife Asia (CLA). CLA promotes the benefits and responsible use of crop protection and plant biotechnology products, as well as sound regulatory frameworks in support of sustainable agriculture in the Asia-Pacific (www.croplifeasia.org). Previously, my biotechnology engagements were with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Agriculture and Graduate Study-Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC) and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD).

Looking back. In my 15 years at PCARRD, I had the opportunity to coordinate reseach and development (R&D) programs in ornamentals, legumes, corn, fruits, coconut, and the Crops Biotechnology R&D Program. We had on-farm piloting of technologies including biotechnology. After successfully demonstrating that the technology can work on the ground, institutional arrangements were firmed up with national and local governments for inclusion in its agriculture development programs.

Mass propagation techniques such as tissue culture supported the thriving cutflower industry and in introducing new varieties especially for orchids and anthuriums. Tissue culture technologies made large scale banana plantations viable. Also, it contributed in making available disease-free planting materials of banana used in rehabilitating farms diseased with banana bunchy-top virus. Many tissue culture laboratories were set up either publicly (government, academia) or privately-owned. The tissue-culture derived planting materials of banana and ornamentals were relatively affordable. The private sector-large, medium, small-scale and backyard growers benefited in many ways. In coconuts, we supported the establishment of some laboratories to carry out mass production of mutant coconuts through embryo-rescue. Plantations of mutant coconuts remain low because production costs are high such that seedlings are relatively expensive, and production is comparatively low to meet demand. On the other hand, the use of biofertilizers was promoted in corn and rice. Its success I think lies in the continuing farmer education of its use and benefits, its inclusion in the package of technology adopted by the National Corn Program, and the continuing government financial support towards production of biofertilizers. Our programs focused on public-sector developed biotechnologies.

In 1997, the Bt corn debate brewed. We were just starting with our Crops Biotechnology R&D Program, aimed to develop improved crops through genetic engineering. The science community felt that if it would not help in public education program on biotechnology, non-science based decisions might be made which could adversely affect local research on biotechnology and eventually deprive the country to benefit from a useful tool. Hence, the academia actively participated in government information programs together with other non-government organizations. On the other hand, capacities were built on biosafety and developing science-based regulatory frameworks, a continuing strategy to this day. The public sector has GM crops in the pipeline like Vitamin A-enhanced rice, Bt eggplant, and papaya with delayed ripening trait or ringspot-virus resistance-all under varying stages of trials. Researchers are struggling with funds to support research and compliance to biosafety regulations. Like other developing countries, government's investment to R&D, let alone biotechnology, is little compared to Asian tigers China, Japan, or Korea. In December 2002 when the regulations for environmental release of GMOs were approved, farmers were eager to try the Bt corn technology and planted it immediately on January 2003. In 2008, about 400,000 hectares are planted to biotech corn (Bt corn, herbicide resistant corn, stacked corn) demonstrating its benefits to farmers. These new corn technologies need to be used appropriately and in combination with good agricultural practices.

Among the factors that facilitated technology adoption are support, political and financial, from national and local governments and partners; entrepreneurs willing to further develop the technology into highly viable commercial products; strong agricultural extension; and functional science-based biosafety regulations.

Sonny P. Tababa
Biotechnology Affairs Manager
CropLife Asia
17 A Everton Road
Singapore 089373
Tel: +65 6221 1615 ext 107
Fax: +65 6222 1615
URL: www.croplifeasia.org
sonny (at) croplifeasia.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:38
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 68: Identifying similar problems from the past

This is from C Tom Hash, India, again.

Across several of the postings similar problems have been noted regarding applying biotechnologies in developing countries in the past. First and foremost, biotechnology is simply a suite of tools. Powerful as these tools are, they cannot be used successfully to generate applied products that can be used by society at large if they are used in isolation from other sets of tools such as those of conventional applied microbiology, plant breeding or livestock breeding. Further, even potentially useful products are unlikely to be adopted and used by society unless there is a perceived need for these products and they are accessible where they are needed, when they are needed, in sufficient quantity, in an acceptable quality for the investment required by users, and more economically attractive alternatives are not available.

In my opinion, this means that biotechnology applications will be most successful when they are used to address problems that are difficult or expensive (in terms of time or other resources) to address by other more conventional means, and that use of the biotech tools needs to be strongly linked to applied product development, testing, and delivery systems (that address regulatory issues, multiplication issues and marketing issues ...). This means that public-sector biotechnology research will generally need to have strong links to the private sector if it is have a high likelihood of delivering successful applied products within a reasonable time frame. This is particularly true in developing countries, and may make it difficult to apply biotechnology in the short term to targets that have very small markets or where much of product delivery and dissemination occurs via informal or traditional technology exchange systems.

However, this does not mean that we should not make research investments in biotechnology tool development for species that are not already the target of large-scale private-sector investment----just that we should be careful to focus such investments (of facilities, human resources, and operational funds) on high priority trait x species combinations and use of economically appropriate approaches that take into consideration the regulatory and marketing issues associated with applied product delivery. This is of course, much easier said than done.

C Tom Hash
Principal Scientist (Breeding)
ICRISAT-Patancheru, Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh 502 324
India
Email: c.hash (at) cgiar.org
Tel: +91-40-3071-3322 (direct) or +91-40-3071-3071 extn 2322

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:54
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 69: Re: Biotechnologies - Nepal

My name is Peter McGrath, Programmes Assistant at TWAS (www.twas.org), an organization dedicated to building scientific capacity in developing countries.

In response to message 65 and indirectly to several others (e.g. Message 62 from El Salvador), I would just like to point out that TWAS operates a number of South-South fellowship programmes that enable young scientists from developing countries to carry out postgraduate (i.e. obtain a PhD) or postdoc research in centres of excellence in other developing countries. Two specific programmes are of particular interest to this forum. One is with the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India - which offers a number of fellowships each year in leading biotech labs in India. Deadline 31 August. The other is a new agreement with the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), Thailand, this time for postdoc research only at BIOTEC-linked labs in Thailand. Deadline 15 September. Details of eligibility criteria etc are at www.twas.org > Programmes > Exchange > Fellowships.

Peter McGrath
TWAS programmes
TWAS
ICTP campus
Strada Costiera 11
Trieste 34014
Italy
Tel: +39 040 2240 571
Fax: +39 040 224559
Email: mcgrath (at) twas.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 25 June 2009 18:25
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 70: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

This is Alejandro Escandon from Argentina again.

In general terms, I am in agreement with Viviana Echenique (message 64). In relationship to the GMOs point (soybeans, specifically), I would like to add that a state policy is required to regulate the situation, encouraging farmers to practice crop rotation. In our case, the fault is not of the GMOs, actually, the cultural practice is (soybean every year) that will bring problems in the long term.

Dr. Alejandro Salvio Escandon
Instituto de Floricultura (CIRN-INTA)
Los Reseros y Las Cabanas s/n
B1712WAA - Castelar
Provincia de Buenos Aires
Republica Argentina
Presidente de REDBIO Argentina AC
Tel.: 54 11 44 81 38 64
Fax: 54 11 44 81 34 97
aescandon (at) cnia.inta.gov.ar

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 26 June 2009 10:55
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 71: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

This is Eduardo Trigo again.

I don't want this to become a discussion about Argentinian policies - or, actually, the lack of them - but I think that the country has a rich experience that should not go to waste. Alejandro Escandon (Message 70) rightly points up to the issue that technology does not happen in a policy vacuum: there are things that technology can do and there are others that it can't. Policies are always an essential item in the final outcome, and we should be very careful in not blaming technology for what are really policy failures (as the case here is), and this is what I have tried to stress in my previous messages.

Going to Viviana Echenique's comments (Message 64). I cannot argue with the "need to be careful and analyze..." But the issue is the very thin red line between "being careful" and overregulation. These are the most watched-over technologies in agricultural history and it seems to me that we are not making any progress in learning from 20 years of accumulated evidence. There are, and there will always be, risks and benefits, and we should start approaching the discussion in a more proactive way. How many public sector institutions and developing countries SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) are being left out of the game because they cannot afford the "getting to the market process" of their innovations? 20 years are only 10% of the 200 years mentioned by Viviana when referring to the work of our forefathers, but it is also true that our science has evolved a little since then. This story started with the idea that decisions should be science based. In my book - I may be wrong - that also means that we should also evolve with the accumulation of scientific evidence, and my feeling is that we are somewhat stuck with the idea that these technologies are intrinsically risky, even when all evidence seems to point otherwise.

Eduardo J. Trigo
Director, Grupo CEO SA
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
www.grupoceo.com.ar
trigoej (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 26 June 2009 11:22
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 72: Nigeria - livestock

My name is Adebambo Ayotunde. I am a Nigerian citizen and specialist in animal breeding and genetics from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. I work on molecular characterization of Nigerian indigenous animal species.

Kudos to everyone who's been contributing to this e-mail conference. From my point of view, crop improvement and adoption of new lines and knowledge in Nigeria has an appreciable wide and accessible product line, with special thanks to the crop institutes and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), though IITA's impact is fast dwindling. The problem in the sector is that most new innovations are never in touch with the end users and their demands. The innovations are mostly not people-driven or, when people-driven, they do not take cognizance of the total livestyle of the people, therefore they end up non adoptable.

The animal sector on the other hand is what I call "left behind". Anybody in the animal breeding and improvement line ends up meeting a wall. This is mostly because improving animals is quite capital intensive. And internationally, the perspective on animal improvement in Africa is considered "re-inventing the wheel!". So African farmers are adviced to import exotic breeds and the major research pressure is disease prevention in the poorly adaptable exotic stocks.

There is an urgent need to have a research drive for African livestock that goes beyond diseases prevention. Africa can never survive the future on importation! We need to address issues of description and census of African species before we can even get to the level of novel breeds and their adoption.

Present scientific drive from within the animal scientific community is on identification and characterization of stocks for furture improvement or conservation.

African livestock species needs urgent attention. The animal scientist needs national and international support or the continent becomes "left behind"!

Adebambo, A.O. Ph.D
Quantitative geneticist and breeder
University of Agriculture,
Abeokuta
Nigeria
+2348038239503, +254713739167
Skype: tumininuadebambo
e-mail: tumininuadebambo (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 26 June 2009 17:01
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 73: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past

This is Viviana Echenique again.

From message 71, I interpreted that Eduardo Trigo thinks I said that genetic modification technology is intrinsically risky and this is not true. I think that it is not different from plant tissue culture and other biotechnologies. I know perfectly well the molecular basis of all these technologies. I think it is safe. When we cross two plants by traditional sexual crosses we are combining many thousand genes. With transgenesis we add only one to five genes, very well characterized, to the genome of the plant. What is the difference? There is no difference for me. The problem is not the technology and I was not talking about more regulation related to transgenics in my previous message 64. PLANNING THE AGRICULTURE IS A VERY DIFFERENT THING. And should be taken into account for every new technology. I am very far from the discussion about 'to eat or not to eat' transgenics. Transgenesis is not risky in this way I think. We use many pharmaceutical products derived from recombinant DNA technology and I use this as an example when I try to explain to my students that this technology is similar to others and not risky. I think that this was not the point in my message.

Viviana Echenique
Dpto. de Agronomia (UNS)
CERZOS (CONICET)
San Andres 800
8000 - Bahia Blanca
Argentina
email: echeniq (at) criba.edu.ar

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 28 June 2009 17:28
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 74: Successes and failures of agrobiotechnologies in Honduras

My name is Maria Mercedes Roca. I am a plant pathologist and lecturer in biotechnology at Zamorano University based in Honduras. At Zamorano, we train students from most tropical and Andean countries in Latin America in agricultural sciences, agroindustry, environmental sciences and agribusiness. I am also a member of REDBIO Honduras.

I concur with messages from Jose Falk-Zepeda (nr. 20) and Sandra Sharry from Argentina (nr. 25) who described some of the success of agricultural biotechnology in our region. In Honduras, we have successfully used agrobiotechnologies for the past 20 years, which includes embryo transfer for animal reproduction, the use of novel enzymes and microorganisms for agroindustry processes and for bioremediation; biofertilization including strong programs for Rhizobium and Mycorriza and biological control programs for pests and diseases. We also have a well established structure for tissue culture and a strong regional breeding program for beans that uses marker assisted selection (MAS). We have made good progress in immunological and molecular diagnosis of pathogens (animals, food and plants) using PCR (polymerase chain reaction, both conventional and Real Time) and use molecular and bioinformatic tools for our applied research to improve our crop management strategies to support the conventional and organic agricultural sector. All of these combined technologies are used at Zamorano to train our students better and a fair amount of these technologies are also readily transferable to extension personnel and farmers. None of these fairly sophisticated, non-GM technologies, are subjected to extensive bioregulation.

Other success includes the establishment of a science-based biosafety regulatory framework that has allowed Honduras (the only country in the region and only one of 23 worldwide) to deploy and legally commercialize herbicide tolerant and insect resistant GM maize since 2001. This GM technology has been used with varying degrees of success by large and small farmers alike (Jose Falk-Zepeda, message 20).

We, of course, have our fair share of frustrating failures in adopting more agrobiotechnologies that are related to the same socio-economic, political and financial structural problems that other developing countries face. And we share a fair amount of the seemingly intractable physical and biological limitations to crop production, such as climate change, natural disasters, degraded soils and pest and disease problems that can often not be overcome with current conventional (non-GM) technologies. Two specific examples of diseases that I work with, which cannot be managed well by conventional methods are viral diseases of horticultural crops and Coconut Lethal Yellowing.

Despite our successes of having commercially available GM maize in Honduras, we, the few scientists in the public and academic sector, who need to develop our own local solutions for local problems, are plagued with chronic underfunding from our governments, even if we are properly trained and have reasonably well equipped labs from projects funded by donor agencies. Most importantly, we must overcome the current, excessive, bioregulation structure, before we can use the genetic engineering tools that may create some opportunities for our farmers, if combined with more conventional technologies. The same, sometimes absurd rules and costs, apply equally to the big companies such as Monsanto and Pioneer, as to our poor public institutions in developing countries. Many scientists spend more time these days concerned with endless meetings for biosafety training and enforcement than in actually doing some useful and meaningful science that may help farmers and the environment. We can no longer ignore the burden that the current, highly polarized and politicized bioregulation puts on public researchers wanting and needing to use biotechnology in developing countries.

Finally, we should not frown upon cooperative initiatives among the private and public sectors which can create a win-win outcome in addressing local problems.

Maria Mercedes Roca, PhD
Biotechnology and Plant Protection Programs
Zamorano University
P.O. Box. 93
Tegucigalpa,
Honduras
Tel: (504) 776 6140 ext. 2362
Fax: (504) 776 6242
Email: mmroca (at) zamorano.edu
www.zamorano.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 28 June 2009 17:34
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 75: Re: Experiences with low cost micropropagation

This is Norbert Tchouaffe, Cameroon, again.

To reply to Message 63 by E.M. Muralidharan:
I think low cost microprogation could be disseminated and transfered through capacity building and networking with communicators and the local population. A forum could also be an impetus to exchange with local populations about new technologies. This mechanism is effectively an occasion for them to voice their needs and their feeling about new technologies and for researchers to address its new technology. The Government as a facilitator is the key player to establish national or international fora for Public-Private-Universities or research institutions and producers dialogue, where the problems encountered by local population could be debated. Most of the time the local populations are not aware of many researches coming from labs, which could be helpful to them.

Norbert Tchouaffe
Agricultural engineer
Master of advanced studies
Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature (MINEP),
Box. 8114 Yaounde,
Cameroon
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 29 June 2009 10:51
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 76: Wide hybridization - crops

I am Harjit-Singh again.

In my earlier message (nr. 60), the use of molecular marker technology in crop improvement has been discussed where the plant genetic resources from the cultivated species have largely been used as source of desirable variation. However, molecular marker technology and other biotechnological techniques have also been used in some developing countries in utilizing novel genes for disease resistance and other important traits from the related/wild species of field crops. [Inter-specific hybridisation (wide crossing) has been used successfully in developing countries in the past, e.g. for development of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) hybrids from crosses of African and Asian rice, and is discussed in Sections 2.3 and 2.8.3 of the Background Document to this conference (http://www.fao.org/biotech/C16doc.htm) ...Moderator].

Although wild relatives of crops like wheat are a rich source of novel genes for disease resistance, only very few genes for disease resistance transferred from non-progenitor species have been commercially exploited in wheat due to substantial amount of undesirable genetic information associated with the useful alien genes (linkage drag) and yield reduction. At the Biotechnology Centre of the Punjab Agricultural University, India, we used molecular marker technology and genomic in-situ hybridization (along with Giemsa C-banding) to monitor and hasten alien introgression and reduce linkage drag as far as possible. These techniques have been quite useful in characterization of interspecific derivatives while transferring genes for resistance to leaf rust, stripe rust, Karnal bunt, powdery mildew and cereal cyst nematode from Aegilops species carrying C, U and M genomes (Dhaliwal et. al., 2002; Aghaee-Sarbarzeh et al., 2001; Harjit-Singh et al., 2000).

There is need for capacity building in the third world countries to enable them to initiate alien gene introgression from related species of their own crops. This becomes more important in those crops that are solely or largely cultivated in developing countries only.

Prof. Harjit-Singh
Brampton,
Canada
Telephone: 1-905-9152183
E-mail: harjit1770 (at) yahoo.com

References:
Dhaliwal H.S., Harjit-Singh and M. William (2002). Transfer of rust resistance from Aegilops ovata into bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and molecular characterization of resistant derivatives. Euphytica 126(2): 153-159.
Aghaee-Sarbarzeh, M, Harjit-Singh and H.S. Dhaliwal (2001). A microsatellite marker linked to leaf rust resistance transferred from Aegilops triuncialis into hexaploid wheat. Plant Breeding 120(3): 259-261.
Harjit-Singh, H. Tsujimoto, P.K. Sukhija, T. Singh and H.S. Dhaliwal (2000). Transfer of resistance to wheat pathogens from Aegilops triuncialis into bread wheat. WIS (Japan): 91: 5-10.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 29 June 2009 11:19
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 77: Livestock - Pakistan

This is from Dr. Ahmad Ali, Assistant Professor, Department of Livestock Production, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan.

Pakistan is a land of opportunities and extensive potential in biological resources. With a gigantic population of 170 million people, it offers enormous market value to exploit its biological resources to cater for ever increasing gap in supply demand of quality food products. Especially the livestock sector of Pakistan offers great potential for the exploitation of their genetic potentials through the application of latest biotechnologies in genetic, nutritional and reproductive aspects.

Pakistan possesses the world best Buffalo and Cattle milch breeds. The buffalo breed is a riverine buffalo known as Nili-Ravi which is the results of unplanned crossing of Nili and Ravi breeds, once used to be independent breeds. However, large numbers of animals of these breeds are still available in the remote areas of Punjab. There is a growing consensus in Pakistan that three breeds of buffalo need to be conserved and improved genetically to preserve the natural ecology. As a result, the project on genetic characterization of three buffalo breeds viz. Nili, Ravi and Nili-Ravi has been completed by the joint efforts of the Department of Livestock Production, and Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore Pakistan. The phylogenetic result indicated that the Nili and Ravi have independent identities and Nili-Ravi samples were found to be closer to Nili than Ravi. The analysis was carried out using genomic and mitochondrial DNA. Similarly, DNA fingerprinting techniques are being applied successfully to resolve paternity confirmation and forensic cases involving animal ownership in case of legal proceedings between two parties. The first livestock forensic case in Pakistan was resolved by the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore.

In addition, lots of work on molecular characterization of livestock breeds is being carried out at present especially for traits of economic importance like milk production, growth rate, disease resistance, prion prevalence in sheep and goats of Pakistan, PRKA gene for energy efficiency in farm animals. Whole emphasis is upon identifying superior animals on the basis of molecular differences and selecting these animals for improving the genetic potential of coming generations for more milk and meat production.

Similarly, work on cytogenetic characterization of farm animals to establish standard G-Band chromosome nomenclature of farm livestock species other animals is also underway. This will be an important achievement to identify carriers of heritable chromosome abnormalities which are a common cause of infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals. Similarly work on gene cloning is also being initiated.

In addition there is an enormous scope of nutritional biotechnologies to improve inherent potential of rumen microflora for efficient degradability of low value stuff into high value energy and proteins. Similarly, the applications of biotechnology in the production of enzymes hormones and feed additives are being pursued actively by National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering through the application SSF (solid state fermentation). The production of indigenous recombinant DNA vaccines for highly prevalent livestock ailments like foot and mouth disease (FMD), Hemorrhagic septicemia (HS) and others, holds big potential however, facilities are not yet available to make it happen at present. The production of biopharmaceuticals, edible vaccines, the use of reproductive biotechnologies like embryo transfer are assuming commercial shape very recently in Pakistan and the products should be seen in the market very soon.

Dr. Ahmad Ali
Ph.D. University of Bristol England
Senior Tutor and Assistant Professor (TTS)
Department of Livestock Production
Univesity of Veterinary and Animal Sciences,
Lahore,
Pakistan
Tel: +9242 9211449/Ext 314
Cell: 0334 4266490
seniortutor (at) uvas.edu.pk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 30 June 2009 13:35
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 78: Re: Experiences with low cost micropropagation

I am Christopher Echereobia, a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria.

The use of micropropagation techniques as means of increasing planting materials for crops such as cassava and cocoyam has been yielding the fruits at the biotech laboratory of the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, Nigeria. However, this technology should be sustained by training of manpower and other technical support.

Christopher O. Echereobia
Entomologist
Department of Crop Science and Technology
School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology
Federal University of Technology
P.M.B. 1526,
Owerri,
Imo State
Nigeria.
echereobia (at) yahoo.com

[In Message 48, Uche Chikezie commended the micropropagation activities of NRCRI aimed at micropropagation and production of disease-resistant varieties of Nigerian staple root crops, cassava, yam, cocoyam etc., using plant biotechnology techniques. Although, she thought that these agricultural biotechnologies had not succeeded fully because few farmers have benefited from the research activities. The importance of strengthening the connection between research in the laboratory/institute and adoption by farmers has been underlined in several messages in the e-mail conference so far. For example, E.M. Muralidharan in Message 43 argued that although there was no dearth of facilities, funds or expertise in biotechnology research in India, it was his opinion that agricultural biotechnology has hardly produced any benefits yet as the research outputs are generally not applied in the field by farmers...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 01 July 2009 09:20
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 79: Success/failure of agricultural biotechnology - Nigeria - fermentation

My name is Mojisola O. Edema, Senior Lecturer in Food Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

I will like to contribute to the current e-mail conference on "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years". My focus will be on section 2.10 of the Background Document, that is Fermentation, which is one of my specific areas of research. I have been involved in research focused on fermentation of locally available substrates (indigenous cereals, tubers and other substrates) with autochthonous starter cultures.

May I start my contribution with some definitions?

1. Success is the achievement of an intention, that is, something planned or attempted which turns out well.

2. Failure on the other hand, is a lack of success in or at something. It could connote something that falls short of what is required or expected, breakdown or decline in the performance of something, or lack of development, production or growth.

With those definitions, I will like to submit that fermentation as an agricultural biotechnology has succeeded in developing countries with Nigeria as a point of reference. There is virtually no household in Nigeria that does not depend on one fermented food or another in their daily meals. Besides, some of these fermented foods and their by-products are also taken as remedies for certain ailments. For example, "Omidun" the liquid decanted from "Ogi", fermented cereal gruel, is used in the treatment of childhood diarrhea. However, the science of fermentation using modern biotechnologies has gone far beyond what operates in fermented food processing in Nigeria today. The household level technology use of back-slopping as against defined starter cultures is a major setback that makes fermentation fall short of modern agricultural biotechnology. This lack of development beyond small to medium scale household technologies could be regarded as a failure of fermentation as a biotechnology in Nigeria.

Case study of sour maize/cassava bread: My post-graduate research work was on production of bread from maize, and later cassava, in order to encourage the use of these locally available substrates in bread production rather than imported wheat, which hardly grows in Nigeria. In developing the products, I discovered that the flour/meal from maize or cassava did not lend itself to conventional straight dough process using bakers' yeast and I adopted the sour dough process wherein I developed starter cultures from indigenous microbiota of the flours/meals. The success of this research is that the breads are acceptable on their merits not when compared with white pan bread. (Sensory evaluation and consumer acceptability test results showed that the bread was acceptable as sour maize or cassava bread but panelists didnt feel it should be compared with white pan bread. Some even suggested the use of other names to express that the product is different from conventional bread. I guess this is because sour dough is not common in Nigeria).

I can conclude based on my experience with my research so far that the reasons for success or failure of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries include:

1. Socio-cultural and economic reasons, consumer interests and perceptions. A lot of work is required in this regard to strategically take cultural values, consumer preferences and perceptions into consideration or to avoid wide deviations from the norms where possible in (genetic or other technology-based) modifications of traditional foods. The political will of the government in some regions like Sub-Saharan Africa to get involved in public enlightenment and education programs is mandatory to aid acceptability where the modified foods products are significantly different from the culturally known forms.

2. Regulations: The role of regulations in the development of food biotechnology in developing countries is very important and inconsistencies in regulations can be considered a factor causing the delay in applications of biotechnologies. A number of countries in developing countries either lack regulations guiding the implementation of such technologies, or lack the manpower and facilities to apply and/or enforce existing regulations. For example, many African countries, e.g. Nigeria, do not have biosafety laws in place. This prevents applications such as field trials and, of course, delays commercialization. I have attempted to try some of the modified cassava varieties with high quality protein of Prof Nagib Nassar in Brazil but cannot do so as Nigeria does not have a biosafety law.

3. Networking: A major reason for the successes achieved in the implementation of various biotechnologies in developing countries is the strong networking among food researchers with their overseas counterparts in the developed world. This networking is giving rise to a large pool of dedicated researchers in the field of food science and technology, many of whom are exposed to modern biotechnologies in various aspects of food processing and related fields. Such networks also enhance the quality of research in developing countries making research that is carried out in these regions at a par with that carried out in developed countries. However, many scientists who visit advanced labs abroad return home to limited facilities which often limit continued efforts technologies learnt.

Of course there are other issues some of which have been previously mentioned by contributors to this conference (inadequate facilities and funding), while others are related to IPR (intellectual property rights) environmental/conservation/ecological concerns etc.

There is definitely a need for a strong resolve from all stakeholders in developing countries to achieve more successes in adoption, application and development of agricultural biotechnology in the affected regions.

Moji Edema, PhD
Department of Microbiology,
University of Agriculture,
Abeokuta,
PMB 2240, 11001, Nigeria.
http://www.unaab.edu.ng
edemamo (at) unaab.edu.ng
Tel: +234-39-245291-2 (Office)
Tel: +234-8089816937 (Mobile)
Tel: +234-39-773252 (Home)

[For anyone particularly interested in fermented foods in developing countries and the applications of biotechnologies to processing of foods, note that Conference 11 of this FAO Biotechnology Forum was entitled "Biotechnology applications in food processing: Can developing countries benefit?". The background document, messages posted and summary document of this e-mail conference are available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/Conf11.htm ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 01 July 2009 15:15
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 80: The pursuit of academic butterflies

This is from Denis Murphy, Head of Biotechnology Unit, University of Glamorgan, United Kingdom.

One of the themes mentioned by several participants in this e-mail conference is the lack of capacity and focus on practical areas of agricultural research in developing countries. In some cases, colleagues have mentioned the 'internal brain drain' away from research centres (Message 21 by Agyemang Kojo; Message 23 by Worku Damena Yifru; Message 43 by E.M. Muralidharan) and the selection of projects to suit external donors or academic fashion rather then more relevant 'real world' research challenges such as improving subsistence crops (Message 31 by Satish Kumar; Message 32 by Von Mark Cruz; Message 36 by Olusola Oyewole; Message 43 by E.M. Muralidharan; Message 48 by Uche Chikezie; Message 68 by C Tom Hash).

Here I will address the topic of balancing applied versus basic research. Over the past 30 years I have worked in the public sector where the trend away from applied research to more prestigious basic research is now a more or less global phenomenon. This was recognised by none other than the father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, who was especially focussed on practically orientated research on crop improvement. He restricted his staff to projects that were "relevant to increasing wheat production." Borlaug later recalled that: "Researches in pursuit of irrelevant academic butterflies were discouraged, both because of the acute shortage of scientific manpower and because of the need to have data and materials available as soon as possible for use in the production program." (Murphy 2007, p87)

This focus on applied research in the public sector began to unravel in the UK when the Plant Breeding Institute (Cambridge, UK), which I joined in 1989, was one of the first centres to be privatised. There followed a retreat by publicly funded labs into more academic areas that now affects both industrialised and developing countries. Meanwhile, the private sector went on to develop many of the newer biotechnologies, especially those associated with genetic engineering.

The shift away from practical work was reinforced by a worldwide process I have termed 'academisation' (Murphy 2007, pp 140-146). This involves a network of structural mechanisms including research funding, promotion, career development, peer group esteem, and institutional ranking that explicitly favour what is perceived as high quality academically excellent work. Examples of the latter would include basic research into developmental biology and similar 'cutting-edge' disciplines leading to highly cited papers in high impact journals, plus invitations to prestigious international meetings.

Therefore, I am afraid that the route to career advancement for many ambitious researchers across the world today is precisely to pursue the "academic butterflies" that were so disparaged by Norman Borlaug all those years ago. As an external assessor of research and development programmes in both industrialised and developing countries, I am only too aware of these tensions. Agricultural biotechnology involves many high-tech approaches that require well-trained and highly motivated graduates. And yet our education, training, and reward systems tend to direct people towards the seductive allure of basic research at the expense of what is often portrayed as the more mundane task of practical crop or livestock improvement.

I find it difficult to blame people who choose to study the basic mechanisms of chromosome pairing in meiosis or DNA methylation, instead of focusing on more immediate practical tasks like selecting a new variety of blight-resistant wheat or rice. Indeed, under present circumstances, I would probably be reluctant to advise a really ambitious student to move into agriculturally applied biology. That is unless they felt some sort of vocational attraction and were willing to forego the chance of more conventional career advancement in the academic sector.

So, what are we to do? Personally, I think we need to do all we can to boost the status of applied researchers and to ensure they are equally rewarded compared to more academic colleagues for their arguably more important (to humanity) work. The public sector in all countries should shift the balance back towards socially valuable applied research and development and bodies like the European Union (EU) should channel collaborative funding with developing countries towards such areas. In this way, the public sector might 'recapture' ownership of strategic biotechnologies (e.g. GM) so that they are employed for the common good as well as for private profit.

Professor Denis J Murphy
Head of Biotechnology Unit and Head of Research
Division of Biological Sciences,
University of Glamorgan
CF37 1DL,
United Kingdom
tel: +44 1443 483 747
email: dmurphy2@glam.ac.uk
website: http://people.glam.ac.uk/view/184

Reference: Murphy DJ (2007) Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture, Cambridge University Press, UK

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 02 July 2009 10:18
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 81: Sri Lanka - Banana - Induced mutation and micropropagation

I am Ranjith Pathirana, formerly Professor of Agricultural Biology at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. In 1999 I did a Scoping Study on Agricultural Biotechnology in Sri Lanka and served as a consultant to the Atomic Energy Authority, Sri Lanka to evaluate some IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) funded projects. Currently I am attached to Plant and Food Research, New Zealand but keeping in touch with some ongoing projects in Sri Lanka.

Banana is the most widely cultivated and consumed fruit in Sri Lanka. Banana has an advantage over rice because of higher income generated and lesser dependence on seasonal labour, hard to find in rural areas. Net income from banana is almost four times that of rice in lands with limited water supply. Therefore, many rice lands that did not receive sufficient water for paddy cultivation have been successfully brought under banana since late 1980s, especially in the South, South-East and North-Central Provinces. The total area under banana is estimated at 55,000 ha with a production of 500,000 MT. To facilitate the production of planting material to meet the demand, a micropropagation facility was established in Weligatta in Southern Sri Lanka by the University of Colombo. Under a FAO/IAEA Technical Co-operation programme, Colombo University was equipped to undertake basic virology research as virus-free planting material was a basic requirement.

Mysore type (AAB group) bananas are the most popular in Sri Lanka. The other type widely cultivated is Cavendish (AAA Group). Concurrently with micropropagation and planting, a mutation induction programme was undertaken to develop early maturing banana clones. This programme resulted in the development of an early flowering and high yielding clone of Mysore (Embul) banana. This clone, developed by gamma irradiation of in vitro shoot tips, was micropropagated and established in the M1-V8 generation in two contrasting agro-ecological regions: Hambantota (Low-country dry zone) and Ratnapura (Mid-country Wet Zone). In both regions, the micropropagated mutant clone flowered earlier (6 months as opposed to 8 months) than the control mother plants.

Another advantage of using the micopropagated mutant banana was that the material had been tested free of Banana Bract Mosaic Virus (BBrMV), which significantly reduces yield in infected plants. The scientists involved in the project (Prof Kshanika Hirimburegama and Dr Kumar Hirimburegama) held many field days to inform farmers how to care the micropropagated plants in the early period of growth, which was crucial for the success of the project. An estimated 25% increase in annual income has been attributed to intensification of production cycle through early maturing mutant banana cultivar. Micropropagated banana is now common and popular among farmers and is encouraged by the Government authorities including the Department of Agriculture and Mahaweli Authority.

Dr. Ranjith Pathirana
Scientist (Plant Tissue Culture and Transformation)
Food Industry Science Centre
New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research
Private Bag 11 600
Palmerston North
New Zealand
Phone: Direct Dial +64 6 355.6169; 6194
Reception +64 6 356 8300
Mobile +64 212078231
Fax: 0064 6 351 7050
Email: pathiranar (at) crop.cri.nz

Publications related to the project:

- Annual Report 2000. Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- Annual Report 2001. Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- Hirimburegama K 1996. Plant biotechnology and agriculture in Sri Lanka. Proc. Sri Lanka Assoc. Adv. Sci. 52: 49-64.
- Hirimburegama K and Gamage N 1997. Cultivar specificity with respect to in vitro micropropagation of Musa spp. (banana and plantains). J. Hort. Sci. 72: 205-211.
- Hirimburegama, W. K., Dias, W. K. G., Hirimburegama, K. 2004. Banana improvement through gamma irradiation and testing for banana bract mosaic virus in Sri Lanka. In: Jain, S. M., Swennen, R. (Eds.) Banana improvement: cellular, molecular biology, and induced mutations. Proceedings of a meeting held in Leuven, Belgium, 24-28 September 2001. http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/ae216e/ae216e09.htm
- Laksiri B.D.P and Hirimburegama K 1999 Banana improvement in Sri Lanka through radiation induced mutation and tissue culture. Proc. Third FAO/IAEA Research Coordination Meeting, Colombo, 4th-8th October, 1999.
- Pathirana R 1999 Banana improvement project at the University of Colombo: an appraisal. A report submitted to the Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 02 July 2009 11:11
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 82: India - micropropagation - GM crops

I am R. Keshavachandran, Professor at the Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology, Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara, Thrissur, Kerala, India.

I have been following the messages sent by many colleagues on various aspects of agricultural biotechnology with a great deal of interest. At our Centre we have standardised protocols for micropropagation of various spice crops, endangered medicinal plants, worked on secondary metabolite production including on hairy root induction on medicinal plants, identified stress tolerant somaclones, worked on molecular markers for genetic analysis as well as standardised protocols for genetic transformation of spice crops.

The satisfaction is enormous when there is a great demand for quality planting material produced through in vitro culture in crops like banana, black pepper. However, there is a sense of disquiet in working on genetic transformation of crops in a developing country like ours where there is widespread opposition by different groups against use of GM crops. Though there are regulations and regulatory bodies to oversee the commercialisation of these crops, why is it that there is so much opposition even though everyone agrees the technology is excellent. There is a huge cost involved in testing of these crops before commercialisation beyond the scope of individual players. So is the end justifying the means? It is an open question.

Secondly, I have been working on reducing costs of tissue culture propagation and am familiar with the IAEA publication pointed out by E.M. Muralidharan in Message 63. I would be glad to know of initiatives in this regard in other countries

Dr. R. Keshavachandran
Professor, Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology
Coordinator, Bioinformatics Centre,
Kerala Agricultural University,
IT-BT Complex, Vellanikkara
Thrissur- 680 656,
Kerala
India
Ph: 0487-2371994(O); 2362808 (R)
Fax: 0487-2371994
Mobile: 09388987121
rkeshavachandran (at) gmail.com

[1. The publication referred to above is on 'Low cost options for tissue culture technology in developing countries' (http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/te_1384_web.pdf
2. Regarding the comments on GMOs above, I wish to remind participants that, as mentioned in Section 3.3 of the Background Document, discussion in the conference should 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 bring together and discuss specific experiences of applying biotechnologies (including genetic modification) in the past in developing countries...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 02 July 2009 11:35
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 83: Re: The pursuit of academic butterflies

I am David Jordan, Principal Sorghum Plant Breeder for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries in Australia. I work as a practicing plant breeder and lead projects in molecular marker development and utilization.

I agree strongly with many of the comments made by Denis Murphy (Message 80) and others about the gap between basic and applied research. In both developed and developing countries the approach to the development and implementation of biotechnologies is often driven by technology or basic research agendas rather than being aimed at solving applied problems. In many cases this leads to the potential impact of technologies being oversold resulting in inappropriate choices of technologies and misallocation of applied research resources. These negative impacts are often exacerbated by the redirection of research efforts to the next technology before the previous technology is implemented. Molecular marker technology has great potential to improve genetic gain in plant breeding programs but it also provides many examples of these types of problems. I suspect that in many cases the lack of motivation among breeders to use molecular marker technology mentioned in a previous posting is a result of a not unreasonable scepticism about the value of deploying such technologies within their programs. [The posting referred to is probably that by PK Gupta (nr. 2) who noted that some success had been achieved in India in the development and use of marker-assisted selection (MAS) in crops; briefly described some varieties that had been developed with MAS; and, finally, wrote that the reasons for slow pace of work in the use of molecular markers "involve lack of expertise and motivation with those involved in breeding, and lack of cooperation between molecular biologists and plant breeders. The economics involving the use of marker technology in plant breeding (relative to conventional plant breeding) is another reason for not adopting this technology"...Moderator].

In my experience, marker technology works well if:

1) the people tasked with solving the problem (in this case the breeders) have the appropriate skills, understand the technology well and are involved in developing the technology for a particular application. It also helps if the biotechnologists have some understanding of plant breeding.

2) there is an appropriate balance between the investment in traditional disciplines (breeding, pathology, physiology etc) and marker technology,

3) the associated disciplines such as statistics and informatics have been sufficiently enhanced to support the use of marker technology by breeders and

4) the decisions about resource allocation in the applied program are made in a rational way based on the true costs and returns involved

In my limited experience of developing country plant breeding programs it appears that the investment in conventional plant breeding and related disciplines is often insufficient to allow technologies like markers to be used effectively. In many cases much greater improvements could be made in genetic gain by enhancing the conventional breeding program rather than investing in marker technology even if investment in the applied program is maintained. Like Denis Murphy I think the only solution is to enhance the flow of money and status to the applied disciplines so that the potential gains from biotechnological tools can be realized.

Dr David Jordan
Principal Sorghum Plant Breeder and Sorghum Team Leader
Plant Science Industry Services
Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation
Australia
Telephone 61 7 4660 3622 Facsimile 61 7 4660 3600
Mobile 0429 457846
Website www.dpi.qld.gov.au
Call Centre 13 25 23
Email: David.R.Jordan (at) deedi.qld.gov.au

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 02 July 2009 17:24
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 84: Re: The pursuit of academic butterflies

This is Worku Damena Yifru, again, from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

I also agree with most of the comments by Denis Murphy, (Message 80).

With the emergence and expansion of modern biotechnology which has almost exclusively become a private sector domain, public sector researchers have started to feel that their role is to deal with the basic science, pure academic research. In their view, commercialisation is the responsibility of others who are enjoying intellectual property rights protection. They believe that field applications are not their concern. These days, public researchers focus on research that has more of a career reward than socio-economic benefits for the public at large.

Given the current trend, the crops or traits that are critically important for the more marginal poor farmers and those improvements needed for the tropical dryland areas are getting less attention - the so called 'orphan crops', for instance. There is an increasing shift in research and funding emphasis from food crops to export-oriented ones. In development terms, however, there seems to be no data supporting that such focus on high value 'designer' crops has generated a positive impact on poverty reduction.

National governments in developing countries and their international partners need to work towards revitalizing applied research in the public sector if they wish to see a pro-poor agricultural biotechnology developed side by side with company-driven high-tech products. Instead of relying on a possible trickle-down effect of the latter, in the short and medium term, a public sector R&D with a clear agricultural agenda and target might be a better policy for many developing countries.

Worku Damena Yifru (Mr.)
Programme Officer, Policy and Legal, Biosafety Division,
Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Environment Programme
413 Saint-Jacques, Suite 800, Montreal, Quebec
H2Y 1N9 Canada
Tel: (514) 287 7006
Fax: (514) 288 6588
E-mail: worku.yifru (at) cbd.int

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 03 July 2009 11:32
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 85: Micropropagation, selection and biotechnology priorities

I am Diogenes Infante, again, from the National Center of Agricultural Biotechnology (Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia Agricola), at the Instituto de Estudios Avanzados (IDEA) in Caracas, Venezuela.

I agree with E.M. Muralidharan (Message 43) about the lack of orientation in the focus of research in biotechnology in several laboratories. As also stated by Satish Kumar (Message 31), scientists spend most of their career "inventing problems". I know some laboratories in Venezuela that after several years working in micropropagation, several papers published and tens of plants species micropropagated, they have not planted any of the micropropagated plants, nor provided plant material to farmers.

Recently one of my colleagues from IDEA was talking in a meeting with producers about the very important plant disease she was studying, stopping anybody to talk. Suddenly one producer blocked her to continue with this statement "you researchers always think your work is very important, but the only thing which is really important is the food, the food!". That is the point. If you work in plant biotechnology, you have to visualize the food at the end of your work, or you are not doing anything. With this goal in mind, the research can be oriented to accomplish it in the best way. This does not mean "applied research", there is a lot of good fundamental work that needs to be done in order to get the food. For example, we are working on the genome sequence of Theobroma cacao (cocoa), with the aim to understand all the metabolic processes related to quality, productivity and resistance to diseases. Due its long juvenile period, breeding in cocoa is difficult, so we chose the metabolomic approach.

Now, I agree when E.M. Muralidharan said (Message 63) that micropropagation has come of age. There is still lots of room for micropropagation, because it can be food right away. In cassava it is possible to improve yield 4 times using micropropagated plants, going from 10 tons per hectare to 40 tons per hectare. Still there is more room for improvement. If micropropagation is accompanied by selection, improvement can be higher, yields of 90 tons per hectare have been obtained. Now, how to make selection with micropropagation?

At the end of Message 3, the Moderator cited R. Jefferson about apomixis, which says that apomixis create identical plants, since asexual reproduction makes copies and sexual reproduction introduces variability. Well, this assertion has never been proven and in fact it is not true. Both sexual and asexual reproduction introduce variability. Studying asexual reproduction in Agave fourcroydes (Henequen), we demonstrated using AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) markers that asexually (rhizomes) daughter plants are not genetically identical to the mother plant from which they originated, studying five population in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Infante et al, 2003). Agaves have three reproductive mechanisms, rhizomes, bulbils and seeds, bulbils originated by apomixis and also genetically different to their mother plants. We found the same in micropropagated coffee (Coffea arabica) (Sanchez-Teyer et al 2003), several Agaves species (Infante et al 2006), intra organismal variation in Agaves (Demey et al 2004) and differences wherever we look, so there is always variation - two leaves from the same plant are genetically different. Various marker systems evaluate different regions in the genome and sometimes markers are unable to find diversity (microsatellites, RAPD [random amplified polymorphic DNA]), while others (AFLP and ISTR [inverse sequence tagged repeat]) can find it (Infante et la 2006 - see the discussion in this reference for the cause of these differences).

This finding allowed us to propose a genetic improvement methodology using selection of elite individuals, micropropagation and molecular markers (Gonzalez et al 2003; Infante et al 2007). The micropropagated plants are more similar to their mother plant than the rhizome-derived plants in their marker pattern and in their phenotypic character measured.

Dr. Diogenes Infante Herrera
Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia Agricola
Instituto de Estudios Avanzados
Caracas,
Venezuela
http://www.idea.gob.ve
dinfante (at) idea.gob.ve
Tel: 58-0212-903-5185
Fax: 58-0212-903-5093
Cel: 58-0416-632-9805

References

D. Infante, G. Gonzalez, L. Peraza-Echeverria and M. Keb-Llanes, (2003), Asexual Genetic Variability in Agave fourcroydes, Plant Science 164/2: 223 - 230.
L. Felipe Sanchez-Teyer, F. Quiroz-Figueroa, V. Loyola-Vargas and D. Infante, (2003), Culture-induced variation in plants of Coffea arabica cv Caturra Rojo regenerated by direct and indirect somatic embryogenesis, Molecular Biotechnology 23/2: 107-116.
G. Gonzales, S.Aleman, D. Infante, (2003) Asexual Genetic Variability in Agave fourcroydes II: Selection among individuals in a clonally propagated population, Plant Science 165/3: 595-601.
D. Infante, Sandy Molina, J.R. Demey, E. Gamez, (2006) Asexual genetic variability in Agavaceae with ISTR and AFLP, Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 24: 205-217.
JR Demey, E. Gamez, S. Molina and D. Infante (2004) Comparative study of the discriminating capacity of AFLP and ISTR markers for genetic analysis in Agave fourcroydes, Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 22:29-35.
D. Infante, M. Osorio, S. Molina, G. Gonzalez (2007) Genetic Improvement of Asexually Propagated Plants, Proc. Int. Symposium on Biotechnology of Temperated Fruit Crops and Tropical Species, Daytona Beach, USA, ISHS Acta Horticulturae 738: 721-727

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 03 July 2009 11:54
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 86: Re: Success/failure of agricultural biotechnology - Nigeria - fermentation

I am R.A Usman, again, Head of Biosafety office, Federal Ministry of Environment. This Ministry is also the National Competent Authority on Biosafety Matters in Nigeria.

I wish to draw the attention of the participants on this e-conference to the comments on lack of regulations\law from Mojisola Edema (Message 79). [Moji wrote "many African countries, e.g. Nigeria, do not have biosafety laws in place. This prevents applications such as field trials and, of course, delays commercialization. I have attempted to try some of the modified cassava varieties with high quality protein of Prof Nagib Nassar in Brazil but cannot do so as Nigeria does not have a biosafety law"...Moderator].

First and foremost, Nigeria has signed and ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety among the developing nations, consequent upon which the country has been able to put in place the following regulatory framework

i) Biosafety Policy
ii) Draft Biosafety Bill which has passed through the second reading in the House of Representatives
iii) System for Monitoring
iv) System to handle request/authorization
v) System for public awareness and participation among others

In addition to the above, the National Biosafety Guidelines were developed and approved by the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria. All the above documents are meant for regulating the practice of biotechnology and modern biotechnology (biosafety). There are sectoral guidelines being used for the purposes of ensuring transparency in decision-making processes prior to final approval of any application on transgenic material for Confined Field Trials (CFT) only.

I also wish to put on the record that presently two notable institutions namely: the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike and the Institute of Agricultural Research of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria have been given permits by the Government of Nigeria to carry out CFT only on protein enhanced transgenic cassava and maruca resistant transgenic cowpea respectively using the existing guidelines some of which are listed above in addition to other administrative procedures.

Nigerians, both at home and in diaspora, have the capacity, ability and knowledge to engage themselves on modern biotech practices. Other institutions in the country including the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB) where Moji works is also planning sooner than later to put in place administrative procedures consequent upon which UNAAB will be engaging on modern biotech practice. This is just to mention few institutions that already have both infrastructures and personnel for the science of the 21st century.

In conclusion I suggest that Moji and Prof Nagib Nassar liaise with the Biosafety Office of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja, Nigeria if both of them have other transgenic innovations apart from transgenic cassava and cowpea which are currently being carried out under CFTs at Umudike and Zaria respectively and if such transgenic innovations fall within the national interest they are welcome.

Among our roles as a regulatory body (FMENV) is to ensure safety to environment and human health.

Raheef Ademola Usman
Federal Ministry of Environment (Environment House)
Independence Way South
P.M.B. 468 Abuja
Nigeria
rusmanson (at)yahoo.com

[This thread on the current status of biosafety regulations/law in Nigeria is now closed...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 03 July 2009 13:18
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: FAO e-conference extended to 8 July

Dear Participants,

It has been decided to extend the conference slightly, so that it will last exactly one month. This FAO conference on "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years" began on 8 June and the last day for receiving messages for posting is now moved to Wednesday 8 July. These final messages will be posted on Thursday 9 July and the conference will then be closed. After that, a Summary Document will be prepared to provide an easily-readable synthesis of the main issues that were raised and discussed, based on the messages posted by the participants.

As mentioned in the Background Document, this e-mail conference is being organised to complement a series of five technical sector-specific documents (on biotechnology applications in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture and, finally, food processing and food safety) that are being prepared as part of the build up to the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-09), that takes place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 2-5 November 2009 (http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/). The Summary Document will be made available prior to ABDC-09).

One of the main reasons for the extension is that, in the additional time, we wish to especially encourage contributions on the past applications of biotechnologies in developing countries to aquaculture/fisheries and forestry, areas which have not been covered in the conference so far. As described in Section 2 of the Background Document, a range of biotechnologies are available in aquaculture/fisheries, including chromosomal number manipulation (polyploidy and gynogenesis/androngenesis); reproductive biotechnologies (to control timing of reproduction or to develop monosex populations); cryopreservation; use of molecular markers for genetic diversity studies or genetic selection; biotechnology-based vaccines; and use of PCR- or ELISA-based methods for disease diagnosis. Similarily, as also described in the Background Document, in forestry a range of biotechnologies are available, including those based on tissue culture for propagation purposes; use of molecular markers; biofertilisers and genetic modification.

About 830 people have joined up for the conference, so this topic is obviously of interest to a lot of people. It is a unique occasion to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with other people throughout the world. For those who have not already done so, we especially encourage you to join in with your inputs to the e-mail conference which aims is to bring together and discuss relevant, often previously un-documented, past experiences of applying biotechnologies at the field level (i.e. used by farmers) in developing countries, ascertain the success or failure (be it partial or total) of their application, and determine and evaluate the key factors that were responsible for their success or failure.

With best regards,

John

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 03 July 2009 15:14
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 87: Status of commercial tissue culture in india

This is from Dinesh kumar, General Secretary of the Consortium of Commercial Plant Tissue Culture Laboratories (CCPTCL), Bangalore, India. CCPTCL is a union of commercial tissue culture (TC) laboratories in India. I am currently working as General Manager (India operations), M/s Lowes TC Pty ltd. I am in the plant biotech field since 1983 and worked in senior management cadre in well-known biotech laboratories in India.

I would like to bring forth the status of commercial micropropagation in India.

Commercial micropropagation started way back in the late 1980's in India. The technology has been moving slowly and steadily since then and now it is gaining momentum.

In the beginning of the 1990's, there was only a handful of commercial units, most of them owned by big industries, with huge production capacities, ranging from 5 to 20 million plants per year. The focus was more on ornamentals (flowering and foliages). By the end of the 1990's, most of the units became non viable and had to shut down or had to shift their product line. By 2000, there were signs of change. Many of these companies started production of TC banana for the local market. Here we need to mention the name of M/s Jain Irrigation Ltd, who had set up their TC lab in a remote village in Maharashtra. The company which started their production with a 1 million plants per annum has now reached the level of 10 million plants per annum. By 2005, our country saw the mushrooming of large numbers of very small scale units set up for the production of banana plants. Currently there are about 300 TC labs operating in India, producing over 135 million plants.

Banana TC in India is now growing at a fast pace and this year it is estimated that the total production of TC banana plants in India would be almost close to 100 million. The Government of India has now constituted a committee to accredit all the commercial TC labs in India. They have prescribed a detailed standard procedure required for a TC facility. This is now implemented by the Department of Biotechnology successfully.

Export of TC plants from India is lesser, compared to domestic business. It is estimated that current annual export of ornamental TC plants from India is about 30 to 35 million units. M/s AVT ltd based in Cochin, the pioneer in TC in India, has annual production capacity of nearly 10 million plants per year. M.s In Vitro International Pvt. ltd, which has 4 production units (15 million annual production) in Bangalore, India, can be rated as one of most successful business models in commercial TC in the country. Currently, the largest export-oriented TC facility in India is M/s Kumar Gentech Ltd based in Pune, Maharahtra.

It is very clear that the commercial TC in India is poised for a big leap forward.

Dinesh Kumar M A
General Secretary,
Consortium of Commercial Plant Tissue culture Laboratories (India)
12/44, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar
Bommanahalli,
Bangalore-560 068
India
Mobile: +91 953508 7576
Ph. : +91 80 41109273 (O)
E-mail: dineshkumar_ma (at) hotmail.com or dinesh (at) lowestc.com.au

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 03 July 2009 16:33
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 88: Artificial insemination - Mali

I am Dr Adama Traore, animal reproduction physiologist, presently Executive Secretary of the National Council for Agricultural Research in Mali. In the past, I have been involved in research on animal breeding and reproductive biotechnology, mostly artificial insemination (AI). I also had the opportunity, in the 2002 FAO e-mail conference on "What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries?", to share the experiences we had in Mali in the use of AI.

After reading many interesting comments on the use of biotechnology in developing countries, I would like to make a small contribution on the issue of success or failure of AI.

It is true that, to date, only in very few developing countries is AI practiced to a level that substantially impacts livestock production. Besides some technical constraints, like its relatively high costs (liquid nitrogen), poor heat detection by some breeds and poor nutritional condition by some animals, a major reason for the less successful development of AI in Mali in the 1970s and 1980s was the insufficient economic incentives for farmers to use it. The situation has changed drastically with the emergence of new market opportunities for milk and milk products in the urban areas and subsequently the rise of the demand for crossbreed cattle; prices for crossbreed animal have been multiplied by 10 in less than 20 years. Today, the constraint for the development of AI is mostly a lack of infrastructure and appropriate policy.

I am personally confident for a better perspective in the use of artificial insemination, not as an alternative reproductive method to natural service, as is the case in developed countries today, but as a support tool for breeding strategies (selection and/or crossbreeding).

Dr Adama Traore,
Executive Secretary,
Comite National de la Recherche Agricole (CNRA)
P.O.Box : E1911,
Bamako,
Mali
Tel. : (223) 2022 71 65 / (223) 76462664 ;
E-mail : adama.traore (at) afribone.net.ml

[Adama's message in the 2002 conference is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C8/251102.htm ...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 10:00
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 89: Forestry - biotechnology - India

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

I want to draw attention to the subject of biotechnology in forestry which has been largely overlooked in the conference so far. The tropical forests which produce a major share of the timber and other useful biomass are found in some of the poorest of the developing countries. Any benefit resulting from use of technology would have a great impact on the environment and the livelihood of the people. The scenario in India, which has a reasonably strong research infrastructure in biotechnology, but where no appreciable benefits have been realized due to the lack of concerted efforts, is perhaps typical of the developing world.

In spite of a surfeit of lab micropropagation protocols, for almost all of the important tree species in India, there is hardly any example to cite where the technology has been used in the field. I feel this is the result of biotechnologists working in isolation instead of joining forces with the practicing forest managers viz. the State Forest Departments. In the few instances where large scale micropropagation of a forestry species has been undertaken, it has been with insufficient scientific backing. It is a case of overkill when micropropagation is used to mass multiply trees that have undergone only a cursory round of selection and has not been adequately tested. To add to the woes there is this wrong perception, that many farmers and professionals have, that micropropagated plants are inherently superior to conventional propagules.

A good example is that of bamboo micropropagation that has caught the fancy of the industry in India, since the National Bamboo Mission was set up to promote cultivation and industrial utilization of bamboo. It should have been apparent to the participating agencies that without a proper selection of the mother plants of proven superiority, micropropagation will have no great advantage over plantlets raised from seed. Yet, tissue culture plants are being sold at exorbitant prices to government agencies and farmers. The only beneficiaries therefore are the companies who profit from the sales.

Another example is that of teak, the most important and widely planted of timber species. Almost three decades after achieving a breakthrough (in one of the earliest examples of cloning of a mature tree, teak was first cloned at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, India), hardly any inroads have been made to integrate the technique into forestry practices. Micropropagated plantlets could be used in establishing clonal seed orchards instead of the conventional grafts which appear to be unsuitable. Multi-locational testing of clones could result in quick deployment of superior clones for improving productivity albeit as a short term measure.

There has been increasing use of molecular markers in studying the provenances and the breeding behavior of some of the important tree species of India but here too there is no assimilation of the results into an ongoing breeding programme. Marker-assisted selection and identification of quantitative trait loci has great potential for improvement of forestry crops, where a big hurdle is the typically long life cycle and our poor understanding of the genetics.

I am aware that there are instances in other countries where notable improvement in productivity has been achieved using biotechnology. One such venture involved the judicious use of micropropagation and molecular markers for clonal forestry with superior teak in Malaysia (Goh et al., 2007).

Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Biotechnology Department
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur,
Kerala 680653
India
Email: emmurali (at) gmail.com

Reference:
Goh D.K.S., Chaix G., Bailleres H., Monteuuis O., 2007. Mass production and quality control of teak clones for tropical plantations: The Yayasan Sabah Group and CIRAD Joint Project as a case study. Bois et forets des tropiques, 293: 65-77.

[Some additional information on the case mentioned at the end here of teak clones in Malaysia is available at http://www.cirad.fr/en/actualite/communique.php?id=795. The Goh et al (2007) reference is available on the web at http://bft.revuesonline.com/gratuit/BFT_293_65-77.pdf (2.7 MB) and its abstract reads "The attractiveness of teak clones that can be planted either as monocultures or in combination with other crops is becoming more and more obvious in various countries. However, quality control of the planting material is essential for ensuring the reliability and future of teak clonal forestry. Development of quality control on the various aspects of teak clone production is being undertaken in Sabah [in Malaysia]. Refining the initial phenotypic selection of the candidate plus trees by taking into account economically-important wood characteristics, combined with appropriate clone testing are aimed at identifying superior clones. Conjointly, the development of reliable DNA markers can be used for identifying the genetic background and the possible relatedness of the candidate genotypes for wise clonal deployment. It is also a means of controlling the genotypic conformity of the mass-produced clones while at the same time, ascertaining property rights associated with their involvement in commercial transactions. Quality control is also applied to the successive steps of mass clonal propagation, from the introduction phase to in vitro conditions where meristem culture is preferable to nodal culture, up to the ex-vitro rooting and acclimatization of the microshoots. The further steps of nursery cultivation and field behavior of clones are then further monitored in order to optimize the quality of the plant material offered to clients. Proper packing and conditioning of microshoots for overseas shipment and delivery in the shortest delays to foreign countries are also crucial issues for preserving the quality of the plants"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 10:50
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 90: Re: Status of commercial tissue culture in india

This is P.K. Gupta again (see my message nr. 2).

I have read Message 87 by Dinesh Kumar with interest. However, I was looking for further details on the internet, but failed. I noticed some discrepancies also between this message and the published literature. A report published in 1997 (by S. Govil and S.C. Gupta) estimated that in 1996, the Indian micropropagation industry reached a level of 190 million plants annually. I was expecting that this must have gone up several fold during the last 13 years. In contrast, Dinesh Kumar reports "Currently there are about 300 TC labs operating in India, producing over 135 million plants". This number of 135 million plants hopefully should be annual production by these 300 TC labs, making it less than 450,000 plants per TC laboratory. Has the production gone down during the last 13 years?. If not, the readers may like to know the details about the growth of micropropagation industry and the demand in India and elsewhere.

Professor P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Choudhury Charan Singh University (Meerut University)
Meerut 250004
India
Telephone: 91-121-2762505
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com

Reference:
Suman Govil and Shrish C. Gupta. 1997. Commercialization of plant tissue culture in India. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture, Volume 51: 65-73.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 10:51
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 91: Re: Status of commercial tissue culture in india

This is from Dr. Shashi Bhushan, scientist at the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR), India.

In continuation to Dinesh Kumar's comments (Message 87), I would like to highlight the role of scientific institutes like the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), those provided the Research and Development support to private players. Institute is providing complete base to the entrepreneurs from lay-out to establishment of tissue culture lab, commercial production and even helping them to locate the market. This lab is also recognized by the Department of Biotechnology, New Delhi, India for accreditation of tissue culture raised plants. Hence, IHBT is playing a very big role in building-up national capacity for production of quality planting material and conservation of endangered Himalayan bioresources. Also, a lot of work is going on to produce commercially important secondary metabolites through plant cell culture technology.

Dr. Shashi Bhushan,
Scientist
Division of Biotechnology,
Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR),
Palampur (HP)
176061 India
www.ihbt.res.in
shashidbhushan (at) yahoo.co.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 10:52
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 92: Re: Status of commercial tissue culture in India

This is from Partha P Banerjee, India, again.

Message 87 on the status of commercial micropropagation in India was informative and I convey my thanks to Dinesh Kumar. I feel tissue culture is a form of clonal multiplication and it is utilized for the same purpose by many organizations. However, an excellent application of tissue culture, interesting to the plant breeders, may be of interest. That is 'somaclonal' variation. Some good experiments have been conducted on these aspects but the potential of this approach is still in the juvenile stage. It can be utilized more for the generation of novel variation, i.e. stress both biotic and abiotic tolerance. There are some good examples in banana, tomato, barley and some other crops too. However, it should be utilized in a greater way.

Partha P Banerjee, PhD
Scientist Corn Breeding
Hytech Seed India Pvt. Ltd.
Hyderabad,
India.
parthabanerjee (at) aol.in
Cell: +91 9849100026

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 11:03
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 93: Re: The pursuit of academic butterflies

This is Eduardo Trigo again. This time not about Argentina, but on the messages on 'the pursuit of academic butterflies'.

I think that I agree with some of the points made, but I am not sure that the idea that public sector people is evolving towards the basic end of the research spectrum and away from more applied, problem solving efforts, reflects reality. In any case, my feeling is that going after whether an effort is basic or applied is not very fruitful, when you look at success stories you came to the conclusion that most have components of both, there are times for upstream and times for downstream and, in the end, there is only 'good' and 'bad' research. Just as biotech and conventional breeding are complementary - a point well made in the messages - basic and applied also go together. Furthermore, going through the list of the messages in this e-conference, you find that what has emerged seems to point out that there is a lot of work on applications that hardly can be labeled as 'basic'. My experience in national agricultural research systems (NARS) in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region and in my own country is that the bulk is on problem solving. To get there, researchers have to better understand the new technologies and get deeper into issues than they did before, and that is rendering a lot more of publications that may sound like basic when they are reflecting only the natural cycle of the incorporation of the new kits of tools to their activities.

I also think that the private sector is having a greater profile because many of the downstream activities - intellectual property rights, biosafety - are very difficult to handle by the public sector institutions. In most cases, they have neither the management capacities nor the resources to get down to handling the patenting processes of the biosafety deregulation by themselves, so they end up getting into agreements with private companies for them to handle those stages. This is also preventing them from getting into many of the lesser crops. Biotechnological approaches require longer maturation and are more complex to manage in their downstream stages and this translates into investments needs, and this is the weaker link in the system. Let it be genetic engineering or marker technologies, we are in front of greater investment requirements. David Jordan (Message 83) clearly highlights this in his four points for marker technologies to be able to work. Without appropriate, and intelligent, investment, there is a no go, and I think that this should be a key point in the agenda for the FAO international conference on agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries (ABDC-09). Staying out of the use of the new technologies, strengthening conventional breeding alone, is not the solution, even when we accept that there is still a lot to be achieved through conventional breeding. The fact is that molecular biology applications are the way of the future to make breeding more efficient and effective and we should push in that direction, otherwise we will be making still greater an already unacceptable gap between national systems around the world.

Eduardo J. Trigo
Director, Grupo CEO SA
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
www.grupoceo.com.ar
trigoej (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 11:12
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 94: Cuba - success/failure

My name is Luis Placido Ortega Izquierdo. I am a Master in Biophysics working in agriculture for more the 20 years. I am actually now working as president of the Asociacion Cubana de Tecnicos Agricolas y Forestales (Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians) in Havana Province, an NGO that promotes the Cuban agricultural development over sustainable and agro-ecological basis.

I am very pleased with this fao e-mail conference, and valuate it as very interesting, and consider that all this information could help us in the process of discussion we are promoting about agricultural biotechnology. For the most part of the messages, it is clear that it is not very wise to talk about "general" success or failure, but each experience in particular should be analyzed in the local context. I would like to point out also that biotechnology should be appreciate as another tool in the system of agricultural production and must seek for and integration with well established and "proved" successful techniques. Furthermore, it is important to evaluate all the great amount of variables that can help the success or failure of each introduction (as farm scale production, farmers education, government support, information, regulations, etc, etc).

Luis Placido Ortega Izquierdo, MSc.
Presidente
Asociacion Cubana de Tecnicos Agricolas y Forestales (ACTAF)
La Habana,
Cuba.
email: cpasandino (at) sih.cu
Tel 53 047 423086
Add: Carr. El Grabiel. Km 2 1/2.
Guira de Melena La Habana Cuba

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 11:27
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 95: GM crops in developing countries

I am K.Z. Ahmed, Professor of Genetics; President, African Crop Science Society (www.acss.ws); Director of Minia Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt, National Correspondent of FAO-BioDeC and Member of the Arab Science Journalists Association.

In 2008, the global hectarage of GM crops continued to grow strongly reaching 125 million hectares. While 25 countries (among them 15 are developing countries) planted commercialized biotech crops in 2008, an additional 30 countries, totaling 55, have granted regulatory approvals for GM crops for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996. The five principal developing countries committed to biotech crops, span all three continents of the South; they are India and China in Asia, Argentina and Brazil in Latin America and South Africa on the African continent. Collectively they represent 2.6 billion people or 40% of the global population, with a combined population of 1.3 billion who are completely dependent on agriculture, including millions of small and resource poor farmers and the rural landless, who represent the majority of the poor in the world.

Africa is home to over 900 million people representing 14% of the world population and is the only continent in the world where food production per capita is decreasing and where hunger and malnutrition afflicts at least one in three Africans. It is noteworthy that two of the three new countries that planted biotech crops for the first time in 2008 were from Africa, the continent with the greatest and most urgent need for crop biotechnology. However, 14 African countries are engaged with GM crops biotechnology research and application (i.e. Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia). African scientists with foreign partners are genetically modifying more than 30 important African crops (e.g. maize, barley, rice, wheat, sorghum, cotton, soyabean, cassava, yam, tomato, banana).

For the first twelve years of commercialization of biotech crops, 1996 to 2007, South Africa has long been the only country on the African continent to benefit from commercializing biotech crops. Africa is recognized as the continent that represents by far the biggest challenge in terms of adoption and acceptance. Accordingly, the decision in 2008 by Burkina Faso to grow 8,500 hectares of Bt cotton for seed multiplication and initial commercialization and for Egypt to commercialize 700 hectares of Bt maize for the first time was of strategic importance for the African continent.

According to the FAO-BioDeC database 2009, only 4 Arab countries out of 22 (i.e. Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia) were conducting GM crops trails, at research lab and/or field test. But only one country (Egypt, the first Arab country) to commercialize 700 hectares of Bt maize last summer of 2008 (as mentioned above). Wheat, maize, barley, potato and canola are most important crops are subjecting for GM traits and application in Arabic countries. [FAO-BioDeC, http://www.fao.org/biotech/inventory_admin/dep/default.asp, is a database providing data on agricultural biotechnologies in use or in the pipeline in developing countries. Launched in 2003 for the crop sector only, it now contains over 4000 entries from the crop and other agricultural sectors of more than 100 countries (end of 2008). The entries come predominantly for the crop and forestry sectors, with less extensive coverage for livestock and fisheries. A detailed description of the database and the kind of information it contains can be found in an FAO publication (http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y5800e/y5800e00.htm) providing a first analysis of FAO-BioDeC data, as of August 2004...Moderator].

Although GM crops are commercialised in some African and Arab countries, GM crops and food has won discussion and debate and not widely among scientists themselves only, but politicians and decision makers and society in general categories, and still fears of these products and their impact on the health of consumers, environment and socioeconomic systems. To address the potential negative impacts of GM crops, research on the different socio-economic, environmental, health and agronomic issues surrounding GM crops must be done, and an in-depth assessment must be conducted of the country's agricultural food and rural development policies and in particular, how GM plants benefit the poor as well as programmes for awareness about GM crops among the public and farmers in particular must be set up to ensure proper public consultations. African and Arab countries need to promote GM plant research and development and to develop their own GM crops using local technology to protect their small-scale farmers. Biosafety measures in African and Arab countries need to be strengthened by approving the biosafety legislation which has not been presented to Parliament yet in most African and Arab countries.

Kasem Zaki Ahmed, Ph.D.
Professor of Genetics,
President, African Crop Science Society (www.acss.ws)
Director of Minia Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology,
Member, the Arab Science Journalists Association
Faculty of Agriculture,
Minia University,
El-Minia,
Egypt, ET-61517.
Telephone and Fax: ++ 20 (86) 2 36 21 82. Cell Phone: ++ 20 12 10 37 50 4
http://www.kasemzaki.8k.com
Skype: ahmed_kz8
e-mail: ahmed_kz (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 11:35
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 96: Re: Biotechnologies - Nepal

This is Dhruba Pathak from Nepal, again.

Earlier in Message 65, I have discussed the failure of biotechnology in Nepal mainly due to lack of scholarship for the motivated candidates. However, in this message, I will present the problems associated while doing biotechnology in Nepal.

Nepal's population is heavily based on agriculture. Only 20% are employed in academics and research. The system in Nepal to encourage young Nepalese biotechnologists who come out from this small segment of (20%) population has not been taken seriously. It is due to the reason that the allocation of budget by government for development of science is not satisfactory. As the result of which, the government is not in a position to hire more research scholars and offer projects which are signature for contributing to development of science (in particular biotechnology).

Another associated problem is that shifting from traditional occupation of farming to the modern technology needs time to adopt. On the other hand, testing of any product that is suitable in one country doesn't necessarily mean that it will fit in each and every context. For example, the diversity of land in Nepal (ranges from 500m above sea level to 5555 m) needs obviously broad research and versatility of biotechnology services depending on context of climate.

Unfortunately, towards this end, there has not been any establishment of industry which can produce simply the chemicals/reagents needed for development of biotechnology. It means that investment in these sectors in Nepal is still in a rudimentary state. As a result of which, research in biotechnology has to pay a high price if one desires to give a start kick.

Dhruba Pathak
PhD student in Neuroscience
School of Biology
University of Belgrade
Serbia
Tel:+381113812611
Mobile:+381645336400
Email: pathakdhruba (at) gmail.com
www.bio.bg.ac.rs

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 15:18
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 97: Biotechnology - Pastoralist communities - Uganda

My name is Thomas Loquang. I hail from the pastoralist Karimojong community of Karamoja sub-region, in North-East Uganda.

Pastoralists' communities have over millennia used several biotechnology processes mainly in indigenous food processing.

Milk is one of the main food items for the pastoralists. For the process of ghee/butter making, pastoralists worldwide use the age-old technique of fermenting milk over 12-24 hours [by chance bacteria], and then churning it in gourds to obtain ghee. Ghee is very important in the pastoralists' livelihoods; including its use in various pastoralists' dishes, rituals/ceremonies, body cream and preservative for diverse leather, wooden, earthen and metallic goods.

Pastoralists also use certain plant derivatives to preserve the freshness of milk, albeit only for a short period [about 12 hours]; and also others for longer periods. Ghee and fermented milk are also important commodities of trade in pastoralists' areas. Since these techniques have sustained the livelihoods of the pastoralists's for generations, it is only fair to say that their traditional methods/practices have been successful. Lessons learnt from these techniques could be used to study the preservation properties of plant derivatives used in preserving fresh milk; this is open for further investigations and improvement.

Traditional brewing is also another common process that agro-pastoralists use by applying traditional biotechnology knowledge. Grain is moistened and allowed to ferment for two days by chance bacteria; the grain that would have germinated is then dried and ground. The ground flour is the yeast used in local brewing. The beer has to be brewed daily as it has short shelf life. Local beer is a favourite beverage among the agro-pastoralist communities, especially in the absence of factory manufactured beer. It is a partial success at the point of view of the producers and consumers; as it is an agreeable commercial product that forms a significant part of the informal trade among less affluent communities. There is the need to improve this production technique as the traditional brewing is crude and is reportedly illegal in many countries.

Artificial insemination (AI) was introduced in Uganda about two decades ago. However the import of animal semen into the country was banned in 1997 following the outbreak of mad cow disease. The ban was lifted last year thus ensuring the continuation of the practice of livestock production through AI; albeit other challenges, including inadequate equipment and inputs - due to prohibitive costs. AI has made significant contributions to the livestock industry in Uganda as it contributes to the production of livestock for milk, sale on the hoof and/or slaughter for beef. Together with the emerging milk processing industry, many jobs have as such been created - which indeed contribute to income and food security.

Whereas AI is practiced in almost all parts of Uganda, the conspicuous exception is Karamoja; a pastoralists region in North-East Uganda where the technology could not take off. First, the mobile livelihood of the pastoralists offered an excuse for the service providers not to introduce AI in Karamoja. The harsh climate is also a discouraging factor due to uncertainties of adaptability of offspring. Furthermore, the process of AI itself, as it involves artificial physical introduction of semen to the female animal's birth canal is a taboo among Karimojong communities, is to them tantamount to bestiality. I would nevertheless justify an assessment of partial success of AI in Uganda.

Banana is a major food crop in Uganda and neighbouring countries. Banana planting material production by tissue culture is rapidly gaining ground in Uganda, since its introduction at the turn of this century. However I first encountered this technology during my undergraduate studies at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya in 2002. While at JKUAT, I observed that there was a very large demand for not only banana plantlets but also for the banana fruit that was produced at the campus and sold to the public. However, I left some unsecured questions as I completed my studies at JKUAT: The banana taste and texture were slightly but significantly different from the banana produced naturally [conventionally]. The external colour of the banana fruit was somewhat exaggerated. Well, these disparities might have been due to the diverse genetic properties of the mother plant [source of initial tissue] and/or environmental factors. These observations are nevertheless open for further investigations. It is noteworthy that the banana wilt and weevils have been a threat to banana production in Uganda during the last few years. The option of replenishing banana plantations with clean planting material has helped to alleviate the named pests' threat. I consider tissue culture as a technique for producing banana plating material a success, because of the following reasons: Rapid production of many plantlets [under sterile conditions], which translates into a lot of clean planting material that boosts food and income security.

Bt cotton is among the biotechnology endeavours that is under trials in Uganda with the support of donor community with the objective of producing pest resistant cotton. Time will tell, the success [and or failure] of this effort.

Thomas M. Loquang
KISUP ATEKER - LIFE Network
P.O. BOX 26459
Kampala
Uganda
TEL +256 782 154 494 / +256 752 154 494
FAX c/o Lily Nakiru; +256 312 242 500
Email: aatomloquang (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 15:49
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 98: Malawi - YY male tilapia

My name is Hastings Zidana, working at the Malawi National Aquaculture Centre researching on Fish Breeding and Genetics. The aim is to domestic and commercialise indigenous cichlids fish from Lake Malawi into fish farming. Mainly we are working with subsistence farmers though with very few numbers of commercial farmers as well.

The main species of production is a cichlid species Tilapia. The system used is mixed sex which affects the growth and reduce the production tonnage of the farmers greatly. We embarked on the YY male production using manuals from BFAR (the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Phillipines Department of Agriculture) and GIFT (Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia) from Phillipines as well. This was to get information on procedure and culture methods respectively.

We managed to produce the YY males for our own indigenous tilapias and growth rates were of much improved standards as compared to mixed sex production. This program is of fundamental importance to the rural farmers in developing countries who rely on tilapia as a source of their protein with figures reaching 70% datum.

This program was a success on the technical part but lacked continuity due to some logistic problems.

The problems encountered were on purchasing of hormones. We could not get them locally produced or within the region so we had to order them from some Asian countries which sky rocketted our production figures heavily.

We could not manage to get collaborators within or outside the region so that we could have support on cost and expertise to support the production and sustain the program.

The farmers are back producing the mixed sex system which we know is not profitable at all.

Most of the time, a success in fish farming business depends on quality seed and management. So if we are talking about biotechnolgy aimed at improving the lives of the people on our global village, then we need good coordination and back up system to support the technologies which have been produced out there and have proved to be profitable already.

Do we need a list of biotechnologies and expertise willing to volounteer on sharing information and expertise? Is there any intention of transferring these biotechnologies deliberately to those in need? Do we have a situation analysis world map showing where biotechnologies are being produced or expertise is available and where it is needed most?

Hastings Zidana
Malawi National Aquaculture Centre
P.O. Box 44
Domasi
Malawi
hzidana2004 (at) yahoo.co.uk

[Development of monosex (single sex) populations was covered very briefly in Section 2.6.3 of the Background Document. Further information is also available on pages 146-146 at http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/003/AB412E/ab412e03.htm which begins: "Various strategies utilizing sex reversal and breeding, progeny testing, gynogenesis and androgenesis can lead to the development of predominantly, or completely, male or female populations, or a 'super-male' genotype (YY). The primary aim is to take advantage of sexually dimorphic characteristics (including flesh quality), control reproduction or prevent establishment of exotic species. All female populations have been successfully developed for salmonids, carps and tilapias. Populations of super males (i.e. fish with two rather than one Y chromosome) have been established for Nile tilapia, salmonids and marginally, for channel catfish"...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 17:10
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 99: Training of biotechnologists in Africa

I am Eric Danquah, Professor of Genetics and Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement, University of Ghana.

In 1989, I participated in the symposium on Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, organized by FAO and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co­operation (CTA) in Luxembourg on 26-30 June 1989. There, we were optimistic that the new technologies would facilitate progress in not only crop improvement and food production but also the environment in general. Several years on, I dare say that the biotechnologies have not impacted positively in many areas in agriculture leaving sub-Saharan Africa in a very sorry situation in the context of food security. The need for a re-think of strategy for the application of biotechnologies in the area of plant breeding is very urgent. If there is one area that needs attention to bring about the biotechnology revolution that we seek I would say it is education, education, education.

First, we have to go back to basics and develop not only the post-graduate schools in sub-Saharan Africa but the entire plant science programmes in institutions of higher learning. Today, a number of universities in Africa are struggling and many cannot run a good practical class for science students and many people graduate without the necessary skills to confront the challenges of any workplace. It's important for us to recognize that many of these half-baked students are those who end up in higher offices, some as politicians who never appreciate the application of science to development.

Second, the need for close collaboration between research institutions and universities in sub-Saharan Africa is urgent. A few weeks ago, I found myself on a review panel of a multi-million dollar project being executed by the main agricultural research organization in Ghana and was surprised to see that none of the projects aimed at developing the crops that feed us involved other local institutions including the universities. Unquestionably, this cannot bring about the kind of green revolution that we yearn for. The consequence of such non-collaboration is that we tend to replicate work which limits progress. Additionally, we fail to use the expertise available in a country to solve problems.

Third is the need for advocacy to ensure that all governments in sub-Saharan Africa are taking the necessary measures to develop and implement the policies critical for development. I am aware that most countries in the sub-region do not have science policies left alone policies on biotechnology. We need to move quickly in the area of policy to ensure that we are all back to the drawing board and thinking about the next steps. The UN, FAO, and all regional and sub-regional organizations need to place policy development high on the agenda.

Finally, I would argue that until we establish sub-regional Centres of Excellence and Innovation with hubs in every country, we may never see light at the end of the tunnel. For me the place to train the next generation of African biotechnologists is in Africa itself. We cannot afford to promote brain drain by sending our outstanding scholars to train in world class institutions abroad. We need to develop the world class institutions in sub-Saharan Africa through investment, commitment, hard work, and collaborations and train the next generation of biotechnologists in sub-Saharan Africa on Africa problems.

We need to develop the products that will address our food security problems locally and this will have to be done by the African scientists themselves and in Africa. Of course, the need for collaborations that will allow us to fast-track progress cannot be overemphasized.

Eric Danquah
Director,
West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement
University of Ghana
PMB 30
Legon, Accra
Ghana
Tel: +233 21 520609 (Office), +233 21 632088 (Cell)
Fax: +233 21 520604
edanquah (at) wacci.edu.gh
www.wacci.edu.gh

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 17:32
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 100: Recurring themes of this e-conference

This is Denis Murphy, UK again (see message 80).

Some of the recurring themes of this e-conference include:

1. Lack of collaboration/interaction between breeders and molecular biologists (Message 2 by P.K. Gupta)

2. Lack of facilities/coordination in the South for biotech Research and Development (R&D) and a 'brain drain' to the North and/or away from practical R&D (Messages 8, 9, 21, 29, 30, 33, 36, 44, 48, 62, 65)

3. Lack of capacity for indigenous development of agricultural biotechnology in the South (Messages 6, 18, 23, 42, 54, 76)

These themes are all closely linked and emphasise the continuing interdependence of countries in the North and South for scientific progress.

Theme 1 also applies to the North to some extent, but I get the impression it is much more serious in the South, possibly due to the more recent development/introduction of some biotechnologies there. My own work in Malaysia has highlighted this lack of collaboration/interaction and it needs to be addressed by improved education of agricultural science graduates in ways that emphasise the unity of the discipline and especially the role of biotechnology as the servant of breeders and agronomists rather than their master.

Theme 2 is very difficult to address because many biotechnology methods are still expensive and require high levels of both equipment and expertise that may be beyond the reach of some countries, especially where infrastructure may be unreliable (e.g. power cuts [Message 30 by Walter Ajambang]). To some extent CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) regional centres are already doing a great job filling this gap. Further development of these and other transnational Research and Development centres, focussed very much on practical agriculture in their respective regions, may be a way forward (Messages 68, 83, 84). It may be unrealistic for each nation, however small, to fund its own agricultural research program but rather to collaborate with neighbouring countries and also with Northern centres. The latter should definitely be doing more practically focused outreach Research and Development in collaboration with credible partners in the South (Messages 31 and 43).

The brain drain is real but need not be catastrophic. I am sure many of us have been inspired by the award of the 2009 World Food Prize to Gabisa Ejeta in recognition of his achievements in improving the prospects of African sorghum farmers by developing a series of hybrid varieties. Ejeta is a graduate of Haramaya University in Ethiopia who worked in Sudan on drought-tolerant hybrids in the 1980s. He then moved to the USA where he used germplasm he had produced in Niger and Sudan to develop elite inbred lines of sorghum at Purdue University to generate commercial sorghum hybrids for the US and international markets. However, perhaps the most important sorghum hybrids were the Striga-tolerant forms developed in the 1990s and widely disseminated in Africa after 2002-2003. Ejeta and colleagues used a broadly based research approach involving molecular genetics, biochemistry, and agronomy to identify genes for Striga resistance, which were then introgressed into both locally adapted and more modern sorghum varieties. Finally, an integrated Striga management system has been developed that has further increased sorghum productivity through a combination of weed resistance, soil-fertility enhancement, and water conservation.

The point about this story is that Ejeta did not use Northern facilities and expertise simply to pursue narrow academic work. On the contrary, by retaining his focus on real-life Southern problems, his North/South team has been able to leverage US know-how for the direct benefit of subsistence farmers in Africa.

Theme 3 can possibly be addressed by a judicious mixture of:

- regional translational collaborative centres in key areas of the South where common agricultural challenges exist
- increased Northern technical input into real-world R&D issues in Southern agriculture, e.g. advanced breeding, bio-based crop management (Messages 22, 50 and 56), extension service expertise (Messages 12, 32 and 35) etc.
- greater exchange of scientists (including breeders) between North and South (Message 57 by Happiness Oselebe), but with the focus firmly on practical agriculture rather than 'academic butterflies'

If genetic engineering, marker-assisted selection etc. are to fulfil their undoubted promise as useful tools for global agriculture, they need to go beyond their largely commercial, private-sector paradigm and reach into the realm of public-good crop/livestock improvement. Ideally, this would involve ownership and development of these and other biotechnologies within the countries and regions in which they are deployed directly for the benefit of indigenous populations.

Finally, a key issue raised by several people is the institutional context that often prevents uptake of good R&D (Message 20 by Jose Falck-Zepeda). Examples include deficiencies in extension services as mentioned above, but also cross sectoral issues such as lack of access to credit, poor transport links, inadequate legislation, bureaucracy (Messages 25 and 79) etc. Many of these issues are generic to several countries and ultimately they can only be addressed within each country. However, by highlighting and disseminating specific examples of best practice to politicians and opinion makers, perhaps we as a community can help empower colleagues to make a difference in their respective countries.

R&D is like a hosepipe - there is little point in filling it with water if the outlet remains blocked!

Professor Denis J Murphy
Head of Biotechnology Unit and Head of Research
Division of Biological Sciences,
University of Glamorgan CF37 1DL,
United Kingdom
email: dmurphy2 (at) glam.ac.uk
website: http://people.glam.ac.uk/view/184

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 06 July 2009 18:01
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 101: Re: Status of commercial tissue culture in india

This is from Dinesh Kumar, again, General Secretary of the Consortium of Commercial Plant Tissue Culture laboratories (India). I am currently working as General Manager (India operations), M/s Lowes TC Pty ltd. I am in the plant biotech field since 1983 and worked in senior management cadre in well-known biotech laboratories in India.

This is in response to Message 90 by Dr P.K. Gupta.

The figures mentioned in my Message 87 are correct and refer to the current annual production. The report you had quoted must be in reference to the installed capacity. In 1996, the number of commercial labs was far less and almost all of them were in the export business. There were only about 50 labs in India around that time. Most of these were in the large- and medium-scale category, with very few small-scale labs. But currently 50% of the tissue culture labs are in the small-scale category. The total annual production at that time would not have been more than 20 million and there was always a yawning gap between the installed capacity and actual production then.

The global demand for clean and healthy saplings for floriculture industry runs into billions. Safeguarding of breeders' material is of utmost importance, supported by excellent quality and consistency in delivery. The slow growth of the industry could be attributed to these factors.

Please refer to Prakash (2006) for more information.

Dinesh Kumar M A
General Secretary,
Consortium of Commercial Plant Tissue Culture Laboratories (India)
12/44, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar
Bommanahalli,
Bangalore-560 068
India
Mobile: +91 953508 7576
Ph. : +91 80 41109273 (O)
e mail: dineshkumar_ma (at) hotmail.com
alternate email: dinesh (at) lowestc.com.au

Reference:
Prakash, J. 2006. Micropropagation industry in India : Biology and business. Acta horticulturae 725:293-300. V International Symposium on In Vitro Culture and Horticultural Breeding. http://www.actahort.org/books/725/725_36.htm

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 07 July 2009 09:40
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 102: Biotechnology in Brazil

I'm Lucia de Souza, senior scientist and the vice president of ANBio - Brazilian Biosafety Association.

Brazilian agriculture is of major socio-economical importance, representing about 40% of the country's exports, 20% of the workforce, and up 9% of the GDP. It plays an important role in economical growth, fighting nutritional deficiencies and assuring accessible and healthy food for the population. In recent years, one of the challenges has been to avoid unnecessary logging. The loss of forests, and therefore of biodiversity, increasingly gives rise to concern. This is why economic interests should be directed towards sustainability, which includes forest protection.

Modern biotechnology offers possibilities to address problems and challenges not solved by other agricultural practices. It can contribute to improve human health, welfare and development by improving food quality, safety, yields, and farm profitability while alleviating the environmental drawbacks of agriculture by reducing agricultural land, water and chemical usage. During more than 10 years, the country made several efforts to promote and intensify scientific development. In a way successful, considering results and increase in international publications, especially in genomics (e.g. sequencing Xylella fastidiosa) and also developing transgenic crops that specifically tackles local needs and interests. For instance, sugar cane resistant to insects, with higher sugar content and flowerless. Brazil grows 4 million hectares of sugar cane and demand to supply biofuel production is growing. Its golden mosaic virus-resistant beans have a high potential for benefit-driven development. Beans are highly regarded and nutritious with a local consumption of ca. 18,5 kg per capita/year and production of ca. 3,6 million tons and the virus causes severe yield losses of 40 to 100%.

In order to have both research and the application of its results in a successful manner, many aspects need to be carefully covered. Among these are the regulations that cover the use of new technologies often closely related to biosafety. Biosafety in Brazil generally refers to a broad canon of measures used to assess risks and effectively avoid adverse effects of biotechnological progress for human health and environment. Brazil's first Biosafety Act goes back to 1995. Later, it was amended by Provisional Measure No.2.191-9/2001 establishing the National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio). Since then, numerous regulations have been developed to cover methods to develop, cultivate, manipulate, transport, buy, sell, use, release, and dispose of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to protect human, animal and environmental health. The liberalization of trade of transgenic soybeans in 1998 triggered a legal dispute, suspended its cultivation and undermined to some extent scientific development. In view of the attractive profit and the need to remain competitive in the international market, farmers illegally cultivated transgenic soybeans. The different positions and interests spawned a complex tangle of regulations whose implementation, in turn, caused bureaucracy and harmed Brazil's scientific development.

After an intense debate about the technical, scientific, economic, legal, political, and ethical aspects of the matter, a new version of the Act was formulated in 2005. It was inspired by utmost caution and a stringent evaluation of national economic interests, food and environmental safety but it still has several issues to be cleared up, e.g. the prohibition of the Gene Use Restriction Technology (GURT) even for research. GURT, for instance, can be an important biosafety tool such as in the case of plant-made pharmaceuticals. For a better overview, please see Mendonca-Hagler et al (2008).

Lucia de Souza, Ph.D.
vice-president
ANBio - Brazilian Biosafety Association/Associacao Nacional de Biosseguranca
Av. Nilo Pecanha, 50
Grupo 2114 Centro
Rio de Janeiro
Brasil
CEP: 20044-900
Tel: (0xx21) 2220-8327 / 2220-8678
www.anbio.org.br
luciadesouza (at) uol.com.br

Reference:
Leda Mendonca-Hagler, Lucia Souza, Lucia Aleixo and Leila Oda. 2008. Trends in biotechnology and biosafety in Brazil. Environmental Biosafety Research 7: 115-121. DOI: 10.1051/ebr:2008013. www.ebr-journal.org/articles/ebr/pdf/2008/03/ebr0818f.pdf (141 KB)

[The message refers to sequencing of the genome of Xylella fastidiosa, which is a bacterium that causes a range of economically important plant diseases. The sequencing and analysis in this project were carried out by a network of 34 biology laboratories and one bioinformatics center, all of them in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Results were published in Simpson et al. 2000 (The genome sequence of the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa. Nature 406: 151-157). For more details, see http://www.lbi.ic.unicamp.br/xf/ ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 07 July 2009 09:50
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 103: Re: Recurring themes of this e-conference

Once again, for the second time, I am Peter B.S. Gama, Assistant Research Professor at the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), Sudan. My area of specialization is plant physiology and biotechnology.

There is much to learn from this e-conference on success and failure of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries.

In reference to Message 99, I do concur with Prof. Eric Danquah on the point arguing that "until we establish sub-regional Centres of Excellence and Innovation with hubs in every country, we may never see light at the end of the tunnel". And he further emphasizing (1) the necessity to train the next generation of African biotechnologists in Africa itself because we cannot afford to promote brain drain by sending our outstanding scholars to train in world class institutions abroad. (2) Therefore, we need to develop the world class institutions in sub-Saharan Africa through investment, commitment, hard work, and collaborations and train the next generation of biotechnologists in sub-Saharan Africa on Africa problems. (3) We need to develop the products that will address our food security problems locally and this will have to be done by the African scientists themselves and in Africa. Of course, the need for collaborations that will allow us to fast-track progress cannot be overemphasized.

At the end of my earlier message (nr. 54), I stressed my personal view that unless there is a functional initiative for development of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries, especially the sub-Saharan countries, we will lose most of what would be our original research to other countries and well equipped laboratories due to lack of facilities.

So connecting this perception with the latest contribution by Prof. Denis Murphy (Message 100), it likely that based on the Theme 2 listed the proposed solutions are okay. However, I do disagree to some extent with the notion that it may be unrealistic for each nation, however small, to fund its own agricultural research program but rather to collaborate with neighbouring countries and also with Northern centres. We also need to pursue our own 'academic butterflies'.

Again in Theme 3 ("Lack of capacity for indigenous development of agricultural biotechnology in the South") of Message 100: Here, I do think there is to huge potental for development of indigenous capacity but unfortunately there is lack of awareness or willingness from policy-makers to support projects in the area of biotechnology. Probably because we are used to assess results in terms of yield, acreage cultivated, and maybe some industrial traits. I mean, when the rest of world go "omics" why not us (sub-Saharan countries).

It is true that the story of Dr. Gabisa Ejeta has inspired many by the award of the 2009 World Food Prize in recognition of his achievements in improving the prospects of African sorghum farmers by developing a series of hybrid varieties. Yes, this has been fruits of collaborative research. However, Africa needs to build its own expertise at home so that we get a lion share of credits coming out of the research (Sorghum is native to Africa), in publicity. Some may also not likely agree with me, but this is how development of academic might is gauged. It may inspire more young graduates to study in Africa if they realize that the same work done in the USA can be accomplished at home.

Peter B. S. Gama, PhD
Assistant Research Professor
Plant Physiology and Biotechnology
Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC)
Wad Medani,
Sudan
Office Phone: +249 126 734 498
Mobile Phone: +249 911 711 625
Email: pbatalisgama (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 07 July 2009 13:42
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 104: Re: Forestry - biotechnology - India

I am Dr. Rajalakshmi, a lecturer in Botany at the N.G.M. College, India.

Forest genetics, with its peak in the 1940s, parallelly grows with the advancement in biological sciences and could see a tremendous growth in the last six decades. With limited forest resources in developing countries, it is a Herculean task to meet the demands of large populous country like India. Forestry in early 1980s has been rechristened as 'Biodiversity', an umbrella term that started gaining momentum and it is broader in managing available resources. Biodiversity enlists the variety and variability of flora and fauna; conservation strategies to protect rare, endangered and threatened (RET) species of the world.

At this juncture, micropropagation becomes instrumental in protecting the RET species especially the tree members. In addition, techniques like embryo rescue and haploid production are useful in conserving certain tree species that produce aborted embryos. Meristem culture is also successful in raising virus-free plants. Biofertilizers involving various blue green members and marine algae is worth mentioning as they not only boom our agriculture, they also reduce the debt burden of the farming community.

However, I feel the intervention of biotechnology in Forestry has to go a long way. To address a few issues:
(i) the existing gap between the research and forest department
(ii) limited funds and inadequate infrastructure
(iii) lack of trained professionals.

The products of biotechnology will be fruitful only when it serves the purpose. i.e. to save the particular species, time, human resources and money. This is especially true with the developing countries like India, as it has to strike the balance between the huge demand and limited resources.

K. Rajalakshmi, PhD
Lecturer,
Department of Botany,
N.G.M. College,
Pollachi, Coimbatore.
Tamilnadu.
India
email: ecoraji (at) gmail.com
Mobile: (0)9894068014

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 07 July 2009 16:50
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 105: Re: Recurring themes of this e-conference

Following up once more, this is C Tom Hash from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in India.

While I appreciate the call from Drs Danquah (Message 99) and Gama (Message 103) for sub-regional Centres of Excellence and Innovation with hubs in every developing country, I still am concerned that the linkage of these centres (and their hubs) with agencies involved in technology delivery must be there if there is to be effective delivery of products more valuable than "just" publications, people with the technical expertise to perform biotechnology, and improved CVs of a limited number of people. Otherwise we will face a serious risk of simply perpetuating existing problems with "academic butterflies" that have been referred to by several contributors to this conference.

In the case of plant breeding programs wishing to exploit molecular marker-based diversity assessment, fingerprinting, quantitative trait locus (QTL mapping and/or selection, I think that one of the real needs at present (and in the immediate future) is for timely provision of high quality and cost-effective marker data - probably from service labs. Establishment of such service labs will require entrepreneurship, infrastructure and technical expertise, as well as an interest in providing a service rather than necessarily being at the front line of technology development. It would be great if these service labs could be established at the proposed sub-regional hubs, but they can only be cost-effective for applied plant (and animal or microbial) breeding programs if they are operating at capacity in a high throughput manner. Otherwise, they will not be used, even if they are available, as the applied breeding programs will find alternative uses of their scarce operational resources to be more attractive.

C Tom Hash
Principal Scientist (Breeding)
ICRISAT
Patancheru, Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh 502 324
India
Email: c.hash (at) cgiar.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 09:20
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 106: Forestry - biotech - Argentina

I am Sandra Sharry from Argentina again. I agree with Dr. E.M. Muralidharan (Message 89).

Forest biotechnology research and application is truly global in scope with activities identified in 76 countries (FAO, 2004). While forest-related biotech research is still in its infancy compared with that taking place in agriculture, field trials of GM trees have proliferated around the world. However, reported forestry biotechnology activities excluding genetic modification are still largely confined to the laboratory (>95 percent, FAO, 2004), though the application of micropropagation tools in field plantings is becoming more common.

In Argentina, the most used is micropropagation, too. For example, at the Biofabrica/Misiones produces a number of forest species. However, even lacking develops protocols for many native species and adjusts the scaling up and temporary immersion protocols using synthetic seed. This could have a strong impact on the development of operational plantations. Both Brazil and Chile, our neighbors, have developed a strong forest industry and have used all biotechnology tools available, even genomics. Argentina is a bit behind in this regard. However, there are groups working on characterization of biodiversity. In INTA (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria) Bariloche, molecular markers have been used to identify areas of protection for native forest species. INTA Castelar has developed genetic maps and molecular markers to support breeding programs of eucalyptus. This has impacted significantly on the production of selected clones. At the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, poplar are being transformed. But biotechnology has not yet had a major impact at the level of forest chain in Argentina, as compared with the impact on agricultural sector. Still missing programs and projects, and private sector investment, which generally ignore the application of these tools.

Our understanding of tree biology is poor compared with that of agricultural crops. Scientists have been researching the genetics, physiology and ecology of the main food crops for longer and with more resources. Furthermore, individual trees remain much longer in the landscape than short-lived agricultural crops. This means that any one tree is subject to a much wider range of environmental stresses, and these stresses can in turn affect the behaviour of the modified genome. These issues put limits on research in this area, have even prompted a call for a moratorium to restrict the development of GM trees, question that I am not at all agree.

I believe that forest biotechnology has a major role in accelerating the improvement programs, in supporting research to develop biofuels and phytoremediation. Not yet, I believe, has it fulfilled its role in this area. Maybe time to see results have played against.

Sandra E. Sharry
Secretaria de Investigaciones Cientificas
Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales
Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Argentina
Tel. 54 221 423 6758
Fax. 54 221 425 2346
E-mail: investigaciones (at) agro.unlp.edu.ar
www.agro.unlp.edu.ar

Reference:
FAO. 2004. Preliminary review of biotechnology in forestry, including genetic modification. Forest Genetic Resources Working Paper FGR/59E. Forest Resources Development Service, Forest Resources Division. Rome, Italy. http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/ae574e/ae574e00.htm

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 10:00
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 107: Points from this e-conference

This posting is from Professor C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University, United States.

I have followed the discussion in this conference on "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years" and wish to provide my insights from my experiences over the past 20 years and bringing biotechnology to developing countries.

First, I want to recognize the many positive experiences expressed in this e-conference in terms of the number of new biotech jobs created in Argentina (Eduardo Trigo, message 47), establishing capacity building and institutional framework in Kenya (Daniel Kamanga, message 45), the huge success of biotech in India with over 4 million farmers cultivating Bt cotton (Dr. Prakash, message 28) and acknowledging the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) working with other organizations to obtain royalty free biotechnology for African countries (Chiedozie Egesi, message 13). Biotechnology is now benefiting farmers and society in many regions of the world. We need to help developing countries to benefit from this technology whenever possible. A good example of this in a public-private partnership is Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), which is a collaborative effort involving AATF; International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT); Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation; Howard G. Buffett Foundation; National agricultural research systems in Kenya (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, KARI), Mozambique (National Agriculture Institute of Mozambique, IIAM), South Africa (Agricultural Research Council, ARC), Tanzania (Commission of Science and Technology, COSTECH), Uganda (National Agricultural Research Organisation, NARO); Monsanto (http://www.aatf-africa.org/aatf_projects.php?sublevelone=30&subcat=5)

The partners in this five-year project will develop new African drought-tolerant maize varieties, incorporating the best technology available internationally. The long-term goal is to make drought-tolerant maize available royalty-free to small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The focus is to provide the best drought tolerant biotech approach in germplasm suited for the various countries in Africa to benefit small scale farmers with this royalty-free technology. Examples like WEMA demonstrate the move towards public-private partnerships, as suggested by C Tom Hash (message 68).

In addition, the clear positive track record for biotech crop commercialization is a testimony of the success these biotech products have received. According to the latest ISAAA report (James, 2008), biotech crops are now planted in 25 countries (including Burkina Faso, Egypt and Bolivia which approved planting of biotech crops for the first time). In 2008, the total cumulative acreage of biotech crops planted since 1996 exceeded 2 billion acres and that 13.3 million farmers are making the choice to plant biotech crops. Most of these farmers are from small scale farms in developing countries and many of these farmers have repeatedly decided to plant biotech crops. The obvious question is why do farmers repeatedly purchase biotech seed? I suggest that the answer is the same for anyone who has made a repeat purchase - it has to demonstrate value. The value in farmers choosing to plant biotech crops has been realized as an economic return (lower overhead costs and increased yields), environmental benefit (incorporation of no-till farming with herbicide tolerant crops leading to less soil erosion) and societal benefits (increased agricultural productivity).

Second, the two main recurring concerns I recognized from this FAO e-mail conference are (1) the lack of governmental funding from developing countries to properly build the capacity and infrastructure to implement biotech traits to farmers and (2) after many safe years of biotech crops successfully planted by farmers, there is still a trend for increased regulatory oversight and bureaucracy. These two points are explained below in the context of this FAO conference:

The lack of government funding in developing countries was discussed by Norbert Tchouaffe (message 10), Walter Ajambang (message 30) and Olusola Oyewole (message 36). This is best expressed by Von Mark Cruz (message 32) in that "the notion that political will is very important especially in building capacities and establishing a critical mass of highly trained human resources on agricultural biotech in the developing world". This political will needs to be developed, sometimes from a state of "governmental apathy" (Olusola Oyewole, message 36) in order to have the funding in place to develop the necessary infrastructure. By government-sponsored building of a science-based infrastructure in developing countries, the "high rate of staff turn-over" mentioned by Alex Rigor (message 42) could possibly be reduced. The positive results of increased government funding is addressed by Viviana Echenique (message 41) where "in the last 8-10 years, public research received more funding to establish networks in order to train students and to develop products in genomics and biotechnology".

The other common concern involves the regulatory aspects of biotech crops. Biotech crops have been available for farmers since 1996 and not a single health issue has arisen over the past 13 years related to commercial planting of these crops. Therefore, is it now time to revisit the regulatory framework in an attempt to reduce the excessive bureaucratic delays and mounting monetary costs associated with approval of current biotech crops? Based on the discussion from this FAO conference, the answer seems to be yes based on comments from Sandra Sharry (message 25), Eduardo Trigo (message 33 and 71), Sonny Tababa (message 67) and Wayne Parrott (message 52). I agree with the comment in Message 71 that there is a fine line between "being careful" and "over regulation". Over regulation leads to excessive costs and needless delays in commercialization of biotech crops - for private companies and public institutions!

The future for agricultural biotech is very promising and addressing the need for increased public funding for infrastructure (increased political will) and to reduce the unnecessary bureaucratic regulation will help open the door for public institutions to join the private sector in providing a greater portfolio of biotech products to farmers throughout the world.

C.S. Prakash, Ph.D.
Professor, Plant Molecular Genetics
Tuskegee University,
Alabama,
USA
prakash (at) tuskegee.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 10:14
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 108: Oilseed mutation breeding - Sri Lanka

This is from Dr Ranjith Pathirana, again.

In the early 1980s the world oilseed prices were increasing. India produced only 40% of its requirements in oilseeds. Sri Lankan farmers were keen to grow more sesame and groundnuts as they developed into valuable export commodities. The Department of Agriculture in Sri Lanka launched an Oilseed Co-ordinated research programme with financial assistance from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. This programme encompassed accessing germplasm, evaluation and release of promising, high yield and high oil cultivars.

Oilcrops are generally cultivated in the minor rainy season (April to June) in Sri Lanka. High market prices prompted farmers to grow sesame during the wet season resulting in the spread of fungal diseases, mainly Phytophthora nicotianae var parasitica. This resulted in catastrophic consequences to subsistence farmers. Non-availability of resistant germplasm and the availability of high natural disease conditions for screening prompted the use of mutation induction technique. Seeds of three high yielding cultivars were irradiated with gamma rays and the second and subsequent generations were screened in disease nurseries at the Angunukolapelessa research station in southern Sri Lanka. The work was further financially supported by a Research Contract from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Few of the selected resistant mutant lines were tested in National Co-ordinated Trials and one mutant derived from the popular MI 2 variety (mutant line ANK- S2) recorded higher survival and better yield in seasons favouring the development of Phytophthora. In disease-free areas and seasons, it was similar to MI 2 variety in yield. This mutant line ANK S-2, now popularly called "Malee", was released in early 1990s, and it continues to be popular among farmers, with high demand for seeds. The cultivated area of sesame, which started declining because of the disease, has now picked up thanks to resistant mutant cultivar and sesame continues to be popular in the dry zone areas of Sri Lanka. Malee is widely used in cross-breeding programmes in Sri Lanka.

In parallel with mutation breeding of sesame, a mutation breeding programme to develop early maturing groundnuts was also undertaken and this programme resulted in the release of the mutant variety "Tissa", also a result of seed irradiation with gamma rays. The parent cultivar was initially introduced from Vietnam. Subsequent screening proved this mutant to be more drought resistant, early maturing and high yielding. Seed production of this mutant cultivar has continued to date by the Department of Agriculture due to popular demand of farmers.

Malee sesame and Tissa groundnut are so far the only released mutant cultivars in oilseed crops in Sri Lanka and they have been cultivated for almost two decades, contributing to oilseed production in the country.

Dr Ranjith Pathirana
Food Industry Science Centre
New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research
Private Bag 11 600
Palmerston North 4442
New Zealand
Office: +64 6 355 6169
Lab: +64 6 355 6194
Reception:+64 6 356 8300
Mobile: +64 2102792256
After hours: +64 6 357 4266
Fax: +64 6 351 7050
Email: PathiranaR (at) crop.cri.nz

Some references related to this work:
- Pathirana R (1991) Increased efficiency of selection for yield in gamma irradiated populations of groundnut and sesame through yield component analysis. In: Plant Mutation Breeding for Crop Improvement Vol.2. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. Pp.299-316.
- Pathirana R (1992) Gamma ray-induced field tolerance to Phytophthora blight in sesame. Plant Breeding. 108: 314-319.
- Pathirana R, Weerasens LA and Bandara P (2000) Development and release of gamma ray induced sesame mutant ANK -S2 in Sri Lanka. Trop Agric Res and Extension. 3: 19-24.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 11:03
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 109: Biofertilisers - Peru

My name is Doris Zuniga Davila, Director of Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology Laboratory, Dep. Biology, Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM), Lima, Peru. I am coordinator of Peru of the Biofertilizer Network for the Agriculture and Environment (la Red Iberoamericana de Biofertilizantes Microbianos para la Agricultura, Biofag, http://www.biofag.org.ar/) - Cyted from 2004.

Peru is a megadiverse country that has a lot of crops of great importance for agriculture, such as potato, bean, lima bean, cotton, maize and maca and tara between many others.

The Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPRs) play an important role in illness control, in nitrogen biological fixation, in soil nutrient availability and/or in the hormone production. This means an improvement of the crop performance and quality.

Nowadays in our country, there are some institutions that work with biofertilizers of different Rhizobia strains for different leguminous and with Bacillus, actinomycets, azotobacter strains in the potato and tomato culture with favorable results. Recently, the beneficial PGPR potential is being studied to be used in organic maca and cotton cultivation.

It is necessary to highlight the interdisciplinary work and the strategic alliances established in the different research projects. These are set between the Peruvian universities, the agriculture associations and the international institutions, such as Salamanca University and CSIC-Granada, both of Spain; EMBRAPA (The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) in Londrinas, Brazil, and CCG (Centro de Ciencias Genomicas) in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

There are more and more projects in the biofertilizer area such as:
- "Characterization and selection of PGPR in the organic maca culture (Lepidium meyenii Walpers), as kinds of biotechnological tools to improve its quality productivity"., Peru Biodiverso, GTZ-CONCYTEC (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion Tecnologica)
- "Use of Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria for the organic production of cotton and native lima bean culture in the Ica valley", Protec-CONCYTEC project and bilateral CSIC-Spain/CONCYTEC Peru project;
- "Effect of rizospheric bacteria in the potato growth and the fitophatohenic fungus", CONCYTEC
- "Implementation of a germoplasma bank of microorganisms of agricultural, agroindustrial, biotechnological and environmental importance". IT-UNALM,
- "Selection of symbiotic Rhizobios strains of commercial varieties of Phaseolus lunatus (lima bean) in farmer fields of region Ica", FDSE-INCAGRO
- "Biological Nitrogen Fixation", INCAGRO (Innovacion y Competitividad para el Agro Peruano)

It is necessary to point out that studies in the molecular bacteria characterization, interaction between microbial populations and the infection mechanism in different seeds of plantule are being realized in the UNALM. Regarding inoculant production and its field application, 'Rizomac' inoculant with Rhizobium bacteria for the pea culture is being produced in the Universidad Nacional de San Cristobal de Huamanga (UNSCH), Ayacucho with good results. In Puno, it has been obtained a performance of 14 TM/ha in inoculated potato culture, in comparison to 6 TM/ha in non inoculated potato. Rhizobium inoculation in the pea culture (Pisum sativum bv. Macrocarpum) is 200 ha in Canete-lima. The inoculation Bradyrhizobium in lima bean (P. lunatus) is growing slowly in the Ica region.

Finally, the use of inoculants in Peru is increasing more and more and training at all levels is necessary. It is important for the farmers to see and to prove in the fields that the inoculants not only help the growth, quality and performance of their cultures, but also that they are definitely much more economical than the chemical fertilizers and they are friendly with the environment. The demand of our native and organic products in the external market is increasing and this would mean an important incoming source for the communities.

Dra. Doris Zuniga Davila
Director
Laboratorio de Ecologia Microbiana y Biotecnologia
(LEMYB) Marino Tabusso
Prof. Principal Dpto de Biologia
Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina
Av. La Molina s/n La Molina,
Lima
Peru
Tel: 7995788, 3495647-271, 274
Fax: 3496015
web: www.lamolina.edu.pe/lmt
email: dzuniga (at) lamolina.edu.pe

References:
- Calvo P, Reymundo L, Zuniga D. 2008. Estudio de las poblaciones microbianas de la rizosfera del cultivo de papa (Solanum tuberosum) en zonas altoindas. Ecologia Aplicada 7: 141-148. http://www.lamolina.edu.pe/ecolapl/Articulo_17_vol_7_Ecologia_aplicada.pdf
- Egusquiza, B.R. 2000. La Papa: produccion, transformacion y comercializacion. Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM), Asociacion de Exportadores (ADEX), Lima.
- Ogata K, Arellano C, Zuniga D. 2008. Efecto de diferentes bacterias aisladas de la rizosfera de Caesalpina spinosa en la germinacion de diferentes leguminosas. Zonas Aridas. Press.
- Zuniga D. 2009. Informe Tecnico final. CONCYTEC.
- Zuniga D. 2007. Leguminosas y produccion de biofertilizantes en el Peru. Biofertilizantes en Iberoamerica: Una vision tecnica, cientifica y empresarial. Eds. M L Izaguirre, C Labandera, J Sanjuan. 1era Ed. Denad Internacional S.A. Montevideo-Uruguay. Pag. 61-67. http://www.biofag.org.ar/actividades/publicaciones/Libro-Biofag2007.pdf

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 11:27
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 110: National biotechnology/biosafety policies and implementation - Sri Lanka

This is from Dr Ranjith Pathirana, again.

Similar to many developing countries, Sri Lanka has placed high expectations on the use of biotechnology for increased food production to meet the needs of its increasing population. In 1997, the Asian Development Bank identified biotechnology as a thrust area for development in Sri Lanka and a loan was made available for the development of human resources and capacity building. In addition, Government also started funding research in biotechnology. As a result, significant human resources and infrastructure capacity has been built in different fields of biotechnology. For proper decision-making and priority setting through a nationally driven policy framework, the National Science Foundation established a Steering Committee for Biotechnology in 1992, which evolved into the National Committee of Biotechnology, which has completed the task of drafting a National Plan on Biotechnology.

Research and development in biotechnology in Sri Lanka has progressed at a very slow pace, with only plant micropropagation, artificial insemination in cattle and ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) techniques for disease diagnosis in cattle and buffalo making any impact at the field level. The potential of biotechnology is still greatly underexploited. The industrial and commercial applications in biotechnology and the establishment of biotechnology industries have not received any state patronage. Funds are inadequate and human resources that can be engaged in meaningful research and development are lacking in the required type and quality. As a result, limited biotechnology research is conducted without any co-ordination. The inability of local biotechnologists to gain fast access to rapid advances in techniques and equipment, biochemical reagents etc., seriously affects the progress. The private sector in Sri Lanka is yet to play an important role in contributing to the development or research in biotechnology, except micropropagation. Use of various technologies and products of biotechnology need to be coordinated through enhancement of the national institutional capacity and the human resource base, so that Sri Lanka could make the correct decisions on biotechnology applications and adopt appropriate biosafety measures.

In parallel with development of a National Policy in Biotechnology, Sri Lanka was called upon to develop a National Policy on Biosafety as part of being a signatory to the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is the National Executing Agency and the National Focal Point for Biosafety. Funded by the United Nations Environmental Programme, a National Biosafety Framework Drafting Committee with four sub-committees embarked on developing a policy document in 2003. A policy document is now available and it has many recommendations that need to be implemented before considering Sri Lanka to have a satisfactory biosafety framework. Immediate requirements include the implementation of Biosafety Administrative/Management System, enactment of a National Competent Authority, establishment of a local biosafety clearing house, draft and enact a new biosafety law to regulate and monitor the applications of modern biotechnologies etc. Multiplicity of government regulation agencies is another major barrier, with, for example, five government departments designated to handle different types of GMO viz. Department of Agriculture, Health Services, Animal Production and Health, Wild Life Conservation, and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Considering the enormity of tasks that need to be accomplished to implement the recommendations, particularly in the area of risk assessment and management, Sri Lanka will need broader investments and collaboration with regional governments, international agencies and experts. At present, Sri Lanka has necessary expertise, laboratory facilities, technology and techniques to undertake the tertiary risk assessment and risk management of genetically modified organisms and products. However, these expertise and institutional facilities need to be properly and judiciously utilized to regulate the production, import and use of GMOs and products according to a well formulated, legal procedure.

Dr Ranjith Pathirana
Food Industry Science Centre
New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research
Private Bag 11 600
Palmerston North 4442
New Zealand
Office: +64 6 355 6169
Lab: +64 6 355 6194
Reception:+64 6 356 8300
Mobile: +64 2102792256
After hours: +64 6 357 4266
Fax: +64 6 351 7050
Email: PathiranaR (at) crop.cri.nz

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 11:39
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 111: Re: Recurring themes of this e-conference

I am Rachel Predeepa, Post-Graduate Researcher, The University of Western Australia, Australia.

I have been reading many of the emails and discussions going on in the conference. However, I had been a bit hesitant to share my views owing to lack of experience in comparison to the ones that have been posted by many of the experienced and senior members from the R&D sector:

Referring to Message 100 by Denis Murphy describing some of the recurring themes of this e-conference:

1. "Lack of collaboration/interaction between breeders and molecular biologists"

I do completely agree with this message as in India, science and scientists, especially those in the field of biological and life sciences, have limited knowledge and access to resources available, especially with the help of information technology, and in fact many are reluctant to learn some time-saving softwares, though the initial investment may be expensive. Secondly the lack of initiative and colloboration, first between researchers like botanists and agriculturists is essential to solve local problems. However, international colloboration will benefit in mobilising funds and transfer of technologies. I believe these are the two main hurdles that I have observed to be areas of problems for the successful application of biotechnological techniques in India for solving local issues.

2. "Lack of facilities/coordination in the South for biotech R&D and a 'brain drain' to the North and/or away from practical R&D"

I do not completely agree with the issue of brain drain: I think "brain drain" is a necessary evil for three reasons:
a. to transfer new and old technologies between the old and the new world;
b. to share resources - science is for the benefit of the human race (and it is time for more internationationalisation in science); and,
c. to understand science, and the processes involved in the R&D sector from someone of their own country of origin in the other world is much easier and transparent, especially when language and culture acts as a barrier.

Finally, there are opportunities and resources available, but the direction to invest them in the appropriate places and hands, requires trained personnel who have wide knowledge on the scientific scenario in their country at the decision-making sector is required.

Rachel J Predeepa
Postgraduate Researcher
The University of Western Australia
MO 84 school of plant biology,
faculty of natural and agricultural sciences,
35, stirling highway,
Crawley 6009
western Australia,
Australia
Ph.: +61 8 64881991
ecoagripolicy (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 12:45
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 112: Re: Biotechnologies - Nepal

I am Dr. Sivakumar, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India.

This is in reference to Message 96 of Dhruba Pathak for ever reminding their thinking on lack of resources.

Nepal has rich biodiversity like any other country and traditionally blessed with food and fruit crops. It has admirable weather conditions and topography that will provide opportunities in many dimensions for country's growth. In agriculture, it has prominent food grain crops like maize, rice, wheat etc and many fruit crops across its country. The government, institutions and private functionaries should promote the higher end utility of these agricultural products. We can see that many developed countries use their particular advantage even without having any resources for production, simply excels as trading centres. Like Europe, Nepal has tremendous opportunities for making fermented foods, drinks and home distillaries for making alcohols, wines etc. since it has good resources for starch from grain and fruit crops.

Biotechnology is not going to yield products immediately for any developing countries. Most of the countries doing the start up work in most of the crops and has not come to the stage of realizing benefits. Even if some progress has been made, how far it is to their commercial application is a matter of wait to see. Across the world, few private multinational players contributing the innovations and their markets are supported by local institutions. Nepal has a good chance to come to the forefront like Europe in making alcohol drinks from food and fruit crops and can better promote agriculture, employment, R&D set up for fermented products. Nepal should follow European model to promote home made liquiors. Many biotechnological innovations can be made in microbiological fermentations with less requirement in money invesment and modern facilities. Hope, people around the world one day prefer drinks from Nepal.

S. Sivakumar M.Sc, Ph.D
Associate Professor (PBG)
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University,
Coimbatore-641003,
India
Tel:+91-422-2450507(Off)
+91-422-2434512(Res),
+91-94435 67327 (Mobile)
email: subbarayansivakumar (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 15:15
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 113: Tissue culture and biofertilisers - India

This is from Dr. Seshadri, the Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Center in Chennai, India.

I have been reading the messages written by various scientists in India on various technologies that aid growth in agriculture. While I restrict myself to India, I would like to submit the following.

1) There is a greater scope to work on biofertilizers, tissue culture, breeding, etc.

2) Most of the studies conducted in India were, and are, from only public funded institutions and very few commercial organizations have been involved in bringing out novelty, especially in the above areas (in tissue culture the commercial organizations have their own protocols developed but, if I am right, most of them work based on protocols developed abroad and they work as BPOs [business process outsourcing]). In tissue culture, most of the products are oriented towards the export market and not the domestic market. Some good examples are banana (going successfully) and sugarcane (still needs refinement in terms of economics) and floriculture. Other than this, very few crops have been attempted by private funded organizations, which could be related to the business climate than scientific temper. Low cost tissue culture is a greater option to work especially in terms of reducing the infrastructure in arid tropical conditions (air conditioned rooms), finding alternative substrates for agar, use of table sugar, tap / borewell water, are foremost important to take the technology to the masses at an affordable cost.

3) In biofertilizers, almost all the research work conducted so far has been carried out by public funded institutions and, of late, we get information on development of biopesticides by private non-profit research organizations but not private institutions, per se. In spite of research conducted for more than half a century, and a number or commercial organizations selling products, a lot more could be done in biofertilizers and biopesticides. Though many popularization programmes are in place to promote, the farmers seldom gets convinced due to various reasons that ultimately points to input costs vs. profits. With concerted efforts, biofertilizers and biopesticides could be taken to the masses in a better manner and in a bigger way. Formulation, shelf life, number of cells, packaging quality, price band still need to be addressed in bioinputs that needs attention.

4) More than this, there is a greater scope to work on attitude changes in the minds of budding researchers to take up entrepreneurship as a profession wherein one would tend to work on novel/challenging technologies at least for the benefit of profit making.

5) The other alternative is to create more and more public funded organizations, develop goal oriented programmes, set targets and reap maximum for the benefit of the masses.

Dr. S. Seshadri
Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Center (MCRC)
Taramani,
Chennai 600113,
India
Ph: 91-44-224342680937
Fax: 91-44-22430369
web: www.amm-mcrc.org
tsvisesh (at) yahoo.co.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 15:32
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 114: Biological control of forest pests - India

This is E.M. Muralidharan from India, again. I work with the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) located at Peechi in Kerala. I am also the National Correspondent of FAO-BioDec for India.

One of the less discussed aspects of biotechnology especially with respect to forestry is that of biological control of forest pests. Compared to genetic modification, the approach using biological control could find more acceptability since it takes advantage of what is found in nature. Biotechnological inputs like molecular characterization of strains, mass rearing of organisms, standardizing the formulations etc. will go a long way in improving the efficiency of biological control. At the Forest Protection Division of KFRI, investigations into control of a serious insect pest of teak viz. the teak defoliator (Hyblaea purea) has been carried out for several years. A Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus (HpNPV) isolated from the natural populations of the insect larvae resulted eventually in a very effective biological control method. A permanent preservation plot where the pest outbreak was kept under control over several years with regular spraying of the NPV formulation demonstrated clearly the benefits in terms of increase in volume of timber when compared to control plots. Research then went into rearing of the insect larvae in the lab on an artificial diet and mass multiplication of the virus, followed by the formulation of the pesticide incorporating UV protectants and other adjuvants, and finally the spraying technique in the plantations. Almost two decades of research, that finally culminated in an elegant solution to a serious problem.

Nevertheless the technology is yet to take off from the lab bench and there is no indication that it will make it to the standard package of practices of the teak plantations immediately. Since most of the teak in India today comes under the State Forest Departments, acceptability by the forestry professionals is of importance. Some farmers had shown interest and willingness to use the product in their plantations and the initial response showed that the technology was effective.

The point that merits reiteration here is that research in biotechnology has a much better chance of producing results when conceived, developed and implemented in a broader framework consisting not just of scientists and technologists but also involving at every stage the forestry professionals who work at the field level and also at some level policy makers who eventually have to give the green signal.

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

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 08 July 2009 18:41
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 115: Factors determining success or failure

My name is Piet van der Meer and I write in my capacity as Executive Secretary of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI). In behalf of PRRI, I warmly commend FAO for hosting this kind of e-conference.

PRRI is a worldwide initiative of public sector scientists who conduct research in modern biotechnology for the public good. The 'raison d'etre' of PRRI is to offer public researchers a forum to be informed about and to be involved in international regulations and discussions. Detailed information about PRRI can be found on www.pubresreg.org. One of the main objectives of PRRI is to assist decision makers in making informed and balanced decisions about biotechnology. We therefore very much welcome this e-conference and commend John's gentle but firm way of keeping the discussion on track.

As several participants have pointed out, there are in addition to technical reasons, several different factors that determine success or failure of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries, such as:

1. Lack of financial and human resources
2. The way in which regulations are designed and implemented
3. Lack of communication between various players.

PRRI has initiated several activities that can hopefully contribute to finding solutions for these challenges. Below I briefly introduce some of these initiatives, following the three points above.

1. FINANCIAL AND HUMAN RESOURCES.

It is no doubt the case that the funding for public research in biotechnology is still far behind compared to the many promises that have been made in the past. One only needs to look at Chapter 16 of Agenda 21 (1992), which contains an internationally agreed blueprint for international collaboration in strengthening biotechnology for the production of food and feed, for health care and for environmental protection. The estimated budget was already then going in the billions. [Chapter 16 of Agenda 21, adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, is available at http://earthwatch.unep.ch/agenda21/16.php ...Moderator].

However, as several participants also pointed out, much more can be done with the funding that is made available for biotechnology research today, by collaborating and communicating to reduce duplication.

For this purpose, PRRI has started two initiatives:

a) The Agricultural Biotechnology Capacity Database

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and PRRI are developing a web based database that will provide specific information about public research in agricultural biotechnology. Through this database, for example, researchers can find colleagues involved in similar research. The structure of the pilot database is available at http://ifpri.catalog.cgiar.org/abc/index.htm. Public researchers from all over the world are invited to assist this pilot phase, by entering information about their research in the database.

b) Support network for field trials with GMOs.

From many public researchers from all over the world, we know that challenges related to field trials are among the main hurdles in the process of making crops with improved traits available to farmers. PRRI, in consultation with public research institutes such as the Danforth Centre, is preparing a support network for public researchers that will assist in preparing and conducting field trials with GMOs.

2. REGULATIONS

PRRI works in two directions in the area of regulations:

a) PRRI facilitates the participation of public researchers in Meetings of the Parties to international agreements, such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Information about this can be found on the PRRI web site, under the Working Group Biosafety Protocol. PRRI will soon start preparing for the participation of PRRI members in the 5th Meeting of the Parties in Japan in 2010.

b) PRRI assists public researchers in preparing requests for permits for releases of GMOs. For this purpose, a draft Guide has been published on the PRRI web site, under the Working Group on Risk Assessment.

3. COMMUNICATION

For the purpose of improving communication between scientists, PRRI has initiated the above ABC Database and Support Network for Field Trials. For the purpose of informing the general public and policymakers, the 'ASK-FORCE' page on the PRRI website discusses publications that have gained much public attention but that are not supported by peer reviewed scientific research. PRRI also writes directly to policymakers, for example with a recent letter to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, to support his report to the U.N. General Assembly on the relationships between IPR, biotechnologies and the right to food. All letters produced by PRRI are published on the PRRI web site.

More information on all these and other topics can be found on the PRRI web site, and in particular in the "PRRI Forum updates'. Public researchers interested in being kept informed are invited to register on the PRRI website, and colleagues interested in participating in the above activities are invited to contact the PRRI Secretariat at: info@pubresreg.org.

Piet van der Meer
Executive Secretary
Public Research and Regulation Initiative
Secretariat Public Research and Regulation Initiative
Attn of: Ms. Zuzana Kulichova
c.o. Delft University of Technology,
Working Group Biotechnology and Society
Julianalaan 67, 2628 BC Delft,
The Netherlands
Phone: +31-15-278-9289
Fax: +31-15-278-2355
Email: info (at) pubresreg.org
www.pubresreg.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 14:48
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 116: Slow growth for in vitro germplasm conservation - Sri Lanka

This is from Dr Ranjith Pathirana, again.

This message discusses in vitro slow growth available for various vegetatively propagated crops for conservation purposes, as this has not been touched in the conference although it is in the background document.

The Plant Genetic Resources Centre (PGRC) of the Department of Agriculture, Gannoruwa, Peradeniya was established in 1988 with a grant provided through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The centre has cold storage facilities for short- and medium-term conservation of seeds of orthodox species. Vegetatively propagated materials and recalcitrant species are conserved in greenhouses, the tissue culture repository or in the field. The PGRC comes under the jurisdiction of the Division of Seed Certification and Plant Protection of the Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture. The PGRC is the focal point for promoting and facilitating the conservation and sustainable utilization of plant genetic resources in Sri Lanka. To achieve its objectives, the Centre explores, collects, introduces, conserves, evaluates and documents the genetic diversity of food crops and their related species.

PGRC has several units with special programmes for Exploration, Conservation, Evaluation, Biotechnology and Tissue Culture, and Data Management. PGRC is responsible for planning, implementing and co-ordination activities related to conservation of plant genetic resources. Its facilities are also used to conduct biotechnology studies, especially for conservation, evaluation and enhancement of genetic resources. One thrust area of this programme is the pyramiding of genes for resistance to Brown Plant Hopper (BPH) Bacterial Leaf Blight (BLB) and Gall Midge (GM) into new improved rice varieties. This programme utilises methods to produce breeding lines/ varieties with multiple resistances to BPH, GM and BLB through identification of biotypes/patho types and development of molecular markers for resistance genes. The centre is also engaged in developing thrips resistant rice varieties through molecular marker assisted breeding and is developing molecular markers for the identification of major rice varieties grown in Sri Lanka. In vitro conservation protocols have been established for cassava, sweet potato, potato, yams, colocasia, innala (Solenostemon rotundifolius), grape, passion fruit, avocado, papaw, citrus, strawberry, apple, pears and banana. Some accessions of cassava, sweet potato, potato, yams, colocasia, innala and banana are maintained in storage under normal or minimal growth conditions. The technique of potato micro-tubers for germplasm conservation has been successfully applied to conserve the potato germplasm. The Centre also undertakes micropropagation of crops such as banana, pineapple and sweet potato.

Dr Ranjith Pathirana
Food Industry Science Centre
New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research
Private Bag 11 600
Palmerston North 4442
New Zealand
Office: +64 6 355 6169
Lab: +64 6 355 6194
Reception:+64 6 356 8300
Mobile: +64 2102792256
After hours: +64 6 357 4266
Fax: +64 6 351 7050
Email: PathiranaR (at) crop.cri.nz

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 14:49
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 117: Learning from past experiences

This is from Sadok Driss, Tunisia. I have been involved in closely related fields - international agricultural development and agricultural policy. Teaching at the university was one of the activities yet not the only one.

Not long ago, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) contributed to an international symposium related to "biotechnology and germplasm" on April 21 2009 in Tunis. This gathering was attended by participants from thirty countries. The keynote speaker of that event was Dr Harvey Blackburn, USDA chief of laboratory of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Fort Collins, Colorado. He enlightened the participants who were not familiar with the US Land-Grant Universities and their emphasis on the unholy trinity "research, teaching and extension". Unfortunately, it took years for that system to bring concrete results, notwithstanding surprises. Many theories were put forward, by various institutions, such as the Ford Foundation, the World Bank and USAID multitude of development projects financed, in the 1960s and later.

One thing is certain, the transfer of technology from the USA to African or Asian countries was not as easy as it seemed. Warnings were provided by numerous scientists, such as Norman Borlaug from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico, Dale Hathaway, the founder of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) or the late Robert Macnamara of the World Bank, as well as Yugiro Hayami and Vernon Ruttan in their book "Agricultural development: an international perspective" published in 1971. Two years later, "Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered" was another warning to put the emphasis on people rather than products. As early as the 1960s, Arnold Harberger from the University of Chicago, Illinois, did raise this pertinet question: "should we invest in machines, or people?". Can one learn from past experiences? Only a systemic approach is apt to lead to acceptable answers. Anyhow, emphasis should be placed upon people, first, and their needs. Focus of attention should be placed on the linkages between: (1) institutions (2) innovations (3)incentives and (4) infrastructure. In all these endeavors, "training should be the priority," as echoed by Mary Bowman, from the University of Chicago, "Learning to learn is more important than learning to do," a highly cherished principle taken up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the early 1970s.

Sadok Driss, PhD
Professor-Researcher
University of Tunis 7 November
Carthage,
Tunisia
sadok_driss (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 14:55
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 118: Re: Biotechnologies - Nepal

My name is Val Giddings. I am a geneticist by training, and I have worked for 25 years on policy and science-based regulation of biotechnology products for governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and industry. In my current capacity as a consultant, I work for a variety of clients worldwide. I am presently based in the US but most of my work involves developing countries.

I add my voice to the grateful chorus commending FAO for hosting this conference. It has elicited an abundance of good and useful comments and input that should provide welcome guidance as FAO and others consider how best to bring biotechnology to bear on the challenges of sustainable agricultural production, particular in developing countries.

I want to comment on the observation Dr. Sivakumar made in post 112 that "Biotechnology is not going to yield products immediately for any developing countries." While some may hold this view, participants should be aware that major benefits have already been delivered to the economies, environments, and peoples of developing countries by the biotech improved crops introduced to date. The majority of countries growing biotech crops (legally) to date are in the developing world (15 of 25) where 12.3 million of the 13.3 million farmers growing biotech crops live. This has been well documented in a variety of publications, perhaps most notably by Clive James (see http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/39/executivesummary/default.html) and by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot (see http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/GM_crop_yield_arial.pdf). Biotech is not merely promise and potential, but increasingly it is value already delivered to farmers on the ground in developing countries.

In each case, where farmers are successfully and legally growing biotech improved crops today, it is because regulatory hurdles have been overcome and permission has been granted by government authorities to grow and use them. If any single obstacle to the wider dissemination of these crops has been under-emphasized in this e-conference, it is that scientifically unsupportable regulatory burdens continue to block farmer access to crops that even EU officials have conceded are probably safer than the alternatives (see http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp5/eag-gmo.html). It would serve FAO and its mission well to consider measures that could be undertaken to help reduce such obstacles, for if they cannot be overcome, conquering all the others described in the postings to this conference will count for nothing.

L. Val Giddings, Ph.D
President
PrometheusAB
P.O. Box 8254
Silver Spring,
MD 20907
United States
LVG (at) PrometheusAB.com

[The document referred to in the last paragraph is 'GMO research in perspective', the report of a workshop held in Brussels 9-10 September 1999 by External Advisory Groups of the EU's "Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources" research programme . The disclaimer on the report, notes that "this report has not been adopted or in any way approved by the Commission and should not be relied upon as a statement of the Commission's or the Research-DG's views"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 14:56
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 119: Limitations of bioregulation for public researchers

Here is Maria Mercedes Roca from Zamorano, Honduras again.

The world is watching Honduras as the political crisis unfolds. It strikes most of us in Honduras that a lot of judgment is being passed by people who do not really understand the context of what they are discussing or judging. All this has made me think that there are some parallels between this and what the public scientists are saying regarding bioregulation of GMOs and the dire consequences this has for research by public institutions. This regulation is often not science-based and it is often done by people who do not understand the context. I want to share with you below, the text of the Vina del Mar declaration that resulted from the 2007 REDBIO meeting in Chile, which is also available in Spanish, English and Portuguese at http://www.redbio.org/newsredbio.asp?id=391

Maria Mercedes Roca, PhD
Biotechnology and Plant Protection Programs
Zamorano University
P.O. Box. 93
Tegucigalpa,
Honduras
Tel: (504) 776 6140 ext. 2362
Fax: (504) 776 6242
Email: mmroca (at) zamorano.edu
www.zamorano.edu

Vina del Mar Declaration
REDBIO 2007
October 26, 2007

1. The 600 participants from 21 countries present at the VI Latin American and Caribbean Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology, REDBIO 2007, gathered in Vina del Mar, Chile, aware that agrobiotechnologies can be an important factor for the sustainable development, for food security, for environmental and social well being, and for encouraging the future bio-economy, express their strong support for the use of agrobiotechnologies as an integral component for the development strategies for Latin America and the Caribbean. These technologies have the capacity to provide healthy and safe food in sufficient quantity and facilitate agronomic practices that are more sustainable from an environmental and social perspective.

2. They also recognize the value of a sensible regulatory framework that allows for the evaluation and the safe and effective use of agricultural biotechnology, including genetic engineering, and which reasonably ensures food safety and environmental sustainability.

3. It is important to note that the experience accumulated during the first decade since the commercialization of products obtained through Modern Biotechnology on more than 100 million hectares in 21 countries, has scientifically demonstrated that crops obtained through these technologies do not have risk profiles that are any different from those of crops developed through other plant breeding methods. The potential health and environmental risks originally foreseen have not materialized. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that this technology provides environmental and economic benefits. Millions of farmers, mainly small farmers in developing countries, are already benefiting in other parts of the world.

4. At the same time, the principles on which the current regulations are based were established when the commercial use of transgenic crops was just beginning, and do not consider information gathered during more than 10 years of extensive use. This lack of actualization contributes to delays in the development and use of Modern Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean. This in turn increases the technological gap that exists between this region and the more industrialized countries, and prevents the region from exercising sovereignty over its genetic resources.

5. We note with concern that the continuous tendency towards excessive regulation is also slowing the development of our crops, and is keeping the advances made by Latin American researchers from benefiting society. This excess in regulation increases costs and disproportionately affects the public and small enterprise sectors.

6. Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean continues to advance, and will continue to play an increasingly important role. We are confident that it is possible to formulate regulatory frameworks targeted towards scientifically established risks and not towards perceived or theoretical ones, and thus help ensure environmental and food safety, while avoiding unnecessary hindrances in its development.

7. We therefore request that the regulatory biosafety frameworks consider the history of safe use that transgenic crops have had in the world for over a decade. It is especially important that norms in the region consider both the benefits and the risks of this technology, and analyze them relative to those of the present agricultural production systems. In turn, regulatory frameworks should foster and facilitate innovation and technological applications that benefit our peoples.

We are encouraged to think that these technological developments will continue to be one of the main engines that drive the development of Latin America and the Caribbean.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 14:57
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 120: Constraints to research and development

I am Dr. Benjamin Ewa Ubi, Plant breeder and Biotechnologist, formerly Director of the Biotechnology Research and Development Centre, Ebonyi State, Nigeria. I am currently a visiting Scientist at the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Tsukuba Science City, Japan.

A number of excellent contributions have been made to this conference and I am happy also that my Successor in Office (Dr. Happiness Oselebe, message 57) among several others have also contributed to draw your attention to our efforts at Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Nigeria.

Perhaps, the peculiar case of our Biotechnology Centre at Ebonyi State University will also highlight the difficulties inherent in our efforts towards a more functional research and development in our countries in Africa, and especially Nigeria - where many R&D challenges and opportunities exist.

The University, through the Pioneering Director, Prof. James Ogbonna decided to establish a Centre of Excellence to provide centralized biotechnology facilities. Our hope was that after the establishment of the Centre, we should through collaborations/MoUs (memos of understanding) move the Centre as one of the best, since adequate (a crop of well-trained and internationally-recognized) manpower existed. The Centre was built up and through facilities provided by the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the counterpart support from the University most of the basic facilities were provided and installed.

We also got funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) for a rice project that is being excellently implemented at the Centre through our Visiting Scientist Dr. A. Efisue, alongside with the IFS Project in which only the non lab-based component was completed. We entered into MoUs with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) hoping we could meaningfully collaborate to carry out more functional research by way of getting funded projects that can be executed at our Centre - which is highly organized and basic facilities already available. However, in spite of several visits to IITA, functional collaboration is yet to take place even when the first 3 years of the agreement is gradually winding off.

The AGRA rice project has gone so well because it is mainly screenhouse and field-based with basic laboratory needs. Rice is one of the most important crops in Ebonyi State and so the AGRA project was excellently located there. Among the many constraints, the gall midge, iron toxicity, drought, etc are a serious threat and farmers may obtain zero yield. This should naturally lead us to investigate the molecular basis of resistance in the several lines/crosses already availble and doing well in our on-farm trials located in the highly endemic fields using the tools of biotechnology. Several efforts were also made with Cornell University Dr. Theresa Fulton, who has been interested in helping the Centre secure project funds - but to no avail.

Looking inwards, I wrote an Excellent proposal to the ETF (Education Tax Fund) in Nigeria that was interested in supporting our efforts in making the Centre a Centre of excellence. However, at the last minute due to politics, the funding was rather directed to an ill-prepared institution. These were very frustrating for a well-trained scientist eager to work at home and build capacity. Right now, I am forced to send my Ph.D students to South Africa to complete an aspect of their Ph.D work that ordinarily would have been done in our lab for lack of facilities.

In a nutshell, the constraints we presently have (as also highlighted by Dr. Happiness Oselebe in message 57) include:

1. Lack of functional collaboration with other laboratories involving funded projects
2. Inadequate power supply
3. Lack of project grants to graduate students and scientist by the Nigerian Govt. or other science agencies unlike in other climes

The Ebonyi state University (Biotechnology Research and Development centre) has recently secured an MoU with Hokkaido University Japan and we hope that this will help fast-track our mission of being a leader in integrative plant breeding/biotech R&D based on our know-how. The 20th Annual conference of the Biotechnology Society of Nigeria was also successfully hosted by the Centre.

We need to move on in collaboration with partners in R&D as we need to provide a good platform for training African Biotechnologist in our University.

Benjamin Ewa Ubi, Ph.D
Plant breeder and Biotechnologist
Biotechnology Research and Development Centre
Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Nigeria
Currently,
Visiting Research Scientist
Laboratory of cell and Molecular Biology
National Institute of Fruit Tree Science
National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO)
Tsukuba Science City, Ibaraki Pref. 305-8605
Japan
Tel: +81-29-838-6500
E-mail: ubi.benjamin (at) yahoo.com ; benubi (at) affrc.go.jp

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 14:58
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 121: Experiences regarding agricultural biotechnology in Guyana

My name is John Cartey Caesar, Senior Lecturer in Biology and the National Project Coordinator for the UNEP-GEF Biosafety Framework Development. Once again, the FAO online conference series have been very enlightening. Unfortunately, this series may be ending ending too soon, even with the current extension.

Firstly, I would like to give some glimpses of past experiences regarding agricultural biotechnology in Guyana:

1. The first tissue culture attempt was made at the Institute of Applied Science and Technology in the mid 1980s followed by a fully established laboratory at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in early 1990s. I believe the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) was involved in training Guyana's first locally identified professional at the PhD level in the UK - Dr. Veronica Broomes.

2. NARI spearheaded an aggressive programme in tissue culture with successes in pineapple, sweet potato, plantain, among others. Attempts to use local resources such as brown sugar were made between my Department and NARI as part of an Applied Plant Physiology Studentship programme I had developed with the support of the stipendiary donations from the private sector for students.

3. Biofertilizer attempts have been made chiefly with the isolation and inoculation of rhizobia from cowpea and soybean. I made the first partially successful attempt to use these to inoculate seedlings of the local forest species Eperua grandiflora ssp guyanensis.

4. Over the past decade, key professionals Dr. Broomes and Dr. Jerome Octive have since migrated due to some of the economic security and related issues.

5. Climate change-induced devastating floods of 2005 decimated the tissue culture lab and almost all of its germplasm collections. Only one biotechnologist MSc remains at the Institute. The lab has since been relocated. The reality of climate change impact!

6. Attempts at micropropagation of some of our endemic orchids have been made with very little preliminary success with media (University-NARI) including an MSc student project that has since been abandoned due to financial difficulties.

7. The major recent success in animal biotechnology was the transfer of British texel sheep embryos to local black belly sheep with donor support from the British High Commission. We believe this is a first in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Secondly, some of the comments advanced in this e-mail conference and those of Professor Eric Danquah (Message 99) and some others on capacity building issues have re-emphasised my own thrust in Conferences 13 and 15, contributions 126 and 88, respectively, in this series. I believe these are still pertinent and worth recapitulation here, i.e.

- Regional and sub-regional groupings of developing countries along similar lines as the UNEP-GEF Biosafety Frameworks project for structured global biotech development;

- Assistance with the development of national biotechnology policies driven by comprehensive national needs assessments, inclusive of human, infrastructural and institutional capacity;

- Need for national biotechnology development strategies. Very small countries with very common problems needing biotechnological interventions could be pooled as clusters in subregions;

- A Framework for leveraging and transfering biotechnology knowledge in tandem with the vision of Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity, taking into account biotechnology transfer assimilation capacity;

- A comprehensive scholarship/fellowship programme for developing countries to facilitate the leveraging of biotechnology capacity through postgraduate research in developed countries [in a 'sandwich model'] that specifically permits research on specific problems of the awardees' country of origin. This should be complemented by a five to ten year in-country of origin sustainability/support programme to help avert brain drain. Address issues of economic security for such professionals. 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;

- Continuous short-term biotechnology education programme for biotechnology practitioners similar to the UNESCO short-term fellowship programme on a larger scale;

- FAO, like UNEP, can spearhead such a global biotechnology capacity building project with funding from GEF (?) if possible or a global biotechnology fund contributed to by the world's G8 countries - on the premise that biotechnology may be yet another tangible tool for ridding the world of poverty and disease."

Added to these, we can explore a comprehensive 'brain gain' or 'brain circulation' model that leverages the knowledge and support of citizens of developing countries fully established in the developed countries. I provided one example in contribution 88 of conference 15 in the case of Professor Suresh Narine and biodiesel development in Guyana.

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,
Chairman - National Agricultural Research Committee/NARI; Commissioner (part-time), Public Utilities Commission of Guyana]
Tel.: +592-222-4926; Mobile: +592-640-1478
PhoneFax: +592-222-3596
Email: jccaesar (at) yahoo.com

[1. Some media stories provided by John regarding the sheep embryo transfer initiative mentioned above are available at http://www.stabroeknews.com/2008/news/04/12/sheep-embryos-implanted-in-regional-first/ ; http://news.caribseek.com/set-up/exec/view.cgi?archive=157&num=68911 ; and http://www.agriculture.gov.gy/Bulletins/April,%202008/Embryo%20transplant%20underway%20for%20developing%20Texel%20sheep%20locally.html
2. John's previous messages in conferences 13 and 15 are available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C13/040705.htm and http://www.fao.org/BIOTECH/logs/c15/151208.htm respectively...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 09 July 2009 15:02
To: 'biotech-room4@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: End of FAO e-conference on 'learning from the past'

Dear Colleagues,

The last message, (number 121, from John Caesar), has now been posted so Conference 16 of the FAO Biotechnology Forum, entitled "Learning from the past: Successes and failures with agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries over the last 20 years", is now officially closed.

In my (humble) opinion it was a really excellent conference, made rich by the participants' descriptions and analyses of the experiences of the use of agricultural biotechnologies in their own countries worldwide, and I would like to thank all of you who contributed to make it such a success and such an interesting conference.

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 on the web (at http://www.fao.org/biotech/c16doc.htm and http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/abdc/documents/forumbd.pdf) 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/c16logs.htm. I will put the remaining messages on the web, in addition to putting all the 121 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 will 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. The Summary Document will be made available prior to the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-09), that takes place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 2-5 November 2009 (http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/).

For your interest, we can provide some figures about participation in the conference. It ran for one month, from 8 June to 8 July. There were 834 subscribers, who received each of the e-mail messages. Of the 834 people, 83 (i.e. 10%) submitted at least one message. Of the 121 messages that were posted, 33 (27%) came from people living in Asia, mostly from India; 32 (26%) from Africa; 24 (20%) from Latin America and the Caribbean; 16 (13%) from North America; 10 (8%) from Europe; and 6 (5%) from Oceania. The messages came from people living in 36 different countries, the greatest number coming from India (27 messages), Nigeria (12), Argentina (11), United States (9) and Cameroon (5). A total of 90 messages (i.e. 74%) were posted by participants living in developing countries.

Forty eight messages (40%) came from people working in universities; 34 messages (28%) from people working in research centres (28 in national institutes and 6 in CGIAR centres); 12 messages (10%) from people in the private sector; 10 (8%) from participants from non-governmental organisations; 8 (7%) from people working as independent consultants; 6 (5%) from people in Governments; 2 from the UN and 1 from a development agency.

Finally, and most importantly, I wish again 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 Officer (Biotechnology)
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


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