[For further information on the Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and
Agriculture see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 03 July 2009 11:32
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
dinfante (at) idea.gob.ve
Sent: 03 July 2009 11:54
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 frameworki) Biosafety Policy
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
[This thread on the current status of biosafety regulations/law in Nigeria is now closed...Moderator]
Sent: 03 July 2009 13:18
Subject: FAO e-conference extended to 8 July
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,
Sent: 03 July 2009 15:14
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
Consortium of Commercial Plant Tissue culture Laboratories (India)
12/44, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar
Mobile: +91 953508 7576
Ph. : +91 80 41109273 (O)
E-mail: dineshkumar_ma (at) hotmail.com or dinesh (at) lowestc.com.au
Sent: 03 July 2009 16:33
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,
Comite National de la Recherche Agricole (CNRA)
P.O.Box : E1911,
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]