[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: 08 July 2009 09:20
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
Tel. 54 221 423 6758
Fax. 54 221 425 2346
E-mail: investigaciones (at) agro.unlp.edu.ar
Sent: 08 July 2009 10:00
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
prakash (at) tuskegee.edu
Sent: 08 July 2009 10:14
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
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.
Sent: 08 July 2009 11:03
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
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,
Tel: 7995788, 3495647-271, 274
email: dzuniga (at) lamolina.edu.pe
Sent: 08 July 2009 11:27
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
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
Sent: 08 July 2009 11:39
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
The University of Western Australia
MO 84 school of plant biology,
faculty of natural and agricultural sciences,
35, stirling highway,
Ph.: +61 8 64881991
ecoagripolicy (at) gmail.com
Sent: 08 July 2009 12:45
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,
+91-94435 67327 (Mobile)
email: subbarayansivakumar (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 08 July 2009 15:15
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)
tsvisesh (at) yahoo.co.in
Sent: 08 July 2009 15:32
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
Kerala Forest Research Institute
emmurali (at) gmail.com
Sent: 08 July 2009 18:41
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
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:
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
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: email@example.com.
Piet van der Meer
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,
Email: info (at) pubresreg.org