[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: 12 June 2009 14:07
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
06110 Halle (Saale)
Phone: 0049-345 - 27 98 352
Fax: 0049-345 - 27 98 356
E-Mail: Katzek (at) biomitteldeutschland.de
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:08
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.
National Root Crops Research Institute,
cegesi (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:09
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)
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.
LAB Research Inc.
445, boul. Armand Frappier
Canada H7V 4B3
Tel.: 450-973-2240, Ext.1102
jose.moro at mail.mcgill.ca
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:11
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.
parthabanerjee (at) aol.in
Cell: +91 9849100026
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:12
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
P. Bag X1, 7600
email: farai (at) sun.ac.za
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:12
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,
obadinaw (at) yahoo.co.uk
Sent: 12 June 2009 14:38
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.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20523-3800
Email: lbeach (at) usaid.gov
Sent: 12 June 2009 15:03
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
Email:yongabi (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 12 June 2009 15:26
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.
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
Sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty
Email: j.falck-zepeda (at) cgiar.org
My CV wiki: http://josefalckzepeda.pbwiki.com/
Brief Bio/Pubs: http://www.ifpri.org/srstaff/falckzepedaj.asp
Skype User: josefalck
Sent: 12 June 2009 15:40
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.
Department of Clinical Pathology
Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research
University of Ghana
Sent: 12 June 2009 17:03
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
PO Box 565-A,
e-mail: peralta (at) ccg.unam.mx