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-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:43
To: '[email protected]'
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,
e-mail: trigoej (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:44
To: '[email protected]'
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
718.340.4275 (fax)

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:45
To: '[email protected]'
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
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: '[email protected]'
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,
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,
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: '[email protected]'
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
rusmanson (at)yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod4
Sent: 16 June 2009 11:47
To: '[email protected]'
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
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: '[email protected]'
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: '[email protected]'
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.

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