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

This is from Partha P Banerjee, India, again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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