[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: 25 June 2009 10:48
Subject: 63: Experiences with low cost micropropagation
This is E.M. Muralidharan from India, again.
The message by Diogenes Infante (nr. 38) points to a good approach in bringing micropropagation technology to small regional labs run by the producers. Even though the technology has come of age, I think too little has been done the world over to harness its full potential, except perhaps by the ornamental plant industry. There is also a lot of scope for simple 'low cost micropropagation' for several crop species. One can learn from the orchid industry in Thailand where micropropagation is done in small household labs. This is the kind of technology that should work in all developing countries for a wide range of crops. In my own experience with forestry species, low cost and simple micropropagation technology for bamboo, teak and several medicinal plants appears feasible and I am now looking at the possibility of training small groups consisting mainly of rural women and setting up small production units.
I would like to learn through this conference about the aspects that are to be considered when such a technology is being transferred from 'the lab to land'. I expect it to be quite different from a transfer of technology to a private entrepreneur.
The publication on 'Low cost options for tissue culture technology in developing countries' (http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/te_1384_web.pdf - 1 MB), gives a good overview of the low cost options in micropropagation.
Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi, Thrissur 680653
emmurali (at) gmail.com
[The 106-page publication he refers to above was released by the Plant Breeding and Genetic Section of the joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture in 2004. It was prepared on the basis of contributions made at a meeting on "Low cost tissue culture technology for developing countries", held on 26-30 August 2002 in Vienna, Austria. It describes options for reducing costs in the establishment and operation of plant tissue culture facilities and focuses primarily on plant micropropagation. It includes the basics of tissue culture technology, bioreactors, low-cost options in the design of laboratories, use of media and containers, energy and labour saving, integration and adoption of low cost options, increasing plant survival after propagation, and outreach of material to growers and farmers in developing countries...Moderator].
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:04
Subject: 64: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past
This is Viviana Echenique from Argentina again.
This is a short comment about molecular markers and marker-assisted selection (MAS) in breeding programs in Argentina. The second part of my email is related to GMOs.
Related to wheat breeders and MAS:
Wheat breeding in Argentina is conducted in general by small-medium size companies. Most of them lack their own laboratories and scientists or technicians trained to develop or implement molecular markers to assist selection. In general, these companies have established collaborations with different institutions, in general public institutions like Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria (INTA), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (CONICET) institutes or universities in order to have access to the MAS technology focused mainly on introgression of disease resistance genes, and end-use quality.
When we tried to apply for the project we had to have the agreement of the private sector, the final users of the technology, and that agreement meant to put an amount of money. It was a very difficult task to organize the project because in our country (I do not know about the rest of Latin America), private companies do not like to (or are not get used to) invest in long-term research projects (and four years is not so long? I think), at least this was our experience. Breeders want results in short time without spending money! I understand that now wheat is not a very profitable crop but we need to think about the future and go ahead developing our own technology, especially if you look around at other countries with economies based on commodities like Australia, Canada, USA. Although exhausting, it was a good exercise for the researchers to negotiate with companies.
At the end, the project was granted and the companies agreed to support part of it. And now we are working together in our first year of the project. I think the next step will be easier if they feel that we can understand each other and breeders can use our results in breeding programs. This is not the first approach with companies, but is the first one as a network. Still I think we need for the near future, between researchers and breeders, a transference unit to bring lab facilities to the companies or the companies themselves organizing their own laboratory facilities to make use of the technology.
Related to GMOs and Messages 47 (Eduardo Trigo) and 52 (Wayne Parrott), I know it is a very complex situation, with many variables. When the conquerors from Europe came to America centuries ago they did it with the tools they used to work in their countries, some of them not well suited for the conditions here in our pampas. They modified the environment but this was a slow process (more than 200 years). Biotechnology was a revolution in only 20 years! We need to face up with it and analyze the benefits and problems. I know about the good program of the Asociacion Argentina de Productores en Siembra Directa (AAPRESID), the excellent regulatory program of the Comision Nacional Asesora de Biotecnologia Agropecuaria (CONABIA) and the change in our economy that transgenic soybean represented. But we still need to be careful and analyze the variables and not minimize the risks of harming the environment considering long term impact of these technologies. It is a highly profitable extremely recent technology which has been widely accepted by farmers in a very short time period.
Dpto. de Agronomia (UNS)
San Andres 800
8000 - Bahia Blanca
email: echeniq (at) criba.edu.ar
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:09
Subject: 65: Biotechnologies - Nepal
My name is Dhruba Pathak, a citizen of Nepal. My educational background is in M.Sc Toxicology from Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi, India. I used to be part-time lecturer in Toxicology in National college, Lazimpat in Nepal.
I would like thank FAO for organizing the email conference. Although, my current profession is not in the field of biotechnology. However, I have some idea about biotechnology in Nepal.
I don't see a single biotechnology company/institution that is famous in Nepal. The only known reason is lack of resources and skilled manpower. The Government does not have the resources to support potential candidates to pursue their goal in biotechnology, which directly implies that biotechnology doesn't fall under the government priority in Nepal. If in past twenty years, the developed nations had given the chance or significant scholarship to motivated students, we might already have made a biotechnology domain in the farmers field than in the book.
School of Biology, Department of Neuroscience
Studentski trg, 11000
Email: pathakdhruba (at) gmail.com
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:14
Subject: 66: Re: Markers - mapping populations - tef - wheat
I am Professor P.K. Gupta from Meerut, India (Message 2) again in response to the message by Harjit Singh (Message 60).
I wish to emphasize that although development of mapping populations is very important and has given rich dividends in detection of important quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for a variety of traits in a number of crops, leading to the use of these markers for marker-assisted selection (MAS) in a number of crops, there is yet another powerful approach that needs to be exploited. This is "Association Mapping", which has proved its utility in humans and also in some crops like maize, rice, barley and wheat. It would be desirable to exploit this technology further due to following reasons; (i) mapping populations have the limitations of exploiting genetic variation associated with only two genotypes used as parents with each mapping population; and (ii) it takes time to develop a mapping population in a crop where no mapping populations have been developed. Therefore either one needs to utilize multiparent advanced generation intercrosses (MAGIC) to exploid wider range of variation or else utilize association mapping involving large and diverse germplasm.
Also, in MAS, generally marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) has been the major approach to be used with conventional plant breeding, but one needs to exploit forward breeding, where traits or QTLs from both parents are combined and no background selection is really needed. This is being practised in Australia for marker-assisted wheat breeding programmes. Marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) is another approach, which has been tried by Monsanto in corn, soybean and sunflower, but needs to be practised by plant breeders in developing countries for all major crops.
Professor P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Choudhury Charan Singh University (Meerut University)
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) gmail.com
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:30
Subject: 67: Some perspectives on Philippine biotech
I am Sonny Tababa, managing the biotechnology affairs of CropLife Asia (CLA). CLA promotes the benefits and responsible use of crop protection and plant biotechnology products, as well as sound regulatory frameworks in support of sustainable agriculture in the Asia-Pacific (www.croplifeasia.org). Previously, my biotechnology engagements were with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Agriculture and Graduate Study-Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC) and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD).
Looking back. In my 15 years at PCARRD, I had the opportunity to coordinate reseach and development (R and D) programs in ornamentals, legumes, corn, fruits, coconut, and the Crops Biotechnology R and D Program. We had on-farm piloting of technologies including biotechnology. After successfully demonstrating that the technology can work on the ground, institutional arrangements were firmed up with national and local governments for inclusion in its agriculture development programs.
Mass propagation techniques such as tissue culture supported the thriving cutflower industry and in introducing new varieties especially for orchids and anthuriums. Tissue culture technologies made large scale banana plantations viable. Also, it contributed in making available disease-free planting materials of banana used in rehabilitating farms diseased with banana bunchy-top virus. Many tissue culture laboratories were set up either publicly (government, academia) or privately-owned. The tissue-culture derived planting materials of banana and ornamentals were relatively affordable. The private sector-large, medium, small-scale and backyard growers benefited in many ways. In coconuts, we supported the establishment of some laboratories to carry out mass production of mutant coconuts through embryo-rescue. Plantations of mutant coconuts remain low because production costs are high such that seedlings are relatively expensive, and production is comparatively low to meet demand. On the other hand, the use of biofertilizers was promoted in corn and rice. Its success I think lies in the continuing farmer education of its use and benefits, its inclusion in the package of technology adopted by the National Corn Program, and the continuing government financial support towards production of biofertilizers. Our programs focused on public-sector developed biotechnologies.
In 1997, the Bt corn debate brewed. We were just starting with our Crops Biotechnology R and D Program, aimed to develop improved crops through genetic engineering. The science community felt that if it would not help in public education program on biotechnology, non-science based decisions might be made which could adversely affect local research on biotechnology and eventually deprive the country to benefit from a useful tool. Hence, the academia actively participated in government information programs together with other non-government organizations. On the other hand, capacities were built on biosafety and developing science-based regulatory frameworks, a continuing strategy to this day. The public sector has GM crops in the pipeline like Vitamin A-enhanced rice, Bt eggplant, and papaya with delayed ripening trait or ringspot-virus resistance-all under varying stages of trials. Researchers are struggling with funds to support research and compliance to biosafety regulations. Like other developing countries, government's investment to R and D, let alone biotechnology, is little compared to Asian tigers China, Japan, or Korea. In December 2002 when the regulations for environmental release of GMOs were approved, farmers were eager to try the Bt corn technology and planted it immediately on January 2003. In 2008, about 400,000 hectares are planted to biotech corn (Bt corn, herbicide resistant corn, stacked corn) demonstrating its benefits to farmers. These new corn technologies need to be used appropriately and in combination with good agricultural practices.
Among the factors that facilitated technology adoption are support, political and financial, from national and local governments and partners; entrepreneurs willing to further develop the technology into highly viable commercial products; strong agricultural extension; and functional science-based biosafety regulations.
Sonny P. Tababa
Biotechnology Affairs Manager
17 A Everton Road
Tel: +65 6221 1615 ext 107
Fax: +65 6222 1615
sonny (at) croplifeasia.org
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:38
Subject: 68: Identifying similar problems from the past
This is from C Tom Hash, India, again.
Across several of the postings similar problems have been noted regarding applying biotechnologies in developing countries in the past. First and foremost, biotechnology is simply a suite of tools. Powerful as these tools are, they cannot be used successfully to generate applied products that can be used by society at large if they are used in isolation from other sets of tools such as those of conventional applied microbiology, plant breeding or livestock breeding. Further, even potentially useful products are unlikely to be adopted and used by society unless there is a perceived need for these products and they are accessible where they are needed, when they are needed, in sufficient quantity, in an acceptable quality for the investment required by users, and more economically attractive alternatives are not available.
In my opinion, this means that biotechnology applications will be most successful when they are used to address problems that are difficult or expensive (in terms of time or other resources) to address by other more conventional means, and that use of the biotech tools needs to be strongly linked to applied product development, testing, and delivery systems (that address regulatory issues, multiplication issues and marketing issues ...). This means that public-sector biotechnology research will generally need to have strong links to the private sector if it is have a high likelihood of delivering successful applied products within a reasonable time frame. This is particularly true in developing countries, and may make it difficult to apply biotechnology in the short term to targets that have very small markets or where much of product delivery and dissemination occurs via informal or traditional technology exchange systems.
However, this does not mean that we should not make research investments in biotechnology tool development for species that are not already the target of large-scale private-sector investment----just that we should be careful to focus such investments (of facilities, human resources, and operational funds) on high priority trait x species combinations and use of economically appropriate approaches that take into consideration the regulatory and marketing issues associated with applied product delivery. This is of course, much easier said than done.
C Tom Hash
Principal Scientist (Breeding)
Andhra Pradesh 502 324
Email: c.hash (at) cgiar.org
Tel: +91-40-3071-3322 (direct) or +91-40-3071-3071 extn 2322
Sent: 25 June 2009 11:54
Subject: 69: Re: Biotechnologies - Nepal
My name is Peter McGrath, Programmes Assistant at TWAS (www.twas.org), an organization dedicated to building scientific capacity in developing countries.
In response to message 65 and indirectly to several others (e.g. Message 62 from El Salvador), I would just like to point out that TWAS operates a number of South-South fellowship programmes that enable young scientists from developing countries to carry out postgraduate (i.e. obtain a PhD) or postdoc research in centres of excellence in other developing countries. Two specific programmes are of particular interest to this forum. One is with the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India - which offers a number of fellowships each year in leading biotech labs in India. Deadline 31 August. The other is a new agreement with the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), Thailand, this time for postdoc research only at BIOTEC-linked labs in Thailand. Deadline 15 September. Details of eligibility criteria etc are at www.twas.org > Programmes > Exchange > Fellowships.
Strada Costiera 11
Tel: +39 040 2240 571
Fax: +39 040 224559
Email: mcgrath (at) twas.org
Sent: 25 June 2009 18:25
Subject: 70: Re: Biotech developments in Argentina in the past
This is Alejandro Escandon from Argentina again.
In general terms, I am in agreement with Viviana Echenique (message 64). In relationship to the GMOs point (soybeans, specifically), I would like to add that a state policy is required to regulate the situation, encouraging farmers to practice crop rotation. In our case, the fault is not of the GMOs, actually, the cultural practice is (soybean every year) that will bring problems in the long term.
Dr. Alejandro Salvio Escandon
Instituto de Floricultura (CIRN-INTA)
Los Reseros y Las Cabanas s/n
B1712WAA - Castelar
Provincia de Buenos Aires
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