FAO launches new e-mail list on biotechnology
To inform policy-makers and technical decision-makers about current developments and issues in agricultural biotechnology, and to brief scientists on the wider policy, regulatory and agricultural development aspects of their work, FAO recently launched FAO-BiotechNews -- an e-mail list containing information relevant to the application of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries.
Subscribers to the list receive periodic updates, issued at least once a month, containing brief news and event items focusing on FAO's work and the work of its main UN and non-UN partners. If available, relevant Web links or e-mail addresses are included so that users can obtain further information.
FAO-BiotechNews covers the crop, forestry, animal, fishery and agro-industrial sectors. For the purposes of the list, the term biotechnology includes a range of technologies, such as gene manipulation and transfer, the use of molecular markers, development of recombinant vaccines and DNA-based methods of disease characterization and diagnosis, in-vitro vegetative propagation of plants, embryo transfer and other reproductive technologies in animals or increasing the number of chromosome sets in fish.
The information provided may deal with the implications and importance of agricultural biotechnology for food security, sustainable use of biodiversity, the environment and food safety. It may also cover the socio-economic, policy, technical, legal (including intellectual property rights) and ethical aspects of agricultural biotechnology.
Subscriptions to the list are free of charge. The updates are in English, with relevant links listed in other languages when available. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org leaving the subject field blank and entering the following text message:
No other text (e.g., mail signature) should be added to the message.
For additional information, contact the Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews via e-mail at FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org.
6 February 2002
Accurate statistics on food and agriculture are critical for governments trying to understand this key economic sector and predict and plan its future. FAO has the world's largest collection of such statistics, which pour into the Organization's headquarters in Rome from many countries, having been collected in myriad ways and with varying levels of care. How does the Organization vouch for their accuracy?
An important FAO initiative -- the first of its kind -- now rates each country's data quality, giving it a green light for good, amber for "use with caution" or a red light for poor. The database, called ABCDQ, helps users evaluate data quality with background information such as the source of country data, for example, whether it is collected by census, sampling or from administrative records or even expert judgement. In addition to each country's collection methods, the database also contains an overview of which crops and livestock are covered, data formats and periodicity. Finally, contact names and details of government statisticians are provided so a determined researcher may contact the data owner directly to investigate further.
"The demand for agricultural statistics is enormous -- over 19 million records were downloaded from FAOSTAT, FAO's online statistical database, during last July alone," says Ted Gillin, who is in charge of basic agricultural data at FAO. "Our customers are not only governments but universities, students and the private sector."
"We are attempting with ABCDQ to grade the data, and we invite feedback on our ratings," he says. "Our purpose is to give data users all the background they need to weigh the quality and completeness of the numbers but also to encourage countries to improve their rating."
In a few months, FAO will turn over responsibility for updating ABCDQ to government ministries of agriculture and statistics offices in the countries themselves. Statisticians will access the database using a password and update their own numbers and background information -- and give themselves a green, amber or red light for quality. "We have faith in our member countries' ability to rate their own statistics fairly," says Mr Gillin. "And we are always here to assist governments in assessing their data-gathering activities."
28 January 2002