BIOTECHNOLOGY AND AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN DEVELOPING
Property Rights (IPRs) have a fundamental task to play
in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),
as they affect agricultural and rural development in
developing countries. The main impact of IPRs is through
their relationship with the transfer of traditional and
novel agricultural technologies, and IPRs can both support
and hinder sustainable development.
Zakri, from the Institute of Advanced Studies of the
United Nations University, explored some of the key policy
issues and challenges faced by developing countries in
designing IPR regimes that will promote equity. He addressed
participants of the Regional Conference on IPR “Pathways
to Agricultural and Rural Development: Intellectual Property
Rights and Implications”, that concluded this week
in the Philippines.
7.7 million subsistence farmers planted biotech crops
in 2005, so, “regardless of what we may feel about
the technology, the reality of the increasing use of
biotech crops in the developing world and its contribution
to the MDGs needs to be taken into account” says
Zakri. Existing IPR models need to be adapted to the
particular needs of developing countries if they are
to support the MDGs, says Zakri.
policy challenges include issues regarding bioethics
and the limits of IPR regimes; the patenting of life
forms; broad and overlapping patents; the role of publicly-funded
international germplasm banks; and poor understanding
on the socio-economic and environmental impacts of IPRs.
conference was organized by the SEAMEO Regional Center
for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA),
the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI),
and by the International Service for the Acquisition
of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). The Conference
Proceedings will be available at the SEARCA website (http://web.searca.org/home.asp).
FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: ISSUES AND STRATEGIES
are the key challenges to the development of effective
intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes for developing
countries that will protect national biodiversity resources,
and promote sustainable agricultural development for
the benefit of all? How could these be addressed? This
was the task given to participants to the “IPR,
Biodiversity and Biotechnology for the MDGs” workshop,
scheduled as part of the Conference “Pathways to
Agricultural and Rural Development: Intellectual Property
Rights and Implications”, held this week in the
main challenge identified is the lack of institutional
capacity for the management and use of IPR in developing
countries, including technology transfer; negotiation;
IPR assessments and audits; and enforcement mechanisms.
Proposed strategies to promote capacity building include
identifying and using available resources, institutions
and expertise; and designing new appropriate resources
to address specific national needs. Equally important
is to sensitize and enlist national, regional and international
governments to mobilize financial resources for capacity
building in this area.
in the professional education of scientists and lawyers
on IPR and biotechnology, respectively, also constitute
a main challenge. The incorporation of suitable courses
in law and science curricula was therefore recommended.
Additional issues to address include: the lack of appropriate
regulations on access and benefit sharing; the lack of
authoritative studies on the effect of IP on the use
of biotechnology to address MDGs; misunderstandings on
the role of IPR on socio-economic, ethical, and environmental
issues; and restrictive IPR regimes. Therefore, resources
need to be devoted to commission studies that address
these concerns, and the effective information dissemination
strategies to target audiences (policy makers, media
and general public) need to be developed.
information on the workshop, will be available at: http://web.searca.org/home.asp
STUDIES SUGGEST ADOPTION OF GM COTTON
gains to developing countries from the Doha Cotton Initiative
will be even greater if GM cotton is adopted first, providing
yet another reason not to delay approval of this new
biotechnology.” These were forwarded by two World
Bank (WB) reports “The World Trade Organization’s
Doha cotton initiative: A tales of two issues,” and "Recent
and prospective adoption of genetically modified cotton:
A global computable general equilibrium analysis of economic
the first study, authors Kym Anderson and Ernesto Valenzuela
of the WB research group note that subsidy reductions
rather than tariff cuts would create the largest impact.
Such impact would even be doubled if such reform provided
the cash for farmers to take advantage of biotechnology.
the other WB report by K. Anderson, E. Valenzuela, and
Lee Ann Jackson, suggests that adoption of GM cotton
varieties by developing countries especially Sub-Saharan
Africa could provide larger proportionate gains to farmers
and national welfare.
the full reports at: http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/
REPORT URGES PARTIES TO REFOCUS BIOSAFETY DEBATE
The process of the Meetings of the Parties (MOPs) to the Cartagena Protocol
on Biosafety needs to refocus if the Protocol is to serve its role in facilitating
international collaboration on modern biotechnology. This issue was raised
in a recently released report by the Public Research and Regulation Initiative
(PRRI), an organization that offers public researchers a forum through which
they can participate in international negotiations that are relevant for modern
report also urges member governments to refocus the biotech
debate, to ensure that the Protocol can “provide
for effective participation in biotechnological research
activities” as described in Article 19 of the Convention
on Biological Diversity, which is the basis for the Cartagena
Protocol. The PRRI also strongly objects to repeated
attempts to propose bans for scientific research that
have no demonstrated scientific basis, since, “Future
generations are not served by simply putting bans on
possible avenues of scientific research and development
if there are no clear indications that those developments
will pose actual risks that outweigh the numerous benefits,” the
PRRI says in its press release.
report and further information about PRRI can be obtained
from: Kim Meulenbroeks at email@example.com.
Read more about the organization at http://www.pubresreg.org.
URGES KENYAN GOVERNMENT TO GIVE MORE RESEARCH FUNDS
ambassador to Kenya, Elizabeth Jacobsen, urged the Kenyan
government to commit more funds to research, and said
that integrating research into policy making would spur
development. Jacobsen chaired the plenary session of
a workshop organized by the African Economic Research
Consortium (AERC), which will run until the 2nd of June
in Nairobi, Kenya.
“ Researchers would assist the Government in making evidence-based decisions,” she
added. Jacobsen presided over presentations by leading economists on the theme, “Political
Economy and African Economic Development.” About 200 researchers, academicians,
policy makers, and economists from across the African continent are attending
reports from the East African Standard, through http://allafrica.com/stories/200605300185.html.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org,
or read the press release for this workshop at http://www.aercafrica.org/news/
APPROVES GM SOYBEAN OIL, MORE GM COTTON
a recently concluded meeting, India’s Genetic Engineering
Approval Committee (GEAC), the country’s main biotech
regulatory body, approved 19 Bt cotton hybrids. Of these,
13 contain the BG-I event belonging to nine local seed
companies; 2 contain the BG-II event of MAHYCO; 2 contain
the cry1Ac gene of JK seeds; and 1 contains a fusion
of cry1Ab and cryAc, a GFM event of Nath seeds. While
these 18 varieties are approved for cultivation in the
Southern cotton growing zone, a remaining one contains
the MAHYCO BG-II event, and is approved for cultivation
in India’s Central cotton growing zone. This brings
India’s total to 63 new hybrids to be sold in the
2006 season, giving the country’s farmers more
choices on which varieties to cultivate.
a landmark decision, the GEAC also approved GM soybean
oil derived from Round-Up Ready Soybean. According to
GEAC rules, India’s oil trade industry association
may seek a one-time, trait-based approval for the oil,
with accompanying documentation on the soybean oil’s
origin, as well as the declaration that it is derived
from GM soybean. This decision is significant, as individual
importers will not be required to seek GEAC permission
for each consignment.
from the GEAC meeting are available at http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/geac-67.pdf.
For more information, contact Bhagirath Choudhary of
the ISAAA South Asia Office at email@example.com.
ICAR, ICRISAT PARTNER
FOR BETTER AGRICULTURE
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid
Tropics (ICRISAT) have strengthened their partnership
in the area of improving the productivity of rain-fed
crops. In a recently signed agreement, Dr Mangala Rai,
director general of ICAR, and Dr William D Dar, director
general of ICRISAT, said the new pact would benefit dryland
farmers in India. The new agreement will deal with improvement
of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeon pea, and groundnut
the agreement, ICAR and ICRISAT will conduct research
into genetic resources conservation, evaluation, and
utilization; enhancing crop productivity and sustainability
under both favorable and dryland stress environments;
improving system productivity and livelihood for fragile
and dry environment, including socio-economic and policy
options; and strengthening linkage between research and
development, including training. Another project is aimed
at improving rural livelihoods in select Indian states
through bio-diesel plantations.
reports from http://www.hindu.com/2006/05/27/stories/
2006052702541400.htm. Read more at http://www.icrisat.org/
PM CALLS FOR REVITALIZATION OF AGRI RESEARCH SYSTEM
Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, expressed
the government’s commitment to revitalize the country’s
agricultural research system, so that the system could
maintain its sense of innovation, creativity, and sense
of purpose. Dr Singh stated this as he addressed the
International Conference on Agriculture for Food, Nutritional
Security, and Rural Growth in New Delhi, India.
his speech, he lauded the new developments in biotechnology,
as well as new materials and their contribution to agricultural
development. Research into the areas of plants as bio-factories
and producers of drugs, vaccines, biofuels, and bioplastics
could be beneficial to India, the Prime Minister said.
He likewise recommended that a much sharper focus be
given to strategic research in plant technology.
more at http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?
relid=18077&kwd=. For more information, contact Bhagirath Choudhary
of the ISAAA South Asia Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IRRI, ASEAN COOPERATE
TO UP RICE PRODUCTION
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and member
countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN) are working together to develop a series of environmental
indicators for rice production in the region. When implemented,
the indicators will allow each country to monitor and
compare the environmental impact of its rice production
with that of its neighbors, and either correct any problems
or improve on existing practices. These indicators focus
on production, biodiversity, pollution, land degradation,
is the first time anywhere in the world that a series
of indicators is being developed to monitor the impact
of agricultural production on a large regional basis.
According to IRRI Director General Robert S. Zeigler, “This
is an exciting initiative for rice production in the
region that will lead not only to a cleaner, greener
rice industry in Asia but happier, healthier and wealthier
rice farmers as well.”
more information, contact Duncan Macintosh of IRRI at email@example.com.
Visit IRRI online at http://www.irri.org.
INTRODUCES HERBICIDE-TOLERANT SUNFLOWER HYBRIDS
meet the demand for oilseed and biofuel, science company
Dupont has introduced the first sulfonylurea (SU)-tolerant
sunflower hybrids in Europe — Pioneer® brand
sunflower hybrids with the Express® SX Herbicide-Tolerant
trait. The hybrids provide post-emergent control option
for annual broadleaf weeds, a leading problem affecting
reports that with the new hybrids farmers need not rely
on more expensive, less effective pre-emergent options.
Instead farmers have the potential for more yield advantages,
more weed management flexibility, and improved control
Express® Herbicide Tolerant Sunflower seed is derived
from traditional plant-breeding methods. A herbicide-tolerant
trait, proprietary to DuPont, was integrated into the
germplasm of high-yielding sunflower hybrids.
more on the new sunflower hybrids at http://pioneer.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=press_releases
BY ARS PROJECT PUTS SCAB DOWN
from the Agricultural Research Service of the United
States Department of Agriculture (ARS-USDA) have successfully
used a technique called Virus-Induced Gene Silencing
(VIGS) to find scab-resistance genes in wheat and barley
seed heads. A team headed by geneticist Steven Scofield
developed the test, which temporarily incapacitates wheat
or barley genes thought to be important to scab resistance,
to see if the plant’s scab resistance also disappears
the test is part of a wide initiative that has allowed
farmers and scientists to work together to combat scab,
also known as Fusarium head blight. Scab is
one of the most devastating wheat and barley diseases
worldwide, and there are only a few varieties with effective
levels of resistance to the disease. This new scab test
is much quicker and more efficient than previously developed
ones, and can thus assure scientists that they will be
able to find the resistance genes sooner.
the complete press release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/
MAKES BETTER ANTIBODIES
have the potential to be vaccine factories: they can
express vaccines in large quantities, and can pave the
way for the production of edible vaccines. Plants, however,
express antibody genes in a different way: a structural
group in antibodies, called the N-glycans, is different
between plants and animals. The N-glycans of plant-derived
antibodies contain xylose and fucose (named carbohydrate
epitopes), which can generate an immune reaction in humans,
posing a very serious problem for vaccine production.
Bakker and colleagues from Wageningen University and
Research Center aimed to restore function to plant-produced
antibodies, by expressing along the gene encoding the
antibody, a second gene, GalT, which removes the unwanted
carbohydrate residues. The authors report their findings
in the article “An antibody produced in tobacco
expressing a hybrid -1,4-galactosyltransferase is essentially
devoid of plant carbohydrate epitopes,” published
in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences.
replaced a region of the gene for the human GalT enzyme
with its corresponding region in Arabidopsis,
allowing the enzyme to be expressed in plant cells. This
fusion gene yielded a hybrid enzyme, xylGalT, which was
expressed in tobacco cells along with a monoclonal antibody.
When scientists carried out N-glycan profiling, they
found that monoclonal antibodies from the transgenic
plants expressing xylGalT had fewer xylose and fucose
residues. When tested with grass pollen protein and sera
of allergic patients, these antibodies had much lower
immunogenicity than antibodies from transgenic plants
that did not express xylGalT.
techniques can thus be used to produce more efficient
antibodies, with much lower immunogenicity, without compromising
their therapeutic efficacy. For more information, read
the complete article at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/20/7577.
QTL FOUND TO BACK UP BT
working on improving soybean have faced several obstacles
when working on insect resistance for the crop. Resistance
to insects in soybean is a quantitatively inherited trait – that
is, more than one gene is involved in the insect resistance
process, and simple backcrossing will not transfer all
insect resistance genes. Genetic engineering could assist
in making soybeans resistant to pest, but Bt genes are
widely used, raising issues about the evolution of resistance
in susceptible insect populations. To engineer insect
resistance into soybean, scientists have to not only
introduce Bt genes into soybean cells, but to find, characterize,
and use native soybean insect resistance genes to manage
insect resistance, as well as broaden the resistance
of plants with Bt genes.
Zhua and colleagues from the University of Georgia, USA
undertake the “Fine Mapping of a Major Insect Resistance
QTL in Soybean and its Interaction with Minor Resistance
QTLs.” Their article, published in a recent issue
of Crop Science, mapped a major quantitative trait locus
(QTL-M) for insect resistance from soybean, which controls
antibiosis (the ability of a crop to excrete one or several
metabolites that can harm organisms) and antixenosis
(the ability of a plant to keep pests from colonizing
study aimed to fine map QTL-M, as well as to evaluate
the effects on and interactions between it and other
resistance QTLs using the Benning soybean cultivar, which
is susceptible to defoliating insects. These QTLs were
introgressed into the Benning cultivar using marker-assisted
backcrossing to produce eight near-isogenic lines (NILs).
These NILs were then tested for antixenosis and antibiosis.
found that two minor resistance QTLs provided insect
resistance only when QTL-M was also present. This is
important, since QTL-M has also been shown to increase
the effectiveness of the Bt transgene in soybean, and
can thus be used in future resistance engineering efforts.
to Crop Science can read the complete article at http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/3/1094.
TO HOST INTERNATIONAL BIOTECH CONFERENCE
will host the 3rd International Biotechnology Asia 2006
Conference from August 10 to 11, 2006 with the theme "Convergence
of biotechnology and nanotechnology.” Putra World
Trade Center, the conference venue, expects over 150 delegates.
comprising corporate leaders, policy makers, academicians,
researchers, and entrepreneurs. For more information, visit http://www.biotechexpo.com.my.
SCIENCE CONFERENCE SLATED IN BELGIUM
in Bioscience for Animal and Human Health” will take
place on June 7, 2006 in Brussels, Belgium. The conference
will highlight major bioscience developments and scientific
solutions that could prevent diseases and reduce animal
and human health risks in Europe. Included are parallel
sessions on “Plant-Cell-Produced Technologies - Cutting
edge approach to bringing highly novel and differentiated
solutions to the market.” Admission is free. Online
registration and the detailed programme are available at http://www.isc-europe.com/dasconference/registration.php.
For more information, visit http://www.isc-europe.com/
LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE
celebration of 35 years of research partnership dedicated
to improving the lives of smallholder rice farmers in Africa,
the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) has launched its new website,
with a stronger focus on partnership success. Visit WARDA
at its new home online, at http://www.warda.org.