FOOD PRIZE WINNERS ANNOUNCED
2006 World Food Prize went to three men who played a
vital role in transforming the Cerrado, a region in Brazil,
from a vast infertile tropical high plain to a highly
productive cropland. Sharing the prize of $250,000 are
former Brazil Minister of Agriculture H.E. Alysson Paolinelli
and former Technical Director of EMBRAPA Cerrado Research
Center Edson Lobato, both of Brazil; and Washington Representative
of the IRI Research Institute, A. Colin McClung of the
joint efforts enabled Brazil to benefit from advancements
in soil science and policy research that helped increase
agricultural production and improve socio-economic conditions
in the country. World Food Prize Foundation President
Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn noted that from 1970 to 2000
agricultural production more than tripled while its area
of cultivated land grew less than 1.5 times. He added
that their research continues to promote agricultural
development and poverty alleviation in other tropical
and sub-tropical countries throughout the world.
World Food Prize, established in 1986, is the foremost
international award for achievements that significantly
increase the quality, quantity, or availability of food
in the world.
more about the World Food Prize recipients at
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTS POLICY ON GMOS
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, a global
alliance of churches and related agencies working to
save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide,
has adopted a policy on the use of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) in emergencies. It will be used to guide
its members when responding to humanitarian disasters.
of the eight guidelines in the new policy on food distributions
and GMOs during emergency operations recommends that “if
the distribution of donated GM food is unavoidable, in
order to alleviate a serious hunger situation if there
is no other alternative and timely solution, ACT members
will make sure that everyone benefiting from the distribution
knows where the food comes from and whether the food
has been genetically modified or not. And all beneficiaries
will have the right to choose and decide if they want
the food or not.”
principles underpin the policy – 1) the precautionary
principle, where the burden of proof of harmlessness
of a new technology lies with the proponent rather than
the consumer; 2) right to food; and 3) the right to know
about the nature of the food people eat.
of the policy can be obtained at
ON DEVELOPING NATIONAL BIOSAFETY FRAMEWORKS
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)-GEF National
Biosafety Framework (NBF) Development Program has released “Building
biosafety capacity in developing countries: Experiences
of the UNEP-GEF Project on development of national biosafety
frameworks”. Among the key lessons learned from
an analysis of country experiences are:
process of building capacity is a dynamic one, and
an integral part of a capacity building project is
the flexibility to ensure that the project remains
responsive to the countries’ changing needs.
is a need for a country to balance a realistic and
achievable project timeframe while creating a momentum
for better pacing throughout the process.
sustainability, internal knowledge sharing and management
systems need to be established within each country
during a project’s lifetime.
dissemination and sharing is a crucial ingredient of
report notes that the lessons learned from these experiences
could help those countries currently drafting their NBF
and in the design of future capacity building initiatives
in biosafety, as well as those in support of other multi-lateral
the full report at http://www.unep.ch/biosafety/
PRESIDENT COMMENDS, REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR WARDA
Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, commended the Africa Rice Center
(WARDA) for the “wonderful job” it has been
doing. He also reaffirmed the government’s full
support to the Center, so that it can make more research
breakthroughs like the New Rice for Africa (NERICA),
which he dubbed as “a miracle rice for Africa.” This
occurred during a recent private audience granted to
a delegation from WARDA.
government has taken a strong interest in boosting local
rice production through the Presidential Rice Initiative.
Obasanjo affirmed that by the end of 2007, Nigeria would
be self-sufficient in rice.
In related news, Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, currently the Director General of
the Senegal Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA) and Advisor to the Prime
Minister of Senegal, has been appointed as WARDA’s incoming Director
General. For more information, visit http://www.warda.org
PLANTS GET CHANCE TO BE BIOFUEL SOURCES
in the U.S. are worried that the current demand for biofuels
may channel corn, an ethanol source, to fuel production,
depleting the food supply and possibly forcing the country
to import the crop. This concern has prompted scientists
to search for other biofuel sources – according
to one Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher,
the native mesquite may be a good candidate.
of Texas is densely covered with enough mesquite to provide
fuel for 400 small ethanol refineries, says Dr. Jim Ansley,
who is studying the feasibility of developing the biofuel
industry in rural West Central Texas. If other woods
in the area, such as red berry juniper, will be considered,
there may be enough fuel for as many as 1,000 refineries.
to Ansley, one ton of mesquite wood will yield about
200 gallons of ethanol. Research is now underway to study
the different sizes and densities of mesquite, and look
at the time needed to harvest it, the fuel used by refinery
machinery, and then factor that into the total cost per
more information, read the complete article at http://agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/
RNEC/Jun2106a.htm, or visit http://vernon.tamu.edu/brush
GROWERS SUPPORT NEW BIODIESEL ACT
American Soybean Association (ASA) applauded the Renewable
Fuels and Energy Independence Promotion Act, a bill meant
to make permanent the biodiesel tax incentive and the
small agri-biodiesel producer credits championed by the
ASA. The bill was introduced by U.S. Representatives
Kenny Hulshof and Earl Pomeroy, and amends the Internal
Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent important incentives
for biodiesel and ethanol.
current excise tax is extended for biodiesel, as well
as biodiesel mixtures, through 2008. The small agri-biodiesel
producer credit is also currently in effect through the
same time, and provides producers, with annual capacity
not exceeding 60 million gallons, an income tax credit
worth 10 cents per gallon on up to 15 million gallons
of agri-biodiesel produced in a tax year.
growers can visit the ASA Legislative Action Center at http://www.soygrowers.com to
make their voice heard on the Act. For more information
contact Bob Metz, ASA President, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the complete article at
STATE U WORKS ON ITS BIOFUEL RESEARCH
on biofuels is now speeding up at Iowa State University:
the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation has committed $1 million
to the Iowa State College of Agriculture to support the
university-wide Bioeconomy Initiative, which develops
technologies for converting crops and plant materials
into chemicals, fuels, fibers, and energy.
State University is engaged in various projects related
to biofuels. For instance, scientists are using ultrasonics
to break corn pieces into finer particles, exposing more
of the corn’s starch to enzymes that will help
convert the starch to simple sugars. Laboratory experiments
have shown that this treatment can result in a nearly
30% increase in corn’s release rates of sugars,
which translates to more ethanol. Another laboratory
is also working on a mold that produces enzymes that
can aid in ethanol extraction from corn.
projects at the university involve creating biobased
polymers from a byproduct of biodiesel production; developing
enzyme-laced water systems to process soybeans to replace
petroleum-based chemicals; and using corn-stover biomass
to produce a nitrogen-rich substance that enriches the
soil and sequesters carbon from the air.
more at http://www.iastate.edu/~nscentral/news/
OUTBREAK CAUSES PAPAYA MARKET WOES IN THAILAND
outbreak of Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV) has spurred
an increase in papaya prices in Thailand. According to
Dr. Wilai Prasartsri, Director of Agricultural Research
and Development of the country’s Department of
Agriculture (DOA) said that the virus can be effectively
controlled by PRSV-resistant biotech papaya developed
by the DOA. This papaya, however, cannot be made available
to growers due to current government regulation.
Nirand Rangupjai, a representative of papaya growers
from Thailand’s Chantaburi Province, said that
PRSV was observed in every papaya field in that area.
There are no effective measures to control the virus.
Mr. Nivat Pakvises, a farmer from Samutsakorn Province,
wants the DOA to fully test the biotech papaya, and release
it for planting if it is found to be safe. “Now
we have to depend on [ourselves] to solve [the] PRSV
problem,” he added.
reports from Naewna, as translated by Thailand’s
Biotechnology Information Center (http://www.safetybio.com/).
TO BOOST FARM RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
Union Cabinet of the Government of India recently approved
a number of proposals, including a US$250 Million (Rs.
1189.99 crore) National Agricultural Innovation Project
(NAIP), with 75% funding from the World Bank as credit,
and with the rest to be shouldered by the Government
of India. The six-year project will start in July 2006,
and will comprise the following: a) the Indian Council
of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as the catalyzing agent
for the management of change of the Indian National Agricultural
Research System; b) research on production to consumption
systems; c) research on sustainable rural livelihood
security; and d) basic and strategic research in the
frontier areas of agricultural science.
Union Cabinet also approved an additional Rs 200 crore
to strengthen agriculture education.
more information, visit http://pib.nic.in/release/
release.asp?relid=18613 and http://pib.nic.in/release/
release.asp?relid=18614, or contact Bhagirath Choudhary of the ISAAA South
Asia Office at email@example.com.
SEES GRAIN STRENGTH IN THREE CIS COUNTRIES
Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, members of the Commonwealth
of Independent States (CIS), are growing to be an important
force in the global wheat, barley, and maize markets.
This is according to a recent article in World Grain,
which takes a look at the CIS and how agriculture is
booming in the former Soviet states.
CIS was once plagued with decreased farming investments,
which led to lower yields and crop production, but the
situation has improved in recent years. Russia, Ukraine,
and Kazakhstan, in particular, are the three primary
exporters of grain in the CIS. Prospects for further
growth as a grain exporter are “outstanding” for
the CIS, the article reports.
limitations, such as occasional poor grain quality, logistical
restrictions, and lack of business links to new sales
markets, the CIS is the world’s second largest
exporter of wheat, shipping 15 to 20 million tons per
year. The CIS countries play an even greater role in
the global barley market, with the three principal countries
accounting for about one-third of global barley trade.
The CIS is also a large exporter of maize, thanks to
a rise in overall production, especially in Ukraine.
Rye, feed peas, and millet are also exported from the
CIS countries, which have become a large supplier of
more information on the article, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the complete article at http://www.world-grain.com/feature_stories.asp?
LATE BLIGHT, MALARIA SHARE INFECTION STRATEGY
microbes can cause disease by secreting proteins into
their host cells, whether plant or animal. For instance, Plasmodium
falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, and Phytophthora
infestans, which causes Late Blight in potato, both
produce proteins that alter host cell functions. Both
microbes also export these proteins to the host cell
by the action of gene sequences that contain a host-targeting
recent study shows that although P. falciparum and P.
infestans affect two different kinds of host cell,
they share similar strategies in delivering toxic proteins
to their host. Moreover, according to authors Souvik
Bhattacharjee and colleagues of Northwestern University
and Ohio State University, “The Malarial Host-Targeting
Signal Is Conserved in the Irish Potato Famine Pathogen.” The
article appears in the latest issue of Pathogens, a journal
by the Public Library of Science.
took the host targeting signal from P. infestans,
and used it to express the green fluorescent protein
in red blood cells, the host of P. falciparum.
The protein was exported into red blood cells, indicating
that export was dependent not on the infecting agent,
but on a certain sequence motif that both pathogens shared.
Further experimentation showed that although the host
targeting signal were necessary, it was still not sufficient
to determine complete export of the protein to a host
cell. The equivalence of the signals in both pathogens,
however, is important for plant immunology studies: the
signal sequence is perceived by plant resistance proteins
and induces hypersensitive plant cell death. According
to the authors, their findings can allow for the possible
development of new targets for therapeutics that will
work against both pathogens.
the article through http://pathogens.plosjournals.org/
journal.ppat.0020050 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/
TRACKS AMINO ACID CONTENT IN RICE GRAINS
half of the world’s population relies on rice for
nutrients and energy. Rice, however, is only about 7%
protein, which is low compared with other cereals. Humans,
moreover, cannot digest rice seed storage proteins completely.
Knowing which genes are responsible for rice storage
protein composition and digestibility would allow scientists
to design rice with more proteins and free amino acids,
to increase the grain’s nutritional qualities.
Compared with proteins, free amino acids would also make
rice easier to digest.
Rice seed storage proteins accumulate in special vacuoles called protein bodies.
Two kinds exist in rice: protein body I (PB-I) contains prolamins and makes
up 20% of milled rice protein; protein body II (PB-II), on the other hand,
contains glutelins and a 26 kDa globulin that together make up 60% of milled
rice protein. In the latest issue of the Journal of Cereal Science, Kanae Ashida
and colleagues of the National Agricultural Research Center for Western Region,
Japan, find that “Lack of 26 kDa globulin accompanies increased free
amino acid content in rice (Oryza sativa L.) grains.”
analyzing the nitrogen content, protein composition,
and free amino acid levels in six rice cultivars, researchers
were also able to classify the six cultivars into two
groups: One group with low levels of free amino acids
and with the 26 kDa globulin, comprising rice lines Koshihikari,
Nihonmasari, and LGC1; and another group with 1.4-1.5
more amino acids than the first group, and without the
26 kDa globulin, comprising rice lines K×433, LGC-Jun,
and QA28. These results suggest that the absence of the
globulin results in an accumulation of free amino acids
in rice grains. Researchers are now studying the molecular
mechanism underlying the 26 kDa globulin deficiency.
to the Journal of Cereal Science can read the complete
article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2006.01.002.
IN THE WORKS: SELF-FERTILIZING PLANTS
need nitrogen in order to grow: some plants will receive
it in the form of applied fertilizer, while others will
acquire it through the assistance of soil bacteria. When
soil bacteria known as Rhizobia enter the roots
of leguminous plants (such as beans or peanuts), the
plant will develop nodules, or small root lumps in which
the Rhizobia are housed. These bacteria take nitrogen
from the air, then “fix” it into ammonia
that feeds the plant. These nitrogen-fixing bacteria
provide a clean way for plants to gain nitrogen, since
chemical fertilizer production pollutes waterways, and
also accounts for an estimated half of the fossil fuels
burnt by agriculture.
from the John Innes Center, United Kingdom and the University
of Aarhus, Denmark report on “Nodulation independent
of rhizobia induced by a calcium-activated kinase lacking
autoinhibition” and that “Deregulation of
a Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase leads to spontaneous
nodule development.” Their letters are published
in the latest issue of Nature, and show that plants can
be induced to produce their own fertilizer.
worked on cells of Lotus japonicus, a legume. They found
that by replacing only one amino acid in the plant enzyme
Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK), they
could induce L. japonicus root cells to be converted
into nodule-forming cells even without the presence of
nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This may pave the way for the
engineering of plants that need little or no industrial
fertilizers; the fact that a single mutation is sufficient
to result in nodule formation also shows the possibility
that the trait can be transferred to important, non-leguminous
crops, such as wheat or rice.
feature article can be accessed by Nature Subscribers
060626/full/060626-7.html. Read the letters at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/
v441/n7097/abs/nature04812.html and http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/
SYMPOSIUM SLATED FOR SEPTEMBER
International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified
Organisms (ISBGMO) will be held from the 24th-29th of September
2006, in Jeju, South Korea.
symposium will explore the relationship between biosafety
research and environmental risk assessment, and will be
comprised of invited speakers in the fields of biosafety
research and risk assessment, as well as contributed posters.
For more information, visit http://isbgmo.niab.go.kr or
email Andrew F Roberts of the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) at email@example.com.
CROP BIOTECH CONFERENCE
horizons for the tropics” is the theme of the Tropical
Crop Biotechnology Conference 2006 to be held August 16-19,
2006 at Cairns, Queensland, Australia. The conference will
be a venue to review progress and prospects in plant biotechnology
for the tropics. For more information, visit http://www.tcbc2006.com.au.
INDIA TO HOST BIOINFORMATICS
Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Jawaharlal Nehru University
(JNU), and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD)
are jointly organizing an International Conference on Bioinformatics
(InCoB 2006). This Exhibition & Conference is an opportunity
to showcase current developments in the area of Computational
Biology and Bioinformatics along with the latest development
in hardware and software, technology, products, databases,
etc. It is a one-stop venue to make new alliances, expand
business frontiers, enter into joint ventures, meet buyers,
and find new avenues to expand your distribution network.
The event will offer a platform for technology transfer
to, from, and within the industry.
more information, visit http://www.incob2006.in,
or contact Dr T. Madan Mohan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COTTON IN INDIA: A STATUS REPORT
Asia-Pacific Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology (APCoAB)
has published “Bt Cotton in India – A Status
Report, which gives details of the events that led to commercialization
of Bt cotton in India, adoption of Bt hybrids in cotton growing
zones, performance of the commercialized hybrids under experimental
and farmer managed conditions, and the economic benefits
realized from the adoption of Bt technology in India. Based
on the experiences gained, strategies have been suggested
for achieving improved pest resistance in cotton, revised
protocols for large-scale field trails, and better economic
benefits especially to small and marginal farmers.
Access the full report at http://www.apcoab.org/
more information, contact email@example.com.
ON SMALLHOLDER FARMERS AND BIOTECH IN AFRICA
International Food Policy Research Institute has released “Promising
crop biotechnologies for smallholder farmers in East Africa:
Bananas and maize”. Edited by Melinda Smale, Svetlana
Edmeades, and Hugo de Groote, the publication contains synopses
of two case studies about the potential for pro-poor crop
biotechnologies. Briefs available for download are: Assessing
the impact of crop genetic improvement in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Research context and highlights; Crucial determinants of
adoption: Planting material systems for banana and maize;
Gauging potential based on current adoption of banana hybrids
in Tanzania; Predicting farmer demand for transgenic cooking
bananas in Uganda; Predicting farmer demand for Bt maize
in Kenya; Biodiversity of bananas on farms in Uganda; Biodiversity
of maize on farms in Kenya; and Biosafety and biodiversity
the full briefs in http://www.ifpri.org/
SEMINAR TACKLES FIELD TRIAL REQUIREMENTS
at a recent seminar in Bangladesh agreed that if transgenic
crops are found safe after trials, then there should be no
controversy in releasing them. The seminar, “Biosafety
and Field Trial Requirements of Transgenic Crops,” was
held at the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), and
was attended by 120 participants from the academe, research,
and private sectors.
Prof. Shahidul Haque, Head of the BAU Department of Biotechnology, chaired
the seminar. Dr. M.A Razzaque of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council
(BARC) presented a paper on the status of biotechnology in Bangladesh, while
Don MacKenzie, Executive Vice Chairman of AGBIOS, Canada, spoke on field trial
requirements and procedures for transgenic crops.
(click image to enlarge)
|From left: Prof Dr Md Bahadur Meah, Prof Dr Md Rafiqul
Islam Sarker, Prof Dr Md Shahidul Haque, Dr M A Razzaque,
and Dr Don J MacKenzie
seminar was organized by the International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), South Asia
Biosafety Program (SABP), and Biotechnology Department of
Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU). For more information,
contact Prof K M Nasiruddin of the Bangladesh Biotechnology
Information Center (BdBIC) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the BdBIC at http://www.bdbic.org.