BODY MEETING OF TREATY ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES
Governing Board of the Treaty on Plant Genetics Resources
for Food and Agriculture is set to hold its first meeting
in Madrid, Spain with representatives of the 100 countries
that ratified the treaty. The Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) considers the signature of the Treaty as a major
step in guaranteeing food security in the world and also
a historic landmark in North-South cooperation.
for implementation and other aspects such as a financial
strategy, access to plant genetic resources and the sharing
of benefits deriving from their use will be tackled during
Treaty is a legally binding instrument negotiated by
FAO’s member states to safeguard the genetic diversity
of crops. It also assures the fair and equitable sharing
of benefits from the use of these resources, including
any monetary benefits of commercialization.
details of the meeting and Treaty at http://www.fao.org/
ON GM FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
biotechnology offers great prospects for developing countries.
The technology should be discussed on the basis of scientifically
proven facts rather than on ideological beliefs. This
was the gist of a statement released by delegates to
an international workshop in Berlin sponsored by the
Union of the German Academies. The document will be presented
as a statement on international science to the general
assembly of the Interacademy Panel (IAP) in December
in Cairo. The Italy-based IAP is a worldwide network
of 92 Academies of Sciences.
the statement, delegates from China, Egypt, the USA,
and Europe stressed, among others that foods from approved
genetically modified (GM) crops are safe for humans and
animals; and that farmers and consumers should have the
freedom to choose crops to plant.
Berlin workshop is an IAP initiative to evaluate the
usefulness of GM plants. The IAP’s report on the
safety of food from GM plants is downloadable as a PDF
file from http://www.akademienunion.de/_files/memorandum
press release from the Union of the German Academies
is available at http://www.akademienunion.de.
Details about the workshop can be obtained from Ismail
Abdel Hamid of the Egypt Biotechnology Information Center
PLAY ROLE IN RESTORING DRYLANDS, IFAD RESEARCH FINDS
new study by the International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD) highlights the crucial role the world’s
rural women can play in restoring the world’s drylands.
The study, “Gender and Desertification: Expanding
roles for women to restore drylands,” was released
in a recent United Nations conference.
report highlights the role of women in managing natural
resources, as well as the constraints they face while
dealing with desertification. Because women have acquired
extensive knowledge on managing natural resources through
their daily work, they can be major agents of change
in combating the phenomenon. The authors also note that
women are often not given decision-making authority,
and are thus excluded from dryland development projects.
a third of the earth’s land surface is threatened
by the desertification, IFAD reports, threatening the
survival of over one billion people in more than 100
countries. For more information, read the complete press
release at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=
ENDORSES REGIONAL POLICY ON GMOs
experts and stakeholders in the Common Market for Eastern
and Southern Africa (COMESA) have agreed to work together
towards the adoption of genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) in the region.
a communiqué read at the end of a meeting in Nairobi
Kenya, the experts recommended that commercial planting,
trade and food aid on GMOs be centrally assessed in the
region. Commercial trade of GM products should be driven
by a directive from a central regional clearing house
as a way of sharing information. The communiqué will
be presented to relevant ministries in the 20-member
states regional block.
suggestions include the development of a regional center
of excellence in biotechnology and biosafety, and the
formation of an experts’ panel to provide technical
advice on issues pertaining to the development, handling,
and management of GMOs within the region.
Senior Agricultural Advisor, Dr. Cris Muyunda, said that
guidelines on food aid policy will also be developed
at the regional level to help facilitate transit of food
aid in neighboring states.
more information contact Daniel Otunge of the Kenya Biotechnology
Information Center at email@example.com.
MINISTER ASKS JOURNALISTS TO HIGHLIGHT BIOTECH BENEFITS
government of Kenya is actively exploring ways of deploying
biotechnology into the agricultural system to help boost
food production. Hence, media in the region should highlight
the importance of biotechnology instead of dwelling on
unsubstantiated claims. This was the challenge given
to journalists by Deputy Minister for Information and
Communications Koigi Wamwere during a media workshop
on “Innovative Approaches to Improving Biotechnology
Reporting in Eastern Africa”, jointly organized
by Eastern and Central Africa Biotechnology Information
Center (ECABIC) and the African Biotechnology Stakeholders
told 40 senior science journalists from Ethiopia, Kenya,
Uganda and Tanzania who attended the three-day workshop
that earlier coverage of the subject has misled others
to view it negatively yet it was “a very old science
that has been around for many years”.
Olembo, Executive Director of ABSF, said that the potential
of biotechnology, an evolving science, is yet to be harnessed
in Africa. She stressed that while African countries
continue to develop their cold feet towards approving
the biotechnology policy, many other countries have already
embraced this technology after putting biosafety standards
more information contact Daniel Otunge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OPINION: WHO WILL PAY THE PRICE?
has a very impressive track record on biotechnology.
It claims the sequencing of Xylella fastidiosa,
a very important pest for citric, coffee and tree crops.
In addition, the country has invested heavily in biotechnology:
public research institutions, EMBRAPA and Fiocruz, have
developed biotech products that would greatly benefit
the Brazilian economy and ensure a return of research
investments by the Brazilian society. These products
include a virus-resistant bean variety. Bean is a very
important subsistence crop for familiar agriculture in
Brazil, and currently up to 80% of crops are lost to
viral pests. The new biotech varieties would therefore
have a huge impact on rural economies and greatly benefit
the environment, especially with regards to the use of
water, an increasingly precious resource. Brazil has
also developed a biotech Dengue vaccine. The World Health
Organization estimates that over 165 million people have
been exposed to the disease in Brazil during the last
16 years. Dengue Fever is therefore a major health problem
in the country.
Oda, president of the Brazilian National Biosafety Association
(ANBio) asks: “How we can wait for 5, 10 or more
years to see a product of the EMBRAPA approved and released
for the use and benefit of our society? Biotechnology
not only addresses problems that conventional technologies
have not been able to resolve, it also generates employment
and confers a competitive advantage in a world where
many countries are investing heavily in biotechnology.
institutional paralysis imposed on the Brazilian National
Technical Commission for Biosafety (CTNBio) will mainly
harm public research efforts, argues Oda, as multinational
corporations will always have the option of investing
in other countries with regimes that are more supportive
of biotechnology. The incompatibility of biotechnology
with the conservation of biodiversity is often incorrectly
put forward as a reason for such restrictive policies,
but such policies will likely have a very negative impact
on the environment, Oda reminds us.
read the full article visit: http://www.anbio.org.br.
Contact Leila Oda at: email@example.com.
PARTNERSHIP FOR FIRST BIOPESTICIDE AGAINST POTATO
Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research (CORPOICA)
has developed a new biological biopesticide based on
Baculovirus to control larval moths at the stage of seed
storage and preparation. The new biopesticide does not
affect human health and the environment, nor harms beneficial
insects for agriculture.
Enrique Vega Varón, executive director of CORPOICA,
explained that this is the first product to be released
specifically to control Guatemalan potato moth, the most
serious pest of potato in Central America and South American
countries. Harvest losses in Colombian potato crops frequently
attain 50%. The larvae feed on potato tubers in the soil
and are thus largely protected from insecticide sprays.
The product will greatly benefit rural communities, and
have a large impact on the 180 thousand hectares now
under potato cultivation in Colombia, added Vega Varón.
order to produce the biopesticide industrially, CORPOICA
has signed an agreement with a Colombian company, Vecol.
The strategic alliance will result in the product being
available in the market for interested farmers in the
next two or three months.
information can be obtained from: http://www.corpoica.org.co/
GOVT URGED TO INCREASE SUPPORT TO AGRI-BIOTECH
to increase food production to meet the demands of the
Indonesia population should be a priority for the government,
says Andreas Maryoto of the Kompas National Indonesian
newspaper. Support for the agricultural sector will have
an impact not only in assuring an adequate food supply
for the Indonesian population, but is also required for
the generation of alternative energy resources, biofuels.
Food production for many important crops, such as rice
decreased between 2004 and 2005, demand however is on
the rise, notes Maryoto.
order to address the current constraints to agricultural
productivity, such as drought, increased soil salinity
and susceptibility to pests and diseases, and to improve
the nutritious quality of staple crops, science is needed,
adds Maryoto. Biotechnology can address and offer solutions
to some of these problems, however the government needs
to take immediate action. Without this support, the agricultural
sector will be stagnant, and more problems will appear.
With reports from Kompas. For more information contact IndoBIC at: Anggi@biotrop.org or
IS PRIORITY FOCUS OF INDO-U.S. KNOWLEDGE INITIATIVE
Joint Board of the Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative on
Agriculture Education, Research, Services and Commercial
Linkages has identified biotechnology as one of four
priority focus areas in India. The other areas are education,
learning resources, curriculum development and training;
food processing, use of byproducts and bio-fuels; and
were held with different stakeholders in India to get
feedback regarding the Initiative. In a meeting with
industry associations, Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy
chairman of the Planning Commission, called for more
involvement of the private sector in the Initiative.
In particular, he stressed the need to identify trusts
and priorities regarding research, human resource development,
and commercial linkages. In response, an association
representative welcomed the Initiative but emphasized
the need to consider the features of Indian farming and
the market scenario in designing specific activities.
Industry representatives recommended an internal advisory
committee to represent the private sector and other stakeholders.
the same meeting, processing, product development, and
value addition were identified as activities to enhance
productivity, profitability and well-being of farmers
in India. Biotechnology was identified as having a pivotal
role in enhancing these activities.
reports from http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?
relid=18212 and http://www.zeenews.com/znnew/
APPROVES FUNDING FOR BIOTECH
Ministry of Science and Technology has approved a budget
of 39 billion Dong (US$2.4 M) to strengthen biotech research
in the country. Can Tho University will implement the
project on “Strengthening equipment and facilities,
and improving science research capability on biotechnology”.
Specifically, academic institutions in the Cuu Long River
Delta Region, and the Biotech Development Research Institute
will benefit from the government grant.
government allotted the grant to purchase research equipment,
provide trainings for research staff, and improve facilities
for training and education at the post graduate level.
more news from Vietnam, visit http://www.agbiotech.com.vn or
email Hien Le at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLANTS DISCUSSED IN FORUM
biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) plants were
the order of the day at a discussion forum organized
by Biotech Life-Science Baden-Wurttemberg, held recently
in Germany. Dubbed the BMBF Biotechnology Days 2006,
the forum gathered industry and academe into one meeting
to discuss a topic controversial to the country, as well
as to recommend ways by which biotechnology could be
made more popular.
a change in attitude of industry and trade can change
public opinion, Professor Müller-Röber said,
as he suggested creating better products and using a
different strategy to communicate the positive aspects
of GM. Dr. Reinhard Nehls from Planta GmbH also attached
particular importance to the fact that green biotechnology
does not only consist of genetic engineering, but also
of genetic analysis, providing an answer to the way plants
attendees concluded that to move forward, German scientists
need to understand that their work is not only about
research and development, but commercializing products
as well. To reach commercialization, the attendees agreed,
scientists need to look at the GM situation not only
from the scientific perspective, but also from consumer
forum topics include new therapies, pharmacogenomics,
and regenerative medicine. Read the complete article
TO BUILD “NOAH’S ARK” FOR SEEDS
government is providing about US$ 4.94 million to build
a Global Seed Vault on its island of Svalbard, about
1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole. The vault will
serve as a “Noah’s Ark” for three million
seed varieties, including rice, wheat, barley, and other
important fruits and vegetables, and will be constructed
on a mountainside near Svalbard’s main village.
vault will serve as the remote Arctic back-up for other
seed banks around the world, which may be more vulnerable
to risks, such as nuclear war or power failures. Seeds
are being collected by the Global Crop Diversity Trust,
and will be stored under permafrost, which will keep
the seeds at -18 Celsius (-0.40F). The vault will also
be protected by meter-thick walls of reinforced concrete,
two airlocks, and high security blast-proof doors.
will start in June 2006, and is scheduled to be completed
in September 2007. This back-up seed bank will allow
modern agriculture to meet future challenges, such as
population increase and climate change.
reports from Reuters at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/
newsdesk/L30220505.htm and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/
nature/4605398.stm. Read more about the Global Crop Diversity Trust, as
well as the seed vault, at http://www.croptrust.org/main/articles.php.
B ANTIGEN EXPRESSED IN POTATO ROOT
2 billion people in the world are infected by the hepatitis
B virus. Although a vaccine has already been developed,
it is difficult to store and ship, and is thus expensive
for developing countries, where most hepatitis B infections
occur. Scientists are currently engineering plants to
produce hepatitis B antigens, leading to the development
of plant-based, orally administered vaccines. Potato
has been extensively studied as a potential vaccine production
system. Hairy roots are an attractive system for the
production of recombinant proteins due to their genetic
stability, fast growth, and ability to grow in hormone-free
Sunil Kumara and colleagues of the Bhabha Atomic Research
Center and Shantha Biotechnics Limited, India work on
the “Expression of hepatitis B surface antigen
in potato hairy roots.” The results of their research
are reported in the latest issue of the journal Plant
the study, the scientists used Agrobacterium to introduce
the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) gene to Bahar,
an Indian potato cultivar. After inducing hairy-root
growth, they verified the presence of the transgene and
its product by PCR and ELISA. Scientists noted that HBsAg
was espressed in potato plants, microtubers, and hairy
roots. Plants regenerated from hairy roots also exhibited
similar levels of HBsAg expression to that of transgenic
plants. Expression levels could be enhanced by using
root-specific promoters in future gene constructs, the
to the journal can read the complete article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2005.12.015.
STUDY COMPARES U.S, CHINESE SORGHUM
is one of the world’s most important grain crops,
and scientists have been seeking to improve it. The introduction
of cold tolerance in sorghum cultivars would be very
beneficial, as this trait would allow sorghum to be planted
in more places, and in the early spring, when soil moisture
is higher. To improve sorghum, scientists need to identify
a superior germplasm with cold tolerance.
this aim, Cleve D. Franks and colleagues of the United
States Department of Agriculture conducted “A Comparison
of U.S. and Chinese Sorghum Germplasm for Early Season
Cold Tolerance,” and report in a recent issue of
Crop Science. Their research focused on sorghum lines
and hybrids from Chinese landrace accessions of the working
group Nervosum-Kaoliang; publicly available inbred lines
from the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station sorghum
breeding program; and U.S. grain sorghum hybrids provided
by seed companies.
accessions were compared with 10 U.S. inbred parental
lines and 10 U.S. commercial hybrids for cold tolerance
under laboratory, growth chamber, and field settings.
After tests and statistical analysis, scientists found
that: 1) Chinese lines were superior to the other lines,
in terms of laboratory germination rates and field-based
rates of emergence; 2) Chinese lines were not significantly
different from hybrid lines in growth chamber assays,
except for shoot length, for which the Chinese germplasm
was higher; and 3) although Chinese lines had higher
germination rates and lower germination temperature thresholds,
they had no advantage in terms of biomass production.
thus concluded that the accessions could serve as a source
of genes for cold tolerance during the germination and
emergence phase of growth in the breeding of better sorghum
to Crop Science can read the complete article at http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/3/1371.
TACKLES BIOTECH ISSUES
Symposium on Molecular Farming in Plants: Prospects for
the Asia Pacific” and a special half day program
on “Business, Commercialization and Regulatory Issues
for Plant Made Proteins” will be held June 15, 2006
at the Boulevard Hotel, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur.
Both events will be organized by the Centre for Research
in Biotechnology for Agriculture (CEBAR); Institute of
Biological Science, University Malaya; International Islamic
University Malaysia; Malaysian Biotechnology Information
Centre (MABIC), and Malaysian Society for Molecular Biology
the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC)
at email@example.com for
Agriculture Biotechnology Industry Conference (ABIC) will
be held at the Melbourne Convention Centre, Victoria, Australia
on August 6-9, 2006. This year’s theme “Unlocking
the potential of agricultural biotechnology” will
focus on innovation and commercialization. The conference
will be spearheaded by AusBiotech, Ltd, the body for the
biotechnology and life sciences industry in Australia.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or
visit http://www.abic2006.org for