RELEASES BRIEFS ON AGRICULTURE, HEALTH
agriculture and health could translate to “potential
benefits,” since “opportunities exist for
agriculture to contribute to better health, and for health
to contribute to agricultural productivity.” These
statements united a series of policy briefs released
by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
and its sister centers in the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR), all of which seek to understand
potential linkages between health and agriculture, as
well as to identify opportunities for both sectors to
work more closely and contribute to addressing poverty.
Lang writes about “Agriculture, Food, and Health:
Perspectives on a Long Relationship.” Rachel Nugent
and Axel Drescher look at the damage brought about by
intensive agriculture in “Agriculture, Environment,
and Health: Toward Sustainable Solution”; while
Robert Bos explores “Opportunities for Improving
the Synergies between Agriculture and Health” and
stresses the need for strong policies on agriculture-health
and download all the briefs at http://www.ifpri.org/
PROPOSED FOR INTERNATIONAL COFFEE ORG
United States proposed reforms to the International Coffee
Organization (ICO), an intergovernmental body whose members
account for over 97% of the world’s coffee production,
and 80% of the world’s consumption. These proposed
reforms were summarized into broad themes that include:
expanding ICO objectives to promote a comprehensive approach
to sustainability, including environmental considerations;
expanding and enhancing the collection and dissemination
of information relevant to coffee farmers, especially
small producers; strengthening the contributions of the
private sector; and highlighting the importance and effectiveness
of capacity building projects.
is the world’s
second most-traded commodity, accounting for over US$70
billion in retail sales annually, and providing a source
for 25 million coffee farming families in over 60 countries around the world.
the complete press release at http://www.ustr.gov/
_Reforms_for_the_International_Coffee_Organization.html. Read the proposals
in detail at http://www.ustr.gov/assets/
MPS TO TABLE BIOTECH FACT FINDING REPORT TO PARLIAMENT
Members of Parliament (MPs), who have just returned from
an agricultural biotechnology fact-finding mission to
South Africa, have resolved to table the report from
this mission in parliament and demand a ministerial statement
on biotechnology. The MPs also proposed to seek amendment
of the current Agricultural Act to fast track biotechnology
legislation in Kenya. The MPs were concerned that after
15 years of research on modern biotechnology, Kenya still
does not have a biotechnology policy and biosafety laws
that are necessary for commercialization of transgenic
products. Kenyan MPs, who were accompanied in the traveling
workshop by their counterparts from Malawi, were convinced
that Kenyan and Malawian farmers could benefit immensely
from the technology if its products were made available
MPs also challenged researchers to involve policy makers
and other stakeholders in their research activities.
Currently biotech crop research in Kenya includes genetically
engineered (Bt) maize that is resistant to maize stem
borers, pest resistant Bt Cotton, Bt cassava that is
resistant to the Cassava Mosaic Virus, and Bt sweet potato
against the Sweet Potato Virus.
traveling workshop was co-organized by AfricaBio, ABSF,
ISAAA, and BioEROC-Malawi. For more information contact
Dr Margaret Karembu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Daniel Otunge (email@example.com)
CHAPTER ESTABLISHED IN AFRICA
African chapter of the International Association of Agricultural
Information Specialists (IAALD) was launched during a
regional conference on “Managing agricultural information
for sustainable food security and improved livelihoods
in Africa” in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference aimed
to mobilize and apply agricultural information and knowledge
to improve food security, and to enhance the livelihoods
of rural communities in Africa.
conference sought to engage information specialists in
actively contributing to the attainment of the United
Nations Millennium Development Goals. Hence, the conference
addressed basic issues of capacity building in agricultural
information resources management, enabling policy for
agricultural information management, narrowing the digital
divide, and knowledge sharing and information systems
for networking and partnerships.
of the conference may be obtained by emailing Daniel
Otunge of the Kenya Biotechnology Information Center
PROJECTS TO IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN FIVE AFRICAN
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
has announced the launch of two new projects focusing
on modernizing agricultural systems and on promoting
market access to five African countries. The first project
will be implemented in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and
will encourage the efficient use of available water resources.
second project aims to improve cassava production in
Malawi and Zambia. Cassava is Africa’s fastest
growing food crop, and is the staple food for over 30%
of Zambia’s population. The project seeks to enhance
cassava’s commercial potential by processing it
into starch, which can also be exported.
projects are being financed by the Italian government
under the FAO Trust Fund for Food Security. For more
information, contact Luisa Guarneri at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the complete press release at http://www.fao.org/
DEVELOPS DROUGHT-TOLERANT EUCALYPTUS VARIETIES
Scientists successfully identified and propagated valuable genetic material
with increased drought tolerance and improved yield through the selection and
micro-propagation of genetic stocks of eucalyptus. The project was carried
out by the Forestry Institute INFOR, with the support of the Foundation for
Agricultural Innovation of the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile (FIA). The
initiative is part of a national policy aimed at modernizing and increasing
the competitiveness of the Chilean agricultural sector through the use of modern
Cañoles, FIA supervisor for the project, said
the main objective was to obtain improved eucalyptus
varieties to increase productivity of forest plantations
in the arid and semi-arid regions of Chile. The project
required the development of protocols for micro-propagation
and for rejuvenating adult tree stocks, and the establishment
of suitable laboratory facilities for the clonal propagation
of commercial stocks. The optimization of micro-propagation
protocols is essential for the incorporation of small-scale
producers to the forestry sector, as it allows for a
reduction in the growing time of trees. Improved clones
can be obtained by interested farmers from INFOR.
more at: http://www.fia.cl/contenido.asp?id
SCIENTISTS DEVELOP NEW BIOFERTILIZER
research team led by Jesús Caballero Mellado of
the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has developed
a new biofertilizer derived from the microbe Azospirillum.
The new product was shown to increase yields in maize
plantations and to have beneficial effects on the environment
by reducing the amount of mineral fertilizers farmers
have to apply to their crops. The new biofertilizer will
greatly benefit resource-poor farmers in rural communities,
where the price of mineral fertilizers and the difficulties
of transporting agrochemicals substantially add to the
production costs of maize, said Caballero Mellado. Maize
is the most important staple crop in Mexico.
a bacterium that lives in close association with the
roots of some plant species, and is valuable for agriculture
due to its ability to render soil phosphorous, an essential
plant nutrient, in a form that can be used by the plant.
It also fixes atmospheric nitrogen and promotes the development
of a more extensive root system, beneficial for both
improved nutrient acquisition and water uptake.
more information visit http://www.comunicacion.amc.edu.mx/noticias/
AND MALAYSIA TO COLLABORATE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY
Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan, and Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia, have agreed to work
closely in the field of biotechnology, and identified
biofuel as the key area where the two countries could
collaborate. Malaysia is currently establishing contacts
with biofuel companies in Japan.
bio-fuel, the Malaysian Prime Minister is also hopeful
that the two countries will cooperate on other areas
of biotechnology such as food production, pharmaceuticals,
more information, visit the Malaysian Biotechnology Information
Centre (MABIC) at http://www.bic.org.my
CONSIDERS GM MANDATORY LABELING, OPENS RULES FOR
Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry of the Government
of India has notified draft rules to amend the country’s
Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. The changes
involve compulsory labeling of all genetically modified
organisms (GMO), or food and feed ingredients produced
from GMO’s. This ruling is to ensure that consumers
will receive the correct information about the food that
draft rules call for such products to be labeled, without
any exceptions, indicating that the product has been
cleared for marketing and use in its country of origin.
This will allow India to verify such clearance with the
country in question, without having to resort to testing.
the suggested amendments will still be taken into consideration,
any objections or recommendations regarding the proposed
changes may be addressed to the Secretary, Union Ministry
of Health and Family Welfare. Read the complete press
release and additions to the ruling at http://pib.nic.in/
OUTBREAK REPORTED IN THAILAND
Nawna Daily Newspaper reports that papaya production
in northeastern Thailand is badly affected by a recent
outbreak of the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). According
to Dr. Wichai Kositratana of the Department of Plant
Pathology, Kasetsart University, the disease has also
been observed in several provinces in the central area
of the country. As a result, papaya growers are looking
for new forest land to cultivate papaya.
Wichai asks for the biosafety assessment of transgenic
papaya to be continued, if commercialization is to be
allowed. Dr. Wichai also urged the government to have
clear policies on transgenic crops.
by Thailand’s Biotechnology Information Center
MINISTRY APPROVES BIOTECH DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
project titled “Strengthening of Equipment and
Facilities, Improving Science Research Capability in
Application of Biotechnology” has been approved
by Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
The project will be given a budget of 39 billion Vietnamese
Dong (US$ 2.5 million).
budget will be used to purchase equipment, train staff,
improve facilities for training and education, and increase
capability for scientists engaged in biotechnology at
academies in Vietnam’s Cuu Long River Delta Region.
The project will study, evaluate, and propose solutions
to protect plant genetic resources, develop bio-products,
and transfer biotechnology to production.
reports from the Agbiotech Vietnam Science and Technology
Journal, and Le Thu Hien (email@example.com)
from AG Biotech Vietnam. For more information, visit http://www.agbiotech.com.vn/vn/
TO ASSIST VIETNAMESE COTTON INDUSTRY
French Development Agency (AFD) will provide a grant
of over 330,000 Euros to assist Vietnam’s cotton
industry. A project has recently been approved by Vietnam’s
Industry Ministry, and will review the government’s
cotton industry development program. The project will
also study opportunities to develop the industry through
2010, toward 2020; and seeks to improve domestic cotton
farming, to replace imported cotton materials, as well
as to create more jobs for people in Vietnam’s
cotton farming areas.
reports from Le Thu Hien (firstname.lastname@example.org)
from AG Biotech Vietnam. For more information, visit http://www.agbiotech.com.vn/vn/
MARKET FOR AGRI-BIOTECH PRODUCTS IN JAPAN
products derived from biotechnology have a strong market
in Japan despite concerns about these products among
Japanese consumers. This was forwarded by Tetsuo Hamamoto,
agricultural specialist of the United States Department
of Agriculture office in Tokyo, Japan. The country imports
about 16 million metric tons of corn and 4.5 million
metric tons of soybeans from the U.S. per year, majority
of which are biotech. These products are mostly used
for feed. Japan’s food industry requires that soybean
ingredients in foods be non-biotech.
number of public research institutes are engaged in plant
and industrial biotechnology research, but no new food
products are in the pipeline for commercialization. Current
work includes experimental work on the introduction of
fungal resistance and pollen-allergy suppressing traits
far, Japan has approved 75 biotech crops for food, 59
for feed, and 55 for planting.
more information, email Tetsuo Hamamoto at email@example.com,
or visit http://www.fas.usda.gov/
GM PLANTING FOR FRANCE AND CZECH REPUBLIC
European countries, France and the Czech Republic, are
expected to grow more genetically modified (GM) maize
this year. Daniel Cheron, director of Vilmorin, a French
seed producer, made a forecast that France will increase
maize plantings from about 1,000 hectares to an estimated
the Czech Republic is expected to increase maize plantings
from 270 to as much as 3,000 hectares by the end of 2006,
says Miroslav Tyl, a farming consultant. The Czech Republic
is now in fifth place among European countries that are
growing GM maize. Spain still leads with plantings of
plantings are anticipated in the two countries due to
the farmers’ favorable experience with GM maize.
from http://www.abeurope.info/ and http://www.praguemonitor.com/past.php.
MEETING TACKLES GM
farmers should be able to choose what crops to plant,
be they conventional, organic, or genetically modified
(GM). This was one of the points raised by European Union
(EU) Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel and Josef Pröll,
Austrian Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment,
and Water Management, during a meeting on co-existence
in Vienna led by the Austrian Presidency of the EU.
recommendations forwarded include the need to look for
ways to improve the EU’s GM decision-making process
regarding product approvals; as well as for more field
experience to supplement models and simulation data.
in particular noted that EU-wide co-existence legislation
is neither appropriate nor possible at this point, as
farming decisions should be made as close as possible
to the farm level. She also said that there is not yet
enough experience with Member State measures to determine
if the single market is affected.
more on the meeting at http://www.cropgen.org/article_76.html.
RELEASES GUIDANCE DOCUMENT ON RISK ASSESSMENT TRANSPARENCY
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a
guidance document on transparency in risk assessment.
Prepared by a working group composed of members of the
agency’s Scientific Committee, as well as other
EFSA departments, the document addresses all issues related
to the process of risk assessment. Science-related issues
will be tackled by a separate guidance document.
document highlights several procedural aspects related
to risk assessment to improve transparency. These include:
1) the selection of qualified scientists to participate
in EFSA’s activities and ensuring their independence;
2) overall handling by EFSA of requests for scientific
opinions; 3) the availability and dissemination of relevant
scientific data; 4) involvement of other stakeholders;
5) confidentiality aspects; and 6) revisions and updates
of scientific opinions.
the complete document at http://www.efsa.eu.int/
FINDS WAY TO MAKE STARCHIER CASSAVA
is a major crop in many developing countries, as it is
a good source of carbohydrates and starches. Scientists
have been working on increasing starch levels in the
root crop, but with limited success.
group of researchers from Ohio State University investigated
the effect of increasing the sink strength for carbohydrates
in cassava roots on total starch production. Led by Uzoma
Ihemere, the team reports the successful “Genetic
modification of cassava for enhanced starch production” in
a recent issue of the Plant Biotechnology Journal.
increase starch production, the team introduced into
cassava roots a more active version of a gene for starch
biosynthesis, ADP- glucose pyrophosphorylase (AGPase).
The transgene, derived from a bacterium, speeds up the
chemical reactions leading to starch production, and
results in more starch in the transgenic crop.
assaying transgenic plants and comparing them to controls,
researchers found that transgenic plants had up to 70%
higher AGPase activity than control plants. Increased
enzyme activity correlated with as much as a 2.6-fold
increase in total tuberous root biomass, and resulted
in a significant increase in above-ground biomass under
the abstract of the article at
BT, NON-BT COTTON COMPARED
crops are currently being grown over 16.2 million hectares
worldwide, but no large-scale studies have been performed
to simultaneously address whether they have favorable
agricultural effects and minimal impacts on non-target
arthropods. Manda G. Cattaneo and colleagues of the University
of Arizona, the Arizona Research and Protection Council,
and McGill University, Canada survey Arizona cotton fields
and report the first “Farm-scale evaluation of
the impacts of transgenic cotton on biodiversity, pesticide
use, and yield” in a recent issue of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
researchers conducted the study over a 2 year period,
and evaluated 81 commercial fields in Arizona, US, where
Bt cotton represented 48% and 62% of the cotton planted
in the first and second year of the study, respectively.
Of the 81 fields, 40 were planted with conventional varieties,
21 to Bt cotton, and 20 to Bt/herbicide tolerant (Bt/HT)
cotton. Researchers found, overall, that the use of Bt
cotton reduced insecticide use, whereas the use of Bt/HT
cotton did not affect herbicide use.
team reports the following key findings: 1) transgenic
cotton had higher yields than non-transgenic cotton for
any given number of insecticide applications; 2) non-transgenic,
Bt, and Bt/HT cotton, however, had similar yields overall,
largely because higher insecticide use with non-transgenic
cotton improved control of key pests; 3) there were no
differences between transgenic and non-transgenic cotton
in terms of their effects on biodiversity; and 4) transgenic
cotton produced more lint than non-transgenic cotton.
the complete article at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/
REPORTS NEW COWPEA GERMPLASM SCREENING TECHNIQUE
is widely used as food and animal feed, but it is also
beset by viruses and pests. Important viruses include
the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and the blackeye cowpea
mosaic virus (BlCMV). Together, these two viruses cause
cowpea stunt disease, which results in significant losses
in the crop. There are available sources of resistance
to BlCMV, but these need to be investigated.
G. Gillaspie, Jr. of the United States Department of
Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS)
reports on a “New Method for Screening Cowpea Germ
Plasm for Resistance to Cucumber mosaic virus” in
the latest issue of Plant Disease. Gillaspie screened
350 cowpea lines from a core collection maintained by
the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS).
select for CMV-resistant lines, Gillaspie inoculated
freeze-dried cowpea tissue with the virus. He employed
several assessment methods to measure virus buildup in
the infected plants. The candidate lines were subsequently
tested in greenhouse and field conditions to confirm
resistance. Four CMV resistant lines, as well as four
other lines with possible BlCMV resistance, were identified.
to Plant Disease can read the complete article at http://www.apsnet.org/pd/search/2006/PD-90-0611.asp.
WEBSITE ON GM
Awareness Australia Limited (AFAA) has a new website. It
features, among others, an agricultural biotech resources
library of external documents on topics under 20 areas
of interest, and a section on gene technology policies
of farm associations, and related groups.
is an industry initiative, established to increase public
awareness of, and encourage informed debate about gene
technology. See their new website at http://www.afaa.com.au.
TREATY ON PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES AND AGRICULTURE SLATED
First Meeting of the Governing Body of the International
Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will be
held on 12-16 June, in Madrid, Spain. The International
Treaty was established to promote the conservation and
sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and
agriculture, and to ensure that the benefits of such use
are distributed fairly. The meeting will be attended by
delegates from over 100 countries
read more about the treaty visit: http://www.fao.org/AG/cgrfa/itpgr.htm
TO HOLD RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES CONFERENCE
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will hold
a conference on June 27-28 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA
to examine risk management issues and strategies associated
with alternative energy production and use in the agriculture
sector. A limited number of travel scholarships will be
available for qualified participants. For details and program
registration, visit http://www.farmfoundation.org or http://www.usda.gov.
FOR TENDER POSTED
Foundation Imagine Life Sciences invites applicants to
submit a proposal for the production of avocado oil in
a less developed country. This proposal should be based
on the winning report of the school competition Imagine
entitled: “Avocado oil, our knowledge their future.” The
Foundation Imagine Life Sciences will support the implementation
of the selected proposal with a maximum financial contribution
of € 25,000 (VAT included). The deadline for submission
of proposals is June 30, 2006. For more information, send
an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit http://www.foundation