FIRST TREE GENOME SEQUENCED
poplar black cotton wood, Populus trichocarpa, is
the latest to join the club of sequenced genomes. Poplar was
chosen as model crop for biofuel production as it has an extraordinary
growth rate, is amenable to genetic manipulation, and has
a relatively compact genome size of 480 million nucleotide
units (40 times less than pine). The research, published this
week in the scientific journal Science, is the result of a
four-year initiative led by the U.S. Department of Energy's
Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory
(ORNL), joining the efforts of 34 institutions from around
could provide a major answer to our energy needs” said
DOE's Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. “Fine-tuning
plants for biofuels production is one of the keys to making
biofuels economically viable and cost-effective. This research,
employing the latest genomic technologies, is an important
step on the road to developing practical, biologically-based
substitutes for gasoline and other fossil fuels.”
information available at: http://www.jgi.doe.gov/News/
news 9_14_06.html, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/
DEFINE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, SAYS
“precautionary principle” states that if an activity,
notably in the fields of science and technology, may pose
adverse effects on either human health or the environment,
precautionary measures should be adopted even if the relationship
between cause and effect are not fully established scientifically.
what constitutes legitimate precaution versus protectionism
in disguise when regulating the global trade in novel biotechnology
applications? With biotech foods the focus of a World Trade
Organization (WTO) ruling scheduled to be released this month,
and a growing number of international trade disputes over
biotech crops, it is imperative to adopt a common, better
definition of the “precautionary principle”, argues
a report by the United Nations University/Institute of Advanced
Studies (UNU/IAS). The report calls for a better international
agreement on common approaches to risk assessment, and suggests
the WTO dispute settlement system is not the “best way
in which to resolve disputes in these important areas of policy
clearer understanding of the various uses of the precautionary
principle or approach will contribute to a more cohesive and
harmonious approach to the regulation of biotechnology at
the international level and mitigate some of the damage that
is threatened by the current state of affairs” says
UNU-IAS Director A.H. Zakri.
information is available at: http://www.ias.unu.edu/news/details.cfm/articleID/808.
Read the full UNU-IAS “Trading precaution: The Precautionary
Principle and the WTO” report at: http://www.ias.unu.edu/binaries2/
PLANTS AS COMMERCIAL
PHARMA FACTORIES: NOW ONE STEP CLOSER
at Icon Genetics GmbH, a subsidiary of Bayer Innovation GmbH,
and Bayer BioScience NV, a Belgian subsidiary of Bayer CropScience,
report on a new technology that can provide large quantities
of human monoclonal antibodies from biotech plants. With yields
as high as 0.5 grams of antibody per kilogram of plant material,
the new process is suitable for the research, industrial scale-up,
and rapid manufacture of antibodies for health care use. It
is also applicable in situations requiring rapid response
such as pandemic events. The expression system is described
in the latest issue of the scientific journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.
are taking the lead in moving plant-made biopharmaceuticals
closer to commercial reality,” says Dr. Wolfgang Plischke,
member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG.
the press release at:
To read the article (open access) “Rapid high-yield
expression of full-size IgG antibodies in plants coinfected
with noncompeting viral vectors” visit: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0606631103v1?maxtoshow
IRD WORKS ON
RYMV RESISTANCE IN RICE
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) is
currently working on rice varieties engineered to be resistant
to Rice Yellow Mottle Virus (RYMV). RYMV causes considerable
yield losses. Prevention measures have been implemented to
limit the spread of the disease, but IRD has found that the
use of resistant varieties results in the greatest reduction
in RYMV damage.
a recently published paper in The Plant Journal, researchers
have found that the Rymv1 gene is the best candidate
for resistance to the virus. IRD has already transferred the
gene by crossing it into agronomically important varieties,
which they have given to various national institutions in
the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Madagascar; and international
research institutions such as the African Rice Center (WARDA)
for them to use in variety selection programs.
scientists are also studying RYMV strains and the molecular
mechanisms of plant resistance or susceptibility on the basis
of direct interactions between the rice protein and that of
the virus. Another strategy developed by the IRD involves
introducing part of the viral genes into the plant genome,
with the aim of inducing resistance to RYMV.
the complete press release at http://www.ird.fr/fr/actualites/fiches/2006/fas247.pdf.
ARGENTINA REINFORCE COLLABORATION FOR AGRIC RESEARCH
National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the
Agricultural Research for Developing Countries (CIRAD) of
France have signed an agreement with the National Institute
for Agricultural Technology of Argentina (INTA) to tighten
links in scientific collaboration for agricultural research.
and INTA are already jointly involved in several studies,
which include: the restructuring of familiar agriculture in
Argentinean territories; the dynamics of pesticides in the
soil of semi-direct agriculture areas; the evaluation of the
environmental impacts of genetically modified crops; and the
genetic transformation of symbiotic fungi of forest trees.
CIRAD and INTA also cooperate within the framework of the
ProsPER program in the south (Prospective and Partnership
Enterprise-Research), a bilateral and regional cooperation
program promoting technological innovation in agriculture.
more at: http://www.cirad.fr/en/presse/communique.php
SWEET TO SUGAR BEETS
with the Agricultural Research Service in Sidney, USA, are
recruiting a fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, to help
in the battle against sugar beet root maggots. The pest, which
attacks young sugar beet root, leaving the plant vulnerable
to further attack by pests and pathogens, can cause up to
40% in yield losses without the heavy use of chemical sprays.
The fungus, report the scientists, is not only a very effective
biological control, but also has the ability to adapt to new
ecosystems, and its use would greatly diminish the use of
chemicals in sugar beet fields. The team is currently investigating
an efficient delivery system for the fungus.
more at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/060919.htm
ALLIANCE FOR A GREEN REVOLUTION IN AFRICA
Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
(BMGF) are forming a new Alliance to improve agricultural
productivity and the welfare of small scale farmers in the
African continent through research funding and development
work. To this aim, two organizations have been created: Alliance
for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Programs for a
Green Revolution in Africa (ProGRA).
will contribute to poverty alleviation through agricultural
development for resource poor farmers, while ProGRA will serve
as a supporting organization for redistribution, to improve
the productivity and profitability of small-scale farming
in Africa. The first major initiative of ProGRA will be a
Program for Africa’s Seed System (PASS) that will operate
in 20 African countries.
original Green Revolution was a huge success in many parts
of the world," said Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller
Foundation. "Unfortunately, in Africa, while there are
many positive efforts, momentum is going the other way. Over
the past 15 years, the number of Africans living on less than
a dollar a day has increased by 50 percent. Working with the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with African leaders,
farmers and scientists, we're committed to launching an African
Green Revolution that will help tens of millions of people
who are living on the brink of starvation in sub-Saharan Africa.”
more information visit: http://www.rockfound.org/Agriculture/Announcement/218.
Read the complete press release at: http://www.rockfound.org/Library/
BIOTECH GRAPEVINE READY FOR FIELD TRIALS
at the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University,
South Africa, have developed several lines of transgenic grapevine
(Vitis vinifera) plants with increased resistance
to fungal pathogens. These lines will be tested in the field
to determine the stability of the transgene, and to perform
ampelographic, viticultural, and vinicultural evaluations.
The transgenic plants will be grafted on year-old non-transgenic
rootstocks. In order to avoid dispersal of the transgene to
the environment, the flowers of the transgenic plants will
be bagged to contain the pollen, and the grapevines will be
covered by a net to prevent seed dispersal.
more information about the trial visit: http://www.sun.ac.za/news/NewsItem_Eng.asp?Lang=2&
ItemID=10831. To find out more about the research initiatives
at the Institute for Wine Biotechnology visit: http://academic.sun.ac.za/wine_biotechnology/research_
TAKE ROOT IN SOUTH AFRICA
Africa plans to construct eight bioethanol factories in South
Africa, the first of which will open next year. The company,
formed by a group of farmers and agronomists, is already exploring
the possibility of building ethanol factories in countries
like Angola and Zambia.
have the potential to become the Arabs of the biofuel industry,”
Chief Executive Johan Hoffman says. Bioethanol can help South
Africa by providing farm and factory jobs, and ensuring a
stable market for maize, sugar, and other commodities. Ethanol
Africa said it hoped to source 30% of its maize from small-scale
farmers and buy whatever they brought for sale at prices set
before the planting season, ensuring a steady income for farmers.
the complete news article at http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=55584.
Find out more at http://www.ethanol-africa.com/.
* The Americas *
GRANTS US$ 25 MILLION TO UC DAVIS FOR BIOFUEL RESEARCH
and the University of California, Davis have formed a strategic
partnership for research aimed at developing transportation
fuels from renewable biomass resources, including new energy
crops, and agricultural, forest, and municipal waste. The
5-year project will receive up to US$25 million from Chevron
for research and development of new energy technologies. Research
will focus on four main areas:
understanding the characteristics of current California biofuel
• developing additional feedstocks optimized for features
such as drought tolerance, minimal land requirements, and
• production of cellulosic biofuels;
• design and construction of a demonstration facility
for biochemical and thermochemical production processes.
think it's important to pursue research that could accelerate
the use of biofuels since we believe they may play an integral
role in diversifying the world's energy sources. Developing
next-generation processing technology will help broaden the
choice of feedstocks, including cellulosic materials,”
said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer,
the complete press release at: http://www.chevron.com/news/press/2006/2006-09-19.asp
BT COTTON: BRAZILIAN FARMERS
TO USE 25% LESS INSECTICIDES
cotton, modified to contain a insecticidal gene of bacterial
origin toxic to common lepidopteran pests, results in a reduction
in the number of insecticide applications, which translates
to a reduction in production costs. “Today, cotton production
in Brazil requires about 20 applications of insecticides to
control insect pests,” says Wilhelmus Uitdewilligen,
from the Association of Cotton Producers of Mato Grosso, Brazil.
“With transgenic cotton, we estimate a reduction of
25%.” Biotech cotton has been approved for commercial
planting by the Brazilian Technical Commission for Biosafety
a reduction in costs and a decrease in the use of insecticides,
we will improve our competitiveness in the international cotton
market,” said Uitdewilligen. He also stated that Brazil
has a ten-year delay in adopting the technology compared to
international competitors like the United States, China, and
India, which affects the competitiveness of the Brazilian
more information visit: http://www.cib.org.br/midia.php?ID
* Asia and the Pacific *
COOPERATE FOR AGRICULTURE
Mohammad-Reza Eskandari, the Iranian minister of Agriculture,
and Yuarib Nadhim al-Abudi, minister of Agriculture for Iraq,
have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between
their agriculture sectors. The two sides have agreed to exchange
expertise in various agriculture and veterinary fields, with
the aim of raising the productivity and nutritional qualities
of important crops, such as wheat, barley, rice, and maize,
and of improving animal species. Iran and Iraq will also cooperate
for a multifaceted management campaign for the control of
between Iran and Iraq in the field of agriculture can contribute
to improving the lives of people of both sides,” said
reports from: http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/menu-237/0609046672153609.htm
AFGHANISTAN PRODUCES QUALITY
POTATO THROUGH CIP PROJECT
project has just been completed in Afghanistan to enable the
country to produce quality potato seed for resource-poor farmers
by developing in-country seed production programs. Potato
is the third most important food crop in the country, but
is beset by an inadequate agricultural system to assure quality
seed. The Peru-based Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP),
in collaboration with the International Center for Agriculture
Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and with USAID-RAMP (Rebuilding
Agricultural Markets Program) enabled over 3,000 tons of potato
seed to be produced.
reports that a sustainable seed system was created where CIP-trained
farmers were given quality potato seed to plant. They were
provided support services such as improved location-specific
technologies and storage facilities. Radio programs on potato
production and marketing produced with ICARDA, Afghanistan
were broadcast to more than 50 local radio stations. Over
20,000 farmers, extension workers, village elders, and staff
of other agencies benefited from the project activities.
are being done to increase potato production to 54,000 tons
by 2009 and to eventually turn over the program to the Ministry
of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Food.
more information on the CIP program, visit http://www.cipotato.org/news_more.asp?cod=27
* Europe *
PANEL REPORTS TO EC ON GM RICE ISSUE
of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601
is not likely to pose any imminent safety concern to humans
or animals. This is according to a statement by the European
Food Safety Association’s (EFSA) GMO (Genetically Modified
Organisms) Panel, which evaluated the available scientific
data on LLRICE601. According to the Statement, the Panel believes
that there is insufficient data available to provide a full
risk assessment in accordance with EFSA’s GM guidance.
was asked by the European Commission (EC) to provide scientific
support concerning the safety of LLRICE601, which had been
inadvertently released in the United States (US) and exported
to the European Union (EU).
EFSA is presently reviewing an application for LLRICE62, a
similar GM rice variety produced by Bayer Crop Science. The
full text of the Statement is available on the EFSA website
statements0.html. Read the complete press release at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press_room/press_release/
SPAIN APPROVES ELEVEN NEW BIOTECH VARIETIES
new transgenic maize varieties, all containing the MON 810
event, have been approved in Spain this month, bringing to
45 the total number of biotech varieties that can be planted
commercially in the country. This approval represents the
normalization of Bt maize in the country, as farmers are now
able to chose from a wide range of cultivars for those most
adapted to their needs.
approval was welcomed by Esteban Andrés, secretary
general of the General Association of Maize Producers. “In
times where the margin of profitability are the lowest, biotechnology
is the only technology that can make the cultivation of maize
in areas infested with stem borers a viable option,”
said Andrés in a declaration to the Antama Foundation,
a not-for-profit organization committed to share information
on the potential benefits of biotechnology to agriculture.
information (in Spanish) available at: http://www.antama.net/imgNews/13-09-06.htm
CORN – A SOLUTION TO MYCOTOXIN CONTAMINATION
contamination is a serious concern in maize production, as
two of the most important mycotoxins, fumonisins and aflatoxins,
are associated with various diseases in humans and animals.
In addition, high levels of mycotoxins result in lower market
gains due to livestock losses and higher corn rejection for
food and feeds, resulting in huge annual losses to the sector
inflicted to crops by insect pests increases susceptibility
to infection by fungal pathogens because wounds encourage
colonization by fungal spores. Bt maize is modified with a
gene toxic to common lepidopteran pests. Does the increased
protection against insect pests also reduce the incidence
of mycotoxins in the biotech crop? Felicia Wu, of the University
of Pittsburgh, USA, compares mycotoxins levels in Bt and conventional
maize in an article published in the latest issue of Information
Systems for Biotechnology News Report, and reports the presence
of significantly lower levels of mycotoxin concentrations
in biotech maize.
economic benefits of mycotoxin reduction would likely be more
prominent in developed countries such as the United States,
argues Wu, whereas in areas such as Latin America, northern
China, and sub-Saharan Africa, where corn is a staple food,
the health impacts would far outweigh the market gains.
complete article “Mycotoxin Reduction in Bt Corn: Potential
Economic, Health, and Regulatory Impacts” can be read
TRACKS, CONTROLS FRUIT VITAMIN C LEVELS
C decreases the incidence of several important human disorders.
It is an antioxidant as well; in L-ascorbic acid (L-AA) form,
the vitamin improves the post-harvest properties of fruits.
If Vitamin C levels could be increased in fruit species, both
consumers and plants thus stand to benefit.
W. Davey and colleagues take the first step in gaining “Genetic
Control of Fruit Vitamin C Contents” as they identify
three quantitative trait loci (QTL) in apple, which they found
are linked to L-AA content of fruit flesh. The researchers,
who hail from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium,
report their findings in a recent issue of Plant Physiology.
analyzed the progeny derived from a cross between apple cultivars
Telamon and Braeburn. They examined linkage maps of the apple
parents, and after further analysis, found that: 1) Both parents
had QTLs in the same location, which contributed to L-AA content;
2) One QTL in the Telamon parent co-localized with a QTL associated
with flesh browning, confirming that L-AA levels are associated
with fruit susceptibility to post-harvest browning; and 3)
the QTLs identified are associated with molecular markers,
which will facilitate the transfer of QTLs to other fruit
varieties through marker assisted selection.
to the journal can read the complete article at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/reprint/142/1/343.
Other readers can take a look at the abstract at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/142/1/343.
NEW GENE ANALYSIS SYSTEM INTRODUCED
is one of the world’s most important food crops, and
is thus the focus of many research projects around the world.
However, it is difficult to isolate viable rice protoplasts
from leaves or suspension-cultured cells – a main requirement
for rapid gene functional analysis and biochemical manipulations,
both of which are important tools to understand and improve
the latest issue of Molecular Plant Pathology, Songbiao Chen
and colleagues report that they have developed “A highly
efficient transient protoplast system for analyzing defence
gene expression and protein–protein interactions in
rice.” They describe a significantly improved method
to isolate a large number of protoplasts from stem and sheath
tissues of both young and mature rice plants, as well as a
transient expression assay system using these protoplasts
for functional analysis of rice defense genes.
their work, scientists were able to establish gene expression
analysis protocols for rice defense-related genes, using the
green fluorescent protein (GFP) and luciferase as reporter
genes. The approach, the researchers write, may be applied
to other plants from which sufficient protoplasts cannot be
isolated from leaves or suspension-cultured cells.
to Molecular Plant Pathology can read the complete article
Other readers can access the abstract through http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1364-3703.2006.00346.x.
N N O U N C E M E N T S
CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM IN AGRICULTURAL TRADE POLICY
The International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium (IATRC)
has received a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
to sponsor participation of a select group of developing country
researchers in two IATRC meetings per year. The purpose of
the three-year program is to provide researchers in government
and academia, who are concerned with agricultural trade and
policy, an opportunity to increase their analytical capacity
and broaden their research networks.
more information, eligibility criteria, and details on how
to apply, visit http://www.iatrcweb.org/CapBuildProgram/capacity.htm,
or contact Linda M. Young (1-406-994-5604 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
INDIA KNOWLEDGE CHAMBER TO HOLD
Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM)
have organized a Summit on Green Revolution II: Knowledge
Agriculture. This will be held in November 2006 in New Delhi,
India. The summit is being organized in partnership with the
Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Government of India.
The focus of the summit is on Knowledge Agriculture and its
role in the resurgence of rural India. For more information,
ON PLANT TEMPERATURE STRESS FOR 2007
Stress in Plants” will take place January 21-26, 2007
in Ventura, California. The program will cover the physiology,
biochemistry, and genetics/genomics of plant responses to
high and low temperatures. In addition to model species, important
issues regarding agronomic, horticultural and ornamental species
will be addressed. In order to be considered for an oral presentation,
submit abstracts November 1, 2006. For more information, visit
third general meeting of The Rockefeller Foundation program
on “Biotechnology, Breeding, and Seed Systems for African
Crops” will be held during 26-29 March, 2007 in Maputo,
Mozambique, and will be co-hosted by The Rockefeller Foundation
and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária
de Moçambique (IIAM). The Rockefeller Foundation grantees
working on the genetic improvement and seed systems of African
crops, plus many other individuals, who are interested in
this work, are invited to attend. For more information, visit