WORLD FOOD PRIZE 2004 AWARDED TO RICE BREEDERS
In a fitting
tribute to the International Year of Rice, this year's World
Food Prize will be awarded to rice breeders Yuan Longping
of China and Monty Jones of Sierra Leone.
president of the World Food Prize, announced the winners during a U.S. State Department ceremony with Secretary
of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, and
the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques
Diouf. He lauded Yuan and Jones for "breakthrough
scientific achievements, which have significantly increased food
security for millions of people from Asia to Africa."
Professor Yuan, Director-General of the China National Hybrid
Rice Research and Development Center in Changsha, Hunan, China,
developed the genetic tools for hybrid rice breeding in the early
1970's. Using the "three-line system" now being
adapted to many other countries around the world, Dr. Yuan
was able to produce the world’s first successful and
widely grown high-yielding hybrid rice varieties, with yields 20%
above conventional varieties. His efforts have since led to increased
rice yields and grain output in China, providing food to feed an
additional 60 million people each year.
Dr. Jones, former senior rice breeder at the West Africa
Rice Development Center (WARDA), and presently Executive Secretary
of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), in
Accra, Ghana, successfully crossed the Asian O. sativa with
the African O. glaberrima strains to produce drought and pest resistant,
high yielding rice varieties, a feat which had not been achieved
before in the history of rice breeding. His work has produced
enhanced harvests for thousands and thousands of poor farmers,
most of them women, with potential benefit for 20 million farmers
in West Africa alone.
will take place formally on October 14, 2004 in the Iowa State
Capitol Building in Des Moines, as part of The
World Food Prize International Symposium, “From Asia to Africa:
Rice, Biofortification and Enhanced Nutrition.”
View the list of laureates at http://www.worldfoodprize.org/04laureates/prelease.htm
ICRISAT 'HARNESSES BIOTECH FOR THE POOR'
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
based in Hyderabad, India, is using biotechnological tools to
improve the performance of orphan and poor man's crops
like groundnut, pearl millet, chickpea, and pigeonpea. Dr. Farid
Waliyar, head of the biotechnology program at ICRISAT, told South
Asia journalists attending a media workshop that transgenic work
is being done only for major and widely distributed stresses,
and when no sources of resistance are available in cultivated
Waliyar enumerated ICRISAT's biotech research projects, among
them being enhanced drought tolerance of mandated crops; improved
crop resistance to pests (shoot fly, stem borer, Striga in cereals;
pod borers in legumes); increased crop resistance to viral, bacterial,
and fungal plant pathogens; better food, feed, and fodder quality
plus efficient hybrid seed production systems; and more efficient
conservation and utilization of germplasm resources.
Dr. Kiran Sharma, head of the transformation laboratory, reported
that the first ICRISAT transgenics are now in contained field trials.
These are groundnut transgenics with resistance to the Indian peanut
clump virus, and pigeonpea transgenics for legume pod borer.
For more information on ICRISAT's work on transgenic crops, email
Kiran Sharma at k.Sharma@cgiar.org.
PADOLINA: THE PHILIPPINES NEEDS A TECHNOLOGY-EXPLICIT GOVERNMENT
“Technological backwardness is not accidental, it is a result
of a conscious choice. What we need to have is a technology explicit
government agenda, which recognizes the role of science and technology
in promoting economic development and facilitating trade,” said
former Department of Science and Technology secretary, and current
Deputy Director General for Partnerships of the International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI), William Padolina, at the 45th National
Convention of the Philippine Agricultural Economics and Development
Association held in Manila.
“Rigorous reading of the market will lead to new wealth,
which will also give the country a new sense of national purpose,” Padolina
added, as he advocated increased investments in research and development
for agriculture, as well as a development agenda that was market
driven. This could be achieved, he noted, by a collaborative scheme
bridging the academe and science and technology community with
industry, and having both well tuned to market demands.
his proposals, Padolina also emphasized the role of government
in formulating technology policies and plans, as well
as funding of research and development projects; the role of the
academe in identifying what problems need solving; and the role
of the private sector in investing in research that could meet
the country’s immediate needs.
BT CORN PERFORMANCE ASSESSED AFTER A YEAR IN PHILIPPINE FIELDS
Dr. Jose Yorobe
of the College of Economics and Management, University of the
Philippines Los Baños (CEM-UPLB) assessed the performance
of Bt corn in Philippine fields a year after its commercial approval.
As a presenter
at the 45th Convention of the Philippine Agricultural Economics
and Development Association’s (PAEDA) plenary session “Achieving
a New Wave of Technical Change,” Dr. Yorobe disclosed that
the use of Bt corn led to yields 37% greater than crops from conventional
corn harvests. There was a high cost of production associated with
adopting Bt technology, he added, but net income was still higher
when Bt corn was used.
For corn harvests in the last year, Dr. Yorobe found, farmers
earned an additional PhP 10,132 (about $US 170) per hectare of
Bt corn planted (/ha) and saved PhP 168/ha (about $US 3) on pesticide
In a related
paper, Dr. Liborio Cabanilla, of the College of Economics and
Management of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños
(CEM-UPLB), remarked, “The agricultural scene is in disarray,
but biotech has promise,” and compared Bt corn to the local
hybrid variety. The greatest profits were to be gained, he found,
if Bt corn was used during the wet season, when corn borer infestation
rates were highest.
DAY TACKLES BIODIVERSITY FOR FOOD SECURITY
"The world's biodiversity is under threat and this could
severely compromise global food security," Food and Agriculture
(FAO) Director General Jacques Diouf said in a message for World
Food Day. This year’s theme, "Biodiversity for Food
Security,” highlights the vital role of biodiversity in ensuring
that all people have sustainable access to enough diversified food
to lead active and healthy lives.
that "As a consequence, the food supply becomes
more vulnerable, there are less opportunities for growth and innovation
in agriculture, and less capacity for agriculture to adapt to environmental
changes or to the appearance of new pests and diseases." Various
sectors, therefore, need to implement measures to preserve the
environment, and encourage better education and increased research
and government support.
The United Nations agency celebrates World Food Day every October
16 in commemoration of its founding in Quebec City in 1945.
For more details
of FAO’s program of activities, visit http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/51057/index.html.
SOUTH ASIA JOURNALISTS MEET ON BIOTECH REPORTING
Print and television
media practitioners from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal
converged in Hyderabad, India to interact
with scientists and representatives from government, the regulatory
system, civil society, seed industry, and communication fields
on “Covering Biotechnology: Issues and Opportunities for
the News Media.”
workshop also enabled the participants to see greenhouse and
field trials on transgenic groundnut and chickpea, which researchers
at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid
Tropics (ICRISAT) hope will be ready for farmers’ fields
in three years. The journalists wrote science stories for their
respective news agency or publication, which were reviewed by co-participants
for style and presentation, and by the scientists for content accuracy.
“I’ve noticed a change in scientists in dealing with
the media. They are more willing to open up and are ready to talk
with us about their research activities,” said TV Jayan,
special correspondent of Down to Earth, a science and environment
fortnightly magazine of the Society for Environmental Communications
in Delhi. In turn, Dr. Farid Walijar, ICRISAT plant pathologist
and head of the biotechnology program, averred that scientists
like him now understand how the media thinks, and now know how
to deal with them.
Plans are underway to form a virtual network that will link media
practitioners with key institutions like ICRISAT and the International
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)
to allow sharing of experiences and access to science-based information
on crop biotechnology.
Organizers of the workshop were ICRISAT, ISAAA, Asian Media, and
Information Center of India, and the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization.
For more information about the workshop, contact ICRISAT media
officer Gopi Warrier at email@example.com.
PUBLIC’S PERCEIVED RISKS REGARDING
A paper by
Lennart Sjöberg in the latest copy of the
EMBO journal correlates principles of risk perception with the
public’s view of gene technology. In “Principles of
Risk Perception Applied to Gene Technology,” Sjöberg
acknowledges that the experts in scientific issues differ from
the general public in their definition of risk, a fact that has
often hampered communication between these groups.
A better understanding
of peoples' reactions to new developments, Sjöberg says,
helps not only to devise better communication strategies but
also to identify new and potential problems.
risk perception data from a total of 2,338 respondents, Sjöberg found that the public ranked gene technology low in
a list of 34 hazards. A number of important factors determined
people’s perception of gene technology risk, among them a
fear of interference with nature, as well as New Age and Anti-Science
full article in PDF format at http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/embor/journal/v5/n1s/full/7400258.html&filetype=pdf
FUNGUS RESISTANCE GENES FOUND IN TOMATOES
The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research reports that
Dutch researcher Marco Kruijt has discovered two genes, Cf-4 and
Cf-9, which provide resistance against the fungus Cladosporium
fulvum in several wild tomato species. Cladosporium fulvum causes
a fungal disease in tomato plants.
Kruijt explained that the fungus was probably already a pathogen
of the ancestral tomato species, and the resistance genes may have
been retained in various modern wild tomato species. He also demonstrated
that DNA exchange between the various Cf genes has led to a new
Cf resistance gene.
Email Marco Kruijt at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
regarding his research.
DHAKA INTERNATIONAL BIOTECH CONFERENCE
The fifth International Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology
Conference will be held at the Department of Botany, University
of Dhaka, Bangladesh on December 4 to 6, 2004. It is organized
by the Bangladesh Association for Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology
and is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Science, Information and
Community Technology, and University of Dhaka.
theme is “Sustainable Biotechnology for Developing
Countries.” For more information, contact Dr. R.H. Sarker
of the University of Dhaka at email@example.com.
BIOTECHNOLOGY FORUM IN JAMAICA
Apart from Cuba, the experience of most of the Caribbean countries
in biotechnology is limited to micro-propagation of plants by tissue
culture. Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados have had more experience
in the area of modern biotechnology, although efforts are still
in their infancy. Jamaica for example, is actively conducting field
trials on transgenic papaya resistant to the Papaya Ring Spot Virus,
while Trinidad is engaging in exciting innovative work on anthuriums.
The Scientific Research Council of the Caribbean community is
proposing a high level forum to discuss prospects for the commercialization
of biotechnology in the Caribbean, and to develop a road map towards
this end. The forum aims to review the status of biotechnology
in the Caribbean, identify areas of comparative advantage amenable
to the use of biotechnology in respective countries, draft a road
map to achieve targets agreed, and draft a master plan for the
commercialization of biotechnology in the region.
The forum will be held on December 7 - 9 2004, and is organized
by the Scientific Research Council, with the assistance of the
National Commission on Science and Technology, Secretariat, and
The Biotechnology Center, UWI, Mona.
For more information, visit http://www.src-jamaica.org/forum/.
WORKSHOP ON GLOBAL CHALLENGES FOR GUIDING AND MANAGING BIOLOGICAL
Academies’ Board on Agriculture and Natural
Resources and Board on Life Sciences will host a workshop on October
25-26, 2004 in Washington, DC.
Entitled “Global Challenges for Guiding and Managing Biological
Technologies,” the workshop aims to address the following
questions: 1) what are the most important global problems facing
society? (With focus on the long-term goals of preserving biodiversity,
conserving natural resources, achieving food security, improving
the health of populations, cleaning up polluted lands and bodies
of water, and obtaining adequate sources of energy); 2) can the
use of agricultural biotechnology, as one of many tools, help provide
solutions to these problems? If so; 3) what are the scientific
risks and socioeconomic issues associated with its use that need
to be considered?
This workshop will provide prognostic views about what biological
technologies should and should not do in the future, concentrate
on sustainable and socially acceptable solutions to problems, and
examine the challenging and contentious issues of transgenics in
plant production systems.
For more information, please contact Peggy Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit http://www.nationalacademies.org/banr/.