In This Issue

January 7, 2011


• International Team Sequences Full Woodland Strawberry Genome 
• CGIAR Response to Climate Change 
• CBU's 10th Set of Borlaug Medallion Winners and Netbook Winner 

• COMESA Consultative Workshops in Egypt and Sudan 
• First Transgenic Drought Tolerant Maize Trials in Eastern Africa 

• RF Gene Nomenclature Developed by University of Illinois 
• Open Letter to Stakeholders from Secretary Vilsack to Urge GE and Non-GE Coexistence 
• Discovery Could Increase Value of Non-Food Crops for Industries 
• Research Into Plant Natural Products Receives Boost 
• Gatekeeper for Tomato Pollination Identified 
• New Solar Cell Self-Repairs Like Natural Plant Systems 
• USDA Seeks Public Comment on EA for Petition to Deregulate GE Corn 
• Biofortification of Peruvian Potato with More Iron 
• New Pioneer Corn Hybrids for Water-limited Areas 

Asia and the Pacific
• Korea Assists the Philippines on its Rice Self-sufficiency Program 
• PhilRice Firms up Programs for 2011 
• Indonesia, China Launch Joint Hybrid Rice Research Program 
• Australian OGTR's Notification to Issue a License on Limited Release of Herbicide Tolerant GM Canola 
• Filipino Scientists, Government Officials Criticize Bt Eggplant Field Trial Pre-termination 

• DNA Fingerprinting for Malting Barley Improvement 
• EC-JRC on New Summary Notification for GM Potato Leaf Blight Field Release 

• Monocot and Dicot Share Defense Components Against Fungal Disease 
• Effect of Bt Broccoli and Diamondback Moth on Host Foraging and Development of a Parasitoid 
• Scientists Develop Pineapple Genetic Map 

• Call for Nominations for IDB Prize for Women Scientists 
• Bio-Industry Summit in China 
• Indian Seed Congress 2011 
• International Conference: Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health 

Document Reminders
• Opening for Signature of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources 




A team of 74 researchers from 38 research institutes across the globe have collaborated to sequence the genome of the woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Woodland strawberry is a close relative of the cultivated strawberry and is rich in antioxidants, essential vitamins, minerals, potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as substances for flavor and aroma.

The research has been recently published in Nature Genetics with Weizman Institute's Plant Sciences Department scientists Drs. Asaph Aharoni and Avidal Adato as co-authors. The researchers found that the genome is relatively short, simple and easy to manipulate, and the plant grows quickly and easily.

The scientists have now an important tool to further improve the cultivated strawberry, such as understanding how to return the flavors and aromas of the cultivated strawberry. It will also provide insights into other related agricultural crops as well as fruit trees.

For details, view the original article at See related news on Georgia Tech Team Helps Decode Newly Sequenced Strawberry Genome at

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The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) launched a new initiative to cope with climate change and its impacts on agriculture and on global food security. The program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a joint effort of CGIAR, the Earth System Science Partnership, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

"This program represents a bold and concerted effort to confront the complex challenges that agriculture faces today," said Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Chair and Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. "It builds on 40 years of CGIAR research, including notable achievements in the development of hardier crop varieties, better ways to manage natural resources and powerful tools for analyzing the impacts of a changing climate."

CCAFS partners will identify technologies and policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation that are suitable for poor, smallholder farmers. Efforts will be done to refine models used to predict the impacts of a changing climate on agriculture and livelihoods, and identify ways to select hardier crop varieties and livestock breeds.

For more information, visit

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Three lucky CBU subscribers comprise the 10th and last set of winners of the Knowledge Campaign on crop biotechnology, launched by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). They are Bhubaneswar Pradhan, a student from the Institute of Life Sciences, India; Dwi Priyo Prabowo, field scientist from Syngenta, Indonesia; and Shing Yiing Tiong, a postgraduate student from Forest Genomics and Informatics Laboratory in Malaysia. They will each get a bronze duplicate of the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Congressional Gold Medal.

The grand prize winner of a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook is Shirin Sultana, assistant professor at the Bangladesh Open University. ISAAA congratulates all the winners of the Knowledge Campaign and all those who participated by subscribing or sending e-mail addresses of their friends and colleagues.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) launched the Knowledge Campaign "A million healing hands to help a billion hungry", dedicated to Dr. Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Laureate who was the founding patron of ISAAA. With his full support and initiative, ISAAA established the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology in 2000 in the Philippines with active nodes called Biotechnology Information Centers (BICs) in 24 countries globally. ISAAA and its global family of BICs are celebrating a decade of success in spearheading the sharing of knowledge and capacity building on crop biotechnology to help alleviate poverty in developing countries. ISAAA has institutionalized the sharing of knowledge on crop biotechnology by creating and distributing a weekly email-based newsletter Crop Biotech Update (CBU) which summarizes the latest world developments in agriculture, food and crop biotechnology relevant to developing countries.

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National consultative workshops on the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Regional Biosafety Policies and Guidelines were held in Egypt (December 15-16, 2010) and Sudan (December 19, 2010). Mr. Amin Abaza, Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, emphasized in his opening remarks that the COMESA region needs to have policies that would contribute to increased food security, interregional trade and environmental quality. "Policy makers need to have scientific evidences to make best decisions for the welfare of their people," the Minister noted. Egypt is the only COMESA Member State that has commercialized GM maize.

The Sudanese State Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Mohamed Alloba, indicated that Sudan has interest in GM crops to improve its agricultural productivity and has approved its biosafety law. "We are yet to institutionalize our biosafety system; therefore we look forward to collaborate with COMESA to accelerate the realization of our desire to the safe utilization of GM crops," the State Minister added. Dr. Abdelbagi M. Ali, Director of Sudan Biotechnology Research Center, expressed full support of his country to the regional approach. "Sudan supports the regional approach for its own advantages, but the harmonization process needs to speed up since we are in a hurry to embrace the GM technology," said Dr. Abdelbagi.

COMESA is a regional economic block composed of 19 member states. The national consultations will continue until March 2011.

Email Getachew Belay, senior biotechnology policy advisor, Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) at for additional information.

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The first transgenic drought tolerant maize trials under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project were planted in confined fields in Uganda on 25 November and in Kenya on 1 December 2010 following the regulatory approval given by the respective national biosafety committee/ authority. The permit approval to conduct similar confined field trials in Tanzania is being awaited.

For more information, contact Sylvester Oikeh, WEMA project manager, at or Grace Wachoro, project communications officer at

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Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a system of unified nomenclature for male fertility restorer (RF) proteins in higher plants. RF genes are responsible in suppressing the male phenotype and at times, restoring fertility to plants in hybrid breeding technology .

"The nomenclature, which is designed to include new RF genes as they become available in the future, is not based on one species or another, but rather on the function of the gene itself," said Manfredo J. Seufferheld, U of I assistant professor of crop sciences. "This allows scientists to work with a wide range of plants and take a gene with known functions from one plant and transfer it into another plant to restore male fertility."

It is hoped that this new tool will help plant breeders and scientists make quick decisions on possible effective restorer mechanism to use in particular crops.

For details on this article, see

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An Open Letter by the US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting stakeholders to cooperate in the implementation of the genetically engineered (GE) and non-GE Coexistence in farmer fields was published in the USDA website.

The letter discussed how involved parties have become familiar and comfortable in litigations of erring farmers that led to antagonism and further clashes in the area. He is optimistic though that a better solution could bring together stakeholders to a common ground where the interests of all sides could be advanced. He expressed his support to the development of a new paradigm based on coexistence and cooperation so that both GE and non-GE agriculture technologies can be utilized in the production of abundant, affordable and safe food.

See Secretary Vilsack's letter at 

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With global efforts to reduce carbon emission caused by burning fossil fuels, plants are being looked at as a source of renewable biofuels. Plants with denser biomass are potential sources of biofuels, electricity and other advanced materials like carbon fiber. Richard Dixon, director of the Noble Foundation's Plant Biology Division and postdoctoral fellow Huanzhong Wang discovered a gene that controls the production of lignin in the central part of the model plants Arabidopsis and Medicago truncatula.

Lignin is a component of plant cell walls that provide strength allowing plants to stand upright. Once the gene is removed in the system, a dramatic increase in the production of biomass, such as lignin occur throughout the stem. Target plants can now be developed with reduced lignin, such as those grazed by animals, or with increased lignin in non-food plants such as switchgrass to produce biomass.

"This discovery opens up new possibilities for harnessing and increasing the potential of crops by expanding their ranges of use. These plants will be part of the next generation of agriculture which not only impacts food, but many other vital industries as well," said Dixon.

The original article can be viewed at

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A National Science Foundation (NSF) grant was recently awarded to Noble Foundation principal investigator Lloyd W. Summer and Nevin Young from the University of Minnesota to have a better understanding of important natural plant product triterpene saponins. Triterpene saponins are plant products found in forage crops such as alfalfa that can alter the nutritional quality for ruminant animals. Drs. Sumner and Young will use the US$690,000 grant to uncover the genes responsible for producing these chemical compounds.

"If we can locate and understand the genes behind triterpene saponins, we can potentially engineer plants with specific levels of these naturally occurring chemicals," Sumner said. "This would be a great benefit to agriculture and humans."

The original article can be viewed at

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Scientists at University of California Davis headed by Roger Chetelet have found the gene that encodes a protein Cullin 1 that is thought to block cross-species fertilization. "Flowering plants have several types of reproductive barriers to prevent accidental hybridization between species in nature," Chetelat said. "We have identified one piece of this puzzle, a gene that helps control whether or not tomato pollen is recognized and rejected by flowers of related wild species."

The researchers identified the Cullin 1 gene that is expressed in the pollen and interacts genetically with another gene located near the S-locus, which blocks cross-species pollination. Cultivated tomato species that have the mutated form of the gene allow self pollination. The green-fruited tomato species was found to have functional Cullin 1 protein.

"Understanding and manipulating these reproductive barriers might help breeders access desired traits found in wild tomatoes," Chatelet added. This discovery would also be useful in many plant breeding applications not only for tomatoes which is a $1.5 billion industry in California but also in developing a better understanding of the basic biology of pollination.

See the original news at

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Scientists at Purdue University are currently conducting a research that makes use of carbon nanotube and DNA to produce solar cells with a mechanism similar to photosynthetic systems in plants.

"We've created artificial photosystems using optical nanomaterials to harvest solar energy that is converted to electrical power," said Jong Hyun Choi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

Since a conventional photoelectrochemical cell undergo degradation, the scientists are exploring on making it "self-repairing" by enabling it to indefinitely restore light-harvesting molecules with the use of carbon nanotubes and DNA. Thus, the service life of the cell is extended and the cost could be cheaper compared to the conventional.

For more information, visit

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The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently seeking for public comments on the drafted environmental and plant pest risk assessments of a genetically engineered (GE) corn developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred. The corn was genetically modified "to produce male sterile/female inbred plants for the generation of hybrid corn seed that is non-transgenic. "

The notice was released on January 3 and the deadline for submission of comments is March 4, 2010. All comments will be considered and will serve as basis if they will or will not grant nonregulated status for DP-32138-1 corn.

For more details, visit

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Iron deficiency is a most widespread nutritional problem in the world as reported by the World Health Organization. Children with iron deficiency experience impaired physical and cognitive development and increased risk of morbidity, while adults exhibit reduced work productivity. Potato has higher iron bioavailability compared to cereals and legumes because of its high ascorbic acid content which promotes iron absorption, and low levels of phytic acid, an inhibitor of iron absorption. However, the potential of potato in reducing malnutrition is not well known.

"In the Andean altiplano, where there is little access to meat, it is an important source of dietary iron," says Gabriela Burgos, who leads the Quality and Nutrition Laboratory at International Potato Center (CIP). "For example, in Huancavelica in the Peruvian highlands, women and children consume an average of 800 g and 200 g of potato per day, respectively. So improving iron concentrations and bioavailability in potato will have real impact in these areas."

HarvestPlus, in cooperation with the scientists of CIP, will screen the genebank's potato germplasm for micronutrients (Fe, Zn, vitamin C, and phenol). The next step in the program is to combine Andean landrace cultivars that contains high levels of iron and zinc with CIP's advanced breeding lines to develop biofortified potatoes with disease and pest resistance, high yield, and with high acceptance to farmers.


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Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, launched a new generation of corn hybrids efficient for drought-prone areas. The corn hybrids labeled as Optimum® AQUAmax™ have 5% yield advantage compared with other commercially available corn hybrids. Thus, the growers would have lesser risk in planting corn in water-limited locations, and maximize productivity at the same time.

These new set of corn hybrids were developed using molecular breeding techniques to ease the identification of genes that code for higher yield and other essential traits for production. Field trials were conducted from 2008 to 2010 in 233 water-efficiency trials in Nebraska, California, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas.

"Drought is a complex issue and can affect crops differently depending on the geography and stress factors of each environment," said Pioneer Hi-Bred president Paul Schickler. "There is no single gene or ‘silver bullet' solution for the drought complex. Managing crops in drought-stressed environments is critically important to achieving performance results, and Pioneer continues to partner with growers to offer the best management suggestions to help maximize profit while minimizing risk."

Optimum® AQUAmax™ hybrids are introduced for planting this year, targeting the western Corn Belt.

Read more details at

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Asia and the Pacific

To help the Philippines on its goal to attain self-sufficiency by 2013, the government of Korea, represented by the Rural Development Administration Administrator Min Seung Kyu, forged into a rice research assistance agreement with the Philippine Rice Research Institute, establishing the Korean Project for International Agriculture Center at PhilRice's Central Experiment Station.

Under the agreement, the Center will provide trainings on such topics as rice and rice-based cropping systems and farm mechanization for Filipino researchers, extension officers, and farmers. There will also be expert exchange program between the two countries whereby Korea will send its experts and scientists to PhilRice while qualified Filipino rice workers will be trained in Korea. In addition, there will be sharing of research materials, publications, and technical information on rice and rice-based production.

For more on this article, see

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The Philippine Rice Research Insitute, the Philippines' leading agency in rice research and development is all geared up in the implementation of the Institute's medium and long-term corporate plans for 2011-2016. Following the challenge of the country's Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala to be self-sufficient in three years, the program which was approved by the board of trustees will conduct activities "to develop rice varieties that will adapt to climate change, increase yield in the irrigated lowland, develop neutraceutical rice products, and package location-specific technologies," the news release said.

The program was an output of a series of stakeholder's consultation workshops which according to Atty. Ronilo A. Beronio, PhilRice executive director, would also benefit and improve farmers' nutrition and economic status.

For more on this article, see

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Indonesia and China will join efforts in a hybrid rice research program. The collaboration was recently launched in Jakarta with representatives of Indonesia's agricultural ministry and China's Long Ping Hi Tech, and witnessed by Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Zhang Qiyue.

The three-year program started informally in April this year until 2013. Indonesian agricultural scientists and officials will be trained in China on the best hybrid rice variety that fits the country's soil and natural condition. This joint cooperation in both countries is hoped to technically and scientifically equip Indonesian rice breeders to further improve the average rice production in Indonesia that will eventually help achieve rice sufficiency in the country.

Details of this news can be viewed at

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A decision to issue a license to technology developer Monsanto for a limited and controlled release of genetically modified (GM) canola that contains genes for herbicide tolerance was recently announced by the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). The four-year trial will be conducted in a maximum area of 4 hectares in the first year and 10 hectares in subsequent years in 46 possible local government areas of New South Wales, 28 possible areas in Victoria and 53 possible areas in Western Australia.

The license will be issued after the extensive consultations on the Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) with the various stakeholders including the public, State and Territory governments, and related Australian government agencies. The planned limited and controlled release was found to pose negligible risk to people and the environment.

For details on this story and to view the dossers, see

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Scientists and experts in the country expressed indignation over the unanticipated pre-termination of the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) resistant Bt ‘talong' (eggplant) trial in the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UP Mindanao) last December 17, 2010.

Dr. Candida Adalla, chief of the Biotechnology Program Office (BPO) of the Department of Agriculture said that the uprooting "is an assault to scientific inquiry and independence of responsible scientists in quest for truth. This is the first time it happened to the university, touted as the bastion of scientific research and technological innovations." She also said that the experiment was "legitimate, consistent and compliant with the government-set guidelines noted as one of the strictest in the world and (used) as reference by nearby Asian countries."

In a statement released after the uprooting, UP Mindanao clarified all the allegations hurled at the Bt talong project. Among the points explained was how the field trial was confined, and that the university is complying with all conditions imposed by the regulatory agencies. Prof. Nilo Oponda, UP Mindanao chancellor officer-in-charge, wrote in his letter to the media "UP Mindanao has not violated any requirements that would impact on biosafety and public health," and added that the university has complied with all the conditions set by the regulatory agencies.

In their statement, the university also cleared details of institutions involved the project. It was stated that the project's rationale was "the need to address a common problem among eggplant farmers in the Philippines," which is the high infestations of the FSB pest.

The full statement of UP Mindanao after the uprooting may be found in For a related article, visit For updates on Philippine biotechnology, e-mail or visit

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Malting barley is the raw material in the production of Scotland's Scotch Whisky, the second most productive industry in the country, second only to oil, at £3.9bn GVA (gross value added) in 2008. Scientists of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee have developed a molecular marker technology to DNA fingerprint different barley varieties.

Through the molecular marker technology, different barley types have been identified for yield and quality, for growing and processing, and for important traits that would assure long term sustainability of the distilling industry. With the enormous amount of data, the scientists have developed their own DNA fingerprint database that allows efficient storage, evaluation of the information, and efficient sharing of knowledge to partners and researchers around the world.

For more on this news, see the original article at

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A summary notification has been announced by the European Community-JRC for field release experiment entitled Potato late blight control strategies and monitoring of Phytophthora infestans virulence. The release will be conducted in Borger Odoorn, Lelystad, Wageningen, Venray and Binnenmaas at 10,000 m2 per site per year.

Potato with potato late blight resistance gene Rp1 will be tested with susceptible plants to establish a relationship between the mixing ratio of resistant/susceptible and the spatial and temporal effects on the development of epidemics. The Phytophthora infestans population will also be monitored in the trial.

Results that will be obtained in the experiment will be crucial in the development and deployment of improved cultivars with the Rp1 genes.

For more of the story, see the application dossier at

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Scientist Matt Humphry of the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and his team identified a set of genes regulated by a common protein that has been conserved in the genome of monocot and dicot plants since the evolutionary split that occurred approximately 200 million years ago. The defense components confer resistance to fungal powdery mildew disease, a common fungal disease among plants. They conducted a linear regression analysis using microarray data of the known defense components gathered from barley and Arabidopsis. Results showed that these defense components have coexpressed genes. In Arabidopsis, the coexpressed genes have a common element that is responsible for the defense components' coordinated function. Results of the study can be used to develop plants' inherent immunity.

Read the abstract at

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One of the issues about Bt technology is the effect of crystal (Cry) proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in the biological control of insects. Xiaoxia Liu of Cornell University and his colleagues investigated the effect of Bt/non-Bt broccoli and Cry-resistant/susceptible diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) on the host foraging and development of an endoparasitoid Diadegma insulare.

Results showed that there is no difference between the parasitism rate and development of D. insulare thriving on suscepticle or Cry-resistant moth. D. insulare failed to live on susceptible moths that were fed with Bt broccoli. There was no significant difference in the parasitism rate, developmental period, pupal and adult weights of D. insulare that developed on Cry-resistant moth that fed on Bt broccoli or non-Bt broccoli.

They also tested the second generation of the parasitoid that inhabited the Cry-resistant moth and found no difference in its life parameters whether the moth ate Bt or non-Bt broccoli. Cry protein was found present in D. insulare and moths that ate Bt broccoli. Therefore, protein cry1AC is not harmful to the development and host resistance of parasitoid D. insulare even after two generations of exposure.

Read the paper published by Transgenic Research journal at

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Pineapple is the third most produced tropical fruit in the world, next to banana and citrus. However, the genomics of this crop is not yet established compared to other significant tropical fruits. Thus, Jorge Dias Carlier of the Universidade do Algarve, Portugal, and colleagues constructed the first genetic map of pineapple using the F2 generation of a cross between A. comosus var. comosus and A. comosus var. bracteatus. Randomly amplified markers and sequence-specific markers were used on public sequence databases. There were 33 linkage groups with markers inherited from the two parental varieties, four linkage groups with markers only from var. comosus, and three linkage groups with markers particularly for var. bracteatus. The resulting genetic map includes 492 DNA markers covering about 80% of the entire length of the pineapple genome. This can be used for molecular breeding and genomics studies involving pineapple and its relatives.

The research article is available at

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The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) announces the call for nominations for the IDB Prize for Women's Contribution to Development. This award recognizes the contribution of female scientists to improving people's quality of life or in encouraging participation in the field. Aside from the individual award, an organization will also be recognized for facilitating and disseminating women's scientific innovation for improving the quality of life in the community. Deadline for nominations is February 15, 2011.

Email for additional details of the award.

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"Exploring the untapped growth potential in bio-agriculture" is the theme of China Bio-Agriculture Industry Summit 2011 to be held in Shanghai, China on February 24-25, 2011. Topics of the summit will be on the status of China's bio-agriculture industry; prospects for international cooperation in research and development, production, and commercialization; and biotech innovations and investment outlooks.

Visit for additional information.

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The Indian Seed Congress 2011 is being organized by the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) on 22-23 February 2011 at Hyderabad, India. The two-day event will provide a platform for all stakeholders including seed producers and marketing companies, seed scientists, policy makers and farmers to review its current status and plan its future growth path. The theme of the Congress is ''Partners in Agricultural Growth'' and will focus on the role of Indian Seed Industry in partnership with all the stakeholders in actively driving the agriculture growth in India and globally. The event is structured to discuss the recent advancements in seed technology, industry needs and quality regulation and prepare a road map for the sector's future growth. The trading sessions would help to explore business opportunities while the exhibition will showcase a range of products to meet the varying requirements of Indian agriculture.

For more details visit  or email Dr.Seema Sehgal at

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An international conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health will be organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on February 10-12, 2011 in New Delhi, India. India's Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the event. The conference aims to discuss and deliberate on creating an integrated system that mobilizes agriculture to improve people's nutrition and health. The three-day event will bring together leaders in agriculture, nutrition, and health from around the world. A Knowledge Fair will also be hosted during the event to exchange information and ideas and to share initiatives through exhibits, posters and discussion groups.

For more details visit and

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Document Reminders

The Convention on Biodiversity released the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity to open for signature by Parties to the Convention at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 2 February 2011 until 1 February 2012. The Protocol is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish languages. To download, visit

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