In This Issue

October 31, 2007


• 2007 World Food Prize Laureate Winner Philip Nelson Honored 
• US Land Grant Universities Plant Seeds of Prosperity in Other Countries 
• New Leadership for CIMMYT 
• International Plant Gene Pool Made Available 
• Control of Key Biochemical Processes for Quality Fruits and Vegetables 

• Drought-Resistant Maize Trials to Start Soon in SA 
• IFAD Supported Program to Boost Farmers' Income in Gabon 
• Africa Push for the Green Revolution 

• Study Shows Nitrogen Fertilizers Decrease Soil Organic Carbon 
• New Species of Light-harvesting Bacterium Discovered in Yellowstone 
• Monsanto's Stacked Trait Corn Technology Receives European Regulatory Approval 
• Researchers Build Case Against Insect as "Zebra Chip" Culprit 
• CAST Commentary Evaluates Production of Cellulosic Biomass for Biofuels 

Asia and the Pacific
• Symposium for GM Rice in India and China Held 
• The China Challenge: Feeding One-fifth of Humanity 
• Tasmanian Farmers Want to Grow GMO Crops 

• New Figures Show Increase in European GM Crop Cultivation 
• Bryotechnology Collaboration of Sartorius Stedim Biotech and greenovation Biotech GmbH 
• EU Approved Three More Corn Biotechnology Traits for Food, Feed Use 

• Artificial Chromosomes in Introducing Multiple Traits to Maize 
• GM Tomato with Improved Antioxidant Activity and Zinc Content 
• Accumulation of Cellulase in Transgenic Maize Seeds 
• A Novel Gene Enhances UV-B Tolerance and Disease Resistance in Rice 

• Repeat Announcement: BioMalaysia 2007 - Innovation for Quality of Life 
• First International Symposium on Biotechnology of Fruit Species 
• International Symposium of Plant Biotechnology 




Dr. Philip E. Nelson of Purdue University is named the 2007 World Food Prize Laureate Winner. The $250,000 World Food Prize was awarded for his innovative breakthrough technologies which have revolutionized the food industry, particularly in the area of large-scale storage and transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables using bulk aseptic food processing. Amb. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation said that "Dr. Nelson’s food science research has significantly reduced post-harvest waste and spoilage and greatly increased the availability and accessibility of nutritious food worldwide, particularly in emergency situations". He further stressed that the technology allowed long periods of storage which is essential for transporting and distributing  food in many parts of the world without losing nutritional value or taste.

For details of the news release, see

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Dr. Edwin Price, director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of the Texas A&M University System supported statements from the recent report of the World Bank regarding global agriculture. "The World Development Report place agriculture and the productivity of the small farmer at the center of the worldwide fight against poverty,” said Dr. Price. In particular, the report validated the need for further involvement and leadership by land-grant universities in agricultural development worldwide, in addressing associated issues such as health, economic growth and social stability in developing countries, and in investing in research and agricultural infrastructure to help poor countries develop a sustainable agriculture.

Support from land grant universities started in the 1960s and is being continued by students, faculty, private individuals and institutions to respond to the needs and opportunities of international agriculture. As an example, the Borlaug Institute has current involvement in international agriculture programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Armenia. Partnerships with governments, donor institutions and the private sector are vital in the success of these endeavors.

For details, see news release at: . The World Bank Report can be accessed at:,,contentMDK:21513382

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The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has chosen a successor to Dr. Masa Iwanaga, the Director General. Dr. Thomas Lumpkin, the current Director General of The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), the World Vegetable Center, located in Taiwan was chosen to be the incoming Head. Dr. Lumpkin is a well-respected scientist and science administrator who has significantly strengthened AVRDC not only in Asia but also in other parts of the world where vegetables can give positive impact to the poor.

Dr. Lumpkin has a vast experience in agriculture, has years of experience in leading agricultural research institutions, and is committed to address global issues of concern in developing country agriculture. Dr. Lumpkin has an extensive agricultural knowledge having received his BSc in Agronomy from Washington State University,  MSc and PhD in Agronomy from the University of Hawaii that included extended research studies at IRRI and China. He has published numerous books and publications on East Asian Crops.

Dr. Lumpkin will take his post on the 15th of March 2008.

For details, see press release at:

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced the operation of a new multilateral system for the fair and equitable sharing of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The multilateral system is a part of the legally-binding International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture that has entered into force in 2004. Through the treaty, 115 countries agreed to share their genetic diversity and relevant information about the crops stored in their gene banks to all who comply with the standardized benefit-sharing agreement.

The multilateral system provides scientists, breeders and farmers free access to genetic information of crops that feed most of the world’s population and helps share benefits derived from their commercial use. The system includes the Mutant Germplasm Repository of the FAO/IAEA Joint Division in Vienna as well as the world’s largest gene bank, held by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Over the past months, the system has facilitated the exchange of about 90,000 plant genetic materials.

Read more at or

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In nature, fruits and vegetables are allowed to mature on the plant before they are picked for consumption. This allows the synchrony of appropriate enzymes and biochemical controls for proper ripening that gives fruits their characteristic aroma and flavor. Research scientists have deciphered ethylene to be the biochemical control for ripening early on. Delayed ripening tomatoes that contain the antisense of the gene responsible for ethylene synthesis was later developed through biotechnology. However, Harry Klee, a biochemist from the University of Florida explained that the delay in the ripening also slowed down the flavor biosynthesis, thus consumers may perceive that biotech tomato may not taste as good as conventional ones.

In order to study the intricacies in making a tastier tomato, Klee started to tabulate tomato flavor volatiles. He found out that the biggest component of tomato aroma is cis-3-hexenal, a fatty-acid-derived volatile present at 12,000 parts per billion (ppb) in a garden-fresh tomato. The second most important volatile is β-ionone, an apocarotenoid present at only 4 ppb. The low concentration of this volatile is compensated by our incredible ability to sense it. Fruits and vegetables have their characteristic aroma depending on the organic compounds  produced during maturity and ripening.

Further studies have to deal with ripening switches, biosynthesis of ripening hormones, delay in ripening, and prevention of spoilage. Plant biologists believe that whatever knowledge that can be derived from these studies will provide traditional breeders with genetic markers they can use to check whether their new varieties contain the genes necessary to obtain quality fruits and vegetables.

For details, see the news article at:

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Trials for Monsanto’s new drought-resistant maize varieties will start next month in in South Africa. The maize lines have been genetically modified to express the "water-use efficiency" genes. Monsanto has been granted permission to start testing the new varieties in an experimental field near Malelane in Mpumalangaa. If the trials will prove to be successful, the drought-tolerance gene will also be bred into soybean and cotton lines. The company estimated that about 60 percent of all maize sold in South Africa is genetically modified. Their projections show that this will shoot up to 75 percent.

Read more at,67508,

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The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced a US$ 6 million livelihood support program in the Woleu-Ntem province of Gabon that intends to help small farmers and their organization to diversify their incomes by developing and marketing new products from staples like cassava, peanut and banana. Signed by IFAD's Vice-President, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Noël Baïot, Gabon’s Ambassador to Italy, the program will be funded partially by IFAD together with a grant from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development.

“The project will help small farmers and their organizations get better access to value chains for products with significant market potential,” said Abdoul Barry, IFAD’s country program manager for Gabon. A value chain is the full range of activities that are needed to bring a product from its conception to its end use. This includes buying inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, production, processing and distribution. It is estimated that the project will benefit 28,000 small farmers, half of whom are women and a third young people.

Read the IFAD press release at

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Development of new varieties of staples such as corn, wheat and rice, is a significant phenomenon that conquered hunger years ago in several parts of the developing world, but not in Africa where the continent still has to experience its own green revolution. Africa has experienced daunting problems, man-made and otherwise and still has to come -up with effective strategies to conquer poverty and hunger. However, Prof. Pedro Sanchez, a world class soil scientist and former Director General of the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), Kenya, in a seminar at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is optimistic when he said that "The African farmers need to know when to apply the correct quantity and quality of fertilizer, credit support to enhance and expand their holdings, efficient crop processing capabilities to add value to farm produce, and good market outlets to sell their harvests".

In his seminar, Prof. Sanchez expounded on the initiatives of the Hunger Task Force of the Millennium Project, an advisory body to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to which he is a co-chair. The project is the world's time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions which also includes the basic human right for good health, education, shelter, and security. Project successes in Malawi are expected  to be duplicated in in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and in many parts of Africa.

Details of the project and the press release can be accessed at:

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The intensive use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture is believed to benefit the soil by building organic carbon. A group of researchers from the University of Illinois, however, disputes this view based on analyses of soil samples from the Morrow Plots, the oldest experimental field in the USA. Despite the greater inputs of nitrogen fertilizers,  there has been a 20 percent decrease in corn growth and yield during the past 50 years in the plots.

The findings of the study implicate excessive nitrogen fertilizer use, especially starting in the 1970’s with the yield-based nitrogen recommendations, in promoting the decomposition of crop residues and soil organic matter. After decades of massive inputs of residue carbon, the scientists learned that all the residue carbon disappeared, with a net decrease in soil carbon that averaged 4.9 tons per acre. Regardless of crop rotation, the decline became much greater with the higher nitrogen rate. Because soils differ in their capacities to supply nitrogen, the researchers stress the need for soil testing, ideally on a site-specific basis, as a prerequisite to soil-based nitrogen management that optimizes fertilizer rates.

Read more at The full paper published by the Journal of Environmental Quality is available at

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A team of researchers from Penn State led by Ernet C. Pollard and David Ward from Montana State University Park have discovered a novel bacterium that transforms light into chemical energy. The chlorophyll-producing bacterium Candidatus chloracidobacterium was discovered in the Yellowstone National Park, living amidst the world's largest diversity of heat-loving bacteria, a potential source of microbes with applications in biotechnology, for cleaning-up pollution, or in medicines.

"The microbial mats give the hot springs in Yellowstone their remarkable yellow, orange, red, brown and green colors," explained Bryant. "Since the microorganisms are very difficult to culture in the laboratory, the metagenomic technique becomes a powerful new tool for finding these hidden organisms and exploring their physiology, metabolism and ecology", he added. The technique involves isolating the DNA from the cells and conducting a shotgun sequencing procedure on a large scale. DNA analysis will reveal the types of genes and organisms present in the environment. The team focused on two genes: 16S ribosomal RNA, a crucial component of the machinery used by all living cells to manufacture proteins; and the gene for a protein called PscA, which is essential for converting light energy into chemical energy. 16S ribosomal RNA is distinctive in each species.

For details of the discovery and the scientific naming of the bacteria, see

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A full regulatory approval for food and feed use was given by the European Union for Monsanto's YieldGard® Corn Borer (MON810), stacked with the Roundup Ready® Corn 2 (NK603) trait, which was previously given an initial approval only for feed use in 2005. This means that this hybrid has now achieved the same regulatory import status as single trait corn products such as Roundup Ready Corn 2 and YieldGard Rootworm, as well as Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans.

The stacked trait has been used in farms across the U.S. and has provided farmers with a secure yield using minimal weed and insect management strategies.

The press release can be accessed at:

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Zebra chip (ZC) is a symptom which can be prominently seen in cut and fried potato chips as unsightly brown zebra stripes. Potato fields in Mexico were the first to be hit by the zebra chip in 1994, and was seen in potatoes planted in the Texas side of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in 2000. Millions of dollars have been lost during an outbreak in 2004 to 2006 in Mexico, Texas and other U.S. states.  

Studies on the possible cause of the symptom conducted by Jim Croslin, a plant pathologist in the Agriculture Research Service's  Vegetable and Forage Crops Research Unit, Prosser, Wash. and Joseph Munyaneza, an entomologist in the ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory,  Wapato, Wash. show a strong correlation to feeding by the psyllid species Bactericera cockerelli. Genetic fingerprinting was utilized to check the possible involvement of phytoplasma, the causal pathogen of potato purple-top wilt syndrome, however results showed a negative correlation to the zebra chip. Current monitoring and insecticide spraying appears to be effectve in controlling the spread of the zebra chip.

Details of the news release is accessible at:

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World biofuel production rely heavily on field crops which in the long run could possibly compete with food crops in the utilization of water and fertile land. Thus, initiatives have been started to look at the possible use of biomass for biofuels including the release of a new Commentary on "Convergence of Agriculture and Energy II: Producing Cellulosic Biomass for Biofuels" by the Counci for Agriculture Science and Technology (CAST). Task Force Chair Dr. Steve L. Fales, Associate Director, Office of Biorenewables Program, Iowa State University, Ames, said that " Immediate national investments are needed along with changes in policy, to address challenges limiting the sustainable production and efficient use of cellulosic biomass as a fuel feedstock to meet anticipated U.S. demand.”

The commentary answers several critical questions, including: issues associated with current and future feedstock supplies; efficient production methods; characteristics of crops developed specifically for production of biomass; improvements in the feedstock supply system; and public education strategies of comprehensive principles of biomass-to-ethanol production.

For details, access the full document at:

The news release can be viewed at:

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Asia and the Pacific

A Symposium on the Development of GM Rice in India and China was held in the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi in a jam-packed auditorium, filled with stakeholders from the academe, government, media, and the scientific community. The symposium sponsored by the New Delhi-based Barwale Foundation (formerly Mahyco Research Foundation) featured noted speakers as Clive James, the founder of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications; Deputy Director Zhen Shu of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); Prof. Swapan Datta of the University of Calcutta; Advisor S.R. Rao of the Indian Department of Biotechnology; and Senior Scientist A. K. Singh of IARI.

The speakers unanimously supported the development and utilization of GM rice as one of doable means to alleviate the world's pollutant, hunger and poverty. GM rice is being developed in the two countries to resist pests and diseases, tolerant to drought and flood, and with improved nutritional content. Regulations in India are being put in place that would allow the field testing of fruit and shoot borer resistant eggplant, papaya ringspot virus resistant papaya, and eventually, GM rice.

For details contact Bhagirath Choudhary of ISAAA South Asia Office at:

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China, home of 1.3 billion people - one fifth of humanity, is faced with enormous challenge; food security, diminishing water supply, global warming and climate change, and environmental pollution. But, China is pulling it off with a big stride utilizing its own scientists, vast land resources, and unique rice germplasm. The International Rice Research Institute's (IRRI) magazine Rice Today features China, with highlights on the scientific initiatives and successes on rice production in the country which also extended to its neighboring developing countries.

The magazine looks at the fascinating development and adoption of the hybrid rice, and documented how China, with the help from IRRI, became the hybrid world leader. The high-yielding hybrid rices helped millions of hungry people in the 1960s.

The magazine also features the development of aerobic rice in the province of Anhui, China; the possible effect of climate change in the rice growing region of China, and the challenges that China faces regarding rice production.

For details, download the Rice Today magazine at:

The press release is accessible at:

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The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) is pushing for the replacement of the current blanket State Government moratorium on introduction and use of GMOs in the country. TFGA is calling for a new policy of coexistence of GM and non GM production. The appeal of the association was submitted to a parliamentary committee that is currently reviewing the policy on genetically modified crops.

“If Tasmanian agriculture is to continue to thrive in very competitive global markets, individual farm enterprises must be able to benefit from improvements in production technology” said Roger Swain, TFGA president. “Farmers need access to technology which will allow them to reduce production costs, improve product quality, increase product options, adapt to climate change and enhance environmental sustainability.” He added that Tasmanian agriculture runs a serious risk of being left behind by its competitors should the Government push its anti-GMO stance.

Read the press release at

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Latest figures released by the European biotech industry association, EuropaBio, show that the area planted to genetically modified crops in Europe has grown by 77 percent since last year. The increase was noted despite the fact that BT maize, which was approved in 1998, is the only genetically modified crop grown in the continent.

This year over 100 thousand hectares of GM maize has been harvested. The acreage of biotech crops has increased four times in France and more than doubled in Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic. In Spain, the largest cultivator of GM crops, there has been more than 40 percent increase in the area of cultivation and this after 10 years of planting GM maize. Other countries like Slovakia, Romania and Poland also showed significant increase in the amount of GM crops harvested.


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Sartorius Stedim Biotech (experts of fermentation and purification process engineering) and greeninovation Biotech (developer of the proprietary bryotechnology) have successfully collaborated and developed a fermentation process using bryotechnology (moss technology). Specific genetic modifications of the moss cells allow scientists to develop desired therapeutic protein according to a predefined building plan. By further genetically modifying the moss cells, the proteins are refined to enhance their performance through glycoengineering that involves attachment of  the plant-specific sugar molecule to meet the customer's specifications. 

The announced new collaboration will be a scale-up project implementation of the plant-based bryotechnology. This technology makes simplifies the process engineering involved in drug manufacturing. Moss cells are very easy to work with, requiring simple culture medium composition which eventually result in significant reduction in investment costs and ultimately, in more affordable pharmaceutical medicines.

 For details, see press release at:[tt_news]=5642&tx_ttnews[backPid]=5709&cHash=9d78ca3262

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The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) was extremely pleased for the European Union's approval of three Biotech corn traits for food and feed use. Hybrids containing the Herculex RW and two stacked traits, YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready 2 and Herculex I with Roundup Ready 2, can now be exported to the 27 countries of the European Union (EU).  "These corn traits have already been approved in the U.S., Japan and other major markets. Now with EU approval, growers will have greater market access for their grain, and processors and ethanol plants can continue to export Corn Gluten Feed and Distillers Dried Grains."said Martin Barbre, chairman of the NCGA's Biotechnology Working Group and a corn grower from Carmi, Ill. This approval increased the number of traits approved for Europe import to 15.

Details of the press release can be accessed at:

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Production of transgenic maize has relied on traditional techniques, like Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, that integrate DNA fragments into host chromosomes. Although proven to be effective, traditional techniques have certain disadvantages. The process can disrupt normal gene expression, which may result to loss of important agronomic qualities. Large numbers of transgenic plants are needed to be screened in order to find those suitable for commercial use. In addition, there is a limit to the amount of DNA that can be integrated, making it difficult to add multiple genes at a time. A discovery made by a group of US researchers may hold the solutions to these disadvantages. Using “maize mini-chromosomes” (MMC) the researchers successfully introduced entire gene cassettes to maize.

The researchers showed that MMCs behave like normal chromosomes. It is structurally stable and the genes it carries are expressed and transmitted from generation to generation. Using this technology, genes of interest can be arranged in a definite order, with each gene surrounded by their promoters or inhibitors. MMCs can be used to increase the hardiness, yield and nutritional content of crops. It can also improve biofuel production as well as enable plants to make complex compounds like medicines.

The open access article published by PLoS-Genetics is available at

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Metallothioneins (MT) is a family of metal binding-proteins widely distributed in plants, animals and microorganisms. They function in detoxification of heavy metals as well as control of oxidative stress by capturing free radicals. Foods with high levels of MTs have potentials as functional foods. By introducing the gene mt-1, coding for the mouse metallothionein protein-1, researchers from the Peking University in China obtained GM tomato lines with increased zinc content and anti-oxidant activity.

MT-1 has a selective binding capacity for zinc. The levels of zinc were found to be much higher in leaves of the transformants compared to those of the non-transgenic control.  In addition, the transgenic lines obtained exhibited increased superoxide dismutase activity. Superoxide dismutase is the enzyme responsible for removing the harmful oxygen radicals that can cause cell damage. Among antioxidant enzymes, the level of SOD activity is relevant in maintaining the overall defense system of plants subjected to oxidative stress. Transgenic MT tomato may potentially be used as an antioxidant and for zinc supplementation.

Read the paper published by the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry at or

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One of the key steps in producing bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass is the digestion of the polysaccharide components of plant cell walls into simple sugar molecules. The step is being catalyzed by the enzyme cellulases. Current enzyme production systems, mostly based on extraction from microorganisms, however, are not cost-effective. Cellulose is degraded by a synergistic action of two cellulase enzymes: an endonuclease responsible for cleaving the cellulose chain internally and an exonuclease which is responsible for further cutting the polymer streams.

A group of US scientists successfully produced transgenic maize lines expressing both enzymes. The ratio of these enzymes, 1 endonuclease: 4 exonuclease, is necessary for efficient digestion of cellulose. Whereas other transgenic systems prove to be problematic in obtaining the correct ratio, the maize seed production system was found to overcome this difficulty. The expression of the exonuclease was found to be nearly 1000-fold higher than the expression in any other plant reported in the literature. The expression of the cellulase enzymes was found to be stable for a number of generations. Subcellular targeting proves to be important in obtaining the desired ratio of the two enzymes. The vacuole and the endoplasmic reticulum were found to support large-scale accumulation of the enzymes.

Read the abstract or the full paper

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Plants, because of their immobility, are forced to adapt to various stresses like heat, ultraviolet radiation and pathogen infection. The common feature of the adaptive responses, developed by plants to survive, is the activation and repression of certain genes upon perception of an external stimulus. Transcription factors, proteins that cause activation or inactivation of genes by direct binding to the DNA, play major roles in adaptive responses. A family of transcription factors, the WRKY proteins, is known to be involved in defense against pathogen attacks and have been characterized in Arabidopsis, tobacco and parsley.

 A member of the WRKY transcription factors family, OsWRKY89, has recently been demonstrated to enhance ultraviolet-B tolerance and pathogen resistance in rice. Transgenic rice lines overexpressing the OsWRKY89 gene are shown to be resistant to the rice blast fungus and the white-backed planthopper, major pests in rice production around the world. The expression of the gene also stimulated several pathways related to UV-B radiation protection including wax deposition in leaves, synthesis of secondary metabolites and lignin and changes of the redox status. Possible application of the findings in developing rice lines with increased rice blast resistance and UV-B tolerance is currently being studied.

Subscribers can access the paper at Non subscribers can read the abstract at

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BioMalaysia 2007, Malaysia's premier international biotechnology event, will bring together biotechnology and life science professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers from all over the world. The event will be held from 26 - 29 November 2007 in Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Jointly organized by Malaysia's Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MOSTI), the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation Sdn Bhd and Protemp Exhibitions Sdn Bhd, this year's event is expected to attract more than 7,500 local and international visitors and about 1,200 delegates.

BioMalaysia 2007 Exhibition will showcase the latest developments in the industry and at the same time provide an outstanding opportunity for knowledge-gathering, networking and marketing. To be held at the same time, BioMalaysia 2007 Conference will feature presentations from renowned speakers in biotechnology fields from various institutions and organizations in the region and in the international arena.

For enquiries, please visit or contact: Karen Dass at tel no. +603 6140 6666 fax no. +603 6140 8833 or e-mail to

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The First International Symposium on Biotechnology of Fruit Species will be held on September 1-5, 2008 in Dresden, Germany, under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). Among the topics to be discussed include the release and commercialization of transgenic fruit varieties, in vitro propagation and other plant regeneration processes, new strategies in gene technology like cisgenesis, genomics, and research advances in addressing disease resistance/ tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and other agronomically  important traits.

To view the program and obtain more information please visit

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The Institute of Plant Biotechnology at Villa Clara, Cuba will host the VIII International Symposium of Plant Biotechnology on April 23 to 25, 2008. The event aims to allow participants to interact and be updated about topics related to plant mass propagation, genetic transformation, cell tissue culture, use of plants as bioreactors, and other applications of biotechnology.

More information at

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