In This Issue

March 30, 2012


• World Scientists Tackle Food Insecurity Amidst Climate Change 
• Challenges for an International Biotech Regulatory Framework 
• Compliance with Biosafety Regulations in Developing Countries 

• IFAD: Invest in Agriculture to End Poverty 
• Drought Tolerant Maize Wins 2012 UK Climate Week Award 
• Uganda Minister Appeals for Speedy Approval of Biosafety Bill 

• Mexico Approves 4 Additional GE Corn Pilot Tests 
• New Alfalfa Variety Could be Big Boost to Dairy Industry 
• CFIA Approves Two New Canola Hybrids 
• White House Announces $35M for Advanced Biofuels R&D Funding 

Asia and the Pacific
• Video-Conferencing on Climate Change and Agricultural Development in Vietnam 
• India Aims to Achieve Higher Production of Wheat 
• CIMMYT Introduces Wheat Tolerant to Ug99 Fungus in Bangladesh 
• Improving Lives of Rural Farmers in Vietnam by Reducing Greenhouse Emissions 
• Bioseed and KeyGene Develop Crops for India and SE Asia 

• GM Wheat Made to Scare Aphids 
• EFSA Releases Scientific Opinion on Continued Marketing of GM Cotton 

• A New Validated Protocol for Extraction of DNA from Maize Starch 
• Effect of Exposure to Multiple Bt Proteins on Honey Bee Larvae 
• Study Reveals Strategies to Combat European Corn Borer 

Beyond Crop Biotech
• DNA Traces Cattle Evolution 
• Bees the Key to 30 Percent of our Diet 

• 11th International Conference on Bioinformatics 2012 
• 5th Indonesia Biotechnology Conference 
• 11th International Gluten Workshop 

Document Reminders
• Pocket K 16: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 
• Mexican Academy of Sciences Publishes Book on Responsible Use of GMOs 

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The final report of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was launched during the Planet Under Pressure Conference in London on March 27. The Report,  Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change, offers actions to transform the food system to achieve food security in the face of climate change.

The Commission, chaired by Sir John Beddington, is composed of scientific leaders from 13 countries. They reviewed major components and drivers of the global food system including changing diet patterns; link between poverty, natural resource degradation and low crop yields; inefficiencies in food supply chains; gaps in agricultural investment; and patterns of globalized food trade, food production subsidies and food price volatility. It was concluded that humanity's collective choices must be revisited in order to meet food needs and stabilize global climate.

The seven recommendations outlined by the Commission to be implemented by governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies, and researchers are the following:

  1. Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies
  2. Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade
  3. Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture
  4. Develop specific programmes and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity
  5. Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating patterns worldwide
  6. Reduce loss and waste in food systems, targeting infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits
  7. Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions
A short video entitled How to feed the world in 2050: actions in a changing climate was also launched during the event. More details are available at, including the Commission's final report and key background studies.

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International agreements and standards that regulate specific aspects relevant to agricultural biotechnology provide important guidance. However, they are open to varying interpretations and implementation by countries. In particular, implementation in developing countries remains a challenge such that the actual functioning of the international regulatory framework remains in a "state of flux." This was the analysis of John Komen of the Program for Biosafety System (PBS) in an article The emerging international regulatory framework for biotechnology published in the journal GM Crops and Food.

Discussions on biosafety regulation - the policies and procedures adopted to ensure the environmentally safe application of modern biotechnology -has been extensively discussed at various national and international forums. Focus has been on developing guidelines, appropriate legal frameworks and, at the international level, a legally binding international biosafety protocol (the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety). In the article, Komen describes the main international instruments relevant to biosafety regulation, and their key provisions.

The abstract of the article is available at

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The cost of compliance for a set of technologies in developing countries varies from US $100,000 to 1.7 million. This was the finding of a study on Estimates and implications of the costs of compliance with biosafety regulations in developing countries by Jose Falck-Zepeda and colleagues published in the journal GM Crops and Food.

The research team says that estimating the cost of compliance with biosafety regulations helps developers focus their investments in product development. The cost estimates need to be compared with potential gains when the technology is introduced in developing countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. They also have to be compared with the gains in knowledge accumulation during the biosafety assessment process.

In addition, the research team notes that while the cost of compliance is important, time delays and uncertainty need to be considered as they may have an adverse impact on innovations reaching farmers.

The abstract of the study is available at

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African governments must invest in agriculture to alleviate poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Nwanze spoke about this in a meeting with the different African ministers on March 27, 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"Investments in agriculture are more effective in lifting people out of poverty than investments in any other sector - they not only drive economic growth and set the stage for long-term sustainable development, they pay high dividends in terms of quality of life and dignity for poor rural people," Nwanze explained.

IFAD aims to build the capacity of smallholder farmers so that they can become viable rural entrepreneurs, especially the women and the young generations who will inherit the future of African smallholder farming.


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The "Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa" (DTMA) project of the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) was recognized as the Best Technological Breakthrough at the UK Climate Week Awards. The award was given in recognition of its support to a project to develop drought tolerant maize in Africa.

The project focused on the development and dissemination of 34 new drought tolerant maize varieties developed through conventional breeding, in 13 project countries that include Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe between 2007 and 2011.

"This maize is like an insurance against hunger and total crop failure, even under hot, dry conditions like those of recent years", says 79-year-old Rashid Said Mpinga, a maize farmer in Morogoro, Tanzania, who has been growing maize for almost half a century. "Without good quality maize seed, you cannot earn enough, you cannot have life."

The project is jointly implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) with complementary grants from the Howard G. Buffet Foundation (HGBF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

See the article at

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The Ugandan Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Prof. Z.M Nyiira, has called upon the National Council for Science and Technology to proactively work with the Ministry of Finance in spearheading approval of the biosafety bill by the Cabinet. The Minister made this appeal at a regional meeting organized by the NEPAD Agency, African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) in collaboration with the IFPRI Program for Biosafety Systems. The meeting was held on 19-20 March 2012 in Entebbe, Uganda.

The meeting brought together leading biotechnology and biosafety stakeholders and providers of technical assistance, to share experiences and analyze the key capacity building needs and emerging challenges, in the development and implementation of workable regulatory frameworks at national and sub-regional levels. It  aimed to strengthen the alignment among biosafety service providers and stakeholders to build future collaborative efforts in biosafety capacity development.

"The Government has identified biotechnology as a tool that can help meet the goals of national development and contribute towards enhanced food security," the Minister said. It established a functional National Biosafety Committee (NBC) which has adequate capacity and expertise to assess GMOs objectively. 

The Minister underscored the need to continue building capacity in core areas as Uganda advances towards delivering biotechnology products. He cited anti-biotechnology activism as a major hindrance to biotechnology advancement in Africa. "It is time to allay fears that biotechnology is not safe", he stressed.

For more information, contact Prof. Diran Makinde, Director, NEPAD Agency African Biosafety Network of Expertise, at

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The Government of Mexico granted approval for the pilot testing of four additional events of biotech corn: DAS-157-1, MON-63-6, DAS-157-1, and DAS-157-1xMON-63-6. All pilot tests will be conducted in the state of Tamaulipas, covering a total area of 7.55 hectares.

The details of the approval was released by the Mexican government on March 23, 2012. The same publication also indicated that 11 experimental tests requested in 2011 are still pending for approval.

Read the USDA GAIN Report at

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The new variety of alfalfa NR-Gee promises to improve milk production with less environment effects in cow farms. The alfalfa variety has a lower percentage of indigestible fiber and a higher percentage of carbohydrates and pectin which cow can covert to milk.

"More intake and more digestibility: those two things combined, we think, are going to make a pretty significant impact for the dairy industry," said Julie Hansen, a senior research associate in plant breeding and genetics.

In addition, N-R-Gee was also found resistant to many diseases that are problematic in the Northeast, including bacterial wilt, verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, anthracnose and phytophthora root rot. Disease resistance is especially important in alfalfa, as it stays in the field year-round, for multiple years.

See the original news at

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recently approved the sale in spring of two DEKALB brand canola hybrids, 74-44 BL and 74-74 CR. Variety 74-44 BL has unique traits that combine excellent blackleg resistance with high yield performance and great harvestability. The 74-47 CR on the other hand has excellent clubroot resistance, strong standability, and high yield potential and is an ideal choice for growers in high-risk clubroot areas.

"Both of these new canola hybrids offer strong agronomics and high yield performance while incorporating valuable breeding traits to enhance blackleg and clubroot resistance in the field. We are confident that both 74-44 BL and 74-47 CR will be among the top performing hybrids in 2012," said Patrick Comte, DEKALB Canola Business Manager.

For more on this news, see

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The White House has announced a new $35 million funding for the next three years to support research and development in advanced biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products. The funding is geared towards projects that will develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of biomass, and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products that can help replace gasoline and diesel.

Projects will be funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a joint program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Energy Department.

Read more here:

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Asia and the Pacific

The Vietnam Development Information Centre (VDIC) recently hosted a video-conferencing seminar on green revolution and agriculture productivity enhancement. Experts from six countries Vietnam, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and India - discussed various topics including modernizing technological equipment used in agriculture, designing policies relating to the environment, the study of new rice varieties that can resist effects of climate change, as well as the shortage of farmland.

Delegates agreed that in recent years the major challenge for scientists was to ensure food security while preserving natural resources. In this context, the development of environment friendly cultivation technology and high-yield rice varieties adaptable to climate change is of great importance.

Since 2009, scientific studies in many research institutions have produced 56 rice varieties that can resist insect attack and diseases and were distributed to many rice-growing countries. In addition, 106 drought resilient rice lines and varieties have been recorded and sent to the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice based at the International Rice Research Institute.

See the news at For biotechnology information in Vietnam, contact Hien Le of Agbiotech VN at

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India is the second largest producer of wheat in the world at an estimated record harvest of more than 87 million tons in 2010-2011 and a record production of 88.31 million tons during 2011-2012. The country has strong wheat research and development network and collaborates with international organizations such as CIMMYT, Mexico; ICARDA, Syria; and ACIAR, Australia.

The developed technologies are tested in Indian conditions and are adopted in the different regions of the country. According to Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture and Food of India, through these various collaborations and testing, India hopes to achieve higher production and productivity in wheat in the years to come to meet the growing demand of food grains.

See the news release at

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Losses due to Ug99, a devastating fungal disease that affects wheat in many parts of the world including developing countries Bangladesh and Kenya can now be controlled using the newly released variety from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The new wheat variety called Francolin was developed to resist all varieties of Ug99 as well as yield 10 percent higher than available varieties in Bangladesh and El, Batan, Mexico.

CIMMYT has been working with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute in the development of the new variety with assistance from USAID seed multiplication program. Hashi, the first Ug99-resistant wheat introduced in the country and the two new varieties are expected to cover more than 5 percent of the total wheat area in 2012-13.

Details on the news can be seen at

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A recent study led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assessed greenhouse gas emissions from the production of key food crops in Vietnam and evaluated the potential of alternative mitigation options in agriculture. The mitigation potential is largest with rice, and in the rural areas where most of the poor in Vietnam are living.

Vietnam's greenhouse gas emissions are low in the global context, but its rapid growth will likely triple by 2030. The study analyzed alternative management for paddy rice, the country's main staple crop, which is the key to pro-poor agricultural mitigation. Several practices were suggested by the study team to achieve the largest mitigation and economic benefits for rice and increased nutrient use efficiency.

With more than 60 percent of Vietnam's population actively involved in the agriculture sector, the mitigation potential is high and reduced emissions is a potential source of income for Vietnamese farmers.

More details are available at

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Bioseed Research India and KeyGene announced their collaboration to discover new traits for crop varieties suitable for South and South East Asia. The new traits will be used to develop crop varieties that will not only have high yields but can also tolerate abiotic stress such as drought.

"The aim of this strategic investment is to generate added value in corn and rice by increasing abiotic stress tolerance, in particular drought tolerance, for the Indian and South-East Asian seed market. The seed company, the trait research company and the farmer all benefit from the added value of products developed in the program," said Arjen van Tunen, CEO of KeyGene. "It will also help to secure the productivity and income of the farmers, particularly when more difficult environmental circumstances are applicable," he added.

Read more details at

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Field trials are now being done in England for a genetically modified (GM) wheat that scares away aphids and attracts a deadly predator to devour them, providing an alternative to insecticides that are presently used to control the pest.

The wheat emits a pheromone that is similar to the one which aphids release when they are being attacked. The pheromone induces panic attacks and the aphids eventually leave the plant. The pheromone not only wards off aphids, but also attracts tiny parasitoid wasps that lay eggs on the aphids, providing a second line of defense for the crops. The parasitoid wasps eat the aphids from the inside out, thus, reducing their population on the crop. Aphids, also called greenfly and blackfly, cause significant damage to crops and spread diseases as well.

The wheat has been modified using a gene from peppermint plants, and the field trials conducted at Rothamsted Research facility in eastern England used a spring planted variety called Cadenza.

More details are available at

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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released the scientific opinion on the continued marketing of insect resistant and herbicide tolerant cotton (MON 531 MON 1445)  for food and feed use. Results of the risk assessment showed that there were no biologically relevant differences in the compositional, phenotypic, and agronomic characteristics of GM cotton compared to its conventional counterpart. No safety issues were found in terms of the toxicity and allergenicity of food and feed products derived from the GM cotton. EFSA did not require a post-market environmental monitoring plan for the GM cotton.

Visit for more information.

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Scientists at the State Institute for Chemical and Veterinary Analysis of Food (CVUA) and Institute for Hygiene and Environment in Germany published a new validated method for the extraction of DNA from maize starch. The amplifiable amount of maize DNA tested by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used as parameter for evaluation. On the other hand, the practical limit of detection (LOD) served as a key criterion in the assessment of suitability of the extraction method with respect to GMO analysis.

The method was tested in 10 laboratories and the results showed practical LODs in the range of 0.1% with three native maize starch materials. In-house tests also showed that the method, together with an additional purification step, could be used to extract DNA from chemically or enzymatically modified starch.

Read the summary of the results at

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Honey bee is an important non-target organism used in environmental risk assessment of GM crops. Harmer Hendriksma of the University of Wrzburg, Germany, and colleagues analyzed the reaction of honey bee larvae on exposure to three insecticidal Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins and CP4-protein conferring herbicide resistance combined in one GM maize variety. They also tested the biosafety of Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA lectin), a candidate protein for pest control.

The bee larvae were subjected under worst-case exposure scenario using controlled in vitro larvae rearing. Results showed that the combination of three Bt proteins had no adverse effect on the bee larvae. On the contrary, the GNA lectin was found to be toxic for the larvae at certain levels signified by changes in the pupal weight before and after the exposure.

The researchers concluded that neither one Bt protein nor the combination thereof could bring harmful effects on honey bee larvae.

Get more information about the study at

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Scientists at Rothamsted Research in U.K. conducted an investigation on the crucial controls of population cycles of the European corn borer moth (Ostrinia nubilalis), an important corn pest that causes serious damage amounting to a loss of 1 billion dollars per year in America. According to the scientists, understanding the population cycles would help prevent damage to maize crops.

To measure the extent of regime change in the US Corn Belt with different rates of Bt maize adoption, the team analyzed 50 years' data on larval population which include time series from Minnesota (1963-2009) and Wisconsin (1964-2009). Results showed that GM maize significantly decreased the population of the pest when applied over a landscape and in large populations. The results imply that host plant modification is an effective strategy to control pests. The team is currently preparing a comprehensive model to explain the changes in the population cycles over the years.

For more information, read the articles at;jsessionid=8BC12207E62D663B6AEAD00EDD3E4267.d02t03 and

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Beyond Crop Biotech

Scientists from the University College London and partners conducted a study to trace the evolution of domesticated cattle. They extracted the DNA from the bones of domestic cattle excavated in Iranian archaeological sites, where cattle were first domesticated. Based on the results of their genetic study, they concluded that all cattle descended from a small herd composed of 80 animals that were domesticated from wild ox in the Near East around 10,500 years ago.

"This is a surprisingly small number of cattle. We know from archaeological remains that the wild ancestors of modern-day cattle, known as aurochs, were common throughout Asia and Europe, so there would have been plenty of opportunities to capture and domesticate them," said Prof. Mark Thomas, geneticist from the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Read the media release at

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"Pollination is particularly important for those vegetables that produce a seed like watermelons, as well as in the seed production process," said Mr. Andrew White, spokesperson of AUSVEG. AUSVEG is the national peak industry composed of 7,000 vegetable growers in the whole of Australia. With pollination comes the importance of pollinator bees.

A new study on the possible role of native pollinator bees in increasing yield and quality of vegetable seeds like carrots and leek was conducted. The research involved more than two years of studying 26 native species of bees to determine and identify possible native bee pollinators of leek and carrot.

Results show that growers can improve native bee population by minimizing tillage to protect nests, planting windbreaks made up of native flowering plants and protecting flowering plants and nest sites. These studies will be beneficial to the seed industry, food industry and vegetable growers in the future.

More information can be viewed at

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The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) in collaboration with King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) and The Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Network (APBioNET), will organize the 11th International Conference on Bioinformatics 2012: From Biological Data to Knowledge to Technological Breakthroughs. The conference will be held on 3-5 October 2012 at Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao, Bangkok, Thailand. The Conference program will consist of overview/ review lectures and report of new developments, technical advances and application in the field of bioinformatics and genomics

For more information, visit or contact Ms. Wannipha Tongsima, the Conference Secretariat and/or Ms. Udomrat Vatanakun, International Relations Officer of BIOTEC at

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The 5th Indonesia Biotechnology Conference (IBC) will be held on 4-7 July 2012 in Lombok, Indonesia with the theme "Green Industrial Innovation Through Biotechnology". This event is expected to provide a vehicle to learn research results and trends in the field of biotechnology as well as to: provide discussion and interaction among industrial experts and the public about biotechnology; and increase awareness of policy makers and public on biotechnology's role in national development. This event will be opened by the Minister of Health and attended by keynote speakers from the Ministries of Research and Technology, Energy and Mineral Resources, Environment, Forestry, Agriculture and Industry.

More than 20 invited speakers from various countries, such as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, China, India, Britain, Germany, Holland will be present. The deadline for abstract submission is 6 April 2012.

For more information on this event, visit and for information on biotechnology in Indonesia contact Dewi Suryani of Indonesia Biotechnology Information Center at

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The 11th International Gluten Workshop will be held from Aug 12 to 16, 2012  in Fragrant Hill Empark Hotel, Beijing, China. It is jointly organized by the Institute of Crop Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Scientists from around the world are invited to present their breakthroughs in gluten research and other aspects of wheat quality.

See the conference announcement at

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Document Reminders

Updated version of Pocket K 16: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops is now available for download in the ISAAA website. The new version is based on ISAAA Brief 43, which was released in February 2012.

Pocket Ks are Pockets of Knowledge, packaged information about crop biotechnology products and related issues. It is developed by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology to deliver key agri-biotech information in easy-to-understand style and downloadable as PDF for easy sharing and distribution.

Get a free copy at

The Biotechnology Committee of the Mexican Academy of Sciences has published For the Responsible Use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), a book presenting the scientific reality of crops and genetically modified food, safety, and its uses and applications. The book hopes that society will see biotechnology as a powerful scientific tool that will help in humanity's progress. It presents the following main chapters:

  • Approach to Biotechnology explains the technology used to produce genetic modifications.
  • Scientific Evidence includes the studies and controls applied to GM ensuring its safety for humans, animals, and the environment.
  • Responsible Use and Application presents the keys in responsible use of the technology's scientific knowledge.

This publication also includes several annexes, glossary of terms, a list of facts and events about the history of this technology, and the position of the World Health Organization on GM foods. The book (in Spanish) can be fully accessed through the Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico

More information is available at

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