In This Issue

March 4, 2011

NEWS

Global
• Global Wheat Rust Project Gets US$40 M Support 
• Genome Tools to Improve Crop Performance 

Africa
• Kenya to Start Planting Biotech Crops 
• Strict Biosafety Law Stalls GM Maize Trials in Tanzania 

Americas
• Purdue Scientist Develop Less Toxic Plant Growth Inhibitors 
• Flood-tolerant Rice Plants Can Also Survive Drought 
• Use Facts to Make Glyphosate and Glyphosate Resistant Crop Decisions 
• ‘Bean-Gene' Project Launched in Canada 

Asia and the Pacific
• China Investing Billions to Manage Drought 
• Australian OGTR- Notification of License to Controlled Release of GM Cotton 

Europe
• Impact Assessment of GMO of Plant Origin on Rat Progeny Devt in Three Generations 
• Two Long-Term Programs on Wheat and Maize Granted by the French Stimulus Initiative 
• New Postgrad Degree in Sustainable Agric and Food Security 

Research
• Transgenic Maize Express Totivirus Antifungal Protein for Corn Smut Resistance 
• Uniform Accumulation of Recombinant Miraculin in GE tomato Using E8 promoter 
• Molecular Marker Screening of Tomato Germplasm for Root-knot Nematodes Resistance 

Beyond Crop Biotech
• Animal Reproduction Research to Transform Cattle and Aquaculture Industries 

Announcements
• ICBBS 2011: International Conference on Biotechnology and Biological Sciences 
• ICBB 2011: International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biotechnology 
• Brazilian Biosafety Congress 
• ISTA Workshop on Quality Assurance in Seed Testing 
• International Conference on Agric Intensification in Sub-Saharan Africa 
• New Grant Program Available for Planting Related Research 
• Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubation Conference 

Document Reminders
• The Impact of the EU Regulatory Constraint of Transgenic Crops on Farm Income 

 

News

Global

The United Kingdom's Department of International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will award a US$40 million grant to the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project at Cornell University. The grant will support efforts to identify new stem rust resistant genes in wheat, improve surveillance, and multiply and distribute rust-resistant wheat seed to farmers. 

"We cannot overstate the importance of this announcement on the part of two of the most important funders of solutions for addressing the causes of poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world," said Ronnie Coffman, Cornell professor of plant breeding and genetics and director of the DRRW. "Against the backdrop of rising food prices, and wheat in particular, researchers worldwide will be able to play an increasingly vital role in protecting wheat fields from dangerous new forms of stem rust, particularly in countries whose people can ill afford the economic impact of damage to this vital crop."

Partners in the project include national research centers in Kenya and Ethiopia, and scientists at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). 

For more information on DRRW, go to http://www.globalrust.org.

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Researchers can exploit the genetic diversity of crops to improve productivity, sustainability and nutrition through genome sequencing tools. Edward Buckler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service research geneticist in Cornell's Institute for Genomic Diversity shared his thoughts on "Dissecting the Genetics of Complex Agronomic Traits for Crop Improvement" during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C.

"There are some simple traits, like improving vitamin A content in maize, that work with five or 10 genes, but we can also understand complex traits, like flowering time, that work with over 50 genes, and we can still make very accurate predictions," said Buckler.

Breeders expect to use genomic tools to create high yielding crops that are drought resistant, use nutrients more efficiently, and are biofortified to improve nutrition. "Now is the time to apply these tools to important traits to improve society and sustainability," Buckler added.

More details at http://westernfarmpress.com/management/genome-tools-improving-crop-performance.

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Africa

The Kenyan government anounced it will release its biotechnology guidelines in two month's time, which is a step closer towards joining other developing countries that are planting genetically modified (GM) crops. Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki has signed the Biosafety Act in 2009 but the law needed guidelines to facilitate implementation.

According to Roy Miguiira, acting chief of the National Biosafety Authority, they are working with the State Law Office because they need to prescribe packaging that will be acceptable. "We will borrow from Kenya Bureau of Standards because it already has standards of packaging and labeling of biotechnology products," he added. He also said that Africa cannot continue to ignore biotechnology since Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is at the forefront of biotechnology as it is developing biofortified sorghum.

Read more at http://allafrica.com/stories/201103010225.html.

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Tanzania is still left behind by other East African countries in planting genetically modified (GM) maize. According to Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project country coordinator Alois Kullaya, the primary reason for this is the strict biosafety law implemented in the country.

"We have had successful mock trials since 2009, but we failed to move to the next step last August because the government did not grant us a permit," said Kullaya. He also said that it is about time for the Tanzanian government to use less restrictive national biosafety regulations or else the country would loose the benefits of biotechnology.

"If all goes well, we are planning to conduct the trials this year, once we obtain the permit from the National Bio-safety Committee," said Dr. Kullaya, who is also a principal agricultural research officer at Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute.

For more details, visit http://www.bioportfolio.com/news/article/504614/Strict-Bio-safety-Law-Stalls-Gm-Maize-Trials.html.

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Americas

Purdue University scientist Angus Murphy and colleagues have developed a new class of enhanced plant growth regulators that are expected to be less toxic to humans. According to Murphy, the role of growth inhibitors is to hinder the transport of plant hormone auxin which controls growth processes. Current growth regulators available are inefficient and are often toxic. Growth inhibitors are important in crops that require labor-intensive manipulation and pruning.

"These regulators would be used primarily on ornamental plants, flowers, and trees that aren't going to be genetically changed easily," Murphy said. "Growth regulators are used regularly on this type of plant. Inhibition of auxin transport with these new compounds is also an alternative to the use of more toxic regulators like 2,4-D."

The newly-developed growth inhibitors are derived from natural and artificial auxins and look like auxin but do not have any hormonal activity.

Know more about this news at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110302MurphyInhibitors.html.

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Rice researchers at University of California Riverside led by Julia Bailey-Serres have found that rice with Sub1A gene, a gene responsible for tolerance to flood or submergence can also survive drought. Rice with Sub1 gene can conserve its energy under submergence for more than two weeks until water recedes.

The researchers report in the current issue of Plant Cell  "that at the molecular level, Sub1A serves as a convergence point between submergence and drought response pathways, allowing rice plants to survive and re-grow after both extremes of precipitation."

"We found that Sub1A properly coordinates physiological and molecular responses to cellular water deficit when this deficit occurs independently, as in a time of drought, or following ‘desubmergence,' which takes place when flood waters recede," Bailey-Serres said.

The original research news article can be viewed at http://newsroom.ucr.edu/news_item.html?action=page&id=2563

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Iowa State University professors Bob Hartzler and Michael Owen and a number of Purdue University extensionists as well as Peter Goldsborough, department head of Botany and Plant Pathology have recently published two separate articles to address the concerns on the use of glyphosate resistant crops.

Hartzler and Owen in their article on Glyphosate Interactions with Micronutrients and Plant Diseases concluded that "Results from field research and our widespread experience with glyphosate on glyphosate resistant crops for over a decade do not indicate widespread negative impacts of glyphosate on these factors".

The Purdue scientists on the other hand presented numerous evidences to conclude that "Overall, the claims that glyphosate is having a widespread effect on plant health are largely unsubstantiated." They further gave a final statement saying that, "We encourage crop producers, agribusiness personnel, and the general public to speak with University Extension personnel before making changes in crop production practices that are based on sensationalist claims instead of facts." 

The papers are downloadable from the website: Glyphosate's Impact on Field Crop Production and Disease Development at http://www.btny.purdue.edu/weedscience/2011/GlyphosatesImpact11.pdf ; Glyphosate Interations with Micronutrients and Plant Diseases at http://www.weeds.iastate.edu/mgmt/2010/glyMndisease.pdf.

The original news can be seen at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/CropNews/2011/0225hartzler.htm.

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Dry bean is a very important industry in Canada generating more than $100 million annual income. Researchers in Canada however need to improve this crop to be able to resist bacterial pathogens and to contain more beneficial antioxidants and economically novel proteins.

The Ministry or Research and Innovation of Canada partnered with industry to support the project worth $11 million that would improve the dry beans. The team of nine researchers from three universities headed by Prof. Peter Pauls, chair of the Department of Plant Agriculture in Ontario Agricultural College aim to produce a draft genome sequence for dry beans and develop genetic markers for improved varieties resistant to diseases and with improved nutritional content.

"This represents an important opportunity for an Ontario genomics effort to have major international impact and will put Canadian bean researchers at the forefront," Pauls said during the recent  project launch at the University of Guelph.

See the original news release at http://www.uoguelph.ca/news/2011/02/_u_of_g_leads_b.html.

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Asia and the Pacific

China, world's largest wheat producer, is investing US$1 billion on emergency measure to combat the effects of drought on wheat production. This longstanding drought has caused the increase in global wheat prices. The Chinese government started a construction project that would channel water from the Yellow River in the south to the wheat farming region in the north.

Read the original article at http://ciatnews.cgiar.org/en/?p=1686.

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The Australian Office of Gene Technology Regulation notifies the public on the license application from Hexima Limited for the intentional release of genetically modified (GM) cotton into the environment. The GM cotton contains a gene from tobacco to confer fungal disease resistance.

The trial will be conducted to assess resistance of the GM cotton to fungal diseases under natural field conditions. The field test is proposed to be conducted in four sites per growing season, in a maximum combined area of 1.0 ha, over three years from October 2011 to July 2014. Sites may be located in seven possible local government areas (LGAs) in Queensland and six possible LGAs in New South Wales. The GM cotton will not be used for human food or animal feed.

See the notice and the dossiers at  http://www.ogtr.gov.au/.

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Europe

A paper on Assessment of the impact of GMO on plant origin on rat progeny development in 3 generations, has been recently published in the ‘Problems of Nutrition' magazine. The research team led by N. V. Tyshko studied 630 adult rats and 2837 pups fed with various diets including GM maize Liberty Link®.

Results showed that there is no impact of GM maize on rat progeny development. In addition, "parallel studies of reproductive toxicity of conventional maize varieties demonstrated absence of specific variety impact on reproductive function, pre- and postnatal development of the progeny, as well as a sufficiently wide range of fluctuations of the studied indices, which correspond to the literature data."

For details, see the news article at http://www.bsba.ag/BSBA/NewsEn/Entries/2011/3/1_Assessment_of_the_impact_of_GMO_of_plant_origin_
on_rat_progeny_development_in_3_generations.html

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Two long term international programs for wheat and maize have been recently granted support by the French Stimulus Initiative. Wheat and maize being the staple in France, as well as in Europe have been faced with major global challenges due to increasing food and non-food demands, calls for reducing environmental footprint and growing uncertainties due to climate change.

BREADWHEAT, the wheat initiative, aims "to develop efficient genome sequence-based tools and new methodologies for breeding wheat varieties with improved quality, sustainability, and productivity." It involves 26 partners, including 11 private companies, in France and in Europe with a budget of € 39 million for 9 years.

AMAIZING, the research consortium on corn "focuses on establishing tools and methods, and on producing plant material based upon association mapping and ecophysiological studies of maize under abiotic stresses." The research will be carried out in collaboration with 24 partners, including 7 breeding companies and 2 biotech companies with a budget of €30 million for 8 years.

See the original article at http://www.international.inra.fr/press/2_long_term_programmes_on_wheat_and_maize.

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The University of East Anglia (UEA) in the United Kingdom will launch this September the MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. The one-year course will be offered by the Center for Contemporary Agriculture, a collaboration between UEA, Easton College, the John Innes Center, the Institute of Food Research, the Sainsbury Laboratory, the National Institute for Agricultural Botany and the Arable Group. Focus will be on latest developments in irrigation, machinery, and plant breeding, including genetic modification.

"A world food crisis is almost upon us," said course leader Prof. John Turner of UEA's School of Biological Sciences. "Graduates of this exciting new course will be instrumental in applying the latest scientific methods to tackle this global challenge. They will be part of the solution."

Visit http://www.uea.ac.uk/bio for more information.

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Research

Corn smut fungus (Ustilago maydis) is one of the important agricultural pathogens that cause significant crop yield losses. Most traditional breeding methods have failed to control corn smut because natural resistance to U. maydis is organ-specific and involves multiple maize genes.

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center scientist Aron Allen and colleagues used transgenic approach to express Totivirus antifungal protein (KP4) in maize for corn smut resistance. Results of their study showed that the transgenic plants expressed high levels of KP4 without any negative effect on plant development. Transgenic plants planted in the experimental greenhouse exhibited high resistance to U. maydis in the stem and ear tissues. The results imply that genetic engineering of this family of antifungal proteins can give high level of organ independent fungal resistance.

Read the research paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2011.00590.x/full.

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Miraculin is a taste-modifying protein present in miracle fruit plant, a tropical shrub. It has a unique ability to turn sour into sweet taste, thus it is a potential sweetener for diabetics. Scientist Tadayoshi Hirai of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, used E8 promoter, a tomato fruit-ripening specific promoter, and the CaMV 35S promoter, a constitutive promoter to express the miraculin gene in tomato. Tadayoshi and colleagues compared the accumulation of miraculin accumulation in genetically engineered (GE) tomatoes expressing the miraculin gene driven by the said promoters.

Results showed that there are high levels of miraculin protein in the GE tomato lines with E8 promoter only during red fruit stage. Miraculin protein levels were almost uniform in all fruit tissues. On the other hand, when 35S promoter was used, there was higher miraculin levels in the outer skin of the fruit compared to other tissues. This implies that miraculin accumulation pattern can be controlled by various kinds of promoters. However, during processing of tomatoes, the outer skin is eliminated. Hence, it is better to use E8 promoter to facilitate uniform accumulation of miraculin in GE tomato fruits to be used for processed tomato products.

Transgenic Research Journal subscribers may read the complete research article at http://www.springerlink.com/content/729324052551q046/.

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Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), an economically important vegetable, has been frequently savaged by root-knot nematodes causing production losses in Ghana. The use of effective nematicides have been banned due to their environmental and health risks. Previous studies have shown that the gene Mi found in tomatoes confers genetic resistance to root-knot nematodes. Thus, Y. Danso of Crops Research Institute (CSIR), Kumasi, Ghana and other scientists, conducted molecular screening on some tomato germplasm to detect markers of Mi.

Based on the results, the tomato cultivars VFNT, FLA 505-BL 1172, 2641A, "Adwoa Deede" and Terminator FI showed the marker for the homozygous resistant genotypes (Mi/Mi). The cultivars, Tima and 2644A showed both markers, corresponding to heterozygous resistant genotypes (Mi/mi). Twenty one (21) out of the 26 cultivars did not show any of the markers probably because of non-specificity at the primer-binding sites. Five (5) heterozygous individuals of the 6 resistant cultivars were found to be following the Hardy-Weinberg equlibrium in population genetics.

Read the abstract of this study at http://www.academicjournals.org/AJB/abstracts/abs2011/28Feb/Danso%20et%20al.htm.

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Beyond Crop Biotech

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) is pursuing a new biotechnological research to boost the productivity and profitability of the country's cattle and aquaculture industries and address important sustainability and welfare issues. According to CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship Director Dr. Bruce Lee, the new multi-million dollar, three-year project aims to develop:

  • a vaccine to sterilize male and female cattle
  • better ways to breed female only Atlantic salmon, which are more productive than their male counterparts
  • sterile female prawns which grow 30 per cent faster than males.

"We expect to have a profound impact on the profitability and global competitiveness of Australia's animal industries, the reliability of our food supply, and potentially create new life-science technologies for application both in Australia and internationally," said Prof. Michael Holland from the University of Queensland, one of the partners of CSIRO in this project.

Read more at http://www.csiro.au/news/Animal-reproduction-research-to-transform-industry.html.

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Announcements

The International Conference on Biotechnology and Biological Sciences (ICBBS) will be held on August 24-26, 2011 in Tokyo, Japan. This conference aims to bring together academic scientists, leading engineers, industry researchers and scholar students to exchange and share their experiences and research results about all aspects of biotechnology and biological sciences, and discuss the practical challenges encountered and the solutions adopted. Paper submission deadline is on April 30, 2011.

Visit http://www.waset.org/conferences/2011/japan/icbbs/ for more information.

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The International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biotechnology (ICBB) will be held in Tokyo, Japan on May 25-27, 2011. The objective of the ICBB 2011 is to gather academic scientists, leading engineers, industry researchers, and scholar students to exchange and share their experiences and research results about all aspects of bioinformatics and biotechnology. The practical challenges encountered and the solutions adopted will also be discussed. Papers are accepted until March 31, 2011.

More details are available at http://www.waset.org/conferences/2011/tokyo/icbb/.

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The VII Brazilian Biosafety Congress will be held on September 19-23, 2011 in Joinville/SC, Brazil. The congress theme is on developments of synthetic biology and challenges to biosafety. The international exhibition on devices and equipment on biosafety will be a concurrent event.

For more information go to http://www.anbio.org.br/ or email assessoria@anbio.org/br.

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ISTA Workshop on Quality Assurance in Seed Testing will be held on August 8-12, 2011 in Bangalore, India. This workshop aims to present and discuss basic principles of quality management and focuses on the needs of seed testing laboratories that wish to comply with the ISTA Accreditation Standard and prepare for attaining and maintaining ISTA accreditation. Quality managers, laboratory managers, and seed testing analysts with or without experience in quality management are invited.

More detailed information on the workshop can be found at https://www.seedtest.org/stream/nl-l---1--%400dfbc7321031--228.html.

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International Conference on Challenges and Opportunities for Agricultural Intensification of the Humid Highland Systems of sub-Saharan Africa will be held in Kigali, Rwanda on October 24-27 2011. Registration via conference website at http://tinyurl.com/69lr2k3. Abstract submission deadline for oral and poster presentations is extended until March 31, 2011.

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Precision Planting, an industry leader in solutions for seed spacing and placement will award project funding in increments of $1,000 up to $10,000 per project based on available funds, on research studies dealing with seed environment and placement practices. Applications and instructions are available online at http://www.precisionplanting.com/, and will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis.

Application deadline for 2011 projects is March 25, 2011. Applications can be sent to: Precision Planting, Research Grant Program, 23207 Townline Road, Tremont, IL 61568. Inquiries on the program can be directed to Dustin Blunier at 309-925-5050 or dustin.blunier@precisionplanting.com.

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The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) will host a three-day Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubation Conference (NIABI 2011), from March 8-10, 2011 at its headquarters in Patancheru near Hyderabad, India. The forum aims to create global awareness and build competencies on agribusiness incubation among entrepreneurs and establish global partnerships. Agricultural entrepreneurs, agribusiness incubators, agricultural research institutions, funding agencies, venture capitalists, entrepreneurship development organizations, and government organizations from various countries are invited.

To register and get more details, visit http://niabi2011.niabi.in/niabi2011/index.html.

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Document Reminders

A paper on the Impact of the EU Regulatory Constraint of Transgenic Crops on Farm Income has been recently published by Science Direct. The paper is authored by researchers from University of Reading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development led by Julian Park, and presents revenue estimates foregone by EU farmers, if they will not plant insect resistant and herbicide tolerant transgenic crops. The paper noted that "this foregone revenue margin  is likely to increase if the current level of approval and growth remains low, as new transgenic events come to market and are rapidly taken up by farmers in other parts of the world."

Download the Report at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=MImg&_imagekey=B8JG4-521M6KH-1-1&_cdi=43660&_user=10&_pii=S1871678411000100&_origin=search&_coverDate=01%2F25%2F2011&_sk=999999999&view=c&wchp=dGLzVlz-zSkWA&_valck=1&md5=e2a5a5d78b4c50fc16f0b09b196583d2&ie=/sdarticle.pdf.

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