In This Issue

March 6, 2013

Latest Communication Products

ISAAA Brief 48-2014
This brief shows how modern biotechnology has transformed farming into a profession that harvests agronomic and socio-cultural benefits beyond promise.
Straight from the Scientists: Biotech Experts' Perspectives and Experiences in Informing the Public
This monograph highlights the study on how academics and scientists play their role in biotech communication.
Pocket K no 48: Bt Eggplant
Pocket K on Bt Eggplant features the technology behind the biotech crop and status of Bt eggplant adoption and experimentation including potential benefits in Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines.
Biotechnology in Ornamental Plants
This new Pocket K, Biotechnology in Ornamental Plants, includes the different types of ornamental plants, the different uses of biotechnology in ornamental horticulture, and the major genetically modified ornamentals.
Brief 47: The Status of Commercialized Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh
ISAAA Brief 47 is a comprehensive report on the status of commercialized Bt brinjal in Bangladesh. Brief 47 presents a thorough review and analysis of the deregulation of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh – from the scientific and biosafety assessment and commercial release to the planting of Bt brinjal by farmers in Bangladesh.

News

Global

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR Consortium) have agreed to work together to boost the impact of their activities. The parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that further aims to scale up their efforts and make a powerful, joint contribution to the world's food security needs.

Under the renewable, five-year agreement, FAO will provide the CGIAR Consortium with advice on priorities for agricultural research, based on FAO's work for member governments, as well as information on priority programmes or activities FAO is implementing. The CGIAR Consortium, on the other hand, will advise FAO on the potential for scaling up innovation in agriculture and updated information on CGIAR Research Programs. One particular area of CGIAR's cooperation with FAO will involve making new technologies developed by CGIAR centers available to small-scale farmers.

View CGIAR's news release at http://www.cgiar.org/consortium-news/fao-and-cgiar-consortium-form-strategic-partnership/.

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Africa

Researchers and their partners from the Support for Agricultural Research and Development for Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) have started work to improve the productivity of cassava by 20 percent. The main beneficiaries of the project are about half a million farmers with more than 2 million indirect beneficiaries in DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zambia

Dr. Chrys Akem, SARD-SC Project Coordinator, said that "SARD-SC intends to tackle most of the bottlenecks confronting cassava by disseminating improved varieties and unlocking the power of the crop along the value chain." DR Congo's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Jean-Chrysostome Vahanwiti said cassava is a food security crop and that research to improve cassava was a welcome development for the country and the region.

Launched last year, the SARD-SC is a 5-year, multi-CGIAR center initiative co-implemented by IITA (executing agency), Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), supported by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). IITA is also the Executing Agency of the project.

More information is available at http://www.iita.org/news-feature-asset/-/asset_publisher/B3Bm/content/researchers-begin-activities-to-make-cassava-work-for-the-poor?#.UTVr7KJKKEt.

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Tanzania has developed 22 new hybrid cereal seed varieties that promise higher productivity. The newly developed seed varieties of maize, sorghum, bean, cow pea, Irish potato, rice, and barley are high yielding and drought and disease resistant.  They are also early maturing, qualities that are highly favored by farmers given the unpredictable changes in weather conditions.

The seed varieties have been developed through public research centers and private companies in Tanzania. Mass production of the approved seed varieties is scheduled to begin soon so that the Agricultural Seeds Agency (ASA) can deliver them to farmers ahead of the planting season.

The news release is available at: http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/index.php?l=51354.

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No research has proven that GM crops are harmful for consumption, says Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, a biotech expert, during a media workshop on biotechnology for journalists organized by Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA). He also stressed that the technology can help improve food sufficiency and food security as well as the farmers' income. Thus, there's no need to have fears on GM crops, which were developed using molecular biology techniques.

The workshop is part of the six-month fellowship program for journalists of B4FA. The program aims to bridge the gap between science and the public through better understanding and dialogue on developments in agriculture and biosciences throughout Africa.

Read the original article at http://allafrica.com/stories/201302251344.html.

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Americas

A review of 20 years of research on compositional equivalence of biotech crops and traditionally-bred crops concluded that suspected unintended compositional effects that can be caused by genetic modification did not materialize.

The report published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicated that all transgenic events evaluated by the US FDA were substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts, as well as all the transgenic events evaluated by Japanese regulators. The studies covered in the review included those that dealt on a wide array of GM crops (corn, soybean, cotton, canola, wheat, potato, alfalfa, rice, papaya, tomato, cabbage, pepper, raspberry) and traits (herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, virus resistance, drought tolerance, cold tolerance, nutrient enhancement, and expression of protease inhibitors.)

The review was conducted by William Price, a retired researcher from US FDA and Rod Herman, a scientist at Dow AgroSciences. Read the paper at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/jf400135r.

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Wheat is arguably the world's most important crop. Tens of millions of the world's poor rely on it for daily sustenance. Despite the crop's importance, the wheat plant is relatively inefficient in photosynthesis - the process by which plants convert sunlight to chemical energy - in comparison with other cereal crops such as maize (corn) and sorghum.

With this, the Wheat Yield Consortium, a unique group of scientists collaborating to dramatically increase wheat yields have met for the third time, bringing together a cross-disciplinary group of scientists to break wheat's "yield barrier". The meeting is ongoing from March 5-7 in Ciudad de Obregon, Mexico City.

The scientists are meeting this week to continue pursuit of a broad range of scientific possibilities for wheat. These include everything from optimizing leaf and spike photosynthesis, to genomic selection for increasing breeding efficiency, to exploring collections of landraces, to conventional breeding for yield potential. A recent meeting of potential sponsors from 16 countries unanimously agreed to expand the effort through a system of competitively funded grants that is currently being developed.

For more information, visit https://www.prbuzz.com/non-profit/100093-scientists-gather-in-mexico.html.

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Scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will attempt to develop ozone-resistance in corn. These strains have the potential to combat the losses climate change and air pollutants have caused in crop yield.

Lisa Ainsworth, Associate Professor of Plant Biology and principal investigator of the research project said that ozone can cause major damage and yield reductions in crops (it is costing roughly $700 million in losses in U.S. corn production). Project's co-investigator and Plant Biology Assistant Professor Pat Brown added that a major issue with ozone is that farmers cannot perceive it, as they could with a fungal infection or insect infestation. Developing strains resistant to ozone will not only increase yield but also reduce corn prices.

View the University of Illinois' news release at http://www.igb.illinois.edu/news/university-illinois-receives-grant-study-ozone-resistance-corn.

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The Arctic® nonbrowning apple technology developed by Okagan Specialty Fruits (OSF) has completed the U.S. and Canada public comment periods with over 5,000 comments in total. It is expected to go through the second U.S. public comment this spring as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) publishes the Plant Pest Risk Analysis (PPRA) and Environmental Assessment (EA) of Arctic apples. After the second public comment period, this particular apple technology can be deregulated in the U.S.

The nonbrowning apples were developed through gene silencing. The researchers turned off the expression of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which causes the browning of apples.

For more details, visit http://www.arcticapples.com/blog/joel/arctic%C2%AE-apples-approach-2nd-us-comment-period#.USwpFh2VN4L.

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Asia and the Pacific

More than a hundred members of the Philippine scientific and academic community, government agencies, regulators, farmers, private sector, media, and other stakeholders took part in a Special Seminar and Media Conference on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2012. The seminar was co-organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on February 27, 2013 in Hyatt Hotel, Manila, Philippines.

The event launched ISAAA's Annual Report, the ISAAA Brief No. 44: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2012. Dr. Clive James, Founder and Chair of ISAAA, reported the global status of biotech crop adoption in 2012. Philippine National Corn Competitiveness Board Executive Director Salvador Umengan shared the contributions from a decade of planting biotech corn to the national corn industry, and the challenges to biotech adoption in the country. A successful biotech corn farmer from the province of Pangasinan, Ms. Rosalie Ellasus, also shared her adoption experience and attested to the benefits of planting biotech corn during the media conference.

For more information about biotechnology developments in the Philippines, visit http://www.bic.searca.org/ or e-mail bic@agri.searca.org.

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The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the multinational agricultural firm Syngenta will continue their partnership as the two institutions have signed the second phase of Scientific Know-how and Exchange Program (SKEP II) . SKEP II will build on the successes of the program's first phase and will include more marker development for rice breeding, crop health management research, and expanding into rice reproductive biology, plant architecture, and yield genes.

In April, 2010, IRRI and Syngenta launched SKEP I which focused on characterizing the genetic diversity of rice, marker-assisted breeding applications, and dealing with rice productivity constraints. During this phase, 24 genetic markers were developed for rice grain quality traits, and for resistance to diseases such as bacterial leaf blight and stresses such as flooding.

For more information, view IRRI's news release at http://irri.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=12484:more-rice-research-collaboration-between-irri-and-syngenta&lang=en.

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Naresuan University, Thailand is preparing to make their first field tests with a variety of genetically modified (GM) corn, says a news report. According to Suchin Chinayon, Naresuan University Rector, the institution is prepared to start the project that will take approximately seven months. Preliminary preparations are being conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture to test genetically modified glyphosate resistant maize NK603. Initial tests were already conducted in a small contained plot at the agricultural research station at Bueng Ratchanok Wang Thong district of Phitsanulok.

Chinayon said, "Thailand must develop new maize varieties to improve and protect crops against pests and disease. At the same time, the country should begin to be aware of their position in the agricultural sector as the ASEAN Economic Community comes into force in 2015."

See the news in Spanish at http://www.agrobio.org/fend/index.php?op=YXA9I2NIVmliR2xqWVdOcGIyND0maW09I05UQT0maT0jTlRNNA==

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Of the 17.3 million farmers from 28 countries who plant biotech crops, 85% come from China (7.2M), India (7.2M), and the Philippines (0.375M) combined. These countries represent an unmatched wealth of critical information and insights towards a better understanding of the social environment that favors biotech crop adoption.

An international conference presenting the key findings of a research project Adoption and Uptake Pathways of GM/Biotech Crops by Small-scale, Resource-poor Asian Farmers in China, India, and the Philippines and their implications to biotech adoption particularly in developing countries will be held at Hyatt Hotel in Manila, Philippines on April 1 and 2, 2013. The said conference will be co-organized by John Templeton Foundation, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the National Academy of Science And Technology (NAST Philippines) and the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII).

During the opening day, Dr. Randy Hautea, ISAAA Southeast Asia Director, will present the conference overview and the global status of farmer adoption of biotech crops. The key researchers from each of the three countries namely: Dr. Xiaobing Wang and Dr. Cheng Xiang from China; Dr. Cleofe Torres from the Philippines; and Dr. Charudata Mayee and Dr. Ashok Dhawan from India, together with some selected biotech crop farmers will discuss highlights of the research results and share experiences in growing Bt Corn (in the Philippines) and Bt Cotton (in China and India). Dr. Javier Verástegui, Board Member of Peru Biotech Association, and Dr. Margaret Karembu, Director of ISAAA AfriCenter in Kenya will serve as discussants to validate the Asian experience and to provide insights from other developing regions' perspective. An open discussion will solicit policy recommendations to enhance biotech adoption in developing countries.

The conference will also link stakeholders through a network to encourage interaction even after the event. In addition, participants will visit a biotech corn farm in Concepcion, Tarlac to enable them to interact with farmers.

Conference participants will be stakeholders in the agriculture arena represented by policy makers, scientists and researchers, media practitioners, extension workers, and farmers from the developing countries.

For more information, visit http://www.isaaa.org/conference.

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Vietnam defines India as a strategic partner in its international biotechnology research and development cooperation, which is considered crucial to green industry and sustainable development, said Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngoc Anh. The minister made the statement on February 27 at an international conference held in Hanoi with the participation of scientists from technology research and development institutes in both Vietnam and India .

The Government of Vietnam considers biotechnology as one of the four prioritized science and technology–related areas in the country's socio-economic development strategy, said Anh. Participants in the two day event agreed that Vietnam and India share similarities in their agriculture-based economy. Therefore, biotechnology will play an important role in the development of both countries' "green industry".

See the news at: http://en.vietnamplus.vn/Home/Vietnam-partners-with-India-in-biotechnology/20132/32037.vnplus

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In a published report, biotechnology was said to play a key role in Vietnam's Agriculture Sector. As Vietnam is regarded as one of the largest exporters of agricultural products in the world, modern crop production technologies will find various applications in the country. Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, said "Biotechnology in Vietnam's agricultural sector has reached many achievements. These include research and application of gene technology in selecting and creating species of crops and livestock, which have high yield and good quality and are resistant to diseases."

The country's leading research institutes: Institutes of Agricultural Sciences for Southern Vietnam, the Southern Horticultural Research Institute, the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute and the Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 2 have made great contributions to the research and application of biotechnology in agriculture, especially in Southern region, a key agricultural area of the country.

For details on the article, see http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/vietnam-in-photos/57988/biotechnology-in-vietnam-s-agricultural-sector.html

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A Workshop on the Socio-Economic Assessment and Legal Aspects of Genetically Engineered Products was  conducted on 18 -19 February 2013. This workshop was jointly organized by the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Biosafety Commission in order to bring together ideas and opinions from various experts regarding the legal aspects, socio-economic and cultural rights in the assessment of genetically engineered products.

The one and a half-day event featured socio-economist Dr. Jose Falck-Zepeda and legal expert Dr. Gregory Jaffe, both from the International Food Policy Research Institute. Some 22 participants attended the event. Dr. Agus Pakpahan, Chairman of the Biosafety Commission concluded the workshop recommending that Indonesia must obtain knowledge and experience on the legal and socio-economic aspect as well as put together positive impacts of biotechnology adoption from other countries such as the US, Argentina and Brazil.

For details on this news, contact Dewi Suryani of Indonesia Biotechnology Information Center at catleyavanda@gmail.com.

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Some nine participants from the Indonesian Biosafety Commission of Genetically Engineered Product (KKH) and Technical Team of Biosafety Commission (TTKH) participated in a two day visit of Research Stations and corn farms to provide an overview of the hybrid maize seed industry in Indonesia. The participants visited the Hybrid Maize Research Station in Poncokusumo, a Monsanto seed plant in Mojokerto and had interactions with farmers in their corn fields in Turen Kidul and Papar Kediri.

Participants were also briefed by CropLife Indonesia representative Mr. Tantono Subagyo on agriculture challenges in the future and hybrid corn development. Discussions with farmers and scientists were focused on agriculture biotechnology and its applications in obtaining higher crop yield and control of pests and diseases.

For details of this visit, contact Dewi Suryani of IndoBIC at catleyavanda@gmail.com.

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Europe

Bioversity International has signed an agreement with University of Leuven in Belgium to support the world's collection of banana and plantain germplasm. Under the agreement, Bioversity will host its Musa germplasm collection at the new premises of KU Leuven, which will maintain the facilities to be called the Bioversity Musa Germplasm Transit Centre.

Dr. Emile A. Frison, Director General of Bioversity International said, the agreement is an important step forward for banana research, and that both organizations are committed to the improvement and characterization of banana and plantain for increased use and conservation of their plant genetic resources.

View Bioversity's news release at http://www.bioversityinternational.org/index.php?id=7387.

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A new multi-million pound National Plant Phenomics Centre (NPPC) was recently launched at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences based at Aberyswyth University. The NPPC is being looked at as the future of agricultural and horticultural science, where thousands of plants' physical characteristics are studied based on genetics, the role of the environment in genetic expression, and the interplay between the two.

"The National Plant Phenomics Centre provides a step change in the way plant biology is implemented," says Professor John Doonan, Director of the NPPC. "The high throughput part allows whole populations of plants, such as breeding populations, mapping experiments, natural diversity collections, and mutant collections, to be analysed in parallel and under multiple defined environments."

See the detailed news report at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2013/130305-f-sci-fi-facilities-uk-plant-science.aspx

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Research

University of Illinois scientists Jason Haegele and Frederick Below conducted a study to test their hypothesis that corn rootworm resistant (CRW) Bt hybrids exhibit improved nitrogen intake, which leads to better grain yield and nitrogen use efficiency compared with the non-Bt counterparts.

In 2008-2009, the researchers tested two CRW Bt corn hybrids and their near-isogenic non-Bt herbicide resistant (HT) corn counterparts under supplemental nitrogen of 0, 67, 134, 201 or 268 kg N ha−1. Minimal corn rootworm feeding pressure was observed in the roots of the Bt hybrids, but there were more grains produced compared with HT corn counterparts. At low nitrogen, Bt hybrids showed increased grain yield and 31% greater reaction to nitrogen fertilizer. With more nitrogen, the yields of both Bt and HT were similar, but the Bt corn hybrids had higher yield with an average of 38% less nitrogen fertilizer. Better nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), nitrogen uptake efficiency (NUpE), at the nitrogen rates required to optimize grain yield were observed in Bt hybrids in 2008, but the NUE and NUpE were not significantly different from the HT corn in 2009.

The researchers concluded that CRW protection through biotechnology has additional agronomic benefits such as improvement in nitrogen uptake and nitrogen use efficiency in some environments.

Read the open-access article at Crop Science: https://www.crops.org/publications/cs/abstracts/53/2/585.

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Announcements

ISAAA releases a new video summarizing the results of the study on farmer adoption in Luzon, Philippines. It documents the process that the farmers go through as they get information about biotech crops and eventually become adoptors of biotechnology. Watch the video now at http://www.isaaa.org/resources/videos/kernelsofchange/.

Ten short videos were also produced to discuss various aspects of the adoption process in detail:

The videos were developed and produced by College of Development Communication in UP Los Baños; ISAAA; and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

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The 15th Annual Meeting of Chinese Association for Science and Technology(CAST)will be held from May 25 to May 26, 2013 in Guiyang City of Guizhou Province,China. Chinese Society of Biotechnology(CSBT) will hold the International Forum on Biotechnology, Health and Agriculture in the Meeting. The Forum, by taking "genetic engineering, for our better life" as its theme, will invite renowned experts in genetic engineering. 

The Meeting will also launch thematic activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA Double Helix, the 40th anniversary of the birth of genetic engineering, and the 20th anniversary of the founding of the CSBT.

The Forum is co-host by Beijing Institutes of Life Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and China Biotechnology Information Center (ISAAA ChinaBIC). The working language is English, and extensive academic communications will be conducted via lectures, essay activities and posters. No registration fee is charged.

Log onto website: http://2013.cast.org.cn/ Click to English, Choose "04" under the "Venue navigation" and sign up. For more details contact Prof.Hongxiang Zhang (zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn) from CSBT and ChinaBIC.

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