In This Issue

April 25, 2008


• First Transgenic Papaya Genome Draft 
• IFPRI Report on Plant Breeding and Biotech Programs in 4 Countries 
• FAO: Biofuel Production Could Increase Marginalization of Women 

• Egypt Approves Bt Corn Cultivation 
• Arcadia and AATF Collaborate to Develop Improved Rice Lines 
• African Countries Strategize Rice Program 

• Brazil to Commercialize Advanced Renewable Fuels from Sugarcane 
• WSU Receives Grant to Develop Gluten Free Wheat 
• Brazilian President Lula to Join FAO Summit on Food Security 
• University of Arkansas to Study Gene Flow in GM Canola 

Asia and the Pacific
• Philippines Honors Most Inspiring Biotech Entrepreneurs 
• India Approves LST of Public Bred Bt Cotton Varieties 
• Malaysia’s Strategies to Address Food Shortage 
• NZ Report Says Commission Report on GM not Implemented 
• Precision Breeding Accelerates Pasture Development 
• Improving Sucrose Synthesis in Indonesian Sugarcane 
• India Estimates Big Rise in Food Production 
• FSANZ Seeks Comment on GM Corn 
• Malaysia Ponders on Alternative Animal Feedstuff 
• Modern Technologies to Meet Global Challenges 

• British Beef Association Urges GM in Cereal Tool Kit 

• Expression of a Bt Gene in Cabbage Chloroplasts 
• Herbicide-Tolerant Crops May Help Improve Water Quality 

• Partnership, Innovation, Agriculture International Meeting 
• European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology 




A collaboration of research institutions from the United States and China has produced the first draft of the papaya genome. The draft, which spelled more than 90 percent of the plant’s gene coding sequence, is also the first for a genetically modified plant. The researchers studied ‘SunUp’, a transgenic variety resistant to the papaya ring spot virus. Papaya is now the fifth angiosperm to have its genome sequenced, after Arabidopsis, rice, poplar and grape. An article in the journal Nature reports details of the accomplishment.

The draft is expected to shed light on the evolution of flowering plants. The findings indicate that papaya took a different evolutionary path after its divergence from Arabidopsis 72 million years ago. Although the papaya genome is three times larger than that of Arabidopsis, it contains fewer genes especially those involved in disease resistance. Papaya share with poplar an increased number of genes associated with cell expansion, starch production and lignin biosynthesis, consistent with the evolution of a tree-like habit.

 Detailed information on the precise location of transgenic modification in the plant is expected to help lower regulatory barriers in countries like Japan, where import of virus-resistant papaya is prohibited.

The abstract of the paper is available at For more information visit

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The International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and national experts identified and analyzed plant breeding and biotechnology programs in four developing countries: Cameroon, Kenya, the Philippines, and Venezuela. IFPRI examined the investments in human and financial resources and the distribution of resources among the different programs, as well as the capacity and policy development for agricultural research in the four selected countries.

The report by Jose Falck Zepeda and colleagues recommends ways to help sustain and increase the efficiency of publicly- and privately-funded plant breeding programs, while maximizing the use of genetic resources and developing opportunities for  genetically modified (GM) crop production. IFPRI says that policy makers, private sector breeders, and other stakeholders can use this information to prioritize investments, consider product advancement, and assess the relative magnitude of the potential risks and benefits of their investments.

Download for the full report.


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A new study of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that women in the rural areas may be marginalized because of limited access to the large–scale production of liquid biofuels like bioethanol and biodiesel in developing countries. The study entitled “Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production-Minimizing the Risks to Maximize the Opportunities”, noted that though the biofuel plantations create employment for around 40 percent of female agricultural workers (in Latin America and the Caribbean), they are most likely to experience low wages, poor working conditions and benefits, and exposure to safety and health risks.

According to Yianna Lambrou, co-author of the study, policies should be adopted in developing countries to strengthen the participation of small farmers, especially women in biofuel production. This is all the more important since the number of households headed by women is growing, with around 40 percent of the total in Southern Africa and 35 percent in the Caribbean. She also suggested that, "women's access to land, capital and technology must be increased since gender inequalities are likely to become more marked as women’s vulnerability to hunger and poverty is further exacerbated,” Lambrou stressed.

Read the full article at To view the complete study, visit

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Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture has recently approved the decisions made by the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) and Seed Registration Committee allowing the commercialization of a Bt corn variety. This marks the first genetically modified (GM) crop approved for domestic planting in the country. The approval is highlighted in a recent Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN) report by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

During last year’s growing season, field trials were conducted and assessed. A local seed company, acting as an agent of a multi-national life science company, plans to import GM seeds for propagation and production from South Africa. The GM corn will be planted in 10 governates throughout Egypt.

The report is available at

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Arcadia Biosciences, a Seattle based Biotech Company, and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a non-profit organization that aims to deliver new agricultural technologies for African farmers, have entered into a licensing agreement to use Arcadia’s technologies to develop nitrogen use efficient and salt tolerant rice varieties. The rice varieties will be available royalty-free to small holder farmers. Arcadia, as part of its stated commitment to agricultural improvement in the developing world, will not receive any monetary compensation for the research and commercial rights granted in the agreement.

Eric Rey, CEO and President of Arcadia said that “the availability of new agricultural technologies to African farmers has historically been slow because of issues around development costs and intellectual property ownership. The partnership between Arcadia and AATF is designed to solve both of these issues.” He further stressed that nitrogen use efficient and salt tolerant rice varieties will be invaluable in the region, where limited water supply and high on farm price of nitrogen fertilizers prohibit increase in production.

Read the press release at


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The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) announced that African rice breeders have made critical steps in ensuring self-sufficiency and boosting African rice production. This was announced at the inaugural meeting in Kampala, Uganda of the Rice Breeders Network, a consortium of rice experts and seed companies from more than 10 African countries. AGRA also mentioned its plans to support the development and release of new rice varieties in Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Nigeria and Malawi that will boost local production, improve regional food security, and reduce Africa’s over-reliance on rice imports from Asia.

“As long as Africa depends on imports for meeting our food demands, we will experience food crises as the costs continue to rise for consumers, said Dr. Namanga Ngongi, AGRA’s president. “ We must boost local production. We must grow our own food.”

See AGRA's press release at

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A research and development headquarter and a renewal fuels pilot facility are expected to be operational in Campinas, Brazil in 2009. Amyris, the leading innovator of next-generation renewable fuels, and Crystalsev, one of Brazil's largest ethanol distributors and marketers, are expected to use these facilities to commercialize advanced renewable fuels made from sugarcane including diesel, jet fuel and gasoline.

Amyris reports that unlike current biofuels, its “renewable fuels are designed to meet or exceed the quality of existing petroleum fuels and be fully compatible with existing fuel infrastructures and engines. They are formulated biologically through sugar fermentation to create hydrocarbons, the same molecular structure found in traditional petroleum fuels.”

Santelisa Vale, the second largest ethanol and sugar producer in Brazil and majority owner of Crystalsev, will provide two million tons of sugarcane crushing capacity.

Additional details of this venture at

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The United States’ National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded Washington State University (WSU) a four-year $837,000 grant to develop novel wheat varieties that are free of gluten proteins. Gluten triggers inappropriate immune system responses in people affected with Celiac Disease. This genetic disease can create symptoms that range from diarrhea and cramps to nutrient malabsorption and malnutrition. One in every 100 or 200 Americans or 4 percent of Europeans are estimated to suffer from gluten intolerance. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Adherence to such diet is difficult, since gluten is also being used as a filler and binder in many non-food items such as medicines, vitamins and paper adhesives.

Scientists from WSU have previously discovered a lysine-rich barley mutant that lacks gliadin, the gluten component that triggers the disease. They hope to identify the mutation and use this to make gluten-free wheat varieties that are also rich in the essential amino acid lysine. WSU has partnered with Arcadia Biosciences, a Seattle-based biotech company, for the task.

For more information visit or

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The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva confirms his presence in the High-Level Conference on World Food Security with the theme “The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy on June 3 to 5, 2008 at the Food and Agriculture (FAO) Headquarters in Rome. This is in response to the invitation from FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf.

The Conference aims to assess food security and poverty reduction in the face of climate change and energy security at the global, regional and national levels. Moreover, President Lula emphasized the need for scientific foundations so that people can discuss solutions to the crisis. "The debate must take place in a rational manner, without being clouded by emotions or left or right-wing ideologies" he commented.

Read more about this news at . For more information on the High-level Conference on World Food Security, see .

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U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (USDA/EPA) has awarded a $520,000 grant to a group of researchers from the University of Arkansas to study the effects of climate change on weed biology, especially the transgenic hybrid weeds produced by cross pollination with GM canola. Canola has the potential to hybridize with 40 species, and several of these species are weed pests. GM canola has been widely grown because of its potential as a biofuel crop. In Arkansas, field test of GM canola took place last year. The group aims to build predictive models that will show the effects of climate change on the flow of transgenes from GM canola to its sexually compatible relatives.

For more information visit,

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Asia and the Pacific

Filipino scientists and entrepreneurs venturing in different areas of biotechnology business enterprise were honored as the Most Inspiring Biotech Entrepreneurs by the Hybridigm Consulting, Inc., a biotechnology consulting firm, in partnership with Go Negosyo, an advocacy group of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE). The honorees were recognized during the Opening Ceremonies of the recently-concluded 4th Philippine Biotechnology Venture Summit to promote biotechnology enterprises that have excellently transcended the laboratory to market phase of biotech product development and became pioneers in the industry.

The awardees were Dr. Samuel Bernal of Globetek Pro Health, for advanced integrative molecular and biotherapies; Dr. Gisela Concepcion of Biomart Asia, for 'Biogenins', a class of phytochemicals for skin and health care products; Rolando dela Cruz of RCC Amazing Touch, who developed an organic cream from extracts of cashew nuts and other native herbs to treat Basal Cell Carcinoma; Vicenta Mendoza Escobar of Sol y Viento Research Center, uses herbal formulations from 'Noni' (apatot), graviola (guyabano), mangosteen, and other native herbs for health and wellness; Dr. Saturnina Halos of Arnichem Corporation, pioneered the development and utilization of biofertilizers; Dean Lao Jr. of Chemrez Technologies, operates the Philippines' first continuous-process biodiesel plant; Dr. Vermen Verallo-Rowell of VMV Skin Research Center, promotes the "coconut lifestyle" in the wellness industry; Robert So of Ecosystems Technologies Inc., for his pioneering use of biotechnology in biological wastewater treatment process; and Dr. Rainier Villanueva of Rainiers Research and Development, the first Filipino herbal manufacturing facility in the United States that offers cosmoceutical, nutraceutical, and home care products.

The Palawan Center for Appropriate Rural Technology (PCART), a non-profit, non-government organization from northern Palawan, was recognized as the Most Inspiring Biotechnology Community Venture for its Palawan Bio-Farm Enterprises which is engaged in the production and processing of various herbs for the herbal industry. 

For details contact Ms. Sonny Tababa, Network Administrator of SEARCA-Biotechnology Information Center at spt@agri.searca

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The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), an apex biotech regulatory body in India, has approved large scale trials (LST), as well as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) trials, and large scale seed production in an area of 100 hectares of BN Bt cotton expressing Bt Cry 1Ac protein in the North Cotton Growing Zone in India in 2008. The indigenously developed Bt cotton is the first public sector GM crop in India developed by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), one of the premier public sector institutes of the ICAR.

Farmers in India have planted 131 different Bt cotton hybrids over 6.2 million hectares in 2007 with the first Bt cotton hybrid approved in 2002. The GEAC has also released 21 new Bt cotton hybrids expressing four different events to be cultivated in the North Zone in 2008.

For more information, view . Contact for news on biotech developments in India.

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The Malaysian government is seriously looking into addressing the impending global food shortage and efforts have been channeled into this issue with a proposed Food Security Policy. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has urged big conglomerates to venture into food crops rather than just plantation crops. The government will ensure that the country will increase its self-sufficiency in food from the current 60 to 70 per cent to 100 per cent.

The government has allocated RM 4 billion (US $1.3 billion) to increase food production and to keep prices low. Large areas of land in Sarawak will be converted into intensive rice cultivation area to reduce rice imports. Sarawak is expected to be the nation’s next rice bowl. The funds will also be used to increase production of fruits and vegetables. Long term plans are in the pipeline besides stockpiling food such as rice.

For more news on developments on crop biotech in Malaysia contact Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysia Biotechnology Information Center at

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“A Review of the 49 Recommendations of the Royal Commission in Genetic Modification” by the New Zealand think tank Sustainable Future reported that only 20 of the 49 recommendations have been fully implemented. The package of actions were proposed in 2001 designed to enable New Zealand to make decisions on the use of biotechnology in the future.

The report also noted that New Zealand does not have in place the governance and accountability framework proposed by the Commissioners under their major theme of ‘preserving opportunities’. It raised doubts about the country's ability to manage the risks of genetic modification.

See the full report at

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Sulfonyl urea herbicides (SU) are commonly used across millions of hectares during the cropping phase in Southern Australia. However, minute traces of the herbicide can be fatal when the same field is planted to sensitive legume varieties and pasture crops. Scientists at the South Australia Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and University of Adelaide developed and released last year the medic pasture variety Angel which is resistant to SU residues. This development increased livestock feed by as much as 50% after cropping and improved soil organic matter content because of their nitrogen fixing abilities.

Dr Klaus Oldach, SARDI’s Gene Function scientist and head of the team continued the research further and identified the gene that is responsible for SU tolerance through a combination of techniques of gene discovery. The research team has identified the gene that rendered the pasture crop resistant to SU, its location within the genome and the associated molecular markers to identify its presence or absence in the breeding material, as well as its functional activity.

For details, see article at:

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Increasing the capacity of sugarcane to produce sucrose was the aim of a research group from the University of Jember and Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. Produced by photosynthesis, sucrose is the main substrate for respiration and biosynthesis. In normal conditions, sucrose is the main respiratory and growth substrate of higher plants. It is synthesized from glucose and fructose by an enzyme sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS).

The researchers genetically engineered a sugarcane variety cvR579 to contain the cDNA of sugarcane sucrose phosphate synthase (SoSPS1) gene in its spindle leaves. PCR analysis revealed the presence of the transgene in five lines with an accompanying 1.4-2.9 fold increase in SPS activity and 1.76 - 2.2 fold increases in leaves sucrose content.  In addition, the increased SPS activity was coupled with increased invertase activity and ratio between sucrose and starch content.

Production of sugarcane with increased sugar content in the spindle leaves would be a very important contribution in the development of food crops with usable biological mass for biofuel production.

For details, see the full article at: or contact Dewi Suryani of Indonesia Biotech Information Center at

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The Ministry of Agriculture in India announced a record estimated production of wheat, rice, coarse grains, pulses, oilseeds and cotton in 2007-08. It is estimated that the food grain production in 2007-08 touches an all time high record of 227.31 million tonnes as compared to 217.28 million tonnes in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the country will produce at best estimate, 95.68 million tonnes of rice, 76.78 million tonnes of wheat, 39.67 million tonnes of coarse cereals and 15.19 million tonnes of pulses. Oilseed production during 2007-08 is estimated at 28.21 million tonnes with groundnut estimated at 8.87 million tonnes, soybean at 9.43 million tonnes and rapeseed and mustard at 6.43 million tonnes. Production of cotton is estimated at 23.19 million bales of 170 kg each. As compared to 2006-07, rice production is estimated to increase by about 2 million tonnes, wheat by about 1 million tonne, coarse cereals by about 6 million tonnes (mainly contributed by maize) and pulses by about 1 million tonne during 2007-08. The oilseeds production is estimated to increase by about 4 million tonnes (mainly contributed by groundnut) and cotton by about 0.6 million bales during 2007-08 over 2006-07.

For more information on food production in India visit Contact for biotech developments in India.

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The bi-national food agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has announced plans to change certain restrictions of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code– regulations that cover the content, labeling, handling and sale of food in the two countries. The first is to require mandatory iodine fortification of bread in Australia. The second is for the approval of Syngenta Seeds Pty Ltd’s GM corn line MIR162. MIR162 is genetically modified to express the BT protein Vip3Aa20 to protect it against feeding damage caused by the larvae of certain insect pest species. Syngenta intends to cultivate the corn in the US. However, once commercialized, GM corn products may be imported to Australia and New Zealand.

Comments from industries, public health professionals, government agencies and consumers are welcome. Details can be found at

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Assessing the possibility of corn cultivation and carrying out extensive research and development work on palm kernel cake as alternative animal feedstuff are possible recommendations that will be made to the Malaysian government. This was raised during a workshop on “Animal feedstuffs in Malaysia: Exploring alternative strategies” organized by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), University Putra Malaysia (UPM), and Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) as part of an initiative under the ASM Biotechnology and Agriculture Task Force.

The workshop was organized to discuss and identify options of reducing the cost of imports of animal feedstuffs; explore the possibilities of increasing locally available feed resources; identify relevant research opportunities towards reducing the costs of production and import of feedstuffs; identify the constraints in the feed milling industry; and recommend policy options related to the production and use of feedstuffs.

The deliberations made during this workshop will be collated and an advisory report will be sent to the government for its consideration in policy development.

For more information contact Mahaletchumy Arujanan at

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In combination with genomics, proteomics and metabolomics, biotechnology can greatly help meet the challenges of production, management, and sustainability of agriculture and economic development. Food, feed and energy issues can be addressed through collaborations between genomic researchers and plant breeders and by using the tools of modern biotechnology. This perspective was stressed during the recent international symposium on “Genomics, Proteomics, Metabolomics: Recent Trends in Biotechnology” held at the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (MMG), University of The Punjab in Pakistan. The symposium was organized in collaboration with Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, National Biotechnology Commission, Core Group in Biological Sciences.

Over 190 delegates attended the workshop which aimed to discuss new ways to use animal, plants and microbes to improve quality of life, and to bridge the gap between global scientific communities in the fields of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics.

Read Ijaz Ahmad Rao’s article at

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Genetically modified (GM) crops must become part of the cereals sector tool kit. The National Beef Association (NBA) in Britain called on Europe to abandon its resistance to GM crops in the light of increased global food requirements and declining domestic animal production.

 “Full use of modern technology is essential if more farmers are to be able to grow more food crops on the increasingly limited area of agricultural land that is available,” said NBA chairman, Duff Burrell. “The European Commission must accept that opposition to GM technology lacks logic and agree that the GM import issue needs an urgent solution because a massive rise in EU and UK livestock feed prices, and a corresponding reduction in livestock population, can only be avoided by quickly clearing the backlog of GM importation approvals.”

See NBA's press release at

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Genetic modification of plants via chloroplast transformation has recently become an established technology for crop improvement. Introduction of foreign genes in the cytoplasm offers several advantages over nuclear transformation. Proteins from plastid transgenes are expressed at very high levels, as there are multiple copies of the chloroplast genome in a plant cell. Likewise, since chloroplast genes are maternally inherited, plastid transformation offers a way of containing transgenes.

A group of scientists from Taiwan has successfully transferred the Cry1Ab gene into the cabbage chloroplast genome. Expression of the Bt protein was detected in the range of 5 to 11 percent of the total soluble protein in leaves of the transgenic lines. The transformed lines exhibited increased resistance to diamond back moth larvae. The establishment of a plastid transformation system in cabbage offers new possibilities for genetic improvement and biological control in brassica crops.

The abstract of the paper published by the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics is available at

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When genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops were made available a decade ago, it became possible to replace the traditionally used residual herbicides with contact herbicides like glyphosate and glufosinate. Unlike contact herbicides, residual herbicides are frequently detected in rivers, streams and water reservoir at concentrations exceeding health advisory levels.

 A study conducted by scientists from the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) compared the relative losses of both contact and residual herbicides when applied to small watersheds planted with herbicide tolerant corn and soybean. Results of the four-year study revealed that losses of contact herbicides, associated with GM crops, in surface water runoff were much less compared to those for residual herbicides. The concentrations of dissolved glyphosate and glufosinate in the runoff were also found to be well below the drinking water standards. Glyphosate concentration was found four times less than the health advisory level compared to alachlor, a residual herbicide it can replace, which was found to be present 700 times greater than the standard.

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

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This international meeting will be held in Paris, France in June 3, 2008 and organized by the National Research Institute (INRA) and the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and their public interest group IFRAI, the French Initiative for International Agricultural Research. The goal is to identify research priorities in agriculture by creating a space for a constructive dialogue between the different players in the agricultural arena. INRA and CIRAD hope that this meeting will initiate future collaborations and provide an opportunity for French agricultural research organizations and their partners to highlight their expertise and establish new partnerships. The programme will consist of oral presentations (keynote papers and case studies) and round-table discussions. This will be followed by floor discussions and debates focusing on: Ecology of Innovation and New Challenges Facing Integration. The deadline for preregistration is 30 April, 2008.

See details at:

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The European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology 2008, facilitated by the European association for BioIndustries (Europabio), will be held 15-17 September, 2008 at Brussels. The forum is expected to attract over 200 delegates and will, for the first time in Europe, provide a meeting place for science, industry, policymakers and investors. Issues involving policy developments, market growth, technological advances and future trends in industrial and environmental applications of biotechnology will be discussed in the forum.

For more information, visit

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