In This Issue

July 29, 2011


• Strategies to "Freeze the Footprint of Food" 

• Kenya Pushes Through GM Cotton Plans 
• Africa Needs to Increase S&T Investment 

• USDA Reopens Comment Period for Draft EA for Drought Tolerant Corn 
• US EPA Approves Syngenta's Dual Modes of Insect Protection with Five Percent Refuge 

Asia and the Pacific
• Genomics Institute to Offer Remote Data Service 
• CSIRO Researchers Develop Crops for the Changing Climate 
• Expert Says GM Risk Communication in China Should Be Strengthened 
• Reduced Pesticide Poisoning Observed Among Cotton Growers 
• Pakistan Needs to Collaborate with China on Agriculture 
• Pakistan Seed Board Approves New Seed Varieties 
• Gene Discovery in Wild Barley May Lead to Stress Tolerant Crops 
• Second Confined GM Field Tests Approved in Miyazaki University 
• GM Crops are Essential Innovation in Japanese Agriculture, says JBA President 

• GM Drug Trials Starts in UK 
• Field Trials Destroyed in Germany 
• Andalusian Farmers and Government Officials Want Biotech Crops 
• Barley Defense System Against Powdery Mildew 

• Scientists Investigate Effect of Rice Sucrose Transporters on Potato Starch Yield 
• Over-expression of Plasma Membrane Protein Gene Enhances Cold-resistance in Tobacco 
• Researchers Analyze Stress-sensitive Proteins in Broccoli During Post-harvest Aging 

Beyond Crop Biotech
• Molecular Portrait Reveals Cell Signaling Activity 
• Purdue Biologists Elucidate Bacterial Infection 
• Center for Transgenic Mouse Research 
• BIO Releases Second Edition of GE Animals Benefits Study 

• Asian Food Security Conference in Singapore 
• Food and Nutrition in the 21st Century, Warsaw, Poland 

Document Reminders
• Biotech Country Facts and Trends 
• COMSTECH Website 

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In an article Freeze the footprint of food published in Nature journal, Jason Clay of WWF identifies eight strategies that could enable farming to address issues concerning a growing global population amidst higher consumption and shrinking production land.

"If applied globally and simultaneously, (the strategies) will help to reform the food system and protect the planet," Clay explained. Among the strategies are the following:

  • Genetics – Use the potential of genetics in traditional plant breeding as well as new modern technologies.
  • Better practices – Improve the poorest-performing producers to enhance food production, increase income, and reduce environmental impacts.
  • Efficiency through technology – Double the efficiency of every agricultural input, including water, fertilizer, pesticides, energy, and infrastructure.
  • Degraded land –  Rehabilitate abandoned or underperforming lands.

"If we cannot double the genetic potential of the 10–15 main calorie crops, on the same amount of land, we will fail to meet rising demand. NGOs and academics do not control the global food system, so instead they must try to change how governments and the private sector think about food production," Clay concluded.

Subscribers can view the article at

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After allowing the importation of GM maize, Kenya is now anticipating another GM crop to be released to farmers in 2014. This GM crop is commonly known as Bt cotton which is resistant to insects. This Bt cotton also contains another transgene that confers drought tolerance, thus doubling the yield of conventional cotton. At present, researchers at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) study the crop in demonstration farms in Thika. Field trials are also being conducted in Embu, where farmers are being trained on how to grow the crop.

"It should be clear that we are on the path to introducing commercialized GMO crops because the law now allows that," said Wilson Songa, the Agriculture Secretary. "This is a technology we believe in and we know it will be of benefit to farmers," he said.

Micah Powon, executive director of the Cotton Development Authority, confirmed that the trials are on going and said that they highly prefer the crop because it decreases insecticide spraying by three to nine times, while doubling the yields at the same time. Kenya currently needs 200,000 bales of cotton per year to be self-sufficient, and this can be achieved easily by planting GM cotton, Powon added.


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For Africa to become more competitive in global science, it must increase investment in human capital development, strengthen scientific institutions and equipment, and fund science at significantly higher levels. These recommendations were forwarded in a document African Innovation Outlook 2010 prepared by the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) project, and released by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

A total of 19 African countries were covered in the document. Areas covered included economic and human development challenges, research and development activities, innovation, and recommendations for addressing the challenges identified. Only three countries – Malawi, Uganda and South Africa – spent more than 1% of gross domestic product on R&D, a target set by the African Union in 2006. The public sector comprising the government and higher education sectors accounted for majority of R&D expenditure in all countries surveyed.

See the full story at

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) has reopened the comment period for a petition submitted by Monsanto Company asking for a determination of nonregulated status for a drought tolerant corn (MON87460). The comment period will allow interested individuals more time to prepare and submit comments on the petition and APHIS' plant pest risk assessment and draft environmental assessment (EA).

The comment period has been reopened for additional 30 days, ending on August 12. Thus, comments received between July 12 to July 27 (release date of notice on reopening of comment period) will be considered.

Read the official notice at

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted registration approval for the corn Agrisure®3122 trait stack developed by Syngenta. The genetically modified corn features dual modes of action for both corn rootworm and corn borer, and herbicide tolerance. It thus contain five different genes: Agrisure® CB/LL trait, to protect corn from European corn borer; the Agrisure® RW trait, against corn rootworm; the Herculex® I trait for corn borer; the Herculex® RW trait for corn rootworm; and the Agrisure GT trait for glyphosate tolerance.

The Agrisure®3122 trait stack is designed for areas where corn rootworm management is a significant problem and will be marketed as a five percent structured refuge by 2012.

See the Syngenta Press Release at

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Asia and the Pacific

Chinese sequencing institute known as BGI (formerly the Beijing Genomics Institute) announced their plans of offering remote cloud computing service. Many research laboratories lack the storage, computing power, and technical knowledge to cope with the present surge of genomic information. According to Cliff Reid, chief executive of Complete Genomics in California, USA, this new service offers a solution since the cloud is going to be central in the entire world of DNA sequencing.

"Cloud computing marshals the power of a network of computers that can be accessed remotely to store and analyze data. Creating a bespoke cloud network to boost the data-crunching power of the Shenzhen-based BGI was a logical move," says Magic Fang, director of the institute's bioinformatics center.

Read the complete article at

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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) scientists are preparing for the future by developing new crop varieties that can withstand anticipated climate conditions in the next 20 to 50 years.

Dr. Jairo Palta, team leader of the climate-ready cereals project at CSIRO, and colleagues conducted a study on how different wheat traits perform under predicted future climate conditions. Results of their study will help wheat breeders in choosing traits that will maximize growth and quality, and these will be presented at the 18th International Botanical Congress on July 23-30, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Robert Godfree will also present his findings on how native and invasive plant communities will respond to changing climate. "Grasses are an important component of healthy agricultural ecosystems, yet there is relatively little data on how they will respond to climate change," he said. His preliminary results are encouraging and efficient, with versatile and inexpensive experimental design which is now being adopted by other scientists in Australia and other countries.

For more information, visit

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There are four reasons why there is lack of risk communication efforts with regards genetically modified technology. These are: (1) objective is not clear, (2) information disclosure is insufficient, (3) form and content of risk communication is routine, and (4) public institutions fail to play their role. Liu Peilei from the Development Center for Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, analyzed public sentiment to transgenic biotechnology in China in an article Analysis of Risk Communication for Transgenic Biotechnology in China published in China Biotechnology.

Liu suggested that to strengthen risk communication in biotechnology, the following should be done:

  • establish the coordination framework of risk communication;
  • build a platform for information publicity and information monitoring
  • improve the role of administrative services and public institutions in risk communication; and
  • reform the policy of scientific project.

See the article in Chinese at

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Bt has reduced the incidence of acute pesticide poisoning among cotton growers resulting in significant health cost savings. This finding was noted by Shahzad Kouser and Matin Qaim in their paper Impact of Bt cotton on pesticide poisoning in smallholder agriculture: A panel data analysis to be published in the journal Ecological Economics.

The researchers used unique panel survey data from India to estimate unbiased effects and their developments over time. Bt cotton reduced pesticide applications by 50%, with the largest reductions of 70% occurring in the most toxic types of chemicals. Annual health cost savings was estimated at US$14-51 million. Positive health externalities were also observed to increase over time.

View a summary of the article at

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Pakistan can take advantage of China's experience to ensure food security by applying different biotechnology techniques said Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Scientists Association (PASA) Jamshed Iqbal Cheema.

The chairman indicated that the Chinese government is willing to set up a state-of-the-art 'Technology Display Center' in Pakistan, which would be a win-win situation for both countries. He pointed out that non-availability of hi-tech seeds (hybrids and genetically modified); poor quality and high priced irrigation water (high pH and inefficient pumping from grounds); non-existence of food storage and processing facilities; and lack of mechanization especially among small farmers are major impediments in developing the agricultural sector in the country.

Cheema added that cooperation between the two countries could be fostered to enhance genetic material exchange, joint breeding in Pakistan as well as in China, and commercial production of hybrid seeds in Pakistan.

The original article is at

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Punjab Seed Council (PSC)  approved 13 new seed varieties of various crops for general cultivation including five wheat varieties Dhara-B-2011, Punjab-2011, Millet-2011, NARC-2011, Aas-2011 and one sugarcane variety CPF-247.

The approved varieties of other crops include two varieties of pulses Bhakkar-2011 and NIAB Moong-2011, two varieties of Olive BARI Zetoon-1 and BARI Zetoon-2, two oilseeds varieties TS-5 and Faisal canola, and one fodder variety Oat-2011. The varieties have higher yield potential and resistance to insect pests and diseases.

The Agriculture Department said that the release of 17 new cotton varieties including 8 Bt and 9 non-Bt varieties was pending for further consideration including research trials for the current year.

For more details go to

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Eibi1 gene was recently discovered by a group of researchers of the University of Haifa, Israel led by Guoxiong Chen to be responsible for the production of cutin. Its discovery was an offshoot of eight long years of study after a barley mutant was found in the Judean desert, which exhibit an abnormal increase in water loss because of a disruption of the plant's cutin.

This discovery could be the element that could explain how aquatic plants were able to evolve and survive in land. According to Prof. Eviatar Nevo of the Institute of Evolution of the University of Haifa, who took part in the study, once the mechanism of cutin production is fully understood, enhancement of cuticle formation of wheat and barley species can be easily conducted to make them more resistant to water loss.

See the original news in Hebrew at

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Miyazaki University and the Miyazaki Prefecture recently announced the conduct of the second field trials of genetically modified (GM) cotton and soybean, after a successful conduct and favorable results obtained in the first field trials in 2010. In the midst of anti-GM activity in the area and in other parts of Japan, the researchers will continue the trial to determine possible adoption of the biotech crops in the country.
The farmers in the area praised the scientific and pioneering work of the researchers who believe that biotech crops could improve and make the Japanese agriculture industry more profitable. Similar field trials are also being conducted in Tsukuba prefecture.
For detals, see the news article in Japanese published in Miyazaki Shimbun, June 21, 2011 at
For more information on biotechnology in Japan, contact Prof. Fusao Tomita of Nippon BIC at

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In his inaugural address as the new president of the Japan Bio-industry Association, Dr. Michio Ohishi conveyed that genetically modified (GM) crops are essential to improve and advance Japanese agriculture. His speech published in the journal Bioscience and Industry emphasized that the country having very little natural resources would not be able to cope with the challenges of food insecurity and climate change if biotechnology will not be adopted.
He further added that the country has excellent expertise in science-based crop breeding technologies including the modern biotechnology tools which can counter the non science-based groups that are against the commercial planting of GMOs. Dr. Ohishi called for the Japanese people to understand the reality in Japanese agriculture and the current huge importation of biotech crops. He said that Japan is currently left out in agricultural technologies in the Asian region with countries like China, the Philippines, and India already planting biotech crops and reaping its benefits. The current attitude of the Japanese government against biotech crops if not changed could lead to fatal destruction of its agriculture, he emphasized.
For more on the news, see the original Japanese news at Bioscience and Industry, vol. 69 (no.4), page 266-267, 2011 at

For more information on biotechnology in Japan, contact Prof. Fusao Tomita of Nippon BIC at

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Scientists under the Pharma-Planta consortium in the United Kingdom (UK) used genetically engineered tobacco plants to harvest a monoclonal antibody that will stop the transmission of HIV between sexual partners. United Kingdom regulators have approved Europe's first clinical trials and this could mark the start of more trials of plant-derived medicines treating different diseases.

According to the statement released by the Consortium, "the mass production of medicines in genetically modified plants could reduce costs and therefore make an important contribution to global health, by improving access for the poor in developing countries where diseases such as HIV are a huge problem. In addition, the simple manufacturing process could be transferred to developing countries allowing production in the region for the region."

Read more information at

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Two field trials of genetically modified potatoes and wheat in Gross Lüsewitz near Rostock and in Üplingen (Saxony-Anhalt) in Germany were destroyed by unknown masked attackers last July 9 and 11, 2011. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the trials aimed to develop an integrated testing system for the approval of GM plants to replace many different analyses involved in the current risk assessment process.

The attackers used bats and pepper spray against the guards according to Project Leader Kerstin Schmidt. The German Plant Breeders' Association (BDP) said that there has been a significant increase in crop destructions in recent years. In 2009, around half of all field trials in Germany were destroyed by anti-GM activists.

The full article is at

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A recently concluded conference of the Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers (UPA) in Seville and Antama gave an added boost to the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops by farmers in the region. The conference with the theme "Transgenic crops: a technological need for sustainable and efficient production in the Andalusian countryside" was attended by about a hundred participants. Highlighting the conference was the opening message from Secretary General of UPA Sevilla Jose Antonio Mendes who said that "We have put biotechnology to work for our farmers, which is beneficial for agriculture to reduce pesticide use and mitigate climate change by reducing fuel and CO2 emissions." He also noted that the global GM area in 2010 grew by 14 million hectares.

Experts in GM crops such as John Arechederra Soledad, Foundation ANTAMA; Joaquimma Messeguer, Research Institute of Catalonia and Food Technology (IRTA), and Javier Fernandez, Secretary of Agriculture and Markets UPA-Andalusia provided key messages on the use and benefits of biotech crops. Javier Fernandez called for the UPA introduction of biotech cotton in Andalusia noting that 64% of world cotton is already genetically modified.

See the original Spanish press release for more details at

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Powdery mildew has been an all time fungal disease problem in cereal grains that lead to huge yield losses worldwide. Researchers at the Technischen Universität München (TUM) in Germany led by Ralph Hückelhoven, Chair of Phytopathology found that a gene coding for a protein RACB in barley allows the invading powdery mildew to get to the plant cell and infect. The protein expands the surface of the plant cell membranes making it easier for the powdery mildew to push its haustoria to take control of the plant.

However, another protein in barley acts on the RACB disallowing fungal control in the plant. The protein MAGAP1 was discovered to be a part of most of the plant cell's cytoskeleton and network of protein fiber that strengthens plant cell walls. The protein moves to the cell surface membrane during the fungal attack and switches off the RACB's susceptibility factor, blocking the fungal entrance. The research published in the journal Plant Cell is hoped "to give a better understanding of the cause of diseases in the mid-term, to find innovative approaches to maintaining the health of crops and grains by enhancing their immunity," said Hückelhoven.

See the news article at

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Assimilate partitioning in plants pertain to the organized distribution of sugars and amino acids from source tissue to import-dependent tissues and organs called sinks. It is an important factor affecting whole plant productivity and crop yields. Sucrose represents the major transport form of photosynthetic assimilate carbohydrates in many plants, thus sucrose transporters play a major role in assimilate partitioning.

Aijun Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues conducted a study to investigate if sucrose transporters affect the yield of starch plant by using transgenic potato plants (Solanum tuberosum L. cv. Désirée) with complementary DNAs of the rice sucrose transporter genes OsSUT5Z and OsSUT2M under the control of a tuber-specific, class-I patatin promoter.

Results showed that the average fructose content of OsSUT5Z transgenic tubers significantly increased compared with the controls. On the other hand, the sugar and starch content of OsSUT2M transgenic potato tubers showed no significant difference. The average tuber yield, average number of tubers per plant, and average weight of a tuber also showed no significant difference in OsSUT2M transgenic tubers compared to the controls. The average tuber yield of OsSUT5Z transgenic potato tubers was almost two times higher than the controls, and the average number of tubers per plants increased by more than ten tubers, but the average weight of each tuber did not change significantly. Thus, OsSUT5Z is a potential gene for breeding high yielding starch crops.

The open access article is available at

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The plasma membrane is the one of the first structures affected when plants are exposed to low temperatures. To improve low temperature-resistance in plants, Dong-Ru Feng and colleagues at the Sun Yat-sen University in China conducted a study using a cloned cold-induced gene (MpRCI) from plantain.

They used green fluorescent protein fused with MpRCI and traced that the protein product is localized in the plasma membrane. Through real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the profile of the gene was analyzed. It was found out that the gene is induced by low temperatures in leaves and leafstalk, but not in the shoot meristem or roots. They also cloned a section of the gene that they predicted to have a number of elements connected with abiotic stresses. Results showed that the sequence has characteristic of low temperature- and abscisic acid influenced activity.

Phenotypic espial and ion leakage assays of transgenic tobacco containing the gene resulted to over-expression of the cold-induced plasma membrane protein gene MpRCI, improving the cold-resistance of the plants.

The findings imply that MpRCI is involved in maintaining the stability of the plasma membrane at low temperatures.

Read the research article featured at the special issue on Temperate Responses in Plants at

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In a previous study, it was observed that transgenic tobacco that harbored the bacterial isopentenyltransferase (ipt) gene exhibited delayed post-harvest aging. To further investigate this occurrence, Mao-Sen Liu of Academia Sinica in Taiwan and colleagues conducted a proteomic analysis of heads of ipt-transgenic and non-transgenic inbred lines of broccoli at harvest and after four days post-harvest storage.

Results showed that at harvest, there was accumulation of stress-sensitive proteins involved in the maintenance of protein folding, scavenging of reactive oxygen species, and stress protection. Four days after the harvest, the levels of proteins involved in protein folding and carbon fixation decreased significantly, which indicates that cellular degradation and alteration in metabolism have occurred towards senescence.

Based on the findings, the accumulation of stress-sensitive proteins and antioxidant enzyme in ipt-transgenic broccoli are related with delay of post-harvest senescence.

Read the abstract at

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Beyond Crop Biotech

Scientists from Stanford University in California headed by Brian Kobilka have finally revealed the structure of of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are involved in biology's most significant signaling mechanisms. After studying this for 20 years they have revealed a three-dimensional atomic structure of an activated GPCR in a complex with its G protein.

GPCRs are located in the cell membranes throughout the human body, where they function as detectors from the external world, waiting for signals like light, odor, and flavor, as well as signals inside the body like hormones and neurotransmitters. Once the signals are recognized, GPCRs activate intracellular G proteins, which then trigger different biochemical pathways.

The structure now explains how G protein's mouth splays wide open when the molecule guanosine diphosphate (GDP) departs. When a GPCR receives a signal, the receptor forces the G protein to throw out the GDP, allowing a molecule of guanosine triphosphate to swoop in and turn on the G protein.

"This is a real breakthrough paper," says biochemist Stephen Sprang at the University of Montana in Missoula. "For a long time, many folks in the field have considered this the hoped-for structure that would ultimately provide a real understanding of how the receptors actually work."

For more details, read the original article at

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Purdue University biologists identified a new technique on how bacteria hijack healthy cells during infection through an enzyme used by bacterium Legionella pneumophila, which is the causative agent of Lagionnaires' disease. Zhao-Qing Luo, team leader of the study, said that Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia, thus his findings could help design a new therapy that will save lives and at the same time provide an insight on the mechanism of both bacterial infection and cell signaling events in higher organisms including humans.

According to Luo, L. pneumophila successfully infects a cell when certain proteins are delivered into the host cells that change different functions to alter the naturally hostile environment into one that is conducive to bacterial replication. Those proteins tap into existing communication processes within the cells in which an external signal, such as a hormone, activates a cascade of minor modifications to proteins that eventually turns on a gene that changes the cell's behavior.

The signaling pathway involved was only recently discovered, and the study by Luo and graduate student Yunhao Tan also contributes to the information about the pathway. The results of their study is published in the current issue of Nature journal.

Read the news release at Subscribers of Nature can download the research article at

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The National Research Center of Transgenic Mouse has been established at the National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (NIGEB) in Iran. It is envisioned to provide a centralized facility for the production of transgenic and gene-targeted mice for research.

The Center can produce transgenic mouse by pronuclear microinjection as well as gene knock-out mouse. Specifically, chimeric mouse for modeling human male infertility and transgenic mouse for modeling breast cancer can be developed. Facilities include a transgenesis laboratory, molecular biology laboratory, cell culture room, surgery room, and two animal rooms.

View the article at

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The BIO report, Genetically Engineered Animals and Public Health – Compelling Benefits for Health Care, Nutrition, the Environment and Animal Welfare is now available. Authors Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute and Matthew Wheeler, PhD, Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign highlight research accomplishments in animal biotechnology.

Gottieb and Wheeler discuss the importance of technologies in the pipeline such as the fast growing AquAdvantage salmon and the Enviropig which digests phosphorus more efficiently and reduces waste production.

A copy of the full report is posted at

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The International Conference in Asian Food Security (ICAFS) 'Feeding Asia in the 21st Century: Building Urban-Rural Alliances' will be held on August 10-12, 2011 at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore. It is organized by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture. The basic dimensions of food security: availability, physical access, economic access, and utilization will be discussed.

A satellite workshop on "Challenges to the Acceptance and Adoption of Crop Biotechnology" will be held on August 12. It will be organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Experts will give an update on biotechnology and its role in food security, adoption status in Asia, biotech issues and concerns, and biotech communication.

For more information visit http://www.rsis,

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The Food and Nutrition in the 21st Century of the EU Seventh Framework Program in Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology will be held on 8 to 9 September 2011 in Warsaw, Poland. The conference will try to identify major trends in food and nutrition science and technology and the various challenges facing the agri-food industry and to food security and safety in European and global dimension. The discussion will thus contribute to defining research priorities for the next 10-15 years.

For further information, visit The announcement can be viewed at

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Document Reminders

ISAAA presents another six Biotech Country Facts and Trends, one to two page summaries of the important highlights in the commercialization of biotech crops in the developing countries namely Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Honduras. Data on biotech crop commercialization (hectarage and adoption) in 2010, approvals for importation for food/feed use and planting, benefits and future prospects in each country are presented in a brief and easily understandable manner. The contents are all based on ISAAA Brief 42: Global Report of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops for 2010, authored by Clive James. We encourage downloads and sharing of the materials.

Download the Biotech Country Facts and Trends at

The Organization of Islamic Conference Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) has a website for its virtual incubator for science-based business (VISB) at

The website has an e-library of relevant articles, online director of organizations promoting science-based business, and a database of technological innovation for poverty reduction, among others.

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