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In This Issue

October 14, 2011

NEWS

Global
• 2-in-1 Strategy: Feed the World and Protect the Planet 
• Global Hunger Index 2011 
• CAST Report on Climate Change Controversy 

Africa
• Strategies for Strengthening GM Technology Adoption in Africa 
• Population Growth, Land Use and Climate Change to Affect West Africa's Crop Yields 

Americas
• USW: Biotech Needed to Increase World Wheat Production 
• Mizzou Scientists Discover the Game of Phototrophism 
• Technical Support Against Glyphosate Resistant Weeds 
• Cloned Genes to Build Stem Rust Resistance 
• Deregulation of Insect Resistant Soybean, MON 87701 
• USDA Seeks Public Comment on Draft Environmental Impact Statement for RR Sugar Beets 
• VipCot Cotton Trait Stack Received US Regulatory Approval for Release 

Asia and the Pacific
• Cotton Researchers Get CSIRO's Top Award 
• Pakistan and Brazil Agricultural Research Agreement 
• A Variety of Green Rice Developed in Pakistan 
• Indonesia Seeks Comment on Food Safety Assessment of GM Sugarcane 
• 7th Asian Crop Science Association Conference in Indonesia 
• Filipino Cartoonists Encouraged to Join BiotechToons Contest 

Europe
• More Nutritious Broccoli out in UK 
• Petition for Change in Europe's GM Legislation 
• Portuguese Farmers Call for Innovative Agricultural Technologies 
• Bayer and Precision Biosciences Develop Site-Specific Insertion Technique for Cotton Research 
• Sense About Science Launches Ask for Evidence Campaign 

Research
• Effect of Bt Corn on Non-target Microorganism 
• Scientists Find an Effective Insertional Mutagen for Soybean 
• GE Wheat with AlSAP Gene Exhibits Strong Tolerance to Salinity and Drought 

Beyond Crop Biotech
• Researchers Study the Mystery in Salmonella's Survival 
• Cloned Embryo Makes Functional Stem Cells 
• Transgenic Animals - A Promising Area in Asia 

Announcements
• Grants for Agric and Food Initiatives 

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.

News

Global

A team of researchers from Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and Germany designed a plan to double the world's production while decreasing the environmental impacts of agriculture. They used crop records and satellite images from around the world to develop new models of agricultural systems along with their possible environmental impacts. Here's the five-point plan recommended by the researchers:

  1. Halt farmland expansion and land clearing for agricultural purposes, especially in the tropical rainforest.
  2. Improve agricultural yields through enhanced use of existing crop varieties, better management strategies, and genetics.
  3. Strategically supplement the land with water, nutrients, and agricultural chemicals.
  4. Designate croplands for human food production, animal feed, and biofuel production.
  5. Reduce waste in that path that takes food to mouth.

The researchers also outlined an approach to the problem that will guide policy makers to come up with informed decisions about agricultural concerns. For the first time, we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet," said lead author Jonathan Foley, head of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. "It will take serious work. But we can do it."

Read more at http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/news/item/?item_id=202006http://.

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Global hunger has declined but is still characterized as "serious." This is the gist of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The highest GHI scores occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Angola, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, and Vietnam registered the largest improvements between the 1990 GHI and the 2011 GHI. Twenty-six countries are still in the extremely alarming or alarming levels. Countries with extremely alarming 2011 GHI scores are Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea, all in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo is top among six countries where the hunger situation worsened.

Rising and more volatile prices have affected world food markets due to the following reasons: increasing use of food crops for biofuels, extreme weather events and climate change, and increased volume of trading in commodity futures markets. IFPRI says this situation has serious implications for poor and hungry people who have little capacity to adjust to price spikes and rapid shifts.

See the IFPRI release at  http://www.ifpri.org/publication/2011-global-hunger-index?utm_source=New+At+IFPRI&utm_campaign=093ddeabbb-New_at_IFPRI_10_12_2011&utm_medium=email. Download the full report at http://www,ifpri.org/.

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"Emissions of CO2, CH4, and N20 from agriculture are the result of both human-induced and natural processes in the ecosystem .... they can be lowered through modified land use and management." This statement in the Task Force Report on Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities highlights climate change issues based on science-based research.

Published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), the 116-page reports that: ·

  • Concentrations of GHG/CO2 emissions have already increased to levels not experienced in well over 800,000 years;
  • A number of practices for which increased carbon sequestration and decreased emissions of GHGs have been established or, in some cases, are presently under investigation;
  • The probability that bioenergy crops done right offer opportunities for providing GHG benefits.

Check out the CAST press release at http://www.cast-science.org/.

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Africa

A concerted effort from developed countries including international organizations must be put in place to ensure that Africa benefits from modern biotechnology. African governments should come up with a coherent strategy to adopt modern biotechnology. Ademola Adenle of the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies in Japan gives these insights in an article Response to issues on GM agriculture in Africa: Are transgenic crops safe? published in BMC Research Notes.

Adenle proposes a strategy that involves educating the public, farmers and government institutions, the media and private companies to increase understanding of GM technology. He also suggests adoption of common policies and a regional platform through which African governments can engage in dialogue and develop a common biotechnology regulatory approach.

"Africa might pay a huge price in many years to come if the continent continues to depend on outsiders before making decisions that determine their future. Europeans are well fed and may not necessarily require GM technology to boost their crop productions, but African farmers need fast technology that can solve part of their agricultural problems," Adenle concludes.

Download a copy of Ademola Adenle's article at http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/18208928/27836806/name/Response%20to%20issues%20on%20GM%20agriculture%20in%20Africa-%20Are%20trans.

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Low input fallow systems in West Africa, land use effects, and population growth will have as much effect as climate change in the next decades. This was the conclusion of an article Future productivity of fallow systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: Is the effect of demographic pressure and fallow reduction more significant than climate change? published in the journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

Thomas Gaiser of the University of Bonn and colleagues quantified the regional effect of future population growth on crop yields in West Africa and compared it with with the potential effects of climate change scenarios. Maize field projections were made based on projected ratio of fallow and cropland as well as land use scenarios. Results showed that maize yields followed a decreasing trend and yield reductions amounted to up to 24% in the period 2021-2050.

On the other hand, yield reductions due to projected climate change accounted for a yield decrease of up to 18% in the same period.

The full article is at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01681923/151/8

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Americas

U.S. Wheat Associates director for policy Shannon Schecht reported during the Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) Grain Outlook Conference that U.S. wheat area has fallen by about 10 million hectares to just 22.8 million hectares in the past 20 years.

"In contrast, the soybean area is up seven million hectares to 30.4 million hectares and maize increased by a similar amount of 37.4 million hectares," said Mr. Schlecht.

Mr. Schlecht said that wheat is not keeping up with the production of maize and soybean because biotechnology is not used as much in the two other crops. To encourage development of wheat, the U.S. Wheat Associates has put together a Wheat Industry Biotech Council. He acknowledged the increased funds given to improve wheat, and also the announcement for the trial of wheat in Rothamsted.

"If the demand continues to increase at a similar rate we will need to increase global wheat production from about 700m tones today to 900m tones by 2050 on a similar land area. We will need a technology that can help us increase those yields."

The original news article is posted at http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/07/10/2011/129465/Biotech-needed-to-boot-world-wheat-output.htm.

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Plants do not have eyes or legs, but they have the ability to move toward or away from light, which is known as phototrophism. University of Missouri scientists reported the function of a protein in the molecular signaling pathway that controls phototrophism in plants. Two light-sensing proteins (phototrophin 1 and phototrophin 2) have been known to be involved in this mechanism, but the recent study reveals the role of another protein called NPH3.

"If the phototropic signaling pathway were like a baseball game, the phototropins would be the pitcher and NPH3 the catcher who work together to coordinate the signal, or pitch," says Mannie Liscum, a professor at the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center. "Prior to this study, no one knew how NPH3 and the phototropins cooperated to facilitate the signal."

Through different genetic and biochemical techniques, the research team discovered that NPH3 modified phototrophin 1 by the addition of a small protein "tag" called ubiquitin. In the baseball analogy, ubiquitin is the hand signals of NPH3 (catcher) to communicate with phototrophin 1 (pitcher). When there is low amount of light, phototropin 1 is modified with single ubiquitin proteins and then apparently moves to a different part of the cell; if there is intensive light available, phototropin 1 is modified with multiple ubiquitin proteins and is degraded by the cell to shut down further signaling.

More information are available at http://coas.missouri.edu/news/2011/liscum.shtml.

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The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds have reported that the number of weed species with reported glyphosate resistant population has reached almost 20 worlwide and 12 in the US. Weed species found to have glyphosate resistant populations in the US include common waterhemp, giant ragweed, common ragweed, kochia, palmer, amaranth, marestail, hairy fleabane, jungle rice, goose grass, Johsongrass, Italian ryegrass, and annual bluegrass. This occurrence is due to repeated use of glyphosate over a large area, which in the US, is already more than 300 million acres.

There is thus a need for everyone to make weed management decisions that adopt more diversified approach to weed control. Properly using herbicide tolerant crop technologies as a component of an integrated weed management program was advised by the article to be the key to preserving the long-term benefits of these technologies, while avoiding many of the concerns associated with their use or misuse.

To learn more about this article, see http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/cropwatch/archive?articleID=4662287

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Scientists Andy Kleinhofs and Jayaveeramuthu Nirmala of Washington State University have identified and cloned barley's disease-fighting gene and the stem rust signaling gene that could open possible strategies in the development of stem rust resistance including the devastating stem rust strain Ug99. The research team have successfully cloned the resistance gene Rpg1 and combined with currently discovered signaling gene gives a much stronger resistance against stem rust.

"Now that we understand how the plant-pathogen interaction mechanism works, we hope we can manipulate it to build resistance in plants," said Andy Kleinhofs, professor of molecular genetics in WSU's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. With further research, he added, that understanding could lead to new, more effective ways to battle crop diseases such as stem rust and Ug99.

See the news article at  http://cahnrsnews.wsu.edu/2011/10/13/wsu-scientists-first-to-characterize-barley-plant-stem-rust-spore-%e2%80%98communication%e2%80%99-clone-genes-to-build-stem-rust-resistance/

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MON 87701, a genetically modified (GM) insect resistant soybean, has been determined by USDA APHIS not to pose risk to plant pest. This is based on the agency's analysis of field and laboratory data submitted by Monsanto, references provided in the petition, peer-reviewed publications, the plant pest risk assessment and its review of the comments provided by the public which ended in August 29. The GM soybean is therefore no longer subject to APHIS regulations.

See the news release at  http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/10/status_insect_resistant_soybean.shtml

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A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on genetically engineered (GE) herbicide resistant (Round up Ready) sugar beet has been developed by the USDA APHIS. GE sugar beet event H7-1 has been deregulated by APHIS in 2005. However, the US District Court for the Northern District of California ordered that APHIS should have prepared an EIS before issuing a nonregulated status for the event.

Developers Monsanto and KWS SAAT AG submitted in July 2010 a request to amend the petition requesting partial deregulation of RR sugar beets to authorize continued cultivation subject to important measures and conditions. Hence, APHIS prepared this EIS and will seek public comments for a period of 60 days. Public meetings to obtain feedback will also be held in three locations. The draft EIS is available on the APHIS website at www.aphis.usda.gov. Notice of this draft EIS will be published in this week's Federal Register.

The original news can be viewed at  http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/10/eis_ge_sugarbeets.shtml

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The US Department of Agriculture approved two cotton events COT67B and COT102 for commercial release in the United States. The two cotton events were developed by Syngenta North America to contain the VipCot™. The VipCot trait stack combines the Cry1Ab protein and the novel Vip3A protein, which is similar to the protein found in Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera™ corn trait and is a totally new mode of action in both cotton and corn.

"Providing multiple modes of insect resistance to growers will help prevent the development of resistant insects, as well as offer growers an opportunity to protect all of their cotton acres from most caterpillar pests," said David Morgan, Syngenta North America Region Director. "Our licensing agreements reaffirm the innovation of Vip3A, the market's first non-Cry insect control protein, as a breakthrough tool providing broad spectrum control of lepidopteran pests while creating new options for insect resistance management."

See the news release for more details at http://www.syngentabiotech.com/news_releases/news.aspx?id=156088.

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Asia and the Pacific

A team of scientists at the CSIRO Plant Industry's Cotton Breeding and Biotechnology has developed a more environmentally friendly, disease resistant, and high yielding cotton variety namely Sicot 71BRF. The team has received CSIRO's highest award for excellence-the Chairman's Medal for Research Achievement.

"In providing a highly desirable package of advantages over other cotton varieties, the team has delivered significant economic, social and environmental benefits to growers throughout Australia," CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon said.

With just two years after its commercialization Sicot 71BRF now constitutes 80 percent of Australia's total annual cotton crop. Through this new variety, there have been more yields of cotton but the amount of water used remains the same. It is also resistant to Helicoverpa pests, thus reducing the use of insecticides.

Read the media release at http://www.csiro.au/news/Cotton-researchers-win-CSIRO-top-award.html

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Pakistan and Brazil agreed to form an agricultural research cooperation for fruit and vegetable production, biofuel, resource conservation and pest control technologies. The agreement was forged between the Brazilian Cooperation Agency headed by its chairman Bruno de Amorim and the Pakistan Agricultural Research council chairman Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad. In Pakistan, PARC is the apex agricultural research organization which is mandated to strengthen the country's agricultural research system.

See the original news at http://www.pabic.com.pk/Pakistan%20and%20Brazil%20going%20to%20sign%20MOU.html

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At Hazara University in Pakistan, scientists have been developing green super rice by combining genes from the wild rice Oryza longistaminata, four land races of Pakistani origin and three varieties viz. JP-5, Basmati 385, KS-282 in a conventional breeding strategy. The developed rice line has leaves that remain green longer than usual, effecting prolonged photosynthetic activities. Hence, the number of filled grains per panicle increased from 200 to 700, the panicle length increased up to 47 cm with 250-300 grains per panicle, and production increased from 5t/ha to 12t/ha.

See the story at http://www.pabic.com.pk/A%20variety%20of%20Green%20Rice%20developed%20by%20Hazara%20University%20Pakistan.html

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Transgenic sugarcane event NXI-1T is a drought tolerant sugarcane comparable with its conventional counterpart in terms of physical properties, nutritional value, and genetic stability. This GM event contains the EcbetA gene responsible for drought tolerance from Escherichia coli. This transgenic sugarcane was found to be safe for food and consumption based on the report of the food safety assessment of GM products, following the Guidelines for Food Safety Assessment of Genetic Engineering Products (PRG) of the National Agency of Drug and Food Control number HK.00.05.23.3541 Year 2008.

The Summary results of Food Safety Assessment of this transgenic sugarcane (in Bahasa) can be downloaded at http://www.indonesiabch.org/docs/ringkasan-tebu-nxi1t-kp.pdf. The Indonesia Biosafety Clearing House invites the public to comment, input, and submit suggestions about the genetically engineered products (PRG) via email, phone/fax, discussion forums, guest book, Facebook (Indonesia Biosafety Clearing House), or via http://www.indonesiabch.org/komentar/tebu-nxi1t-kp/.

For more information on biotechnology in Indonesia, contact Dewi Suryani of Indonesian Biotechnology Information Center at catleyavanda@gmail.com.

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To update researchers on the recent scientific findings in crop science, the Asian Crop Science Association (ACSA) conducts regular international conference every three years. The four-day conference (September 27 – 30th, 2011) was conducted in the Research Center for Bioresources and Biotechnology, Bogor Agricultural University with the theme Improving food, energy and environment with better crops. This event is also in accordance with the kick off meeting and workshop of Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) Research Project on Rice Innovation for Science Society of Japan (CDDJ), Japan Society of Breeding (JSB) and Japan Society of performance for sustainable agricultural development in wetlands.

This year's ACSAC also coincided with the 48th Anniversary of Bogor Agricultural University. There were more than 200 participants from different countries, not only from Asia, but also from USA and supported by Bogor Agricultural University, Ministry of Agriculture, Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), Indonesian Consortium of Biotechnology (KBI), ISAAA, ABSP II, PBPI, and JIRCAS.

Highlighting the event were the poster and oral presentations from scientist participants. Invited speakers included Prof. Paul Teng of National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore who discussed food security and sustainable agriculture. He said that "if sustainable agriculture is taken to mean agricultural which is environmentally friendly, economically sound, and socially just, then ensuring food availability means ensuring that there is sustainable agriculture." Moreover he added that a key debate is the use of appropriate technology and the modality in which it is practiced, whether in a conventional manner or through organic and subsistence farming. The debate is further complicated by the fast uptake of biotechnology crops. Food availability is often the focus of much of the debate on food security but raising farm productivity alone is not sufficient to ensure household food security."

The event was officially closed  with a visit to the Botanical Garden in Bogor. For more information, contact Dewi Suryani at dewisuryani@biotrop.org.

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Professional and amateur Filipino cartoonists are urged to take part in "BiotechToons: A Contest for Cartoonists on Biotechnology" organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture – Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA BIC) in collaboration with the Philippine International Cartoons, Comics, and Animation (PICCA), Inc.

BiotechToons centers on the theme "The Benefits and Potentials of Crop Biotechnology". Cartoonist-participants are to portray the scientifically documented benefits of modern biotechnology in original, hand-drawn editorial cartoons. The entries may also be based on existing studies about the potential benefits, products and impact of applying modern biotechnology in agriculture. In the Philippines, the promising technologies nearing commercialization for farmers are the fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant, delayed ripening virus resistant papaya, vitamin-A enriched rice, and Bt cotton.

The contest has two categories: professional and amateur. Professional cartoonists are practicing cartoonists who may be affiliated with media networks and/or any professional organizations. Amateur cartoonists could be students, non-professionals or professionals who consider the art of creating cartoons as a hobby. The contestant will choose the category that he or she will enter.

Entries will be accepted on or before November 7, 2011. The winning and selected artworks will be displayed on November 21-26, 2011 as part of the exhibit of the 7th National Biotechnology Week at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Quezon City.

Plaques and cash prizes of Php 50,000, Php 30,000, and Php 20,000 await the top three winners for the professional level. First, second, and third placers for the amateur level will receive corresponding cash prizes of Php25,000, Php15,000, and Php10,000.

For more details about the mechanics of the contest, check-out BiotechToons Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BiotechToons, visit SEARCA BIC website www.bic.searca.org , or send an e-mail to bic@agri.searca.org or knowledge.center@isaaa.org.

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Europe

A new variety of broccoli labeled as Beneforté was developed by experts at the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre. Using conventional breeding techniques, the new variety produces more glucoraphanin, a phytonutrient naturally present in standard broccoli and believed to be the cause why broccoli-lovers have chances of getting a heart disease and cancer. Glucoraphanin also helps increase the level of antioxidant enzymes in the body.

"Our research has given new insights into the role of broccoli and other similar vegetables in promoting health, and has shown how this understanding can lead to the development of potentially more nutritious varieties of our familiar vegetables", said Professor Richard Mithen, of the Institute of Food Research. "Now there will also be something brand new for consumers to eat as a result of the discoveries we have made."

Read more on the health benefits of the new broccoli at http://news.jic.ac.uk/2011/10/british-research-leads-to-uk-launch-of-beneforte-broccoli/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NewsFromTheJohnInnesCentre+%28News+from+the+John+Innes+Centre%29

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Plant scientists are calling on Europe to change current laws and adopt science-based genetically modified regulations. They posted an online petition for those who wish to support them.

"We share the views of 41 leading Swedish plant scientists (http://bit.ly/n8IgVc) that current legislation of GM crops is not based on science, ignores recent evidence, blocks opportunities to increase agricultural sustainability and stops the public sector and small companies from contributing to solutions," they said. The group likewise called on pressure groups and organic trade associations "to cease and desist from blocking genetic solutions to crop problems."

The online petition is at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/changeeugmlegislation/.  

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Portuguese farmers attending a study tour in their country expressed the need for more innovative agricultural technologies so that they can remain competitive in the food market. Farmers have been growing almost 60% more genetically modified maize in 2011 compared to last year.

"I have planted GM maize since 2006, and I adopted it because I saw results- healthier plants due to less insect damage, a better harvest and better grain quality," said Joăo Grilo, a Portuguese farmer based in Vale do Mondego, Coimbra.

Pedro Fevereiro, investigator and professor of Plant Cell Biotechnology and President of Centre for Biotechnology Information (CiB Portugal), averred that the agricultural scene will "witness important climatic changes, which will be followed by abiotic and biotic stresses, to be withstood by the different crops, especially in the Mediterranean area. Genetically modified cultivars are one of the already available technologies to cope with the difficulties to be faced."

Fevereiro added that "these benefits are being experienced and accumulated all over the world for more than fifteen years. It is time for the European farmers to profit from this technology."

The full story is at http://www.europabio.org/agricultural/press/portuguese-farmers-call-more-innovative-agricultural-technologies-remain.

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Bayer CropScience AG and Precision BioSciences Inc. have been able to successfully insert a gene into a specific desired location in cotton using Precision's Directed Nuclease Editor(TM) (DNE) technology. This site-specific insertion using an engineered nuclease in cotton is said to be the first of its kind.

Crop researchers will be able to use this technique to delete, insert, or modify genes at user-defined sites within plant genomes. The approach reduces time required to produce a new plant characteristic and remove complexities associated with current product development methods.

"This technology milestone is a world first and delivers enormous capacity for Bayer to precisely target and more efficiently deliver significant benefits in key crops to farmers globally. And this is just the beginning," said Dr Johan Botterman, Head of BioScience Product Research at Bayer CropScience.

See the news at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bayer-cropscience-and-precision-biosciences-successful-insertion-of-transgene-into-a-specific-desired-location-in-cotton-2011-10-04.

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Every day people are bombarded with scientific and medical claims: on advertising material, product websites, advice columns, campaign statements, celebrity health fads and policy announcements. But how do we know which of these are based on evidence? Even where there is some regulation, in advertising or trading standards, claims that are not based on good evidence keep reappearing.

Sense About Science has launched a national campaign to change this. Ask for Evidence aims to get everybody asking advertisers, companies, government bodies and other organizations to set out the evidence they have for the claims they make. If more of us – consumers, patients and voters - ask for the evidence, those making claims will expect to be held to account. To make this a success the campaign needs to reach as many people as possible. Ask for Evidence is supported by leading scientists, entertainers and community leaders, and many scientific and civic groups.

A charitable trust, Sense about Science "equips people to make sense of evidence on issues that matter to society."

Find out more about this campaign at http://www.senseaboutscience.org/a4e or visit http://www.senseaboutscience.org/.

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Research

Fengxiao Tan from the South China Agricultural University together and a team of scientists conducted a study to assess the effects of Bt corn (Bt11 and MON810) on the community structure of the non-target microorganism known as Glomus, which is an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF) .

Through microscopic visualization, no significant differences were found in the colonization of AMF in the Bt corn roots when compared with the non-Bt lines. Further analyses (TWINSPAN and detrended correspondence analysis) of the roots revealed differences between Bt and non-Bt isolines. However, differences were also found among the non-Bt corn cultivars. The researchers concluded that the corn genotypes have greater effect on the AMF community than the age of the growing plants.

Read more at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0038071711003208.

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Identification of genes responsible for key soybean traits such as nitrogen fixation and seed quality could be possible by stimulating mutation through insertion of bases. The relatively low efficiency of transformation in soybean requires the use of a transposon-tagging strategy wherein a single transformation event will lead to several mutations over a number of generations. However, the tools used in legumes are limited because of the need for tissue culture activation.

Scientist Wayne Parrott from the University of Georgia, and colleagues transferred a transposon from rice to soybean, together with (mPing)  the other genes needed for its transportation. Soybean plants with stable transformation were then tested for mPing transposition. It was observed that transposition was developmentally regulated. Transgenic lines with heritable mPing insertions were identified, with the plants from the highest activity line producing at least one new insertion per generation. Further analysis of the insertion sites revealed that the features present in rice were maintained including transposition to unlinked sites and preference for insertion in specific location of a gene. Therefore, mPing is an effective tool in transposon-tagging strategy for soybean.

The open-access article is available at http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/157/2/552.abstract.

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Scientist Rania Ben-Saad from the University of Sfax, Tunisia, and team, discovered and isolated a stress-associated gene labeled as AISAP from Aeluropus littoralis, a salt-loving grass. When this gene was expressed in transgenic tobacco, tolerance to salt and drought stress was observed. The same team further examined if the gene could be used to produce salt and drought tolerant durum wheat plant (cultivar Karim). Thus, they introduced the gene into wheat plants without the use of markers and confirmed the transformation by Southern, Northern, and Western blotting.

The transgenic wheat plants exhibited enhanced germination rates and biomass production when exposed to salt and drought stresses compared with the non-GM counterparts, which were either dead or produced reduced grain filling. The transgenic plants also showed lower water loss rate and higher sodium ion accumulation in the mature parts of the plants. With these results, it is evident that AISAP is a potential gene for developing other crops with drought and salt tolerance.

Subscribers of Molecular Breeding journal can access the complete article at http://www.springerlink.com/content/d081674785p6k530/,

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Beyond Crop Biotech

Researchers at the Institute of Food Research and University of Sheffield received a grant to study the lifecycle of Salmonella inside the human body, with the goal of eventually finding better cure for diseases caused by different strains. They will use advanced tools to find out what the pathogen obtains from the host cells to allow growth.

"We inferred that Salmonella uses different pathways to generate the energy required for growth and survival in macrophages and epithelial cells," said Dr. Arthur Thompson, one of the researchers. "What we want to do now is work out what these pathways are...If we can identify what Salmonella depends on for growth in the cells, we may be able to design new therapeutic agents to block this happening and prevent its growth."

For more details, visit http://www.ifr.ac.uk/info/news-and-events/NewsReleases/111007salmonellasurvival.html.

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Researchers at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory used cloning technology to create a self-reproducing line of embryonic stem cells from developing embryo. The team started from scratch by conducting a series of experiments using 270 eggs from 16 donors, isolating the three important events of conventional cloning techniques to see which caused the problem in previous cloning experiments done by other researchers. They found out that the source of error is the step that involves removal of the egg's DNA. They left it in, and an embryo developed to the blastocyst stage composed of 70-100 cells, from which stems can be derived. Dieter Egli, one of the authors of the study, was surprised with the result and said, "It actually worked. Our result really proves the technical hurdles can be overcome."

Read the rest of the story at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111005/full/news.2011.578.html..

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An article Asia: Transgenic Animals is a promising niche shows the progress made by universities that have made progress in the field. These include the National Taiwan University which has bred pigs that glow in the dark to enable scientists to study stem cell and other diseases; and National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan and Korea-based Abnova which have a joint research to address the commercial applicability of transgenic chicken as a potential bio-factory for biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

Transgenic animals are a source of evaluating genetic modifications and are more precise compared to  traditional animal models for studying diseases. Some of the areas where this technology can play a key role are:

  • Xenotransplantation: Producing transgenic animals to meet the demand for organs
    and tissues for transplant.
  • Blood replacement: To produce functional human hemoglobin in transgenic animals.
  • Disease model: To study potential therapies for human diseases. 
  • Genetic manipulation of mouse to create models of human diseases.
  • Screening of bioactive molecules for drug research

View the full article at http://www.biospectrumasia.com/content/041011OTH17213.asp.

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Announcements

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announces grants for its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Food Security. The grant areas are in Agriculture, Education, Food and Nutrition, Health, Regional Development, and Science and Technology and other Research and Development.

Details are available at  http://www07.grants.gov/search/search.do?&mode=VIEW&oppId=125473

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