In the report Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability forwarded 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy. The 22-member Panel, established by the United Nations Secretary-General in August 2010, is co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma.
"With the possibility of the world slipping further into recession, policymakers are hungry for ideas that can help them to navigate these difficult times," said President Zuma. "Our report makes clear that sustainable development is more important than ever given the multiple crises now enveloping the world."
"Resilient People, Resilient Planet" underscores the importance of science as an essential guide for decision-making on sustainability issues. It adds that ‘new green biotechnologies' could play a ‘valuable role in enabling farmers to adapt to climate change, improve resistance to pests, restore soil fertility, and contribute to the diversification of the rural economy'.
View the press release at http://www.un.org/gsp/sites/default/files/event_attachments/Addis%20Launch-Press%20Release.pdf. Download the report at http://www.un.org/gsp/report
Sixteen countries have recently signed the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which now has a total of 92 signatories. The most recent countries that signed the Protocol are: Cambodia, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Guinea Bissau, Honduras, Ireland, Kenya, Lebanon, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Republic of Moldova, Senegal, Thailand, and Ukraine.
The Protocol was closed for signature last February 1, 2012, a year after it was opened for signature. It will be implemented 90 days after the deposit of the 50th instrument of ratification.
"The signature of these 91 countries and the European Union effectively demonstrates that the international community is committed to early entry into force of this unique legal instrument at the service of sustainable development. I call on all Parties who have not yet done so to expedite their internal procedure of ratification in 2012, which coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the opening of signature of the Convention for Life on Earth," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary to the Convention of Biological Diversity.
Read the press release at http://www.cbd.int/doc/press/2012/pr-2012-02-03-abs-en.pdf.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) will develop a Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index to measure women's roles and engagement in the agriculture sector.
The Index will measure change in the following domains – women's role in: decision making on agricultural production, access to productive capital, control of income, individual leadership and influence in the community, and time allocation. It will be used by USAID Washington and Missions for both performance monitoring and impact evaluation purposes.
Check out http://www.ifpri.org/blog/women-s-empowerment-agriculture-index for more information.
The Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub, International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI Hub) hosted an inception workshop for a new project which will explore the current knowledge and research focus on tissue culture and plant transformation methods for under-studied crops in the region. The workshop was attended by 22 scientists from across 16 institutes from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda,Tanzania, Uganda and was facilitated by the BecA hub with its partners from Switzerland and Australia.
The participants identified several under-studied crops to focus on for this project including enset, yam, taro, rose apple, baobab, passion fruit, and garlic. It is expected that tissue culture protocols for the production of improved planting materials and/or conservation for these crops will be developed as part of a three-year program funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The program supports biosciences research, development and related capacity building, in an effort to address food security issues in Africa.
For more information on the project, contact Ethel Makila, communications officer at BecA Hub at email@example.com
Tanzania is taking the initial steps for the start of research on biotech crops in the country. These initial steps include discussions between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Office of the Vice President regarding safety legislation protecting farmers and consumers in case biotech crops have been approved in the country.
According to Agriculture Minister Jumanne Maghembe, the purpose of this action is to modernize agriculture for rural communities and to promote economic growth. He also said that " the time for being rigid on use of GMOs was over, especially in the face of uncertain weather patterns."
Read more at http://allafrica.com/stories/201202140152.html.
Scientists at the University of Georgia (UGA) mapped the genomes of two originator cells of Miscanthus x giganteus, a large perennial grass that could be used as a source of ethanol and bienergy. UGA scientist Changsoo Kim identified a set of about 600 bits of Miscanthus DNA that can serve as diagnostic tools. The next plan is to determine which of these pieces of DNA could be used to improve Miscanthus as a biofuel crop.
"What we are doing right now is taking the same individual plants that were used in the genetic map and measuring their height, flowering time, the size of their stalks, the dimensions of their leaves and how far they have spread from where they were planted," said Andrew Paterson, one of the researchers of the study. "And then one can use pretty straightforward statistics to look for correlations between bits of DNA and a trait."
For more details, visit http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/grass-to-gas-uga-researchers/.
The Biosafety Clearing House of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Bolivia has approved the conduct of biosafety studies of Bt cotton, a process necessary for eventual commercialization. Studies will be done on the following events: Monsanto's MON 531 with resistance to lepidopteran insects, and Bollgard / Cryx (event MON 15893 x MON 531) with resistance to lepidopteran insects and tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate.
For more information on this development, email Dr. Alexander Grobman of PeruBiotec at
Asia and the Pacific
It is crucial for developing countries to strengthen national food security, increase farmers' income, and eradicate poverty. Application of biotechnology in agriculture can accelerate the selective breeding of new varieties that are high yielding, and resistant to pests and diseases. Dr. Li Jiayang, Vice Minister of Agriculture, People's Republic of China and President of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences(CAAS) shared these thoughts in a meeting in Beijing, China with Dr. Clive James, chair and founder of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications(ISAAA) and Dr. Randy Hautea, ISAAA Global Coordinator on February 9, 2012.
James said that biotechnology is a pivotal way to ensure food security in developing countries. Brazil, Argentina, and India are investing more in agri-biotech. The number of transgenic crop varieties and acreage planted to these crops are increasing yearly. EU countries such as Spain also promote transgenic corn and potatoes to reduce the use of pesticide and increase food production. James likewise stated that transgenic crops such as potatoes resistant to late blight and golden rice would gain more global attention.
The two sides also exchanged views on areas of common interests such as G20 meeting and biosafety. The meeting was also attended by Prof. Wang Ren, Vice President of CAAS, Prof. Lin Min, Director-General of Biotechnology Research Institute of CAAS and Prof. Huang Dafang, Director of China Biotechnology Information Center.
See the news at http://www.moa.gov.cn/zwllm/zwdt/201202/t20120210_2479195.htm
The National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (BIOTECH-UPLB) in Laguna, Philippines celebrated its 32th anniversary. It held a campus journalism contest, technology forum session, productivity enhancement workshop, new equipment inauguration, and a biotech quiz contest last February 13-17, 2012.
In a message at a ceremony at BIOTECH, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo identified biotechnology as one of the ‘vital' fields of sciences for the country's development. In turn, Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Segfredo Serrano noted that the country must exploit the ability of people in generating local technologies so as to address challenges in food security and effects of climate change. He also encouraged the university to be more active in its research and development efforts.
As reaffirmation of their support to biotechnology, the heads of the various collaborating government agencies such as the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD), Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), DA-Biotechnology Program Implementation Unit (DA-PIU), DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA- BSWM), and Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB) signed a Statement of Cooperation with BIOTECH.
BIOTECH was established in December 1979 by the UP Board of Regents to spearhead biotechnology developments in the Philippines.
India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has approved the commercial distribution of a new variety of Bt cotton, which was developed through the collaboration of public and private institutions. The new variety is expected to increase yield by 30 percent compared to the yield of Bt cotton seeds that have been commercialized earlier. The developers came up with the new varieties by inserting insect resistance genes from Bacillus thuringiensis into local cotton varieties Sankar 6 and Sankar 8.
"Injecting Bt gene into Sankar is more environmentally friendly and is suited to our climate. We expect it to be more pest resistant compared to other Bt cotton varieties. It will give a bigger boll-size, and the number of bolls on each cotton plant will also go up," said Raghavendrasinh Jadeja, a progressive farmer of Bt cotton in India.
Get more information at http://article.wn.com/view/2012/02/16/Centres_panel_approves_new_Bt_Cotton_seed/.
The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (Australia) issued a license to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the limited and controlled release of a range of GM wheat and barley lines that have been genetically modified (GM) for altered grain composition, nutrient utilization efficiency, disease resistance or stress tolerance.
A trial will be done on one site in the Australian Capital Territory from May 2012 and June 2017. It will assess the agronomic performance and grain properties of the GM wheat and barley lines grown under field conditions. The GM wheat and barley will not be used in commercial human food or animal feed.
Details of the decision are available at http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/dir111
DuPont signed a lease agreement with Beijing International Flower Port to build a Technology Hub for its Pioneer seed business in Beijing, China. Slated to open later this year, the Hub will be used to develop new high-yielding maize hybrids through molecular breeding.
"This is a further extension of how DuPont is investing in global science to identify solutions locally," said Bill Niebur, DuPont vice president and Pioneer China general manager. "Our vision is to work side-by-side with our Chinese collaborators to bring the Accelerated Yield Technology (AYT™) system together with other cutting-edge molecular breeding technologies to enhance and accelerate maize breeding in China."
View Dupont's media release at http://www2.dupont.com/Media_Center/en_US/daily_news/february/article20120215a.html
The impact of climate change is continuously affecting crop production and threatening food security in the northern and southern parts of Bangladesh. Strengthening the high technology seed sector in agriculture is a way to assure food security in the country. This was stated by Bangladesh Minister for Land Advocate Mostafizur Rahman during the Third International Seed Conference and Seed Fair held on 8-10 February 2012 at Bangladesh Agricultural University.
"We have about 1 million hectares of fallow land in the coastal area, which is affected by saline water. "If we can cultivate 1 million ha coastal saline tract, it would help us become self-sufficient in food. Drought and salinity-resistant quality seed is the prime need of the day to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security in the country," the Minister elaborated.
Seed Science Society of Bangladesh, Seed Wings and the Ministry of Agriculture jointly organized the conference and fair. The theme of the conference was Quality Seed for Food Security under Changing Climate. Some 50 scientists from Bangladesh and foreign experts presented 110 research papers. The fair attracted thousands of students, farmers and entrepreneurs from various parts of the country.
For more news about crop biotechnology in Bangladesh, email Dr. Khondoker Nasiruddin of the Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EuropaBio has released a document on Undue Delays in the EU Approval of Safe GM Products. It contains a list of product applications in the decision making phase of the EU approval process. Results show that there is inconsistency between legally prescribed timelines and the administrative practice.
The document cites the example of 1507 maize for cultivation that had an EFSA approval in 2005 and is still waiting for the Commission to schedule a vote in the Appeal Committee despite a maximum two months processing time. It had already been delayed earlier when it took 1452 days for the Commission to schedule a vote at the committee level (maximum days set at 3 months).
Download a copy of the document at http://www.europabio.org/sites/default/files/position/gm_approvals_status_february_2012.pdf
Malate is one of the important solutes for maintaining turgor pressure during stomatal opening. This solute has been known to come from the guard cells, however, it is not yet clear if it is also metabolized. University of York scientist Steven Penfield and colleagues provided evidence than an enzyme (phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase or PEPCK) involved in malate metabolism and glucose formation is needed for complete closure of the stomata under dark conditions.
Analysis of PCK1 gene showed that PEPCK is expressed in guard cells and trichomes of the leaf. Mutant plants with altered gene exhibited reduced tolerance to drought as well as increased stomatal conductance and wider stomatal apertures compared with the wild type. When exposed to light and dark conditions, the mutant plants showed increased stomatal conductance and less sensitivity of the stomata to darkness, which imply that the stomata becomes stacked in the open position. Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that malate metabolism is important in dark-induced stomatal closure where PEPCK plays a significant role.
Read the abstract at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04822.x/abstract.
Scientists at Rice University in Texas reported that the plant's circadian clock, acting like hormone signals, helps plants defend themselves from anticipated attack by pests. Danielle Goodspeed and colleagues used 12-hour light cycles to entrain the circadian clocks of Arabidopsis plants and cabbage loopers. One set of plants were exposed to caterpillars on a regular day-night cycles, while another set were placed with "out-of-phase" caterpillars whose biological clocks were set to daytime mode during the hours that the plants were in night time mode. Results showed that the plants with clocks in phase with the insects were relatively resistant, while the other set of plants turned out to be infested by the insects.
They team also examined the accumulation of the hormone jasmonate, which is used by plants in controlling metabolite production to impede insect digestion. They found that the Arabidopsis uses its internal clock to produce more jasmonate during the day, which is the time when insects like cabbage loopers attack plants. They also discovered that the internal clocks control the production of other chemical defenses such as those that protect plants against bacterial infections.
For more details about the study visit http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/07/1116368109.abstract
Scientists use visual selectable markers as alternative for antibiotic-resistance genes in identifying transformed cells. One example of visual selectable marker is the purple color induced by accumulation of anthocyanins. However, too much anthocyanin accumulation could impede the growth and development of transgenic plants. Thus, Feng Jin and colleagues at Nankai University in China used AtDWF4 promoter from Arabidopsis and the tomato LeANT1 gene to construct the PL1 fusion gene and analyzed if it could be used as an effective visual selectable marker gene in tomato transformation.
Results showed that all PL1 transgenic shoots showed intense purple color on shoot induction medium. Transgenic tomato plants exhibited high expression of PL1 in the true leaves and other organs of the cotyledon. They also reported that the growth and development of the transgenic plants was not affected by the expression of PL1; and conferred tolerance to multiple abiotic stresses. Using a method called "cut off green shoots", a number of transgenic tomato lines were generated with PL1 as the selectable marker gene. Therefore, PL1 could possibly be used a visual selectable marker gene for tomato transformation.
Read the research article at http://www.springerlink.com/content/72640330315j5045/.
Beyond Crop Biotech
Rabbinical experts from the Orthodox Union, an organization that certified food products for the Jewish community, sought the help of experts at the American Museum of Natural History, to determine if the presence of parasitic worms in canned sardines and capelin eggs would still make the food considered as kosher.
According to Mark Siddall, a curator of the Museum, the key to determining if the food was improperly handled is in the worms' life cycles. "Some species of worms live in the muscles of fish when they're in the larval stage," he said. "Other species live in the fish's intestines when they're adults. We already know the life cycles for these parasites, so all we have to do is figure out what species were present in the canned food."
The researchers used a technique called DNA barcoding, which is based on relatively short region of a gene in the energy producing part of the cell's nucleus that would help them identify from which piece of meat the worm came from. Based on their findings, the Orthodox Union issued a decision that the food remains a kosher.
"To our knowledge, this is the first application of DNA barcoding to an obviously cultural concern," said Sebastian Kvist, one of the paper's authors and a student in the Museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School. "This paper really exemplifies what science is all about—helping people."
Read the complete story at http://www.amnh.org/science/papers/worms_2012.php.
Researchers at the Oakridge National Laboratory are studying Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis, a bacterium from Yellowstone's hot springs to be used in development of commercially viable ethanol from crops. This microorganism thrives at extremely high temperatures and has the ability to break down organic material. The researchers hope to use this capability in a biofuel production technique called consolidated bioprocessing, which involves use of microorganisms. Once successful, this technique, could be a cheaper alternative for the current processes that use expensive enzymes.
"Consolidated bioprocessing is like a one-pot mix," said Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Richard Giannone, coauthor on a BESC proteomics study that looked at one microorganism candidate. "You want to throw plant material into a pot with the microorganism and allow it to degrade the material and produce ethanol at the same time."
View the media release at http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/get_press_release.cfm?ReleaseNumber=mr20120214-00.
Researchers from different institutions are shedding light on the mystery of how mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenease 1 (IDH1) gene can cause brain cancer and leukemia. William Kaelin, an onocologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts, and team found that the form of 2-hydroxyglutarate that accumulates in IDH1-mutant cancer cells promotes cell growth by blocking the activity of a protein called hypoxia inducible factor (HIF), which can sometimes suppress tumors.
On the other hand, Timothy Chan from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, discovered that IDH1 mutations affects an enzyme that controls the deposition of methyl groups on DNA. The addition of methyl groups can turn on or off the expression of genes. The team also explained that changing the methylation state of histones prevents cells from differentiating. Absence of differentiation is a characteristic of cancer cells.
"This work shows that indeed there is a causal relationship between the mutation and those methylation changes," says Martin van den Bent, a neuro-oncologist at the Daniel den Hoed Cancer Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "One gets the feeling that we are getting closer to the dream of developing a treatment for IDH1-mutant cancers."
See the original article at http://www.nature.com/news/cancer-causing-mutations-yield-their-secrets-1.10029.
The January 2012 issue of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases contains articles that focus on the application of genetically modified (GM) insects to control animal and plant diseases. Technological advances, and the regulatory framework, among others, are discussed.
A collection of articles recently published in the PLoS journals that describe the technical and applied aspects of GM insects is available at http://www.ploscollections.org/article/browseIssue.action?issue=info:doi/10.1371/issue.pcol.v01.i12.
The Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub, International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI Hub) seeks applications for short-term research projects (3-6 months). Projects must be related to food and nutritional security, food safety or animal health issues.
The Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) is a competitive grant that enables scientists from national research institutes and universities within the eastern and central Africa region to conduct research at the world-class research facilities of BecA-ILRI Hub, in Nairobi, Kenya.
For more information about the BecA-ILRI Hub research grant, visit http://hub.africabiosciences.org/ Check out its online application at http://hpc.ilri.cgiar.org/beca/ABCF_2012/index.php
The World Congress on Biotechnology will be held on May 4-6, 2012 at Leonia International Centre for Exhibitions and Conventions, Hyderabad, India. The event aims to bring together a unique and international mix of large and medium pharmaceutical, biotech and diagnostic companies, leading Universities and Clinical Research Institutions making the Congress a platform for sharing experiences, encourage collaborations across industry, academia and evaluate emerging technologies across the globe.
The International Crop Science Congress will be held on August 6-10, 2012 in Bento Gonçalves, Brazil. The program includes plenary lectures and over 36 symposia regarding advances in agribusiness, molecular breeding, conservation, marker assisted selection, and transgenic crops, to name a few.
Read more information about the Congress at http://www.6icsc.com.br/pagina.asp?pg=2.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released a new book titled "Reshaping Agriculture for Nutrition and Health" which discusses how the international community can breakdown the barriers between agriculture, nutrition, and health to improve the lives of the world's poor and hungry.
Download a copy of the book at http://www.ifpri.org/publication/reshaping-agriculture-nutrition-and-health.