ISAAA's Annual Global Status Report of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops (Brief 42) was recently launched in Sao Paulo through webcast and a seminar in Embrapa, Brasilia. The author and founding chairman of ISAAA, Dr. Clive James dedicates the book to the 20th Anniversary of ISAAA (1991-2010).
Dr. James highlighted the increase of 10% or 14 million hectares in 2010 as compared to 2009. There are now 15.4 million farmers planting biotech crops in 29 countries, for a global total of 148 million hectares. Pakistan, Myanmar, and Sweden joined the 19 developing and 10 developed countries planting biotech crops, and Germany resumed planting biotech crops with the Amflora potato.
He also reiterated that "developments in biotech crops contribute to some of the major challenges facing global society including: food security and self sufficiency, sustainability, alleviation of poverty and hunger, and help in mitigating some of the challenges associated with climate change and global warming."
In the two events, Dr. Anderson Galvao Gomes, Director of CELERES, presented an Overview of GM Crops in Brazil highlighting the current status of Brazil as the second largest producer of biotech crops, after the United States. The number of biotech crop approvals has increased in the past few years owing to the acceptance of the farmers and consumers as well as the enabling support of government policies.
The Central African national focal points for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) attended a joint regional workshop tackling biodiversity and finance in Kinshasa, Congo, on February 17-18, 2011.
"This is the first time that the Secretariat of the Convention has organized a joint meeting with the secretariat of the GEF, thus demonstrating their commitment to enhance their collaboration as ‘One UN for Biodiversity' for the implementation of the Nagoya Biodiversity Compact, as agreed at the high level retreat of senior officials of the two institutions held in Montreal early this year," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The workshop also became an avenue for the initial analysis of the regional implications of the major outcomes of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which was held in Nagoya, Japan last October 2010. The participants conveyed their strong commitment to work towards advancing the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising out of Their Utilization, as well as the early updating of their national biodiversity strategies and action plans along with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.
Read CBD's press release at http://www.cbd.int/doc/press/2011/pr-2011-02-22-gef-en.pdf.
Norway and Germany have committed US$5 million to support the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) program of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Improved data from this program will profile greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture and identify best opportunities for mitigating global warming through improved farming practices.
FAO says that governments, development planners, farmers and agribusinesses will benefit from data that can help them design and implement policies, programs and practices to reduce agriculture's GHG emissions.
Read the FAO media release at
Plant genetic materials from desert environments have been irreversibly damaged due to anti-government protests in Egypt. After the police walkout that happened, government facilities in Cairo were targeted by mobs, including the Desert Research Centre (DRC). On the same day, a Bedouin group attacked the Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank (EDGB) in North Sinai, destroying the laboratories and the cooling system that keeps priceless seed collection.
"The EDGB database contains 750 wild desert plant species, including genetic resources not found anywhere else in the world. The collection is not even duplicated in the National Gene Bank in Giza, which has not suffered similar looting," said Ismail Abdel Galil, former DRC chairman and founder of the EDGB.
"I am very sad. Thirteen years of work has gone, and we have to start again from zero," said Hafez Ahmed Hafez, one of the researchers working at the DRC. Hafez also said that PhD students need to repeat most of their experiments since their data stored in the destroyed computers have been lost.
Assistant professor Yoshie Hanzawa of the University of Illinois (U of I) received a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant to study the flowering response of seasonal photoperiod changes in soybean. According to Hanzawa, flowering is a key trait that determines plant survival and productivity. Thus, studying the molecular basis of photoperiodic flowering will aid plant breeders in maximizing yield potential.
"We want to help open up a new frontier in soybean breeding," Hanzawa said. "We have a huge variation in day length from northern to southern United States. Our goal is to develop germplasm that fits each microenvironment by modifying the response of the soybean plant to day length."
Hanzawa will work in partnership with Randall Nelson, USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection Curator and professor in the Department of Crop Sciences.
Read the original article at http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/stories/news5604.html.
Two potato varieties Waneta and Lamoka have been released for cultivation by the breeders at Cornell University. The varieties are resistant to the golden nematode and common scab, the two most important potato diseases in New York.
Variety Lamoka has a high level of starch that is highly desired by chip manufactures because it soaks up less oil when fried. Waneta has less starch but is bruise resistant, suitable to the stony field of New York. The
For more on these two potato varieties, see the original news at: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb11/NewPotatoes.html.
DuPont plans to invest more than $50 million over five years to expand its biotech soybean research and development program. "This plan includes a significant expansion of our overall biotech research effort," said John Bedbrook, vice president of DuPont Agricultural Biotechnology. "It would increase the speed at which we can bring new products to the market and help farmers around the world increase yields through tolerance to environmental stresses, insects, and diseases."
The proposed investment will include expanding biotech research facilities at DuPont's global research and development headquarters in Delaware. This includes new soybean research laboratories, tissue culture facilities, and environmentally controlled growth rooms and greenhouses.
Check out http://onlinepressroom.net/DuPont/NewsReleases/ for the company media release.
The National Biosafety Technical Commission (CTNBio) in Brazil has granted approval for Bayer CropScience's TwinLink® technology for cotton. TwinLink cotton has two insect resistance genes and is fully tolerant to glufosinate-ammonium herbicides (Ignite® and Basta®). This new technology could help Brazilian farmers in managing pests and weeds that affect crop productivity and cotton lint quality.
"This technology will be an important tool and an attractive, modern alternative for Brazilian cotton farmers to improve their crop management, increase productivity sustainably, and maintain Brazil as one of the main leaders in the production of quality cotton," said Joachim Schneider, Head of the BioScience business unit of Bayer CropScience.
Read the press release at http://www.bayercropscience.com/bcsweb/cropprotection.nsf/id/EN_20110222?open&l=EN&ccm=500020.
Asia and the Pacific
While addressing the joint session of the Parliament of India on February 21, 2011, India President Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil announced the establishment of the Crop Genetic Enhancement Network to spur the development of improved crop varieties in the country. Underscoring the significance of scientific and technological competence for sustained economic growth of India, she enumerated many new initiatives in the area of S&T to support the sustained agriculture and economic growth.
In this direction, the President informed the Parliament that "An Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research is being established to impart instruction and strengthen research in the country. Establishment of new institutions has contributed significantly to the growth of biotech in the country." A Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council will also be set up to augment efforts on food security, promote industrial research and development, and facilitate innovation in biotechnology. "For developing improved crop varieties, a national program for Crop Genetic Enhancement Network will be launched soon," said the President. In addition, a National Science & Engineering Research Board has been notified to provide impetus for promoting basic research in the country. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill piloted by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is slated to be tabled in the parliament in the next session.
A copy of the President's speech to the joint session of the Parliament of India is available at http://presidentofindia.nic.in/sp210211.pdf. For more information about biotech development in India, contact email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Director of Agrifood Awareness Australia, Paula Fitzgerald, through a media release, expressed her support for GM canola and stressed the several benefits of GM crops in agriculture to address doubt-mongering campaigns of anti-biotech groups.
"There are no doubts about safety. The approved varieties of GM canola were thoroughly assessed by Australia's regulatory bodies nearly a decade ago as ‘safe for human health and the environment'. Safety is the first priority. Why would it be anything other than that? GM crops have been commercially grown, traded, and consumed around the world since 1996 without issue; billions of meals have been made and consumed that contain one or more GM crop ingredients or whole foods; GM crops are a proven and completely legitimate agricultural technology," said Fitzgerald.
Farmers have been choosing GM varieties based on agronomic and economic factors. In only its third year of adoption in Australia, GM canola has been planted by farmers on about 133,300 hectares in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.
Read the media release at http://www.afaa.com.au/media/AFAA_No_need_for_Perth_placards_and_protests.pdf.
Dr. Anwar Nasim, advisor of science of the Organization of Islamic Conference's Ministerial Standing Committee for Science and Technology (COMSTECH) and renowned biotechnologist of Pakistan was selected for the BioAsia Award 2011. The decision was announced by Dr. B. S. Bajab, Secretary General of Asian Biotechnology Association (FABA). The awarding ceremony was held on February 24, 2011 in Hyderabad, India, and graced by the governor of Andhra Pradesh. The Global Bio Business Forum says the award is given to eminent personalities for their contribution to the life sciences industry.
The massive use of harmful pesticides in vegetables necessitates safer solutions to prevent crop damage caused by pests and diseases. To this end, Dr. Peter Hanson and Dr. Jaw-fen Wang, a tomato breeder and a plant pathologist, respectively of the World Vegetable Center teamed up to develop multiple gene resistance in tomatoes.
To reduce losses caused by tomato yellow leaf curl virus disease, a combination of marker-assisted and conventional breeding was conducted at AVRDC to combine Ty-1, Ty-2, and Ty-3, genes sourced from Solanum habrochaites, S. chilense, and S. peruvianum. Lines with these genes are being tested in multilocation trials in Mali and Tanzania. In addition, lines containing Hawaii 7996 allele which shows moderate resistance to bacterial wilt was also developed in the center.
Currently, tomato lines AVTO1010 and AVTO 1003 have been developed through molecular-based breeding to contain the genes in mutli stacks to combat the two diseases.
For more details, see the original news at http://www.avrdc.org/fileadmin/pdfs/media_releases/02_Hanson_Tomato_17Feb11_s.pdf
Glycos Biotechnologies, Inc. (GlycosBio), an international biochemical company, was granted the BioNexus Status from the Malaysian Government via Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp), the national agency set up by the Malaysian government for the development of biotechnology in Malaysia. GlycosBio is presently constructing an industrial biochemical plant and biotechnology research and development facility in Bio-XCell, a dedicated biotechnology park in Johor, Malaysia.
BioNexus Status is a recognition awarded by the Malaysian Government, through BiotechCorp, to qualified companies that participate in biotechnology activities. GlycosBio commercializes advanced biological processes that convert low-value feedstocks into high-value sustainable chemicals.
Email Suzanne Tormollen of GlycosBio at email@example.com for additional information.
Pakistan and Argentina agreed to strengthen their cooperation in the field of science and technology. Pakistan Federal Minister for Science and Technology Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani told Ambassador Rodolfo J. Mortin Saravia that the government is paying extra attention to the S&T sector to boost the economy.
The economic cooperation between the two countries will involve exchange of expertise and research activities. Joint committee proposals in the fields of agri-biotechnology, natural products, and clean technology, among others will be pursued.
Majority of the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) decided to accept low level presence of GMOs in animal feed imports to the European Union member states. The committee's decision in a meeting in Brussels on February 22, 2011 is perceived as an initial step to avoid disruption to EU animal feed supplies.
The new threshold of 0.1% GMO feed admixture will need to be confirmed by the EU Parliament and EU Council. The rules can be adopted until the summer by the EU Commission as law. They will only apply to genetically modified feed but not foods that have obtained market authorization in non-EU countries.
The John Innes Center (JIC) in the United Kingdom through its trading subsidiary John Innes Enterprise Limited will collaborate with the Malaysian Genomics Resource Center Berhad (MGRC) on functional genomics.
"We hope the collaboration will benefit Malaysian agriculture by increasing access to plant and microbial science for tropical crop improvement," said JIC director Professor Dale Sanders. "Joint research will also help the country realize the potential of its biodiversity by identifying natural products that could be used in the bioactives sector."
Malaysian scientists will have access to JIC's expertise in disease resistance, plant genetics, and natural products. Malaysia's rich biodiversity has potential for many plant and microbial compounds with biological activity that can be used in the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals, novel foods, and as active ingredients for industrial biotechnology.
View http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/media-and-public/current-releases/110223MGRCagreement.html for more information.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom has given a £7 million grant to a consortium of researchers to increase the "diversity of traits available in wheat via a comprehensive pre-breeding program." Considered the first of its kind in the UK in over 20 years, the project aims to ensure the sustainability of wheat production in the UK and contribute to global food security.
"There is an urgent need to improve yields of wheat; it is estimated that in the next 50 years we will need to harvest as much wheat as has been produced since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago," said Professor Graham Moore and consortium lead from the John Innes Center. Other members of the consortium include the University of Bristol, University of Nottingham, and Rothamsted Research.
The research project will identify new genetic variation from traditional sources of wheat germplasm to accelerate improvement of modern wheat. In addition, a database of genetic markers for precision breeding will be developed.
Additional details are available at http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/media-and-public/current-releases/110221wheatbreedingLola.html.
In search of strategies to create drought resistance and water use efficiency in crops, researchers have studied members of the large family of ‘Major Intrinsic Proteins", which are known to act as water channels in plants. ‘Tonoplast Intrinsic Proteins' or TIPS has recently been found to be the likely candidate which govern water transport in plants.
Researchers at University of Warwick's School of Life Sciences led by Dr. Lorenzo Frigerio studied both the ‘Plasma Membrane Intrinsic Proteins' (PIPs) and TIPs. They found that out of the 13 Arabidopsis PIPs, only three were detectable in seeds 60 hours after germination. In contrast, a very high level of TIP3 protein was present in the plasma membrane during seed development and germination.
The research published in the Molecular Plant Journal hypothesized that "besides residing in the tonoplast, TIP3 is recruited to the plasma membrane to compensate for the absence (or very low concentration) of PIP" to perform the important function of gatewater keeper into and out of cells.
See the original article at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_path_to.
Selectable markers are reporter genes introduced to cells to confirm the success of genetic transformation. Antibiotic resistance genes, such as those that confer kanamycin resistance, are often used as selectable markers in plants and bacteria. A.J. Kortstee, together with other scientists at the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, used the production of pigment anthocyanin as selectable marker. The researchers believe that anthocyanin is a better alternative because it is visible to the naked eye, non-toxic, and has health benefits such as anti-cancer. They introduced a mutant gene (MYB10) from apple into strawberry, potato and apple.
Regenerated shoots were harvested from explants and examined for the presence of MYB10 through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Both red and green shoots from apple contained MYB10. Strawberry plants exhibited anthocyanin buildup in the leaves and roots, unlike in potato, where there was absence of visible anthocyanin production. However, analysis showed that the potato shoots and roots contained four times higher anthocyanin levels than the control plants that do not contain MYB10. Therefore, anthocyanin production with the use of MYB10 gene can be used as a selectable marker in genetic engineering of apple, strawberry, and potato, in replacement of kanamycin resistance.
Read the abstract of this study at http://www.springerlink.com/content/v4550v2466480814/.
Cotton is one of the most economically important crops worldwide because it is the basic raw material in the textile industry and it also used in oil and livestock feed production. Through conventional breeding, scientists have improved various traits of the crop, especially in increasing its yield and improving its quality. However, the unfavorable correlations between the lint yield and fiber quality limit conventional breeding programs in improving upland cotton. Thus, combining molecular tools and conventional breeding methods is necessary to develop cotton cultivars with better quality. Furthermore, the use of three or more cultivars/lines in making composite cross populations can increase the marker density of genetic maps for breeding.
To construct a relatively high density map and determine complex traits associated with fiber quality traits, Ke Zhang and colleagues from Southwest University in China used three upland cotton cultivars to make a segregating population. The resulting genetic map contained 978 microsatellites and 69 linkage groups, covering about 94.1 percent of the whole tetraploid cotton genome. They have detected 63 quantitative trait loci (QTL) or portions of the DNA with linked genes that confer a quantitative trait. Of these 63 QTL, 11 were associated with fiber elongation, 16 for fiber length, 9 for fiber micronaire reading, 10 for fiber strength, and 17 for fiber length uniformity. This genetic map and QTL can be used for breeding programs of upland cotton to further improve fiber quality.
Read more details about this study published by Molecular Breeding journal at http://www.springerlink.com/content/r2r34x26p15j47v4/.
Plants produce high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) when exposed to stressful conditions. ROS are molecules that signal and regulate plant stress responses. Thus, Stéphane Herbette from Université Blaise Pascal, France, and colleagues investigated the role of a key ROS scavenger enzyme (glutathione peroxidase or GPx) in response to biotic and abiotic stresses. They used genetically engineered (GE) tomato plants overexpressing GPx. The GE tomato and the control plants were exposed to mechanical stimulation and necrotrophic parasites Botrytis cinerea and Oidium neolycopersici.
Results showed that GPx-overexpressing plants were less sensitive to mechanical stress compared to control plants. However, GE plants exhibited increased lesion extension compared to the controls. Thus, GPx overexpression aggravated opposite effects in cases of biotic and abiotic stresses, which implies that GPx is vital in the control of stress response.
Read the research article published by the Plant Science journal at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2010.12.002.
Beyond Crop Biotech
Researchers at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in USA have revealed why the microscopic phytoplankton Aureococcus anophagefferens dominates other phytoplankton in the oceans by causing brown tides. Through the new advances in genomics, they were able to identify the phytoplankton's unique gene complement that enables it to outcompete others and bloom in human-modified ecosystems. Though the plankton does not produce toxins that poison humans, the long-term bloom poisons bivalves and destroys sea grass beds and shellfisheries leading to billion dollar worth of losses.
"When we looked at the coastal ecosystems where we find Aureococcus blooms, we found they were enriched in organic matter, were very turbid and enriched in trace metals," said research leader Christopher Gobler. "And when we looked at the genome of Aureococcus, it ended up being enriched in genes to take advantage of these conditions. The surprise was the concordance between the genome and the ecosystem where it's blooming…We now know this organism is genetically predisposed to exploit certain characteristics of coastal ecosystems. We also know the characteristics are there because of activities of man," Gobler said. "If we continue to increase, for example, organic matter in coastal waters, then it's going to continue to favor brown tides since it is genetically predisposed to thrive in these conditions."
Results of their study is published in the February 21 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research team is now investigating the RNA of Aurecoccus to know how genes are expressed during the lifetime of the bloom.
For more information, visit http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=282&cid=90450&ct=162.
ICABBBE 2011: International Conference on Agricultural Biosystems, Biotech and Biological Engineering
The International Conference on Agricultural, Biosystems, Biotechnology and Biological Engineering will be held in Venice, Italy on November 23-25, 2011. The conference aims to gather academic scientists, leading engineers, industry researchers, and scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results about all aspects of agricultural, biosystems, biotechnology and biological engineering, and discuss the practical challenges encountered and the solutions adopted. Full paper submissions will be accepted until July 31, 2011.
For more details, visit the conference website: http://www.waset.org/conferences/2011/venice/icabbbe/.
The Agricultural Forum Foundation will hold a technical conference on security and new technologies entitled Herbicide-tolerant transgenic varieties: Risks and Opportunities for Spain in the Aula Magna of the School of Agricultural Engineers Polytechnic University of Madrid. This conference seeks to present and discuss important assessments of the technology in a scientific framework and to establish procedures in integrating security environment with competitive safeguards in agriculture in Spain.
The US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service GAIN has released the Paraguay Biotechnology Annual Report. Paraguay has only Roundup Ready (RR) soybean as a commercially approved biotech crop. Soybean, however, is one of two main agricultural exports, the other being cotton. The country remains to be the seventh largest soybean producer in the world producing 2% of global production.
For more information about biotech in Paraguay read http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Biotechnology%20-%20GE%20Plants%20and%20Animals_Buenos%20Aires_Paraguay_1-24-2011.pdf
The Uruguay Annual Biotechology Report is now available at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Biotechnology%20-%20GE%20Plants%20and%20Animals_Buenos%20Aires_Uruguay_1-24-2011.pdf
The Global Agricultural Information Network report prepared by the US Department of Agricultural Service says that three events are approved for commercialization in Uruguay: one soybean variety (MON 40-3-2) and two maize varieties (MON 810 and Bt 11). No other new approvals for living modified organism events have been made since 2004.