A weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)
May 21, 2010

In This Week’s Issue:


• Economic Crisis Threatens Agriculture in Europe and Asia
• BREAD Grants for Basic Agricultural Research

• Kenya Launches National Biosafety Authority Board
• Biosafety Law Translated in Local Languages of Burkina Faso
• Soil Bacteria and Fungi as Effective Bio-fertilizers

• Peruvian Scientist Gets Appeal from Supreme Court
• FDA Oks Use of Vistive Gold Soybean Oil
• Scientists Release Biocontrol for Waterhyacinth
• Implementing Holistic Food Policies: Strategy for Improving National Security
• Aphid's Chemical Signals as Biocontrol Agent Against Itself
• Panel Discussion about Public Perceptions on Adoption of Agri Biotech
• Monsanto Donates Seeds to Haiti

Asia and the Pacific
• Chinese Scientists Complete First Multi-crop Large-scale Evaluation of GM Ecological Impacts
• Social Responsibility in Promoting Transgenics
• New CIAT-HarvestPlus Office Inaugurated in India

• EFSA Oks GM Maize Varieties
• Optimal Ecology of Bioinsecticide

• Effects of Bt Corn on the Reproduction of Non-target Pest Corn Leafhopper
• Biological Clock Controls Carbohydrate Metabolism in Arabidopsis at night
• Developing DNA Markers of Rice Blast Resistance Gene Locus

• International Seminar on Horticulture to Support Food Security 2010
• ISAAA Releases Two New Videos on "Biotech Agriculture"
• BioLatina 2010 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
• International Biotech Seminar and the 5th KBI Congress 2010
• TERI-ITEC Biosafety Training Program for African Nationals
• CBU Feedback Survey



The financial and economic crisis has weakened agriculture particularly in Central and East Europe. Both Europe and Central Asia have been hit hardest by the crisis thus affecting progress made so far in fighting poverty and food insecurity. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf made these remarks in his speech to the 27th FAO Regional Conference for Europe in Yerevan, Armenia.

Diouf had earlier launched a major international anti-hunger campaign, the "1billionhungry  project", to press world leaders to join efforts to "eliminate hunger from our planet." He said there was a need to invest in Europe and Central Asia noting that with sufficient investment, nearly 10 million hectares of arable land could be developed to grow grains and oilseeds in Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Read the full story at


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 15 grants in the inaugural year of the Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program. The five-year program, jointly funded with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to generate sustainable, science-based solutions to agricultural problems in developing countries.

According to NSF, the awards will allow scientists to "employ novel, creative approaches and technologies to address common constraints faced by small-holder farmers." For example, a research team at Washington State University, Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, COMSATS University (Pakistan), the Punjab Agricultural University (India), and Pioneer Hi-Bred will work to identify novel dwarfing genes that will increase yield in wheat under drought stress.

"By engaging leading scientists worldwide, the BREAD program will creatively address critical agricultural challenges," said Rob Horsch, deputy director of the Agricultural Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Resulting solutions will help small farmers in the developing world grow more and earn more so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty."

The awards, made to 42 institutions in the U.S. include international collaborators in Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, Denmark, Pakistan, India, Papua New Guinea, and the United Kingdom. Scientists from Centers of the Consultative Group for International Agriculture (CGIAR) and from the private sector will also participate in some of the projects.

The NSF media release is at A complete list of 2010 BREAD awards can be accessed at


Kenya's Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology William Ruto launched the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Board on May 13, 2010. In his speech during the launch, the Minister said that the government was committed to conduct business in the area of biotechnology in a transparent manner under a biosafety system that will be enforceable by the Biosafety Law. Public participation will be a priority. The Minister stressed that Kenyans are eagerly waiting to see how the Board will make the country move forward to enhance modern biotechnology and in particular regulate genetically modified organisms and their derived products.

Establishment of the NBA board is a key provision in the Biosafety Act. The Board is a broad based multi-stakeholder entity composed of eminent scientists, permanent secretaries from key Ministries, directors of biosafety regulatory agencies and representatives of farmers, consumers and the private sector.

The Minister said that the world recognizes the potential role that biotechnology can play in alleviating hunger, poverty and diseases. He noted that the safe application of biotechnology in areas such as agriculture, human health, animal production, trade, industry and environmental management has demonstrated its being one of the best options for development. India and China, he said, are nations that have mobilized commercial capabilities of biotechnology and have taken deliberate policy decisions at highest political and technical levels to harness the benefits of promising technologies such as Bt cotton. The Minister singled out South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso as the only countries in Africa which have invested in commercial production of biotech crops. Burkina Faso, for example, has demonstrated that Bt cotton can increase yields by 30%, reduce insecticides application by 50%, and generate higher household incomes.

Hon. William Roto called for concerted efforts to assist Kenyan farmers to adopt the cultivation of Bt cotton by next year so that the cotton industry in the country can be revitalized. In addition, he mentioned that Kenya needs to assess opportunities that introduction of appropriate technologies offer to meet the challenges of feeding a growing population.

For more information, contact Harrison K. Macharia of the National Biosafety Authority At


Burkina Faso has embarked on a program to create awareness on the National Biosafety Law. The law has been translated into the three most commonly spoken languages (Mooré, Jula and Gulmacema) in the cotton growing areas. The first phase of translation has been achieved and the National Biosafety Authority is planning to reach out to farmers with the documents and to train them on the existing provisions regarding the use and management of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country.

Since 2008, Burkina Faso has positioned itself as a producer of transgenic crops with 2 to 4 millions of farmers involved in the production of Bt cotton. Most of these producers have low literacy levels, especially when it comes to reading French, the actual language in which the biosafety law is written.

The program was launched by Minister of Secondary and Higher Education, Science and Technology Joseph Paré on May 18, 2010 in Ouagadougou. It is sponsored by the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP) and the Agricultural Diversification and Market Development Project. The Minister urged different stakeholders, especially journalists to get acquainted with the documents and to inform farmers as well as the local and international public about the program.

At the moment, 6000 translated copies (2000 per language) consisting of summaries of essential extracts of the Act have been printed and they will be distributed to farmers through extension services.

For more information, contact Cyr Payim Ouédraogo, Chairman of the West African Network for Communicators on Agricultural Biotechnology (RECOAB) at


The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) organized a program entitled Conservation and Sustainable Management of Below Ground Biodiversity (CSM-BGBD), which aims to improve food security and farmer incomes through the use of 'below ground biodiversity.' The project was conducted by scientists from seven countries - Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and Uganda.

Results of their study show that crops produced more yield by more than 50 percent with the aid of bacteria and fungi from soil. For instance, in the testing conducted in Kenya, soil with inoculated Rhizobium bacteria produced 40-60% more soybean yield than the soybean planted without the bacteria. Moreover, when Trichoderma fungi was added with fertilizer, the soybean yield was doubled. Thus, with the use of the said soil bio-fertilizers, the farmers would have lowered expenses as well as  improved the utilization of  nutrients and water.

The press release is available at Details of the (CSM-BGBD) project can be found at


The Peruvian Superior Court has approved an appeal from Dr. Ernesto Bustamante, vice president of the Peruvian Association of Biologists, on the penal case for defamation filed against him by another Peruvian scientist Dr. Antonietta Gutierrez.  Bustamante, a biotechnologist in the medical sciences, was found guilty for defamation by a minor court.

Bustamante questioned the quality of the work, its publication in a website of a Malaysian nongovernment organization, and foremost, the conclusions derived from the research, that purportedly showed the existence of up to 33% of illegally planted GM maize in one of the valleys in the Peruvian Coast. An independent analysis of the research work by other Peruvian and international scientists confirmed the position of Dr. Bustamante.

PeruBiotec, the Peruvian Association for the Development of Biotechnology, is calling on scientists to join an electronic signature campaign in support of Dr. Bustamante and to free discussion in the realm of science. The petition says that it calls "upon Peru to restore the ability of scientists to exercise their discipline and pursue truth in accordance with the values of the free world, and call upon the Peruvian authorities to reverse the ill-considered and unfounded verdict."

Interested individuals may go to


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a response letter to Monsanto's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) notification supporting the use of oil from Vistive Gold soybeans. Food companies can now develop and test foods containing this soybean oil with reduced saturated fats and reduced or no trans fats.

"This product could offer farmers and the food industry an opportunity to help meet a growing demand for healthier foods," said Roy Fuchs, Monsanto's global technology lead for oilseeds. "Vistive Gold provides a glimpse into the next-generation of soybean products that can bring direct health benefits to consumers. We also expect farmers to benefit from the premium pricing opportunity the market is likely to offer for this oil once it is commercialized."

According to a press release, Monsanto has completed U.S. regulatory submissions. Once regulatory processes are completed, the product will then be made available to food companies.

Visit for the full story.


Biological control of waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) using Megamelus scutellaris was studied by U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricltural Research Service entomologists based in Florida and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Waterhyacinth which has become a menace in bodies of water was found to be the food of nymphs and adults of the small plant hopper. This discovery  could now replace the use of herbicide in the control of the water weeds.

The team of scientists believe that the M. scutellaris could integrate better with existing herbicide program because of its mobility, which should improve its survival in highly managed systems. Further studies revealed that the plant hopper is highly host-specific and does not pose a threat to native or economically important species.

For details, see the story at


"Increased agricultural productivity in developing countries can increase national security, but it requires supportive governments, a holistic approach, and local implementation," said Paul E. Schickler, president of DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred to the attendees of The Chicago Council's Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on May 20, 2010.

The symposium was attended by senior leaders from the Obama administration, U.S. Congress, business, policy, NGO and international organizations to discuss policies and execute strategies for food security in the USA and the rest of the world. The Obama administration claims that food security is an important component of national security, and this can be achieved by implementing holistic food policies involving both the public and private sectors. According to Schickler, the partnership of DuPont and Uttar Pradesh Government's Department of Agriculture in India is an example of applying holistic strategies in enhancing livelihoods and food availability. This partnership was initiated to optimize farmers inputs and increase their net income. Aside from that, the farmers will undergo agronomic and technical training and will also be guided during the critical phases of development.

"Recognition of the role that agricultural development can play in a country's economic development, stability and security is critical," said Schickler. "The difference between a farmer having access to improved farming practices or not can often be traced to a country's supporting structures and policies."

For more information, visit


Aphid is one of the world's most destructive insect pests that costs gardeners and farmers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. In addition, aphids have the ability to develop resistance to pesticides, thus growers are forced to use more amount of chemicals in their fields.

This led a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to develop a biocontrol agent against the aphids. Ronald J. Nachman, one of the ARS scientists, have been studying chemical signals called neuropeptides. When the neuropeptides are broken down by enzymes in the body, they control and regulate various body processes of aphids like digestion, respiration, water intake and excretion. Nachman is developing neuropeptide mimics which have modified molecular structures which will not break down and thus, the pest will deteriorate due to disrupted body processes. These neuropeptides, known as insect kinnins, are very target specific, having no effect on other organisms.

For more information, visit


A panel discussion about the pubic perceptions and the impact of misperceptions regarding adoption of agricultural biotechnology was conducted by the Council for Biotechnology Information during the 2010 BIO International Convention in Chicago last May 5, 2010. The panel was composed of two journalists, a scientist, a farmer and a hunger advocate. During the discussion, food scientist Bruce Chassy, one of the panelists, tackled about the "education gap." He claimed that "better education" about the use of technologies in agriculture is needed by the public and policymakers so that they could arrive at informed and science-based decisions on biotechnology issues.

On the other hand, Seed Magazine editor Maywa Montenegro, another panelist, stressed the importance of promoting biotechnology for food security and sustainable agriculture. Ken Kamiya, a farmer from Hawaii, also shared his experience in planting papaya. He mentioned that when papaya industry was about to decline due to a destructive disease, GM papayas were introduced in their State and saved the industry. He claimed that agri biotechnology is advantageous for the economy  and the environment.

More details are available at


The earthquake-ravaged Haiti received a $4 million worth of conventional hybrid corn and vegetable seeds from the agricultural company Monsanto, just in time for the planting season. The seeds donated include corn, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, melon, onion, tomato, spinach, and watermelon. The Haitian Ministry of Agriculture ensured that the seeds donated were appropriate for the environmental conditions and farming practices of their country.

The initial shipment of 60 tons of seeds was transported to Haiti via air and seaport, with the aid of Kuehne + Nagel and UPS. It will be distributed to Haitian farmers by the WINNER project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Aside from the distribution of seeds, the WINNER project wil also provide technical services and other inputs, such as fertilizer, needed by farmers to manage the crops.

According to Jean Robert Estimé, the director of the WINNER project, they aim to reach 10,000 farmers. He believes that the vegetables and grains that will be produced by the seeds donated  by Monsanto will provide food and economic opportunities for farmers, their families, and their community. "Agriculture is key to the long-term recovery," he said.

The complete article is available at

Asia and the Pacific

Chinese scientists of the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) have completed the first multi-crop large-scale evaluation of GM ecological impacts. Results were published in the online version of Science online on May 14, 2010.

Field trials conducted over 10 years in northern China show that mirid bugs (Heteroptera: Miridae) have progressively increased their population levels and acquired pest status in cotton and other crops, in association with a regional increase in Bt cotton adoption. More specifically, the results show that Bt cotton has become a source of mirid bugs and that their population increases are related to drops in insecticide use in this crop. Hence, alterations of pest management regimes in Bt cotton could be responsible for the appearance and subsequent spread of non-target pests at an agro-landscape level.

This study defines the long-term ecological effects of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton on non-target pests, lays a theoretical basis to clarify the impact mechanism of the transgenic insect resistant crops on the insect population evolution, and has important significance to develop new theory and technology to sustainably control major pests.

The full text of this study is available at;science.1187881


Scientists in the transgenic field should actively participate in sharing information about the technology while media should report on genetic modification (GM) developments in a comprehensive, scientific and positive way. By sharing this social responsibility together, they can promote the rapid development of transgenic technology and industry. This was forwarded by Prof. Lin Min, director of the Biotechnology Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and member of China Biotechnology Information Center committee of experts, during a symposium in Beijing last May 17, 2010. More than 200 participants from the mainstream media, related research institutes and universities attended this symposium.

Lin Min talked about transgenic biotechnology research and application. He analyzed China's GMO technology and future development trends. In particular he stressed the importance of GM popularization activities noting that the general public, media and even some scholars have misconceptions of biotechnology.

For more information about this symposium, contact Prof. Zhang Hongxiang at or Dr. Yue Tongqing at


The newest office of International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)-HarvestPlus was finally inaugurated last May 12 at the campus of Patancheru near Hyderabad, India. Harrie Hendrickx, Head of Product Delivery for HarvestPlus, said that the new office aims to support seed companies and develop staple crops that are rich in micronutrients, particularly the pearl millet which is the reason why HarvestPlus is now in ICRISAT. This is in line with Harvest Plus' goal of relieving malnutrition in Asia and in Africa.

Dr. William D. Dar, the Director General of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) which hosts the new office, noted the importance of forging partnerships between different organizations to advance agriculture. He said, "No one can do it alone and ICRISAT is the living proof for showcasing partnerships for agricultural development."

On the other hand, The press release of HarvestPlus is available at


The Genetically Modified Organisms Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released three Scientific Opinions regarding Syngenta Seeds Maize Varieties (Bt11xMIR604, Bt11xMIR604xGA21 and MIR604xGA21). It concluded that these genetically modified varieties are as safe and nutritious as its conventional counterpart. The varieties are also unlikely to have an adverse effect on human and animal health and the environment, in the context of its intended uses.

The corn varieties, specifically for food and feed uses, import and processing, were developed to incorporate insect resistance and herbicide tolerance traits.

Details of the scientific assessment for each of the varieties are at;; and


The commonly used and naturally occurring bacterial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) works best if applied to young plants and is enhanced by the presence of the insect pests. These findings was revealed in an article published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council-funded researchers at the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway University of London.

The researchers studied a strain called ST8, which infects the Diamondback Moth, a pest that attacks cabbages, broccoli and related crops. They found that the population of bacteria (either existing or applied) establishes itself more readily when the insects are present. ST8, existing naturally in the environment, was believed to be colonizing the plant as growing seedlings and had the earliest possible chance to infect the moths in order to survive.

Senior researcher Dr Mike Bonsall at the University of Oxford said: "Bt has been used commercially for about 40 years and is readily available to control pest moths and the like, but until now we've known very little about the natural abundance of the bacteria in the environment and what happens when we apply extra bacteria as a means of pest control. It's really important to understand what is happening so that we can, for example, know what factors might have an impact on the insects becoming resistant to Bt."

Read the full story at


A preliminary study was performed by Eduardo G. Virla of PROIMI-Biotecnología in Argentina and colleagues to investigate the relationship of Bt corn with cry1F protein to control the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and the corn leafhopper (Dalbulus maidis), a non-target pest. They aimed to study the effect of the transgenic corn on the process of laying eggs and the egg hatching rate of leafhoppers.

Male and female corn leafhoppers were released in cages that contained two potted plants - one Bt corn plant in vegetative stage, with two visible leaf collars and a non-Bt corn plant. The number of eggs and hatched nymphs were recorded. More eggs and hatched nymphs were observed on the Bt plant. Another field study was conducted to observe the abundance of the corn leafhoppers on the adult Bt plant and non-Bt plant and the same result was recorded; more leafhoppers on adult Bt plant. According to the scientists, Bt corn may have other effects such as attracting adults; leafhoppers competing with the target armyworm may have found refuge on the armyworm-resistant whorls of the Bt plant; and/or there might be a differential attack of natural enemies present in the non-Bt plots.

The abstract of this study can be viewed at


Plants are fueled through phosynthesis during daytime, while at nighttime, the plants break down starch for growth. In previous studies, Arabidopsis was observed to have linear rate of starch degradation at night and starch is almost completely consumed by dawn. Alexander Graf from the Department of Metabolic Biology in the United Kingdom, together with other scientists, conducted experiments to test the hypothesis that starch degradation at night is under circadian control, and investigate the consequences for growth. When Arabidopsis was exposed to dark earlier than usual, normal degradation of starch took place. However, when the plant was exposed to abnormal day lengths (28 hours or 17 hours), the starch was exhausted even before the actual time of dawn.

A mutant without LHY and CCA1 clock components used up its starch at dawn by its initial circadian clock, instead of the actual dawn time. Reduced growth was observed in wild plants exposed to 28-hour day length and the mutants exposed to 24-hour day length. This reduction of growth is attributed to the inappropriate starch degradation and the subsequent carbon shortage at the end of the night. Therefore, starch usage is controlled by the 24-hour circadian rhythym to ensure that there is efficient carbohydrate degradation until next anticipated dawn, and this is important for maintaining plant productivity.

The research paper is available at


Rice blast caused by the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae is one of the major problems in rice production all over the world. The use of host resistance is still the most efficient method for disease management. Many resistance (R) genes have been identified and one of which is the Pi-km. To facilitate rice breeding programs, Stefano Costanzo and Yulin Jia of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service developed a Pi-km specific DNA marker using 15 US rice cultivars. Based on the DNA sequence analysis and computational translation conducted, the researchers found six alleles within the Pi-km locus. Moreover, artificial blast inoculations with some rice cultivars exhibited high levels of sequence polymorphism of the blast isolates which are associated with specific Pi-k genes. Such occurrence introduces new insight about the complex characteristic of the R gene locus, which may greatly affect the recognition of the pathogen-encoded signalling substances for defense reaction.

For more details, view the abstract at


The 2010 International Seminar on Horticulture to Support Food Security (ISHSFS 2010) with the theme "Horticultural Postharvest Handling, Processing and Marketing to Support Food Security" will be held in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia on June 22-23, 2010. The seminar will bring together leading researchers, engineers, scientists, producers, consumers and other professionals in the domain of interest.  Abstract of papers can be submitted to the Secretariat before May 29, 2010 to or For detail and registration, visit


Adding to a six-part series of short videos which highlights Dr. Norman Borlaug's legacy, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) releases two new videos "14 years of Biotech Agriculture" and "Global Biotech Crops Report 2009".

A short video "14 years of Biotech Agriculture" is an information capsule on the commercialization of biotech crops between 1996 to 2009. In the biotech capsule, Dr. Clive James summaries the impact of 14 years of biotech agriculture in which millions of farmers benefited significantly by growing millions of acres of biotech crops in both developing and industrial countries around the world. The capsule also highlights impact of Bt cotton in India, Bt maize in the Philippines, Biotech crops in Africa and future prospects of biotech crops in agriculture including golden rice.

The "Global Biotech Crops Report 2009" video is a comprehensive review of the global status of biotech crops including an expert commentary on recent developments on Bt rice and phytase maize in China, a perspective on the development of biotech wheat and spread of biotech crops in the world. These videos are available on ISAAA website for free downloads to various stakeholders for scientific, academic and developmental purposes.

For free download visit ISAAA website at and 


Bioeconomy – A New Challenge is this year's theme of the Argentinean Congress of Biotechnology and the Latin American Exhibition and Congress of Biotechnology to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from October 18-20, 2010. Popularly known as Biolatina, the congress is being organized by the Foro Argentino de Biotecnología (FAB) - Executive Secretariat of the Latin American Federation of Biotechnological Enterprises Associations (FELAEB).

Additional detailsof the congress are available at


An international seminar and the 5th Konsorsium Bioteknologi Indonesia (KBI) Congress on the theme "Biotechnology: Breakthrough for the Future of Industrial Challenges in Developing Countries" will be held in Malang, Indonesia on July 27- 30, 2010. The topics of the seminar will cover: Food, Environment, Health,    Energy, and Bioethics. The seminar is organized by the Center for Biotechnology Development and KBI .

For more information, visit or email or


The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) are jointly conducting "TERI-ITEC Courses: Applications of Biotechnology and its Regulation" from August 2 to 22, 2010 in Gurgaon, India. The course aims to sensitize researchers, regulators and policy makers regarding the issues in research and development in biotechnology, internationally as well as in African sub-continent. The focus will be on traditional and advanced biotechnology, biofuels, environmental and bioethical concerns of new technologies, legal framework for biosafety regulations and risk assessment and management. The organizers will cover all expenditures for selected participants from Africa based on a stringent selection criterion.

For more details of the event, visit or contact Dr. Vibha Dhawan at


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