Tuesday, January 02, 2007

CROP BIOTECH 12/8/06, 12/15/06 AND 12/22/06

NEWS AND TRENDS

Growing Biofuel Crops in Abandoned Industrial Sites
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060820192106.htm

The use of marginal lands for biofuel crop plantations is seen as a move to increase the land base of biofuel crops as the future demand of the commodity increases. Biofuels crops can be planted in abandoned industrial land sites, rendered marginal/unproductive by soil contamination with industrial pollutants for two objectives: biofuel feedstock production and bioremediation. Bioremediation, the use of plants to remove or degrade contamination from soils and surface waters, has been proposed as a cheap, sustainable, effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional remediation technologies.

Scientists at Michigan State University (MSU), in partnership with Daimler-Chrysler, are exploring the possibility of utilizing industrial landsites (“brownfields”) for growing corn and switchgrass as bioethanol feedstocks, and soybeans, sunflower and canola as biodiesel oilseed crops.

The study area is a former industrial dump site in Oakland County. The team, lead by MSU professor, Kurt Thelen, is determining whether crop yields are sufficiently high to make the strategy viable. At the same time, they are also investigating whether biofuel crops can remove contaminants from the soil, and whether this remediation capability affects the quality of the crops for biofuels use.

Biotech Switchgrass for Cheaper Ethanol
http://news.mongabay.com/2006/1205-switchgrass.html

Dr. Albert Kausch, a plant geneticist from the University of Rhode Island, says that genetic engineering of switchgrass as bioethanol feedstock could significantly reduce the cost of ethanol production from the present $2.70/gallon to $1/gallon. Switchgrass has several advantages for the use as bioethanol feedstock, including the ability to grow in marginal soils with little agricultural inputs like fertilizer, irrigation and insecticides. However, the slow breakdown rate of the cellulose content prior to ethanol fermentation of unaltered switchgrass, limits the commercial profitability of this crop for ethanol production. At present, Dr. Kausch is working with professors at Brown University to develop better enzymes for cellulose degradation in switchgrass, and hopes to come up with improved varieties by 2011.

Philippine Bicameral Legislative Assembly Approves Biofuels Bill
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=34334
http://www.platts.com/Oil/News/8755390.xml?S=printer&sub=Oil&p=Oil/News&

The Philippine’s Biofuels Bill has finally been approved in a joint bicameral (Senate and Congress) committee. The bill provides for the mandatory use of biofuel blends in gasoline and diesel fuels. At least five percent ethanol blend in gasoline is targeted within two years of effectivity of the bill, and then increased to ten percent four years after the passage of the law. A minimum of one percent of biodiesel blend is also mandated upon effectivity of the law’s implementing rules and regulations; this would be increased to two percent within two years.

Presently, gasoline with ethanol and diesel fuel blended with coconut-based biodiesel are sold in the Philppines, but only on a voluntary basis. The passage of the law is expected to fuel the construction of bioethanol and biodiesel plants in the country. Biofuel crops will be sugarcane, cassava, and corn as the feedstocks for bioethanol production, while coconut will be used to produce biodiesel. Among the benefits from the passage of the bill are: (1) an annual savings of about 35 billion pesos (roughly $700M) in fuel imports, (2) increased employment (3) increase in farmer income, and (4) improved air quality.

ENERGY CROPS AND FEEDSTOCKS FOR BIOFUELS PRODUCTION

Algae as Biodiesel Feedstocks
http://www.sardi.sa.gov.au/pages/organisation/media_products
/media_releases/2006/biofueljuly_20_2006___micro.htm:sectID=1179&tempID=1

Researchers from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) are undertaking research programs on the culture of microalgae for biodiesel production. Microalgae are an attractive feedstock for biodiesel production because is its oil producing efficiency (up to 30 times higher per unit area of land relative to oil seed crops), and they can be cultured in poor quality saline water or effluents with high nutrient load. It is also said to contain a total oil content of 60% to 70% (dry weight basis). In addition to microalgae, SARDI is also looking into development of other feedstocks for biodiesel like canola and mustard.

Information Resources on Algae-based Oils for Biofuels Production at “Oilgae” Website
http://www.oilgae.com/algae/oil/yield/yield.html

Oilgae.com is a website containing interesting and useful information for researchers, students, traders and manufacturers who are interested in algae-based oils for biofuels. Among the information available are: (1) dry weight compositions/oil content of some algal species, (2) oil composition of algae relative to seedoils, (3) genetic engineering of algae to increase oil production, (5) large scale algae biodiesel production, (6) the Biodiesel Algae Reference.

Handbook of Energy Crops
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/dukeindex.html

This site by provides useful information on about 200 plant species which can be used as energy crops. Although only the scientific names of the plant species are provided, the information is detailed and comprehensive.

BIOFUELS PROCESSING

Coconut Methyl Ester (CME) Described as the “Perfect Diesel”
http://web.searca.org/elibrary/adss%20presentations/Diaz-Coco_biodiesel.pdf

A paper by R.S. Diaz, Jr. and F.C. Galindo of the Asian Institute of Petroleum studies describes the reasons why or coconut methyl ester (CME), derived from coconut oil, is close to that of an ideal diesel fuel. An ideal diesel fuel is said to be 100% n-paraffins (saturated hydrocarbons), which gives its chemical stability (i.e., not prone to oxidation or bacterial degradation), easy burnability and low nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. The paper reports that CME is 91% saturated, which makes it very close to an ideal diesel fuel. A comparison of CME with other biodiesel fuels from palm oil, Jatropha and soybean is also shown.

BIOFUELS POLICY AND ECONOMICS

Oilseed Production Increasingly Geared Toward Biodiesel
http://www.fas.usda.gov/pecad/highlights/2004/07/WorldBiodiesel/index.htm

According to the Production Estimates and Crop Assessment Division, Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, world interest and demand for biodiesel production (for motor and heating fuel) is increasing. Europe is said to be the main area for large volume production, and is still expanding. Brazil’s Probiodisel Program is looking into oilseed feedstock like soybean, palm, coconut, castor seed, cottonseed and sunflower. Soybean is reportedly the main commodity in Brazilian oilcrop production and is well advanced in research. Although it is seen as the most likely viable option for a biodiesel industry, other options in the country’s North and Northeast are being considered. These options include castor and palm oils.

The Philippines is mentioned as the first country to develop coconut oil (including coconut oil methyl esters) for use as transport fuel. Presently, the use of one percent coconut biodiesel blends is required for use in government vehicles. In the United States, soybean is the main feedstock for biodiesel production. Biodiesel service stations are available in some States, and some vehicles are also reported to run on biodiesel.

DOCUMENT RELEASE/RESOURCES

Global Renewable Fuels Outlook to 2010
http://www.hartenergy.com/images/renewablefuels.pdf

The document provides a comprehensive review of biofuels policy initiatives in selected countries in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. According to Hart Energy Consulting, who produced the document, “critical factors influencing demand such as public policy initiatives, vehicle compatibility and the interface with conventional fuel quality specifications are reviewed, together with the proposed production capacity to forecast the apparent various biofuel supply/demand balances in the world-wide gasoline and diesel fuel markets, for the period 2005 – 2010”.

GLOBAL
NATIONAL LEVEL ALLIANCES AGAINST HUNGER INCREASING, SAYS FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports an increasing number of national groups that are joining the International Alliance Against Hunger (IAAH), a voluntary association of local, national and international organizations that are working together to solve problems related to food security.

“With 49 national-level alliances currently operating under the IAAH aegis and many more countries expressing interest in joining the movement, momentum is clearly increasing to involve more people from more walks of life,” says Hervé Lejeune, FAO Assistant Director-General for World Food Summit Follow-up.

The international alliance was established by FAO in 2003. FAO provides examples of activities that have been made by countries such as Brazil’s Zero Hunger Strategy, Nicaragua’s support to family and school gardens, and Ghana’s school feeding program.

Read more on these activities at
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000451/index.html

CEREAL PRICES HIGHEST IN DECADE

Prices of cereal grains such as wheat and maize have surged to highest levels not seen in the last decade, says the Food Outlook report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is attributed to poor harvests in major grain producing countries and an increasing demand for biofuel production.

Production of coarse grains in 2006 currently stands at 981 million tons, a decrease of 2.1 percent from 2005 figures. World wheat production went down by 5.3 per cent of 2005 figures. No growth was registered by rice production which was affected by natural calamities worldwide.

FAO predicts that higher prices will probably encourage more plantings in 2007. However, with grains being used for industrial purposes such as ethanol, prices may continue to remain high.

More news from FAO athttp://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000459/index.html.

AFRICA

ENGINEERING WILT-RESISTANT BANANAS FOR AFRICA

Millions of farmers in East Africa are dependent on banana for their livelihood. Unfortunately, bananas in the region are susceptible to the banana xanthomonas wilt (BXW) disease, which attacks all banana varieties resulting in absolute crop loss. Measures for managing BXW are already in place, but only a small percentage of the farmers are aware of these practices. Thus scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are spearheading the development of wilt-resistant bananas to counter the spread of the disease. IITA will be working with Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization, the Kenya-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation, and Academia Sinica in Taiwan in this project.

One approach being explored is to transform farmer-preferred banana cultivars by introducing a resistance gene from sweet pepper. Priority has been given to the major farmer-preferred banana varieties, including Kayinja. The improved varieties will be tested rigorously for efficacy against BXW and for environmental and food safety in compliance with regulations of each of the countries where such bananas could be grown and consumed.

Read the complete news article athttp://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=580&zoneid=81.

NEW MAIZE VARIETIES FOR KENYAN FARMERS

To improve the livelihood of African farmers, scientists based at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and working within the Maize Breeders Network (MBNET) have been developing new maize varieties for commercialization. During a recently convened National Performance Trial Committee meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, ten improved maize varieties bred by KARI were recommended for pre-release or full release. The varieties produce higher yields than those currently grown by farmers, are also tolerant to drought and resistant to maize streak virus disease, stem borer damage, and leaf blight and gray leaf spot.

Read the news article athttp://www.africancrops.net/news/dec06/ininda.htm.

STRIGA-RESISTANT MAIZE FOR COMMERCIAL RELEASE IN KENYA

Following extensive tests and farm trials, Striga-resistant maize, known in Kenya as Ua Kayongo, is now made available to small-scale farmers. The Partnership to Control Striga in Kenya has organized an event in Kisumu City, Kenya on 13-15 December 2006 to facilitate the commercial release of Ua Kayongo maize. The Partnership is led by Agricultural Technology Foundation, BASF, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and Forum for Organic Resource Management and Agricultural Technologies (FORMAT) in collaboration with a network of non-government organizations, seed companies, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and farmer associations in Kenya.

The new herbicide-resistant maize hybrid and seed coated herbicide technology is based upon inherited resistance of maize to a systemic herbicide (imazapyr), a mechanism widely recognized as imazapyr-resistance (I-R). When I-R maize seed is coated with the herbicide, Striga attempting to parasitize the resulting plant are destroyed. Imazapyr is marketed to Kenyan seed companies producing I-R Ua Kayongo maize (mixed vernacular for Striga killer) under the trade name Strigaway.

Readers can access the full article at http://africancrops.net/news/dec06/index.htm. Inquiries can be directed to Canon Savala (FORMAT), email: format@wananchi.com, Nancy Muchiri (AATF), email: n.muchiri@aatf-africa.org and Fred Kanampiu (CIMMYT), email: f.kanampiu@cgiar.org.

A RESEARCH NETWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE COCOA PRODUCTION IN AFRICA

Cocoa farming is central to West Africa: Ghana and the Ivory Coast alone provide nearly 60% of the total world production, and a large proportion of the rural population depends on this crop for their living (6 million people in Ghana alone). However, cocoa farming in the region is facing a difficult time, as soil nutrients are depleted from older plantations due to shortages of fertilizers, and as the pressure of plant pests and parasites increase. These difficulties are pushing farmers to turn to forests in search of more productive land, a practice that will have serious economic, environmental and social implications

How can the sustainable production and exportation of this important crop be promoted? To this aim, CIRAD, a French agricultural research centre working for international development, has established an African Research Network, which falls under the auspices of the Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL) and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD). The network comprises 35 researchers from 32 research and development organizations in the leading five cocoa-producing countries in Africa: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Read the full news athttp://www.cirad.fr/en/actualite/communique.php?id=589

THE AMERICAS

ARGENTINA BETS ON BIOTECHNOLOGY

How is biotechnology shaping Argentina’s productive economy? An interdisciplinary team of researchers, with the support of the Secretariat for Science and Technology of Argentina, and the National University of de General Sarmiento (UNGS), set out to answer this question. The researchers reviewed 84 national biotech companies to determine gains in terms of sales, foreign trade and employment, and to review the innovations adopted. The companies fall in three main categories: agricultural production (54 companies), which include the development of improved new seed varieties; health; and food processing.

The study shows that Argentina occupies number 8 in the list of economies investing in biotechnology, where the USA takes the lead with 1159 biotech companies, followed by Canada with 389. The majority (80%) of the Argentinean companies are small to medium businesses with one or two biotech products, supported by national investments. Between 2003 and 2004, the biotech private sector invoiced 950 million Argentinean pesos (about US$ 310 million), and gave employment to 5000 people, 11% of which involved in R&D. “This is very significant in terms of national investment in the area, especially taking into account the nation’s economic turmoil in recent years”, said Roberto Bisang, UNGS economist. “Biotechnology can be defined as the industry of industries, as it is able to substantially promote several productive sectors of the economy”, added Bisang.

More information (in Spanish) available athttp://www.porquebiotecnologia.com.ar/doc/reportes/result_indiv.asp?Id=3280

BRAZIL TO INCLUDE GMO RISK ASSESSMENT IN FORMAL UNIVERSITY TRAINING

Brazilian graduate entomology students are receiving for the first time formal training in the evaluation of risks to Brazilian biodiversity derived from the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The 5-day course was conducted by specialists from the following institutions: the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) Genetic Resources and Biotechnology; EMBRAPA Maize and Sorghum; EMBRAPA Environment; and the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV). These specialists are member of GMO-ERA, an international project aimed at perfecting existing methodologies and at developing new tools for the analysis of environmental risks of introducing GMOs. GMO-ERA is an initiative funded by the Swiss Agency for Development composed of 260 scientists working in public institutions, more than 70% of which represent developing countries.

“We aim to adapt and integrate the tools developed by the GMO-ERA into the program of formal courses in Brazil,” said Eliana Fontes from EMBRAPA. Ultimately, the courses will be extended to other disciplines, such as agronomy and biology.

Read the full news (in Portuguese) at:http://www.cenargen.embrapa.br/cenargenda/destaq3.html

HARVESTING CORN AND STOVER IN A SINGLE PASS

Iowa State University researchers are testing a combine that can harvest grain and cut the remaining stover (stalks, cobs and leaves) in a single pass in the field. The prototype harvester works by dumping a crop of corn kernels into the combine's hopper and blowing the stalks, cobs and leaves into a trailing wagon. For farmers, they will only need the stover attachment which they can use on a standard combine.

Corn stover was identified to be an additional source of biomass. Cellulose from stover can be converted into ethanol and thus could feed the next generation of ethanol plants. Stuart Birrell of Iowa State University said that the supply of stover from the field will help the U.S. bioeconomy by providing supply to biorefineries.

The complete press release is athttp://www.iastate.edu/~nscentral/news/2006/dec/stover.shtml

HAIRY NIGHTSHADE REVEALS DARKER SIDE

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Orono, Maine, discovered that the microorganism behind late blight disease is seeking refuge in potato fields, burrowed up in an alternate host plant: hairy nightshade. As a result of this ARS research, growers are now learning the importance of controlling hairy nightshade as part of their overall late blight management program.

The full story is available at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

PHILIPPINES: IMPACT OF BT MAIZE ADOPTION

This publication describes a descriptive socio-economic study in order to determine the economic impact of the Bt corn variety in the Philippines. Results in all study locations showed a significant welfare effect of using Bt corn variety among corn farmers. Educational level and farm income were among the significant factors that influenced the adoption of Bt corn.

The study, carried out in selected Bt corn and non-Bt corn farms in two cropping seasons, was supported by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and done by independent economists from the College of Economics and Management, University of the Philippines, Los Baños.

To read the article “Economic Impact of Bt Corn in the Philippines”visit
http://www.isaaa.org/kc/Publications/pdfs/documents/Economic%20
Impact%20of%20Bt%20Corn%20in%20the%20Philippines.pdf

DBT FUNDS GENOMICS CENTER OF EXCELLENCE IN INDIA

A Center of Excellence in Genomics has been established at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Pathancheru, India through funding from India’s Department of Biotechnology (DPT). A Memorandum of Agreement which was signed by Dr. William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, and Dr. MK Bhan, Secretary of DPT, stipulates that the crop improvement research facility will be operational by 2007.

The existing molecular breeding facilities at ICRISAT will be strengthened through this project and will also be made available for other researchers from other agricultural research institutes. In addition to upgraded facilities, the Center will also build capacity of scientists.

Additional details may be obtained by emailing David Hoisington, ICRISAT’s Global Theme Leader on Biotechnology, atd.hoisington@cgiar.org.

NEW HYBRID RICE FOR MALAYSIA

A new hybrid rice, “Siraj” , that is capable of producing four times more yield than normal varieties has been developed by RB Biotech Sdn Bhd in Malaysia. This hybrid is a cross-breed between Indian Basmati and a Japanese rice variety using technology from China.

RB Biotech Director Tan Sri Chua Hock Chin said the Center was expected to start producing seedlings of the hybrid by March next year. He also added that the final objective was to supply high quality hybrid rice seedlings for at least 60 percent of the rice fields in the country.

For more information, contact Mahaletchumy Arujanan, program director, Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) atmaha@bic.org or visit their website at
http://www.bic.org.my.

HYBRID RESEARCH CENTER IN INDONESIA

In the next six months, Indonesia will collaborate with China in setting up a Rice Hybrid Research Center. Indonesian Minister of Agriculture, Anton Apriyantono, made this announcement during the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between Guo Hao Seed Industry, China with PT Sumber Alam Sutera, and Indonesian Institute for Rice Research (BALITPA).

According to Anton, various research studies in Indonesia showed that yields of hybrid rice was 10 to 20% more than the most popular varieties, such as IR 64, Ciherang and Way Apo Buru. He believes that in the next three years, Indonesian rice production will increase to 2 million tons per year.

To see the full article visithttp://www.litbang.deptan.go.id/berita/one/390/ or email Elfa Hermawan at l4hermawan@yahoo.com for more information.

CENTRAL ASIAN SEED ASSOCIATION ESTABLISHED

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is the site of the newly established Central Asian Seed Association (CASA) which seeks to harmonize seed regulations, facilitate seed trade, and forge interfaces with national seed associations of the region. Initial members include the Republic of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

CASA was established through the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Svalöf-Scanagri consortium which provides technical assistance.

Visit CASA’s website at http://www.centralasiaseed.com.

CSIRO IDENTIFIES MARKERS FOR WHEAT RUST RESISTANCE

Australia’s CSIRO Plant Industry researchers have discovered a DNA marker for two important rust resistance genes in wheat, Lr34 and Yr18. These two genes are often inherited together and provide wheat plants with improved protection against leaf rust and stripe rust – two major diseases of wheat in Australia and worldwide.

CSIRO scientist Evans Lagudah said that the DNA marker is 99 percent effective in determining the presence of Lr34 and Yr18 in different wheat from Australia, India, China, and North America. The markers are now being used in Australia and worldwide.

The complete press release is athttp://www.csiro.au/csiro/content/standard/ps2kc.html. CSIRO’s information sheet detailing the discovery can also be accessed athttp://www.csiro.au/files/files/pbb8.pdf.

NEW ZEALAND TO REVIEW GM IMPORT STANDARDS

New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has commissioned this week an independent enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the importation of sweet corn seeds containing low levels of genetically modified materials. The enquiry is intended to assist MAF to strengthen its processes and procedures and prevent future incidences. MAF’s objective is to ensure that the country’s GM-free status is maintained.

MAF tracked where all the corn seeds that was inadvertently cleared by its Quarantine Service went and where they were planted. After testing, MAF announced last week that it has cleared the country’s Mid-Canterbury and Hawkes Bay region for absence of genetically modified materials. These regions have Krispy King and GH2042 sweet corn varieties. However, seed tests for the Jubilee Plus/Dominion consignments planted in the Gisborne and Hawkes Bay regions have produced positive results and the crops there will be destroyed.

Consecutive news releases on the topic can be found athttp://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/press/#Issues%20in%20the%20News

THAILAND: IMPORTS OF GM CROPS ON THE RISE

Vithet Srinet, from the Office of Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand has indicated that the import of genetically modified (GM) agricultural products to the country, such as corn and soybean, is on the rise. Soybean import went up from 418,788 ton in 1996 to 1,435,801 ton in 2004. In 2007 Thailand is predicted to import 1.7 million ton worth 12,000 million Baht (US$340.7 million), and 85% of these imports will be GM. Imported soybeans are mainly used for oil extraction and for animal feeds, and a small amount is used in the food industry to produce bean curd and soybean sauce.

Mr. Setasan Setakarun, President of Soybean Oil Producer Association, has asked the government to review the Thai GMO policy, indicating that there are several markets open for biotech products, and that GM and organic markets can coexist.

For more information, contact the Biotechnology and Biosafety Information Centre of Thailand at safetybio@yahoo.com

BIOACTIVE COMPOUNDS FROM AGRICULTURAL AND FOOD PROCESSING STREAMS

The Concentration and Separation of Bioactives in Food Science Research Cluster, a Flagship Collaboration Fund Cluster involving CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship, Monash University and the University of Melbourne was launched recently to transform products from agricultural and food processing streams into health-enhancing ingredients for use in a variety of foods and nutraceuticals. “Grape skins and seeds, olive leaves, cartilage and cow hides are commonly thrown away by the food industry, but some of these materials are known to contain compounds with valuable bioactive properties,” says Food Futures Flagship Director, Dr Bruce Lee.

Over the next three years the Cluster will develop environmentally acceptable techniques to extract these materials in the laboratory.

The news article can be read athttp://www.csiro.au/csiro/content/standard/ps2l3.html.

EUROPE

STUDY SHOWS GROWING ACCEPTANCE OF GREEN BIOTECH IN SWITZERLAND

A study conducted between 2000 and 2006 by DemoSCOPE, a polling institute based in Adligenswil, Switzerland, confirmed that resistance to the application of gene technology in agriculture is steadily and slowly declining in Switzerland. With a representative selection of 2,008 interviewees from German- and French- speaking regions, the 2006 poll showed that 45 percent were against the use of gene technology in agriculture, 31 percent advocated it, while 24 percent were still undecided. The number of respondents expressing negative attitude towards gene technology has decreased from 58 percent in 2000.

The most important differences in the single population groups concerned the French-speaking region in which opponent (31%) and advocate (33%) were almost equally strong. Generally, greater acceptance of gene technology in agriculture was notable among interviewees under the age of 30. The statistical reduction of resistance towards agricultural applications may be attributed to better information: through increasing global experience with green gene technology, individuals originally identifying themselves as opponents have become more broadly informed. However, the increase in undecided individuals may point to the need for further public information.

For the news article, visit http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/messages/200612.docu.html#79. A summary of the DemoSCOPE study is available in German athttp://www.demoscope.ch/pages/index.cfm?Artikel_ID=2222.

GLYPHOSATE-TOLERANT SUGAR BEET CONSIDERED SAFE BY EFSA

The European Food Safety Authority has assessed the sugar beet H7-1 with reference to its intended use and the risk assessment principles described in the Guidance document of the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms for the Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Plants and Derived Food and Feed. The GMO Panel concluded that sugar beet H7-1 is equivalent to non genetically modified sugar beet, except for the trait that has been introduced. Products produced from sugar beet H7-1 are also considered safe to human and animal health or the environment in the context of its intended uses.

Readers can access the EFSA press release athttp://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/gmo/
gmo_opinions/gmo_op_ej431_sugar__beet__H7-1.html

R E S E A R C H
CONTROL OF PSEUDOMONAS-CAUSED DISEASES IN FRUIT TREES REVIEWED

Bacterial canker, blossom blast, and apical necrosis are some of the diseases caused by the Pseudomonas bacteria These pests cause significant damage to fruit trees, severely reducing crop yields or even killing the plants.

In a recent article in the journal Plant Pathology, Megan Kennelly and colleagues presented a review of the progress made in controlling these pests. The paper provides an overview of several Pseudomonas-caused diseases of fruit trees, discusses the current and emerging understanding of virulence factors such as toxins, phytohormones, and effectors in these diseases, and also presents the current and possible future management strategies.

The authors suggest that comparative genomic analyses and genetic studies are important in adding knowledge that will lead to improving host resistance, and may also lead to the development of transgenic fruit trees. This would be the best approach since current conventional methods cannot adequately control the disease.

The complete review paper is available to subscribers athttp://www.apsnet.org/pd/SubscriberContent/2007/PD-91-0004.pdf.

GENE FLOW FROM GE TO CONVENTIONAL MAIZE IN REAL SITUATIONS OF COEXISTENCE

The concept of coexistence has been established as 'the principle that farmers should be able to cultivate freely the agricultural crops they choose, be it genetically-engineered (GE) crops, conventional, or organic crops'. The effect of cross-pollination on coexistence is usually evaluated in field trials that were designed by planting a nucleus of maize (GE or a cultivar with a special phenotypic trait) and then studying the occurrence of cross-fertilization in an adjacent field. In most trials, both genotypes had been sown at the same time to increase synchronicity of flowering, in order to detect cross-fertilization in the worst situation that could be found in an area in which GE and non-GE maize coexist. However, could these results be applied to real situations of coexistence?

A recent study was conducted in real situations of coexistence in which GE and non-GE maize fields are sown with different cultivars, with different sowing dates, mixed with other crops, and with different barriers that may influence pollen dissemination. In this study, two crop regions located in Catalunya, Spain were chosen during the 2004 growing season in which irrigated transgenic Bt (resistant to the corn borer attack) and conventional maize fields coexisted with other crops. Five conventional fields in the Térmens area and seven in the Foixà area were chosen to detect and quantify the rate of cross-fertilization. In general, the rate of cross-fertilization was higher in borders and decreased towards the center of the field.

Results obtained in this study perfectly match those obtained in field trials specially designed to study pollen mediated gene flow in maize.

The article is available athttp://gophisb.biochem.vt.edu/news/2006/news06.dec.htm#dec0604.

A N N O U N C E M E N T S
ONLINE DISCUSSION ON PESTS AND DISEASES

The African Crops Message and Discussion Board will be holding an online discussion on the control of pests and diseases afflicting African crops. The discussions will be hosted by the Pests and Diseases Forum and everybody is invited to participate. The discussion will run for 6 weeks, and a summary with full acknowledgement of contributors will be prepared and disseminated. Topics selected for the discussion include integrated pest management, crop husbandry and indigenous knowledge, post-harvest crop losses, managing resistance and its development among transgenic crops, technology transfer, biopesticides and effects of intercropping in the spread of pests and diseases.

For more information about the discussion visitwww.africancrops.ipbhost.com, or contact the Moderator by email:jmsonga@africaonline.co.ke or the Board Administrator,africancrops@wananchi.com.

N E W S
GLOBAL
PLAN FOR FOOD SAFETY, ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH ASSISTANCE AGREED

Developing countries will soon receive assistance in implementing internationally agreed standards for food safety and animal and plant health, after international organizations, donors and representatives of beneficiary countries approved a new medium-term strategy to strengthen the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF).

The STDF was created in 2002 as a trust fund by five organizations: the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The new strategy for the STDF aims to advance capacity-building efforts. It places much greater emphasis on the facility acting as a vehicle for coordination, fund mobilization and the identification and dissemination of best practice in the provision of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)-related technical cooperation and capacity building.

Developing countries are expected to gain and maintain market access, and improve domestic human, animal and plant health standards through this joint effort.

The news release can be accessed athttp://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000470/index.html.

GM COTTON AND SUGAR BEET CERTIFIED REFERENCE MATERIALS

The Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) recently released reference materials for the analysis of genetically modified (GM) cotton seed and the sugar beet H7-1 (ERM-BF419).

The GM stacked cotton event, developed by Dow AgroSciences has been genetically engineered to contain two new proteins which provide resistance against certain lepidopteran pests, and another protein which served as a selectable marker during the development of the biotech cotton variety.

The GM sugar beet event H7-1, on the other hand, was jointly developed by Kleinwanzlebener Saatzucht (KWS) and Monsanto. The sugar beet H7-1 contains the epsps gene isolated from a strain of the microbium Agrobacterium. The EPSPS protein provides tolerance to Roundup® herbicides containing glyphosate.

Read the complete releases athttp://www.irmm.jrc.be/html/news/news
/new_rm_GM_cotton_dec06.htm andhttp://www.irmm.jrc.be/html/news/news
/new_rm_GM_sugar_beet_dec06.htm.

DUPONT INCREASES PLANT BIOTECH INVESTMENT

Dupont Agriculture and Nutrition will increase investment in plant genetics, biotechnology and other high-value growth opportunities. It will reinvest US$100 million from savings into the seed business which hopes to cash in on next-generation biotech traits.
The company expects increased seed orders fro 2007 planting, particularly corn hybrids with “triple stacks”. Already, Dupont has exceeded the US$ 1 billion mark in 2006 in Latin America, particularly with its corn, soybean and soy protein products. Continued investment in the markets of Brazil, Eastern Europe/Russia, India and China is projected for all businesses.
For additional information seehttp://pioneer.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=press_releases&item=214.

AFRICA

ROLE OF BIOTECH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT REVIEWED

Biotechnological tools have been used to provide food and contribute to socio-economic advancement and national development, says Nigerian scientists Iheanyi Okonko and colleagues.

Their review, published by the African Journal of Biotechnology, provides an overview of the status of plant, animal, and microbial biotechnologies, as well as possible applications in developing countries.

Okonko and colleagues stressed that biotechnology innovations have specifically contributed a lot to food processing. Among its contributions include the enhancement of product quality and safety, and in providing improved ingredients and raw materials.

However, some of the issues in developing countries need to be addressed. These include intellectual property rights, cultural factors, and the appropriateness of the technology in a developing country setting. More importantly, developing countries should weigh up their investments in biotechnology against other potential uses of these resources.

The review paper can be accessed athttp://www.academicjournals.org/AJB/PDF
/pdf2006/4Dec/Okonko%20et%20al.pdf.

NIGERIANS STAND TO GAIN A LOT FROM BIOTECHNOLOGY

Biotechnology could easily provide good jobs for millions of unemployed Nigerians under the biotechnology bioresources programs, said Sam Wuyep a director at the Nigerian Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Abuja, during a biotechnology awareness workshop on Thursday 14th December, 2006. Bamidele Solomon, Director General of NABDA added that the government should as a matter of priority initiate steps to explore the use of biotechnology for the benefit of Nigerians and thus ensure that the country becomes one of the global leaders in the field.

Most importantly, modern agricultural biotechnology applications are an essential tool for agricultural development for food security, income generation and poverty alleviation. Christian Fatokun, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), explained that in spite of several years of research work it has become impossible for IITA and other advanced laboratories to develop improved cowpeas and cassava resistant to certain pests and diseases through conventional breeding. Fatokun added that IITA has acquired the knowledge to use biotechnological tools to improve cowpea and other crops without the use of environment unfriendly pesticides.

The workshop was organized by IITA in collaboration with the Cross River State Ministry of Agriculture and NABDA, the workshop was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

For more information contact Taye Babaleye att.babaleye@cgiar.org Visit IITA’s website at http://www.iita.org.



THE AMERICAS

ARS DEVELOPS LOW-PHYTATE WHEAT

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture has developed low-phytate breeding lines of wheat which can produce flour with 25 times more magnesium than commercial varieties. Low levels of phytic acid may also increase the uptake of magnesium by humans and animals. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to health problems like osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers led by Edward Souza said that the development of low-phytate wheat is a natural way to improve nutritional content of the grain since magnesium is not usually added to refined flours.

View this article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr. Four papers on various aspects of low-phytate grains are available online athttp://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/6/2403.

GM TOBACCO WITH INSECTICIDAL PROPERTIES

Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have genetically modified a tobacco mosaic virus to make it produce a natural, environmentally friendly insecticide which can kill pests that consume the inoculated plant’s leaves.

The tobacco mosaic virus on its own is known to cause severe crop losses. It attacks not only tobacco, but also other plants in theSolanaceae family – including tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and potatoes. It causes mottling and discoloration of the leaves, and it can cause death. However, the genetically modified virus contains a chemical known as trypsin-modulating oostatic factor, or TMOF. This chemical is a hormone produced by the ovaries of female mosquitoes, and it stops insects from producing a crucial digestive enzyme called trypsin. As a result, the insects starve to death, as they become unable to draw nutrients from food.

Harvested plants infected with the modified virus can be processed to make mosquito control products.

For the full news article visit http://news.ufl.edu/2006/12/12/virus.

BRAZILIAN AG MINISTER TO APPEAL AGAINST GM MAIZE STATE BAN

Luis Carlos Guedes Pinto, Brazilian Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply, has announced that the government will appeal to the General Law of Union (Advocacia Geral da União- AGU) to revert the decision of the Federal Justice of the Paraná banning the commercial release of biotech maize in the state. The ban was requested by NGO Terra de Direitos (Land of Rights), the Brazilian Institute of Defense of the Consumer (Idec), and the Appraisal and Services in Alternative Agriculture Projects (AS-PTA), on the grounds that no public consultation had taken place on the commercial release of the genetically modified (GM) crop.

According to the Minister, there is no need for public consultation as the biotech crop had already received approval by Brazil's National Technical Committee on Biosafety (CTNBio). “We strongly invest in science and technology so that our agriculture is increasingly sustainable over time, from social and environmental points of view, and to increase its competitiveness. Decisions like this one harm the development of Brazilian agriculture,” said Guedes Pinto.

Read the full news at:http://www.agenciabrasil.gov.br/noticias/2006/12/15/materia.2006-12-15.0119778636/view

PEW INITIATIVE: BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE WINE INDUSTRY

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and the American Vineyard Foundation held a workshop in San Francisco, California to examine issues relating to the potential adoption of biotechnology in the winegrape and wine industries. Grape growers, winemakers, grape and yeast research scientists, federal and state government representatives and agricultural commodity and specialty crop producers took part in the event to discuss the scientific, regulatory and marketing issues associated with the potential development of genetically engineered (GE) winegrapes.

Some of the key issues tackled in the proceedings include:

The advantages in production for winegrape growers and vintners that may be realized using agricultural biotechnology, which must be balanced against the need to ensure environmental and food safety.
The willingness of wine consumers, particularly those in overseas markets, to embrace products derived from biotechnology.
The timely discussions on GE yeasts for use in winemaking that have already been developed, and have successfully undergone regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and Canada, and are ready for commercialization.
An overview of the conference agenda and the full paper from the workshop can be viewed at: http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0709

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

NO TO CORN FOR BIOFUEL, SAYS CHINA’S AG MINISTRY

China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) said this week that it is not supporting the use of corn and grain crops for biofuel production until it is able to provide enough food for the country’s 1.3 billion people and feed for its livestock industry.

MOA is instead encouraging the people to grow sorghum, cassava and other non-grain crops on areas that are unfit for grain production. This will keep the current grain growing areas devoted to food and feed production.

China is still committed to substantially raising the share of ethanol and other cleaner-burning substitutes in the coming years. MOA has been testing the production of biofuels on small-scale initiatives using non-grains. It also has approved several projects to develop new types of non-grain plants specifically for use as biofuels.

The complete article is athttp://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2006-12/18/content_761025.htm.

GM TORENIA’S TRIALS APPROVED IN AUSTRALIA

The Gene Technology Regulator (the Regulator) has made a decision to issue a license in respect of application DIR 068/2006 from Florigene Pty Ltd. The company has received approval for the limited and controlled release of up to nine lines of genetically modified (GM) torenia (a widely grown ornamental plant) with altered flower color. The trial will take place at a single site of up to 100 square metres in the City of Darebin, Victoria, from October 2007 to May 2008 under limited and controlled conditions.

See the full article at http://www.ogtr.gov.au/ir/dir068.htm.

EUROPE

HUNGARY APPROVES “COEXISTENCE REGULATION”

The Hungarian Parliament has approved the country’s “coexistence regulation”, officially known as the Amendment of the Act on Gene Technology Activities. The new regulation imposes a “de facto” ban on biotech production due to neighbor consent requirements and excessive isolation distances.

The United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service Grain Report adds that deliberations in the Parliament have heightened discussions and activities from different sectors in society. These include a farmers’ forum on crop varieties bred by gene technology; and a Parliament conference on the agricultural gene technology – first generation genetically modified plants. While opposing issues were raised, sectors voiced the need for biotechnology research in the country.

See the Gain Report athttp://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200612/146269779.pdf.

EFSA OPENS PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON GMO FEEDING TRIALS

The European Food Safety Authority recently launched a public consultation on the use of animal feeding trials to assess the safety and nutritional value of genetically modified (GM) food or feed. This aims at providing further guidance on risk assessment approaches for GM food and feed. According to the GMO Panel, any risk assessment of GM food/feed should first consider whether initial studies using in silico and in vitro approaches may answer some of the safety questions and indicate whether there is a need for subsequent in vivo studies, such as animal feeding trials.

Comments are invited by January 31, 2007 on the consultation on animal feeding trials, which is available athttp://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/gmo
/gmo_consultations/gmo_AnimalFeedingTrials.html. The full article can be read at the EFSA website:http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press_room
/press_release/pr_gmo_feeding.html.

R E S E A R C H
IMPLICATIONS OF BIOTECH CROPS ON GENETIC CONSERVATION

Many are concerned that the increasing production of biotech crops poses potential problems to biodiversity through gene flow and subsequent introgressions of transgenes. To address this, scientists from Bioversity International (previously known as the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute or IPGRI) and CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) have assessed the potential impact on the genetic diversity in genebanks and farmers’ fields.

Jan Engels and colleagues wrote in their paper, published by the journal Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, that precautionary measures have to be taken to mitigate these risks. There is also a need for effective and efficient plant genetic resources conservation efforts. The scientists urged that germplasm curators should conduct routine evaluation to determine the integrity of landraces and crop wild relatives in genebanks. Engels and colleagues used the Central American and Mexican centers of crop genetic diversity as a “case study”.

Their recommendations include: increasing the awareness on the potential risks related to the release of transgenes into centers of crop origin or diversity, and involving an international seed organization (such as the International Seed Testing Association -ISTA) to oversee seed testing and guarantee the adoption of standards on the acceptable level of transgenes in conventional seeds.

The abstract, with links to the full paper for subscribers, is available athttp://www.springerlink.com/content/p14600008n77t276.

NEW METHODS TO HELP IN RE-SEQUENCING GENOMES

DNA sequencing has provided the reference sequence information for many organisms, including many plant species. This has spawned many new studies on determining genetic variation to understand evolution, pathogenicity, and complex diseases. Thus, scientists are re-sequencing those genomes that have been sequenced before.

David Bentley wrote in a review, published by the journal Current Opinion in Genetics and Development, that re-sequencing is an essential biological research activity for studying genes, genetic variation, and gene function. However, re-sequencing has been limited until now by cost and throughput levels of the current technologies.

New methods are however already in different stages of development. These are expected to significantly bring down the cost of obtaining nucleotide sequences. Bentley’s review discusses the new methodologies that can be used. These include: microelectrophoresis, sequencing by hybridization, sequencing by synthesis on arrays, and single nucleotide sequencing. These methods are expected to provide the same (or higher) accuracy and throughput as the current methodology of sequencing.

The abstract, with links to the complete review paper for subscribers, is available athttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gde.2006.10.009.

TILLING FOR PLANT BREEDING

TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes) is a general reverse-genetics strategy that is used to locate induced point mutations in genes of interest. This genetic technique has found applications in both model organisms and economically important plant and crop species.

Chinese scientists have reviewed why TILLING is a powerful tool for gene discovery, analysis of DNA variation, and plant improvement. De-Kai Wang and colleagues wrote in their paper that among the advantages of the method is the simplicity in its methodology, requiring no complicated manipulations and expensive apparatus. Also TILLING has high sensitivity, and high efficiency in detecting mutations.

For plant improvement, Wang and colleagues note that TILLING has two immediate applications: a) as a tool for detection of genetic loci that are putatively associated with agronomically important traits, and b) as a tool in establishing a large collection of alleles at genetic loci for the traits of interest.

The review, published by the journal Acta Genetica Sinica, can be accessed by subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0379-4172(06)60130-3.

A N N O U N C E M E N T S
94th INDIAN SCIENCE CONGRESS 2007

“Plant Earth” is the theme of the 94th Indian Science Congress 2007 at the Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Chennai from 3-7 January 2007. The Indian Science Congress is organized annually under the patronage of the Indian Science Congress Association, Kolkatta. The Congress will deliberate on issues of natural disasters, climate change and environmental pollutions that are threatening society.

For detail information, contact Dr Harsh Gupta at: iscacal@vsnl.netor visit http://www.annamalaiuniversity.ac.in/isca/isca.htm

EMAIL CONFERENCE ON WATER SCARCITY AND AGRI-BIOTECH

The FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture will have its 14th email conference on 5-30 March 2007. The provisional title is “Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?”. FAO’s biotech forum aims to provide quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries and to make a neutral platform available for people to exchange views and experiences on the subject. Registration is free and is open to everyone. For more information and for instructions on how to register please visit http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp.

INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON GLOBALIZATION AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT 2007

Protsahan, a non-governmental and non- profit organization located in Nagpur, India, is organizing the 2nd International Convention on Globalization and Rural Development (ICGRD 2007) at the World Trade Center, Mumbai from 9-10th Feb 2007. The program is supported by the Rural Development Institute, Washington, USA. Topics to be discussed include: globalization and common property resources, future of farmers in developing countries, the existing and the upcoming subsidy structure and the importance of micro-finance, and implications for the rural health and education sector.

Contact Dr Dhiraj Kumar at: icgrd@yahoo.co.in or visithttp://www.icgrd2007.org for more information.

ASSS 4th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

The African Soil Science Society (ASSS) will hold its 4th International Conference on January 7 to 13 2007 at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Accra, Ghana. The conference theme is “Impacts of climate change, global trade, urbanization and biotechnology on land use in Africa”. The conference aims togather specialists interested in land use and sustainable land management in Africa, to deliberate on serious emerging issues such as climate change, global trade and biotechnologies including uses of genetically modified organisms.

Visit http://www.asssonline.org/events.htm for more information and downloadable documents concerning the conference.

US ANNUAL MAIZE GENETICS CONFERENCE

The 49th Annual Maize Genetics Conference is scheduled to be held at St. Charles, Illinois, U.S.A. on 22-25 March 2007. The annual activity brings together researchers and students to discuss progress in maize research areas such as genetics, plant breeding, biotechnology, and genomics. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is on 2 February 2007.

Details about the program and information on how to obtain financial aid for student attendees are available at http://www.maizegdb.org/maize_meeting/2007.

SYMPOSIUM ON GENE SILENCING

The 24th Symposium in Plant Biology with the theme "Gene Silencing: The Biology of Small RNAs and the Epigenome" is to be held on 18-20 January 2007 in Riverside, California, U.S.A. The symposium is designed for students and scientists studying small RNAs and chromatin from different perspectives – plant, animal, genetic, molecular, biochemical, and cell biological. The meeting will highlight recent advances and identify emerging questions to be addressed for dissection of small RNA biology and epigenetic regulation.

For more information please visithttp://cepceb.ucr.edu/symp/index.php.

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