Tuesday, January 02, 2007

NOV. 3, 10, 17, 30, 2006 CROP BIOTECH

GLOBAL
FAO SAYS “WORLD HUNGER INCREASING”

There are more hungry people in the developing world today than in 1996. “Far from decreasing, the number of hungry people in the world is currently increasing – at the rate of four million a year,” said Food and Agriculture Director-General Jacques Diouf during the launch of the annual FAO report “The State of Food Insecurity in the World”.

Diouf reminded the audience in Rome that despite a pledge made by leaders of 185 countries during the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome to reduce the number of undernourished people by half, the situation remains “unacceptable and intolerable”.

The FAO report recommended ways to solve the problem of world hunger. These include focusing programs and investments on “hotspots” of poverty and undernourishment; enhancing the productivity of smallholder agriculture; creating the right conditions for private investment, including transparency and good governance; making world trade work for the poor, with safety nets put in place for vulnerable groups; and a rapid increase in the level of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7 percent of GDP.

See FAO’s release at
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000433/index.html

IFPRI ASSESSES AGRIC R & D IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Poor countries may no longer be able to depend on spillovers of new agricultural technologies and knowledge from richer countries, especially advances related to enhanced productivity of staple foods. As a consequence, developing countries continued use of current agricultural R & D policies may leave them “agricultural technology orphans” and may cause serious food deficits. “Agricultural R & D in the developing world: Too little, too late?” edited by Philip Pardey and colleagues of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), makes this assessment.

The book goes on to say that developing countries may have to become more self-reliant and perhaps more dependent on one another for the collective benefits of agricultural R&D and technology. While countries like South Korea, Brazil, China, and India are gaining from productive and self-sustaining local research sectors, other countries in Asia and Africa are facing serious funding and institutional constraints that inhibit the effectiveness of local R&D.

Read the full report at http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/oc51.asp.

USAID GRANTS US$9M FOR SORGHUM, MILLET RESEARCH

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has given a grant of US$9 M to the International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program (INTSORMIL) based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to continue its research work in Africa, Central America, Eurasia, and the US.

The global collaborative effort enables plant breeders from U.S. land-grant universities to work with researchers in host countries through education, mentoring and collaborative research. It works to improve nutrition and natural resource management and to increase income in developing countries, while developing new technologies to improve sorghum and pearl millet production and its use worldwide.

For more information on INTSORMIL visit http://intsormil.org/.

NANOCLAYS FOR IMPROVED CORN, SOY BIOPLASTICS

Iowa State University researchers are using high powered ultrasonics to make stronger plastics from corn and soybeans. With the experimental method, David Grewell and colleagues are trying to add very small clay particles, called nanoclays, to reinforce the plastic molecules.

Biodegradable and biorenewable plastics are made by mixing glycerin and water to corn and soy proteins. The bioplastics can be used as disposable wrap for hay bales, as pots for plants, and in food packaging. The material may also have direct industrial use. The Iowa State researchers are collaborating with private companies to test the bioplastic products in actual applications.

For the complete press release:
http://www.iastate.edu/~nscentral/news/2006/oct/bioplastics.shtml

WINTER WEED EARNS NEWFOUND RESPECT

Long considered as a weed by soybean farmers, the field pennycress Thlaspi arvense is now being eyed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists as both a biodiesel resource and biobased fumigant. Oil from the seed of pennycress has been found to be similar to other biodiesel resources such as animal fats and soybean and sunflower oils in terms of long-chain fatty acid composition. By treating it as another crop, soybean farmers can use their land to produce fuel in the winter from pennycress and food in the summer from soybeans. ARS researchers also observed that crushed seed left over from biodiesel production inhibited the germination of sicklepod and other weeds, making the pennycress seedmeal a potential source of natural fumigant.

Read the complete press release athttp://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261.

FOOD COMPANIES DEPRIVE CONSUMERS OF BIOTECH BENEFITS

Some food companies may be too rash in dismissing biotech foods when in fact they are depriving consumers of an opportunity for safer and superior food products. In a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology, Henry Miller of Stanford University and colleagues presented in the article “Why spurning food biotech has become a liability” some of the positive effects of using biotechnology in food production and processing, and what food companies should know.

In the advent of modern biotechnology, new products might have come out of the market that would have offered the food industry a proven and practical means of tackling problems such as fungal contamination, allergenic reactions to food, and pesticide poisoning at their source. The obstacle lies on the unfounded risks of biotech foods and the perceived benefits of nonbiotech foods. However, the use of organic ingredients poses greater risks of pesticide poisoning and mycotoxin contamination, as organic crops are prone to colonization by killer fungi and therefore require frequent pesticide applications.

Readers can access the complete commentary “Why spurning food biotech has become a liability” at
http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v24/n9/full/nbt0906-1075.html.

KFC SWITCHES TO LOW LINOLEIC SOYBEAN OIL TO REDUCE TRANS FATS

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), a global chicken fast food company joins Kellog Company in announcing the use of low-linolenic soybeans to reduce or eliminate trans fats in its products. The switch to the new oil to replace partially hydrogenrated soybean oil will be completed by April 2007. Trans fat has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease.

Monsanto reports that low-linolenic soybeans contain less than three percent linolenic acid as compared to the typical eight percent level found in traditional soybeans. The result is more stable soybean oil, with less need for hydrogenation, which produces trans fats.
The conversion took over two years of extensive testing of oil options to identify the same taste profile identified with KFC products.

Read more on KFC’s use of linoleic soybean oil athttp://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
AID=/20061030/NEWS99/61030012.
A related article is at http://www.monsanto.com

AFRICA

LOST CROPS OF AFRICA

Bambara, lablab, enset, okra, moringa are just some of the vegetables that are considered as ‘lost crops of Africa’. In Africa, where more than 300 million hungry mouths must be fed, no more than a couple dozen species of crops have been considered as staple food, and most of them are not native to Africa.

In a report by the United States National Academies, 18 African crops are deemed by a team of experts as suffering from lack of attention, research and funding. These range from enset, a mammoth herb almost unknown outside Ethiopia, to okra, a more common side dish. The group, headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, believes that developing native crops will help combat malnutrition, ensure that more Africans have something to eat every day, and make farmers some money while being gentler on the land. As a result, they may cause less erosion and help preserve the ecology and genetic heritage of the continent.

Read the complete news article athttp://www.nature.com/news/2006/061030/full/061030-7.html.

THE AMERICAS

BRAZIL: BIOSAFETY IN SLOW MOTION

“The possibilities for Brazil to arrive at new decisions pertaining the commercial release of biotech crops this year is practically null”, says Walter Colli, president of the Biosafety Commission of Brazil, CTNBio. According to the law, the approval of a new commercial release requires 18 favorable votes, and the presence of at least two thirds of the 54 members of the Commission. The high level of absentees during the last meetings has resulted in the impossibility to vote on the approvals requests under examination.

According to Leila Oda, president of the Brazilian National Biosafety Association (ANBio), the problem lies in the fact that the Commission is composed of two groups: one that is committed to speeding the process of approvals, and the other that intends to delay it. “The biotechnology research community should not be at the mercy of an agency that fails to deal with the evaluation and approval of their research efforts”, writes Oda. “How does the government intend to make biotechnology a great ally if it does not provide conditions to place these products in the hands of the Brazilian citizen?” This delay results in great economic and environmental losses to the country, and it is therefore necessary to reflect on the risks of not having the technology, in addition to evaluate risks associated with introducing them.

For more information write to Leila Oda at: cadastro@anbio.org.br. Read the full article at: http://www.anbio.org.br. Contact Leila Oda at: cadastro@anbio.org.br.

SOYBEAN WEED FOUND SUITABLE FOR PRODUCING BIODIESEL

A weed commonly seen at soybean fields in the U.S. Midwest has a potential use for biodiesel production. The weed, called pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), can also be used as source of fertilizer and soil fumigant, said the scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), Illinois.

The seed of pennycress is 36 to 40% oil by weight. The long-chain fatty acids from its oil are similar to soybean and sunflower oils, which are common sources of biodiesel. Terry Isbell and colleagues at NCAUR note that after soybean production in the summer, farmers can keep the weed on the fields during winter for fuel production.

The complete press release is athttp://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/061101.htm

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

GM COTTON APPROVED IN NORTHERN AUSTRALIA

Five transgenic cotton varieties were approved for commercial release in northern Australia last week. The Australian government through the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator issued a license to Monsanto Australia Ltd., allowing the company to grow the herbicide and/or insect resistant varieties without any containment measures.

The approved varieties include Bollgard® II (MON15985), Roundup Ready® (MON1445), Roundup Ready Flex® (MON88913), Bollgard® II/Roundup Ready® (MON15985/MON1445), and Bollgard® II/Roundup Ready Flex® (MON1445/MON88913).

For more information please visithttp://www.ogtr.gov.au/ir/dir066.htm

PAPER ASSESSES APPROVAL RATE OF GM CROPS IN AUSTRALIA

Two probable reasons for the slow approval of commercial planting of transgenic crops in Australia are community perceptions about the risks associated with transgenic technologies, and the regulatory framework currently used to approve them. These are forwarded in a paper “Risk assessment and management of genetically modified organisms under Australia’s Gene Technology Act” by Nicholas Linacre and colleagues at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Linacre and co-researchers describe the regulatory structure in Australia and examine some of the potential regulatory issues that may affect the review process and approval of transgenic technologies.

Download a PDF copy of the full paper athttp://www.ifpri.org/divs/eptd/dp/eptdp157.asp

JOINT VENTURE TO DEVELOP HIGH AMYLOSE WHEAT

Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) declared its support towards the development and commercialization of high amylose wheat.

Starch from this type of wheat contains more than 50% amylose. This proportion is about 20% more than the regular wheat varieties.
High amylose starch was found to help in preventing obesity, diabetes and colorectal cancer. This specialized wheat variety has been under development for several years. The original investors are Australia’s CSIRO and Biogemma (a subsidiary of Limagrain).

The complete press release is at:
http://www.grdc.com.au/whats_on/mr/south
/southern_region06031.htm

BT BRASSICAS FOR FIELD TESTING IN NEW ZEALAND

Scientists at the New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research have applied for a permit to field test genetically modified vegetable Brassicas expressing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins. Bt kills caterpillar pests of Brassica without the need to use synthetic pesticides.

Among the Bt Brassicas developed by the group of Mary Christey are kale, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. These vegetable Brassicas are to be tested in the Canterbury area. New Zealand has existing regulations for field testing genetically modified crops. The Crop & Food Research has also conducted more than 34 field tests of genetically modified crops in the country.

For the complete press release please visithttp://www.crop.cri.nz/home/news/index.jsp

EUROPE

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HOSTS PUBLIC HEARING ON BIOTECH

The European Parliament hosted a public hearing last October to tackle pertinent issues regarding European agriculture. Public perception on biotechnology ran a wide gamut with European consumers and the academic and scientific sector occupying opposite ends of the spectrum. In the latest survey done across the European Union, majority of consumers said they were against genetically modified organism (GMOs) due to fears that GMO crops can damage biodiversity and be a danger to human health. However, the scientific community presented a dissenting opinion. According to Jussi Tammisola, an academic and leading advisor to the Finnish government on the issue, some opportunities GMOs could offer included "the creation of aromatic rice and wheat, edible vaccines for asthma or allergies and breeding corn that is resistant to pests and (be a source of ) biofuels".

Getting information across is therefore very crucial and Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mairead McGuinness for the European People's Party summed it up by saying that scientists "have a duty to come out of their labs more frequently to explain their activities to ordinary citizens."

For the press release on the public hearing, readers can visithttp://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/
story_page/032-11626-283-10-41-904-20061012STO11625
-2006-10-10-2006/default_en.htm.

R E S E A R C H
ENGINEERING ROOT-KNOT RESISTANCE IN PLANTS

Root-knot nematodes (RKN) are the most economically important group of plant-parasitic nematodes worldwide, attacking nearly 2000 species of crop and fiber plants. The nematode invades plant roots, and by feeding on the roots’ cells, they cause the roots to grow large galls, or knots, damaging the crop and reducing its yields. Led by professor Richard Hussey, researchers from the University of Georgia, Iowa State University, and North Carolina State University engineered root-knot nematode resistance in transgenic plants by silencing or ‘knocking out’ an essential gene that causes the nematode to become parasitic. The result of their study is published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The research group described experiments to silence the parasitism gene 16D10 in root-knot nematode, and they confirm that the gene is essential for root-knot nematode to exhibit parasitism. In addition, expression of the same regulator for 16D10 in Arabidopsis resulted in resistance against the four major RKN species. The results of silencing of parasitism gene 16D10 in RKN could lead to the development of crops with broad resistance to this destructive pathogen.

Readers can access the full article, “Engineering broad root-knot resistance in transgenic plants by RNAi silencing of a conserved and essential root-knot nematode parasitism gene” athttp://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/39/14302.
For the abstract, visithttp://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/103/39/14302.

RESEARCH OUTLOOK IN MANGO ANTHRACNOSE CONTROL

Anthracnose is considered as the most important disease of mango worldwide. It is caused by the fungi Glomerella and there is no method that can effectively control it. The disease affects mango fruits and several parts of the tree.

Chrys Akem at the Horticulture and Forestry Science, Australia presented possible research areas to find better ways of controlling this disease. In his review, published by the Plant Pathology Journal, he stated that there’s a need to 1) identify more effective chemicals that target the fungi, 2) better understand the causal organism, and 3) screen large germplasm collections of mango for inherent resistance for use in breeding programs.

Currently, the options for preventing the disease under field conditions include suitable cultural management practices, and the use of chemicals. After harvesting, fruits can be treated by dipping them in hot water, using fungicides, or by keeping them in cold storage.

To read the complete article please visit:
http://ansijournals.com/ppj/2006/266-273.pdf

MODIFIED FLORAL DIP METHOD FOR ARABIDOPSIS TRANSFORMATION

The floral dip method is a very efficient way of transforming Arabidopsis but it requires large volumes of the Agrobacterium culture in liquid media. European researchers reported that an efficient floral dip method can also be performed by using bacteria that were cultured on plates. The modification on the transformation procedure was described by Elke Logemann and colleagues in their paper published in the journal Plant Methods.

One advantage of using bacterial plates is they can be kept at 4oC for days. The bacteria is available anytime until the plants reach the optimum stage for transformation. "This makes it much easier to synchronize Agrobacterium and plants for transformation", wrote the researchers.

The complete article can be accessed at
http://www.plantmethods.com/content/pdf/1746-4811-2-16.pdf

A N N O U N C E M E N T S
ANNUAL MEETINGS OF AMERICAN SOCIETIES
The annual meetings of the American Society Of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society Of America (CSSA), And Soil Science Society Of America (SSSA) will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, 12-16 November 2006. The event will bring together people representing academia, government and private industry, including a large contingent of undergraduate and graduate students. This year’s themes are “Information that Sustains the World” (ASA), “Science for a Sustainable Bioeconomy” (CSSA), and “Soil Science in a Changing Climate” (SSSA). Also in conjunction with the Societies' Annual Meetings will be the annual research conference of the U.S. Canola Association (USCA).

More information on these events is available:
http://www.acsmeetings.org

REGIONAL WORKSHOP ON BIOSAFETY RESEARCH FOR THE RELEASE OF GM CROPS

The International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) together with the Sudanese Ministry of Science and Technology is organizing a regional workshop, “Principles of Biosafety Research for the Release of Genetically Engineered Crops”, slated on 4-9 February in the following year. Prospective participants can request information and applications through i.eujayl@cgiar.org.

For more information, visithttp://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS07/Meetings2007.htm.

MEETING ON BIOSAFETY OF PLANT PRODUCTION IN ROME

The Marche Polytechnic University in Aula Magna Rectorate Piazza Roma will be the venue for a meeting on "Biosafety of plant production: technology, development, innovation, environment and health" on November 23, 2006. Organized in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, COST and SAPIO Research Award, it is linked with an interdisciplinary training program supported though a technical cooperation project under UNIDO. For more information about the training program, visithttp://ingweb.unian.it/Agraria/Engine/
RAServePG.php/P/2770130214.

GLOBAL
CLIMATE CHANGE WILL AFFECT FOOD AVAILABILITY, SAYS FAO

Climate change will directly affect future food availability to feed the world’s growing population, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said at the opening of a United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Addressing a scientific and technical body, Castro Paulino Camarada, FAO Representative in Kenya, highlighted FAO’s readiness to provide technical support in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change in a number of areas: bioenergy, forest management, and climate change adaptation.

FAO has been advocating the use of biofuels to provide an abundant supply of clean low-cost energy, better forest management practices, and research for the improvement of resilience of crop systems to climate variability. Camarada stressed that greater attention must be given to the impact of climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and on mitigation and adaptation measures.

Read FAO’s press release at
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/
news/2006/1000436/index.html.

‘NUTRIGENOMICS’ – NEXT GENERATION AG BIOTECH TREND

What future next-generation applications can be expected in agricultural biotechnology? Personalized nutrition based on individual genetics, pharmaceuticals from alfalfa, drought-tolerant plants, and improved bioenergy sources – these were some potential products discussed in a symposium in Minneapolis, USA.

Nutrigenomics or applying genetic science toward human nutrition and health is expected to play a more prominent role in making these future products possible says Chuck Muscoplat, faculty member of the University of Minneapolis College of Medicine and former Dean of the College of Agriculture.

Muscoplat explained that “compounds from food can be studied and developed as modulators of gene expression rather than as simple nutrients for basic nutrition”. Examples include addition of folate in the diet of pregnant women, and genistein, an isoflavone compound in soybeans, that act as antioxidants.

For a PDFof the article go to:
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2006/artspdf/nov0605.pdf

UNIV OF IDAHO AND ECO-ENERGY TO DEVELOP OILSEED CROPS

The University of Idaho and Gibraltar-based Eco-Energy Ltd. have joined forces to develop high-value oilseed crops worldwide for alternative fuel production. Idaho researchers led by Jack Brown will develop new varieties tailored for global adaptation with high oil yield for all climatic and environmental conditions.

"We are perhaps unique in our approach to bioenergy. We are developing plants which are specifically designed to be liquid energy sources," said Brown. The oil produced from these crops will have specific characteristics suitable for making the highest quality biofuel. The crushed meal left over after the seed oil is extracted, can be used as a high protein livestock feed or even a soil pesticide.

Eco-Energy hopes to be able to assist developing countries through oilseed production for biodiesel through direct planting and seed-crushing management.

For additional information, visit http://www.uidaho.edu.

NEW FINDINGS HELP IRON OUT PROBLEM OF IRON DEFICIENCY

Biologists now know where and how some plant seeds store iron, a valuable discovery for scientists working to improve the iron content of plants. After mining the model plant Arabidopsisfor clues, researchers in the United States found that iron resides in the developing vascular system of the seed, particularly in the vacuole, a plant cell's central storage site. The researchers also learned this localization depends on a protein called VIT1, known to transport iron into the vacuole.

The research helps address the worldwide problem of iron deficiency and malnutrition in humans. "Iron deficiency is the most common human nutritional disorder in the world today, afflicting more than 3 billion people worldwide," said Mary Lou Guerinot, a biologist at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and the principal investigator on the study. "Most of these people rely on plants for their dietary iron, but plants are not high in iron, and the limited availability of iron in the soil can limit plant growth. Our study suggests that iron storage in the vacuole is a promising, and, before now, largely unexplored target for increasing the iron content of seeds. Such nutrient-rich seeds would benefit both human health and agricultural productivity."

Access the news release through
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?
cntn_id=108150&org=olpa&from=news.

AFRICA

COCOA PRODUCTION IMPROVES IN WEST AFRICA

Farmers who participated in the farmer field school scheme on integrated crop and pest management on cocoa initiated in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria recorded between 15 to 40% yield increase while pesticide use by the farmers decreased by 10 to 20% during the pilot phase (2003-2005) of the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) managed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Dr. Stephan Weise, STCP West African regional manager, said that the STCP has strengthened 15 large farmer cooperatives through training and technical support with potential outreach to over 31,000 farmers in the cocoa producing countries of West Africa. He noted that farmers are now receiving 5-15% higher farmgate prices on their produce through group sales, and more transparent and direct transactions.

In West and Central Africa, cocoa production declined over the past several decades because of inadequate access to improved technologies, high costs of, and limited access to inputs and credit, poor marketing and a major shift in emphasis on agricultural policies.

Email Taye Babaleye of IITA at t.babaleye@cgiar.org for more information.

THE AMERICAS

IFIC STUDY SAYS U.S. CONSUMERS CONFIDENT OF FOOD SUPPLY SAFETY

Majority of American consumers are confident in the safety of the United States food supply and express little to no concern about food and agricultural biotechnology. This is a finding of a study published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

IFIC commissioned Cogent Research to conduct quantitative assessments of U.S. adult consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology to, among others, track public awareness and perceptions of food biotechnology; and identify food biotechnology concerns.

Other findings are:

Food biotechnology is not a consumer labeling demand.
Although many consumers have heard at least “a little” about food biotechnology, awareness has declined and knowledge is superficial.
Communicating specific benefits may enhance perception.
Although awareness is low, consumers remain open to the broad concept of animal biotechnology, in general.
Consumers remain opposed to the notion of animal cloning, as well as the use of cloned animals for breeding.
The majority of consumers continue to be unaware of plant-made pharmaceuticals, but those who are aware tend to be favorable.
The study concludes that while there is no overwhelming consumer demand for more information about food biotechnology, it will be important to continue to make science-based information available to the public.

The full report in PDF format is available athttp://ific.org/research/upload/2006%20Biotech%20
Consumer%20Research%20Report.pdf

COSTA RICANS WILLING TO TRY GM BANANA

Costa Rica is the second largest exporter of banana worldwide. Results of an exploratory study of the consumption and adoption of transgenic bananas in the country indicated that farmers are willing to adopt transgenic varieties because of potential savings in pest management costs. “This situation could be similar in other developing countries… any developments that could reduce management costs would be welcome by producers”, wrote Francisco Aguilar and Bert Kohlmann in their paper published by the International Journal of Consumer Studies.

The research has determined that a majority of Costa Rican consumers are also willing to buy and consume transgenic bananas. Those consumers that are young, have a small household, and higher levels of education and income, were found to be more likely to try the product. Aguilar and Kohlmann recommend that consumers be informed about transgenic products, their benefits, and associated risks. Only 35% of the consumers in their research were aware of the technology.

The complete paper is at
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi
/full/10.1111/j.1470-6431.2006.00527.x

COSTS RE GRAIN SEGREGATION MAY BECOME ISSUE

The added costs associated with handling genetically modified (GM) and specialty crops have become an important issue for grain handlers. Hence, even if the cost of modifying systems to handle GM is not much, it remains to be a major constraint to actual segregation. This was a finding of a study by North Dakota State University researchers who looked into the practices, time requirements, and costs of segregating GM grain from non-GM grain.

“Marketing mechanisms to facilitate co-existence of GM and non-GM crops” published in the Agribusiness and Applied Economics Reports, revealed that unless premiums attributed for grain quality are high enough to offset these extra expenses, very few elevators will decide to segregate and test, even though it is clear that for most elevators, implementing segregation and testing would not be very costly.

See an article by Tracy Sayler at
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2006/artspdf/nov0606.pdf

THE TIGER TECHNIQUE IN PLANT PATHOGEN DIAGNOSIS

Scientists at the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are enthusiastic over a new plant pathogen diagnostic technique that is as powerful as its namesake. Christened TIGER – short for Triangulation Identification for Genetic Evaluation of Risks – the new procedure has the potential to identify virtually every kind of microbe that may be present in a given sample, and it does so in a matter of minutes. According to William Schneider of the ARS Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit, TIGER has the speed, sensitivity, and accuracy to be a powerful tool in distinguishing new, undescribed pathogens from native-born crop threats.

Like other PCR-based fingerprinting methods now used for early detection and routine monitoring of plant pathogens, TIGER makes use of specially designed fragments of nucleic acid called “primers.” Their job is to find, and bind to, complementary segments of DNA in a pathogen’s genome. However, unlike in today’s PCR methods where primers are designed for the targeted pathogen’s DNA, TIGER’s primers are very general and serve as a one-size-fits-all tool that detects all bacteria in a given sample. It therefore eliminates the need for prior genome sequencing.

The database on which TIGER now relies mainly contains information on bacterial pathogens of humans. Soon there will be the addition of plant-disease bacteria, and the stage will be set for TIGER-based identifications of plant-pathogenic fungi and viruses.

The complete press release can be read athttp://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/061103.htm.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

CHINA COLLABORATES WITH NZ ON PLANT BIOTECH

Biotechnology research on potato is the focus of a scientific collaboration between China’s Huazhong Agricultural University and the New Zealand Crown Research Institute’s Crop and Food Research. A Memorandum of Understanding was forged between the two institutions which share interests in food technologies and agricultural sciences, particularly plant sciences.

Future cooperation will include resource sharing, staff exchanges, training and career development, joint research projects, market intelligence and technology development, joint funding applications, and joint contract and sub-contract arrangements.
See the press release athttp://www.crop.cri.nz/home/index.jsp.

NEW SUGARCANE VARIETIES FOR INDIA

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has identified new sugarcane varieties for each agricultural zone in India. In the Peninsular Zone, the sugarcane varieties Co 99006 (Neeraj) and Co 99004 (Damodar) were found to be suitable for cultivation. The former has tolerance to water-logging, drought and salinity, good field resistance to red rot and moderate resistance to smut. The second variety is tolerant to drought and salinity, and moderately resistant to red rot.

Other sugarcane varieties have been recently identified in a workshop held at G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Pantnagar. These varieties, namely CoH 119, CoS 96268 (Mithas), Co 98014 (Karan-1) and CoS 96275 (Sweety) are suited for commercial cultivation for the North-West Zone comprising of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Western and Central Uttar Pradesh, and Uttaranchal.

To read more, visit http://www.icar.org.in/pr/29102006.htm.

MYANMAR’S EDIBLE OIL CROP SECTOR GETS A BOOST

Development is in store for Myanmar’s edible oil crop sector, which recently received a loan of US$12.3 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID). The total budget of the project amounts to US$14 million; the remaining balance will be borne by the government of Myanmar.

The project will focus largely on four oil seeds: sesame, groundnut, sunflower and soybean, and on oil palm, and will boost oil crop production by expanding the availability of improved seeds and genetic material to oil crop farmers. The project will also cover the construction of two new oil solvent extraction plants and the upgrading of existing oil processing facilities. The project will likewise establish national edible oils standards and institutional capacity for edible oil quality control.

“The goal of this project is to increase the productivity and value of oil crops and their derivatives, while ensuring low cost edible oil supplies for consumers and assuring that sound policies are implemented and institutions are strengthened to develop a sustainable and competitive oil crop sector,” said Geoffrey Mrema, Director of the Agricultural Support Systems Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Organization will provide technical assistance throughout the project.

Read the press release at
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/
news/2006/1000437/index.html.

ICRISAT AND FAO LAUNCH SCIENCE COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE

Two international organizations are collaborating on an initiative to promote open access information sources in agricultural sciences and technology in India. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will create a new platform for information sharing on agricultural research in India through open access documentation.

The initiative, which was launched during the First AGRIS workshop on open access in agricultural sciences and technology, will enable agricultural scientists to obtain Internet-based information that are more searchable, and have access to data such as writer, citation, and source credibility. Workshop participants recommended the establishment of two pilot open access information repositories in Delhi and Hyderabad.

Read more on ICRISAT at http://www.icrisat.cgiar.org.

EUROPE

STUDY SHOWS GM OK TO ENVIRONMENT

Data available so far provides no scientific evidence that the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops has caused environmental harm. This was the conclusion of a study “Ecological impacts of GM crops: Experiences from 10 years of experimental field research and commercial cultivation”, commissioned by the Swiss Expert Committee for Biosafety.

The study focused on insect resistance maize, herbicide tolerant soybean and soilseed rape, three of the major GM crops of significance for Swiss agriculture. Dr. Joerg Romeis of the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tanikan Research Station which conducted the study said that a number of issues related to the interpretation of scientific data on effects of GM crops on the environment were brought up. The study highlights these scientific debates and discusses the effects of GM crop cultivation on the environment considering the impacts caused by cultivation practices of modern agricultural systems.

Email Dr. Romeis at joerg.romeis@art.admin.ch for additional information and how to obtain a copy of the report.

R E S E A R C H
BENTGRASS FOUND OUTSIDE CULTIVATION

Researchers at the Oregon State University and colleagues at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found herbicide resistance genes in wild populations of bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera). This is the first report of the successful establishment and persistence of an herbicide resistance gene in wild plant populations. The herbicide resistant plants were found within a 3.8 km area where transgenic bentgrass was grown in 2003. It is believed that the resistant plants in the wild populations were derived by either hybridization or by direct crop seed dispersal.

The complete paper was published by the journal Molecular Ecology and can be accessed at
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03072.x

CANOLA ACQUIRES WEEVIL RESISTANCE TRAIT FROM YELLOW MUSTARD

The cabbage seedpod weevil Ceutorhynchus obstrictus(Marsham) is an insect pest of major economic importance in the production of canola (Brassica napus L. and B. rapa L.) in Europe and North America. Larvae feed on developing seeds within the pods, with each larva consuming about five to six seeds during development. Once they mature, the larvae chew circular exit holes in the walls of the seed pods, and pupate in the soil. Through introgression or ‘backcrossing’ using yellow mustard as the parent, researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Guelph in Canada have developed canola plants with resistance to the weevil. The results are published in the October issue of Crop Science.

Studies were conducted to test the hereditary material of the offspring, produced by crossing Sinapis alba L. (yellow mustard) x B. napus and then backcrossing progeny to the B. napus parent, as potential sources of resistance to the weevil. Of the genotypes evaluated in field trials in 2001, 18 had an average of fewer than 0.05 weevil exit holes per pod, an indicator for resistance against the weevil, and these genotypes were used for further testing. Subsequent tests confirmed several genotypes that evidently carried genes for resistance to the pest from the yellow mustard parent.

The development of weevil-resistant canola is a significant first step towards integrated management of cabbage seedpod weevil, resulting in substantial reductions in insecticide use in this crop.

The complete research article “Introgression of Resistance to Cabbage Seedpod Weevil to Canola from Yellow Mustard” is available athttp://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/6/2437. For the abstract, readers can visithttp://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/46/6/2437.

ASSESSING THE BENEFITS OF GOLDEN RICE 2

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) afflicts many people around the world, especially in developing countries. Some of the adverse health outcomes of VAD include increased mortality, night blindness, corneal scars, blindness and measles among children, as well as night blindness among pregnant and lactating women. In a bid to reduce VAD-related diseases, rice plants were engineered to produce higher levels of beta-carotene in the endosperms or grains, and the result of this effort is Golden Rice 2. In an article in Nature Biotechnology, Alexander Stein and colleagues from the University of Hohenheim, Germany and Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research, India, presented a new methodology for assessing the potential impact and cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice 2 in India.

By building on a disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) approach and using the nationally representative food consumption data, the potential health impact of Golden Rice 2 was calculated. For assessing the potential cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice 2, the low-impact/high-impact scenario approach was followed that would determine the research, development and dissemination costs of Golden Rice 2. In this context, the researchers found that widespread consumption of Golden Rice 2 with a high ß-carotene content could significantly reduce the burden of VAD. In addition, Golden Rice 2 was shown to be a cheap and effective alternative to Vitamin A supplements in reducing the mortality rate attributed to VAD.

The complete correspondence, “Potential impact and cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice” can be accessed athttp://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v24/
n10/full/nbt1006-1200b.html.

A N N O U N C E M E N T S
CALL TO DEVELOP RESOURCE BOOK ON AFRICAN BIOTECH EXPERTS
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter is in the process of developing a Resource Book that would profile available and emerging expertise, institutions and resource materials on biotechnology issues in Africa to meet the information and networking gaps that exist currently. The aim of the project is to operationalize a Pan African Network of Experts on Biotechnology Issues (PANEBI) with a view of strengthening trans-disciplinary linkages, networking and collaboration.

For more information, contact amukuna@cgiar.org ora.nderitu@cgiar.org.


FIRST INTERNATIONAL CASSAVA SYMPOSIUM

The First International Symposium on Cassava Plant Breeding, Biotechnology and Ecology, will be held in Brasilia, Brazil, 11-15 November 2006. The conference is organized by the University of Brasilia and the Ministry of Environment, Brasilia, Brazil. The theme for the symposium is “Cassava improvement to improve livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa and northeastern Brazil”.

More information is available athttp://www.geneconserve.pro.br/meeting2/

ICGEB WORKSHOPS FOR 2007

Visithttp://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS07/Meetings2007.htm for the schedule of several workshops to be organized by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Among these include a regional workshop on “Principles of biosafety research for the release of GE crops” in Khartoum, Sudan in February 2007; a workshop on “Introduction to risk assessment for the deliberate release of GMOs: Assisting decision-making in a biosafety framework” in Ca’Tron di Roncade, Italy in May 2007; and a workshop on "Biosafety of GM crops and the evolution of regulatory frameworks: Issues and challenges" in September 2007 in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

CGIAR’S ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) will have its annual general meeting in Washington, D.C., 5-7 December, 2006. To be held with the meeting are the “CGIAR Photo Competition” and “CGIAR Exhibition”. The exhibition will highlight the work of the international centers, the Challenge Programs and CGIAR Partners.

Additional information may be obtained fromhttp://www.cgiar.org/meetings/agm06/index.html


DOCUMENT REMINDERS
CSIRO’S PODCASTS
CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, started providing podcast feeds containing information about their research and on other science topics of public interest. A podcast is an internet multimedia file that can be viewed or listened to on mobile devices and personal computers. “CSIROpod”, the name of the agency’s podcast site, currently ranks fourth among Australia’s science podcasts. Media feeds are available for downloading athttp://csiro.au/csiro/
channel/pchdm,,.html.

The complete press release is athttp://csiro.au/csiro/content/
standard/ps2fr,,.html

CAMPUS RESEARCH BLOG LAUNCHED IN UC DAVIS

The University of California at Davis launched Egghead, a blog of on-campus research activities. A blog is a dynamic web page that is regularly updated with new, time-stamped entries. Egghead aims to bring together research news stories, articles, comments, and links to video and audio clips from all disciplines. Andy Fell of the UC Davis’ University Communications said that the blog takes in information which otherwise will not fit in their current publications. The blog was named after the Egghead sculpture in the university campus.

For more information please visithttp://www.ucdavis.edu/
spotlight/1006/
egghead_blog.html or access the blog directly athttp://egghead.ucdavis.edu/



:: S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Biofuels Supplement

Starting with this issue, the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology will launch its pilot supplemental section on Biofuels which will be published bi-weekly.

Renewable energy derived from biological material (plant or animal) has become a major focus in many countries. It is seen as a viable energy alternative to fossil fuels and a solution to mitigate environmental problems associated with fossil fuels (global warming). The development of biofuels is seen to have a significant role in the global future.

As countries (specially developing countries) establish their own national agenda for renewable biomass energy, information access on biofuels-related information will be important. These may include information resources on research and trends on biofuel crops, processing technologies, policy issues and institutions/ key persons with active involvement in the field.

This supplement aims to provide organized/capsulized web-based information related to biofuels and biomass energy. It is geared toward broad spectrum of end-users of diverse educational backgrounds: the researcher community, policy makers, the education sector, etc. The supplement hopes to provide a tool for information sharing and exchange among stakeholders and help in capacity building for the development of their own national biofuels agenda. Futhermore, the fostering of North-South and South-South collaborations are also envisioned as one of the aims of the newsletter supplement.

This maiden supplement on biofuels will start with a mix of information on biofuels basics, and some features in bioethanol and biodiesel (liquid fuel alterntives for the transport sector). Suggestions and comments, particularly on information content, are most welcome.

GLOBAL
WB GIVES CGIAR GENEBANKS US$10M GRANT

The World Bank has approved a US$10 million grant to support genebanks in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system. “Of the many investments needed, none is more fundamental than support for genebanks, which safeguard the crop diversity on which food security depends,” noted Katherine Sierra, Vice President of the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network and CGIAR Chair.

More than 600,000 plant samples are kept in 11 genebanks which “represent the most important international effort to conserve genetic resources of staple crops, forages and agroforestry species,” said CGIAR Director Francisco Reifschneider.

The Centers will use the new grant to further improve work on collections, increase collaboration, and contribute to the development of a global system for conservation and use of crop genetic resources.
See the CGIAR article at http://www.cgiar.org.

SENESCO AND BAYER PARTNER TO DEVELOP BETTER CANOLA

Senesco Technologies, Inc. announced a new business relationship with Bayer CropScience. Senesco has given Bayer exclusive access rights to use proprietary genes that were previously demonstrated to increase the seed yield of canola. Bayer intends to use the technology in its InVigor® hybrid canola varieties.

Senesco is a U.S. biotechnology company that has developed a technology that delays cell breakdown and death. By delaying cell breakdown, plant produce can remain fresh longer after harvesting. The technology also has the potential to increase crop yield and resistance to environmental stress. Senesco also has applications of the technology in animals, including humans.

The complete press release is at
http://www.bayercropscience.com/bayer/cropscience
/cscms.nsf/id/20061109_EN?open&ccm=400

AFRICA

STATUS OF BT COTTON CONFINED FIELD TRIALS IN KENYA

Bt cotton confined field trials in Kenya have enabled the efficacy on the African bollworm and semi-looper to be established. It was also proven that there is no impact of the Bt cotton on key natural enemies and other arthropods. Dr. Charles Waturu, Center director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute-Thika, gave these highlights in his presentation in Nairobi during the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa. He reported on the field evaluation of transgenic Bt cotton varieties DP448B and DP404BG for efficacy on African bollworms and its impact on nontarget species.

See his Power Point presentation at
http://www.aatf-africa.org/publications/BtcottonKenya.pdf or email Charles Waturu at karithika@africaonline.co.ke.

THE AMERICAS

REPORT SHOWS US GROWERS FAVOR GM CROPS IN 2005

In the recent report “Quantification of the Impacts on U.S. Agriculture of Biotechnology-Derived Crops Planted in 2005” released by the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy (NCFAP), American growers continued to choose biotechnology-derived crops in 2005 due to significant benefits. These include enhanced crop yields, improved insurance against pest problems, reduced pest management costs, decreased pesticide use, and overall increase in grower returns. Planted acreage was mainly concentrated in 13 different applications (herbicide-resistant alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, and soybean; virus-resistant squash and papaya; three applications of insect-resistant corn, two applications of insect-resistant cotton, and insect-resistant sweet corn).

The report also suggests that biotechnology provides a key solution to the growing demand for both food and fuel and aids in alleviating the stress on land use. With the energy crunch and surge in gas prices that loomed in the United States in recent years, interest in alternative fuels such as ethanol increased tremendously. The stress on oil production will be shouldered by biotechnology-derived corn varieties, which were shown to have higher yield of bioethanol compared with non-transgenic varieties.

For more information, visit the NCFAP website:http://www.ncfap.org/. The PDF version of the executive summary of the report is available athttp://www.ncfap.org/whatwedo/pdf/2005biotechExecSummary.pdf. Readers can access the PDF version of the full report athttp://www.ncfap.org/whatwedo/pdf/2005biotechimpacts-finalversion.pdf.

RESEARCHERS STUDY SOYBEAN’S FAMILY TREE

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Iowa State University are interested in unlocking the soybean genome to discover its similarities and differences with its relatives in the legume family. Comparisons of DNA in related plants can help researchers understand how agronomic traits evolved and, in turn, aid plant breeders in creating improved crop varieties. “This information will be especially useful in helping plant breeders target oil and protein quality, disease resistance and other valuable traits”, said Steven Cannon, a scientist working in the research project.

Of special interest to the team is uncovering how soybeans express traits that are beneficial to human health and how the plants fix nitrogen, which is used for producing protein and other bio-molecules. The genome sequence also will help determine what genes are helpful in creating resistance to common diseases such as Phytophthora (stem rot) and Asian soybean rust.

Aside from soybean, the genomes of two other species in the legume family are already being sequenced. This includes the legumes Medicago truncatula (closely related to alfalfa) and Lotus japonicus.

For the complete news release, readers can accesshttp://www.ag.iastate.edu/aginfo/news/2006releases/sbtree.html.

PLANT STEROIDS FOR BETTER PLANT DEVELOPMENT

The roles that plant steroids play in plant growth and development are now being uncovered by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in California, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Maryland. Their research, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, could lead to new plant varieties with desirable growth traits. Joanne Chory and colleagues have identified a new protein that stops plant growth when there is an absence of brassinosteroids, a type of plant steroid. These steroids induce a signaling mechanism that flips a proverbial switch causing the plant to grow and develop properly.

The researchers discovered that a receptor on the plasma membrane is activated by binding to brassinosteroid. The activated receptor, in turn, interacts with a co-receptor known as BAK that continues the reception chain in the signaling process. In the absence of brassinosteroids, important enzymes in the process bind with another protein BKI1 instead of BAK; thereby shutting down the receptor and stopping the signal. This stunts growth and produces mutant dwarf plants.

BKI1-like genes are present in many plant species, including economically important crops, such as rice, maize, and soybean. Over- or under-expression of BKI1 in these species will provide a valuable tool to control the strength of brassinosteroid signaling in plant cells and will allow the creation of novel plant varieties with desirable traits.

Read the news release at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/
research/plant_development.html.

SOYBEAN GENETIC MARKER TECHNOLOGY SPEEDS YIELD ENHANCEMENT

New molecular breeding tools help increase the pace at which farmers can increase the amount of soybeans harvested per acre, according to a review of historical U.S. soybean yield. Researchers at DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. found that yields of Pioneer® brand soybean varieties developed with proprietary genetic markers improved yield three times faster than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) industry average.

Varieties developed with molecular markers showed average yield increase of 1.4 bushels per acre per year, while Non-Marker-Assisted Selection Pioneer varieties improved yields at a rate of 0.5 bushels per acre per year. On the other hand, USDA soybean yield data show yield increase at 0.4 bushels per acre per year. "The data clearly demonstrates that genetic markers have incredible potential to increase soybean yields at accelerated rates," said John Soper, Pioneer soybean research director. "They are going to go a long way in helping growers produce enough soybeans for new food, fuel and industrial applications."

Molecular markers allow plant breeders to screen many plants for genes that contribute to increased yield potential and stability. Only plants that carry the desired traits are used to develop new products.

Read the press release athttp://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/pioneer/26118/.

PLANT-DERIVED MOLECULES POINT TO FUTURE CHEMOPREVENTIVE METHODS

Scientists are now turning to plant-derived compounds known as triterpenoids to fight the big C - cancer. Using genetic studies and natural chemicals, scientists can now explore the genetic and early molecular interactions that can lead to the disease. The latest studies with new and promising chemopreventive agents were presented at the recent American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting.

New synthetic drugs called triterpenoids which owe their origins to plant molecules have demonstrated their effectiveness in slowing the growth of lung cancer tumors, according to a research team from Dartmouth University. Following up on previous work showing strong links between inflammation and the development of cancer, Karen Liby and colleagues found that the triterpenoid CDDO-MA by Reata Pharmaceuticals, currently undergoing trials for leukemia and solid tumors significantly reduced the number and sizes of tumors in mice. In addition, a related drug developed by Ligand Pharmaceuticals called LG100268 was effective at preventing tumor growth.

Triterpenoids and the rexinoid experimental drug LG100268 were also more effective in combination against breast cancer development than either compound administered individually. The work bolsters the potential for these plant-derived compounds as a chemopreventive agent for an increasing range of cancers.

For the complete news release, readers can visithttp://www.aacr.org/home/about-us/news.aspx?d=678.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

ASIAN BIOTECH NEEDS EFFECTIVE INFO CAMPAIGN, PARTNERSHIPS

Speakers at the AsianBio2006 conference held in Manila, Philippines expressed that the Asian region need to have a strong information campaign and more public-private collaboration to help its emerging biotech industry.

In her keynote speech, Estrella Alabastro of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology said that “pro-active and relentless initiatives in disseminating accurate and science-based information on biotechnology” will help speed up the progress in the Asian region. She added that public-private collaborations are beneficial, because such partnerships can consolidate resources as well as help the transfer of technical know-how between the participating institutions.

The conference brought together representatives of different stakeholders from Asian countries to discuss issues pertaining to intellectual property rights, bioethics, and applications of biotechnology in medicine and agriculture. Specifically reviewed during the conference was the progress in the development of edible vaccines, and of genetically modified corn, rice, eggplant, and papaya in the region.

More info at http://www.bcp.org.ph/asianbio2006.

NEW PLANT VARIETIES, A BOOST FOR MALAYSIAN AGRICULTURE

Tan Sri Datuk Hj. Muhyiddin Hj. Mohd. Yassin, Malaysia’s Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, said that Malaysia sees the introduction of new plant varieties as an important component in commercial agriculture. As breeding of new varieties of plants requires substantial investment in terms of time, skills, labor, material resources and capital, it is important to provide exclusive rights to plant breeders to enable them to recover the investment and reap the benefits of their innovation.

Malaysia, being a signatory of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, is obliged to provide intellectual property rights protection for new varieties of plants either by patents or by an effective sui generis or a combination of both. Malaysia has enacted the Protection of New Plant Varieties Act 2004 which will be enforced next year. Under this Act, the rights of plant breeders will be protected and it will play an important role in the transformation of Malaysian agriculture. It will also encourage investment in the development of the breeding of new plant varieties in both the public and private sectors.

For more updates from Malaysia email Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the
Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) atmaha@bic.org or visit their website at http://www.bic.org.my.

INDIA’S PRESIDENT CALLS FOR BIOTECH INITIATIVES

There is a need to deploy traditional and modern biotechnological tools in agriculture to ensure that crops have good yields, even under constraints of water and land. This was stressed by Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen (APJ) Abdul Kalam, President of India, during the inauguration of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) Triennial Conference 2006 in New Delhi.

The President suggested that India should intensify research not only in precision farming and post-harvest technology, but also in developing transgenic crops such as the golden rice. In addition to developing crops with enhanced quality traits, he cited that the technology can help increase crop productivity and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. This was demonstrated possible by researchers at India’s Kamaraj University when they developed many transgenic rice lines that overcome rice blast and sheath blight diseases.

The full speech of the President is at
http://www.presidentofindia.nic.in/presentation
/splangnewPDF%20Format877.pdf.

GFAR PROPOSES PARTNERSHIP ON AFRIC KNOWLEDGE SHARING

During the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) Triennial Conference 2006 on “Reorienting Agricultural Research to meet the Millennium Development Goals” in New Delhi, major international groups led by GFAR, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, called for a new international partnership to support information and knowledge system in agricultural science and technology. The ultimate goal is to ensure that stakeholders benefiting from science and technology are well informed so that they make better decisions and can develop policies based on scientific evidences. This initiative will focus on building capacities at the national level to establish information networks and systems, working towards a global web-based network.

For more details visit: http://www.icar.org.in/pr/gfar091106.pdf or www.fao.org/newpartnership or email Bhagirath Choudhary of ISAAA South Asia Office at b.choudhary@isaaa.org.

IIMA STUDY ECONOMICS OF BT COTTON IN INDIA

A preliminary investigation on 'The Adoption and Economics of Bt Cotton in India" has shown considerable economic gains to Bt cotton farmers in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in India. The study was carried by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) and was supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.

Results indicate that the yields of Bt cotton are higher and increases significantly in all the States under both irrigated and rain-fed conditions. The average increase in yield of Bt cotton over non-Bt cotton was 30.71% while reduction in the number of sprays was 38.67% or more in all states. The average national increase to farmers in profit per hectare was $250. The increase in profit was $307 for Gujarat, $185 for Maharastra, $298 for Andhra Pradesh and $ 210 for Tamil Nadu. The profit is found to be higher in all the states to the estimated extent of about 80-90 percent when the effects of associated inputs such as cost are included.

For further information, email Bhagirath Choudhary of ISAAA South Asia Office at b.choudhary@isaaa.org.

CHINA SETS REQUIREMENTS FOR RENEWAL OF GMO SAFETY CERTIFICATES

China’s Ministry of Agriculture has released Announcement No. 736 detailing the simplified requirements to renew safety requirements for genetically modified (GM) crops that are domestically grown or imported for processing purposes. No additional tests are required for renewal of certificates.

A translation of the Announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that the scope of application applies to GMOs having obtained a safety certificate and requiring continued use in areas specified in the certificate after its expiration. Renewal may be done with the Ministry one year before expiration. After this application is received by the Ministry, the application will be reviewed by the National Biosafety Committee.

See http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200611/146249461.pdf for additional information.

VIETNAM PROVIDES GRANT FOR BIOTECH DEVELOPMENT

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung has approved a grant of over 11 billion VND (US$ 700,000) to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to implement projects on biotechnology development in agriculture. He instructed the Finance Ministry to provide the funding that will provide international training opportunities for public officials to enable them to implement the national program on biotechnology development and applications in agriculture and rural development. Additional funds were also earmarked to purchase equipment.

Email Hien Le of Biotech Vietnam at hientttm@yahoo.com for more news on biotechnology initiatives in the country.

EUROPE

BIOTECH ASSOCIATIONS MEET WITH EU DECISION MAKERS

National associations of EuropaBio, Europe’s association of bioindustries, and company senior executives met with over 50 national representatives from the European Parliament, European Commission and the Council during Brussels Day to discuss biotechnology issues. Delegates who attended the meeting in Brussels came from Spain, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Ireland, Finland, Belgium, and Norway.

Aisling Burnand, chief executive officer of the UK Bio Industry Association, said that the meeting enabled the national associations to bring across key messages to EU decision makers and to “strengthen those national voices rather than diminish them”.

Among the issues discussed were proposals for a new state aid program and how it could benefit research, development and innovation. Plans were presented for EuropaBio’s Young Innovative Companies status into the new rules which provides major tax incentives to companies and allow them to spend up to a 15% or more of their revenues on research and development. Other programs discussed were the European Life Science Circle, a strategy to turn the EU life science sector into a “bio-zone”, and the European Life Science and Biotechnology Strategy and the Mid Term Review. The Commission will adopt a communication in 2007 which will present recommendations to develop the biotech sector to the Council of Ministers.

Read the meeting highlights at http://www.europabio.org/articles
/brussels%20day%202006-article_FINAL.doc.

R E S E A R C H
MODEL PLANT TO UNDERSTAND DISEASE RESISTANCE IN LEGUMES

Model organisms have become popular in biological research because they are generally easier to work with. In addition, the results from studying these organisms can often be extrapolated to more complex systems. In legumes, the annual forage cropMedicago truncatula turned out to be an ideal species to study host-pathogen interaction, says B. Tivoli and colleagues in their review published by the journal Annals of Botany.

Medicago truncatula is useful in legume biology studies due to its small diploid genome, rapid generation time, and self-fertility. LikeArabidopsis, it can also be easily transformed. M. truncatula is a host of foliar and soil-borne fungal pathogens of other Medicagospecies. The genetic control of resistance to two major necrotrophic pathogens has already been identified in M. truncatula. Tivoli and colleagues believe that this will soon lead to gene isolation followed by comparative analysis of resistance expression and genetic control mechanisms in other grain and forage legumes.

The review paper is available athttp://aob.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/6/1117.

ARTIFICIAL microRNAs: NEW DEFENSE AGAINST PLANT VIRUSES

Plants possess several innate mechanisms to resist viruses, one of which entails the production of dominant resistance gene products that can trigger acquired resistance. However, transgenic technology offers the possibility to genetically modify plants with genes encoding virus tolerance or resistance. Recently, short single-stranded RNAs known as microRNAs (miRNAs) have received considerable attention because of their role in plant developmental processes. In the October issue of Nature Biotechnology, scientists from Mexico and Taiwan report of using plant microRNAs to confer virus resistance in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana.

Researchers modified a precursor of the microRNA miR159 inArabidopsis thaliana to express artificial miRNAs (amiRNAs) targeting viral mRNA sequences encoding two gene silencing suppressors of turnip yellow mosaic virus (TYMV) and turnip mosaic virus (TuMV). Transgenic plants expressing the amiRNAs for these viruses are specifically resistant to TYMV and TuMV. The research group found that the virus resistance trait was displayed at the cell level and was heritable.

Readers can access the abstract of the article “Expression of artificial microRNAs in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana confers virus resistance” athttp://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v24/n11/abs/nbt1255.html. The full article is available athttp://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v24/n11/full/nbt1255.html.

FIRST GENETIC MAP OF TARO PUBLISHED

The first quantitative trait loci (QTL) map on taro root crop (Colocasia esculenta) was constructed using two types of molecular markers. J. Quero-García and collaborators from three other countries used simple sequence repeats (SSRs) and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLPs) to get genetic maps from taro populations in Vanuatu.

The map was derived from first generation offprings that they have obtained by crossing two sets of local taro cultivars. The researchers wrote in their paper that they were able to successfully identify QTLs that are responsible for yield, corm dimensions, and yellow flesh color. They recommend that additional SSR and AFLP markers be used to produce a saturated and robust map of taro.

The abstract of the paper can be accessed athttp://www.springerlink.com/content/7250141745x2480j/.

A N N O U N C E M E N T S
FARMERS TO SHARE AGRIC EXPERIENCES IN MANILA

Farmers from Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) will be joined by colleagues from India and the United States in a workshop on “Farmer Biotech Outreach: Strengthening the Competitiveness of Small Farmers” from December 4-7, 2006 in Manila, Philippines. Sponsored under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and implemented by the (APEC), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), and the Biotechnology Information Center of the SEAMEO Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the workshop will allow farmers and farmers leaders to engage in a dialogue on how agricultural biotechnology application and market access can enhance greater returns.

Email Randy Hautea of ISAAA at r.hautea@isaaa.org or Sonny Tababa of SEARCA at spt@agric.searca.org for additional workshop details.

6th INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY AND AGRICULTURE BIOVEG2007

The 6th International Congress on Plant Biotechnology and Agriculture BIOVEG2007 will be held on May 7-12, 2007 in Ciego de Avila, Cuba. Topics to be discussed include biotechnology-assisted plant propagation, biotechnology-assisted plant genetic improvement and conservation of germplasm, and metabolic engineering and plant natural products. Registration and submission of manuscripts starts on Nov.1, 2006 and ends on Feb. 28, 2007.

For more information, visit: http://bioveg.bioplantas.cu.

INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON TRANSGENIC PRODUCTS IN INDONESIA

The Faculty of Biology of the National University in Indonesia will hold an interactive dialogue entitled “Is Transgenic Product Safe?” on 22 November 2006 at Ambhara Hotel, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta Selatan. Speakers include Dr. Endang Sukara (Indonesian Institute of Sciences), Ir. Thomas Darmawan (General Chief of Indonesian Alliance of Food and Beverages Entrepreneurs), Dr. Husniah Rubiana Thamrin (Director of National Agency of Drug and Food Control) and Ir. Husna G. Zahir (Chief of Indonesian Consumers Organization).

Email inquiries regarding the dialogue toproduct_transgenik@yahoo.com.

GLOBAL
A WHEAT GENE FOR BETTER NUTRITION

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Haifa in Israel have identified a gene, Gpc-B1, that increases the protein, iron, and zinc content of wheat kernels.

The team, who reports their findings in the Science journal, found that kernels harvested from the plants with lowered Gpc-B1 activity had at least 30 percent less protein, zinc and iron. Gpc-B1increases seed nutrient content by accelerating senescence (ageing) of the plant and thereby increasing the remobilization of nutrients from leaves to developing grains. The finding predicts that adding additional copies of the functioning gene into bread and pasta wheats will be valuable to produce food with enhanced nutritional value.

“Wheat is one of the world's major crops, providing approximately one-fifth of all calories consumed by humans. Therefore, even small increases in wheat's nutritional value may help decrease deficiencies in protein and key micronutrients,” said Professor Jorge Dubcovsky, a wheat breeder and lead researcher on the project.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 2 billion people are deficient in zinc and iron, and more than 160 million children under the age of 5 lack an adequate protein supply.

The abstract of the article “A NAC Gene Regulating Senescence Improves Grain Protein, Zinc, and Iron Content in Wheat” can be accessed athttp://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;314/5803/1298
More information available at:http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=7949. Read ARS’ press release at www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr.

PROPANEDIOL FROM CORN

DuPont has announced the first commercial shipments of Bio-PDO™ , a product of DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, LLC, an equally-owned joint venture of DuPont and Tate & Lyle. The joint venture uses a proprietary fermentation process to produce propanediol using corn instead of petroleum-based feedstocks. The production of Bio-PDO™ consumes 40 percent less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent versus petroleum-based propanediol. Production of 100 million pounds of Bio-PDO™ will save the energy equivalent of 10 million gallons of gasoline per year.

According to DuPont Tate &Lyle Bio Products President Steven Mirshak, Bio-PDO™ is a versatile ingredient for a number of products including specialty polymers and also is well suited for cosmetics, liquid detergents and industrial applications like anti-freeze.
"We are seeing strong demand for all of our grades of Bio-PDO™ due to its performance, biodegradable nature, and ability to replace petroleum-derived products. Wherever a glycol is being used today, businesses should consider replacing it with our new renewable ingredient", said Mishrak.

The complete press release can be read athttp://pioneer.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=press_releases&item=208.

AFRICA

FARMERS VISIT BT COTTON FIELD TRIALS IN BURKINA FASO

The International Service for the Acquision of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), in collaboration with INERA (the Institute for the Environment and Agricultural Research of Burkina Faso), and INSAH (l’Institut du Sahel), recently organized a travel tour to visit two Bt cotton field trials in Burkina Faso. The workshop’s main objective was to provide the opportunity to farmers and journalists to see by themselves the performance of genetically modified cotton in the fields. Bt cotton is genetically engineered to protect the plant against the damage by bollworms. The event was attended by farmers and journalists from Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Senegal and Togo.

“In view of the results obtained in the field trials, we are ready to embark in the planting of Bt cotton in Burkina” said Sessouma Tinder, farmer from the Kénédougou region. “There is a clear difference between the Bt cotton fields and the conventional varieties, as transgenic plants carry more capsules. In addition, the transgenic fields receive only two pesticide treatments instead of six, which results in an important reduction in the cost of the pesticides. My main worry now is that the transgenic seeds become available, at a good price”.

Burkina Faso is the only country in West Africa that has adopted a legal biosafety regulatory system, and field trials in the country are currently in their fourth year. The Bt trait has been transferred to local Burkinabe cotton varieties, and local scientists have carried out extensive biosafety and socio-economic studies. Burkina Faso is expected to commercialize Bt cotton next year, representing the first country in the region to adopt a biotech crop.

The event was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

For more information contact ISAAA at:knowledge.center@isaaa.org


Farmers visit the Bt cotton field trials in Boni, Burkina Faso. The farmers are standing in the path (diagonal in the photograph) between the transgenic cotton field (left) and the field planted with the conventional variety (far right, faced by the farmers). The conventional cotton field has been sprayed 6 times, while the Bt cotton field received only 2 insecticide applications to control sucking insects. Bt cotton plants have more capsules compared to the
control plants, which are taller and greener.
US $250M FOR THE SAFE MANAGEMENT OF PESTICIDES IN AFRICA

About US$250 million has been set aside to improve pesticide management in Africa. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) regional representative Dr. Kwame Koranteng said the money donated by the African Development Bank, Global Environment Facility, the Netherlands and Canada, would initially benefit seven African countries, including South Africa, Mali, Ethiopia, Morocco, Tanzania, Nigeria and Tunisia.

The WWF official made this announcement during the Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters, Nairobi, Kenya. Koranteng said poor pesticide management had affected agriculture, human health, environment, water quality, biodiversity and soils. Most hazardous wastes are industrial and obsolete pesticides. Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources George Krhoda said Kenya had 10,000 tons of obsolete pesticides and that some like DDT had found their way back into the country illegally through Tanzania.

For more information contact Daniel Otunge of ISAAA AfriCenter at d.otunge@cgiar.org.

IITA SCIENTISTS URGED TO APPLY R4D CONCEPT TO FEED AFRICA

Why do people still go to bed hungry in Africa? Why is it that Africa still depends on food importation and food aids to meet local demands? These are just some of the questions scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), collaborators, and partners attempted to offer solutions to at a strategic planning activity held last week. DG Hartmann, IITA Director General, challenged the scientists to articulate the Research-for-Development (R4D) concept in their research design as against Research and Development (R&D). This R4D concept puts farmers at the center of scientific research planning and design.

The weeklong activity enabled IITA scientists and research administrators to brainstorm on the justification for the Institute’s involvement in R4D, to determine the benefits and deliverable International Public Goods (IPGs), comparative advantage of IITA’s involvement in development issues and partnerships with both public and private sectors of the economy, scaling out and exit strategies.

Readers can access the IITA press release athttp://www.iita.org/cms/details/
news_feature_details.aspx?articleid=544&zoneid=342.

THE AMERICAS

U.S. DEREGULATES GM RICE

After a thorough review of scientific evidence, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved to deregulate the herbicide tolerant rice variety LLRICE601. Deregulated items are considered safe for the environment. In the case of LLRICE601, USDA said that it is as safe as traditionally bred counterparts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had also concluded that the presence of the said rice in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns.

The biotech rice was engineered for tolerance to LibertyLink brand herbicides. Bayer CropScience reported last July that trace amounts of the variety is present in commercial supply of long-grain rice. The investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release of the biotech rice and whether any USDA regulations were violated will soon be completed.

The complete press release is athttp://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom
/content/2006/11/rice_deregulate.shtml.

USDA’s final environmental assessment of LLRICE601 is available athttp://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/06_23401p_ea.pdf.

DUPONT ON TRACK FOR COMMERCIALIZATION OF NEW TRAIT IN SOYBEANS

DuPont recently completed its U.S. regulatory submissions for approval of Optimum™ GAT™ trait in soybeans. This keeps the company on track for commercialization of soybean products containing the trait by 2009. The Optimum™ GAT™ trait is a proprietary herbicide-tolerance trait that DuPont plans to commercialize in corn, cotton and other crops, following its 2009 introduction in soybeans. Syngenta has the license to the trait for use in corn and soybeans while Delta & Pine Land holds the license for use in cotton. It will also be cross-licensed through GreenLeaf Genetics, a joint venture between Syngenta Seeds and Pioneer to out-license genetics and seed technology to other U.S. and Canadian seed companies. The Optimum™ GAT™ trait is the first agricultural trait developed through proprietary DuPont gene shuffling technology.

The complete press release is available athttp://pioneer.mediaroom.com/index.php?
s=press_releases&item=209.

PEW ANALYSES FEDERAL REGULATORY SYSTEM FOR AGRI BIOTECH

What are the issues relating to the federal regulatory system government agricultural biotechnology in the United States (known as Coordinated Framework)? What is the appropriate role for state agriculture agencies in that system? Answers to these questions were tackled in a workshop conducted by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Highlights of workshop insights which are documented in the report “States and the federal government: What the coordinated framework for biotechnology means for working together” include:

The Coordinated Framework does not contemplate the involvement of state government agencies in the regulatory process. It does recognize however, that some laws regarding the regulation of agricultural biotechnology require interaction between state and federal regulators.
States do not seek to be co-equal partners with the federal government in the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, however, state agricultural officials often find they must answer to farmers, the media, state legislatures, and the interested public on these issues.
Some state laws exist regarding biotechnology, requiring state agencies to act regardless of the actions of the federal government.
See the full paper entitled “Opportunities and Challenges: States and the Federal Coordinated Framework Governing Agricultural Biotechnology” at http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0524.

IOWA DEVELOPS SOYBEAN VARIETIES WITH HEALTHY OILS

Iowa State University, with support from the Iowa Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board, has developed improved soybean varieties that will promote the production of healthy oils good for human health.

Three of the varieties will enhance the production of oil with 1% linolenic acid. This oil increases shelf life, and has excellent frying and flavor stability since it eliminates the hydrogenation process that creates trans fats. Another variety contains twice the amount of oleic acid found in conventional soybean oil and only 1% linolenic acid. The combination oil could be used in many food products that require more stability than previous unhydrogenated soybean oils.

Visit http://www.isastate.edu for more research news from Iowa State University.

BRAZILIAN GENE BANK NOW SIXTH IN THE WORLD

One hundred thousand samples of seeds from 500 different plant species are now housed by the genebank of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), which makes this facility the sixth larger in the world. Several indigenous communities, such as the Krahô, Guarani, and Indians from the Xingu region, have benefited from the unit. Members of these groups approached EMBRAPA with seeds of local plant varieties that would no longer germinate.

“The purpose of the genebank is not only to conserve seeds and return them to the population to sustain the use of traditional, local varieties, but also to work with the genetic material to improve its quality”, said José Manuel Cabral, head of the Genetic Resources and Biotechnology Unit of EMBRAPA. “We aim to determine the characteristics, and perform studies to identify useful genes to develop novel crops with desirable characteristics, such as resistance to illnesses and tolerance to cold, adapted to the different regions of Brazil.”

Read more at:http://www.agenciabrasil.gov.br/noticias/2006/11/25/materia.2006-11-25.7108605811/view

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

A VITAL STEP TOWARDS CONTROLLING ‘CROWN ROT’

Researchers in CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Australia, have mapped the family tree ofFusarium pseudograminearum, the fungus responsible for Crow Rot, a devastating world-wide disease that costs the wheat industry yield loses of around $50 million a year. The research team, lead by Dr Sukumar Chakraborty, collected and analyzed over 55 fungal strains of varying degrees of virulence, so as to identify which genes are essential for the disease, and allow fusarium to be such a problem.

The team identified four important genes, and determined that they all belong to a single family-group consisting of promiscuous inter-breeding members. “This means that virulent strains of fusarium can develop more easily and can share their genes with other strains of fusarium when they spread into new areas,” says Chakraborty.

The information obtained on the genetic diversity of fusarium, coupled with the identification of resistant wheats, will help in the breeding of the most effective fusarium resistant wheat varieties in the future.

Read the full press release athttp://www.csiro.au/csiro/content/standard/ps2is.html
For more information on this research visithttp://www.csiro.au/files/files/pb2k.pdf

NEW STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE ASEAN RICE PRODUCTION

Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry of the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently endorsed new strategies to boost rice production in Southeast Asia. The new measures, namely, the development of a series of environmental indicators for rice production in the region; the further development of the Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) for rice farmers; and the development of rice camps to encourage young Asians to consider a career in rice, will be implemented and coordinated by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

“To have ASEAN member countries endorse these very important activities at the ministerial level is obviously a crucial step forward, and we are very grateful for such high-level political support,” said Dr. Robert S. Zeigler, IRRI’s director general. “With major Asian rice producers such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar now officially part of these activities, we hope to reach out to other countries in Asia – especially China and India – for their support also.”

Read the press release athttp://www.irri.org/media/press/press.asp?id=143.

EUROPE

CULTIVATION OF GM POTATO IN THE EU - A NEAR POSSIBILITY

Genetically modified potato EH92-527-1 could be the first genetically modified plant to be approved for cultivation in the European Union since 1998, if the European Commission (EC) accepts the proposal of the Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas for the cultivation of this biotech crop under certain conditions.

The Swedish company Amyloge HB, now part of BASF Plant Science, developed the potato to produce only amylopectin in its tubers. Pure amylopectin, compared with conventional starch composed of amylose and amylopectin, is more easily applied in certain industrial processes such as paper making. The EC has already requested that commercialization of this GM potato be accompanied by post market monitoring by BASF in order to detect unanticipated adverse environmental effects which may arise.

For the news article, visit http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/messages/200611.docu.html#73.

GREENOVATION BIOTECH OBTAINS 5.4 M EUROS FOR R&D

greenovation Biotech GmbH, the German company that developed the “moss bioreactor”, an innovative technology for the optimization and production of complex pharmaceutical proteins from moss cells, has recently secured 5.4 million euros for further research and development.

The “moss bioreactor” is a safe and cost-effective platform for the production of therapeutically active biopharmaceuticals with special characteristics for the improved activity of therapeutic proteins such as antibodies. Specific genetic modifications render the sugar structures of the proteins similar to human structures. This technology opens up a broader range of therapeutic applications for the proteins that are obtained from plant cells.

Read more at http://www.bio-pro.de/en/region/freiburg/meldungen/02871/index.html

R E S E A R C H
VARIETY OF DIAMONDBACK MOTH FOUND TOLERANT AGAINST TOXIC SELENIUM IN PLANTS

Plants accumulate selenium (Se) as a protection against herbivory, but some plants hyperaccumulate the toxic element to extreme levels, up to 1% of dry weight. However, the function of this phenomenon is still obscure. Scientists from the Colorado State University and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in the United States have discovered a variety of the invasive diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) with resistance to Se. The results are reported in the recent issue of Current Biology.

The researchers found that the Se-tolerant moth accumulates a different Se compound, methylselenocysteine, in contrast to selenocysteine accumulated by sensitive moths. Selenocysteine is toxic because of its nonspecific incorporation into proteins. Although Se hyperaccumulation protects plants from herbivory by some invertebrates, it can give rise to the evolution of unique Se-tolerant herbivores and thus provide a portal for Se into the local ecosystem.

In a broader context, this study provides insight into the possible ecological implications of using Se-enriched crops as a source of anti-carcinogenic selenocompounds and for the bioremediation of Se-polluted environments.

The abstract of the article, “Selenium-Tolerant Diamondback Moth Disarms Hyperaccumulator Plant Defense”, can be viewed athttp://www.current-biology.com/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS0960982206022081.

CULTIVATED POTATO CPDNA SEQUENCED

Korean researchers announced recently that they have determined the complete chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) sequence of the cultivated potato. Their research adds another solanaceous species to the list of plants whose chloroplasts have been completely sequenced, which includes tomato and tobacco.

Chloroplasts are intracellular organelles that have their own genome, with most of the genes encoding for proteins needed for photosynthesis. Hwa-Jee Chung and colleagues wrote in the paper published by the journal Plant Cell Reports that the circular chloroplast of the cultivated potato has about 155,000 nucleotide pairs. They have also identified 79 proteins and 34RNAs encoded in the genome.

The information will help in diversity studies and will be useful to examine the evolutionary processes in potato landraces. After comparing the sequence to that of a wild potato, the researchers found a single large deletion that discriminates the cultivated potato from the wild species.

The research abstract, with links for subscribers to the complete paper containing the chloroplast gene map, is athttp://www.springerlink.com/content/b4466721826551u3.

A N N O U N C E M E N T S
GENES ARE GEMS: REPORTING AGRI-BIOTECHNOLOGY

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-AridTropics (ICRISAT) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-BiotechApplications (ISAAA) are jointly publishing a sourcebook “Genes are Gems: Reporting Agri-Biotechnology”. The book, to come off the press in early December 2006, synthesizes a series of media workshops in Asia and West Africa carried out by ICRISAT and ISAAA between 2004 and 2006 to familiarize journalists to the science behind agricultural biotechnology.

This sourcebook primarily provides insights to readers on the various biotechnological options in improving crop productivity and promoting sustainable agriculture in the dry tropics. At the same time, it also introduces journalists to the nuances of agri-biotechnology reporting and editing.

For more information, email Rex Navarro of ICRISAT atrex.navarro@cgiar.org.

BIOTECH CONFERENCE IN BANGALORE

The University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK Bangalore, the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore and Iowa State University, Ames, USA are jointly organizing an International Conference on "21st Century Challenges to Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, Biotechnology, Environment, Nutrition, Trade and Policy" from 15-17th March 2007 at Bangalore, Karnataka. The conference will bring together education leaders, researchers, and specialists in extension, policy makers, agri business and development practitioners to draw up a strategy and action plan for dealing with the issues of sustainable agriculture.

For detail information, contact: Prof PG Chengappa atchengappapg@gmail.com or visit http://www.sustainagri.org/

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY ENGINEERING (ICBioE ’07)

The International Islamic University Malaysia will be organizing the International Conference on Biotechnology Engineering (ICBioE ’07), scheduled on May 8-10, 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The theme of the conference is Harnessing Nature to Enhance Quality of Life, and topics such as biomolecular engineering, biopharmaceutical engineering, agricultural and natural biotechnology products, food and process engineering, and bioenergy will be covered. Submission of papers for the conference is until December 15, 2006.

For more, contact through icbioe@iiu.edu.my or visithttp://www.iiu.edu.my/icbioe/index.php?
option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=44.

CANOLA CONFERENCE

A conference entitled “CANOLA – Growing Great 2015” will bring together various sectors of the canola industry will be held 20-23 March 2007 in Victoria, BC, Canada. The event aims to map out the future for canola as food and fuel and determine a strategic action to profitably grow all segments of the canola industry. The expected participants include canola input suppliers, processors, exporters, researchers, regulators, marketers and retailers.

More information on this event: http://www.canola-council.org/conference/index.htm

INTERNATIONAL HORTICULTURE SYMPOSIUM

The International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) will have its fourth international symposium in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A. on 3-6 December, 2006. The theme for the 4th ISHS International and the concurrently held 8th National Symposium on Seed, Transplant and Stand Establishment of Horticultural Crops is "Translating seed and seedling physiology into technology". The symposium will focus on vegetable and ornamental species, including competing weeds. Among the topics to be discussed are seed biotechnology and genetics, and plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses.

More information at http://sest2006symposium.tamu.edu.

AFRICAN SCIENCE COMMUNICATION CONFERENCE

The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) will be hosting an African Science Communication Conference on 4-7 December 2006, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The conference will focus specifically on the need to establish Africa as an international role player in the field of Science Communication. In addition, the conference aims to establish collaborative networks on the African continent to facilitate collaboration and share best practices.

More information at http://www.saasta.ac.za/ascc/index.shtml.

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