Friday, January 19, 2007

CROP BIOTECH 1/19/07

In This Issue

January 19, 2007

NEWS

Global
Global Biotech Area Breaks 100 Million Hectare Mark
Bananas with More Vitamins
Rust Strain Spread Threatens Global Wheat Harvest

Africa
AfDB and IFAD to Review Agric, Rural Development Operations
World Bank Provides Grant to Fight Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

The Americas
Sugarcane for Biofuels Research Kicks-off in Brazil
Chile- FIA/PIPRA Agreement Provides Access to 6600 New Agric Patents
Small-Scale Farmers in North of Brazil Receive Improved Seeds
USDA Seeks Public Comment on Deregulation of GE Maize
Pinto Bean Resists Viral Diseases

Asia
RP Biotech Projects Receive Go-Signal
Philippines Approves 12th Stacked Trait Product
Pakistan Submits Biosafety Applications

Europe
EU to Lift Measures Against Bt10 in US Exports
Biotech Corn Area Increasing in Spain
Antibody Variants Produced from Plant Seeds

RESEARCH
Herbicide Tolerant Maize and Biodiversity
Ethanol Co-Products as Fodder for Livestock
Biosensor Chips for Easy Detection of Plant Molecular Markers

ANNOUNCEMENTS | DOCUMENT REMINDERS | FROM THE BICS
Biofuels Supplement (12 Jan 2007 Issue) [Read latest news]
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News

GLOBAL

[Top]
GLOBAL BIOTECH AREA BREAKS 100 MILLION HECTARE MARK

Biotech crop adoption increased to 12 million hectares or 13 percent to reach 102 million hectares in 2006 – breaking the 100 million hectare mark for the first time and achieving the second highest growth in the last five years. Growth for the period 1996 to 2006 registered an unprecedented 60-fold increase, the highest adoption rate of any crop technology. The number of farmers planting biotech crops also increased to 10.3 million farmers, up from 8.5 million farmers in 2005. These were forwarded in a report by Dr. Clive James, chairman and founder of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

The growth of biotech crop adoption was also substantially higher in the developing world at 21 percent versus the industrialized nations where adoption grew 9 percent. This growth is expected to continue in the second decade of commercialization.

The press release about the report is available in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German, and French, while the Executive Summary is available in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, and Bangla. Other language editions (i.e. Chinese, Swahili, Hindi, and Korean) of the press release and Executive Summary will be released on dates to coincide with national media launches. Visit http://www.isaaa.org to download these documents.

[Top]
BANANAS WITH MORE VITAMINS

Bananas are rich sources of potassium, contain vitamin C and B6, and provide soluble fibers. Researchers in EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, are now exploring ways to make bananas also important sources for vitamin A, by developing varieties rich in carotenoids, the precursor molecules of the vitamin. Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent in the developing world, particularly in countries with the highest rates of child mortality. It leads to blindness, and it weakens the immune system.

The project aims to develop transgenic bananas carrying a gene from tomato. In addition, researchers will collect and characterize native banana varieties of Brazil to select those with high carotenoid levels. “Some native bananas have levels of carotenoids approaching those of carrots”, explained EMBRAPA researchers Damares de Castro Monte and Elionor de Almeida. In addition to their benefits in improving nutrition standards, these varieties, currently not grown for commercial purposes, could represent new income opportunities for small-scale farmers, and an opportunity to raise their standards of living.

Bananas are cultivated in 80 tropical countries, which represent the fourth most important food crop worldwide, and the second most important fruit crop in Brazil.

The full news (in Portuguese) is available at
http://www.embrapa.br/noticias/banco_de_noticias/2007/janeiro/foldernoticia.2007-01-15.0775390832/noticia.2007-01-16.5945024370/mostra_noticia

[Top]
RUST STRAIN SPREAD THREATENS GLOBAL WHEAT HARVEST

Observations by scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and its partners, indicated that majority of wheat germplasm are susceptible to the stem rust called Ug99. This rust strain was first identified in Uganda but has been observed in Kenya, Ethiopia, and very recently in Yemen, across the Red Sea.

Scientists have also found out that last year’s rust resistant wheat lines are now susceptible to the Ug99 strain. This indicates that at least one of the major stem rust resistance genes that have protected many of the world’s wheats is no longer effective. In the long term, the replacement of all the world’s wheat cultivars need to be done, said Rick Ward, coordinator of the CIMMYT-ICARDA led Global Rust Initiative. For the meantime, scientists are tracking the spread of stem rust, characterizing the pathogen, and trying to find new sources of resistance to the disease and breed them into new wheats.

For the press releases, visit http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2006/dec/wheatRust.htm, and http://www.globalrust.org/images/IR2007_002_GRI.pdf

AFRICA

[Top]
AfDB AND IFAD TO REVIEW AGRIC AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT OPERATIONS

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will be reviewing this month the partnership’s agricultural and rural development policies and operations in Africa between 1996 and 2005. The two institutions want to identify what existing operations have been effective in fighting rural poverty in Africa, according to IFAD President Lennart Båge. The evaluation will also assess how to improve the contribution of agriculture and rural development to growth and poverty reduction, the sectors’ international competitiveness and policy environment, and investment potential in vital sub-sectors, such as water, rural infrastructure and microfinance.

Readers can access the press release at http://www.ifad.org/media/press/2007/1.htm.

[Top]
WORLD BANK PROVIDES GRANT TO FIGHT FOOD INSECURITY IN ETHIOPIA

The World Bank extended its support to Ethiopia through a US$175 million grant to finance the second phase of an existing operation, the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). The program provides direct grants for those physically unable to work, and at the same time, supports a large-scale public works initiative which pays wages to food insecure but able-bodied citizens. By replacing food aid with jobs and cash payments, the program helps stimulate rural economies while also addressing some of the underlying causes of food insecurity. With the help of the PSNP, Ethiopia is now on the road to recovery, posting a comparatively strong growth performance in recent years.

Visit http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:21178555~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424
~theSitePK:4607,00.html to read the press release.

AMERICAS

[Top]
SUGARCANE FOR BIOFUELS RESEARCH KICKS-OFF IN BRAZIL

A US$2.25 million research initiative led by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) has kick-started in Brazil to improve the use of sugarcane for biofuel production. The project is funded by the Technological Innovation and New Management Approaches in Agricultural Research Program (Agrofuturo), with support from the Inter-American Bank of Development (BID) and the government of Brazil, and by the Studies and Projects Financing Entity (FINEP).

Main research lines include the genetic improvement of existing sugarcane varieties for improved resistance to the sugar cane giant borer, the principal pest for the crop in the north of Brazil, and for increased tolerance to drought. On their way are also efforts to identify bacteria capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen to reduce the need of added chemical fertilizers, and to develop new biofertilizers containing bacterial extracts. Socio-economic and environmental studies on the potential impact of expanding sugarcane production are also included in the portfolio of projects.

Read the full news (in Portuguese) at http://www.embrapa.br/noticias/banco_de_noticias/2007/janeiro/foldernoticia.2007-01-08.6783822109/noticia.2007-01-12.0346870086/mostra_noticia

[Top]
CHILE: FIA/PIPRA AGREEMENT PROVIDES ACCESS TO 6600 NEW AGRIC PATENTS

An agreement between the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) and the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA), a non-for profit organization in the United States, will allow Chilean agricultural researchers to access over 6000 new patents in innovation and novel technologies. The patents are held in a database with contributions from 39 universities and non-for profit institutions in over 10 countries.

“Traditional agriculture requires novel technological instruments to solve problems like the poverty of soils, and plant diseases and pests that reduce productivity, and this agreement will allow us to avail on more technological options to face these problems”, said Rodrigo Vega, Executive Director of FIA.

Read the news at: http://www.fia.cl/contenido.asp?id_contenido=1164&id_tipo=1

[Top]
SMALL-SCALE FARMERS IN NORTH OF BRAZIL TO RECEIVE IMPROVED SEEDS

The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) has started this week distributing to small-scale farmers in the North-east of the country maize and bean seeds with improved resistance to climatic stresses and with increased croppings per season. More than 44000 farmers from 83 cities will benefit from the project, aimed at raising the productivity of small farms, and thereby the income of rural families.

“These are varieties that have a production potential above the average, compared to conventional seeds. Therefore they can meet the household requirements, and also generate a surplus for sale, generating extra income for the family”, said João Marcelo Intini, from the Secretariat of Familiar Agriculture of the Agrarian Ministry of Public Works and the Economy Brazil.

Read more at: http://www.agenciabrasil.gov.br/noticias/2007/01/15/materia.2007-01-15.0514608332/view

[Top]
USDA SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON DEREGULATION OF GE CORN

The United States Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking public comments on a petition to deregulate MIR604 corn, which is engineered with resistance to corn rootworm insects. The petition for deregulation was submitted by Syngenta Seeds, Inc. Should it be shown that the GE organism is equivalent to its traditionally bred counterpart, APHIS could grant the petition for deregulation, thus eliminating the prerequisite for regulatory oversight by APHIS. The GE corn is also subject of regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Read the full article at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/01/gecrndreg.shtml. For more information on how to submit comments, visit http://www.regulations.gov.

[Top]
PINTO BEAN RESISTS VIRAL DISEASES

A new pinto bean named “Quincy” that can resist the attack of the bean common mosaic virus (BCMV) and the bean common mosaic necrosis virus (BCMNV) has been developed by researchers at the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Washington State University-Prosser. The cultivar harbors two genes, I and bc-22, which confer resistance to the two viruses. However, this pinto bean also has its weak spot – it is susceptible to Uromyces appendiculatus, the fungus that causes bean rust disease.

Read the news article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070111.htm.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

[Top]
RP BIOTECH PROJECTS RECEIVE GO-SIGNAL

The Philippines Department of Agriculture (DA) has approved P45 million-worth of applied biotechnology research projects this year for the improvement of rice, coconut, papaya, and abaca. The DA-approved biotechnology projects for 2007 include the development of papaya hybrid varieties with delayed ripening traits, which will be implemented by the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB) Foundation, and the UPLB Institute of Plant Breeding; improvement of rice hybrid lines to be carried out by the Philippine Rice Research Institute to increase rice production; control and management of the brontispa disease in coconut initiated by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA); cloning and mass propagation of high-yield coconuts by the PCA-Albay Research Center; and the development of genetically modified varieties of abaca (Manila hemp) by the Fiber Development Authority (FIDA).

To read more, visit http://www.da.gov.ph/.

[Top]
PHILIPPINES APPROVES 12th STACKED TRAIT PRODUCT

The Philippine Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry recently approved Pioneer Hi-Bred's Corn DAS 59122 x Corn NK 603 for direct use as food and/or feed. This would make it the 12th approved stacked trait product eligible for release. Other combined trait products that were already approved include Corn MON810 x Corn NK603 and Cotton 531 x Cotton 1445 by Monsanto, and Corn TC 1507 X Corn NK603 by Pioneer Hi-Bred.

Access the summary of approved combined trait products in the Philippines at http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200701/146279920.doc.

[Top]
PAKISTAN SUBMITS BIOSAFETY APPLICATIONS

Pakistan public sector R&D centers have started submitting applications to the National Biosafety Committee (NBC). The NBC is a directorate established in the Ministry of Environment for commercialization and field trial approvals of biotech crops. It is currently considering two applications under the Biosafety Rules 2005.

The National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Faisalabad, has applied for the commercialization of their Bt Cotton variety “IR-FH-901”. In 1997 NIBGE conducted field trials to check and analyze many safety tests on various Bt cotton varieties, with desirable results against the Bollworms known as “Sundies”.

The Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), at the University of the Punjab Lahore, has also submitted an application to NBC for permission to conduct field trials of the Bt cotton varieties “MNH-93” and “CIM 482”, in collaboration with a national and a multinational company.

Read the article written by Ijaz Ahmad Rao at http://www.pakissan.com/english/advisory/biotechnology/adoption.of.bt.cotton.in.pakistan.shtml

EUROPE

[Top]
EU TO LIFT MEASURES AGAINST Bt10 IN US EXPORTS

The European Union Member States agreed to lift the EU requirement for all imports of US corn gluten feed and brewers' grain, and certify the imports as free from the genetically modified organism Bt10. The Bt10 corn was only detected once in May 2005 in a US shipment to the EU and on this occasion it was stopped at the border. The last case of Bt10 detected in the United States was in early November 2005 and Syngenta, the company responsible for developing Bt10, has taken a series of measures to ensure that this GMO is no longer propagated.

Read the press release at http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEX/07/0117&format=HTML
&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en.

[Top]
BIOTECH CORN AREA INCREASING IN SPAIN

A recent report by USDA-FAS Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN) indicated that the proportion of the total area planted in Spain with biotech corn is increasing. This trend is especially evident in Catalonia and Aragon areas where the corn borer pest is prominent.

The GAIN report stated that corn production in Spain has shrunk in the past year due to persistent drought. However, the proportion of biotech corn over the total corn area has been increasing. In 2006, there is an estimated 53,700 hectares of biotech corn that was planted. This is about 14.8% of the total corn area, a proportion that is higher than last year’s 12.8%. All of the biotech corn planted and harvested in Spain is used in the production of feeds.

The complete report can be found at http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200701/146279912.pdf.

[Top]
ANTIBODY VARIANTS PRODUCED FROM PLANT SEEDS

Researchers at the Ghent University in Belgium have demonstrated the possibility of producing human antibody-like proteins from plant seeds. Geert De Jaeger and his colleagues succeeded in producing the novel proteins from seeds of Arabidopsis. The proteins were found to be as effective as human antibodies in protecting animal cells against Hepatitis A virus infection.

The research of De Jaeger’s group may have important implications in reducing the production costs of medicines in the future by 10-100 times. Most medicines today are produced using bacteria or animal cells, requiring extra equipments which may not be required if working with plants.

The complete press release is at
http://www.vib.be/NR/rdonlyres/17268A44-2198-459B-A50F-AA4B6E869151/2180/20070100_ENG_VanDroogenbroeck_antilichameninArabid.pdf.

Research

[Top]
HERBICIDE TOLERANT MAIZE AND BIODIVERSITY

The effects of continuous planting of herbicide tolerant maize on diversity of plant and invertebrates were examined by a group of researchers in the United Kingdom. M.S. Heard and his colleagues studied eight maize fields that were previously used for Field Scale Evaluations (FSE). They looked for differences in arable biodiversity when the fields were continuously planted with herbicide tolerant maize instead of being rotated with conventional maize or other cereal crops.

The research group gathered data for two cropping seasons. Some of the biodiversity indicators recorded include weed species abundance, seed rain data, within-field invertebrate species abundance, and vegetation cover. The indicators were obtained before the crops were sown, during the season, and after harvest.

In the first year of cropping, Heard and colleagues observed that weed biomass and seed rain were greater in biotech maize but there was no clear pattern in the second year. This observation about the variation in the effects on individual plant species is consistent with earlier studies. They concluded that research on the field used in FSEs provides little evidence for cumulative effects on biodiversity resulting from continuous planting of herbicide maize.

The full paper in the journal Annals of Applied Biology can be accessed by subscribers at
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-7348.2006.00091.x

[Top]
ETHANOL CO-PRODUCTS AS FODDER FOR LIVESTOCK

Dried distillers grain (DDG) is a byproduct of the distillation process, and in recent years ethanol plants have become sources of distillers grain. Researchers at the Iowa State University are studying the use of distillers grain from corn as feeds for livestock. Areas of research include feeding distillers grain on the meat quality; using ethanol co-products in forage-based beef systems; and feeding distiller grain to beef cows, fall-calving cows, pigs and poultry.

Research work on the use of ethanol co-products in forage-based beef systems and in integrated pasture and drylot system for feedlot steers showed that DDG-fed cattle was comparable to the control group in terms of carcass weight. On the other hand, distiller grain supplement was found to benefit grazing cows, fall-calving cows or calves, and yearling steers. In another project, researchers observed that increasing the content of dietary fiber in the feed of laying hens can lower manure ammonia emissions by 40 percent per hen without adversely affecting egg production.

For more information on the research projects, read the full article at http://www.ag.iastate.edu/aginfo/news_detail.php?var1=292

[Top]
BIOSENSOR CHIPS FOR EASY DETECTION OF PLANT MOLECULAR MARKERS

An efficient and inexpensive assay that uses custom-designed biosensor chips to detect unique transgenes in biotech crops was reported by a group of Chinese researchers. The chips can also be used for detecting molecular markers in genomes of model plants such as Arabidopsis.

The biosensor chips work by hybridizing labelled PCR fragments with capture probes covalently attached to their surface. A color change from gold to blue or purple on the chip surface indicates the presence of the specific target sequences. The color can be visualized by the unaided human eye, wrote the group of Su-Lan Bai in their paper published by the Plant Journal. The simple detection method makes this technology less expensive than current microarray methods because costly image documentation systems are not required.

The researchers have shown that various transgenes in biotech canola, corn, soybeans, and cotton can be successfully detected by the chips. The conclude that their discovery can help in nucleotide sequence-based identification assays and have wide applications in crop breeding, trait mapping, and other work requiring positive detection of specific sequences.

For the abstract, with links to the full paper, please visit
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2006.02951.x

Announcements

[Top]
ISAAA/KC WEBSITE HAS A NEW LOOK!

Our website is undergoing dramatic renovations. We are developing the site to make it easier to retrieve information. Some sections may still be incomplete.

Visit the site at: http://www.isaaa.org/ and http://www.isaaa.org/kc/

WORLD BIOTECHNOLOGY CONGRESS IN DISNEY

The Fourth Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing will be held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida from March 21 to 24 2007. This year's theme is “linking biotechnology, chemistry, and agriculture to create new value chains”. This event is organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), American Chemical Society (ACS) and the National Agriculture Biotechnology Council (NABC).

For further information visit http://www.bio.org/worldcongress/

4TH BIOASIA IN INDIA IS ABOUT BIO-BUSINESS

BioAsia 2007 - The Global Bio Business Forum, facilitating innovative partnerships to explore the latest in biotechnology and bioscience, is the 4th edition of BioAsia events. It will be held at the Hyderabad International Convention Center, Hyderabad, India from February 15 to 17, 2007. This event is organized by the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, the University of Hyderabad and supported by the European Federation of Biotechnology and Technology Vision Group LLC.

Visit the official website at http://www.bioasia2007.org/index.htm

USE OF MOLECULAR TOOLS IN STUDYING HOST-PATHOGEN INTERACTIONS

The Atomic Energy Commission of Syria (AECS) has organized a theoretical and practical course that focuses on ''The Use of Molecular Tools in Studying Host-Pathogen Interactions''. The course is to be held on 2-12 April 2007 in Damascus, Syria. For more information and for applications contact Azza Kashlan, Director, Relations and Training Department, Atomic Energy Commission of Syria, P.O. Box 6091, Damascus, Syria (phone: 963 (11) 213-2580; fax: 963 (11) 611-2289; e-mail: atomic@aec.org.sy).

[Top]
Document Reminders

FIRST ISSUE OF “BIOTECH ECHO” NOW OUT: BBA, ISAAA’S NEWSLETTER

The Burkina Biotech Association (BBA) is a non-for-profit organization created by Burkina Faso scientists, with the objective to provide a forum for specialists in the field to voice their opinions and concerns. The creation of BBA, according to BBA’s Director Professor Alasane Séré, is the expression of the refusal by African scientists to be outdistanced by the great scientific revolution of the 21st century, which he qualifies as “the most fantastic scientific and technological adventure of this century”.

Biotech Echo, a joint BBA and ISAAA project, will be published on a monthly basis in French.

Access the January issue of Biotech Echo in: http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cbtnews/pubs/newsletters/biotechecho/Biotech%20Echo-2007-01.pdf

ONLINE RESOURCE: PIPRA AGRICULTURAL IP DATABASE

The beta version of the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA) agricultural intellectual property (IP) database is now available online. The public can access a large volume of patents and patent applications from 39 different countries, as well as monitor and advertise the status information of PIPRA member institutions’ agricultural biotechnology intellectual properties. The database can be accessed at http://pipra.m-cam.com.

AFRICAN PLANT INFO DATABASE

Information on hundreds of useful plants of tropical Africa can be obtained through PROTAbase, an online database by the international not-for profit foundation Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA). The database contains information on approximately 7,000 useful plants of tropical Africa. The resource aims to help provide information to decision-makers in government, private sector, research, education and rural development, and end-users in the region.

The database is accessible at http://database.prota.org/search.htm.

USDA FLAVONOID DATABASE

The updated database of the US Department of Agriculture now provides analytical values on 26 flavonoids in more than 300 foods. Flavonoids are plant metabolites that are known to have antioxidant activities. The resource can be valuable to researchers evaluating associations between dietary flavonoid intake and risk factors for various chronic diseases. To date, many studies have provided evidence suggesting an association between consumption of diets high in flavonoids and reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

Read the complete press release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070110.htm. The updated database can be accessed at http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata/flavonoid.

EMBRAPA’S KIT OF SUSTAINABLE USE OF BRAZILIAN BIOMASS

EMBRAPA has published a set of six brochures on the main types of biomass of Brazil, entitled “A Embrapa nos Biomas Brasileiros”. The publication presents a synthesis of the integrated activities of EMBRAPA for the sustainable use of natural resources taking into account the peculiarities of each region, and it aims to raise interest among stakeholders in the technical tools available for this purpose.

The kit can be obtained from: http://www.embrapa.br/

FROM THE BICs

BIOTECHNOLOGY SEMINAR IN INDONESIA FOR STUDENTS

“An effort to build positive perception on biotechnology” was the theme of National Seminar on “Biotechnology for Better Future” which was conducted on 6 January 2007 at SEAMEO BIOTROP, Bogor, Indonesia. The event was organized by the Indonesian Biotechnology Student Forum (IBSF) and supported by the Indonesian Biotechnology Information Centre (IndoBIC) and Monsanto. Participants included students from Indonesian Universities, such as University of Indonesia (UI), Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Bogor Agriculture University (IPB), National University (UNAS) and members of institutions related to biotechnology. The National Seminar focused on biotechnology development and its applications and impacts in Indonesia.

Contact Dr. Bambang Purwantara at b.purwantara@biotrop.org or Dewi Suryani at dewisuryani@biotrop.org for more information on the seminar.

Do not hesitate to tell other colleagues/contacts about this mail list. If they wish to join, they should send an e-mail message to knowledge.center@isaaa.org leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows: SUBSCRIBE Crop Biotech Network

To stop receiving this newsletter, please send an e-mail message to knowledge.center@isaaa.org and write, "unsubscribe newsletter" in the subject box.

Please visit CropBiotech Net web pages (http://www.isaaa.org/kc) to view previous issues of this newsletter and see other available resources for download.


Copyright © 2006 ISAAA
Editorial Policy

Friday, January 12, 2007

CROP BIOTECH 1/12/07

In This Issue

January 12, 2007

NEWS

Global
Good Agri Practices Enable Developing Countries to Cope with Globalization
Syngenta, Diversa Form Partnership to Discover Enzymes for Biofuels
Plant-Produced Insulin Equivalent to Commercial Insulin
Divergence, Monsanto to Develop Nematode-Resistant Soybeans
Canola Commission Studies Benefits of Expiring Canola Patents

Africa
Factors for Greater Acceptance of GM Banana

The Americas
Economic Impact of GM Crops in Argentina
Canada, India to Collaborate on Agri-Biotech Information Exchange
BIO: Biotech to Ensure Sustainable Supply of Food and Fuel
NSF Funds Research in Crop Comparative Genomics
Improving Crop Plants through Genomics

Asia
GM Food to Be Labeled in Sri Lanka
Pakistan Faces Cotton Production Constraints amidst Increasing Local Demand

Europe
Studies on GM Feeds
£13M Research Fund to Develop Better Crops in UK
Coping with Climate Change for Next Generation of Farmers

RESEARCH
Valencia Oranges Lose ‘Orange Smell’ at High Storage Temperatures
Genetic Mapping of Finger Millet
Antecedents of Attitudes towards GM and Novel Foods in Australia




ANNOUNCEMENTS | DOCUMENT REMINDERS
Biofuels Supplement (12 Jan 2007 Issue) [Read latest news]
<< Previous Issue | [ Print PDF | Archive | Translations | Subscribe | RSS ]
News

GLOBAL

[Top]
GOOD AGRI PRACTICES ENABLE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES TO COPE WITH GLOBALIZATION

Changing international and domestic food markets, and different sets of standards and codes are becoming a challenge for developing countries in penetrating markets in developed countries. However, they also create opportunities for improvement. Good agricultural practices (GAP) can help developing countries cope with these globalization realities. These views were shared by experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The term “good agricultural practices” is commonly used to designate codes of agricultural production methods for implementation at farm level, which are promoted by many public and private sectors said FAO expert Anne-Sophie Poisot. It can help promote sustainable agriculture and contribute to a better environmental and social development at both national and international levels. For example, improvements in agricultural practices, such as integrated production and pest management, can lead to substantial improvements not only in terms of yield and production efficiencies but also in health and safety of workers added Paola Termine from FAO’s Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Programme.

Read more on FAO’s news release at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000475/index.html.

[Top]
SYNGENTA AND DIVERSA FORM PARTNERSHIP TO DISCOVER ENZYMES FOR BIOFUELS

Syngenta and Diversa Corporation recently announced a new 10-year research and development partnership focused on the discovery and development of a range of novel enzymes to be utilized for biofuel production. The agreement allows Diversa to independently develop and commercialize fermentation-based enzyme combinations from its proprietary platform. Syngenta will have exclusive access to enzymes from Diversa’s platform to express in plants for enhanced cost-effective production.

Read the news release at http://www.syngenta.com/en/media/press/2007/01-08.htm.

[Top]
PLANT-PRODUCED INSULIN EQUIVALENT TO COMMERCIAL INSULIN

The safflower-produced insulin by the biotech company SemBioSys Genetics, Inc. has been confirmed through analytical, in vitro and in vivo assays to be chemically, structurally and functionally equivalent to U.S. pharma grade human insulin. The results from the equivalence testing are the most recent achievement for the insulin program.

"As a result of these achievements we expect that we will be able to submit an Investigational New Drug Application (IND) later this year and initiate a Pharmacokinetic/ Pharmacodynamic study of safflower-produced insulin late in the fourth quarter of 2007 or early in the first quarter of 2008, leading to an end of Phase II meeting with the FDA in 2008", said Andrew Baum, President and CEO of the company. Insulin is used for the treatment of diabetes, and demand for high quality insulin is projected to increase to 16,000 kilograms by 2012.

The news article is available at http://www.sembiosys.com/news2.aspx?id=5295&secId=7.

[Top]
DIVERGENCE, MONSANTO TO DEVELOP NEMATODE-RESISTANT SOYBEANS

Monsanto Company and Divergence, Inc. have extended for another year their on-going collaboration agreement to develop nematode-resistant soybeans. During the past two years, the companies have made notable progress in controlling the damage inflicted by the soybean cyst nematode, which attacks roots of soybeans during the growing season.

As part of the collaboration, Monsanto gained exclusive rights to Divergence's existing technology in this area and provided funding for ongoing research by Divergence. Divergence has received milestone payments under the collaboration based on research and development successes and will receive royalties once applicable products reach the marketplace.

Read the press release at http://www.divergence.com/press/20070109.htm

[Top]
CANOLA COMMISSION STUDIES BENEFITS OF EXPIRING CANOLA PATENTS

Canada’s Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SCDC) is determining whether several canola-related patents that are expiring soon will benefit farmers. Last year the SCDC commissioned a study to determine patent issues related to herbicide canola. These involves finding out whether protected varieties can be used in research and also to explore if there are economic benefits on developing and commercializing a generic herbicide tolerant canola.

The commissioned study has determined that: a) research exemptions exist but are currently limited to the pharmaceutical industry, b) regulatory procedures for risk assessment of novel traits now takes longer (compared to 5 years ago); and c) the benefits of farmers through savings gained from reduced technology use agreement (TUA) cost is still unknown. The report also mentioned that it is possible that companies holding the current patents may extend the intellectual property protection by filing new ones that just pertain to uninventive additions.

The complete press release is at http://www.saskcanola.com/news/2007-0109-patents.html. The full report can be accessed at http://www.saskcanola.com/pdfs/scdc-patent-report.pdf.

AFRICA

[Top]
FACTORS FOR GREATER ACCEPTANCE OF GM BANANA

Targeting traits that reflect local production conditions and consumption preferences, and identifying local banana varieties as host plants, may lead to greater acceptability of genetically engineered (GE) banana varieties. Other factors include the appropriate design of biosafety regulatory frameworks, consumer attitudes toward biosafety risk, and potential challenges of marketing transgenic products in domestic and foreign markets. These were conclusions forwarded by “A trait-based model of the potential demand for a genetically engineered food crop in a developing economy” by Svetlana Edmeades and Melinda Smale for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Using an economic model, the researchers predict the potential demand of smallholder farmers for GE banana, particularly cooking banana for East African highlands. They note that clients for transgenic banana planting material are likely to be poorer, subsistence-oriented farmers in areas greatly affected by biotic constraints.

The full article was published in the journal Agricultural Economics but is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-0862.2006.00167.x.

AMERICAS

[Top]
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF GM CROPS IN ARGENTINA

GM crops have positively affected Argentina’s agricultural sector, as well as its economy. This is among the conclusions of Eduardo Trigo and Eugenio Cap in their report published by the Argentine Council for Information and Development of Biotechnology (ArgenBio).

Argentina is currently the second largest producer of GM crops worldwide. Trigo and Cap examined herbicide-tolerant soybean, Bt corn and Bt cotton. They reported that soybean varieties grown in the country are now all GM, indicating very rapid adoption of the technology. The gross benefits for growing herbicide-tolerant soybean total to about US$20 billion over the last ten years; for Bt corn about US$482 million; and for Bt cotton about US$21 million. Majority of this amount went to farmers, while the rest to seed suppliers, herbicide suppliers, and the Argentine government.

GM crops were cited to also have indirect positive impacts to Argentina including increasing the productivity in the livestock sector, job creation, growth in gross domestic product (GDP), and considerable savings to consumers.

Links to the press release and the full report (in Spanish and English) can be found at http://www.argenbio.com/h/nuevo_estudio/10anos.php

[Top]
CANADA, INDIA TO COLLABORATE ON AGRI-BIOTECH INFORMATION EXCHANGE

Canada announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with India to facilitate the exchange of technology and expertise between the two countries in conducting research in agriculture, agri-food, and rural development. Of particular interest are agricultural biotechnology, bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers, functional and nutraceutical foods and environmental technologies. The MOU does not involve an exchange of funding, but establishes guidelines for setting research priorities and projects.

The press release is available at http://www.agr.gc.ca/cb/index_e.php?s1=n&s2=2007&page=n70105.

[Top]
BIO: BIOTECH TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY OF FOOD AND FUEL

In response to a new Earth Policy Institute (EPI) report that forecasts an increase in global food prices with the advent of crop-derived fuels, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said that agricultural biotechnology will help ensure an environmentally sustainable supply of food and raw material for biofuels. BIO’s recently released report, “Achieving Sustainable Production of Agricultural Biomass for Biorefinery Feedstock,” outlines current and future feedstock supply challenges for the biofuel industry and discusses incentives to spur sustainable production, harvest and delivery of agricultural cellulosic biomass.

The news release can be read at http://www.bio.org/news/newsitem.asp?id=2007_0105_01. The BIO report is available at http://www.bio.org/ind/biofuel/SustainableBiomassReport.pdf. For the EPI report “Distillery Demand for Grain to Fuel Cars Vastly Understated”, visit http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2007/Update63.htm.

[Top]
NSF FUNDS RESEARCH IN CROP COMPARATIVE GENOMICS

The National Science Foundation (NSF) doled out $14 million in new awards to advance research in comparative genomics of economically important plants. Universities that received grants from the NSF include the Iowa State University for the study of polyploidy in cotton; University of Missouri for research on polyploidy in Brassica species; and University of Georgia and the University of Arizona for developing sequence resources to study genome organization in wheat and rice.

Projects based at the University of California at Davis and Cornell University will catalog variants in pine trees and in maize, respectively, to allow researchers to link genetic variation with changes in gene function. At Washington University St. Louis, researchers will investigate the red rice genome associated with weediness, while scientists at Michigan State University will examine differences in gene expression in weedy and cultivated radishes.

Readers can access the press release at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=108263&org=NSF&from=news.

[Top]
IMPROVING CROP PLANTS THROUGH GENOMICS

Agricultural Research magazine features some of the latest undertakings of the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory (PSNL) in Ithaca, New York using genomics. Computational biology, which integrates computer science with biological research, and molecular biology are generating promising results for research on plant diseases particularly on virulence-related genes and pathways.

Research is being done to develop better tasting tomatoes, melon and strawberry that meet commercial shelf-life needs. Studies on manipulating genes that regulate fruit’s response to light are being done to alter fruit quality and nutritional value.

Worldwide vitamin A deficiency is being addressed by studies on carotenoids using a cauliflower gene, dubbed “Or” for the color orange, to induce accumulation of high levels of beta-carotene in food crops. Other projects include developing statistical and genetic tools for identifying natural variation in agronomically important traits in maize.

With genomic tools used on maize and rice, scientists have identified genes and associated mechanisms that help plants tolerate soil acidity and toxic metals, particularly aluminum tolerance in maize and sorghum. The goal of this research is to improve crop-plant cultivation on marginal, and even highly acidic, soils that limit crop production worldwide.

The web version of the article may be viewed at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan07/plants0107.htm

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

[Top]
GM FOOD TO BE LABELED IN SRI LANKA

The Sri Lanka Health Ministry rules that all genetically modified (GM) foods must be labeled. Beginning January 1, 2007 sellers or importers of GM food products should specify that their products have been genetically modified, or contain genetically modified organisms. A fine of fine of up to 10,000 rupees equivalent to US$100 is the penalty for those who fail to comply.

“GM-free foods” on the other hand should be certified by the Chief Food Authority (CFA) Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage, the country's Director General of Health. Some government laboratories will be equipped with GM testing facilities for this.

View the news article at the following link http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v3/news_lite.php?id=239977

[Top]
PAKISTAN FACES COTTON PRODUCTION CONSTRAINTS AMIDST INCREASING LOCAL DEMAND

Cotton production in Pakistan, already grown on 7.65 million acres, has to cope with the demand of its textile industry which will require three million bales in 2008. However, problems still continue to plague the cotton industry in the country, says Ijaz Ahmad Rao in an article analyzing the cotton situation in Pakistan.

Ahmad Rao enumerates several constraints: low yield, high price of agricultural inputs, pest problems, shortage of good quality seeds, and lack of advanced technologies. Two options are proposed – increase area planted to cotton, and the other is to adopt modern technologies, such as the use of biotech cotton.

Expanding production area is no longer possible, notes Rao, while Pakistan’s market with inadequate intellectual property protection and untried biosafety rules are forcing farmers to plant illegal Bt cotton seeds, thus undermining the potential of the modern varieties.

Email Ijaz Ahmad Rao at luckystarpk@yahoo.com or read his article at
http://www.nation.com.pk/daily/jan-2007/8/bnews6.php.

EUROPE

[Top]
STUDIES ON GM FEEDS

Researchers at the Federal Agricultural Research Center (FAL) in Braunschweig, Germany have been conducting studies with feeds from genetically modified (GM) plants (GMP) in the nutrition of swine, poultry, and cattle. The majority of the experiments were undertaken with GMP of the so-called first generation (plants with input traits and without substantial changes in composition). The fate of DNA during feed processing, in the digestive tract of animals, and in the animal body was one of the focal points of the studies.

The iso- and transgenic feeds were subjected to compositional analyses, and nutritional and safety assessment. In agreement with more than 100 animal studies available to date, results show no significant differences in the nutritional value of feeds from GMP of the first generation and that of feeds from non-GMP varieties. To date, no fragments of recombinant DNA have been found in any organ or tissue sample from animals fed with GMP.

The abstract of the article “Studies on feeds from genetically modified plants (GMP) – Contributions to nutritional and safety assessment” is available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T42-4KWTFD8-3&_user=677719&_handle
=C-WA-A-AU-AU-MsSAYWW-UUA-U-U-AU-U-U-AADAUYVAVE-AAZYZZVEVE-WUZYBACDA-AU-
U&_fmt=summary&_coverDate=02%2F01%2F2007&_rdoc=3&_orig=browse&_srch=%23toc%234962
%232007%23998669998%23639550!&_cdi=4962&_acct=C000036823&_version=1&_urlVersion=0
&_userid=677719&md5=4c227e15057f7fd6e10c9dd34694ed16.

[Top]
£13M RESEARCH FUND TO DEVELOP BETTER CROPS IN UK

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the primary public funding body for bioscience research in the UK, has awarded over £13M to projects that will aim to address challenges to agriculture posed by climate change and an increasing need for sustainable agriculture. New research will exploit basic plant science and plant genetics to find solutions to problems on:

How to grow crops able to cope with climate change;
How to breed vegetables that remain nutritious after days in the fridge;
How to grow more effective biofuels to help reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels; and
How to exploit plants more effectively to produce better bread, beer, biodegradable carrier bags and for other applications.
The press release is available at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/pressreleases/07_01_09_croplaunch.html. For more information on projects funded by the BBSRC Crop Science Initiative, visit http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/briefings/crop_launch.pdf.

[Top]
COPING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE FOR NEXT GENERATION OF FARMERS

Who has seen roses bloom in December? Now that the climate has been muddled up, it is no surprise to see roses flower at Christmas. Scientists studying how plants naturally evolve to cope with the changing seasons of temperate climates have made a discovery that can be useful in breeding crops able to adapt to global warming.

Researchers at the John Innes Centre (JIC) have been examining how plants use the cold of winter to time their flowering for the relative warmth of spring. This process, called vernalization, varies even within the same plant species, depending on local climate. One particular gene, named FLC, delays flowering over the winter and the research team discovered how cold turns off FLC and what keeps it off during growth in spring.
To read more, visit http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/pressreleases/07_01_10_plants.html.

Research

[Top]
VALENCIA ORANGES LOSE ‘ORANGE SMELL’ AT HIGH STORAGE TEMPERATURES

A research done by Spanish researchers at the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research, and the Polytechnic Institute of Valencia, provides useful information on post-harvest storage of oranges. Valencia Late Frost orange varieties were found to have less acidity and orange-like flavor when stored at high temperatures (20 and 250C) compared to when stored at low temperatures (5 and 150C). The inverse relationship between Valencia oranges lose ‘orange smell’ at high storage temperatures
and the orange character was determined by quantifying acidity and by sensory evaluation.

During the experiments, Valencia oranges were stored for up to one month at the different temperatures. Acidity, soluble solid content, maturity index, and ethanol and acetaldehyde contents of the fruits were measured in the laboratory. Taste panelists also determined different sensory attributes including acidity, maturity index, off-flavors and orange-like flavors. Among the significant relationships found is that off-flavors reduce orange-like flavors but did not affect the acidity or the maturity index.

The open access article can be accessed at http://www.inia.es/gcontrec/pub/336-344-(119_05)-Effect_1165318134546.pdf.

[Top]
GENETIC MAPPING OF FINGER MILLET

Four types of molecular markers were used to obtain the genetic map of the polyploid finger millet (Eleusine coracana subsp. coracana), an important cereal crop in East Africa and Southern India. Finger millet is grown mainly by subsistence farmers and serves as a food security crop because of its high-nutritional value and excellent storage qualities. To date most varieties of finger millet are from germplasm selections as there are very few breeding activities on the crop. Hybridization between cultivated types or between wild and cultivated types may have potential in improving finger millet.

The construction of the genetic map by an international group of researchers provided the first step toward mapping traits of agronomic importance. Mathews Dida and colleagues utilized several types of molecular markers to generate the genetic map from plants derived by crossing the wild progenitor of finger millet and an elite cultivar. The researchers believe that the map will ultimately help in transferring useful traits such as blast resistance, lodging resistance, drought tolerance, and nutritional value, in finger millet breeding programs.

The complete paper published by the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics, can be accessed by subscribers at http://www.springerlink.com/content/2700114455h04131/fulltext.html.

[Top]
ANTECEDENTS OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS GM AND OTHER NOVEL FOODS IN AUSTRALIA

Researchers at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have recommended that scientists and food manufacturers test new products derived from novel technologies for positive perception by consumers. This will help their products to be easily accepted in the marketplace and allow them to be successful.

G. Evans and D.N. Cox tested Australian consumers for antecedents to their attitudes towards four foods (yoghurt, margarine, pasta, and prawns) produced using various technologies, including genetic modification. The researchers found that there are significant differences between attitudes of consumers towards foods from the different technologies.

Australian consumers rated products - like margarine with GM Omega 3 flaxseed oil and resistant pasta - more negatively if they found out that they were derived from technologies that included words like “genetically modified” or “GM”, than products produced by technologies described by less controversial words, such as pasteurization.

Evan and Cox explained that the potential benefits of GM are not often recognized by consumers, because the benefits of the early GM (first generation) products were producer oriented. This attitude still persists even though the products they have used in their study belong to second generation GM that offers quality traits. Furthermore, the researchers pointed out that many other factors can affect food choice including price and familiarity with the product. They recommend that a similar study be conducted to test consumer attitudes in other cultures.

The paper published by the British Food Journal is available for subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/0.1108/00070700610709968.

Announcements

[Top]
BIOINFORMATICS COURSE FOR AFRICAN SCIENTISTS

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will organize in collaboration with the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute (AGERI), an Introductory Course in Bioinformatics to be held at AGERI, Giza, Egypt on February 4-15, 2007. UNCTAD will select and sponsor up to 20 scientists from African countries. For additional details, contact Ms. Marie-Elise Dumans at marie-elise.dumans@unctad.org or
Mr. Mongi Hamdi at mongi.hamdi@unctad.org.

6th ASIAN CROP SCIENCE ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE

The BioAsia 2007 conference will be held on November 7-9, 2007 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the theme, “Technology for self-sufficient agriculture in Asia”. The event aims to bring together agricultural scientists in Asia to share research experiences. The focus of the conference is to emphasize on addressing science and community aspects assuring the long-term survival of local, healthy, secure, sustainable food and energy in Asia. Topics for discussion include biofuels, phytobioremediation, biopharming, and cassava biotechnology.
For more information, visit http://www.biotec.or.th/BioAsia2007/home/conference.asp.

ENVIRONMENTAL AND RURAL SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH ICT

The Annual Conference of the European Federation of IT in Agriculture and the World Congress on Computers in Agriculture (EFITA/WCCA 2007) conference will examine the role and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in three key areas of rural and agricultural sustainability: ICT supporting on-farm business; ICT supporting rural sustainability; and ICT supporting environmental sustainability. The event will take place in Glasgow, Scotland on July 2-5, 2007.

For more information visit: http://www.efitaglasgow.org/

BIOSAFETY COURSE SLATED IN BRAZIL

The course will run 24-28 September 2007 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It is primarily aimed at Latin American professionals who will be in a position to review applications for the deliberate release of GM crops. The workshop aims to discuss the near term evolution and challenges in GM biosafety, namely the developments of GM crops expressing complex phenotypes, non-food applications, and gene-restriction constructs. The workshop will comprise formal lectures on biosafety, and several sessions of hands-on exercises as in actual regulatory review process.

Requests for information and applications directly to:
Dr. Leila Oda. E-mail: secretaria@anbio.org.br or l.oda@uol.com.br.

COURSES ON PGR CONSERVATION & USE

A training program for plant genetic resources researchers and genebank managers will be conducted on 21 May 2007 to 29 June 2007 in Wageningen, The Netherlands. The training aims for participants and facilitators to exchange experiences and to explore practical applications for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in agriculture.

Six two week courses are offered which are parts of two overlapping training programs: a) Contemporary and participatory approaches in plant genetic resources conservation and use, and b) Advanced management practices towards sustainable use of plant genetic resources. Each two week course in each program will provide independent and comprehensive training. A course that will discuss the applications of biotechnology to the study of genetic diversity and plant breeding will be held on 18-29 July 2007.

For details on the individual courses within the program, and for fellowship application please visit http://www.wi.wur.nl/UK/newsagenda/agenda/Conservation
__sustainable_use_of_plant_genetic_resources.htm.

WORLD SEED CONGRESS 2007

Registration to the annual World Seed Congress opened last week. The event was organized by the International Seed Federation and will be held on 21-23 May 2007 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The international congress provides opportunities for trade, debate, policy-setting and networking, and also plays a fundamental role in sustaining the present and future success of world seed industry. For more information please visit http://www.conference.co.nz/index.cfm/worldseed2007/Home.

59TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON CROP PROTECTION

The 59th International Symposium on Crop Protection will be held on 22 May 2007 at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering of the Ghent University, Belgium. The symposium will focus on new developments in all aspects of crop protection. The program will include a plenary session with two invited papers and parallel sessions with submitted papers related to phytopathology, entomology, nematology and acarology, pesticide residues, biological and integrated control of pests, diseases and weeds.

More information is available at http://www.iscp.ugent.be/.

8TH AFRICAN CROP SCIENCE SOCIETY CONFERENCE

The African Crop Science Society (ACSS) and Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, Egypt is calling for abstracts for the 8th African Crop Science Society Conference. The conference will be held on 27- 31 October 2007 in El-Minia, Egypt. The conference theme is “Crop research, technology dissemination and adoption to increase food supply, reducing hunger and poverty in Africa”. Among the topics to be discussed at the conference include: crop improvement and physiology, biodiversity and natural resources management, post harvest handling and food sciences, crop protection, crop genetics and biotechnology, and environmental sciences.

More information on this event at http://www.africancrops.net/News/july06/acss8.htm.

XVI INTERNATIONAL PLANT PROTECTION CONGRESS

Every four years, the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) conducts its congress. The upcoming one will be held on 15-18 October 2007, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. This congress will cover a very wide subject area. In addition to the usual topics such as biological control and resistance, new sessions and specialized ones have been also added. Among the novel topics to be discussed include: biofuels and bioenergy, biosensors, biopharmaceuticals, post-harvest disease control, neonicotinoides, and semiochemicals.

More information at http://www.bcpc.org/ippc2007/

[Top]
Document Reminders

GRASSWEED DATABASE

Bayer’s online GrassWeed Database gives details on the world’s most prevalent grass weeds in cereal crops. The database contains information on 50 top grass species and a weed identification tool that can help the user to identify a grass. It also makes possible to see an infestation map for the nine most important grasses in cereal production.

The resource can be accessed at http://courier.bayercropscience.com/gwdsite/frameset.html?http://courier.bayercropscience.com/
gwdsite/gwd/en/index.html

TRAINING MANUAL ON POSTHARVEST FOR TOMATO AND CHILI

The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) has published Technical Bulletin No. 38 - a postharvest training manual on tomato and chilli for Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. AVRDC’s training manual is aiming help the three countries to build postharvest research capabilities. The countries are recipients of a Regional Technical Assistance (RETA) on the crops from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The manual contains topics on postharvest physiology and technology of tomato and chilli, and also statistical procedures for analyzing research data which may be of interest to crop researchers in general.

The manual is available at http://www.avrdc.org/postharvest/training/PHT_research_training_manual-english.pdf

AFRICAN JOURNALS ONLINE

The African journals online library (AJOL) provides a central online repository for African scholarly journals, and a document delivery service. AJOL aims to give greater visibility to Africa’s participating journals, and increase worldwide knowledge of indigenous scholarship. AJOL started in 1998 as a project, supported by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publication (INASP), but since then has grown to become a South African not-for-profit company.

To access the African journal collection please visit http://www.ajol.info.

FUNCTIONAL GLYCOMICS GATEWAY

The Functional Glycomics Gateway is a new comprehensive and regularly updated online resource that offers free information for glycobiologists, cell biologists and biochemists. The gateway was launched last month and is being provided by the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) in collaboration with the Consortium for Functional Glycomics (CFG). The CFG is a large research initiative composed of more than 300 participating investigators and seven scientific core laboratories.

Visit the gateway at http://www.functionalglycomics.org to find out more information.


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Please visit CropBiotech Net web pages (http://www.isaaa.org/kc) to view previous issues of this newsletter and see other available resources for download.

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.