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CropBiotech Update 11 July 2008

G8 Calls for Increased Global Access to Agricultural Biotechnology . Some Plants Can Adapt to Climate Change Pushing the World Water Crisis at the Forefront Codex Adopts Guidelines to Assess Safety of Low-Level GM Materials FAO Initiative to Counter Soaring Food Prices

Burkina Faso Officially Joins Biotech Countries
Kenya to Seek Donor Support for New Agriculture Development Fund
South Africa's First Publicly-Funded GM Crop Awaits Approval
Concerns on Release of GM Potato Cultivar in South Africa

Scientists to Sequence Duckweed Genome
University of Delaware Researcher Builds Better Lima Bean
A Mutant Protein that Makes Viruses Self-Destruct
Sigma Aldrich, Metahelix in Plant Biotech Collaboration

Asia and the Pacific
China Approves Biotech Crop Development Program
India Exempts Raw Cotton from Customs Duties
Indonesia Develops Biofarming
R&D Boost for Biofuel Program In the Philippines
Bacterial Fermentation of Sweet Sorghum for Ethanol Production
GM Torenia with Enhanced Phosphate Uptake

GMO Approval Needs Overhaul
Higher CO2 Level Means Higher Tolerance of Barley to Salinity

GM Tomatoes may Prevent Alzheimer's Disease
Biotechnology to Enhance Plant Seed Oils for Human Nutrition
GM Tobacco to Clean-up Soil and Groundwater Contaminant

Biofuels Supplement ( July 11, 2008 Issue)

News and Trends
Biodiversity Pressures in Palm Oil Plantations <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2803
New Biodiesel Standards Approved by ASTM <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2800
US DOE-JGI's 2009 Genome Sequencing Project Line-Up for Bioenergy and Environment Applications <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2801
Japan Airlines to Conduct Second-Generation-Biofuel Powered Test Flight <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2802

Energy Crops and Feedstocks for Biofuels Production
Salix as Biofuel Feedstock in New Zealand <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2804

Biofuels Policy and Economics
UN-FAO Declaration on Climate Change, Bioenergy, and World Food Security <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2805
UK to Slow Down Biofuels Adoption <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2806
Change in EU Biofuel Policy in European Energy Ministers' Meeting <http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/biofuels/default.asp?Date=7/11/2008#2807


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G8 Calls for Increased Global Access to Agricultural Biotechnology

Leaders of the G8 countries, meeting in Hokkaido, Japan for their annual summit, agree that biotechnology could help farmers increase crop productivity and provide more healthful food around the globe. Addressing the issue of global food security, the leaders said that they will "accelerate research and development and increase access to new agricultural technologies to boost agricultural production" and "promote science-based risk analysis including the contribution of seed varieties developed through biotechnology".

The leaders also agreed to promote agricultural research and development and training of scientists and experts from developing countries focusing on the dissemination of improved, locally adapted and sustainable farming technologies, via the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). In addition, a global partnership on agriculture and food will be formed. The partnership, which would be coordinated by the United Nations, will involve developing country governments, the private sector, civil society, donors, and international institutions. "As part of this partnership, a global network of high-level experts on food and agriculture would provide science-based analysis, and highlight needs and future risks."

 The Group of Eight countries include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United States and the United Kingdom.

 Read the official G8 statement at
For more information, read

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Some Plants Can Adapt to Climate Change

A new study conducted by scientists from Syracuse University and the University of Sheffield found that some plant species are adaptable to long-term changes in temperature and rainfall. The new findings resulted from the analysis of 13 years of data collected at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) in the United Kingdom by Emeritus Professor J. Philip Grime and colleagues at the University of Sheffield. BCCIL is a field laboratory of grasslands consisting largely of slow-growing herbs and sub-shrubs. Thirty small grassland plots were subjected to microclimate manipulation. A similar experiment was concurrently conducted on grasslands in Southern England. In a 2000 study by Grime and colleagues, the vegetation in the southern plots was substantially altered by the climate changes, while the Buxton vegetation in the north was virtually unaffected.

"Contemporary wisdom suggests that climate changes cause plants to move or die," says Jason Fridley, study co-author and assistant professor of biology in The College of Arts and Sciences at SU. "However, our study suggests that if the changes in climate occur slowly enough, some plants have the ability to respond, adapt and thrive in their existing location."

Read the press release at http://sunews.syr.edu/story_details.cfm?id=5149.

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Pushing the World Water Crisis at the Forefront

High oil prices, biofuels, changing consumption patterns and erratic weather -- these are just some of the reasons that drive the prices of basic foods to an all-time high. But these mask an important question that affects developing countries most: where to acquire water for food, fiber and energy crop production. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) reported that many countries already face severe water scarcity, and developing countries, where most of the world's approximately 840 million undernourished people live, should take heed.

Among the potential solutions to the looming water crisis is better water storage. It can range from large and medium-sized dams to small reservoirs, groundwater systems and rainwater. Once farmers have better year-round access to water, they will be better able to maintain local food security, in conjunction with the development of drought- tolerant crops and improvement of the infrastructure and facilities needed to get fresh food to markets. "Significant investment in both research for development and water infrastructure is essential," says Colin Chartres, IWMI director-general, "if we are to avoid the dire consequences for world agriculture of worsening water scarcity."

Read the complete article at http://www.cgiar.org/monthlystory/july_august2008.html.

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Codex Adopts Guidelines to Assess Safety of Low-Level GM Materials

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has approved key guidelines to further promote the safety of products from plant and animal biotechnology. The commission, during its 31st session in Geneva, Switzerland, approved:

*        the Annex on Food Safety Assessment in Situations of Low-Level Presence of Recombinant-DNA Plant Material in Food (LLP Annex),
*        the Annex on Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant DNA-Plants Modified for Nutritional or Health Benefits, and
*        the Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Animals

 In 2006, the Codex Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology agreed to draft an international guidance for food safety assessment of low-level presence of biotech products authorized as safe for use in food, feed, etc. The draft was approved late last year and was officially adopted by the commission last week.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts to protect consumers' health, ensure fair trade practices in the food trade, and promote coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.

For more information, visit http://www.bio.org/news/newsitem.asp?id=2008_0704_01 The full report can be downloaded at ftp://ftp.fao.org/codex/Alinorm08/al3103Ae.pdf


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FAO Initiative to Counter Soaring Food Prices

To help small farmers and vulnerable households lessen the negative effects of rising food prices and agricultural inputs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has approved a series of projects in 54 countries for a total value of US$ 21 million. The effort is to make available agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers, to increase food production. FAO said that increased food production would help cushion small farmers, who often have to buy a part of their food from markets with rising food prices. This would hopefully lead to a surplus production that could be sold, thus helping to bring price back down.

The UN agency said that their initiative is intended to produce a salutary catalytic effect that will encourage donors, financial institutions and national governments to support the provision of inputs on a much larger scale. In Africa for instance, at least a total of US$1.7 billion will be needed to start reviving agricultural systems that have been neglected for several decades.

Read the complete article at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000877/index.html


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Burkina Faso Officially Joins Biotech Countries

After many years of confined and open field trials, Burkina Faso has finally commercialized Bt cotton making it the third African country after South Africa and Egypt to join the ranks of biotech crop countries. Egypt recently commercialized Bt. maize (MON 810) and South Africa has been growing biotech crops (Bt. maize, Bt. Cotton and GM Soybean) for about 10 years. 

Burkina National Agricultural Research Institute (INERA) and Monsanto recently signed a commercial agreement paving way for the importation of Bt cotton seeds to be grown for seed multiplication. Mr. Kinyua Mbijjewe of Monsanto Africa confirmed that seeds enough for 15,000 hectares had been imported and are already being planted by Burkinabe farmers. INERA hopes to produce 400,000 hectares worth of seeds for the next planting season.

There is widespread optimism in the country that Burkinabe farmers will finally enjoy the economic and agronomic benefits of Bt Cotton that South African, Chinese and Indian small scale farmers have been enjoying for many years. With Burkina Faso (West Africa) and Egypt (North Africa) joining the ranks of biotech countries, the challenge is now on eastern and central African regions to stop dragging their feet on the technology.

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

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Kenya to Seek Donor Support for New Agriculture Development Fund

In response to the World Bank's recent calling for increased funding to the agriculture sector to boost food production, the Kenyan government plans to launch a multimillion dollar special fund for farmers. Agriculture minister William Ruto said the proposed Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) targets to raise half a billion dollars from the government, private sector, foundations and donor agencies. Currently, agriculture sector and related ministries including Livestock, Fisheries, Cooperatives and water are jointly seeking views from stakeholders on how to start the fund and sustain it. Economists, however, say that agriculture sector related ministries require about US $1.3 billion while the estimated credit need by Kenyan farmers is about One Billion USD. This will be used to fully revive following the massive losses they incurred due to chaos that rocked the country early this year as a result of disputed presidential elections.

Kenya's economy is largely dependent on agriculture which contributes 25% of the GDP and 65% of foreign exchange earnings. Ruto said the facility would also be used to finance research and development of new seed varieties that are resistant to diseases, pests and drought. The African Union obligates its member states to allocate at least 2% of the national budget to research, science, technology and innovation activities as one way of ensuring the continent's rapid industrialization.

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

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South Africa's First Publicly-Funded GM Crop Awaits Approval

South Africa's Agricultural Research Council (ARC) has developed a new potato variety resistant to the potato tuber moth, a major pests causing millions worth of harvest loss in major solanaceous crops. The transgenic potato SpuntaG2, developed through the support of the United States Agency for International development (USAID), now awaits safety assessment and general release approval from the national authorities. The approval will enable the ARC to initiate farmer participatory trials under unconfined conditions and develop a certification and labeling system to prepare for commercial release of improved potato varieties. SpuntaG2 is the first publicly-funded genetically modified crop to enter the safety approval process in South Africa.

The new variety performed well in field trials. Environmental studies further showed that the GM crop controls the potato tuber moth without affecting other organisms. Once approved by regulators, ARC will include SpuntaG2 to its breeding program and transfer the potato tuber moth resistance to other preferred varieties. The council does not plan to release SpuntaG2 for commercial farming unless farmers specifically request the material.

View the press release at http://www.arc.agric.za/uploads/images/0_Media_Release_BT_Potato.pdf

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Concerns on Release of GM Potato Cultivar in South Africa

The impending release of the genetically-modified (GM) potato that has resistance to potato tuber moth, has triggered series of concerns among the consumers of South Africa. Potatoes South Africa supports biotechnology and the advantages of the GM potato for the potato industry. However, the group requests that the following concerns be finalized before the GM cultivar is approved for commercialization:

*        Mandatory labelling of any GM potatoes to afford the consumer the choice to purchase GM or non GM potatoes.
*        The development of a testing system for the reliable tracing of GM potatoes in order to make traceability and identification thereof possible.
*        Obtaining the opinion of the consumers, taking into account the opinion of the retail, processing and the fast food industries.
*        The impact of the general release of a GM cultivar on the potato export market should be determined before proceeding with the process.
*        A communication plan must be launched to enable the consumers to make an informed choice on the consumption of GM potatoes.

For details of the media release, contact:  Dr Ben Pieterse of Potatoes South Africa at  bpieterse@agric.co.za. For information on biotechnology in South Africa contact Wynand van der Walt at wynandjvdw@telkomsa.net


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Scientists to Sequence Duckweed Genome

A group of scientists from Rutgers University is obsessed with duckweed, an aquatic species akin to the world's smallest flowering plant. They are convinced with the duckweed's potential for cleaning up wastes in the environment, sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing biofuels. The Rutgers researchers, together with colleagues from the Kyoto University, University of Jena and Oregon State University, have secured funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to sequence the plant's genome.

Duckweed, according to researchers, has the ability to cleanse agricultural and municipal wastewater by accumulating nitrogen, phosphate and heavy metal pollutants. The plant is an ideal feedstock for biofuel production. Duckweed can produce biomass faster than any other flowering plant, and their carbohydrate content can readily be converted to fermentable sugars using widely available enzymes for corn-based ethanol production.

The complete article is available at

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University of Delaware Researcher Builds Better Lima Bean

A University of Delaware Cooperative Extension researcher is conducting studies on how to improve lima bean. Emmalea Ernest is seeking to develop new varieties of lima beans that are flavorful, produce consistently high yields and are resistant to disease, especially downy mildew. Ernest is working on baby lima varieties that are resistant to the disease. Another goal of the study is to create high-quality, heat-tolerant Fordhook limas that will flourish despite Delaware's hot and humid summers. Fordhook limas are commonly grown in coastal California because temperatures are never excessively high.

Plant breeding is a tedious process. A  number of variables must be tracked, such as each plant's size and habit, the number of pods, and the plant's resistance to disease and insects. Only a handful of plants--out of thousands--will be selected to save for cross-breeding in the greenhouse. After four years of research, Ernest is finally ready to test 12 of her inbred lines of limas against proven industry varieties.

Read the complete news article at

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A Mutant Protein that Makes Viruses Self-Destruct

Scientists from the University of Arizona (UA) have developed a viral protein that can make viruses self-destruct. The discovery could improve the understanding of how viruses work and ultimately help develop plants and animals resistant to viral attacks.

Virions, or complete virus particles, are composed of nucleic acids surrounded by a protein coat. Working on a bacteriophage, Bentley Fane and his colleagues identified a portion in the protein coat that plays a critical role in virus particle assembly and designed a modified version of that protein. The researchers then engineered bacterial cells to produce the altered protein. During infection, the virus is fooled into incorporating the altered protein. The protein instead gummed up the works of the replication process, causing the virus to die without producing any offspring.

While similar works have been done with plant viruses before, none of those viruses had the icosahedral shape and structure that Fane and colleagues' research focused on.

Read the complete article at
The paper published by the Journal of Virology is available to subscribers at http://jvi.asm.org/cgi/content/full/82/12/5774

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Sigma Aldrich, Metahelix in Plant Biotech Collaboration

Sigma-Aldrich Corp. announced that Metahelix Life Sciences, an agricultural biotech company based in India, will provide technological guidance and application data for its plant bioscience product under a new deal. Sigma-Aldritch supplies chemicals and a variety of genomic and proteomic solutions to research laboratories as part of its plant bioscience product line. Metahelix, on the other hand, focuses on developing traits and technologies for crop protection & improved productivity.

The company did not disclose the financial details of the deal. The efforts of this collaboration will occur in Metahelix's existing facility, located adjacent to Sigma-Aldrich's manufacturing and distribution center in Bangalore. The agricultural biotech company will also provide support for Sigma-Aldrich customers throughout the Pacific Rim and Latin America.

For more information, view the press release at http://www.meta-helix.com/ or http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/Area_of_Interest/Life_Science/Plant_Biotechnology.html

Asia and the Pacific

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China Approves Biotech Crop Development Program

China's State Council, in an executive meeting chaired by Premiere Wen Jiabao, approved a plan supporting the development of biotech crops in the country. According to the council, transgenic crops will play an important role in boosting China's sustainable agricultural growth.

 Xinhua news agency said that the program aims to gain genes of great commercial value whose intellectual property rights belong to China, and develop high-quality, high-yield and pest-resistant GM crops. The agency further said that the council stressed the importance of the program and called upon relevant authorities to "waste no time implementing it".

For more information on biotechnology in China, contact Zhang Hongxiang at zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn

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India Exempts Raw Cotton from Customs Duties

In a move to arrest soaring raw cotton prices to help meet target of textile industry, the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBES) of India's Ministry of Finance has notified scrapping of import duty on cotton and withdrawal of exports incentives effective from 8 July 2008. India imports around 5 millions bales of Extra Long Staple (ELS) raw cotton every year to meet its demand for fine quality cotton from the textile industry. India exported around 8.5 million bales of long and medium staple raw cotton in 2007-08, a significant jump in export over previous year. Import duty on cotton stood at 14% (constituting 10% basic customs duty and 4% special countervailing duty) while export incentive was given in the form of duty drawback which was available for cotton exporters at the rate of 1% of the freight-on-board (FOB) value. This move is expected to help ease cotton supply situation, which has been tight due to increasing exports of cotton from the country. Although India produced 31.5 million bales of cotton in 2007-08, an all time record production after the introduction of Bt cotton hybrids over the last seven years, the cotton prices have jumped sharply due to an unprecedented rise in cotton export on account of increasing demand from China in the current year.

Details of the Notification No. 84 /2008-Customs is available at:
Details of the Notification No. 21 / 2002-Customs is available at:

For more information about biotech development in India contact:
b.choudhary@isaaa.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org

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Indonesia Develops Biofarming

Indonesia has the opportunity to develop biotechnology researches on biofarming. This was addressed in a seminar entitled "Biotechnology: The Next Great Entrepreneurial Wave" at Paramadina University. Wahyu Pubowasito Ph. D, a researcher from Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, Indonesia (BPPT) and researcher on imprinting genome phenomenon from National Institute of Genetics, Japan said that BPPT is now developing a system to improve Indonesian food quality, such as transgenic food. He stated that there are several advantages that can be obtained from agricultural industry if we develop the transgenic crops with weed, pest and flood resistance and food with long shelf-life. "BPPT is now developing biofarming, by introducing an antibody system into a specific plant, such as banana, so that people can only eat the banana to obtain the antibody. BPPT is also collaborating with other countries in order to improve the natural rubber quality. Natural rubber is a vital agricultural commodity used in the manufacture of a wide range of products. Development of the natural rubber industry during the last 100 years has relied upon well-targeted research and development such as breeding to raise productivity, physical and chemical technology to support and expand a growing portfolio of applications." Wahyu added.

Please see http://www.kompas.com/read/xml/2008/06/16/16244154/biofarming.menjadi.potensi.bioteknologi.
or http://www.kapanlagi.com/h/0000234026.html for more details on the event or visit http://www.bppt.go.id/ for more information on application of science and technology in Indonesia.

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R&D Boost for Biofuel Program In the Philippines

The recently-concluded Annual Scientific Meeting of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology passed seven resolutions for Energy Security and Sustainability in the country.  A resolution to promote the biofuel program of the country through a comprehensive review of the current program to develop an economically viable system for the production of biofuels from renewable resources and a support for its research and development, were the first resolutions. The scientific meeting was also highlighted by plenary talks from the government and private sectors on many aspects of renewable energy research for bioethanol, biodiesel, solar and wind, nuclear, hydropower, coal, gas, and oil, farm and fuelwood, effects on health and on food, as well as energy conservation and competitiveness.

For details on the meeting and highlights, contact the Program Committee at  secretariat@nast.ph

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Bacterial Fermentation of Sweet Sorghum for Ethanol Production

Recognizing the potential of sweet sorghum for the bio- ethanol production, a research team at Khon Kaen University, Thailand has reported an attempt to examine the capability of sweet sorghum to produce ethanol using Zymomonas mobilis. This bacterium  used sweet sorghum stem juice as a carbon source for fermentation in batch, fed-batch and continuous fermentations. In the initial experiments to identify the best strain from the five strains tested, the strain TISTR 548 was chosen. To  further investigate its optimum condition for ethanol production in batch, the optimal agitation rate used was 100 rpm in which maximum yield and productivity of 0.48 to 1.41 g l-1 h-1  could be achieved.

The complete article is available at http://safetybio.agri.kps.ku.ac.th/images/stories/pdf/sweet_sorghum.pdf BBIC-THAILAND: http://www.safetybio.agri.kps.ku.ac.th/ .
For details on biotechnology in Thailand contact Supat Attathom at safetybio@yahoo.com.

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GM Torenia with Enhanced Phosphate Uptake

Florigene Pty ltd. has submitted an application to Australia's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) for the limited and controlled release of three torenia lines genetically modified for enhanced phosphate uptake. Torenia, often called wishbone flower, is a member of the family Scrophulariaceae and is commonly grown as a garden plant. The purpose of the trial is to conduct experiments with the GM lines to assess their capacity to absorb phosphate and repress algal overgrowth in a hydroponic system. The GM lines contain the phosphate signaling response gene, PHR1, from Arabidopsis which encodes a transcription factor that plays a role in plant responses to phosphate deficiency. OGTR has prepared a Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) which concludes that the release of the GM torenia poses negligible risk to human health and safety, or to the environment.

To finalize the RARMP, which will be the basis of the decision on whether to issue a license, OGTR seeks comments and advice regarding the release.

For more information, visit http://www.ogtr.gov.au/ir/dir084.htm


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GMO Approval Needs Overhaul

A French proposal to review the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s expertise was accepted unanimously. According to European environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, EFSA must strengthen its capacity to evaluate risks and consider the changes in agricultural practices and local geographic conditions. An expert group will be formed to develop ideas that will become the basis of discussion at a later meeting of environment ministers.

The review would not lead to the banning of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Dimas stated that the review would probably result in a greater role for member states with regards to involvement and responsibility in assessing the safety of GMOs.

To read more, visit http://www.epha.org/a/3120.

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Higher CO2 Level Means Higher Tolerance of Barley to Salinity

Barley is one of the most important crops in the world. But what does climate change do to barley in the future? A research by Usue Pérez-López of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) found that climate change will bring with it increased in tolerance to salinity in barley. It is predicted that aside from increased CO2 levels, there will be an increase in salinity in the soil in the future, because of greater rate of evaporation. As a result of this increase in salinity the hydric state of barley plants will deteriorate and imbalances in their nutrition will occur due to excess sodium and chlorine (components of salt) and due to lack of potassium, calcium and nitrogen. In essence, the plant will produce less carbohydrates and proteins, which means a reduction in its growth.

Pérez-López found out that high concentrations of CO2 attenuate the loss of water through the plant leaves, due to the fact that the stomas are kept closed and the plant tissues are dehydrated to a lesser degree. High levels of CO2 considerably enhances the hydric state of barley. It also has a positive influence on the photosynthesis of the plant because, despite the fact that the plant keeps its stomas shut, the diffusion of CO2 between the exterior and the interior of the leaf is greater. The oxidative stress level of barley (the oxidation suffered by a plant due to high salinity) was also determined. Pérez-López found that high concentrations of CO2 alleviate this stress. The study concluded that the increase in CO2 enables greater growth of barley plants subject to saline conditions, thanks to the improvement in their hydric state and turgescence, but, above all, to the increase in photosynthesis.

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GM Tomatoes may Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Genetically modified tomatoes can be a suitable carrier for an oral vaccine against Alzheimer's disease (AD), according to a group of researchers from Korea. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. The neurodegenerative disease is believed to be caused by accumulation of the toxic protein β-amyloid (Aβ) in the brain. To prevent the disease, it would be necessary to develop an agent that would suppress Aβ generation. One approach is to stimulate the immune system to reduce beta-amyloid in the brain.

Since it is difficult to produce Aβ using microbial expression systems because of its toxicity, the researchers investigated the possibility of recombinant protein expression in plant cells. Tomato was chosen as the vaccine carrier since it can be eaten without heat treatment, which reduces the risk of destroying the immune stimulation potential of the foreign protein. Mice immunized orally with total soluble extracts from the GM tomato elicited an immune response after receiving a booster. The scientists said that the result represents a promising first step towards finding an edible vaccine against the disease, albeit the research is still in its early stages.

 The paper published by the journal Biotechnology Letters is available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/63756gk168471265/fulltext.pdf 
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Biotechnology to Enhance Plant Seed Oils for Human Nutrition

Fats and oils are essential part of the human diet. However, they are not created equal in terms of nutrition. For instance, humans can make monounsaturated fatty acids from sugar; unlike polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic and linolenic acids, which should be supplied in their diet. Using biotechnology, it is now possible to modify the fatty acid content of oilseed plants to change the relative abundance of individual fatty acids or to produce nutritional fatty acids not normally found in crop plants. A review paper published in the journal Plant Physiology discusses the applications of biotechnology in enhancing oil seeds for human nutrition.

Researchers have developed high oleic acid soybean by modifying the expression of the FAD2 gene. After many years of development and safety testing, the soybean line is expected to be commercialized in 2009. Accordingly, soybean oil containing stearidonic acid (an essential fatty acid) is currently in commercial development and is likely to be the first transgenic food oil containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid available to consumers.

The paper, authored by Howard Damude and Anthony Kinney is available for free at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/full/147/3/962

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GM Tobacco to Clean-up Soil and Groundwater Contaminant

Plants are increasingly being employed to clean-up environmental pollutants like heavy metal. They can act as solar-powered pump-and-treat systems, capable of extracting these contaminants from polluted soils and metabolize or store them afterwards in specialized tissues. However, a major limitation of phytoremediation is the inability of plants to mineralize most organic pollutants.

Scientists from the University of York and University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom developed transgenic tobacco that can accumulate and 'detoxify' the haloalkane 1,2-dichloroethane (1,2- DCA). 1,2 DCA is used in the synthesis of vinyl chloride. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has listed the compound as a priority pollutant and probable human carcinogen.

The scientists inserted the bacterial genes dhlA and dhlB genes into the tobacco genome. The genes encode enzymes, typically lacking in plants, that have the ability to detoxify a range of halogenated aliphatics (such as 1,2-DCA). The authors pointed out that their findings represent a significant advance in the development of a low-cost, phytoremedial approach toward the clean-up of halogenated organic pollutants from contaminated soil and groundwater.

The paper published by the journal Plant Physiology is available to subscribers at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/full/147/3/1192 Non subscribers can read the abstract http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/147/3/1192



ICMR-NIH One-Month Training Program on Bioethics

The Indian Council of Medical Research in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) will conduct a training program in bioethics for scientists and professionals. As a part of the "Centrally Co-ordinated Bioethics Education for India", the program will include one month's contact course in Bioethics, covering research ethics, clinical ethics, and ethics in social science research related to health. The training will be conducted at the St. John's National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore from September 1-30, 2008.

More information about application procedure and program detail visit http://www.icmr.nic.in/icmrnews/icmr_nih_train.htm or contact Dr Nandini Kumar at: icmrnih.ethicscourse@yahoo.com

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