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APRIL 2009



Crop Biotech Update 24 April 2009
April 24, 2009
FAO: Developing Countries Still Struggle with High Food Prices
"Seal the Deal" - Action Plan on Earth Day
Safeguarding the World's Food Supply Through a Second Green Revolution


Belgium to Provide USD 6 million to African Farmers
Investment Fund for African Seed Companies Launched
CIMMYT and IITA Collaborate on African Maize Initiative

Towards the Development of Stoneless Plums
Scientists Develop Root Nematode Resistant Potato
ARS Develops Bacterial Leaf Spot Resistant Iceberg Lettuce

Asia and the Pacific
Flood-resistant Rice Set for Distribution in Southeast Asia
Newly Discovered Banana Ripening Genes
University of Karachi Devises New Method for Mango Classification

Field Trials of GM Maize, Barley in Europe
Germany Sued Over GM Maize Ban
European Consumer Polls on Attitudes to GMOs
New National Genome Centre in UK
Bayer and Evogene Collaborate to Develop High-Yielding Rice

Scientists Develop Tomatoes with Increased Antioxidant Levels
Vivek QPM 9 - an Early Maturing QPM Maize Hybrid for India
Targeting Cell Wall's Weak Spot to Produce Cost-Effective Biofuels


Despite decline in food prices and improved global supplies of cereals, developing countries still struggle with high food prices, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned. According to FAO's CropProspects and Food Situation report, food prices are significantly higher compared to last year's in 47 of the 58 developing countries studied. FAO says that the situation is worst in sub-Saharan Africa. Prices of maize, millet and sorghum are higher in 89 percent of the countries compared to a year earlier.

FAO also identified "hunger hotspots", countries where food emergencies continue. Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are included in FAO's list of hunger hotspots. Millions of people face serious food insecurity in African countries such as war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, where food rations have reportedly been halved following reduced supplies as well as in Sudan and Somalia.

For the complete news article, visit http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/12660/icode/ FAO's Crop Prospects and Food Situation report is available for download at http://www.fao.org/docrep/ 011 /ai481e/ ai481e00.htm

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The World Earth Day was recently celebrated in Nairobi, Kenya with the theme: Your Planet Needs You, Unite to Combat Climate Change. It is an urgent call for nations to join in addressing climate by reducing their carbon footprint, and improving the management of forests and other valuable natural resources.

UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner in his message called for an action plan termed "Seal the Deal" - that is, work together to find a solution that is scientifically credible, equitable and economically-defensible. This is directed towards investments in various programs for clean technologies and "natural" infrastructure such as forests and soils that will be the best option for combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in this century.

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, a landmark in the history of the environment movement which gave birth to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to address basic issues on air quality and water pollution. Since then, intelligent management of the planet is the focus of many initiatives by the international community. For details, see press release at http://www.unep.org/ Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp? DocumentID=579&ArticleID=6133&l=en&t=long.

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During the 1960s and 1970s, the world went through a period of low food reserves and agricultural productivity. It was also at this time when the "Green Revolution" came into play with the rise of important advances in agricultural productivity (most notably in the fields of seed breeding, plant nutrition, and chemical crop protection).

Nowadays, the world is facing the same crisis that was experienced nearly four decades ago. According to the Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience, Professor Dr. Friedrich Berschauer, the level of the world's food supply is low, as it has already dropped to the lowest level in 30 years. He calls for a signal of support in ensuring the future global food supply and for pursuing a higher degree of agricultural research from the G8 agriculture ministers who attended the meeting in Treviso, Italy last April 19 to 20.

Bayer CropScience has taken on the task of developing new plant varieties and crop protection measures. The company plans to use every tool available: from chemical crop protection solutions to conventional breeding techniques and plant biotechnology. Berschauer sums up the effort the company will exert in addressing this global issue: "What is needed is nothing less than a "second green revolution".

To read the full article, go tohttp://www.bayercropscience.com/BCSWeb/CropProtection.nsf/ id/EN_ 20090417_1?open&l=EN&ccm=500020

Resource-poor farmers from four African countries are set to receive USD 6.6 million in assistance funding from Belgium, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced. The Belgian Development Cooperation's financing for FAO's will support tens and thousands of struggling farmers in drought-stricken Niger, Ethiopia and Burindi and in war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

FAO has set aside nearly USD 3 million to aid cassava and sweet potato farmers whose livelihoods have suffered from the conflict in DRC. Cassava and sweet potato cuttings and vegetable and other crop seeds will be distributed to some 25,000 farmers. Small-scale maize growers from the region will also receive support to increase production in order to meet market demand.

A portion of the Belgian donation will assist farmers in drought-stricken Niger and Ethiopia. The rest of the funding will go to returning ex-soldiers and farming households hit by floods and high food prices in neighboring Burundi.

FAO's press release is available at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/11727/icode/

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The Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the African Agriculture Capital (AAC), a venture capital investment fund that invests in several small African seed companies launched the African Seed Investment Fund (ASIF) last week. The first fund of its kind in the continent, ASIF will invest in at least 20 small- and medium-size seed companies in Southern and Eastern Africa over the next five years. The fund will operate in eight countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.

According to a press release, the AGRA-AAC partnership aims to jumpstart a "well-capitalized, competitive and efficient regional" seed industry. Another goal of the partnership is to increase the participation of African seed companies in the global seed market, which is estimated at USD 30 billion. Up to USD 100,000 million will be provided to small-scale seed businesses to be paid back within two years. Medium-size companies, on the other hand, can avail of loans of up to a maximum of USD 1.5 million payable within three years.

"The sole purpose of ASIF is to provide high quality seeds to smallholder African farmers, thereby improving income and quality of life," explained Namanga Ngongi, AGRA's president. Ngongi added that "rather than having to choose between poor quality, low-yielding seed or high-cost hybrid seed marketed by multinationals, African farmers will have another choice."

For more information, visit http://www.agra-alliance.org/content/news/detail/920/

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The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have combined efforts to improve and stabilize Africa's maize production. Through the Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Initiative, they expect to provide improved maize varieties that will help to boost maize productivity on small farms by 20-30% over the next decade.

The Initiative is working in 13 African countries where maize is particularly important. Donors are Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ, its acronym in German), Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Hermann Eiselen, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rockefeller Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and US Agency for International Development (USAID).

View http://www.cgiar.org/enews/april2009/story_05.html for the full story.

Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are gearing up towards the development of pitless plums, a desired character by consumers. ARS molecular biologist Chris Dardick and Ann Callhan and Prunus breeder Ralph Scorza at the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, Virginia discovered that the genes responsible for the production of lignin are rapidly turned on just before hardening in specific pit tissues and are quickly turned off once the stone hardens.

Commercially available plum which lack the stone but contains the seed were genetically-engineered with an early-flowering trait that will greatly speed-up the breeding program. The resulting fruit needs to be improved to make it edible. According to Dardick, the success of the research may lead to the development of the desirable stoneless fruits such as cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots.

See http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090421.htm for a short detail on this research,.

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The United States Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service (ARS) has developed a new potato line resistant to the Columbia root-knot nematode (CRN), a microscopic worm that has the potential to cause the US potato industry some USD 40 million annually. The nematodes, which thrive in the Pacific Northwest and other major potato growing regions in the US, are usually controlled by applying chemical fumigants. Control of CRN using chemicals is effective, but very expensive. It is estimated that US potato growers spend USD 20 million annually to control the pest.

The CRN resistance trait was obtained from a wild potato relative, Solanum bulbocastanum. But since wild and domesticated potatoes are chromosomally incompatible, that is they can't breed to produce viable offspring, the scientists resorted to protoplast fusion. The researchers fused S. bulbocastanum and domesticated potato cells together and backcrossing was used to remove unwanted traits. Marker genes linked to the RMc1 resistance gene from wild potato were used to determine resistance levels in resulting hybrids.

The new variety will still undergo field-testing for two years before it can be commercialized.

Read the complete news article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090417.htm

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A new breeding line of lettuce has been released for planting by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Limited samples of the seven new varieties of Iceberg lettuce is now provided by the ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Unit in Salinas, California to be tested for commercial use. This new breed is resistant to bacterial leaf spot (BLS), a common disease of lettuce in California that is caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas campestris. The pathogen produces black spot on lettuce leaves which will eventually merge and create dark, papery patches on the base of the plant. Sprays against the disease would not be a good option because it increases production cost.

ARS geneticist Ryan Hayes said, "Creating disease-resistant breeding lines is the most efficient and cost-effective tool to manage BLS in lettuce."

For further reading, see http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090413.htm.

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A lot of farming families and poor consumers who look to rice for their food see flooding as a horrible disaster. But rice breeders have been aware of FR13A, a rice variety that could withstand more than a week's worth of flooding and still have a significant recovery. It was during the 1980s when Dr. David Mackill, a plant breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), saw the potential of adapting the flood-resistant trait of FR13A (FR meaning 'flood-resistant') into the modern high-yielding rice varieties being planted in flood-prone areas all over Asia.

Initially, Dr. Mackill and his team of IRRI breeders failed in releasing the rice variety to the farmers, mainly because during the transfer of the flood-resistant gene from FR13A to the recipient rice variety, there were other genes that were transported as well. It was only when Dr. Mackill and his graduate student Kenong Xu discovered a precise stretch of DNA (called SUB1) when they began to make progress. Dr. Xu and his wife Xia, with the help of Pamela Ronald, a UC Davis researcher, were able to locate the specific gene (which was named SUB1A) that was responsible for making FR13A flood-resistant.

After painstaking research and testing in the rice fields in Bangladesh, a new rice variety carrying the SUB1 trait was released, called Swarna Sub1. The results have all been positive, and within two years, IRRI plans to release at least two more rice varieties under their project Stress-Tolerant Rice for Poor Farmers in Africa and Southeast Asia, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With the success of the research on SUB1, researchers are hoping to be able to address other abiotic stresses such as drought and salinity.

To view the full article, go to http://beta.irri.org/news/index.php/200904066053/Rice-Today/ Africa/Scuba-rice- Stemming-the-tide-in-flood-prone-South-Asia.html
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Scientist from the Department of Postharvest Science of Fresh Produce, Volcani Center, Israel, the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York and the University of the Philippines Los Baños were able to successfully isolate and analyze another gene involved in the developmental control of ripening in banana. Named as MaMADS2, the gene cloned from the cDNA of ripe banana fruit, was found to have DNA sequences similar with Type II MADS-box transcription factors. MADS-box gene transcription factors are regulating genes which controls flower development and organogenesis.

Promoter region analysis showed the presence of known binding sites for MADS-box, hinting at possible autoregulation of MaMADS2 gene transcription. The expression of MaMADS2 starts before the onset of ripening in both pulp and peel of banana with increased expression at low humidity - a response to stress resulting in developmental shift and early ripening. On the other hand, a known MaMADS1 expression is ethylene induced and increases only after the ethylene peak was attained. This is the first report on MaMADS2 gene from banana which could provide critical information in the development of research strategies in prolonging the shelf-life of banana.

To see the abstract and order the full paper visit http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN& cpsidt=19911512. For additional information about the research work, contact the author at eteresaocampo@yahoo.com. For information on biotechnology in the Philippines, contact bic@agri.searca.org

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IA group of scientists led by Dr. Kamran Azim at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi, Pakistan has devised a novel method for the classification of Pakistani mangoes.

Dr. Kamran Azim, assistant professor at ICCBS, and his team have been researching on the molecular genetics of mangos for the past years. Their discovery will be helpful in recognizing Pakistani mangoes at the global level and will be beneficial in fulfilling scientific and regulatory requirements for mango exports to technologically advanced countries in particular the United States. The classification of 20 different kinds of mangoes will be possible through a novel scientific method devised in the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) sequencing laboratory of the Dr Punjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research at KU. According to Dr Azim, international scientific and trade organizations emphasize the classification of mango varieties based on modern biotechnological standards.

For more information, contact Prof. Dr. Iqbal Choudhary, Director of ICCBS and the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC) at iqbal.choudhary@iccs.edu and Dr. Kamran Azeem at kamran.azim@iccs.edu. See the full article at http://www.pabic.com.pk/21%20April,%202009%20Dr% 20Kamran%20Azeem.html.

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Several genetically modified crop varieties are scheduled for limited, non-commercial release in Iceland, Romania and Spain this month. These include:

Five transgenic maize lines developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred AgroServicios Spain. The maize lines were modified to resist important insect pests in Spain such as the western corn rootworm and the European corn borer. Some lines are also resistant to glyphosate, glufosinate and acetolactate synthase (ALS)-inhibiting herbicides.

Syngenta's Bt11 and Ga21 maize and their hybrids also for release in Spain, as required for the registration of the maize varieties in the country's Official Commercial Varieties Register.
Insect resistant maize varieties developed by Monsanto Company and Pioneer Hi-Bred, NK603 and DAS-59122-7 respectively, in Romania.

A growth-factor expressing transgenic barley in Iceland developed by ORF Genetics.
Certain measures, such as maintaining an isolation distance of 200 meters and destruction of GM plant materials after trials, will be adopted by the applicants to prevent transgene escape. Environmental risk assessments have shown that the release pose no harmful effects to human and animal health or to the environment.

The detailed list is available at http://gmoinfo.jrc.ec.europa.eu/gmp_browse.aspx

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Monsanto Company is suing the German government for banning its genetically modified insect resistant maize. Germany's Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner last week announced that German farmers will not be able to grow MON810 maize varieties this planting season. According to Reuters, Germany was set to have 3,600 hectares of the pest-resistant maize this year. MON810 is the only genetically modified crop approved for cultivation in the European Union. The lawsuit was filed in the administrative court in Branschweig in northern Germany.

Aigner said that she issued the ban since there is a "justifiable reason to believe that the GM crop presented danger to the environment". This is contradictory to the positive scientific opinion issued by of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), EU's top food watchdog. According to EFSA, the GM maize is as safe as its non-transgenic counterparts with respect to its effects on human and animal health and the environment.

Monsanto says that the move is an "arbitrary ban" and in violation of EU rules. The company further says that the ban is not supported by any scientific evidence. Germany now joins Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria and France, countries that have enforced a similar ban on the pest-resistant maize.

Monsanto's press release is available at http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/ukshowlib.phtml?uid= 13858 For more information on the Germany maize ban, read http://www.nature.com/news/2009 /090414/full/news.2009.364.html

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According to European polls, public acceptance of GM products have been rising in recent years and overall approval increases regarding specific qualities of GM plants. During 1999, only 10% of the respondents showed a positive regard on gene technology. The reaction of the respondents toward gene technology increased positively every year. In 2005, 50% of respondents regarded biotechnology as positive and 30% of respondents regarded gene technology as good. In the most recent survey conducted by the British Institute of Grocery Distribution in 2008, majority (58 %) of respondents reacted neutrally because they don't have enough knowledge regarding GM food. Surveys showed that European customers still have some reservations regarding GM products but it doesn't necessarily mean that they don't like it. Some of the findings in the survey include:

Only a small portion of the population have knowledge regarding GMOs thus, there is a big demand for information on GMOs

More than 40% of consumers surveyed showed positive response over GM products.
Public acceptance of the gene technology has increased steadily since 1999.
Consumers gave a positive rating for GM products having significant environmental or consumer benefits.

Around 80% of consumers do not actively avoid GM products when shopping.
Low-priced GM products appealed better to the customers.
Contrary to common opinion, GM products may have considerable chances on the European market.

For further discussion, see http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/stories/415.an_overview_ european_consumer_polls_attitudes_gmos.html

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Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) last April 2, 2009, established a new national center called The Genome Analyst Center (TGAC). This center conduct studies about plant, animal, and microbial genomes to promote higher food security. It will give UK's agriculture protection against exotic animal diseases as well as it will help develop new ways to kill insect pests.

BBRC has quoted Lord Dreyson, the minister of State for Science and Innovation, saying, "Genomic technology has enormous promise. The new Genome Analysis Centre will help to develop UK capacity in this area, where we are already a world leader. I am delighted that the centre will work closely with industry to develop our economic potential in such disciplines as bioinformatics and metagenomic sequencing."

TGAC will start its formal operation on the Norwich Research Park in June. UK has high hopes on the establishment of this new center because it would not only be able to enhance the public's knowledge about genomes and its technology, but would also produce high value jobs for European citizens.

You may read the full article at:http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2009/090402_genome_ analysis _centre.html


Bayer CropScience and Israel-based Evogene ltd. are teaming up to develop rice varieties with increased productivity and yield. Under the terms of the three-year collaboration, candidate genes discovered by Evogene will be introduced into Bayer CropScience's rice research pipeline for the development of high yielding hybrid rice. Bayer will have exclusive commercialization license to these genes for use in rice. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Read the press release at http://www.bayercropscience.com/BCSWeb/CropProtection.nsf/id/EN_ 20090421?open&l=EN&ccm=300040

The compound that makes red wine a healthful drink may soon be found in pizzas. Scientists at Italy's Institute of Sciences and Food Production developed genetically modified tomatoes expressing high levels of resveratrol. Resveratrol is produced by some plants, most notably grapes, to ward off pathogens. Experimental studies have shown that the compound exhibits anti-inflammatory, antiviral and cardio- and neuro-protective potentials. It has also been shown to prevent tumor growth in animal cancer models.

The transgenic tomatoes express a stilbene synthase-expressing gene from grapes under the control of a fruit-specific promoter. They were found to produce high levels of resveratrol and its derivative, piceid, particularly in skin of mature fruits. The phenotype of transformed plants was similar to wild type plants although the fruits were seedless.

The scientists also evaluated the anti-oxidant capability of the resveratrol from transformed fruits. According to them the extracts of transgenic tomato fruits display an anti-inflammatory effect, based on the suppression of prostaglandin production, greater than that of chemically synthesized or wild-type sourced resveratrol.

The paper published by Plant Biotechnology Journal is available at http://10.1111/j.1467-7652.2009.00409.x

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Maize (Zea mays L.) is an important food and feed crop of the world. It ranks fifth in acreage and third in production. It is one of the major sources of calorie and protein. However, it is deficient in essential amino acids viz., lysine and tryptophan. Quality protein maize (QPM) with opaque-2 gene along with associated modifiers contains twice as much lysine and tryptophan and 30% less leucine than the normal maize. The reduced level of zein further improves the nutritional quality of the QPM.

At the Indian Center for Agricultural Research, molecular marker-assisted breeding was used to improve the protein quality of Vivek Hybrid 9. Vivek QPM 9 was developed and was found to yield at par with the parent hybrid in the Himalayan states (58 q/ha) as well as in peninsular India (54 q/ha), under the All India Coordinated Maize Improvement Project (AICRP on Maize) during 2005 and 2007. In addition, it possesses all the good quality of Vivek Hybrid 9 with added advantages of 30% higher lysine and 44% more tryptophan. Better quality of protein in QPM is expected to help in reducing protein malnutrition among rural masses.

The article "Quality Protein Maize for Nutritional Security: Rapid Development of Short Duration Hybrids through Molecular Marker Assisted Breeding" by H. S. Gupta and colleagues was published by Current Science. It is available for download at http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jan252009/230.pdf Additional information may be obtained from co-author Dr. P.K.Agrawal at pawancrri@yahoo.co.in

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Researchers at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory have uncovered clues that may help them develop crops more suitable for cellulosic biofuel production. Paul Langan, Tongye Shen and colleagues discovered a weak spot in the cellulose armor that makes plant materials so tough. Wood and cellulosic plant materials, such as corn husks and switchgrass, are the most abundant form of feedstocks available for biofuel production. But turning biomass to alternative fuels is often cost-expensive and energy-consuming.

The plant cell wall is a large chemical lattice of simple sugars held together by chemical and electrostatic bonds. Hydrogen bonds, an attractive force between electronegative atoms, play a major role in keeping the lattice stable.

The researchers used neutrons to probe the crystalline structure of cellulose, the biopolymer that makes plant cell walls resistant to chemical digestion. They found that although cellulose generally has a well-ordered network of hydrogen bonds holding it together, the material also displays significant amounts of disorder, creating a different type of bond network at certain surfaces. Manipulating this weak spot might make the tenacious cellulose vulnerable to attack by digestive enzymes.

For more information, read http://www.lanl.gov/news/index.php/fuseaction/home.story/story_id/16342 The paper published by Biophysical Journal is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2008.12.3953

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IThe Crop Biotech Update now sports a new look with its new logo. The CBU logo is a stylized rendition of the newsletter's acronym. The C and the U symbolize a leaf (crop) that strives for growth and development, while the B is a DNA double helix which stands for biotechnology, CBU thus aims to capture developments in crop biotechnology to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the technology.

We encourage organizations that republish selected articles from the newsletter to include the logo. To download the logo, visit http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/logo/.

The Association of Applied Biologists is organizing an International Conference that will bring together scientists from Africa, Europe and the USA to examine how new advances in plant science research and developing technologies can be used to benefit African agriculture. With the theme, Agriculture: Africa's "Engine for Growth" - Plant science and biotechnology hold the key, the conference is scheduled to take place at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts, UK on 12-14 October 2009. Recent advances in plant science research and current views on innovations required for the development of agriculture in Africa, as well as papers by invited speakers, will be presented at the conference.

For more information, visit http://www.aab.org.uk/contentok.php?id=83&basket=wwsshowconfdets


More than 1000 hectares of land in Western Australia is set to be planted with genetically modified canola this planting season. Because of this, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Australian Oilseeds Federation have released a booklet entitled 'GM Canola - Performance and Experiences in 2008'. The publication highlights grower case studies, trials and an independent demonstration of Roundup Ready canola in its first year in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) after the ban on growing GM crops.

For the copy of the publication, visit http://www.grdc.com.au/uploads/documents/GM%20Canola% 20Roundup%20Ready.pdf

The Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), managed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), has recently published several new documents. In the 2-page policy brief "Biosafety and Perceived Commercial Risks: The Role of GM-Free Private Standards," authors Guillaume Gruere and Debdatta Sengupta summarize a study on commercial risks and the role of GM-free private standards in biosafety decision making in developing countries. The findings are used to suggest a straightforward decision making framework to help separate real commercial risks from other perceived risks. PBS has also issued country factsheets for Malawi and Nigeria, which described PBS's ongoing work in these countries related to research and capacity building. The factsheets join five existing ones for Ghana, Kenya, Mali, the Philippines, and Uganda. These materials and more are available on the PBS website (http://www.ifpri.org/pbs/pbs.asp) and the PBS blog (http://pbs.ifpriblog.org).