Fbae Logo
Home | | Support Us | Contact Us
Goals & Objectives Our Position False Propaganda Special Topics Important Publications Important Links Events news Biosafety
Fbae Header Home



APRIL 2009



Crop Biotech Update 17 April 2009
April 17, 2009
FAO: Include Farmers in Climate Change Negotiations
Rebuttal re Erroneous Analysis on Transgenic Insecticidal Crops


Botswana's Agric Research Director Calls for the Use of Biotech
Killer Droughts are the Norm in West Africa, Study Finds

Overreliance on Roundup May Give Rise to Herbicide-Tolerant Weeds, says Purdue Study
Ceres and University of Georgia Partner to Develop Improved Switchgrass Varieties
Advanta and Arcadia Team Up to Develop Salinity-Tolerant Sorghum

Asia and the Pacific
New Public-Private Partnership for Hybrid Rice in India
Mayee Honored with Doctor of Science
Current Science Reviews ISAAA Brief on Bt Brinjal in India
Biotech Writing Competition Concluded in Indonesia

Germany Bans GM Maize
Wageningen and KeyGene Collaborate for Potato Genome Map
EFSA's Opinion on Pioneer's GM Corn

Better Biofuels from Mapping of Plant Genes
RNA Polymerase Motors Open Doors for Autonomous Molecular Experiments


Alexander Mueller, Assistant Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has urged policy makers to include agriculture in negotiations for a new climate change pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Speaking at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) taking place in Germany, Mueller noted that while agriculture is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, farmers will also become victims of climate change. "Rural communities dependent on agriculture, particularly in developing countries, will face risk of increased crop failure and loss of livestock," said Mueller. Agriculture is responsible for about 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and improper land use practices account for another 17 percent.

Mueller stressed the role farmers can play in reducing greenhouse gas emission. By carbon sequestration, the capture and long term storage of carbon in the soil, farmers can help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air, enhance the soil's resilience and boost crop yields. Mueller however noted that current global funding arrangements, like the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, are inadequate and are not offering sufficient incentives for farmers to get involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Thousands of delegates from public and private institutions are meeting in Bonn, Germany. The meeting is the first of three sessions that will be held to come up with a draft climate change treaty in preparation for a high-level U.N.-backed conference in Copenhagen in December.

Read the FAO press release at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/11356/icode/ For more information on the UNFCC, visit http://unfccc.int/2860.php

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

An article by Lövei et al. (Transgenic insecticidal crops and natural enemies: a detailed review of laboratory studies, Environmental Entomology 38(2): 293-306 (2009)) purports that insect-protected crops based on the Cry proteins of Bacillus thuringiensis may have substantial negative impacts on non-target organisms. A group of experts in this area strongly disagreed with this April, 2009 publication and felt that a rapid response was required but, because of production schedules of this bi-monthly journal, it could not accommodate a rapid rebuttal. Thus, A. M. Shelton and 14 colleagues published their Letter to the Editor in Transgenic Research (Setting the Record Straight: A Rebuttal to an Erroneous Analysis on Transgenic Insecticidal Crops and Natural Enemies).

Among the many concerns Shelton and colleagues describe in their rebuttal are the inappropriate and unsound methods for risk assessment that led Lövei et al. to reach conclusions that are in conflict with those of several comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses. Shelton summarized the concerns of the 15 authors by stating, "The Lövei et al. article advocates inappropriate summarization and statistical methods, a negatively biased and incorrect interpretation of the published data on non-target effects, and fails to place any putative effect into a meaningful ecological context." What was also troubling to this international group of 15 experts is the potential for the Lövei et al. article to be accepted at face value and impact some regulatory agencies.

Their rebuttal can be accessed using the following link: http://www.springerlink.com/content/ q7hk642137241733/. The article is open access and freely available to all and is published as DOI: 10.1007/s11248-009-9260-5. It will be published in print form in the June issue of Transgenic Research.

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

Botswana's Director for Agriculture Research, Pharoah Mosupi, has called for the use of biotechnology to address food insecurity in the country. Mosupi, who spoke in Gaborone at the opening of the Regional Agricultural and Environmental Initiatives Network (RAEIN) Africa workshop, said that modern biotechnology brings new challenges for the policy and regulatory framework in the country. Mosupi enumerated the factors that hinder Botswana's adoption of modern biotech. These include: lack of biotechnology policy and biosafety legal framework, inadequate infrastructure, funding issues and lack of public awareness.

The workshop was organized by Botswana's Agriculture Ministry in collaboration with RAEIN, a Namibia-based non-governmental organization.

The news article from Botswana Press Agency is available at http://www.gov.bw/cgi-bin/news.cgi? d=20090414&i=Bio-technology_to_stimulate_food_production

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

Results of a study conducted by scientists at the University of Arizona and University of Texas in the US revealed that the severe droughts lasting several decades, even centuries, have happened often in West Africa's recent history.

Timothy Shanahan and colleagues studied sediments from Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana and found out that the megadrought that killed more than 100,000 thousand people in Africa's Sahel region was caused by the natural climate cycle. The drought in the Sahel, a semi-arid region that extends from Senegal eastward to Sudan, was believed to have been caused by human activities. The scientists believe the droughts are driven in part by circulation of the ocean and atmosphere in and above the Atlantic.

Climate change could bring more disastrous drought in the region, the researchers warned. Sediment records that stretch back more than three millennia suggest that the most recent drought was relatively minor in the context of the West African drought history. "If we were to switch into one of these century-scale patterns of drought, it would be a lot more severe, and it would be very difficult for people to adjust to the change," Shanahan noted.

For more information, read http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=114583&org= NSF& from=newsSubscribers to the journal Science can download the full paper at http://dx.doi,org/ 10.1126/science.1166352

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

Overreliance on Roundup Ready crops may be weakening glyphosate's ability to control weeds, according to researchers from Purdue University. Bill Johnson, a professor of weed science and lead author of the paper, warned that it would just be a matter of time before there are so many resistant weeds that the use of glyphosate products would become much less effective. "We have weeds that have developed resistance, including giant ragweed, which is one of the weeds that drove the adoption of Roundup," Johnson said. Johnson and colleagues surveyed farmers in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska and North Carolina about their views on the ability of Roundup Ready crops to help control problematic weeds. Their paper appears in the current issue of Weed Technology Journal.

The survey shows that farmers who saw the most benefit from using Roundup rotated between types of crops and those that were Roundup Ready and conventional crop varieties. Crop rotation has been shown to be effective in slowing the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds. Johnson said farmers should treat Roundup and Roundup Ready crops as an investment and work to protect the technology.

The survey was funded by Monsanto, developer of Roundup Ready crops. For the complete article, read http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2009a/090414JohnsonSurvey.html The paper published by Weed Technology Journal is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1614/WT-08-038.1

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

California-based energy crop company Ceres Inc. announced that it will team up with the University of Georgia to develop new high-yielding switchgrass seed varieties and improved crop management techniques for the southeastern United States. Considered as an ideal biofuels crop, switchgrass can reach yield of up to 10 dry tons or more in the Southeast United States. Switchgrass has several agronomic advantages as a bioenergy crop, including low herbicide and fertilizer requirements, rapid growth and drought and flooding tolerance.

In addition to developing high yielding switchgrass varieties, researchers will also evaluate cropping practices in the US, adapting developments made by The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, an Oklahoma-based agricultural research institution with which Ceres has long-term product development collaboration. Ceres will have commercialization rights for the products developed. Other aspects of the collaboration were not disclosed.

The press release is available at http://www.ceres.net/News/NewsReleases/2009/04-13-09-News- Rel.html

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

California-based Arcadia Bioscience Inc and Advanta, a multinational seed company, have reached a research and commercial agreement for the development of salinity-tolerant sorghum varieties. Under terms of the agreement, Advanta receives exclusive global rights to the use of Arcadia's salt tolerance technology in sorghum. Arcadia receives an upfront payment, milestone payments and a share of commercial sales revenue. The companies reached a similar agreement earlier this year for the development of nitrogen use efficient sorghum. According to Arcadia, their salt tolerance technology allows plants to produce normal yields and quality under salty water and soil conditions, expanding the range of lands available for crop production and reducing requirements for fresh water.

Read the press release at http://www.advantaindia.com/sorghum.pdf for more information.

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

The Indian Institute of Agricultural Research (IARI), a flagship research institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has developed a very effective public-private-partnership model for promotion of hybrid rice in India. IARI, Indian Foundation Seeds and Services association (IFSSA), and Barwale Foundation had earlier signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) for seed multiplication of parental lines of Pusa RH 10, the first super fine grain aromatic rice hybrid developed by IARI. In addition to IFSSA, IARI also signed a memorandum of understanding with 18 other seed companies to produce hybrid seed of Pusa RH 10. The partnership with IFSSA helped the area under Pusa RH 10 to reach nearly 0.5 million ha during Kharif (crop)season 2008.

Dr. B. R. Barwale, Chairman of IFSSA and Barwale Foundation, handed over a payment of Rs. 34.62 lakhs to Dr. S. A. Patil, Director, IARI, New Delhi from the sale of parental lines of Pusa RH 10. The function was graced by Dr. Mangala Rai, ICAR Director General, ICAR, who noted the effective public-private partnership leading to promotion of hybrid rice technology, a key to sustainable food security.

For more information about this public private partnership model, contact Dr. A.K. Singh of IARI at ak_gene@yahoo.com, and Dr. Dinesh Joshi of IFSSA and Barwale Foundation at dineshjoshi@barwalefoundation.org For more information about biotech development sin India contact b.choudhary@cgiar.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org.  

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

His Excellency the Governor of Bihar, India honored Dr. C. D. Mayee with an Honouris causa degree for his unprecedented contribution to the science of agriculture, particularly to the cotton sector, and more generally to the overall development of agriculture in India. Dr. Mayee along with Dr. V.L. Chopra and Dr. K.L. Chadha received the degree of Doctor of Science, honouris causa from Sh. R.L. Bhatia, Governor of Bihar State of India during the recently held convocation program at the Rajendra Agricultural University, Pusa, Bihar.

Dr Mayee is an internationally known plant protection scientist and held several key positions such as Vice Chancellor of Marathwada Agricultural University, Parbhani, Maharashtra, Agriculture Commissioner to the Government of India, and Director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur, Maharashtra. He is a recipient of several national and international recognitions and awards. Currently, Dr. Mayee serves as the Chairman of India's Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, New Delhi.

For details about the award ceremony visit http://www.pusavarsity.org.in/ For more information about biotech in India contact b.choudhary@cgiar.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org.

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

India's top science journal Current Science published a detailed review of ISAAA Brief 38 "The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India (Eggplant/Aubergine)" in its latest issue. The publication was reviewed by Dr. T.M. Manjunath and appears in Current Science Vol. 96, No. 7 in 10th April 2009 issue. The reviewer noted that "those who doubt the safety and benefits of Bt brinjal should go through this book to seek scientific clarifications. The authors need to be congratulated on their efforts in writing this useful and timely book. The book provides a comprehensive review on all aspects of brinjal (eggplant, Solanum melongena) cultivation and also describes the efforts made in developing Bt brinjal to control its major lepidopteron pest, the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) Leucinodes arbonalis".

The book summarizes the development and regulatory status in India of biotech Bt brinjal hybrids and also captures the content of the extensive regulatory dossier for biotech Bt brinjal, which has undergone a rigorous safety assessment by the regulatory authorities in India. This peer-reviewed document is available from the ISAAA South Asia Office at New Delhi and is also accessible, free of charge, at http://www.isaaa.org. Current Science founded in 1932 is published by the Current Science Association in collaboration with the Indian Academy of Sciences from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India.

The book review in Current Science is available at http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/apr102009/992.pdf For a print copy of ISAAA Brief 38 contact: b.choudhary@cgiar.org or k.gaur@cgiar.org.

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

The Indonesian Biotechnology Information Center (IndoBIC) recently concluded a four month writing competition on the theme "The Benefit of Biotechnology Application in Recovering from the Food Crisis". The competition aimed to determine how well media journalists understand biotechnology and provided a forum to improve the understanding of biotechnology by the media and the public. Of 95 entries, the five winning entries were articles that were published in Agrotek Magazine, Intisari Magazine, Bisnis Indonesia Daily, Republika Daily, and Agro Indonesia.

Dr. Bambang Purwantara, IndoBIC director, said that the articles rated best by the judges were those that used multiple sources of information such as experts. Dr. Syamsoe'oed Sadjad, one of the judges in the competition, added that the recognition encouraged journalists to write articles on biotechnology more often.

For more information on this event, email Dewi Suryani of IndoBIC at dewisuryani@biotrop.org or visit http://www.indobic.or.id/.

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

German farmers will not be able to grow genetically modified maize varieties this planting season. Germany's agriculture minister Ilse Aigner has banned the cultivation of MON810 insect-resistant maize in the country. The GM maize, developed by Monsanto Company, is the only genetically modified crop approved for cultivation in the European Union. Germany now joins Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria and France, countries that have enforced a similar ban on the pest-resistant maize. Aigner invoked the safeguard clause of the EU's release directive.

The German Agriculture Minister told reporters that she had reasons to believe that GM maize poses danger to the environment. However, she didn't mention new scientific evidence that supported her claim. Aigner's move was supported by Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's Environment Minister. Research Minister Annette Schavan, on the other hand, called the decision "regrettable". Nature magazine has quoted Schavan as saying "Agricultural biotechnology is an important technology for the future that neither Germany nor Europe can leave aside".

Monsanto announced that it will take legal action against the ban. Should the ban not stand up to a judicial examination, the Federation could be faced with damage claims of more than seven million Euros

Read http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/432.docu.html and http://www.nature.com/news/2009/ 090414/full/news.2009.364.html for more information.

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

Wageningen University and US-based company KeyGene announced that they have reached an agreement to construct a high-quality physical map of the potato genome. Wageningen UR's Plant Science Department will use KeyGene's Whole Genome Profiling technology to develop a potato genome physical map, an important tool to develop a superior genome sequence assembly for potato. Wageningen UR is the coordinator of the International Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium which aims to decipher the potato genome (850 Mbp) by the end of 2010.

"Especially in a complex crop like potato the quality of the physical map will determine the quality of the sequence of the complete potato genome," said Christian Bachem, project leader at Wageningen. "The collaboration with KeyGene will help us to reach our objectives faster and deliver a high quality genome sequence that will form the basis for future potato research."

View the press release at http://www.keygene.com/keygene/pdf/PR%20WUR.pdf

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

The scientific panel on genetically modified organisms of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released its opinion on the use of Pioneer's insect resistant and herbicide tolerant corn for feed and food use in the European Union. EFSA concluded that following its intended use, the GM corn is as safe as its non-GM counterparts with respect to potential effects on human and animal health, as well as on the environment.

The scientific assessment included molecular characterization of the DNA insert, monitoring of agronomic traits and evaluation of the transgenic protein and whole food/feeds in terms of toxicity, allergenicity and nutritional value.

The GM maize was produced by crosses between maize inbred lines containing 59122, 1507 and NK603 events to combine resistance to certain coleopteran and lepidopteran species, and to confer tolerance to glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium herbicides. EFSA will submit the results of the assessment to EU member states.

The summary paper is available for download at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/cs/BlobServer/Scientific_ Opinion/gmo_op_ej1050_maize59122x1507xNK603_summary_en.pdf?ssbinary=true

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

Wood and other biofibers made of plant cell walls are the most abundant form of feedstocks available for biofuel production. These biofibers are digested to yield sugars that are then fermented to make biofuels. But plants have strategies to inhibit being digested. For instance, plants'cell walls have acyl components that act as barriers to hinder conversion of the fibers to sugar. Acyl groups can also form cross-linked networks that make cell walls extra strong. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a family of genes in Arabidopsis and woody poplar (Populus trichocarpa) that control the formation of cell wall-bound acyl groups. By tweaking these genes, the scientists may one day be able to engineer crops more amenable to biofuel production.

Chang-Jun Liu and colleagues observed pairs of genes that were inversely overlapped with their neighboring genes on the genome. The protein-coding molecules (RNA) produced by these genes bind to each other like a molecular Velcro. The binding would prevent the RNA from building its enzyme, so the expression of one gene in the pair appears to inhibit its partner. Liu believes that understanding this anti-sense regulation will help scientists regulate the production of acyl groups.

The complete article is available at http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=928 The paper published by Plant Molecular Biology is available to subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/ s11103-009-9482-1

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]

Using RNA polymerase (RNAP), the enzyme that relays the information contained within DNA to the cell's protein-making machineries, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a molecular tool for propelling DNA. The work, according to the researchers, demonstrates the ability to precisely control the motion of billions of DNA molecules at once and, through external stimuli, confer autonomous decision-making that sets the stage for massive, but greatly miniaturized experimental systems.

The DNA-RNAP motor complex exhibits chemokinetic motion driven by nucleotide triphosphates, the substrate of the RNAP enzyme. The complex also displays biased migration to area with greater concentration of nucleotide triphosphates, somewhat akin to chemotaxis.

"This lays the basis for experiments that configure themselves and operate themselves," says David C. Schwartz lead author of the study. "It will be possible to design intelligent systems to do billions of experiments at once". The technology described by the UW-Madison scientists can replace the robots used to perform lab experiments. "Biotechnology robots dumbly move samples around," explains Schwartz. "Here, we have intelligent agents that are single molecules - they can make decisions and they can evolve. We have something very new and powerful and miniature."

The complete news article is available at http://www.news.wisc.edu/releases/15228 Download the paper published by the Journal of the American Chemical Society at http://dx.doi.org/10.1021 /ja900372m

Send to a Friend | Rate this Article ]
India's TERI University will be organizing the third training program on "Application of Biotechnology and its Regulations" to be conducted from August 4 to 21 August 2009 in New Delhi. The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India will meet the costs of the course, travel and accommodation of selected participants from Africa and Asia. The program focuses on agriculture biotechnology, techniques and status of acceptance of new technologies. In addition to traditional biotechnologies such as tissue culture propagation (micropropogation), use of biofertilizers and biopesticides (for organic agriculture), and issues related to Plant Variety and Farmer's Rights will be discussed. The modern biotechnology based on molecular markers breeding and genetic engineering will be discussed in detail both from the technology point of view and issues related to its acceptance globally.

The candidates may apply by filling the ITEC/SCAAP application form available at http://itec.nic.in/form.htm. Submit it to the nodal Government Department/Agency designated to nominate candidates. For more information about funding support and registration contact Dr. Vibha Dhawan, Executive Director, the Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) at vibhad@teri.res.in.

The 1st Indonesian Conference on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Small Business (ICIES 2009) will be held on July 22-23, 2009 at the Institute of Technology, Bandung (ITB) Campus, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Leadership (CIEL), in collaboration with School of Business and Management (SBM), and ITB will organize this conference for Indonesian researchers. The topics, among others,  will cover entrepreneurship theory and education, technology park, creativity and innovation, new product development, and technology commercialization. 

Participants from Indonesia should submit their abstracts before April 29, 2009. The full paper submission deadline will be June 3, 2009. To register, email icies@sbm.itb.ac.id or visit http://www.ciel-sbm-itb.com/icies  for more information on this event.

The CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) Global Summit will be held in London, United Kingdom from 19-21 October, 2009. The summit will bring together environment and agriculture ministers and other senior government officials from around the world. Also attending will be donors and representatives from international development and corporate organizations to consider policies, practices and technologies that can help improve food security in a climate of change.

For more information, visit https://www.cabiglobalsummit.com/delegate_landing.aspx

The International Society for Plant Pathology and Springer have come together to launch a new journal with the title Food Security: the Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food. The journal aims to take a synthetic approach to the many disciplines which are relevant to food security so that an overview of the subject becomes readily comprehensible. The first issue of the journal is freely available online at http://www.springer.com/life+sci/agriculture/journal/12571 and comprises a foreword by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Norman Borlaug.