News in May 2009
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2009-05-30

General

Vatican Studies Genetically Modified Crops
John L Allen Jr, National Catholic Reporter, May. 18, 2009
http://ncronline.org/news/ecology/vatican-studies-genetically-modified-crops

The formal title of the study week is "Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development," which is taking place at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences in the Vatican's Casina Pio IV.

Though the sessions are not open to the public, preparatory materials for the conference, including abstracts of presentations published on the Web site of the Academy for Sciences, offer a flavor of the discussions.

An introduction refers to GMOs as "life-sustaining and lifesaving technologies," and asserts that "no substantiated environmental or health risks have been noted." It charges that "extreme precautionary regulation," especially in Europe, has limited the spread of GMOs, thereby restricting "the huge potential of plant biotechnology to produce more, and more nutritive, food for the poor."

The introduction says the study week is "not a standard science meeting," but rather has the goal of developing "strategies to inform the media, the public, the regulatory authorities and governments that it is unjustified, even immoral, to continue with current attitudes and processes."
OECD ON BIOECONOMY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

The biological sciences are adding value to a host of products and services resulting into a "bioeconomy". This bioeconomy could make major socio-economic contributions to improve health, boost agricultural productivity and industrial processes, and enhance environmental sustainability. Coordinated policy action by governments is needed to harness the bioeconomy's potential and reap the benefits of the biotechnology revolution. This is the view of The Bioeconomy to 2030: Designing a Policy Agenda published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report reviews biotechnology applications, and the role of R & D funding, human resources, intellectual property, and regulation in the bioeconomy. Scenarios up to 2030 are presented to show the interplay of policy choices and technological advances in shaping the bioeconomy.

See the report at http://www.oecd.org/document/38/0,3343,en_2649_36831301_42570790_1_1_1_1,00.html
WHEAT GROUPS TO SYNCHRONIZE BIOTECH INTRODUCTION IN U.S., CANADA AND AUSTRALIA

Organizations representing the wheat industry in the United States, Canada and Australia released a statement to synchronize the commercialization of biotech traits in the wheat crop to minimize market disruption. In a statement, the wheat groups highlighted the importance of wheat to the food supply, the slow yield growth trends, and the lack of public and private investment in wheat research. It likewise noted that biotechnology could be a "significant component" to tackling major issues facing the industry.

The full statement is available online at http://www.wheatworld.org/biotech

Books & Articles

Genetically Engineered Plants and Foods - A Scientist's Analysis of the Issues (Part II)
Lemaux, P. 2009. Annual Reviews of Plant Biology. 60: 551-559.
lemauxpg@nature.Berkeley.EDU

In Part I of this review, some general and food issues related to GE crops and foods were discussed. In Part II, issues related to certain environmental and socioeconomic aspects of GE crops and foods are addressed, with responses linked to the scientific literature.

MEASURING ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF GM CROPS

A food policy review by the International Food Policy Research Institute examines the applied economics literature regarding the impact of GM crops on non-industrialized agriculture and investigates the research methods used in assessing how these crops affect farmers, consumers, the agricultural sector as a whole, and international trade. This analysis offers a tool for researchers who seek to produce objective, relevant analysis of emerging crop biotechnologies that can in turn be used by national policy makers in developing countries.

The policy review "Measuring the Economic Impacts of Transgenic Crops in Developing Agriculture During the First Decade: Approaches, Findings, and Future Directions" can be viewed at http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/fpreview/pv10.asp.
BIOVERSITY INTERNATIONAL AND LEGAMBIENTE PRESENT CROP BIODIVERSITY DOSSIER

Bioversity International, along with Legambiente, Italy's environmental organization,  presented a dossier on "Biodiversity Risk in 2009" during the World Trade Fair in Rome on May 10, 2009.  The dossier highlighted the need to protect agriculture biodiversity in order to ensure the availability of food in the years to come. The diversity in agriculture is a highly strategic resource to help farmers adapt to changing environmental conditions and at the same time strengthen the sustainability of agricultural systems.

For more information, contact Preite Cecilia Martinez at: c.pmartinez@cgiar.org. To view the original article in French, go to http://www.bioversityinternational.org/news_and_events/news/latest_news.html.
High-frequency modification of plant genes using engineered zinc-finger nucleases

An efficient method for gene targeting in plants has been lacking until now, frustrating efforts to engineer crop plants. Here it is demonstrated that zinc-finger nucleases—enzymes engineered to create DNA double-strand breaks at specific loci—can be used for gene targeting, in this case inducing mutations that confer resistance to herbicides in tobacco plants. Jeffrey A. Townsend & al., doi:10.1038/nature07845

FARMING FIRST WEBSITE

The Farming First website developed by CropLife International in partnership with the International Fertiliser Association (IFA), the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) is now available for viewing at for action with regards to food security and the future of agriculture.

The BioChemistry : An Indian Journal is devoted to the rapid publication of fundamental research that are at the interface of chemistry and biology. Research areas include are biochemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, immunology, molecular biology, neurobiology, plant biology, proteomics. All contributions shall be rigorously refereed and selected on the basis of quality and originality of the work as well as the breadth of interest to readers.
The Global Crop Diversity Trust. The results of the coordinated call proposed in late 2008 by GIPB, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (the Trust) and the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research are now available on KRC webpage.
Measuring the Economic Impacts of Transgenic Crops in Developing Agriculture during the First Decade: Approaches, Findings, and Future Directions
Melinda Smale, Patricia Zambrano, Guillaume Gru?re, José Falck-Zepeda, Ira Matuschke, Daniela Horna, Latha Nagarajan, Indira Yerramareddy, and Hannah Jones, IFPRI Food Policy Review No. 10, 2009
http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/fpreview/pv10.asp

This review of scholarly literature explores a key concern of IFPRI's: whether biotech crops can benefit poor farmers. The authors examine the issue by emphasizing the methods applied to empirical data from developing countries, because these methods influence the nature of economists' findings and how they interpret them. The authors consider the economic impacts of biotech crops not only on farmers, but also on consumers, the agricultural sector as a whole, and international trade. They have also compiled a web-bibliography, bEcon, which is available to researchers, particularly those in developing countries, as a tool to further their own understanding of the evidence.

The authors conclude that biotech crops have promise for poor farmers. Further in-depth investigation is required. Bt cotton is by far the most studied biotech crop, but analysis of the economic impacts of other crops has only begun. Impacts on poverty, inequality, health, and the environment need more rigorous exploration. Particular aspects of biotech crops-such as the institutional organization of their supply, the way that knowledge and transgenic seed are diffused in communities, and the costs and benefits of biosafety regulations-warrant in-depth investigation.
IP Handbook
http://www.iphandbook.org

Prepared by and for policy-makers, leaders of public and private sector research, tech transfer professionals, licensing executives, and scientists, this online resource offers up-to-date information and strategies for utilizing the power of both intellectual property and the public domain. Emphasis is placed on advancing innovation in health and agriculture, though many of the principles outlined here are broadly applicable across many fields.

This site is based on the comprehensive Handbook and Executive Guide that provide substantive discussions and analysis of the opportunities awaiting anyone in the field who wants to put intellectual property to work. The printed version includes 153 chapters on a full range of IP topics and over 50 case studies, composed by over 200 authors from North, South, East, and West, whereas this online resource contains much more than the Handbook. Among others, users like you are expanding the content with comments, discussions and document uploads.

Events

http://www.farmingfirst.org. Farming First is a joint policy platform that highlights six areas
Ecological Impact of Genetically Modified Organisms
http://www.eigmo-rostock.de/announce.htm
May 14-16, 2009, Rostock, Germany.

Keynote speakers at the event will be: Emilio Rodriguez Cerezo of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, Behzad Ghareyazie of the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute in Iran, and Bryan Griffiths of the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority's (Teagasc's) Environment Research Centre.

Sustainable development
Conference, Exhibition and Press Conference, Brussels, 26-28 May http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&lg=en&year=2009&na=na-060509

On the eve of the Competitiveness Council, more than 600 scientists, representatives from NGOs and industry, and R&D policy makers will exchange their views and stakes on what R&D can and cannot do for sustainability throughout the whole spectrum of sectors: energy, transport, agriculture, material science, social sciences, health research, etc. They will discuss frankly and openly the many ways in which European research contributes to global sustainable development: improved understanding of the environment, technological solutions, changing mindsets and behaviours, bearing in mind that research is also at the root of unsustainable trends.

13th Conference on Environment and Mineral Processing AT VŠB - TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC 4. 6. - 6. 6. 2009.
BIOSAFENET CONFERENCE 2009
How to strengthen the voice of biosafety research in the public debate on GM plants

The Biosafenet Conference is scheduled to be held on June 29, 2009 at the Julius-Kuhn Institute in Berlin, Germany. For more information, visit http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/438.docu.html

At the conference, BIOSAFENET will present its achievements in strengthening a wide network of European biosafety researchers and in the promotion of dialogue among researchers, as well as between scientists and the public. Two further initiatives, the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) and the International Society for Biosafety Research, will also present their activities.
Food, Famine, and Future Technologies: Ethical Dilemmas in a Hungry World
May 22-23, 2009, United Nations Plaza, New York
http://humanistbioethics.org/appignani-upcoming-events.html

The Appignani Bioethics Center in collaboration with the University of Montreal, Canada is organizing this conference under the auspices of the United Nations Headquarters in NYC. The conference provides an international forum for the exchange of ideas, experiences and views regarding the priority needs and possible strategic means of enhancing the capacities of developing countries and countries with transitional economies to assess risk and monitor genetic modified organisms (GMOs). The conference will identify and suggest a number of concrete steps to alleviate world hunger.

The Gateways Partners Symposia on Biosafety I.
Hazard ID and Risk Assessment of (Trans)gene Flow, 23-26 August 2009 Tromsř, Norway

Europe - EU

Parma/Brussels - Market approval of Amflora, the genetically modified potato developed by German BASF SE, has again been delayed, due to a conflict between 2 members of the BIOHAZ panel and 40 members of the GMO and BIOHAZ panels of the European food watchdog EFSA. Last year, the European Commission stated that it would approve the industry starch potato, if the antibiotic resistance marker gene npt2 was assessed as safe. Now, the EFSA , which had been asked by the European Commission last year to evaluate the safety of npt2 in transgenic plants, delayed the publication of its long-awaited opinion because two members of the BIOHAZ Panel expressed so-called minority opinions concerning the possibility of adverse effects of antibiotic resistance marker genes on human health and the environment. Minority opinions have to be published independently of the majority opinion of the involved GMO and BIOHAZ panel members.

EU sources told EuroBiotechNews that the majority of the members on both panels had already agreed to publish a statement that there is no new evidence that would change the EFSA's view, that GMOs carrying the npt2 markers are safe. But stating that two panel members had another standpoint without explaining their motives and specific problem with the marker would be problematic, because the public could be misled by the lack of information given.

The European Commission has previously expressed concerns that transfer of the npt2 gene to bacteria could lead to the spread of pathogens that are resistant to the antibiotic kanamycin used primarily in antibiotic eye drops, but which might become an important future reserve antibiotic. Last December, German GMO experts from ZKBS stated the propability for a horizontal gene transfer of an antibiotic resistence marker gene to a soil bacterium would be 10-20. This would be a thousand billion fold lower than the natural gene transfer rate to bacteria (approx. 1 in 100million cases).

In a letter sent to the heads of the EFSA panels EFSA chief Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle asks the panels to dicuss three questions on their next meeting at the end of May.

bulletDo any of the issues raised in the minority opinions require further clarification of the current joint scientific opinion?
bulletIf yes, can this be done without further scientific work?
bulletIf further work is required, what might the nature of this work be?
BASF's application for EU market approval includes cultivation of the GM potato in the European Union.

Europe

Is Europe abandoning science?
http://www.eurobiotechnews.eu/service/start-page/top-news/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=9929&cHash=a408e90084

With two recent decisions, a usually politically neutral Germany has taken on a leadership role among EU member states that oppose planting genetically modified (GM) maize. At the beginning of March, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel delivered the 29 decisive votes on a Council decision rebuffing European Commission efforts to lift GM bans put in place by Austria and Hungary. The bans had been evaluated as scientifically unfounded by European food watchdog EFSA just a short time before. Six weeks later, German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner refused to allow fields in Germany to be planted with Monsanto’s Bt maize Mon810 due to concerns about the environmental safety of the crop, which has been planted in Europe since 1998. With Luxemburg, which placed a ban on Mon810 crops at the end of March, 6 EU governments in all are now resisting efforts to cultivate Monsanto’s first-generation GMO. In response to the Commission’s inability to respond with action, the biotech industry and the Dutch government are now questioning the overall EU decision-making process on GMOs.

The war on GMO cultivation approvals between the Commission and the EU member states is in sharp contrast to the ”2nd EU report on coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming”. According to the report, which was released in April, none of the 15 member states that had already implemented coexistence rules reported any demonstrable damage to existing non-GM farming.

The next battle will focus on BASF’s GM potato Amflora, which is slated for approval if the antibiotic selection marker npt2 is evaluated as safe by the EFSA, according to previous Commission statements. “No other regulatory body – not only in the US, but elsewhere too, has considered npt2 to be a safety issue,” remarked Dr. Ricardo Gent from the German Biotech Association DIB.

Current opposition might change as more advanced agribiotech products come into play, sporting varieties that not only improve agronomic traits such as insect-resistance or herbicide-tolerance, but that are also more healthy, environmentally friendly (requiring less artificial irrigation) or that can be planted in regions with poor soils. Pioneer Hi-Bred Inc. is to enter the US market next year with its first product to offer a health advantage for humans. With high levels of oleic acid and low linoleic acid, its 305423 soybean is designed to reduce cardiovascular risk. Similar products from BASF and Monsanto are 2-4 years from approval. European plant researchers have also significantly contributed to metabolic engineering of the first stress-tolerant maize. BASF and Monsanto recently filed for approval for it in the US, and it should hit the market within the next years, along with similar Pioneer products. Other pipeline GMOs include plants that need less fertilizer because they utilise nitrogen more efficiently, or those that provide higher yields or improved protein composition.
The ban of Bt maize and research

The ban on cultivating the genetically modified Bt maize line MON810 that was issued by Germany’s Agriculture Minister, Ilse Aigner, at the beginning of April may also have an impact on the government’s own research. A research programme of the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) that has been running since 2005 has been using MON810 maize to investigate outcrossing rates to neighbouring conventional crops. Can the trials continue in 2009 as planned? GMO Safety asked Gerhard Rühl of the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI), who is coordinating the trials.

Please find the complete report at www.gmo-safety.eu
DFG and DLG: Memorandum on crop biotechnology
http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/688.docu.html

Nobel Laureate Nüsslein-Volhard: "The ban on cultivating Bt maize sends an alarming signal."

(13 May 2009) In a joint memorandum, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) and German Agricultural Society (Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft, DLG) are demanding reliable conditions for research and development in the area of genetically modified plants. At a press conference in Berlin the presidents of the two organisations complained of a hostile climate to plant biotechnology and argued emphatically in favour of freedom of research and field trials.

The ban on cultivating MON810 and the restrictions on field trials sent "a really alarming and hostile signal," according to Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, a biotechnologist and developmental biologist based in Tübingen, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1995.

The scientist criticised the bans issued by politicians, saying that they were based on unrealistic tests. In contrast, there were numerous studies that had received funding from the EU, the DFG and Germany’s Ministry of Research (BMBF) that had not found any risk to humans or nature from genetically modified Bt maize. If such politically motivated obstructions continued, she feared that many innovative researchers would turn their backs on Germany.

In Nüsslein-Volhard’s view, the current situation with crop biotechnology is reminiscent of that of medical biotechnology 25 years ago. Many researchers left Germany and pharmaceutical companies moved jobs abroad in the early phase of medical (’red’) biotechnology following political decisions. "People have now seen sense when it comes to the application of biotechnology in medicine. But instead of learning from past mistakes, they are repeating them."

The world population is still growing. So it is vital, according to DLG President Carl-Albrecht Bartmer, to "increase productivity in crop farming, since the area of fertile farmland available worldwide can be increased only slightly". In addition, biomass consumption as a source of environmentally friendly energy and industry’s increasing demand for new renewable materials were likely to lead to a shortage of agricultural produce on international markets.

"In order to exploit the genetic potential of our crops further," expanded DFG President Matthias Kleinert, "what we need above all is fundamental research that is allowed to make use of the whole repertoire of modern breeding methods – not only in the lab, but also in the field. Field experiments are vital for seeing how plants behave under realistic conditions."

The memorandum lists three key requirements for ensuring that crop biotechnology research continues to be possible in Germany:

bullet"Research needs a dependable legal and social framework. Political decisions and legal principles should be based on scientific benefit/risk assessments.
bulletAll research needs an open, supportive yet constructively critical social climate to promote inventiveness and to be able to face future challenges. This should apply to crop biotechnology research as well.
bulletPlant research cannot be restricted to laboratories and greenhouses. This applies both to fundamental research and to applied research. It is only under natural conditions in the field that one can assess whether new products are safe and competitive. Even very basic plant processes can be understood only if laboratory and greenhouse results are tested for relevance in the natural environment."
ROUNDTABLE ON AGRI-BIOTECH IN GERMANY

The roundtable discussion on agricultural biotechnology initiated by Germany's Research Minister Annette Schavan and Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner did not yield concrete results but it starts further discussion on  specific issues. Participants included 30 representatives from science, industry, government, and associations who deliberated on the status of agricultural biotechnology in Germany.

"We want to explain and build trust. We have to use the potential offered by biotechnology, whilst at the same time taking the risks seriously and creating acceptance," said Research Minister Schavan. Subsequent discussions will be on issues such as biosafety research and the release of genetically modified plants, approval and authorization procedures, and genetic engineering and animal feed.

The news article is available at http://www.gmo-safety.eu/en/news/689.docu.html
APPLIED CROP RESEARCH CENTER IN UK

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and The Arable Group (TAG) in the United Kingdom are set to create a national, independent center for applied crop research and information. The center will provide expertise and services on seed, variety and crop protection development pipelines.

For further information contact Tony Pexton, NIAB Board Chairman at tonypexton@pextonfarms.co.uk or visit http://www.niab.com/news.html#newsanchortwo
CONSULTATION ON FUTURE RESEARCH FOR FOOD SECURITY

The United Kingdom's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has launched a consultation on future research to discuss the food security crisis. The end result will be a food security research road map.

Professor Janet Allen, BBSRC Director of Research, said "We need to increase global food supply by 50% by 2030. This consultation is the opportunity for all interested organizations and individuals to comment on the future research we need to deliver this and avoid a growing food security crisis. We are looking for responses to questions that include research targets in food production and supply, ways to ensure knowledge transfer into practical application and public policy and providing the skills and training we need."

The full consultation document is available at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/consultations.

The news release is at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk
GMO BAN REMAINS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Bosnia and Herzegovina has recently passed a new law on genetically modified organisms. The law permits field trials and importation of EU-approved biotech products. However, the ban on the cultivation of GM crops or the use of biotech products still remains. The bylaws that define the approval procedures for GM products have not yet been drafted. Until these procedures are drafted and approved, no GMO will be allowed into the country.

Download the GAIN Report at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Biotechnology%20Report_Sarajevo_Bosnia%20and%20Herzegovina_4-8-2009.pdf
European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology 2009 (EFIB 2009)

Secretary General Willy De Greef evaluated general targets of EFIB 2008 and make ideas on where EFIB 2009 is going.

What was the most important result of EFIB 2008?

EFIB 2008 led to the unexpected conclusion that of all factors impacting the emergence of the bio-based economy, it is the reliable supply of affordable feedstock which is the biggest cause of concern. This requires substantial changes in agricultural policy. The need for close coordination between industrial and agricultural policy as a prerequisite for the successful development of industrial biotechnology is likely to become a defining issue in the field.

What is the central theme of EFIB 2009?

EFIB 2009 has been organized to give particular attention to policy issues and financial issues and try to come up with solutions for business and policy makers.

What is unique in your mind about EFIB 2009?

EFIB is unique in that the programme integrates all aspects in the “farm to product” chain. All aspects of the value chain from farming, to feedstock, to trade and applications are covered at EFIB 2009. EFIB as a conference brings policy makers together with economic actors and the financial community. EFIB is unique in Europe in this way.
Poland: GMO law criticized

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has criticised the draft law on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that Poland recently submitted to the European Commission. The rules defined in the law “will prevent planting GM crops in Poland,” according to a USDA report (GAIN report No. PL 9005) released in March. The Eastern European nation has come under especially heavy fire for the choice of the 18 experts who will set the GMO policy and approval of rules. The USDA said that it is clear that the panel will not approve a single GMO, as industry and farming experts were excluded by the Polish Environment Ministry in favor of representatives from anti-GMO lobby groups. The USDA has also criticised Poland’s plans to limit research on GM crops to closed systems, and to vote against every EU market approval application covering cultivation of GM crops. Other USDA concerns include Poland’s plans to establish GMO-free zones by naming regional inspectors who are able to prohibit GMO cultivation in specific regions for environmental protection reasons. According to the report, Poland is one of Europe’s “most active governments lobbying against the adoption of agricultural biological sciences worldwide.”

http://www.eurobiotechnews.eu/eastern-europe/articledetail/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=9990&tx_ttnews[backPid]=8&cHash=bec57c26c8
POST-MARKET MONITORING OF BT MAIZE

Olivier Sanvido and colleagues from Agroscope ART in Zurich, Switzerland, forward two approaches on how PMM of Bt maize could be designed to detect potential effects on butterflies and natural enemies. In the first publication on butterflies, their analysis showed that a monitoring program, even with a considerable sampling effort, will at best detect large effects on ubiquitous butterflies. They concluded that well-designed risk assessment studies might reveal relevant ecological effects much more accurately than monitoring studies. The second study on natural enemies showed that a faunistic monitoring of specific arthropod groups is not considered an appropriate approach to detect failures in biological control functions. Alternatively, an approach is proposed that consists in indirectly analyzing biological control functions by surveying outbreaks of maize herbivores.

The paper on butterflies published by Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment  is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2009.01.007

The paper on natural enemies published by the Journal of Applied Entomology is available at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121545081/abstract

Africa

DISCUSSION ON IMPLICATIONS OF GM CROPS FOR SMALL-HOLDER AFRICAN FARMERS

International experts, key policy makers, and representatives of farmers associations and the private sector met in Entebbe from May 19-21 to examine the potential benefits and challenges of producing genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa. The conference, "Delivering Agricultural Biotechnology to African Farmers: Linking Economic Research to Decision Making," was organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in collaboration with the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and the Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development.

All conference information including presentations are available at http://africabiotech.wordpress.com/
UGANDA EMBRACES BIOTECH TO CURB CROP LOSSES

Uganda government is boosting its investment in modern biotechnology laboratories as well as human resources development to boost its agricultural productivity, the State Minister for Animal Industry and Fisheries, Bright Rwamirama, said while opening the conference on Delivering Agricultural Biotechnology to African Farmers: Linking Economic Research to Decision Making, in Entebbe, Uganda. "We have a fully equipped National Agricultural Biotechnology Center at the National Agricultural Laboratories Institute, Kawanda that was commissioned by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni in August 2003. Another laboratory is being constructed at the National Crop Resource Research Institute, Namulonge,"  the minister said.

For more information on this article and on biotechnology in Uganda, contact Olive Nabukonde at onabukonde@yahoo.com

America

CANADA APPROVES PIONEER'S HIGH-OLEIC ACID SOYBEAN

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada (HC) has approved Pioneer Hi-Bred's high oleic acid GM soybean for cultivation and food and feed use in Canada. According to Pioneer, oil from their GM soybean contains about 80 percent oleic acid. Oils that contain higher levels of oleic acid are more stable when used in frying and food processing. High oleic soybean oil is also suitable for industrial applications, providing a sustainable option to petroleum-based products.

The press release is available at http://www.pioneer.com/web/site/portal/menuitem.ee6b81a9d95ce0034c844c84d10093a0/
PERU HOLDS ITS FIRST NATIONAL BIOTECH CONFERENCE

Peru's first national biotechnology conference was successfully held last May 12-13 at Universidad Ricardo Palma in Lima. Organized by the Peruvian Association for the Development of Biotechnology (PerúBiotech), the conference featured speakers from all over South America and attracted more than 300 attendees. Issues covered in the conference included advances in agricultural biotechnology, its impact on the economy, and legal regulation of GMOs.

For more information, read http://www.agrobio.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7431&Itemid=25
TRENDS IN PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

Latin America and the Caribbean have invested $3.0 billion in agricultural research and development but only 70 percent was spent in three countries: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. This was forwarded by the report Public Agricultural Research in Latin America and the Caribbean: Investment and Capacity Trends published by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

See the full report at http://www.asti.cgiar.org/pdf/LAC_Syn_Report.pdf

China

CHINA LAUNCHES POLICY ON ACCELERATING DEVELOPMENT OF BIOINDUSTRIES

China launched a "Policy on the Acceleration of Bioindustry Development" in a State Council executive meeting presided by Premier Wen Jiabao on May 13, 2009. According to the policy, agriculture, energy, manufacturing, environment and medicine will be developed as the five key bioindustries. The strategies for bioindustry development include: bio-enterprises expansion, innovation, capability building, financial support, market development, genetic resource protection, and biosafety regulation.

During the meeting, it was reiterated that government will invest RMB32.8 B (US$4.95 B) this year and another RMB 30 B (US$4.4 B) in 2010 for 11 science and technology programs which includes one on GM variety development approved in 2008.

Read the press release at http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2009-05/13/content_11368338.htm

Other Asia

SCIENTISTS DEVELOPING INSECT RESISTANT BIOTECH SOYBEAN IN INDONESIA

Scientists at the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research and Development, Bogor, Indonesia have successfully introduced the proteinase inhibitor II (pin II) gene to a soybean variety through the particle bombardment technique. Pin II gene is implicated in the defense mechanisms of many crop species. Two plants of soybean variety Wilis (WP1, WP2) and three plants of the Tidar variety (TP1, TP2, TP3) produced transgenic plants. However, molecular analysis of these regenerated plants using the polymerase chain reaction technique showed that only WP2 contained the pinll gene. Further evaluation of this positively transformed plant will be conducted and more transgenic plants will be generated in the future.

More information on this research can be obtained from http://digilib.biologi.lipi.go.id/view.html?idm=30140
BT COTTON FROM CHINA TO BE PLANTED IN PAKISTAN

Chinese experts from Xinjiang region have reached an agreement with Pakistani scientists to plant Bt cotton on 800 acres in farmers' fields in Sindh and the Punjab. Half of the area will use drip irrigation method and the other half by applying sprinkler irrigation method. The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) will  monitor all research activities related to the wide scale production of colored and white cotton.
The joint research was discussed in a meeting between a two-member Chinese mission, headed by Qiquan Zhang, Director General, Agriculture Division, Xinjiang Production Corporation and the Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council Dr. Zafar Altaf.

Read the full article at http://www.pabic.com.pk/13%20May,%2009%20Bt%20Cotton%20will%20be%20grown%20on%20800%20acres.html

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/business/11-plan-to-grow-bt-cotton-with-chinese-help--08

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\05\13\story_13-5-2009_pg5_2
MALAYSIAN SCIENTISTS SUCCESSFUL IN CRACKING OIL PALM GENOME

Scientists at Sime Darby, a leading global plantation company have successfully completed the sequencing, assembling and annotation of the oil palm genome with 93.8% completeness. This is a milestone in enhancing the productivity and sustainability of this important commodity crop.

For more news about biotechnology in Malaysia, email Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Center at maha@bic.org.my.

Australia

CSIRO PLANS LIMITED RELEASE OF GM WHEAT

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has submitted an application to Australia's Gene Technology Regulator for the controlled release of 16 genetically modified wheat lines with altered grain composition. The trial is set to take place at one site in the Australian Capital Territory, on a maximum area of 1 ha, between July 2009 and June 2012.

For more information, visit http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/dir092
LIMITED RELEASE OF GM SUGARCANE IN AUSTRALIA

Australia's Gene Technology Regulator has received a license application from BSES Ltd for the limited and controlled release of up to 12,500 GM sugarcane lines. The sugarcane plants were genetically modified for altered plant growth and sucrose accumulation, enhanced drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency, and improved cellulosic ethanol production from sugarcane biomass. The trial, which will take place on six BSES stations in Queensland from June 2009-2015, aims to evaluate agronomic properties of the GM sugarcane lines grown under field conditions. The GM sugarcane lines contain one or more genes or gene fragments from 22 genes derived from a range of plant and bacterial species. The GM plant materials will not be used for human food or animal feed.

For more information on the proposed release, visit http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/dir095

News in Science

BETA-CAROTENE IN GOLDEN RICE IS EFFECTIVELY CONVERTED TO VITAMIN A

Results of a study conducted by researchers from the Tufts University, Baylor College of Medicine and U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that the beta-carotene derived from Golden Rice is effectively converted to vitamin A in humans. Five adult volunteers were given servings of 65 to 98 g of golden rice containing 1-1.5 mg beta-carotene for 36 days. The researchers then measured the amount of retinol, a form of vitamin A, in blood samples collected from the volunteers. They found that four units of beta-carotene from Golden Rice convert to one unit of vitamin A in humans (specifically, 3.8 ± 1.7 to 1 with a range of 1.9-6.4 to 1 by weight).

Golden Rice, which carries the beta-carotene biosynthesis genes psy from daffodil and crt1 from Erwinia, contains 35 micrograms of beta-carotene per gram.

Read the paper published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition at http://dx.doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.27119
International team finds key gene that allows plants to survive drought

A team of scientists from Canada, Spain and the United States has identified a key gene that allows plants to defend themselves against environmental stresses like drought, freezing and heat.

Plants have stress hormones that they produce naturally and that signal adverse conditions and help them adapt. The research team, led by Sean Cutler of the University of California, Riverside, has identified the receptor of the key hormone in stress protection called abscisic acid (ABA). Under stress, plants increase their ABA levels, which help them survive a drought through a process not fully understood. The area of ABA receptors has been a highly controversial topic in the field of plant biology that has involved retractions of scientific papers as well as the publication of papers of questionable significance. "Scientists have been trying to solve the ABA receptor problem for more than 20 years, and claims for ABA receptors are not easily received by the scientific community," says Cutler.

This team used a new approach called chemical genomics to identifying a synthetic chemical, designated pyrabactin, which specifically activates an ABA receptor in the model laboratory plant Arabidopsis. With pyrabactin in hand it was now possible to directly identify the ABA receptor.

The study results will appear April 30 in Science Express and in the May 22 issue of Science magazine. Lead author Sean Cutler is a former University of Toronto scientist who is now an assistant professor of plant cell biology in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. In addition to the University of Toronto and the University of California, Riverside, team members were from University of California, San Diego, Universidad Politecnica, Spain, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of California, Santa Barbara; and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
SCIENTISTS SUCCESSFUL IN DECIPHERING JATROPHA GENOME

California-based Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) and Asiatic Centre for Genome Technology (ACGT) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia announced that they have completed the first draft of the genome of jatropha (Jatropha curcas), an important biofuel crop. Researchers at SGI and ACGT used both the traditional Sanger sequencing and next generation sequencing to crack the crop's genome.

For more information, visit http://www.syntheticgenomics.com/press/2009-05-20.htm
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