News in December 2009
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2010-01-08

General

ECONOMICS OF GM CROPS REVIEWED
by Matin Qaim in a review paper The Economics of Genetically Modified Crops published in the Annual Review of Resource Economics. Qaim also notes the following:
bulletImpact studies show that GM crops are beneficial to farmers and consumers and produce large aggregate welfare gains. In many cases, farmers in developing countries benefit more than farmers in developed countries.
bulletBt crops can be suitable for small-scale farmers. They contribute to higher household incomes and poverty reduction, when embedded in a conducive institutional environment.
bulletFuture GM crop applications, involving tolerance to abiotic stress and higher nutrient contents, may lead to much larger benefits.

Qiam's paper can be downloaded at http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/eprint/Ec5XmuiH3JwHVFxg742s/full/10.1146/annurev.resource.050708.

AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY GROUPS RELEASE JOINT STATEMENT OF NEGOTIATORS AT COPENHAGEN
A Joint Statement was released on December 14 by attendees to the UN Climate Change Talks in Copenhagen that include the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Federation of Agriculture Producers, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and its Challenge Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security, Global Donor Platform for Rural Development, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Life Sciences, Center for International Forestry Research, and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. The recommendations were the conclusion of the three day events: Agriculture and Rural Development Day, Forest Day, and a side event sponsored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The agreed action points stipulated in the joint statement include:

bullet. Food security should be integrated in the shared vision of the Long Term Cooperative Action text, in order to open the door to adaptation and mitigation support;
bullet. Urge climate negotiators to agree on the early establishment of an agricultural work program under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice;
bullet. Look for agreement that Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation include agriculture, forestry and other land uses;
bullet. Believe that the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry accounting system needs to be favorable to agriculture.

See the news at: http://www.ifpri.org/blog/agriculture-and-forestry-groups-release-joint-statement-negotiators-cop-15. Joint Statement downloadable at http://www.agricultureday.org/ARDD_Joint-Statement.pdf

ICRISAT AND IFAD CALL FOR A SECOND GREEN REVOLUTION
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in a joint statement, stressed the need for a second Green Revolution to end hunger and poverty in the drylands. ICRISAT Director General William Dar and IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze called upon national governments to draft polices that would transform dryland agriculture into a successful business. They said that to turn agriculture profitable for farmers, governments need to create local demand and make local markets viable. Climate change is expected to severely compromise agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions, for instance in sub-Saharan Africa. The IFAD head also stressed the need to "develop better seeds, which can withstand water shortage, new pests and adverse weather conditions including flooding."

IFAD has been working with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which supports ICRISAT. IFAD contributes around USD 12 million to CGIAR centers every year.

The press release is available at http://www.icrisat.org/newsite/newsroom/news-releases/icrisat-pr-2009-media26.htm

Books & Articles

CIP PUBLISHES ONLINE DATABASE FOR POTATO AND SWEETPOTATO
A new online database for potato and sweetpotato has just been published by the International Potato Center (CIP). The database will be updated as new released data and is available at: http://www.cipotato.org/research/genebank/search. For more information, visit https://research.cip.cgiar.org/confluence/display/cpx/Germplasm+Passport+and+Evaluation+Data+Search
European Research by country: 2004-2009.
Click on any EU country on the map on this page for a short brochure about how the country has benefited from European research. The brochure is now available in English as well as the original language.

http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=nationalbrochures

Events

ERA - European Research Area
Events page: http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/index_en.html
The 7th Pacific Rim Conference on the Biotechnology of Bacillus thuringiensis and its Environmental Impact
held on 25th-28th Nov 2009 in New Delhi. The four day Conference was organized by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), University of Calcutta, Kolkatta and the All India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA) and attended by more than 150 Bt scientists from different parts of the world. Prof. Swapan K Datta, Dy. Director General (Crop Science), ICAR was the convener of the conference. More information about the 7th Pacific Rim Conference is available at http://www.7btconference.org/
EuropaBio Brussels Day December 1-2 2009
CEOs and National Biotech Associations Meet Brussels Decision-Makers. EuropaBio counts 1800 SMEs amongst its members through 26 national associations. Topics for discussion at meetings held today will include the need to attract more venture capital, to work towards making the European Research Area a reality, and for the commitment of funding at EU level. In addition, there will be a special focus on the need to ensure that the process of applying for funding under FP7 and structural funds becomes simpler, faster and less resource intensive for SMEs, many of which consist of 10 or fewer employees. For further information on Brussels Day, please contact

Willy De Greef, Secretary General, EuropaBio
Tel: +32 2 739 11 71; Email: w.degreef@europabio.org

Biotechnology Based Sustainable Agriculture (International Conference)
New Delhi, India  - Saturday, December 19, 2009
Info at http://www.ilsi-india.org/activities-events/forthcoming-activities.htm#b
Agriculture & Rural Development Day at COP15
http://www.agricultureday.org

Agriculture and Development Leaders Meet in Copenhagen to Map Priority Actions Needed to Prepare Farming for Climate Threat and Reduce Its Environmental Footprint'

Europe - EU

EUROPEAN COMMISSION CLEARS SYNGENTA'S GM MAIZE FOR FOOD AND FEED USE
The European Commission decided, after several months of impasse, to authorize the genetically modified (GM) maize MIR604 for food and feed uses and imports and processing. The maize has been genetically modified to produce the mCry3A protein, which confers resistance to the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) and other coleopteran pests of maize. The authorization is valid for ten years. EFSA earlier this year released a scientific opinion concluding that the GM maize is "as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to its potential effects on human and animal health or the environment."

Visit http://dx.doi.org/ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm for more information.

EFSA SEEKS COMMENTS ON SCIENTIFIC OPINION ON THE ASSESSMENT OF ALLERGENICITY OF GM PLANTS
For more information, visit http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1211903078245.htm
A Ministerial Roundtable of the Conference on GMOs in European Agriculture and Food Production
was held on November 26, 2009 in the Hague, the Netherlands. Highlights of the roundtable include:
bulletMinisters and representatives stressed new challenges worldwide particularly in agriculture. Opportunities that GMOS could provide such as in increasing agricultural competitiveness, productivity and food security were expressed.
bulletSupport was expressed for the concept of granting Member States and/or specific regions the right to decide on cultivation of GMOs on their own territory. A suggestion was made to develop a framework that would improve the effectiveness of GMO procedures in the European Union.
bulletA recommendation was made to promote independent socio-economic and agronomic impact studies of GMOs. Involvement of all affected stakeholders in the discussions was considered essential.

More details of the Ministerial Roundtable are available at http://www.gifsoja.nl/

EFSA RELEASES SCIENTIFIC OPINION ON MONSANTO'S GM OILSEED RAPE
The European Food and Safety Authority's scientific panel on genetically modified organism has released its opinion for the renewal of the authorization for continued marketing of food/feed materials produced from the genetically modified oilseed rape GT73. GT73, developed by Monsanto Co., expresses two genes encoding the CP4 EPSPS and GOX proteins that confer glyphosate tolerance and resistance, respectively. It concluded that "the placing on the market of GT73 oilseed rape for processing and feed use is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human or animal health or, in the context of its proposed use, on the environment." A summary of the scientific opinion is available at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/cs/BlobServer/Scientific_Opinion/1417,0.pdf?ssbinary=true For the complete report, visit http://www.efsa.europa.eu/cs/BlobServer/Scientific_Opinion/s1417,0.pdf?ssbinary=true

Europe

The Farmers Biotech Network
composed of European farmers has released a declaration calling on Europe's leaders to invest in green biotechnology agriculture. The declaration states: "We demand the freedom of choice between traditional, organic and green biotechnology agriculture. We call upon the EU Commission and the European Parliament to allow us to become more competitive and more sustainable. National governments must also provide significant political and public support to strengthen our ability to meet current and future expectations of farm productivity." In particular, the Network called on several urgent measures, notably: the immediate stop to GM bans across Europe; accelerate the processing and approval of GM applications in the EU; and ensure an open debate about the future of agriculture policy for Europe. A copy of the declaration is at http://fundacion-antama.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/FBN-Declaration-Manifesto-ENGLISH.pdf
Hungary maintains firm hold on biotechnology
A recent survey by EuropaBio and Ventura Valuation shows how Hungary’s development of the region's biotechnology sector remains strong. Included in the survey were 12 new EU Member States, along with Croatia and Turkey. http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_09_11_30_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=13993
BULGARIA PARLIAMENT TO EASE LAWS ON GM CROP CULTIVATION
Bulgaria's Commission for Environment and Water's approval for a change in the law regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has set the pace for the Parliament to allow wider use of GM crops. The Commission decided to harmonize the legislation on GMOs with European Union requirements. Bulgaria has very strict laws on the cultivation of GMOs which are not yet widely grown in the country.

Read http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=110960 for the news article.

Open letter from EuropaBio to President Barroso: Brussels, 7 December 2009
Willy De Greef, Secretary General, EuropaBio wrote i.a. Biotechnology provides an essential toolbox of solutions in the task of mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Biotechnology allows to complement and possibly rethink traditional industrial and agricultural processes. By delivering competitive industrial and agricultural performance, biotechnology enhances economic growth and agricultural production, while at the same time saving water, energy, raw materials and reducing emissions and waste. Agricultural or 'Green' biotechnology enables agriculture to adapt to an unpredictable climate and ensures that production keeps up with rising demand across the world in an environmentally sustainable manner. The EU and its Member States must ensure that its proposals for the current talks in Copenhagen enable the deployment of biotechnology to these ends. In addition to putting in place an enabling regulatory environment for biotechnology, policy makers must also encourage investment in research and technology to ensure that innovation and creativity are adequately funded from discovery through to economic deployment.
TURKEY LIFTS IMPORT BAN ON GMOS
The Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs this Wednesday released a directive repealing the Oct. 26, 2009 regulation that restricted importation of food and feed products with biotechnology-derived content. The directive instructs Turkish ports to resume pre-October 26 procedures. Earlier this week, the Turkish Danistay Court, the highest administrative court in Turkey, suspended the implementation of the Ministry's regulation. The court gave the Ministry 30 days to implement the decision.

In addition, Turkey's Prime Minister has referred a draft biosafety law to Parliament for discussion, according to the US Grains Council (USGC). Rebecca Fecitt, USGC Director of Biotechnology Programs, noted "Although we don't know the exact terms and details of the new, latest version of the biosafety law, it is possible that if this law is passed, it may provide the legal basis for the Oct. 26 regulation to resume. Some reports show it is unlikely the draft law will be discussed in Parliament until early next year."

Read the original story at http://www.grains.org/news-events/2098-turkey-officially-lifts-ban-on-biotech-imports

UKRAINE OFFICIALLY ACCEPTS THE FIRST APPLICATION FOR STATE REGISTRATION OF GMO
The first application for registration of GMO intended for food use has been officially accepted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health. Monsanto Company applied the registration of genetically modified Round Up Ready Soybean GTS40-3-2. The application will be evaluated within 90 days following the national regulations and should be registered after 30 days.

See the story at: http://www.bsba.ag/BSBA/Home_en.html

Africa

Africa has "shot itself in the heart,"
when Europe "shot itself in the foot", said Paul Colliers, director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University in Copenhagen at the start of "Development and Climate Days",( a four-day programme on development and adaptation issues related to climate change). New varieties of maize resistant to predicted increases in drought, heat and flooding in Africa cannot be bred fast enough by conventional means, so genetically modified crops will become a necessity, he said. Some vulnerable countries including Malawi already plant at least some modified crops. But other southern African countries, following Europe's lead, ban the technology, largely on grounds that the laboratory-created crops have not undergone sufficient long-term testing to ensure they are safe for health and the environment.

Reductions in potential agricultural productivity in Europe were a minor contributor to the 2008 food crisis, which saw food prices shoot up worldwide as supplies dwindled, Colliers said. But in Africa, rejection of genetically modified crops threatens to provoke mass hunger, he said. He urged Africa to move toward industrialisation as a crucial adaptation to climate change. "Africa should move out of agriculture," Colliers said.

AGRIC RESEARCH REDUCES POVERTY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
Results of a study conducted by researchers at the Nigeria-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) show that agricultural research is reducing the number of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2.3 million annually. The report, authored by Arega Alene and Ousmane Coulibaly, finds that the estimated aggregate rate of return from agricultural research runs as high as 55 percent and that doubling investments in agricultural research and development in the region from the current USD 650 million could reduce poverty by two percentage points every year.

Read the original article at http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_feature_details.aspx?articleid=3078&zoneid=342

The Francophone West Africa Biotechnology Report
released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service is available at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/AGRICULTURAL%20BIOTECHNOLOGY%20ANNUAL_Dakar_Senegal_11-2-2009.pdf

America

APHIS DEREGULATES HERBICIDE-TOLERANT CORN
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said that it will deregulate Pioneer Hi-Bred's genetically modified corn event 98140 after "a thorough review of scientific information, public comments, and an environmental assessment." The GM corn, resistant to glyphosate and acetolactate synthase-inhibiting herbicides, can now be freely moved and planted without the requirement of permits or other regulatory oversight by APHIS.

APHIS said that scientific evidence indicates that any environmental, human health or food safety concerns associated with the GM corn line are "unlikely to occur."

Relevant documents are available at http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#docketDetail?R=APHIS-2008-0094

BIOTECH STATUS IN ARGENTINA
According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA/FAS), Argentina continues to be the world's second largest biotech crop producer (after the United States) for the 2008/09 planting year, with 16.8 percent of the global area of GM crops located in the country. Almost all soybean area planted in the country is biotech, and 83 percent and 94 percent of corn and cotton areas respectively are also biotech. In addition, the area cultivated with the corn stacked event represents 25 percent of the total, a significant increase in the adoption rate compared to the 2 percent cultivated during the previous year.

Download the full report at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/AGRICULTURAL%20BIOTECHNOLOGY%20ANNUAL_Buenos%20Aires_Argentina_10-27-2009.pdf

BRAZIL CLEARS NEW HERBICIDE-TOLERANT GM SOYBEAN
The Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) has approved the use of a new genetically-modified soybean seed developed jointly by the German chemical company BASF and EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. The soybean variety is tolerant to imidazoline-based herbicides.

There are more than 18 biotech crop events approved for cultivation in Brazil. However, Monsanto's Roundup Ready is the only GMO soy available in the country. In 2008, 14.2 million hectares of Roundup Ready soybean were planted in Brazil.

The newly approved GM soybean variety is expected to be available to Brazilian farmers from 2011 onwards. Brazil is the world's second-largest soybean producer and the largest exporter. The country produces some 50 million tons of soybean annually, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

For more information, visit http://www.embrapa.br/

Asia

BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY ACT
National Institute of Biotechnology (NIB) Act has been recently approved in the Cabinet Meeting of Ministers presided by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The feasibility paper was recommended by a committee of experts under the leadership of Desh Pal Verma, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Ohio State University, USA, and was submitted to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Since its inception in 1996, NIB was administered by Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission of Science and the Ministry of Science Information and Communication Technology (ICT) under a development project. Under the Act, the NIB will now be an independent and autonomous institute under the Science & ICT Ministry, and will receive budget from the government revenue directly. Bioscientists are grateful to the Science & ICT State Minister Engg. Yeafesh Osman whose initiative made this endeavor possible. For details of the story, contact Dr. K. M. Nasirrudin of Bangladesh Biotechnology Information Center at nasirbiotech@yahoo.com.
MALAYSIAN BIOSAFETY ACT IN FORCE
After a series of consultation with the industry and other stakeholders, the regulations to support the Biosafety Act which was gazetted in 2007 was approved by the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat). With this, the Biosafety Act is in force effective December 1, 2009. The National Biosafety Board will be established which will be comprised of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, representatives from Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Plantation Industry and Commodities, Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and not more than four other persons with knowledge and/or experience in any disciplines or matters relevant to this Act. The GMAC is also expected to be revamped and made into a formal entity. For more information, visit http://www.biosafety.nre.gov.my/. Further inquiries can be sent to Mr. Letchumanan Ramatha at letchu@nre.gov.my or biosafety@nre.gov.my

A state-of-the-art plant biotech facility (PBF) was officially opened by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), Datuk Seri Dr. Maximus Johnity Ongkili on December 1, 2009 at the University Malaya. The PBF is a research facility of the Centre for Research in Biotechnology for Agriculture (CEBAR). More news about biotechnology in Malaysia can be obtained by emailing Mahaletchumy Arujanan at maha@bic.org.my

The Philippines celebrated the 5th Annual National Biotechnology Week
last November 23-29, 2009 with the theme "Biotechnology for the country's environment, health, beauty, livelihood and development".

The week-long activity included a press conference, business forum on bio-enterprise, book launching, biotech for kids activities, teacher's conference and scientific session on biotech for local development and environment, and a public forum on healthcare and biotechnology. The timeline of modern biotechnology development in the  Philippines, global biotech crops adoption and benefits, and biotechnology products commercially available and those in the pipeline, were showcased in the celebration's inter-active and techno-mart exhibits. For more updates on biotech developments in the Philippines, email bic@agri.searca.org or visit http://www.bic.agri.searca.org .

Following biosafety and other required assessments, the Philippines' Department of Agriculture approved Syngenta's GA21 corn for commercial cultivation in the country. The GM corn expresses the EPSPS protein, an enzyme responsible for tolerance to glyphosate herbicides. The country has been importing GA21 corn for food and feed use since 2003.

For more information, visit http://www.syngenta.com/en/media/mediareleases/en_091203.html

IRRI AND BAYER TEAM UP TO IMPROVE RICE PRODUCTIVITY
Bayer CropScience and the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) announced that they will work together to "to strengthen rice productivity through improved utilization of rice genetic diversity for crop improvement, disease management in rice, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and capacity building for young rice scientists." Bayer and IRRI signed an agreement to establish a Scientific Know-how and Exchange Program (SKEP), which includes four joint activities.
DISCUSSION ON THE REGULATION OF BIOTECH-DERIVED FOOD PRODUCTS IN INDONESIA
was held on 4 December at the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture. Prof. Dr. Ir Dedi Fardiaz from Bogor Agricultural University pointed out that  "Risk analysis has become important to assess conditions and take decisions on control procedures. It is considered a prerequisite in the evaluation of genetically modified (GM) food. Many consumers worldwide worry that food derived from GMOs may be unhealthy and hence regulations on GMO authorizations and labelling have become more stringent." For further information email Dewi Suryani of IndoBIC at catleyavanda@gmail.com
Vietnam: Biotech Workshop
on the Development and Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture in Vietnam - Legal Framework was held on December 9 at the Horizon Hotel, Hanoi.

Dr. Le Huy Ham, the Vietnam Agricultural Genetics Institute Director said that biotechnology is needed to feed the country's population which will be 100 million by 2020. Dr. Nguyen Quang Toan, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Director also strongly emphasized the applications of modern biotechnology in overcoming agricultural stress, in increasing yield, reduction of pesticide applications, and the accompanying cost savings and environmental benefits. Dr. Nguyen Thanh Nhan from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Dr. Le Tien from Agbiotech Vietnam gave their insights on biotechnology, biosafety and legal framework in Vietnam For details of the workshop contact Agbiotech Vietnam at hientttm@yahoo.com.

South Korea:
BASF Plant Science, Genomine, the South Korean venture company and POSTECH, the South Korean university, announced that they have entered into a license agreement focusing on the discovery of genes that help maximize yields in staple food and feed crops such as rice and corn. This includes genes that increase yield under normal circumstances as well as under adverse environmental conditions such as drought. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Read the media release http://www.agro.basf.com/agr/AP-Internet/en/content/news_room/index

China

CHINA LAUNCHES PROJECT ON GMO SECURITY ASSESSMENT AND TESTING
The National Agricultural Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs) Security Assessment and Testing Center, the major state-level high-tech construction project of the Ministry of Agriculture's(MOA) Development Center of Science and Technology, and approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, was officially launched on October 29, 2009 in Beijing, China. It is planned to be ready for use in December, 2012. This project will implement the "Agricultural GMOs Safety Management Regulations", enhance the capacity to support the security management technique, and ensure the development of the biotechnology industry.

The Center will consist of a testing center and a pilot plant, both of which will located in Beijing. It will mainly focus on safety assessment of agricultural GMOs, popularization of agricultural GMOs safety management, public communication and technical standards, standardized management, inspection, identification and monitoring of agricultural GMOs product ingredients, and international cooperation. The Center will provide technical support and consulting services on agricultural GMOs safety regulations.

For more information, email  Prof. Zhang Hongxiang at zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn or Dr. Yue Tongqing at yuetq@mail.las.ac.cn.

Fourth China Bioindustry Convention to be held on June 18-20, 2010 in Jinan, Shandong Province, China.
Dr. Yang Shengli, president of the Chinese Society of Biotechnology (CSBT) during the press conference to announcing the Convention said at the press konference:“ Major breakthroughs in biotechnology are making possible a new industrial revolution. New bio-pharmaceutical products are being developed, GM crops are substantially increasing, and a number of high-tech industry clusters such as bio-manufacturing, bio-energy and bio-environmental protection are flourishing. Hence, global biotechnology industry sales are almost double every five years, the growth rate of which is nearly 10 times the world's average economic growth rate. The convention, is organized by CSBT and 16 other national institutes and/or associations. Reporters from the media in China such as the China Central Television (CCTV) and Xinhua News Agency attended the press conference held on December 8, 2009 in Beijing.

For more information, contact Prof. Zhang Hongxiang at zhanghx@mail.las.ac.cn or Dr. Yue Tongqing at yuetq@mail.las.ac.cn

CHINA TO DEVELOP THIRD-GENERATION GENOME SEQUENCING INSTRUMENT
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Inspur Group, supplier of computing platforms and IT solutions in China, announced that they have started a joint project to develop a third-generation genome sequencing instrument which they said will slash the cost of genome sequencing by 99 percent. In a press release Yu Jun, deputy head of the Beijing Institute of Genomics with the CAS, said that the instrument is expected to sequence a person's genomes in an hour at a cost of about 1,000 USD.

Visit http://english.cas.cn/Ne/CASE/200912/t20091207_48154.shtml for more information.

CHINA APPROVES BIOTECH RICE AND MAIZE IN LANDMARK DECISION
In the latter half of November 2009, when within the short span of one week, China's Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) granted two biosafety certificates, and approved biotech Bt rice, (rice is the most important food crop in the world that feeds half of humanity), and biotech phytase maize, (maize is the most important feed crop in the world). GM rice was developed by Huazhong Agricultural University. The approved GM rice varieties are "Huahui No. 1" and hybrids "Bt Shanyou 63" with Bt cry1A gene showing high resistance to rice lepidopteran pests. It is important to note that the MOA conducted a very careful due diligence study, prior to clearing these two critically important biotech crops for full commercialization in about 2 to 3 years, pending completion of the standard registration field trials which applies to all new conventional and biotech crops. It is noteworthy that China has now completed approval of a troika of the key biotech crops in a logical chronology - first was FIBER (cotton), second was FEED (maize) and third was FOOD (rice). More information about the certificate is available at http://www.stee.agri.gov.cn/biosafety/spxx/t20091022_819217.htm

Reference: Huang, J., R. Hu, R. Scott and C. Pray. 2005. Insect-Resistant GM Rice in Farmers' Fields: Assessing Productivity and Health Effects in China. Science: 308:5722 (688-690). http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1108972

DROUGHT TOLERANCE GENE GRANTED CHINESE PATENT
A Chinese patent has been granted to FuturaGene PLC, on the "Method for increasing stress tolerance in plants". The patent includes Futura Gene's drought tolerance gene for use in both food and non-food crops including the drought tolerance technology granted by the company to Bayer CropScience for its utilization in cotton worldwide in early December. Dr. Stanley Hirsch, FuturaGene CEO said, "China is the largest global cotton producer, both by volume and by value, and is also a major potential market for drought tolerant poplar, which could play an important role in reversing desertification. This patent provides protection for our commercial efforts in China. In a country with real concerns about food security, it is a major development in the process of establishing sustainable agriculture."

See the story at: http://www.futuragene.com/Chinese%20Patent%20Granted%20-%20Lo%20%20.pdf

Global Darwin: ideas blurred in early eastern translations
David Flannery

The early diffusion of Darwin's ideas into China resulted in multiple interpretations, imperfect translations and unsatisfactory terminology, as James Pusey notes in his Opinion article (Nature 462, 162–163; 2009). However, he inadvertently implies that it was the Chinese scholar Yan Fu who translated 'evolution' as jinhualun, which means 'theory of progressive change'.

Nature 462, 984 (24 December 2009) | doi:10.1038/462984c; Published online 23 December 2009

India

BT BRINJAL IS A SAFE BREAKTHROUGH: INDIAN MINISTER OF S&T
 India's Union Minister of Science & Technology Prithviraj Chavan describes Bt brinjal a safe breakthrough in an exclusive interview in the latest issue of BiotechNews, an official news portal of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India. Speaking to the Biotech News, a bimonthly magazine of DBT, he says "I am sure that development of Bt brinjal, the first biotech vegetable crop, is appropriate and timely. I understand that it has been tested rigorously over the last nine years and has been found substantially equivalent to its non-Bt counterparts, except for an additional gene-cry1Ac which expresses Cry protein effective only against a very specific target insect, in this case Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB). GEAC has evaluated Bt brinjal for its efficacy and safety as per the protocols and procedures prescribed under the Ministry of Environment and Forest's Environment Protection Act 1986 and Rules 1989 as well as DBT's own biosafety norms". A full issue of Dec 2009 DBT's BiotechNews titled "Bt brinjal: A Pioneering Push" is available on BiotechNews online portal at http://biotechnews.in/index.html

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

Scientists from across the country are taking part in the seminar which has been jointly organised by the All India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA), Environment Resource Research Centre (ERRC) at Thiruvananthapuram, and Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE) at Bangalore. P. Balasubramanian of the Centre for Plant Molecular Biology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, said in his research paper that Bt brinjal provides an effective environmentally friendly and economically sustainable solution to crop losses resulting from infestation. C. Kameswara Rao of the FBAE in his research paper pointed out that the All India Coordinated Vegetable Improvement Project and the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi (ICAR), have evaluated the agronomic performance and environmental impact of Bt brinjal.

News in Science

ARS FINDS PEMV-RESISTANT PEA LINES
Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) have identified four pea breeding lines resistant to the dreaded pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV). The virus is transmitted to peas, as well as to chickpeas and other legumes, by aphid feeding. Chemical control of aphids however is often ineffective in controlling the virus. Read the original article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261
Abscisic acid (ABA)
 coordinates responses to stressors such as drought and salinity. ABA regulates various physiological processes such as stomatal closure, bud dormancy and seed germination. Understanding the inner workings of the ABA signaling pathway, scientists say, could help develop crops that thrive in harsh environmental conditions and combat global food shortages.

However, the exact molecular mechanism by which ABA helps plants tolerate extreme conditions remains poorly understood. The hormone receptor has eluded researchers for decades. Earlier this year, Sean Cutler of the University of California Riverside and colleagues identified a family of protein, dubbed PYR/PYL/RCAR, that inhibits the activity of ABA response associated phosphatase enzymes (PP2C). Now six independent groups of researchers have defined the structure and function by which the stress hormone is sensed by PYR/PYL/RCAR proteins.

In the absence of ABA, PP2C inhibits the phosphorylation of a family of kinases (SnRK). ABA enables the receptor proteins PYR/PYL/RCAR to sequester PP2C, therefore 'liberating' the kinases. These kinases become activated and subsequently activate transcription factors that will initiate the expression of certain genes. Laura Sheard and Ning Zheng, in a synthesis paper published by Nature, summarized the ABA signaling pathway, which they said "is attractive in its simplicity and offers a seamless complement to the known body of ABA literature."

The synthesis article, which provides links to the original research papers, is available to Nature subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/462575a

How bacterial interaction causes infection
An EU-funded team of researchers has identified a new array of genes that may be responsible for infections caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as Group A Streptococcus, which causes thousands of deaths every year. The study, carried out as part of the EUR 3 million project PathoGenoMics, funded under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), will help scientists gain a better understanding of how bacterial-host interactions cause streptococcal infections.

The results are published in the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Pathogens. http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_09_12_02_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=14033

Amtylopectin potato:
Emsland Group the largest German potato starch manufacturer processed Tilling potatoes, which exclusively contain amylopectin starch. Tilling - an acronym for "Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes" - is a breeding process that researchers want to use to push evolution yet another step forward. "With the aid of chemicals, a vast number of mutants can be rapidly obtained," says Jost Muth of IME (the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME), who participated in the development of the new potato starch.
REPORT ON BEE MORTALITY AND BEE SURVEILLANCE IN EUROPE
AFSSA, the French Food Safety Agency completed a report on honey bee mortality and the ways that colony losses are monitored in Europe. The European Food Safety Authority commissioned the study and published the report. Initially, AFSSA set up a consortium of seven European bee disease research institutes in France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The project covers 1) a description and critical analysis of surveillance programs that measured colony loss; 2) the collection and analysis of the epidemiological data sets on colony losses; and 3) a critical review and selection of relevant literature on the possible causes and risk factors of colony losses.

The researchers found that bee colony losses in Europe and the USA are multifactorial which include beekeeping and husbandy practices, environmental factors, biological agents as well as excessive use of pesticides. The interaction of these factors create stress, weaken bees' defense system allowing pests and pathogens to kill the colony.

See the EFSA press release on the Report at  http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/027e.pdf  and the article at  http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1211903101123.htm

NEWLY DISCOVERED ENZYMES COULD BE TARGETED TO MAKE WATER-WISE CROPS
Stomata can tighten to save water when CO2 is abundant, but researchers didn't know how that worked until now. Julian Schroeder and colleagues from the University of California in San Diego pinpointed the enzymes responsible for stomatal response to CO2. Enzymes that react with CO2 cause cells surrounding the opening of the pores to close down, the team reports in the current issue of Nature Cell Biology. Read the original story http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/12-09Stomata.asp

The complete paper published by Nature Cell Biology is available to subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncb2009.

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