News in September 2006
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UNESCO needs a more strategic approach to science
The UN's need for advice on how to promote science and use it effectively is stronger than ever. UNESCO might fulfil this role but it needs the determination and human resources to do so.

GMO bad – irradiation O.K:?
Canberra Times, September 4, 2006

Controversial genetic modification technology can have health benefits and present environmental solutions, according to CSIRO program leader in genomics and plant development Elizabeth Dennis. She said the ''unnecessary panic'' surrounding the technology was the result of conservatism and a lack of knowledge about GM in the community. ''Some people think it's unnatural to move genes around,'' she said. According to those who oppose the technology, ''if you use GM technology to switch off a gene, that's wrong. But if you use radioactivity to switch off a gene, that's OK''.

Warning over South's lack of nanotech regulations

A UNESCO report says developing countries could face risks from adopting nanotechnologies without first creating relevant regulations.


EuropaBio will take place in Paris from October 25 - 27, 2006.

This event will spotlight Europe's extraordinary potential in bio-science and bio-industry. EuroBiO has been developed as a pan-European forum for life sciences that brings together stakeholders from the scientific, business and policy-making community. In combining the same four pillars that have ensured the success of the North American based BIO: a Conference Programme closely tied to a Partnering Event, an Exhibition showcasing the leaders in the sector, and a Career Fair dedicated to the rising generation of young entrepreneurs and scientists, EuroBiO will help raise the profile of European biotech and leading bioclusters.
For more information, please visit

Plant Nutrition meets Plant Breeding
University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany
26. - 28. September 2006

First Joint Conference of The German Society for Plant Nutrition - DGP (Annual Meeting) and The Research Centre Biotechnology & Plant Breeding Uni Hohenheim - FSP (21st Colloquium). Meeting is sponsored by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) [German Research Society] and MLR (Ministerium für Ernährung und Ländlicher Raum Baden-Württemberg) [Ministry of Nutrition and Rural Affairs of Baden-Württemberg]

Aims and Scope of the Meeting: The major objective of this meeting is to highlight and strengthen interdisciplinary research in the field of plant nutrition and plant breeding. Special emphasis will be placed on methodologies and achievements in which plant nutritional traits like mineral nutrient accumulation, nutrient efficiency or plant quality factors are investigated by genomic, genetic or breeding approaches.

International Conference on Recent Scientific Developments in Agricultural Biotechnology:
Sharing Experience and Knowledge.
New Delhi, India
September 29-30, 2006;
International Life Sciences Institute.

The conference will review the latest developments in agriculture biotechnology, with a view to assess how traditional breeding methods can be supplemented by the modern technological tools in breaking yield barriers in different crops, as well as in improving quality and nutritional value of foods with the objective of achieving food security for India. Contact details: Ms Rekha Sinha, Executive Director, ILSI-India, Y 40 B, First Floor. Hauz Khas. New Delhi 110016, India, Tel/Fax: +91 11 26523477 or +91 11 26968752, Email:

Use Biotechnology to Feed the Poor
Australian, August 7, 2006

Melbourne is hosting an international agricultural biotechnology conference that offers the chance to debate and, hopefully, solve this growing schism between those in the West who want to do the "best" by the rest of the world and the rest of the world who simply want to eat.

Contribution of South Africa professor Jennifer Thomson: “Europe's opposition to GM food hurts the world's impoverished. We all know that much of the developing world struggles to find enough food for its people. Yet bureaucrats in Europe sit and determine that these countries and others should be cautious in adopting genetically modified crops until they are deemed safe. Meanwhile thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people are dying.” "When you live in a country where you haven't got enough food, it's all about the benefits," she said. "If we want to feed African and other developing countries we're going to have to use new technologies." The technologies would help to grow crops able to withstand viruses, disease, insects, weeds and drought. "If we can improve soil fertility, have less loss to weeds, insects, diseases and drought, farms can be secure and farmers can move from being subsistence farmers to commercial farmers," Prof. Thompson said.

Bio-prospecting of extreme environment and extremophile organisms: Conference and workshop
Location: Queshm Island, Iran,
Date: 19 - 23 November 2006

Books & Reports

CropBiotech Update, September 15, 2006

FAO DG Calls for Second Green Revolution

bullet"Search for New Genes" to boost India's agriculture
bulletJournal Commentaries Examine Food Biotech
bulletField Trials for GM Banana Completed
bulletPaper Assesses Modern Biotech, Issues
bulletThai Cotton Down, Cotton Industry President Says
bulletFAO Meets on Reducing Child Labor in Agri
bulletADB, Viet Government Sign Agri Grant Project
bulletMalaysia Works on Improving Biotech Sector
bulletSyria Hosts Regional Training on IPR
bulletCIRAD, EMBRAPA Project Brings Agri to Nordeste, Brazil
bulletCo-Existence Mapped for Bt, Conventional Maize
bulletRice Protein Change Makes Crop Virus Resistant, Research Finds
bulletRye Protein Shown To Bind To Ice

bulletISAAA's Crop Biotech UPdate, Sept 22, 2006
bulletPoplar: First Tree Genome Sequenced
bulletIran-Iraq Cooperate for Agriculture
bulletDefine Precautionary Principle, Says UNU-IAS Report
bulletAfghanistan Produces Quality Potato through CIP Project
bulletPlants as Commercial Pharma Factories: Now One Step Closer  Europe
bulletIRD Works on RYMV Resistance in Rice
bulletEFSA Panel Reports to EC on GM Rice Issue
bulletFrance, Argentina Reinforce Collaboration for Agric Research
bulletSpain Approves Eleven New Biotech Varieties
bulletFungus Sweet to Sugar Beets
bulletNew Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
bulletBt Corn - a Solution to Mycotoxin Contamination
bulletBiotech Grapevine Ready for Field Trials
bulletResearch Tracks, Controls Fruit Vitamin C Levels
bulletBioethanol to Take Root in South Africa
bulletNew Gene Analysis System Introduced for Rice
bulletChevron Grants US$ 25 Million to UC Davis for Biofuel Research  ANNOUNCEMENTS
bulletBt Cotton: Brazilian Farmers to Use 25% Less Insecticides  DOCUMENT REMINDERS

Define 'Precautionary Principle' to avoid clashes over biotechnology under World Trade Rules.
September 15, 2006.

The UNU-IAS report says nations need to determine a common threshold of risk "or, at a minimum, a common practice of risk assessment. The full UNU-IAS report is available online and WTO.pdf

Environmental Heresies

The founder of The Whole Earth Catalogue believes the environmental movement will soon reverse its position on four core issues. Technology Review, By Stewart Brand, Sept 20, 2006.

Europe - EU

Pioneer Génétique, announces the donation of the recovered damages of Eur 63,819 to the National Foundation for Soil Conservation Agriculture (FNACS).
Aussonne, France;
September 8, 2006

This sum was allocated by the Court of Toulouse for the illegal destruction of a GM research trial in 2004. This donation will be used to support an innovative future for French agriculture. Last November 15, the Court of Appeal of Toulouse gave its decision in the case of the destruction of a Pioneer genetically modified corn trial field located in Menville (Haute-Garonne) in July 2004. The court sentenced eight people to between 2 and 4 months of prison (for destruction of private property) and to jointly pay damages to Pioneer of 58,819 Eur plus 5,000 Eur in legal costs. Last spring, procedures have been launched to seize these funds from the bank accounts of one of the convicted, Mr Noël Mam?re. These were finally received by Pioneer on September, 1.

EFSA's GMO Panel provides reply to European Commission request on GM rice LLRICE601.
September 15, 2006.

The GMO Panel has evaluated the available scientific data on LLRICE601.  According to the Statement of the Panel issued today there is insufficient data to provide a full risk assessment in accordance with EFSA's GM guidance [1]. On the basis of the available molecular and compositional data and the toxicological profile of a newly introduced protein [2], the Panel considers that the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals. The Panel Statement will now be forwarded to the European Commission and Member States who are responsible for risk management measures in relation to LLRICE601. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to provide scientific support concerning the safety of the long grain GM rice LLRICE601 which had been inadvertently released in the United States (US) and exported to the European Union (EU). EFSA was asked to examine the scientific data available and inform the European Commission if these data were sufficient to carry out a safety assessment according to EU legislation. EFSA's Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) met on 13th and 14th September 2006 to consider the request of the European Commission and examine the available scientific data on the LLRICE601 issue. EFSA's Panel took into consideration all relevant scientific information, including data from Bayer Crop Science (the company which has developed LLRICE601), existing scientific data on a very similar GMO rice strain[3] and risk assessments carried out by the US authorities.

Genetically modified potatoes with improved resistance to Phytophthora infestans:
Notification for the release into the environment (2007 - 2011) submitted by BASF Plant Science GmbH, Carl-Bosch-Strasse 38, D-67056 Ludwigshaven GERMANY.

bulletNew trait: improved resistance to Phytophthora infestans.
bulletGenes introduced:- two NBS-LRR-genes, Rpi-blb1 and Rpi-blb2, from S. bulbocastanum. Selectable marker gene: Ahas gene (tolerance to Imidazolinones).
bulletTransformation method: Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer technology.
bulletBenefit: The reduced need for fungicides.
bulletSafety consideration: The ahas gene confers no selective advantage in the field since Imidazolinone herbicides are not approved for use on crops in the UK. No difference with respect to persistence in agriculturally utilised habitats or invasiveness into natural habitats as compared to conventional potato varieties is expected. The interactions of the genetically modified potato line with non-target organisms and the effects resulting from this will be comparable to those with conventional potato varieties. Furthermore, no toxic or allergenic effects are expected on the basis of the improved resistance to P. infestans or the expressed AHAS protein. No effects on biogeochemical processes are expected, other than those that apply also to conventional potatoes. More

GM potatoes: Beating blight with biotechnology?

BASF's announcement that is has applied to Defra to trial genetically-modified blight resistant potatoes in the UK.

In a report prepared for the Pesticides Safety Directorate, published at the beginning of this year, David Green of ADAS noted that data gathered for the agrochemical industry showed a trend towards an increase in the numbers of fungicides being applied to potato crops. The total value of blight fungicides applied to crops in 2004 was estimated as ?19 million. The report also highlighted an increasing trend towards starting spray programmes earlier and maintaining intervals between applications cioser to routine seven-day intervals. lronically it would seem that this trend is driven by consumer demand for disease and blemish-free potatoes.

PSD's own pesticide usage data for 2004, the most recent available, shows that ware potato crops received on average ten fungicides, accounting for 62% of the total pesticide-treated area of ware potatoes. The equivalent figures for 2002 were nine fungicides and 61% and for 2000, eight fungicides and 60%. One of the key issues occupying the minds of blight control experts currently is that of the spread of the A2 mating type of Phytophthora infestans. First detected in the UK in 1981 it is believed by some scientists to be more aggressive than the Al type, potentially requiring more robust fungicide programmes to achieve control. Fungicides appear to provide control of the A2 strains, although there is evidence of resistance to the phenylamide metalaxyl. lt's not yet clear whether BASF's GM potatoes are resistant to the A2 types. GM project leader Andrew Beadle points out that one of the reasons that the company is seeking to test its GM potatoes in the UK is to assess the materials' resistance to the A2 blight strains. "Our assumption is that it will be resistant. We are trying to produce a plant that has broad resistance," he says.

According to plant pathologist Dr David Cooke of the Scottish Crop Research Institute very few conventionally-bred varieties have full resistance to blight but there is "pretty good" resistance already available in varieties like the early maincrop Lady Balfour, bred by SCRI in 2001 and the Sarpo varieties from Hungary. While organic growers have taken up some of these varieties, most are not widely grown commercially, he says. In some cases improved blight resistance has come at the cost of other, less desirable, agronomic traits such as late maturity, but there is also reluctance in the marketplace to adopt new varieties - the UK potato acreage is dominated by fewer than 10 varieties.

Field trial with transgenic Carrizo citrange overexpressing a GA20-oxidase gene in sense and antisense with the aim of modifying plant architecture, flowering and fruiting behaviour, and to investigate the performance of a non-transgenic variety grafted onto transgenic lines. To access the summary notification please visit the website:
European Commission - DG Joint Research Centre
Institute for Health and Consumer Protection
Biotechnology and GMOs Unit


Closing the knowledge gap
FAO Press Release, 27.sep.06.

Rome - Over 100 of the world's poorest countries will now be able to access leading food and agriculture journals for little or no cost with the launch of the second phase of the Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) initiative, FAO announced today. AGORA is a successful public-private partnership between FAO, 37 of the world's leading science publishers and other key partners including the World Health Organization and Cornell University. Introduced in 2003 and providing access to 69 low-income countries, AGORA today expands to include universities, colleges, research institutes and government ministries as well as non-governmental organizations in an additional 37 lower-middle-income countries.

Ten years later: ISAAA reviews future of biotechnology.

chair of the ISAAA board of directors Clive James this week presented a review of the past decade of biotechnology, together with an examination of its future prospects. Speaking at the World Grains Summit - a forum and exhibition designed to examine the latest developments in grain-based science and technology - James said that by 2015 it is estimated that the number of countries growing biotech crops will "at least double", from 21 in 2005 to around 40. The number of biotech farmers around the world are forecast to increase from 8.5m to 20m, while the global area planted with genetically modified crops will increase from 222m acres to 500m acres. And these, he said, are "conservative estimates". "When we first started, we asked 'what are the risks?' We now have a very solid database that is both consistent and compelling in favour of biotechnology. But we need to continue with responsible and efficient stewardship." We need improved communication with society and we need to take knowledge-based decisions regarding biotechnology crops." These promises included an improved productivity and income, with yields during the period reporting an increase of 5-40 percent, and total biotech crop production in 2005 reaching a value of $50bn. Another impact of genetically modified agriculture has been the protection of biodiversity, said James, since doubling crop production on the same area of land has played a significant role in saving forests. Another environmental impact has been a reduction in the need for 'external inputs', such as pesticides, and the conservation of soil and water, which paves the way to sustainability. A final impact highlighted by James is the social benefit achieved - the alleviation of poverty - with an improved environment and health and time saving technology leading to more affordable food, feed and fibre. "The biggest pollutant in the world today is poverty. The potential we have in the second decade to address this pollutant is huge. Biotechnology transcends a much deeper issue if you look at what addressing poverty means in terms of peace.

Predicting the future of the world's food supply
Food Navigator, By Anthony Fletcher,
September 7, 2006

The emergence of new agricultural production areas and changing diets will have deep consequences for the supply and demand of global food. A prospective study on this subject, entitled Agrimonde (Agricultures et alimentations du monde en 2035), will attempt to foresee the role of French and European agriculture within the context of different global change scenarios, and pinpoint the fundamental issues with which agricultural research will be faced. The study, which will run over the next two years, is a co-operation between INRA (Institut Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique) and CIRAD (la Recherche Agronomique aux Services des Pays du Sud).

WHO backs controversial chemical for malaria control

The World Health Organization has backed the use of DDT to control the spread of malaria, reversing its 30-year-old policy on the chemical.


Opportunities and Challenges in Agricultural Biotechnology: The Decade Ahead
Washington, DC (August 30, 2006) -- Prepared by USDA's Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). The report describes the advances in agricultural biotechnology's first decade and discusses a range of topics related to agricultural biotechnology that may be addressed by the secretary over the next decade.

The next ten years:

bulletIt is impossible to predict exactly which new modern biotechnology-derived plants or animals will be ready for the marketplace over the next decade. Some possibilities include: Genetically engineered plant varieties that provide improved human nutrition (e.g., soybeans enriched in omega-3 fatty acids);
bulletProducts designed for use in improved animal feeds (providing better nutritional balance by increasing the concentration of essential amino acids often deficient in some feed components, increased nutrient density, or more efficient utilization of nutrients such as phosphate that could provide environmental benefits)
bulletCrops resistant to drought and other environmental stresses such as salinity
bulletCrops resistant to pests and diseases (e.g., fusarium-resistant wheat; chestnut-blight resistant chestnut; plum pox resistance in stone fruit; various insect resistant crops)
bulletAdditional crops containing a number of transgenic traits incorporated in the same plant (stacked traits)
bulletCrops engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, such as vaccines and antibodies
bulletCrops engineered for particular industrial uses (e.g., crops having improved processing attributes such as increased starch content, producing useful enzymes that can be extracted for downstream industrial processes, or modified to have higher content of an energy-rich starting material such as oil for improved utilization as biofuel)
bulletTransgenic animals for food, or for production of pharmaceuticals or industrial products (e.g., transgenic salmon engineered for increased growth rate to maturity, transgenic goats producing human serum factors in their milk, and pigs producing the enzyme phytase in their saliva for improved nutrient utilization and manure with reduced phosphorus content).¨

There are several factors beyond whether a genetically engineered crop or animal can be developed and found efficacious which will help determine whether it is successful as a marketable product. For each such possibility, before any product reaches the marketplace, the federal government must ensure it is safe for human consumption, safe for the environment, and will not adversely affect the food supply. To appropriately manage risk, the government might impose additional measures on developers, farmers, or others throughout the food and feed chain that may affect the economic or technical viability of the product and the realization of potential benefits.

USDA moves to deregulate controversial Bayer rice
September 7, 2006, By Lauren Morello

The Agriculture Department is moving to deregulate an unapproved, genetically modified strain of long-grain rice that has been detected in U.S. long-grain rice supplies intended for human consumption. Deregulating the rice, known as LLRICE 601, would allow its manufacturer, Bayer CropScience, to commercialize the strain, though the company has not indicated it intends to do so. Notice of USDA's proposal to remove restrictions on the GM rice will appear in the Federal Register. The agency will accept comments on the matter through Oct. 10.

Spinach Company Faces Unwelcome Scrutiny.
Associated Press,
Sep 16, 2006.

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. -- Earthbound Farm, the country's largest grower of organic produce, is facing unwelcome scrutiny after federal officials linked a nationwide E. coli outbreak to its bagged spinach. The company, also known by its legal name Natural Selection Foods LLC, recalled and stopped shipping all its spinach products after E. coli outbreaks killed one person and sickened more than 100 others in 19 states. More than 100 persons have fallen ill in recent days and one died after eating raw spinach contaminated with the O157:H7 strain of E. coli, according to Food and Drug Administration officials. A second death, of a person in Ohio, was being studied to see if it also was linked to the outbreak.. Even when the consumers wash fresh leafs in their own home, they're not going to get rid of the E. coli if it's there. The pathogen is in, rather than on, plant leaves. The fact that spinach has been infected with this organism means that the spinach somehow came into contact with cattle feces. That might happen in an open field if they were using unsterilized manure,

The harm from organic spinach will likely be on a much smaller scale, but the principles may well be the same. Chemicals, radiation, and technology aren't always bad, but can actually lead to better health. What's "natural" - whether they are malarial mosquitoes or bacterialaden manure - isn't always best for your health. And the politically correct public health bureaucrats are usually a good decade or two behind the times. New York Sun Editorial, September 18, 2006

Environmentalism: Organic spinach appears to be the culprit behind a 20-state outbreak of deadly E. coli poisoning, casting further doubt on greens' claims that "organic is safer." INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, 9/18/2006.

“Finally, it is also unwise to automatically consider everything organically grown to be safe, and food products that contain chemicals unsafe.” Comment by Dr.Marc Siege, an associate professor at NYU School of Medicine and author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear" (Wiley, 2005). Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2006.

Biotechnology Research Gets a Boost
James Wachai,
September 10, 2006

The Monsanto Fund has announced a gift of $15 million to the U.S.-based Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The gift will go towards running various biotechnology programs being already being undertaken at the center. Specifically, the grant will promote the center's Campaign for a Green Future - launched in 2004, and the development of high-yielding virus resistant cassava. These two programs are of immeasurable significance to farming communities, especially in developing countries. The development of a high-yielding virus resistant cassava portends great promise for Africa, in particular.

Brazil to swap illegal GMO soy for legal GMO in S State
Dow Jones Newswire,
September 08, 2006 SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)

Brazilian Agricultural Minister Luis Carlos Guedes Pinto said late Wednesday that the government would swap illegal transgenic soy seeds for legal transgenic seeds in the upcoming 2006-07 season in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. For weeks, soy growers in the country's No. 3 soy state of Rio Grande do Sul have been lobbying the government to allow seeds until now considered illegal in Brazil to be legalized temporarily or swapped in the upcoming season.

Crops responsible for deforestation in Brazil

Rainforest is being increasingly cleared to meet Brazil's growing demand for crop production, with implications on greenhouse gas emissions.

Brazil is going to increase its plantings of transgenic soybeans in the next crop year.
September 21, 2006.

The estimate is that between 40% and 50% of the area planted to the commodity will use genetically modified seeds - up to 11 million hectares. This represents an increase of up to 15% compared with what was planted last year. In 2005, the technology covered about 30% of the surface planted to the oil seed crop. "Now the situation is that, in crisis, the farmer wants to cut costs by using the transgenic technology," said Mauro Osaki, a researcher at the Center of Advanced Applied Economic Studies at the University of S?o Paulo (Cepea/USP), explaining why there will be a boom in the use of seeds of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).


New hybrids drive Egypt's world-beating rice yield
Food Navigator, September 6, 2006

Egypt achieved the worlds highest national average rice yield in 2005, with production boosted by hybrids developed locally under an FAO-led project. A yield of 9.5 tonnes per hectare was achieved partly through the introduction of newly-developed hybrid varieties such as SK 2034 and SK 2046, which the FAO claims outperformed the best local varieties by 20 to 30 per cent. They were selected from more than 200 hybrid varieties under the FAO-led project, intended to help Egypt produce more rice with less water and less land.

The results reflect positively on the FAO's attempts to increase global rice production through innovative breeding programmes. Increasing Egyptian rice output is seen as vital in order to resolve a national production gap stemming from population growth of 2.2 per cent a year combined with increasingly limited land and water resources. Egypts population is set to increase from a current 75 million to 100 million inhabitants by 2025. Three million tons of rice will be needed by 2010 compared with current requirements of 2.8 million tonnes.


Biotechnology in India
September 3 2006 New Delhi:

President APJ Abdul Kalam on Friday said promoting of genetic engineering technology for crops could help the country to tackle problems of low productivity and also frequent drought conditions, low temperature spells and lot of salt affected areas. There is need to search for genes to overcome these problems by developing stress tolerant and pest-resistant crop varieties. The pest resistant genes for various biotic stresses can be a big boon to the farmers and boost agriculture production substantially, said the President while delivering a key note address at a symposium on "search of new genes', commemorating birth centenary of eminent agricultural scientist late B P Pal here.

Biotechnology in Philippines

RP can achieve corn sufficiency with expansion of hybrid, Bt corn areas  - Manila Bulletin, By MELODY M. AGUIBA, Sep 4, 2006 The Philippines can achieve sufficiency in corn in one or two years if high-yielding hybrid corn including the genetically modified (GM) Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn can be intensively expanded on just an additional 200,000 hectares.

Agriculture chief urges farmers to use biotech in Philippines
September 28, 2006.

Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban wants stakeholders in the farm sector to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by modern biotechnology by cultivating crops whose natural ingredients are in demand in the world market. An official statement said Mr. Panganiban yesterday told participants in a forum in Butuan City, themed "Economic opportunities in biotechnology in the Caraga Region" and held at the Northern Mindanao Institute of Science and Technology, that the Philippines is a potentially rich source of raw materials through the application of modern biotechnology in agriculture. Applying modern biotechnology in agriculture is the only way to increase production to ensure food security in a country like the Philippines, the Agriculture chief said.

Golden rice in 3 yrs: MK Anwar.
DAILY STAR, Sept 26, 2006.

Agriculture Minister MK Anwar yesterday said the Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop enriched by Vitamin-A, is expected to be released in the country within the next two or three years. "The Bangladesh Rich Research Institute (BRRI) is conducting a research on this genetically modified (GM) crop, which would hopefully be released within the next two or three years," he said at the Jatiya Sangsad while replying to two supplementary questions. On the first supplementary question from treasury bench member GM Fazlul Hoque, he said although there is a controversy and debate worldwide on the GM crop, "we hope that the golden rice would help reduce vitamin-A deficiency of the people." Responding to another supplementary question from Awami League lawmaker Farruk Khan, the agriculture minister said after successful release of the Golden Rice, steps would be undertaken to development iron and zinc enriched rice varieties in the country. MK Anwar, however, told the house that all types of local rice varieties are being preserved in the BRRI laboratory.

News in Science

Maize, bred to contain high concentrations of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a public health problem in more than 50 per cent of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, according to the World Health Organisation, and causes blindness in up to 500,000 children each year. The human body converts beta-carotene in the diet into vitamin A. Syngenta has been highly active in producing transgenic beta-carotene-rich rice, and announced in 2005 a new GM rice, called Syngenta Golden Rice II, that produces up to 23-times more provitamin A nutrients than the original beta-carotene-rich Golden Rice This gives the rice a maximum carotenoid level of 37 micrograms per gram of rice and a preferential accumulation of beta-carotene. However, Greenpeace have been very vocal in criticising the lack of information given on the bioavailability of beta-carotene from the rice in the body, noting that the original variety was also designed to increase intake of this nutrient but children could not get their daily requirement from eating normal quantities of rice.

Similar questions remained regarding the bioavailability of carotenoids from biofortified maize, despite efforts to produce biofortified maize with provitamin A carotenoids being successful. Julie Howe and Sherry Tanumihardjo from the University of Wisconsin set about testing whether feeding beta-carotene-rich maize to vitamin A deficient Mongolian gerbils would improve the vitamin A status of the rodents. Forty gerbils were fed a standard diet of white maize (low beta-carotene content) for four weeks before starting the experiments. The gerbils were divided into four equal groups and fed an oil control, 60 per cent high-beta-carotene maize, and beta-carotene or vitamin A supplements (matched to high-beta-carotene maize) for four weeks. The authors, writing in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition (Vol. 136, pp. 2562-2567), report that concentrations of vitamin A in the liver of the gerbils eating the high-beta-carotene maize group was 150 per cent that of the control group (0.25 versus 0.10 micromoles/gram, respectively), and equalled that of the group receiving the beta-carotene supplements. The vitamin A supplemented group had higher liver concentrations of the vitamin than the other groups (0.56 micromoles/g). It was found that bioconversion of the beta-carotene to retinol (vitamin A) was about three micrograms of beta-carotene to one microgram of retinol (1.5 mol beta-carotene to 1 mol retinol). The concentrations of beta-carotene in the livers of the gerbils eating the high-beta-carotene maize was almost double that of the beta-carotene supplement group (26.4 versus 14.1 nanomoles, respectively).

A number of genetically modified plants and crops are coming to light with enhanced nutritional content considered to offer human health benefits, including zeaxanthin to potato tubers, and the omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaeoic acid (EPA), to soybeans and brassica, and stearidonic acid (SDA) in canola crops. However, no GM crops with potentially enhanced health benefits have been approved for human consumption, and consumer acceptance, particularly in Europe, and most notably in the UK, continues to be one of the biggest challenges for these crops.

NAC Overexpression Makes Rice Drought, Stress Tolerant
CropBiotech Net

Drought and salinity are major abiotic stresses to rice production, and have long been targeted in designing better rice. To cope with such adverse conditions, plants develop physiological and biochemical strategies, such as by activating stress-related genes and synthesizing diverse functional proteins. The _expression of such proteins is regulated by specific transcription factors, designated as NAM, ATAF, and CUC (NAC). After successfully over-expressing NAC in rice japonica cultivar Nipponbare, Honghong Hu and colleagues of various research centers in Wuhan, China report that 'Overexpressing a NAM, ATAF, and CUC (NAC) transcription factor enhances drought resistance and salt tolerance in rice' Their findings appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists found that transgenic rice had better drought resistance, and 22-35% higher seed setting than controls in the field under severe drought stress conditions at the reproductive stage. The transgenic rice also showed significantly improved drought resistance and salt tolerance at the vegetative stage. In all cases, growth and productivity were not affected in transgenic rice plants, as there were no significant differences in photosynthesis rates between transgenic plants and controls. When scientists profiled gene _expression patterns, they found that a large number of stress-related genes were up-regulated in the transgenic plants. All these suggest that the technique holds promise in improving drought and salinity tolerance in rice. Read the complete article at , or view the abstract at

Iron Transporter Research May Deliver Higher-Nutrient Crops

At a meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Boston, Professor Mary Lou Guerinot of Dartmouth University presented her solution to the problem: the engineering of plants to be better sources of essential nutrients such as iron. Professor Guerinot and colleagues had previously identified the transporter IRT1 as being responsible for the uptake of iron from the soil, but it seems some plants may have lost this function in modern environments. The problem is, however, that IRT1 also transports other metals such as manganese, zinc, cobalt and cadmium - and cadmium is an undesirable metal in foodstuffs since it is extremely toxic and can accumulate in and cause damage to the internal organs. Food Navigator August 7, 2006,

Bt technology, insecticides evaluated for rootworm control;jsessionid=2BPTNZOVRL1Z5QFIBQNSBHQ?storyid=/templatedata/ag/story/data/1157561277730.xml&catref=ag1001
AGRICULTURE ONLINE, By Bruce Eisley, Ron Hammond, Peter Thomison, 6/9/2006

How do current Bt technology and insecticide options stack up against rootworm larvae? To answer this question, trials were conducted in 2006 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center's Western Agricultural Research Station near South Charleston, Ohio. The evaluation trials were planted in an area that was planted to corn in late May and early June 2005. In late July 2006, plants were randomly dug from each of the treatments, the soil washed from the root systems and the roots evaluated for rootworm injury using the 0-3 Node Injury Scale.

Where comes rice from?
Science Daily, Sept 11, 2006

Biologists from Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators from Taiwan have examined the DNA sequence family tree of rice varieties and have determined that the crop was domesticated independently at least twice in various Asian locales. Jason Londo, Washington University in Arts & Sciences biology doctoral candidate, and his adviser, Barbara A. Schaal, Ph.D., Washington University Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, ran genetic tests of more than 300 types of rice, including both wild and domesticated, and found genetic markers that reveal the two major rice types grown today were first grown by humans in India and Myanmar and Thailand (Oryza sativa indica) and in areas in southern China (Oryza sativa japonica). A paper describing the research was published in the June 20, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. "We chose samples across the entire range of rice and looked for DNA sequences that were shared by both wild and domesticated types," said Londo. "These two major groups clustered out by geography."

Israeli company develops bug-resistant bananas. If you eat five bananas a week, there's a good chance that one of them has its genetic origins in Israel. - Israek21C, By David Brinn, September 25,2006

Rahan Meristem (1998) LTD, a world leader in banana biotechnology, has its offices and laboratories. „Approximately 20% of the bananas that are marketed throughout the western world originated or were selected at Rahan,“ said Dr. Eli Khayat, head of research and development at Rahan and a professor of plant biology at Hebrew University and the Technion. "Most of our research is on bananas - trying to improve the quality of the crop - using molecular genetics to breed bananas that ripen slower and have a longer shelf life," he told ISRAEL21c. "These are parameters which are important to both the grower and the consumer. Our goal is to breed plants, and given that bananas are seedless, the only means to produce elite clones is by genetic engineering."

Now in a new breakthrough development with far-reaching implications, Khayat and his team have successfully completed a field trial that validates its latest accomplishment - the complete resistance of banana plants to a wide range of pathogenic nematodes - tiny microscopic worms that damage plants from their root. Nematodes are considered one of the most destructive pathogens attacking bananas in all zones of production. Vegetative propagation, using infested corms or suckers, has disseminated this pest throughout the world. Yet, most effective nematicides have been banned in large parts of the world because of their polluting effect on the environment. As a result, nematode resistance is considered to be a highly attractive attribute that is estimated to reduce growers' expenses by hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

"We're producing and breeding banana plantlets from tissue culture. They're banana clones. Bananas are seedless so the only way to improve them is by selection, a process we work on at our premises on the kibbutz. The selected clones are propagated by means of tissue culture. You can amplify a single clone to as many as you want," Khayat explained. "I think the opposition derives from a general view about genetically engineered plants as being unknown and a mystery. It's the same as the feelings about vaccines at the beginning of the 20th century - the view that it will cause something worse that what it's protecting against," he said. "With transgenic plants, especially bananas due to the fact that they can't cross-fertilize and don't have seeds, there's no dissipation of the genetic material anyway - it's contained within the plant. So there's no danger to humans or to the environment. The plants can grow in areas that weren't treated with insecticides."

UGA scientists engineer root-knot nematode resistance
University of Georgia, September 27, 2006.

The nematode invades plant roots, and by feeding on the roots' cells, they cause the roots to grow large galls, or knots, damaging the crop and reducing its yields. University of Georgia professor Richard Hussey has spent 20 years studying a worm-shaped parasite. Eric Davis at North Carolina State University and Thomas Baum at Iowa State University also collaborated on the research. The most cost-effective and sustainable management tactic for preventing root-knot nematode damage and reducing growers' losses, he said, is to develop resistant plants that prevent the nematode from feeding on the roots. Because root-knot nematode resistance doesn't come naturally in most crops, Hussey's group bioengineered their own. The results of the study were published Sept. 26 in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Four common root-knot nematode species account for 95 percent of all infestations in agricultural land. By discovering a root-knot nematode parasitism gene that's essential for the nematode to infect crops, the scientists have developed a resistance gene effective against all four species. Using a technique called RNA interference, the researchers have effectively turned the nematode's biology against itself. They genetically modified Arabidopsis, a model plant, to produce double-stranded RNA to knock out the specific parasitism gene in the nematode when it feeds on the plant roots. The researchers' efforts have been directed primarily at understanding the molecular tools the nematode uses to infect plants. This is a prerequisite for bioengineering durable resistance to these nematodes in crop plants.

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