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June 17, 2005


New 'Wonder' Maize Coming; Biotech sector fast growing in India; Vietnam collaborates with U.S. and India on biotech


Today in AgBioVoiew from www.agbioworld.org: June 17, 2005

* New 'Wonder' Maize Coming
* WANTFA makes a statement on gene technology
* Reports show biotech sector fast growing in India
* Vietnam collaborates with U.S. and India on biotech


New 'Wonder' Maize Coming

- The Nation (Nairobi), June 17, 2005, By Tony Kago

Kenyan scientists have announced what they describe as a major breakthrough in the search for pest-resistant maize variety.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) is to release into the market the generically modified maize, which is resistant to the stem-borer - the cause of huge losses to farmers.

Kari director Romano Kiome told the Nation yesterday that the research at the institute's Kiboko station in Kibwezi was about to to be completed.

The conventional seed which is between 40 per cent and 50 per cent stem-borer-resistant, he said, will be released next year, while the new type that is 100 per cent resistant will be out in 2009.

Cut production costs

"It is fantastic news for farmers as it will reduce the production costs by 30 per cent," Dr Kiome said.

Kari is working also on genetically modified varieties of potatoes, cassava and cotton under the Insect-Resistant Maize for Africa project, which was launched in 1999.

The pest can cause losses of upto 15 per cent of Kenya's maize crop with a value of Sh5.7 billion.

The project is a joint effort of Kari and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, and is funded by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture to the tune of Sh11.5 billion.

Kari's breakthrough has been celebrated worldwide, with the New York Times doing an editorial on the trials.

Model of how to do it

"The Kenya study is a model of how to do it and a warning about how difficult adapting this technology for poor farmers will be," said the Times in the leader early this week.

President Kibaki is at the forefront of the support for the use of genetically modified (GM) crops.

"We must embrace and apply modern science and technology in farming," he said when he opened the project's greenhouse last year.

"Indeed, there is evidence that countries that have embraced modern agricultural technologies have improved economic performance, reduced poverty and ensured greater food security for their people."

WANTFA makes a statement on gene technology

June 17, 2005

- Western Australian No-Till Farmers Association (VIA AGNET)

The Western Australian No-Till Farmers Association (WANTFA) recently moved a motion, at its annual general meeting, to embrace the idea of promoting genetically modified technology.

The announcement was made after members of the organisation requested that WANTFA take a position on the public debate in Western Australia.

WANTFA President Tim Braslin spoke about the motion after the WANTFA Annual Conference “We want to show support at what we see as a potential tool in continuing sustainable farming”.

“Our members would like to see more research ...it's support for research that we've got to concentrate on. We want to know more about it as a technology."

WANTFA have a state-wide membership base of up to 1000 growers across WA. Approximately 66 members were present at the AGM when a very large majority passed the motion.

Since the AGM there has been much discussion in the press on the GM debate, especially on the negative side. WANTFA feels it is important that both sides of the debate are reported accurately and has decided to dedicate a small section of the WANTFA New Frontiers Newsletter to the GM issue.

WANTFA believes that there may be potential in GM technology not only from a food quality perspective but also through rotation benefits with different strategies of controlling or putting pressure on weeds, pests and disease. This possible role in rotations is extremely important to WANTFA.

Agronomically it would be disappointing to miss out on possible technological advancements if we don’t support the development of gene technology. We have people telling our markets about the negative effect of GM’s on the product we supply before any of us really know what the consequences may be. We hope that if GM technology is rejected then it is for robust scientific reasons and not simply because as a society we are scared of change.

Anything managed badly will produce problems. Herbicide resistance currently can be managed, but if care is not taken it can get out of control. WANTFA is continuing to strive to improve the current farming system especially using the no-till system. For example, it is imperative that we move forward with stubble retention by maximising soil cover. This is another critical step in controlling weeds, pests and diseases in a no-till system.

Reports show biotech sector fast growing in India

- CropBiotech Update, June 17, 2005

Reports recently released by Biospectrum India show that the biotechnology sector is fast growing in the country. Using business data on exports, company growth, and progress made by biotechnology clusters, the reports detail investments made in the industry, as well as industry earnings for 2004-2005.

The top five biotechnology companies in India are Biocon, an integrated biotech company with interests in discovery, biopharmaceuticals, and enzymes; Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotec, both vaccines manufacturers; Venkateshwara Hatcheries, a poultry vaccines manufacturer expanding into the human health care market; and Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech. The Top 10 biotech companies in the country accounted for 47% of the total biotech business.

According to the report, the approval of a total of 17 Bt cotton hybrids for cultivation has contributed significantly to the growth of the agricultural biotechnology sector.

For more information, read the Biospectrum India Articles at

http://www.biospectrumindia.com/content/BSTOP20/10506133.asp , http://www.biospectrumindia.com/content/GuestColumn/10506137.asp , and http://www.biospectrumindia.com/content/BSTOP20/10506131.asp .

Vietnam collaborates with U.S. and India on biotech

- CropBiotech Update, June 17, 2005

Experts on soybean from different U.S. universities have been giving lectures and exchanging views on the application of gene technology to create high quality soybean varieties in Vietnam. The activity is part of a collaborative program between the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Discussions centered on soybean genomic mapping and applications of molecular markers to breed soybeans resistant to floods and diseases.

Vietnam News quoted Prof. Henry Nguyen, Director of the American National Centre for Soybean Biotechnology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and one of the seminar's co-sponsors, as saying that the country's soybean yield could be tripled from the current 1.26 tons per hectare if “new technologies in soybean cultivation, particularly improved seed varieties, are developed and adopted by farmers.

Meanwhile, Vietnam and India reviewed their scientific and technological cooperation and signed a collaborative program for 2005-2007 during the 6th session of the Vietnam-India Joint Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation held in New Delhi from May 19-20. They agreed to expand research into agricultural biotechnology for application to farming techniques on drought-stricken land, and hybrid rice.

In the said meeting, Vietnam officials requested assistance from India in the fields of information technology and biotechnology according to the resolution of the 12th meeting of the intergovernmental committee signed in 2004.

For a synthesis of Vietnam news on biotechnology, contact Le Hien of Biotech Vietnam at hienbiotechvn@pmail.vnn.vn .