Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

June 15, 2006

Subject:

Bove for President?; Dutch Support GM Research; Origins of rice domestication

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: June 15, 2006

* Dutch government supports GM crop research
* Scientists say GM rice safe
* 'Affordable Bt cotton tech helped China top output'
* Will Wal-Mart’s Organic Cotton Save the Planet?
* First meeting of treaty on genetic resources for agriculture opens today
* Summary document of the FAO e-mail conference
* Plant genetics conference achieves unanimous approval
* Bove sets sights on French top job
* RI needs to cultivate genetically-engineered food crops
* Biologists trace back genetic origins of rice domestication

http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2006/june/16027.htm

Dutch government supports GM crop research

- USDA/FAS GAIN, June 13, 2006

HIGHLIGHTS

The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality asked the Wageningen University to develop a genetically modified (GM) potato with resistance to late blight (Phytophthora infestans). Six field trials with the GM maize hybrid Mon810 will be conducted this year to establish the size of buffer zones for coexistence purposes.

In a press release of March 31, 2006, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality stated that they tasked the Wageningen University to develop a genetically modified (GM) potato with resistance to late blight (Phytophthora infestans). The Dutch Government pays the project costs of Euro 9.9 million from the Economic Structural Fund (FES).

COGEM approved field trials with the GM potatoes.

The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) advised the Dutch Government about the risks of field experiments with the GM potato. COGEM concluded that the risk of cross breeding with other potato breeds is limited as potatoes are vegetatively propagated and potato tubers do not survive the Dutch winter. COGEM concluded that the risks for humans and the environment are negligible.

The new GM potato breed will have huge potential benefits for the Dutch sector.

According to the press release of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, potato farming accounts for 80 percent of the fungicides used in The Netherlands. The Ministry reports that production of the new potato breed will require only half the level of the fungicides used for conventional potatoes. If the GM potato is successfully grown on a wide scale it would save the Dutch potato sector about Euro 150 million annually. For developing the GM potato, exclusively potato genes will be used. The primary objective is to use the research results for developing GM starch potatoes for the non-food market. But breeders could also use the research results for developing GM table potatoes. The project will take about ten years.

Cumbersome regulations and activists impede field trials.

Until today, successful experimental planting of biotech crops is almost impossible in The Netherlands. Crop trials are either effectively prevented by cumbersome regulations imposed by the Dutch government or impeded by the threat of protests from environmental groups. In July 2005, Dutch activists destroyed field trials with GM starch potatoes developed by the starch company Avebe. This GM potato breed contained an elevated content of amylopectin. The Dutch government has issued over 30 licenses for field trials of biotech crops. In 2006, only seven of these licenses are being used: five for field experiments with GM potatoes, one with GM apples, and one with GM flowers (carnation).

Corn trials will confirm buffer zone requirements.

Starting this week, six one-hectare field trials of the GM maize hybrid Mon810 will be conducted. The goal of these trials is to double-check the necessary buffer zones with conventional and organic maize crops. The Dutch Commission for Primary Sector Coexistence has previously determined the buffer zones for conventional and organic crops to be 25 meters and 250 meters, respectively. For these trials no license is needed as this maize breed is approved in the EU.

Rules on coexistence for growing GM potatoes and corn are in place.

On November 2, 2004, the Commission for Primary Sector Coexistence presented an agreement for coexistence to the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The commission was set up to represent all sectors of Dutch agriculture. The agreement is set within the framework of the EC Directives 2001/18/EC and 2003/556/EC, and Dutch Civil Law. The agreement covers rules and regulations for the production of three products: potatoes, sugar beets and maize (see also GAIN Report Number: NL4033 and NL5028). The Dutch sector still needs to reach agreement on the scope of a compensation fund for possible damage to conventional and organic crops, and a monitoring system in the field.
***********************************

http://www.iran-daily.com/1385/2585/html/economy.htm - s151743

Scientists say GM rice safe

- IRAN DAILY, June 13, 2006

Iranian scientists have succeeded in proving that consumption of genetically-modified (GM) rice will incur no health and environmental risks.

Mohammad Ali Melboubi, a senior member of the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Research Center, told ISNA that extensive research studies have shown that there no health problems are encountered through consuming GM rice, stressing that the findings of genetics and biotechnology groups involved in the project have been published.

"As per the National Biotech Document, Iran needs to cultivate at least two million tons of GM crops provided that 100 million hectares undergo cultivation of such crops worldwide," he said in response to Minister of Agriculture Jihad Mohammad Reza Eskandari's remarks banning cultivation of GM rice on health grounds.

"Our problem is that we have no biotech laws, leaving the sector with poor technical supervision and lack of boundaries," he said, adding that the nine-man working group made up of representatives of various scientific associations has verified the lack of health risks in consuming GM rice.

He said 90 million hectares are currently under GM rice cultivation worldwide.

Three weeks ago, the minister of agriculture Jihad said Iran has no plans to increase production and consumption of genetically-modified rice, stressing that GM products are not allowed to enter international markets.

"We have developed the GM rice technology but will keep it as knowledge and a scientific achievement as long as there is lack of concrete proof that GM products do not pose any health risks," he said, implying that laboratory production of GM food will continue.

Rice production reached 1.9 million tons in the year to March 2006 and is expected to rise to two million tons by next March, when the country will have attained 80 percent self-sufficiency in the crop.

Experts say rice consumption patterns need to be modified in Iran, where demand is constantly rising.

The country will need to import 450,000 tons of rice by next March.
************************************

http://www.blonnet.com/2006/06/12/stories/2006061201670500.htm

'Affordable Bt cotton tech helped China top output'

- HINDU BUSINESS LINE, 12 Jun 2006

China model BTC does not collect royalty on each packet sold, but takes lumpsum payment from each company. Bt cotton hybrid seeds are sold in 500 g or 350 g packs and cost between $7.2 and $8. China developed Bt tech in the public sector before Monsanto's was approved, allowing competition.

Hyderabad - The Indian Seed Industry Association (ISIA) has said that affordable prices of Bt cotton technology in China had helped it become a global leader in cotton production

"It is the main reason for China to become a global leader in cotton production with almost twice the average yield of India," Mr M. Prabhakar Rao, President of ISIA, said

Two companies, Biocentury Transgene Technology Co Ltd (BTC) and Monsanto, through a joint venture offered Bt technology. BTC, which got the technology from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) that developed the indigenous technology, sold it to more than 30 private and provincial seed companies

Cost of Bt seed "They (BTC) don't collect royalty on each packet a company sells. They take a lumpsum payment of $60,000 (about Rs 27 lakh) a year from each company irrespective of their sales," he said. This method helped reduce the difference between Bt and non-Bt seeds to a minimum. And as a result, seed prices were made affordable to farmers and increased the acreage very fast

Monsanto technology was sold through a joint venture company. The royalty component was said to be 19 per cent of the wholesale seed price and comes to about $2 (Rs 90) a kg of seeds, the ISIA President said

In China, the Bt cotton hybrid seeds are sold in 500g or 350g packs (unlike in India where 450-gm packs are sold). The cost of packet varies between $7.2 and $8. As per the information available from various industry sources, more area was planted with CAAS technology seeds as compared to that of Monsanto technology. The CAAS technology was becoming increasingly popular because of the wide variety of choices, lower costs and good bollworm control, he said

Competition Mr Rao said China developed Bt technology in the public sector even before Monsanto's technology was approved, allowing more competition

"This is the main reason for the competition in the market place and affordable seed prices in China. In India, the delay in the development of Bt technology in the public sector research and resultant monopoly of technology raised the seed prices," he said. Stating that this has increased the burden on farmers, he appealed to the Government to source such technology for commercial use in India by making one time payment to the developer and make it available to the farmers at a more affordable price
********************************

http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/avery061506.htm

Will Wal-Mart’s Organic Cotton Save the Planet?

- Canada Free Press, By Dennis T. and Alex A. Avery, June 15, 2006

Will Wal-Mart’s sales of organic cotton garments save the environment?

Walmart recently sold 190,000 yoga outfits made from organic cotton through its Sam’s Club stores. The Organic Exchange cheered, and announced that Wal-Mart had just saved the planet’s cotton fields from being sprayed with another 500,000 pounds of pesticides. Many cheers.

But wait a minute. If the yoga outfits used about a pound of cotton apiece, and cotton yields average about 750 pounds per acre, the Organic Exchange was claiming that cotton growers apply a whopping 1,950 pounds of pesticide per acre! In reality, American cotton growers apply only about 2.3 pounds of pesticides per acre.

The organic yoga outfits actually saved 837 pounds of pesticide–rather than 500,000. But what’s a little 600-fold math error between friends? Wal-Mart has corrected their web site to claim a saving of 50,000 pounds of pesticide (bringing the math error down to about 60 fold.)

What’s really awful is that the Organic Exchange failed to take into account the biggest farming factor in saving the environment: yield per acre from the land we farm. Humanity is already farming about half of the Earth’s land area not covered with ice or deserts. By 2050, a peak population of about 9 billion humans will live on the planet, and far more of them will be able to afford an extra cotton shirt or yoga toga. How will we save any land for Nature in a more populous and affluent world?

Only with higher yields. The 2.3 pounds of pesticides applied to an acre of U.S. cotton help save 750 pounds of cotton from boll weevils and weed competition.

In Africa, where much of the world’s tiny supply of organic cotton is grown, yields are only about 400 pounds. Tanzania gets only 200 pounds of cotton per acre! The biggest problem isn’t even pests, but the lack of nitrogen to nourish the plant roots. U.S. farmers take their nitrogen from an inexhaustible source–the air, which is 78 percent N. For some mysterious reason, organic farming’s rules forbid the nitrogen fertilizer that encourages higher yields.

Virtually all of the world’s wildlife is in the wildlands were we don’t farm. It’s high time we started measuring our farming by how much land it leaves for nature, not by how much pesticide or fertilizer is used on the land where the wildlife isn’t.

Of course, we could have it both ways, thanks to biotechnology. High-yield biotech cotton usually has an ultra-safe natural pesticide bred into its tissues. The only organisms affected by the bred-in pesticide are bugs that try to eat the cotton plant. It doesn’t affect birds, bees or humans.

Does the Organic Exchange applaud the safer biotech crops? Nope. The organic movement has loudly banned all biotech crops from its markets, claiming that "biotech crops don’t yield more."

Wrong again. China has a new biotech cotton variety that yields 25 percent more fiber per acre than conventional cotton. Given China’s huge cotton plantings, that will save 3 million acres of farmland for food crops–which will ultimately save at least that much forest from being cleared and plowed. If the Organic Exchange could brag it had saved 3 million acres of Asian land for Nature, they’d be up for a Nobel Prize.

Why doesn’t the Organic Exchange factor high crop yields into their environmental tally sheet? Why doesn’t Wal-Mart?
*********************************

http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000324/index.html

First meeting of treaty on genetic resources for agriculture opens today
Diouf: Madrid gathering a "historic event"

- FAO, 12 June, 2006

Madrid – Representatives of 100 countries gathered today in the Spanish capital for a ceremony inaugurating the first-ever meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, promoted by FAO.

The event was attended by María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, Spain's First Deputy Prime Minister, Elena Espinosa, Spain's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and other dignitaries.

"This is a historic event, crowning many years of hard work. A treaty of crucial importance to humanity has been brought into being," said Diouf, describing the treaty as "the first major international instrument of the 21st century and the third millennium."

Negotiated under the aegis of FAO, it entered into force as a legally-binding instrument in June 2004 after a long negotiation process that began in the 1970s. Currently the treaty has 104 signatory States.

"The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture are sine qua non conditions for food security and poverty eradication, particularly in the rural world," Diouf said, noting that currently some 854 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition worldwide, with a resulting annual death toll of 15 million human lives.

In his comments the FAO chief stressed that combating hunger and poverty should be the primary goals of international policies related to plant genetic resources. "This is an ethical imperative -- access to adequate food is a basic human right," he said.

From theory to practice

Diouf called on the governments present at today's inaugural to cooperate in order to ensure that the treaty lives up to its full potential as a tool for increasing food production and improving food quality. He added that the agreement allows for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from crop diversity and also serves as a mechanism for strengthening North-South cooperation.

At this first meeting of the treaty's governing body a number of major decisions regarding its implementation are on the table, including financial strategies, access to plant genetic resources and the rights of farmers to a share of the benefits deriving from their use.

Diouf also appealed to delegates attending the "Ministerial Segment" of the meeting, which starts on Tuesday 13 June, to marshal "the political will to make it possible to build up a productive and innovative future for the treaty," urging them to ensure that their national plans, programmes and legislation reflect its objectives and provisions as well as development assistance priorities.

Contacts:
Germán Rojas
Information Officer, FAO
german.rojas@fao.org
(+39) 348 870 46 41

Iñigo Alvarez
Information Officer, FAO
inigo.alvarez@fao.org
(+39) 346 245 49 05
**************************

http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C9/summary.htm

Summary document of the FAO e-mail conference: "Regulating GMOs in developing and transition countries"
Executive Summary

It is important for developing countries to regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Two main motivations are that GMO regulation allows developing countries to protect consumer health and the environment and/or to harness the benefits of these new technologies. While there is agreement about the need for a GMO regulatory framework, there are differences in opinion about how strict it should be, as this is influenced by issues such as costs, perceived risks and benefits of GMO release, enforceability and credibility of the regulatory framework. Regulation of some stages or components of the process can be stricter than others. Developing countries currently lack the resources and capacity to adequately regulate GMOs, although there are notable differences between individual countries in this respect, and there is an important need for capacity building activities in this area. Methodology for risk assessment is well described, but there is disagreement whether it can be appropriately applied to GMOs, given their novelty. The social, ethical and economic aspects of GMOs are important but it is not certain that they should be included in the regulatory framework. The risks of GMOs should be weighed against their benefits as well as the risks of alternative options. There is a strong division over whether GMOs should be regulated differently to non-GM varieties, with participants disagreeing whether it is the process (i.e. genetic modification or not) or the product (the kind of traits expressed) that should be the "regulatory trigger". Particular attention is needed for regulation of GMOs in countries that are also the centres of origin or diversity of agricultural species. There is general consensus that harmonization of regulatory systems across countries is important (and that existing international agreements/guidelines can assist in this context), but that it should also be possible to retain some country-specific elements in the systems. Co-ordination and harmonization of GMO regulation between the different relevant government ministries within a country is also important. Developing countries wishing to establish a GMO regulatory framework can learn a lot from, but do not need to model it on, the existing regulatory frameworks in developed countries. There is general support for involving the public in GMO regulatory processes; informing the public about GMOs (including labelling of GM products); and ensuring transparency of the regulatory processes. Monitoring implementation of a GMO regulatory framework may be especially difficult in developing countries due to lack of resources, although some issues are difficult to monitor even for resource-strong developed countries. The cost of regulation, including post-release monitoring of GMOs, is an issue of concern for developing countries, although strategies to reduce it can be considered. The question of liability is important and should be covered in the GMO regulatory framework.

Continued at:

http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C9/summary.htm
****************************

http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?id=68407

Plant genetics conference achieves unanimous approval

- FOOD NAVIGATOR, 14/06/2006

There was unanimous approval yesterday for a ministerial declaration on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

In Madrid, ministers of agriculture from across the globe pledged to fully implement the treaty at the national level.

The ministers expressed their conviction that the Treaty is vital to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals - particularly eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and guaranteeing environmental sustainability.

They also pledged to enhance national capacities for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.

The Madrid meeting of the Ministerial Segment of the Treaty's governing bodies, chaired by Elena Espinosa, Spain's minister of agriculture, fisheries and food, was attended by over 70 countries, a fact which sent a powerful political message in support of the treaty, according to FAO.

This was the first ever meeting of the treaty's governing body.

FAO director-general Jacques Diouf urged countries to muster the political will needed to guarantee the treaty's ongoing implementation, describing the international accord as "a fundamental tool in humanity's efforts to do away with hunger and malnutrition."

"We must reaffirm our political will to work for the benefit of present and future generations as well as our commitment to do everything possible to ensure that the treaty is fully and comprehensively implemented," he said.

The meeting will now seek to lay down the procedures for implementation and other key aspects, such as a financial strategy, access to plant genetic resources and the sharing of benefits deriving from their use.

Indeed, a multilateral system of access to plant genetic resources is one of the cornerstones of the treaty. This system applies to a list of 64 plant species, selected on the basis of food security and interdependence criteria, including wheat, rice, potatoes and maize, which are staple components in the diet of a large proportion of the worlds population.

This week, Diouf also called on the governments present at today's inaugural to cooperate in order to ensure that the treaty lives up to its full potential as a tool for increasing food production and improving food quality.

He also appealed to delegates attending the 'Ministerial Segment' of the meeting, which starts today, to marshal "the political will to make it possible to build up a productive and innovative future for the treaty," urging them to ensure that their national plans, programmes and legislation reflect its objectives and provisions as well as development assistance priorities.

The treaty is a legally binding instrument negotiated by FAO's member states, and came into force in June 2004 as the culmination of a long process that began in the 1970s.
**********************************

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/06/14/france.bove.reut/

Bove sets sights on French top job

- CNN INTERNATIONAL, June 14, 2006

Paris, France -- Radical farmer Jose Bove, a prominent protester against globalization and fast food, said on Wednesday he was ready to run for president in France's 2007 election as candidate for the anti-free market, ecological left.

Bove, often nicknamed Asterix after the famous mustachioed Gallic comic hero holding out against the Roman occupiers, said he hoped to rally voters on the far left with policies focusing on workers' rights and the environment.

"I am ready to take up the responsibility to go to the Elysee (presidential palace)," Bove told the daily Liberation.

"I am the candidate to unite a left opposed to unbridled free market, which is ecological, anti-productivist and anti-globalist, situated to the left of the PS (Socialist party)," 53-year-old Bove said, adding he would seek support from other left-wing groups.

"If this decision is reached collectively and supported by everyone, I'll go all the way," he said.

Bove rose to fame in the late 1990s for denouncing agricultural free trade and genetically modified food and has been campaigning with drastic measures against the rising prominence of "la malbouffe" (bad food) in France.

He spent six weeks in jail in 2003 for smashing up a McDonald's restaurant, and was sentenced to four months in prison in November for destroying a field of genetically modified corn in southern France.

Bove, who campaigned against the European Union constitution that French voters rejected in a referendum last year, said he would fight against job insecurity, seek to raise France's minimum wage and battle poverty.

He criticized conservative Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for his tough law-and-order policies in response to riots by angry youths in France's suburbs last year.

"We are seeing unacceptable racism and exclusion in the suburbs," he said.

"Treating crime as a cause and not a consequence, with military-security measures seems dangerous to me. It gives the impression that we are in a situation of civil war," he said.

Several other parties on France's far left are likely to put up their own presidential candidate for the 2007 poll, although there have been calls to find a candidate to unite groups to the left of the center-left Socialist Party.

Recent surveys show Socialist regional leader Segolene Royal is most likely to face Sarkozy in a run-off in the election.

An Ifop poll last week showed Sarkozy would beat Bove in a run-off, with 58 percent of voters preferring the interior minister and 42 percent intending to chose Bove.
*********************************

RI needs to cultivate genetically-engineered food crops

- ANTARA (Indonesia), June 14, 2006

Bogor, West Java - Indonesia would need to cultivate genetically-engineered food crops as an alternative to overcome the sluggish growth of agriculture productivity.

With its slow growth in agriculture productivity compared to those in developed countries, and population of more than 220 million, Indonesia has become a giant market of food products.

"Under such condition, cultivation of genetically-engineered crops or popularly known as biotechnology crops, for some staple food such as rice, corn, and soybean has become an alternative which, like it or not, must be adopted soon," Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Tropical Biology (SEAMEO BIOTROP), Dr. Handoko said here, Wednesday.

At the opening of a workshop on biotechnology in Indonesia, he said, with narrowing agricultural fields as a consequence of industrialization and increasing demand for housing complex, conventional agricultural practice could not catch with the fast increase of food demand anymore.

Therefore, he said, the main challenge for agricultural development program in Indonesia is how to increase food and fiber production to meet the domestic demand.

Handoko admitted, flood that hit several rice production centers in Java Island during peak rainy season has sharply reduced farmers' production.

"It is an irony, that a nation that already enjoyed rice self-sufficiency in 1984 has turned into the world's largest rice importer," he said.

Considering the potential benefit of biotechnology application to increase agricultural production, the government has put biotechnology as one of its superior technology.

In 1988 Indonesia has applied biotechnology as one of strategic technology in its five-yearly development plan (Repelita) in 1988-1993.

According to Handoko, commercialization of biotechnology crops in the world has recorded fast development.

Since the past 10 years, biotechnology planting area has increased by more than 50 times, from 1.7 million ha in 1996 in six countries to 90 million ha in 21 countries in 2005.

Compared to the situation in 2004, at least 250,000 farmers in four countries contributed 11 percent of development in biotechnology planting area in 2005.

Handoko admitted, when biotechnology crops was first introduced, people had sceptical opinion on its benefit for small farmers in developing countries.

Now, there is evidence that 90 percent of 8.5 million farmers who plant biotechnology crops are poor farmers that manage one third of the total planting area.

Commercialization of biotechnology crops is expected to overcome food scarcity for more than 1.3 billion poor people in the world and some 850 million others who are under threat of famine and malnutrition.

Currently, some 7.7 million poor farmers in China, India, South Africa, and the Philippines earned their living from biotechnology crops cultivation.

Meanwhile, the fast development of world biotechnology has encouraged domestic researchers to develop research on agricultural biotechnology.

"Now, some government-owned as well as private research institutions have carried out biotechnology research program on food crops, horticulture, plantation and forestry plants," Handoko said.

Some food commodities such as paddy, potato, corn, soybean, and some vegetables had become the agenda for research in some institutions in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, results of the research have yet to be disseminated to the public, thus it would need the role of mass media, Handoko said.

Meanwhile, Director of the Indonesian Biotechnology Information Centre (IndoBic), Dr Bambang Purwantara said, the two-day workshop that would run through May 15 will allow participants to get information on biotechnology from the experts and visit some main facilities such as Biotechnology Research and Development Center of LIPI in Cibinong, Biotechnology and Genetical Resource Center (BB Biogen), and SEAMEO BIOTROP.
********************************

http://www.sciencedaily.com/cgi-bin/apf4/amazon_products_feed.cgi?Operation=ItemLookup&ItemId=1594200815

Biologists trace back genetic origins of rice domestication

- SCIENCE DAILY, June 13, 2006

Biologists from Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators from Taiwan have examined the DNA sequence family trees 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 June 9, 2006, in the on-line issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Science.

"We look where the genetic signature of clusters on a haplotype tree (family tree)," explained Londo. "We chose samples across the entire range of rice and looked for DNA sequences that were shared by both wild and domesticated types. These two major groups clustered out by geography."

DNA is comprised of vast, varied combinations of chemical subunits known as base pairs. Londo, Schaal and their collaborators concentrated on finding genetic markers shared by both cultivated and wild rice types that ranged from 800 to 1,300 base pairs.

Cultivated rice has a genetic signature that defines it as cultivated, Schaal explained.

"What you do is go out and sample all the wild rice across regions and you look for that signature in the wild," said Schaal, who has done similar work with cassava and jocote, a tropical fruit. "You find that the unique signature of cultivated rice is only found in certain geographic regions. And that's how you make the determination of where it came from."

Schaal said that she was surprised and "delighted" by their results.

"People have moved rice around so much and the crop crosses with its wild ancestors pretty readily, so I was fully prepared to see no domestication signal whatsoever," Schaal said. "I would have expected to see clustering of the cultivated rice, but I was delighted to see geographical clustering of the wild rice. I was thrilled that there was even any sort of genetic structure in the wild rice."

In contrast to rice, other staple crops such as wheat, barley and corn appear to have been domesticated just once in history.

Rice is the largest staple crop for human consumption, supplying 20 percent of caloric content for the world.

By finding the geographic origins of rice, researchers can consider ways to improve the crop's nutritional value and disease resistance, which in turn can help impoverished populations in Asia and elsewhere that rely heavily on the crop.

Londo expects to find even more evidence for differing geographic domestication. He said that by using the database that they've gathered, they could design a sampling to target specialty rices such as the aromatic rices basmati and jasmine.

For instance, one direction that the researchers are going is Thailand, where the Karen tribe has been using multiple landraces of rice for many hundreds of years.

Landraces are localized varieties of rice that have been cultivated by traditional methods and have been passed down many generations, Schaal said.

"We're going to try to find out how landrace varieties change after domestication," Schaal said. "These landraces are ancient varieties, which are high in genetic diversity, thus valuable to breeders looking for new traits."

#