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May 1, 2007


Drought tolerant rice developed; Bt corn cleared in Colony Collapse Disorder; Mexican farmers sign GM maize treaty


Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org May 1, 2007

* Drought tolerant rice developed
* Effort Aims to Safeguard 21 Food Crops
* 'Disease resistant chicken'
* Bt corn cleared in Colony Collapse Disorder
* Money, or in this case, corn, talks
* They won't bring in the clones
* Study of plant-based BioProducts
* Mexican farmers sign GM maize treaty
* Why not GM crops?
* Biosafety and risk assessment framework for selectable marker genes
* Novel Biotechnologies for Biocontrols
* Reconciling Traditional Knowledge with Modern Agriculture


Drought tolerant, high yield rice culture developed

- The Hindu, April 28, 2007


COIMBATORE: The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), has developed a new drought tolerant rice culture that is capable of yielding 3.7 tonnes per hectare and suitable for rainfed areas of Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga districts of Tamil Nadu.

This culture has been developed by combining conventional and molecular breeding methods following a novel participatory research approach by involving farmers, Dr T S Raveendran, Director, Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics, TNAU, said.

Addressing the concluding session of a three-day annual research meet on rice here last evening, he said a new 'seed fortification' technology has been developed for value added seeds in rice, capable of increasing germination and vigour.

There was a need to develop 'super hybrid rice' with higher yield potential, transgenic rice with resistance to 'rice tung ro virus disease,' and new rice cultivars for 'idly' making.

Dr S Natarajan, Director, Centre for Soil and Crop Management Studies, suggested the need to pursue research on using drip fertigation technology for hybrid rice cultivation and developing organic rice farming practices.

Dr R Samiyappan, Director, Centre for Plant Protection Studies said that 'super psuedomonas' has been developed by TNAU, which is capable of giving enhanced protection against pests and is currently undergoing trials in farmers fields.

About 150 scientists involved in rice research attended the meet in order to assess the status of rice research and to finalise an action plan for the coming year.


Seed Collection Effort Aims to Safeguard 21 Food Crops

- Steve Ember, Voice of America, April 30, 2007


Many of the crops included in a new $37.5 million project are important to feeding the poor in developing countries. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

A new project will try to protect twenty-one of the world's most important food crops by securing their seeds. Organizers say the project will "rescue" seed collections in developing countries where many gene banks are in poor condition.

This is a joint project of two organizations, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the United Nations Foundation. Cary Fowler, the director of the trust based in Rome, says it will be the largest such effort ever made.

The aim is to collect seeds or reproductive material from one hundred sixty-five thousand varieties of the crops. Organizers say the effort will secure more than ninety-five percent of the endangered crop diversity represented in gene banks in developing countries.

They say the fight against hunger cannot be won without securing crops that are in danger of being lost. Many of the crops are known as "orphan crops." Orphan crops do not get much attention from modern plant breeders but are especially important in poor countries. These include cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, taro and coconut.

Some orphan crops cannot be grown from seeds. Instead, cuttings, roots and cell cultures will be gathered from gene banks. And the project will finance research into lower-cost ways to protect these crops.

The project will also finance an information system for plant breeders to search gene banks worldwide. They will be able to look for plants with the right qualities to resist new diseases and the effects of climate change.

Still another goal is to improve communications between farmers and plant breeders. The organizers say they look forward to a time when breeders in Africa can find the same crop genetic information as those in Europe and North America.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has agreed to provide thirty million dollars for the project. Norway will provide seven and one-half million dollars.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust says at least four hundred fifty thousand seed samples will go into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The trust and the government of Norway are building this in the side of a mountain on an island near the North Pole.

Seeds from around the world will be stored there in case the planet suffers a terrible disaster. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is expected to open in March of two thousand eight.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.


'Genes being developed for disease resistant chicken'

- The Deccan Herald, April 30, 2007


Scientists are working on identification of genes resistant to diseases like pathogenic bird flu to implant these into poultry but it may take six to seven years before it is fully developed.

"It is going to take at least 6 to 7 years for developing totally disease resistant chicken. As of now we have initiated efforts for its which would take about three years and then these genes would be transferred into developing disease resistant chicken which may again take couple of years," a senior scientist of UP-based Central Avian Research Institute said.

Sanjeev Kumar, who is leading this project, said that with help of biotechnological tools, once we develop disease resistant chicken, it would show complete resistance to any sort of diseases including avian influenza, IBD, Marek and other bacterial problems.

Elaborating on the research, he said, "we have found IR genes containing chemokines and cytokines molecules that have shown a good amount of resistance to chicken related diseases."

"We are also in the search of more genes that have maximum resistance power to diseases which would take some more time," Kumar, who was here to participate in a symposium on Poultry Production, said adding we could focus on transferring these genes into high producing chickens.

"Our research has shown that high producing chickens are much vulnerable to diseases such as avian influenza.

Amongst chicken related diseases, bird flu or H5N1 has been the most dangerous disease as ever found. Last year, it caused an economic loss of Rs 1200 crore to Indian poultry industry. In entire Asia, bird flu has resulted into a loss of US $ 10 billion since its emergence.

CARI is the country's biggest poultry research organization in India and it carries out research in diverse areas of developing genetically superior germplasms, cost-friendly feeding regimes, effective shelter management and profitable marketing systems.


Bt corn cleared in Colony Collapse Disorder

- Galen P. Dively, American Farm (Maryland), web posted May 1, 2007


Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has caused much concern among beekeepers nationwide and it is not clear to date what is causing the die-off. Genetically modified crops, specifically Bt corn, have been suggested as a potential cause of CCD. While this possibility has not been ruled out, the weight of evidence based on a multitude of studies argues strongly that the current use of Bt corn is not associated with CCD.

The hazard to bees due to any potential toxicant depends on toxicity and exposure. The endotoxins currently expressed in Bt corn (Cry1 types against caterpillars; Cry3 types against beetles) are not biologically active against hymenopteran insects such as the honey bee, nor do the CCD symptoms resemble those expected in Bt intoxicated organisms. Exposure is also very low because the expression of endotoxins in pollen is barely detectable in most Bt corn hybrids and corn does not produce nectar. For these reasons, bees are not commonly found foraging in corn fields. Some argue that the increase in bee loss has paralleled the increase in Bt corn in the United States; however, severe bee losses have occurred in Europe and in areas of Canada where Bt crops are not grown.

What do the scientific studies say about the issue? Numerous laboratory studies have examined the potential non-target effects of Bt corn on honey bees by feeding high doses of the pollen or purified endotoxin mixed with honey or sugar syrup directly to larvae in brood cells. This approach is a standard protocol for Tier I testing of non-target effects on bees and required by EPA before insect-resistant transgenic crops are approved for registration.

Published studies and other technical reports submitted to EPA have all shown no adverse acute effects. In particular, recent laboratory studies in New Zealand and Switzerland exposed bees by feeding on pollen treated with purified Cry1 endotoxins at doses considered well above the maximum environmental exposure levels encountered in the field. Results showed no negative effects on bee survival.

Laboratory feeding studies at the University of Maryland also showed no effects on the weight and survival of honey bees feeding on Cry1Ab-expressing sweet corn pollen for 35 days.

Potential sublethal effects of Bt corn on honey bees have also been addressed, but not as extensively as the acute effects. For newly-emerged bees, the presence of Bt proteins in ingested pollen may affect hypopharyngeal gland development and thus the ability of nurse bees to make brood food.

However, the same studies in New Zealand and Switzerland reported no effects of Bt pollen or endotoxin on hypopharyngeal gland development of newly-emerged bees.

Results of another recent study conducted in indoor flight cages showed no effects of Cry1Ab protein exposure on mortality, syrup consumption, or learning capacities of free-flying honey bees, but foraging activity was slightly reduced.

A two-year field study (soon to be published in the European bee journal Apidologie) conducted by this author and his graduate student represents the first attempt to expose functional colonies of honey bees to Bt corn pollen under open field conditions. In this Maryland study, colonies placed in Bt sweet corn plots were allowed to forage on corn pollen and also fed Bt pollen cakes for 28 days. The pollen cake consumption alone represented approximately 44 percent of the expected daily pollen requirements of each exposed hive.

Results showed no adverse effects on bee weight, foraging activity, colony bee strength and brood development.

Although there is no evidence thus far of any lethal or sub-lethal effects of the currently used Bt endotoxins on honey bees, insecticidal products expressed by other transgenes in crops may need extended field testing on a case-by-case basis to assess the longer term consequences of sub-lethal changes in colonies and subtle modifications in bee behavior.


Galen P. Dively is an Extension Pest Management Specialist with the University of Maryland.


Money, or in this case, corn, talks

- Tim Hoskins, Minnesota Farm Guide, April 26, 2007


ALBIA, Iowa - It is not everyday a farmer sprays a herbicide to kill a crop. However, that is exactly what Monroe County farmer Tim Gardner might do to his winter wheat.

That decision was swayed by the soaring corn prices this past fall, says Gardner.

"Of course, money talks," he says. The south central Iowa farmer explains he can guarantee making $100 per acre by planting corn.

In the past few years, Gardner has planted wheat. With selling straw, the crop has been competitive as far as profit per acre.

So, with higher wheat prices in the fall, he planted 200 acres of winter wheat. Wheat has lower input costs compared with other crops. He says he has invested $8 per acre in the wheat crop.

"It isn't like I have a lot of money in it."

In addition, it helps him spread out his equipment use as he plants in the fall and harvests in late spring. Also, he can graze some of his cattle on wheat over the winter.

"It has just worked well," he says.

Until higher corn prices got his attention, that is. So, despite having a forward contract for wheat delivery in the summer, he is considering killing the wheat with a herbicide.

A family member who has not forward contracted his wheat crop will take over Gardner's contract if he proceeds with his plan.

Gardner will decide whether to keep the wheat or plant corn based on planting conditions. That decision likely will be made at the end of his planting schedule.

He plans to plant his other corn acres first. Then, if planting conditions are right, he plans to plant a herbicide-tolerant corn hybrid into the wheat ground and spray the wheat to kill it.

While Gardner might kill his wheat crop in favor of corn, he is not planting corn on corn.

"We never ever do that," he says.

The wheat acres he is thinking about killing was planted to soybeans in 2006.

"It would have been corn if I didn't plant wheat last fall," Gardner says.

In northern Missouri, there are stories of farmers hoping they had a good winter wheat kill so they could plant corn in their fields this spring.

Another report earlier this spring said some farmers in the Plains also were thinking of spraying their winter wheat to plant corn on those acres.

Gardner, who sells crop insurance, says not many of his 250 customers are planning major acreage shifts in their rotations.

Most of the shifts to corn acres he is hearing about are situations such as a 20-acre hay field that has been hay for a few years and has a weak stand.


Don't have a cow: They won't bring in the clones

- Dave Wedge, Boston Herald, April 28, 2007


Plans to bring a pair of cloned calves to the city for next weekend's BIO 2007 conference have been scrapped amid police concerns that the engineered animals would bring a crush of angry demonstrators.

Organizers of the upcoming conference - which will make Boston the epicenter of the life sciences debate - wanted to feature the two animals, which were born through the processes of the Iowa-based livestock cloning firm TransOva.

But Boston police, already bracing for possible citywide protests during the four-day event, threw cold water on the plan, citing the likelihood that the biotech bovines would attract radical animal rights protesters.

"The Boston Police Department had some concern that the presence of cloned animals would, in fact, lead to an increase of protest," said police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll.

Another factor was that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which is the site of the May 6-9 international biotechnology conference, doesn't permit the display of live animals.

However, BIO 2007 spokeswoman Deb S. Carstoiu said organizers decided against bringing the animals to Boston because of the expense of transporting them.

Carstoiu acknowledged, however, there were safety concerns and noted event security officials have been working closely with Boston police.

"There's always a concern of ensuring the safety of all our attendees," she said.

The flap shines a spotlight on the cloning controversy, a hot-button issue that pits scientists against activists, who argue the practice is yet another example of animal cruelty.

Kathy Guillermo, spokeswoman for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the cloning process leads to thousands of genetically mutated failures that suffer and are killed.

She also said cloning is just another way to breed more animals in captivity for human consumption.

"It's completely creepy," she said. "The last thing we need to be doing in this country is finding new ways to eat more animals. It's appalling."

BIO 2007, which is the world's largest annual biotechnology conference, will feature dozens of corporations engaged in cloning, genetic engineering, tissue regeneration and stem cell research.

Texas-based ViaGen, which will have representatives at the event, clones cows, horses and pigs and sells the animals to breeders for up to $150,000. The company cloned more than 60 animals in 2006.

The federal government recently ruled that consuming meat or dairy products from cloned animals is safe but has yet to legalize the retail sale of cloned animal byproducts. There are no restrictions, however, on the sale of meat or dairy from the offspring of cloned animals.


Ceres and Rohm and Haas to study plant-based BioProducts

- Press release, April 30, 2007


THOUSAND OAKS, CA and SPRING HOUSE, PA, - Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. and Rohm and Haas Company (NYSE: ROH), a leading manufacturer of specialty materials, today announced a research collaboration that will work toward producing plant-based alternatives to a petroleum-derived material used in thousands of home and industrial products. Such an innovation would boost the economics of energy crops and biofuel production, and could one day displace as many as 280 million gallons of oil annually with a renewable source.

Funded by a $1.5 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the three-year project will determine if energy crops planted for cellulosic ethanol could simultaneously produce methacrylate monomers, a key raw material used in the manufacture of many products including paint and coatings, building materials, and acrylic sheet and resins. The economics are attractive. More than 1.5 billion pounds of methacrylate monomers are produced annually in the United States, a market worth $780 million.

Though in its early stages, the science looks promising. Molecular biologists and biochemistry experts at Ceres say that some plants naturally produce compounds similar to methacrylate monomers, but do not necessarily accumulate them in extractable forms or quantities. They believe it may be feasible to alter the way plants produce these compounds so that they can be extracted from the dried stalks, stems and leaves before these are fed into biorefineries producing ethanol from cellulose. Cellulosic ethanol derives its energy from the whole plant rather than just the grain, as in corn-based ethanol.

Ceres President and CEO Richard Hamilton says the potential production of co-products may encourage greater investments in biorefineries capable of producing ethanol from cellulose. "Getting the cellulosic ethanol industry up and running will take significant investments and the bigger the prize at the end, the better. Methacrylate monomers are a compelling co-product due to the significant market size, feasibility of plant-based production and the fact that it is currently derived from oil and natural gas," Hamilton said.

There is a readymade market for plant-based methacrylate sources, but the final product will still need to be up to industry specifications, says Tim Donnelly, Global Technology Director for Rohm and Haas Company's Primary Materials business. As one of the world's leading producers of acrylate and methacrylate monomers, Rohm and Haas Company is bringing its market knowledge and technical expertise to the project. They will assist in developing extraction and isolation technology as well as evaluating the end-products.

"Rohm and Haas Company's Primary Materials business is aggressively pursuing economically viable routes to acrylic monomers made from renewable materials. We look forward to adding our monomer expertise to this project," says Donnelly.

Steve Bobzin, Ph.D , Ceres' principal investigator on the grant, says that the research will focus first on producing methacrylate monomers and similar compounds in a model plant with well-understood metabolic pathways. Successful traits would then be applied to energy crops.

Funding for this project was provided by USDA and DOE's 2006 Biomass R&D Initiative grant program, which has targeted $17.5 million for 17 biomass projects. Separately, Ceres received a second $1.5 million grant under the program to double switchgrass yields by 2020. Switchgrass is one of the top feedstocks being considered for cellulosic ethanol production.


Mexican farmers sign GM maize treaty with Monsanto

- Arturo Barba, SciDev.Net, April 30, 2007


Mexican farmers have signed an agreement with biotechnology giant Monsanto to buy and plant genetically modified (GM) maize.

According to the agreement signed earlier this month (18 April) by Mexico's National Confederation of Corn Growers (CNPAMM) -- affiliated with the umbrella agricultural association National Campesino Confederation -- Monsanto will provide Mexican producers with GM seeds, as well as initiate activities to protect native maize, including setting up a maize germplasm bank.

Many environmental and indigenous groups oppose the introduction of GM plants, fearing that it may contaminate native varieties of maize in the country.

Maize originated in Mexico and is home to 3,500 native varieties. It is the main food crop in Mexico, its production employing almost 12 million people.

The Mexican parliament's chamber of deputies has not yet approved regulations for the experimental sowing of GM plants as part of Mexico's biosecurity laws.

Francisco Lopez, Mexico's vice-minister for agriculture, said the regulations will be published in the coming weeks, and tests on GM maize will begin in the northern state of Sonora in August.

Carlos Salazar, president of CNPAMM, estimates that more than 90 per cent of small and medium growers will use GM seeds to improve productivity.

Jesus Madrazo, president of Monsanto Mexico, said the commercialisation of GM maize will begin in 2010, once the evaluation phases required by the biosecurity laws have been completed.


Why not GM crops?

- Ijaz Ahmad Rao, Business Recorder, Pakistan, April 28, 2007

Biotechnology has received far greater acceptance in the discipline of medicine, energy and industrial sector as compared to the field of food and agriculture; the main reason behind it is a lack of awareness of common man. That is why modern biotech industry is keep changing and redefining itself during the last two decades.

The use of genetic engineering in agriculture is a complex issue that presents both potential benefits and risks to human society and the environment, with implications at the local and global levels.

Today a heated global debate has erupted over the use of modern crop biotechnology; Government, journalists, communities and farmers in developing countries are deliberating about the same challenge as those in other countries.

Many are optimistic that plant biotechnology has come to stay, and will be a major technology of the future - potential benefits of it include improved crops that would be more nutritious, higher yielding, need less pesticides, resistant to weeds, and more environmentally sustainable while anti campaigners believes that such a technology may cause toxicity and allergenicity to human; that it can create super weeds while number of sprays to control pests on crops will increase extensively; In short crop biotechnology is harmful to our health, environment and economics rather safe and beneficial.

This is the point where most of the journalists and a common man get confused and find hard to balance between the information coming from two different schools of thoughts.

Moreover the discussion on the debate has largely influence by social, ethical, religious, scientific, political, economic, legal and cultural dimensions so it has become more complex for journalists to position itself on the scale - as a result of it scientists and journalists differed in their opinions about the quality of media coverage of agriculture biotechnology and biosafety, socio-economic and ethical issues; however the main sufferer in this war are the farmers, technology developer and public who has been dragged on a bewilder and puzzle road; but many stakeholders still recognise and place great importance on the role of the media in shaping public perception of Biotech science and technology.

In March a three days media workshop on "innovative aspects of Biotechnology and its better awareness and dissemination" was jointly organised by Comstech, ISESCO based in Tehran, Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre (PABIC) as well as ISAAA. The main objective was to ensure that members of the media, especially those who have opportunity to write about agriculture biotechnology are well informed about advancements in modern biotechnology.

During the inauguration session Dr Attaur Rehman, the chairman of the higher education commission pointed out that progress in biotechnology is vital to a country's development and urged media personnel to play their role in raising awareness about biotechnology.

Professor Atta lauded the efforts of Dr Anwar Nasim, Chairman National Commission on Biotechnology and added private enterprises are also taking interest in this field and government welcomes their role in socio-economic development of the country. Dr Iqbal Chaudhry, Dr Mirachel Navaro, Dr Abbas Sadri and other eminent scientists were also present on the occasion.

Pakistan has several good institutions currently working on various aspects of biotechnology. There are a number of universities; which offer various degrees in this discipline. However there is a serious lack of appreciation of biotechnology at the public and industrial levels. Coordination and exchange of information among institution and practitioners of biotechnology is less then adequate.

Therefore there is a need of a resource center in Pakistan; which can serve as a hub to disseminate information, to support the collaborative efforts and to develop a network of institutions and Individuals working in this field; that's why The Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (www.pabic.com.pk) has been established at Latif Ebrahim Jamal National Science Information Center, University of Karachi under the patronage of International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) and National Commission on Biotechnology.

The initiative of the establishment of Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center is an attempt to initiate multidisciplinary research and enhance the awareness and appreciation of biotechnology at the local and international levels.

Modern plant biotechnology, unlike traditional crop technologies, changes the innate ability of crops through a technique called genetic engineering to improve its performance and endow it with new capabilities. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces proteins active against certain insects.

Modern biotechnology is exemplified by the much maligned genetically engineered Bt genes in crops like cotton, maize, soyabean, canola etc; single or double gene transferred into the plants innate ability of a soil microbe to fight the destructive diseases and pests like bollworms, corn borer - saves farmers the cost of buying and applying a chemical pesticide and can increase nutrition and production.

According to our recent Economic Survey 2005-06 measuring from a high base of last year, the performance of agriculture has been weak - due to a relatively poor performance of two of the four major crops, namely cotton, sugarcane. One would like to list down some of the predicaments our crops are faced with, which is really a perturbing situation; Pakistan's yield per acre ranks below the average in the world, high price of agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides etc, higher intensity of insects and pests attack, shortage of good quality and varieties of seeds, insufficient availability of water for irrigation.

Additionally, the absence of a proper crop insurance system or any support system in the shape of subsidies by the government is resulting in frustration and lack of motivation in growers to spend resource in their fields in order to improve crop yields. At present, a major part of arable land is cultivated by small farmers, with 86 percent of total number of farms comprising less than 12.5 acres. The number of small farms is continuously increasing because of land division due to inheritance.

According to the study conducted by the Planning Commission - Pakistan will have to increase its national average agricultural yield to ensure food security for its growing population, which has increased to 156 million in 2006 from 34 million in 1947.

The world average yield of wheat is around 1100 kg per acre, while in Pakistan it is about 915 kg per acre; similarly national average rice yield is 1165 kg per acre against world's average of 1585 kg per acre. In China and India, it is around 2535 kg and 1180 kg per acre, respectively. It is worth to remember that our potential for wheat yield ought to be over 38 million tons at an average yield of 1.85 tons per acre; we are annually losing about three billion US dollar due to wheat production inefficiencies.

While rice production must rise to 6.5 million tons in 2010 from 4.2 million tons in 2006. Similarly the average yield of maize in Pakistan is around 715 kg per acre against world's average of 730 kg per acres; however maize average yield is 690 kg per acre in India and 2032 kg per acre in China.

Similarly average cotton yield is around 755 kg per acre in Pakistan against world's 725 kg per acre. Local demand from cotton and textile industry is increasing each year in Pakistan; so cotton lint output has been projected to increase to 21.5 million bales in 2015 from 12.4 million bales in 2006-07.

In fact before the arrival of modern crop biotechnology technology; farmers around the globe had only option of chemical pesticides as weapon to combat the major pests and to manage weeds in the field, but with the passage of time this methodology has became ineffective as many pests and weeds showed resistance against most of pesticides available in the market.

With the introduction of GM crops, farmers have been able to manage their cotton crops in a very effective way because there is an in-built pest and weeds control mechanism created in the plant to control pests and weeds on time.

Moreover it almost impossible and worthless to spry during rainy and windy period even if farmers know that their crops are under pests attack; however GM is the only solution to protect crops in the such circumstances due to its presence with in the plant life cycle.

It is worth knowing that in Pakistan, an estimated worth US $300 million of pesticides are being used in agriculture, of which more than 80 percent is used on cotton especially to control Bollworm known as "Sunides"; use of pesticide has reached over 47,550 metric tons annually; due to indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals health of people living in the rural areas and environment have been affected badly on the same time water quality of these region has been found contaminated which is harmful for human and water echo system. Although Bt cotton also provides significant control of targeted bollworms but supplemental foliar insecticide sprays are occasionally required to keep other bollworms and sucking pests from causing excessive damage in Bt fields.

In 2006, 22 countries grew biotech crops, 11 developing countries and 11 industrial countries; like USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay, Philippines, Australia, Romania, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, France, Iran, Honduras, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, and Slovakia.

The global biotech crop area continued to soar as the 250 millionth acre barrier was breached, when for the first time more than 10 million farmers in 22 countries. This unprecedented high adoption rate is testimony to the trust and confidence of millions of small and large farmers in crop biotechnology in both industrial and developing countries (ISAAA).

Pakistan has large number of dedicated and highly qualified biotechnologist, genetics, virologists and plant breeding at well-known institutes like National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) in Faisalabad, and National Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology (NCEMB) at Punjab University Lahore, Centre of Agriculture, Biochemistry and Biotechnology (CABB), University of Agriculture, Faisalabad and Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI), Multan which have capacity to develop new crop breed and isolate and transform desire gene; significant amount of financial resources have been committed by the Government of Pakistan for developing genetically modified local cotton varieties.

Moreover subject of Patents and intellectual property rights have created strong debate in the developing countries and even in United States and the European Union. That's why this new or modern biotechnology has captured the attention of scientists, entrepreneurs, financiers, policymakers, governors, and the public in general and the pressure is on the journalists and media to illustrate factual data on this subject.

In Pakistan, we are already facing negative consequence by not strengthening patents laws, due to which, the markets are flooded with adulterated pesticides, inferior seed quality, and poor quality of life saving drugs etc.

It is unfortunate many developing countries including Pakistan missed the opportunities during the Green Revolution; now farming methods of late 60's are coming to an end due to water shortage, soil degradation, loss of seedling varieties and high input costs; while we are entering into a new phase where with very limited resources we have to deliver multiple benefits to different stakeholders.

There is no single solution is likely to solve the our burgeoning problem in agriculture, food, energy, health and environment however there is hope that at least some of that solution will come by the adoption of modern crop biotechnology; as GM crops have significantly increased crops yields in many cases; are more environmental friendly - fewer use of pesticides and cause less soil erosion; can help small farmers to save more and combat poverty, because GM food are safer than conventional due to its careful evaluations at different levels by well-known institutes so why not our farmers must have a choice either to take GM crops side by side non GM?


Biosafety and risk assessment framework for selectable marker genes in transgenic crop plants: a case of the science not supporting the politics

- Ramessar, K., Peremarti, A., Gomez-Galera, S., Naqvi, S., Moralejo, M., Munoz, P., Capell, T., Christou, P. TRANSGENIC RESEARCH, vol. 16(3), pages 261-280. 2007 http://www.springerlink.com/content/d1g3n6888xw762x8/

Selectable marker gene systems are vital for the development of transgenic crops. Since the creation of the first transgenic plants in the early 1980s and their subsequent commercialization worldwide over almost an entire decade, antibiotic and herbicide resistance selectable marker gene systems have been an integral feature of plant genetic modification. Without them, creating transgenic crops is not feasible on purely economic and practical terms. These systems allow the relatively straightforward identification and selection of plants that have stably incorporated not only the marker genes but also genes of interest, for example herbicide tolerance and pest resistance. Bacterial antibiotic resistance genes are also crucial in molecular biology manipulations in the laboratory.

An unprecedented debate has accompanied the development and commercialization of transgenic crops. Divergent policies and their implementation in the European Union on one hand and the rest of the world on the other (industrialized and developing countries alike), have resulted in disputes with serious consequences on agricultural policy, world trade and food security. A lot of research effort has been directed towards the development of marker-free transformation or systems to remove selectable markers. Such research has been in a large part motivated by perceived problems with antibiotic resistance selectable markers; however, it is not justified from a safety point of view. The aim of this review is to discuss in some detail the currently available scientific evidence that overwhelmingly argues for the safety of these marker gene systems.

Our conclusion, supported by numerous studies, most of which are commissioned by some of the very parties that have taken a position against the use of antibiotic selectable marker gene systems, is that there is no scientific basis to argue against the use and presence of selectable marker genes as a class in transgenic plants.


Novel Biotechnologies for Biocontrol Agent Enhancement and Management

- Maurizio Vurro, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Bari, Italy; Jonathan Gressel, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel (Eds.)

[book] Weeds, insects, rodents, and pathogens are major problems in agricultural and urban environments, and there is a clear need to augment chemical methods of their control with biological methods. There has been limited success in doing so because of insufficient virulence of the host-specific organisms used. Naturally occurring biological agents are in evolutionary balance with their hosts, and attaining the level of control typically desired would lead to extinction of both the control agent and its host. The main scientists working with enhancing fungal, bacterial, virus and insect biological control agents on different targets present the latest progress in overcoming the barrier of insufficient virulence. This multi-disciplinary group, with backgrounds in different aspects of biotechnologies and crop protection review their own work and that of others, and describe the approaches being used, the successes and the barriers yet to overcome in an integrated manner.

Table of Contents

1. Biotechnology in Crop Protection: Towards Sustainable Insect Control 1 Martin G. Edwards and Angharad M. R. Gatehouse

2. Bacteria as Biological Control Agents for Insects: Economics, Engineering, and Environmental Safety 25 Brian A. Federici

3. Benefits and Risks of Using Fungal Toxins in Biological Control 53 Maurizio Vurro

4. Biocontrol of Weeds with Allelopathy: Conventional and Transgenic Approaches 75 Stephen O. Duke, Scott R. Baerson, Agnes M. Rimando, Zhiqiang Pan, Franck E. Dayan, and Regina G. Belz

5. Selecting, Monitoring, and Enhancing the Performance of Bacterial Biocontrol Agents: Principles, Pitfalls, and Progress 87 Linda S. Thomashow, David M. Weller, Olga V. Mavrodi, and Dmitri V. Mavrodi

6. Exploiting the Interactions between Fungal Antagonists, Pathogens and the Plant for Biocontrol 107 Sheridan L. Woo and Matteo Lorito

7. The Mechanisms and Applications of Symbiotic Opportunistic Plant Symbionts 131 Gary E. Harman and Michal Shoresh

8. Using Strains of Fusarium oxysporum to Control Fusarium Wilts: Dream or Reality? 157 Claude Alabouvette, Chantal Olivain, Floriane L'Haridon, S´ebastien Aim´e, and Christian Steinberg

9. Metarhizium anisopliae as a Model for Studying Bioinsecticidal Host Pathogen Interactions 179 Raymond J. St. Leger

10. Sclerotinia minor - Biocontrol Target or Agent? 205 Alan Watson

11. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. striga, Athletes Foot or Achilles Heel? 213 Alan Watson, Jonathan Gressel, David Sands, Steven Hallett, Maurizio Vurro, and Fenton Beed

12. Control of Sclerotial Pathogens with the Mycoparasite Coniothyrium minitans 223 John M. Whipps, Amanda Bennett, Mike Challen, John Clarkson, Emma Coventry, S. Muthumeenakshi, Ralph Noble, Chris Rogers, S. Sreenivasaprasad, and E. Eirian Jones

13. Biological Controls and the Potential of Biotechnological Controls for Vertebrate Pest Species 243 Peter Kerr

14. Genetically Enhancing the Efficacy of Plant Pathogens for Control of Weeds 267 Brian M. Thompson, Matthew M. Kirkpatrick, David C. Sands, and Alice L. Pilgeram

15. Interactions of Synthetic Herbicides with Plant Disease and Microbial Herbicides 277 Stephen O. Duke, David E. Wedge, Antonio L. Cerdeira, and Marcus B. Matallo

16. Approaches to and Successes in Developing Transgenically Enhanced Mycoherbicides 297 Jonathan Gressel, Sagit Meir, Yoav Herschkovitz, Hani Al-Ahmad, Inbar Greenspoon, Olubukola Babalola, and Ziva Amsellem

17. Functional Genomics: Functional Reconstitution of Portions of the Proteome in Insect Cell-Lines: Protein Production and Functional Genomics in Cell-lines 307 Thomas A. Grigliatti and Tom A. Pfeifer

18. TAC-TICS: Transposon-Based Biological Pest Management Systems 327 Thomas A. Grigliatti, Gerald Meister, and Tom A. Pfeifer 19. Failsafe Mechanisms for Preventing Gene Flow and Organism Dispersal of Enhanced Microbial Biocontrol Agents 353 Jonathan Gressel

Epilogue - Getting from Here to Eternity 363 David Sands


Reconciling Traditional Knowledge with Modern Agriculture: A Guide for Building Bridges

- Klaus Ammann, Guest Professor, Delft University of Technology, Department of Biotechnology, The Netherlands



In the years since the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted, issues of traditional knowledge have come to affect the legitimacy of the multilateral trading system, in general, and its IP (intellectual property) aspects, in particular. In order to engage indigenous knowledge in furthering socio-economic development, policy-makers will need to reconsider the prevailing notion of a fundamental dichotomy between indigenous and scientific knowledge and begin to challenge both types of knowledge.

This chapter concentrates on traditional knowledge - and how it relates to the ecology of agriculture, in all of its variants - and compares it to recent advances in scientific knowledge and the resulting applications of biotechnology in global agriculture.

The chapter argues that this dichotomy between traditional and scientific ways of knowing is not only artificial but problematic, in that it hinders exchange and communication between the two. The dichotomy between traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge is most apparent in, and lies at the root of, perceived differences between the approaches of today's organic farming and technology-intensive farming systems. While indeed there are important differences, traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge share important similarities. Knowledge, in both cases, is based on human observation and experience and is tested, replicated, and transmitted within its respective community through social institutions and mechanisms put in place for that purpose. Moreover, deeper examination of the genetic integrity of plants used within organic and biotechnology-based agricultural systems shows that the respective crop varieties being used under each system are more similar than they are different. Increasingly, organic farming is building on scientific knowledge, and agricultural biotechnology is seeking to draw on traditional knowledge.

This chapter challenges policy-makers and scientists to examine and, ultimately, to move beyond those conceptual worldviews, or constructs, that maintain the current divide between traditional knowledge/organic agriculture and scientific knowledge/agricultural biotechnology.

By building the bridge between traditional knowledge and science and becoming free to draw upon the best existing ideas and practices from both, a larger palate is available to draw from. But, more importantly, by integrating the innovation systems of both traditional and scientific communities, a much larger range of new ideas and practices could be generated. The chapter calls such dynamic integration the "participatory approach" to agricultural innovation, building upon the "unifying power of sustainable development" and leading to balanced choices in agricultural production chains and rural land use.

Such an integration would require adaptations of Western social institutions and mechanisms of intellectual property in order to interface in a more nuanced fashion with quasi-public-domain knowledge that is external to the published records of Western science and IP systems. At the same time, indigenous communities will need to learn to adapt their social institutions and mechanisms that govern what is, in a sense, sovereign or communal property to coexist with and at times be translated into formal IP rights and practical uses that are external to their traditional systems.


Ammann K. 2007. Reconciling Traditional Knowledge with Modern Agriculture: A Guide for Building Bridges. In Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices (eds. A Krattiger, RT Mahoney, L Nelsen, et al.). MIHR: Oxford, U.K., and PIPRA: Davis, U.S.A.


*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net