Displaying 1-18 of 18 key documents
Source: Food Security (2011) | April 2011
This journal article investigates the significance of drought and other water-related constraints in South Asia compared with other limitations to the production of four major food crops — wheat, rice, sorghum and chickpea — in five South Asian farming systems.
The study was based on a survey of 330 'expert informants'. It indicates that water shortages and constraints such as high-cost irrigation or flooding of low-lying fields contribute to no more than 30 per cent of current yield gaps in major food crops. Other constraints contribute the most to yield losses, particularly soil infertility and poor management of fertiliser, weeds, pests and diseases. The respondents suggested interventions to address these constraints and improve food security, which include biotechnology and improvements in soil fertility.
Source: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)
This report details the proceedings of the 2nd World Seed Conference, held on 8–10 September 2009 at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters, to investigate the role of plant breeding in improving seed quality and crop varieties that are crucial for food security.
The proceedings contain the presentations, discussions and conclusions from a one-day policy forum and the five sessions of the two-day expert forum. Areas covered include the importance of genetic resources for plant breeding, access and benefit sharing; plant variety protection; and the importance of seed quality in agriculture.
The conclusions emphasised the importance of encouraging plant breeding to enable the production and distribution of high-quality seed. Participants highlighted the International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as an innovative instrument for achieving food security through conservation and access to genetic resources, and the importance of protecting intellectual property. They also recommended that countries develop the capabilities needed to determine seed quality and certify seed varieties.
The conference was organised by the FAO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the International Seed Federation and the International Seed Testing Association.
Source: African Journal of Biotechnology | November 2004
This scientific article provides an insight into the status of public research in genetically modified (GM) crops in Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe in 2004.
The authors document 54 transgenic 'events' — specific instances of genetic transformation — across the four countries. They identify work to develop GM strains for 20 crops, including cotton, maize, potatoes, sugar cane, tomatoes and wheat. South Africa is shown to be a particularly important centre for biotech research, accounting for 28 out of the 54 events examined.
The authors call for a simplified system to facilitate regulatory approval of GM crop trials and commercial releases across the continent as a whole and suggest measures to encourage inter-institutional links and South–South collaborations.
Source: International Journal of Biotechnology | 2005
This research article, by Rosemary Wolson at the University of Cape Town, assesses South Africa's biotechnology policies, reviewing three major initiatives — the national research and development strategy, biotechnology strategy and proposed laws to govern intellectual property rights derived from publicly funded research. Wolson explains the origins, goals and implementation of each.
The projects aim to create a coordinated strategy for promoting biotechnology in South Africa. Wolson concludes that the efforts are an encouraging sign of governmental commitment, but notes the continuing challenge of integrating the individual projects into a coherent framework. This may depend on promoting social networks to catalyse innovative industries.
She calls for the government to encourage more private enterprise and investment while remaining committed to basic research.
This article is useful to anyone hoping to understand the policy framework for biotechnology in one of sub-Saharan Africa's key scientific and industrial powers.
Source: International Journal of Biotechnology | 2005
In this research article, Victor Konde of the University of Zambia argues that industrial biotechnologies can improve food security in Africa through improved livestock feeds and vaccines, as well as biotechnological pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides. He adds that biotechnology can also help farmers process crop and livestock products for new markets.
But Africa must first overcome a number of key challenges, says Konde — including restrictions on agricultural exports, weaknesses in scientific capacity and investment, and a lack of diplomatic strength to effectively promote its interests in international negotiations.
The author proposes ways for African policymakers to encourage biotech enterprise and investment, collaborative and interdisciplinary research, strategic alliances and public–private partnerships.
Source: The National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC, USA) | July 2006
These proceedings from the 2006 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing broadly focus on the development of new biotechnology and bioprocessing industries, including biofuel crops.
Although they give a predominantly developed world perspective, they may be of interest to developing countries examining the potential of GM crops or other agricultural biotechnologies for producing energy or industrial compounds to address their own priorities and needs.
The discussions range across scientific, technical, economic and political topics. The section on feedstocks for bioprocessing is particularly interesting as it considers the potential for creating new molecules from plants, biomass harvesting and processing to produce energy.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations | 2006
This document brings together 14 scholarly papers presented at an international workshop in Turin, Italy in March 2005, as well as an overview of an e-conference that took place in June and July 2005. These two events examined the potential role of biotechnology in "the characterisation and conservation" of agricultural genetic resources.
The first four papers look at the current global status of livestock, fishery, crop and forest genetic resources, respectively. There are also two papers on the application of cryopreservation and reproductive techniques and eight papers that focus on the use of molecular markers. The final two chapters present the background discussion and summary from the e-conference.
This report represents a valuable resource for scientists, policy analysts and others who need a clear overview of how biotechnology can help document and preserve genetic resources.
Source: FAO Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture | 2005
This report summarises the thirteenth email conference of the FAO Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture, held between 6 June and 4 July 2005. Of the 127 postings to the conference, 67 per cent came from participants living in developing countries. People working in research organisations and universities comprised most of the participants; the rest were employees of inter-government institutes, non-governmental organisations, national development agencies and private companies.
The conference focused on the biotechnology tools being introduced and used in the crop, forestry, fishery and livestock sectors in developing countries. A topic heavily debated in the forum was the use of molecular markers in the characterisation of genetic resources, as was the need to use these tools alongside other factors, such as morphology and agronomic performance. In vitro techniques such as tissue culture, cryo-preservation and DNA storage were also discussed.
Factors that limit the ability of developing countries to apply these tools – such as lack of funds, human capacity and adequate infrastructure – were identified. Better collaboration, aimed at reducing costs and sharing talent, was highlighted as a way forward, with international organisations such as CGIAR and FAO seen as key to coordinating such efforts and supporting capacity building.
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) | October 2005
This paper reports on the successful transfer of a key disease-resistance gene from maize into rice, demonstrating the feasibility of gene transfer between distantly related grasses. The technique has important implications for introducing resistance to diseases in crops with no inherited resistance.
It is important in that it reveals how a single gene can influence resistance to unrelated disease-causing microbes. The gene in question, called Rxo1, controls resistance to bacterial streak disease in rice, as well as bacterial stripe disease in sorghum and maize.
This work is of interest to companies and academic researchers working on diseases of cereal crops, and to policy-makers and research managers because of its implications for the development of disease resistance in some of the world’s major food crops. Overall, it offers an interesting insight into a potentially valuable avenue of research.
Source: Science | April 2005
This report by US and Chinese researchers analyses the impact of two insect-resistant GM rice varieties grown at eight trial sites in China. The authors studied crop yields, levels of pesticide application and whether farmers growing GM rice varieties reported fewer pesticide-related illnesses than non-GM farmers.
The study was carried out on pre-production trials, with data gathered from randomly selected households. External enumerators surveyed farmers and found that those growing GM rice applied pesticide less frequently than those growing non-GM rice (0.5 times per season as compared with 3.7 times by non-GM farmers). Yields of insect-resistant rice were 6 to 9 per cent higher than non-GM varieties. In addition, no farmer growing GM rice reported adverse health effects. By contrast, 8.3 per cent of farmers in 2002, and 3 per cent in 2003, reported feeling ill after applying pesticide to their non-GM rice crop.
These data on the impact of GM rice in pre-commercial trials are could pave the way for the introduction of other GM crops because the commercialisation of a major GM food crop such as rice is expected to influence the introduction of other GM food crops in the future.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | 2002
This summarises an electronic conference moderated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on agricultural biotechnology research and the needs of developing countries. The conference considered a number of questions that are detailed in a related background document.
The key conclusions were:
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | 2002
This paper was prepared as a background document for the conference organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture in 2002. The paper addresses the role and focus that biotechnology should have in agricultural research agendas in developing countries.
The paper outlines key trends in agricultural research and agricultural biotechnology research, and identifies the questions with most relevance to developing countries that were addressed in the forum.
In the light of the resource constraints that developing countries operate under, the paper highlights the following key issues facing policy makers in developing countries regarding agricultural biotechnology research:
These questions were dealt with in an electronic conference and in a related summary document — which provides a summary of key conclusions on the issues.
Source: Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology | August 2003
This paper reviews scientific evidence and opinions on the question of gene flow from transgenic crops. It provides a concise and readable overview of the key issues, published research, and current opinions of scientists working in this area.
Gene transfer between species appears to be fairly common, but new concerns have been raised by the potential consequences of gene flow from transgenic plants. For example, some farmers are worried about the economic implications of gene transfer to their 'non-GM' or 'organic' crops. Additionally, gene flow between crops and their wild relatives may cause environmental problems, such as the creation of weedy relatives or a loss of genetic diversity (although this is not unique to GM crops).
The document states that the potential problems associated with the introduction of a novel transgenic variety will vary according to the species, the introduced trait and the environment where it will be grown. Predicting the long-term consequences is difficult given the lack of long-term observation or systematic baseline data. The advent of pharmaceutical and industrial crops, not intended for food use, means that issues of gene flow and segregation are becoming of paramount importance. Agronomic management techniques and 'genetic use restriction technologies' could help to address these risks, but are themselves controversial.
Source: Nature Biotechnology | June 2002
According to the authors of this literature review, there are no innate differences in the potential environmental impact of GM crops compared with non-GM varieties. Crucial questions remain, however, as to what constitutes a "significant", and more importantly, an "acceptable" effect on the environment. Such questions are being asked about GM crops that have not previously been asked about varieties developed by so-called conventional methods.
Altered biodiversity, increased crop pervasiveness, and the effect of toxins such as Bt in soil and water systems are considered, as well as the impact of "free" transgenic DNA in the environment. The authors suggest a case-by-case approach for making decisions about the commercial cultivation of GM crops; the impact of gene transfer from a GM crop to a wild plant relative or other ecosystems will depend on the nature of the gene, as well as the local ecology.
The authors conclude that to minimise the environmental impact of GM crops or new agricultural practices associated with their commercial cultivation, the timing and expression of plant transgenes should be more specific. A wider range of pest resistance mechanisms is also needed to reduce the selective pressure on the pest population. In acknowledging that new and more creative ways of managing crops may be needed, the authors call for incentives that will require GM crops to be combined with other agricultural practices that promote crop and wildlife diversity, as well as soil fertility.
Source: Plant Journal | June 2002
Bt cotton, developed to resist bollworm attack, can have significant economic and environmental benefits, according to a three-year study of hundreds of Chinese smallholder farmers. The study, carried out by collaborators from China and the USA, also revealed that growing Bt cotton can have a positive impact on human health. The main benefits to farmers from using Bt varieties were increased crop yield and reductions in the amount of pesticide used. As well as lower input costs, growers reported fewer pesticide-related illnesses associated with growing Bt cotton, as compared with the non-Bt varieties.
While the authors describe greater chemical use in some areas of China growing Bt cotton, they found no evidence of an associated increase in pesticide resistance within the bollworm population. They believe that the transient increase in pesticide use was due either to changes in pest pressure, or the fact that some farmers were sowing seed saved from the previous year. This could have reduced the effectiveness of the resistant crop variety. Economic theory has correctly predicted that increased supply would result in lower market prices for cotton growers. The authors conclude, however, that current prices still offer considerable economic gains for farmers growing the Bt varieties.
Source: Plant Journal | September 2001
This review gives a valuable insight into the thought processes behind many of the regulatory frameworks in place regarding the safety of foods containing GM ingredients. Starting with the concept of substantial equivalence as a management tool for safety evaluations, it then addresses issues such as allergenicity, unintended effects of a genetic manipulation and risk assessment.
Although broad international consensus exists about the principles of the safety of GM-derived foods, the regulatory frameworks may differ between countries. These are summarised, along with useful data about foods already developed and results of laboratory feeding studies. The authors consider in some detail the challenges associated with such studies, as well as the difficulties in linking an observed effect with a specific food component.
They also suggest that new research tools enabling detailed analysis of sub-cellular components will be significant in helping to identify and characterise any differences between GM products and their non-GM counterparts. According to the authors, an integrated approach using molecular biology, toxicology, genetics and nutritional information is needed, alongside existing long-established techniques used to assess the safety of conventionally-produced foods.
Source: CGIAR / US National Academies of Sciences | 1999
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the US National Academies of Sciences (NAS) convened an international conference focusing on biotechnology and its potential impact on agriculture in developing countries. The conference aimed to stimulate a wide-ranging debate among over 400 participants from diverse backgrounds (including policy-makers, scientists, non-governmental organisations, and media) on potential benefits and risks of biotechnology.
Discussions were science-based and were intended to help to guide the strategies of CGIAR's international network of agricultural research centers as they seek to contribute to food security and poverty eradication in developing countries.
The conference proceedings are extensive (235 pages), and cover a broad range of topics. The first section gives an overview of the proceedings and provides a very useful summary of the status of agricultural biotechnology in both developing and industrial countries, the global challenges that lie ahead, the risks and benefits of modern biotechnology and the key players involved in the debate. Subsequent sections give background information and opinion on a wide range of issues relating to agricultural biotechnology.
Source: Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, | September 2001
This report reviews some of the genetically engineered products being developed by industry and university scientists and aims to provide an illustrative overview of what could be the "next generation" of genetically engineered agricultural products. It is not intended to endorse these future applications, but rather to help inform the debate on the broader public policy issues raised by agricultural biotechnology. The report is highly readable, well illustrated and explains the technology clearly to the non-specialist reader.