BrightWorld

Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom

SCREENING CROPS FOR CLIMATE TRAITS October 3, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning!

 

Adapting food to climate change has been among the raging challenges of the times. This challenge is now being met head on by screening some specific crops for that purpose.

 

See the good news below.

 

[Writ 03 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.

 

 

 

World’s crops to be screened for climate traits

Katherine Nightingale

22 September 2008 | EN | 中文

A taro plantation. Crops will be screened for adaptable traits to climate change.

Flickr\Richard sihamau

An international foundation is funding a drive to screen thousands of crops for traits that will be useful in adapting food production to climate change.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is providing around US$300,000 of funding this year for researchers in 21 agricultural institutions in 15 countries across the developing world. Around US$200,000 will be spent next year with a continued commitment in the long term.

Crops from banana to sweet potato will be screened to identify material that plant breeders can use to produce varieties adapted to conditions associated with climate change.

Crop diversity is the biological foundation of agriculture, says Cary Fowler, executive director of the trust.

“Without it agriculture cannot adapt to anything: pests, disease, climate change, drought, energy constraints … nothing. With crop diversity we can have an agricultural system that — if we’re smart — is sustainable and productive, can feed people and fuel development.”

Researchers will screen the crops by growing them in different stress conditions — such as high salinity or high temperature — and assessing how well they grow.

Varieties with positive traits will be put into an open access database, says Fowler.

Some will also be entered into a ‘pre-breeding’ programme. Integrating one or two genes from an old or wild variety into a modern variety is costly and difficult, says Fowler, and pre-breeding produces early-stage, new varieties with the desired traits, so that plant breeders can get a ‘head start’ on producing varieties for farmers’ fields.

“Plant breeders often have to make quick progress so they’re loathe to get involved in the kind of cutting edge research to put exotic traits in [a crop]. So the pre-breeding at least gets that first set of genes into some kind of form that is easier for a plant breeder.”

Funded projects include a scheme in Papua New Guinea to screen over 20 varieties of the root crop taro for drought and salinity resistance. Taro is particularly important to the poor island communities of the Pacific region, as it need not be harvested for a number of years, making for a sustainable source of food and an ‘insurance policy’ at times when the prices of other staple crops become too high.

A programme in Bangladesh will screen varieties of the grass pea, a hardy crop that is often the only crop left in times of environmental stress and grown by the poorest communities.

Long-term consumption of grass pea can lead to paralysis, as the plant produces a neurotoxin — giving people a choice between starvation or paralysis. Researchers will search for varieties with low levels of this neurotoxin. 

 

CHILE BIOFUELS THE DAY September 4, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Amigos y amigas, Buenos dias again!

 

Chile has boosted its own path to renewable energy by recently priming up its research & development efforts in biofuels. This is a long shot in the arm for Chile which had moved on to an ‘emerging market’ status over the last two (2) decades.

 

Below is the brightening news about Chile’s biocombustible development.

 

Happy reading! Venceremos!

 

[14 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

 

 

Chile enfatiza biocombustibles de tecnología avanzada

María Elena Hurtado

3 julio 2008 | ES

Los bosques sureños son materia prima ideal para producir combustibles líquidos

Instituto Forestal de Chile

[SANTIAGO DE CHILE] La asignación, en los próximos días, de hasta 6 millones de dólares a consorcios público-privados para la investigación, desarrollo y comercialización de biocombustibles de tecnología avanzada, o de segunda generación, confirma el anuncio sobre la prioridad que Chile dará a este tipo de biocombustibles que la presidenta Michelle Bachelet hiciera el 21 de mayo durante la exposición anual al Parlamento .

Los biocombustibles de segunda generación – que se obtienen de materias lignocelulósicas como los rastrojos o residuos de trigo y deschos de la silvicultura y madera – tienen la ventaja de no competir con los alimentos y aprovechar residuos. El proceso de conversión en bioetanol es más largo y complicado que el del bioetanol tradicional y costaría más que los demás biocombustibles

InnovaChile, dependiente del Ministerio de Economía, financiará hasta en un 60%, es decir hasta US$6.3 millones, a consorcios que propongan planes de investigación, desarrollo y comercialización de biocombustibles a partir de material lignocelulósico.

Los consorcios seleccionados deberán constituirse este año y obtener resultados en cinco años como máximo, aunque se espera que en tres años ya puedan entrar al mercado. Dos consorcios formados por empresas forestales y universidades – Bioenercel y ForEnergy – ya están desarrollando proyectos de estas características en el país.

“Aunque la superficie forestal chilena podría abastecer una industria de combustibles de segunda generación…lo más conveniente para el país es continuar plantando los abundantes terrenos forestales todavía disponibles pero con nuevas especies especialmente seleccionadas para uso energético, y de ese modo, evitar una competencia entre los dos tipos de uso de material prima,” comentó a SciDev.Net el Subsecretario de Agricultura, Reinaldo Ruiz.

Hasta fines del 2007 Chile -junto con Ecuador y Venezuela- eran los únicos países sudamericanos que no tenían leyes que promovieran los biocombustibles (Venezuela por ser productor de petróleo).

Pero Chile se ha estado poniendo rápidamente al día. En marzo de este año el Congreso aprobó una ley sobre energías renovables no convencionales que incluye los biocombustibles. En mayo se autorizó la mezcla de bioetanol con gasolina en 2 por ciento y 5 por ciento del volumen resultante de la mezcla. También se eximió a los biocombustibles del impuesto a la gasolina y el diesel, y las empresas estatales de cobre y petróleo – CODELCO y ENAP – empezarán a usar biodiesel en sus maquinarias para evaluarlo.

Finalmente, el 30 de junio se creó la Comisión Asesora Interministerial en Materia de Biocombustibles que asesorará a todos los organismos públicos involucrados en esta materia, fijará directrices, propondrá orientaciones estratégicas y prestará apoyo para implementar políticas.

 

PERU’S SERPENT BITE SERUM August 27, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

That serpentine fire can burn you or rather kill you. Make no joke about snake bites, as they are among those killers in our planet.

From Peru comes a heartwarming news about a new innovation in serum development to address the problems attendant to serpentine bites.

Happy reading!

[05 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Perú produce suero en polvo contra veneno de serpientes

Zoraida Portillo

24 junio 2008 | ES

[LIMA] El Perú aspira a convertirse en pionero en la región andina en investigaciones científicas para la producción de sueros en polvo contra las mordeduras de serpientes y otros animales ponzoñosos.

Así lo señaló Patricia García, jefa del Instituto Nacional de Salud, durante el lanzamiento del primer suero antibotrópico liofilizado producido en el Perú, el que contrarresta los efectos del veneno por mordedura de las serpientes bótrox (Bothrops atrox.), cuya mordedura tiene la más alta prevalencia en el país.

El suero es producto de ocho años de investigaciones y pruebas por científicos del Centro Nacional de Productos Biológicos, y fue lanzado oficialmente el 17 de junio en Lima. Con la misma fórmula maestra de los inmunosueros antiofídicos, no requiere refrigeración pues es en polvo, y tiene una vida activa de cinco años.

Durante el lanzamiento del producto, el ministro de salud, Hernán Garrido Lecca, informó que el suero está destinado principalmente a los pobladores nativos e indígenas de la amazonía peruana, donde ocurre la mayor cantidad de mordeduras de estas serpientes.

El primer lote, con 800 dosis, será despachado en los próximos días a los lugares más remotos.

Según el ministerio de salud,el año pasado 2.585 personas fueron mordidas por la bótrox. Por falta de atención inmediata, 52 murieron.

Un estudio realizado por Alfonso Zavaleta, de la Universidad Cayetano Heredia, al que SciDev.Net tuvo acceso, afirmaque el botropismo constituye la primera causa de envenenamientos fatales producidos por animales ponzoñosos cada año. Un tercio de los pacientes son niños.

La introducción del producto irá acompañada de capacitaciones a los proveedores de salud y agentes comunitarios de las regiones con ocurrencias de accidentes ofídicos, con el fin de estandarizar y mejorar el manejo de las mordeduras de serpientes e iniciar el registro de casos y uso de los sueros, para adecuar la producción a la demanda, indicó el ministro.

 

BIOPIRACY CONTROL VIA UN ROADMAP August 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon from Manila!

Controlling or regulating biopiracy is among the toughest tasks regarding intellectual property. Currently, there is an ongoing research by a corporate group to map the genome of Indigenous Peoples or IPs in the Philippines, the results of which will redound to improving the survival chances of the human species in general. The research is so surreptitious, however, that nobody knows who are the data gatherers and how is data collected.

That behavior is tantamount to biopiracy. Incidentally, the United Nations released a roadmap recently, which has direct implications on improving regulatory aspects of biopiracy. The news is contained below.

Enjoy your read.

[27 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

UN roadmap paves way for curbing biopiracy

Hepeng Jia

13 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Yading Nature Reserve, China

USDA/pirateparrot

[BEIJING] Countries have agreed a roadmap for negotiating an agreement for the sharing of genetic resources, following a UN biodiversity conference.

The two-week conference in Bonn, Germany, ended last month (30 May) with renewed promises from countries to substantially reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

The conference set out a roadmap for negotiations on access and benefit sharing (ABS) of genetic resources to help curb biopiracy. Delegates discussed and tentatively agreed a variety of options on elements for the future agreement that could be legally binding, non-binding or a combination of the two.

Participants hope to reach a global agreement on ABS at the next UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010.

Xue Dayuan, director of the China Institute of Environment and Resources Protection for Minority Areas and a member of China’s delegation to the conference, says the roadmap anchors the diverse debates over the issues and narrows down action to a set of suitable options that could be further explored.

But environmental groups have expressed scepticism, saying developed nations have failed to offer enough financial aid to developing countries for biodiversity protection.

Xue says previous efforts for biodiversity protection focused too much on funding from the developed world, and that countries should develop their economy first in order to fund their own, more sustainable, protection measures. 

“China, together with other fast-developing countries like India, could offer an exemplar in realising economic growth with relatively less destruction of biodiversity.”

According to the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, China had established 2,531 natural reserves by the end of 2007, covering more than 15 per cent of its land.

China’s vice environment minister Wu Xiaoqing pledged a “strong commitment” at the conference to participating in global biodiversity protection.

Delegates at the conference also agreed action plans to expand nature reserves and launch the ‘Life Web Initiative,’ a network that aims to enhance partnerships to support the preserves. For example, an online database will help global funders match nature reserves to finance.

Germany pledged €500 million (US$775 million) over the next four years to aid global forest protection, particularly those in developing countries, and another €500 million each year after that.

Norway also announced plans to spend €600 million (US$936 million) on global forest conservation annually over the next three years.

 

GM COMMERCIALIZATION UPDATE IN EGYPT July 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Magandang araw! Good day!

 

From the Land of the Pharoahs comes a welcome news about genetically-modified crops. It has got to do with the commercialization of a Bt maize variety, a pattern that has already taken off in the Philippines.

 

The contentious issue here concerns the entry of Monsanto, the agri giant, in the control over the patent of the food variety. Let the Eqyptians deal with the matter themselves, but for now I am of the opinion that the corn variety is a good news altogether for our fellows in the great Land of the Pharoahs.

 

Let Isis make us dance with delight over this welcome news!

 

[22 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to the SciDev news summaries.]

================================================

 

Egypt approves commercialisation of first GM crop

Wagdy Sawahel

13 May 2008 | EN

Flickr/simpologist

[CAIRO] Egypt has approved the cultivation and commercialisation of a Bt maize variety, marking the first legal introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops into the country.

A report last month (16 April) from the US Department of Agriculture, noted that the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture had “approved decisions made by the National Biosafety Committee and Seed Registration Committee to allow for commercialisation of a genetically modified Bt corn variety”.

The endorsement was based on a series of field trials conducted between 2002 and 2007 for the variety MON 810, produced by biotechnology company Monsanto. Bt crops produce a toxin that guards against pests.

The variety to be distributed, Ajeeb-YG, is a cross between MON 810 and an Egyptian maize variety with resistance to three corn borer pests, developed by Monsanto scientists in South Africa — currently the only African country planting GM crops commercially.

Cairo-based company Fine Seeds International is partnering with Monsanto to distribute the variety in Egypt.

Ahmad Yaseen, an agricultural engineer at Fine Seeds, says the seeds will be available this month to farmers in ten Egyptian governorates.

Yaseen said the seeds will initially be imported from South Africa, but “starting from next year, Ajeeb-YG will be produced in Egypt”.

Amr Farouk Abdelkhalik, an Egyptian biotechnologist and regional coordinator of the Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa, says the new variety “points to the potential agronomic and environmental benefits of Bt maize in Egyptian cropping systems and accordingly the reduction of the massive use of pesticides”.

“We should develop our own GM plants using our genes and technology to protect small-scale farmers,” he added.

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a plant biotechnologist at the National Research Centre in Cairo, expressed concerns about the long-term effects of the crop.

He says research on the issues surrounding GM crops “must be conducted in Egypt, and an in-depth assessment must be carried out to examine the impact of GM plants on small-scale farmers”.

Egypt currently has no official biosafety legislation, though a regulatory framework exists. Hisham El-Shishtawy from the National Biosafety Committee secretariat told SciDev.Net that the existing framework follows the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and encompasses ministerial decrees regulating the registration of GM seeds. 

 

NANOTECHNOLOGY AND AGRICULTURE (FROM INDIA) July 24, 2008

NANOTECHNOLOGY AND AGRICULTURE (FROM INDIA)

 

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Putting together nanotechnology, biotechnology and bio-informatics is a new challenging area of R&D in the field of agriculture.

 

The experts of India, with the co-sponsorship by the state, are now into the next exciting phase of developing food production via this new integration methodology and practice. The implications of the new practice on quality control are legion, to say the least.

 

Happy reading.

 

[21 July 2003, Quezon City, MetroManila. Via SciDev update reports.]

=================================================

 

India looks to nanotechnology to boost agriculture

M. Sreelata

16 May 2008 | EN

Nanotechnology could help water delivery systems for farming

Flickr/IRRI

The Indian government is looking towards nanotechnology as a means of boosting agricultural productivity in the country.

In a report released in April, the Planning Commission of India recommends nanotechnology research and development (R&D) should become one of six areas for investment.

The commission recommends policies to and carries out financial planning for government departments. The report was written by a subgroup of the commission, and will be incorporated into India’s eleventh five-year plan, for 2007–2012.

The authors recommend ways to harness nanotechnology, biotechnology and bioinformatics to transform Indian agriculture, including creating a national institute of nanotechnology in agriculture.

The report says nanotechnology such as nano-sensors and nano-based smart delivery systems could help ensure natural resources like water, nutrients and chemicals are used efficiently in agriculture. Nano-barcodes and nano-processing could also help monitor the quality of agricultural produce.

The report proposes a national consortium on nanotechnology R&D, to include the proposed national institute and Indian institutions that are already actively researching nanotechnology.

It also recommends that Indian universities and institutions develop suitable graduate and postgraduate programmes to train young scientists in nanotechnology.

Vandana Dwivedi, coordinator of the subgroup and an advisor in the Planning Commission, says implementing all the report’s recommendations will take time, though she hopes to see some of the aspects rolled out in the 2007–2012 five-year plan. No specific initiatives on nanotechnology have yet been announced.

But not everyone is impressed by the government’s plans. India should be cautious about rushing for technologies, says M. S. Swaminathan, a former head of the National Commission for Farmers and widely considered the father of India’s green revolution. 

“If technology has applications, it has limitations too. Right from the beginning it is advisable to have a national regulatory commission on nanotechnology so that people don’t get into litigation later,” he told SciDev.Net.

Swaminathan believes transferring existing technologies to farmers should take priority, saying, “We should first disseminate ordinary technology to the farmer. Even the basic know-how has not reached fields yet. The gap between scientific know-how and field level do-how remains as wide as ever.”