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.

 

BRAZIL’S GM SOYA RESISTANT TO PEST August 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

We may as well dance a lot of samba today as many news about new breeds of agri-products that are resistant to pests and drought have been filtering in.

From down south comes the Brazilian news that invites samba dances in the streets, regarding new breeds of soya that are resistant to pests and related diseases.

Happy reading!

[04 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Brasil lanza dos variedades de soja transgénica

Catarina Chagas

22 junio 2008 | ES

La soya es el cultivo genéticamente modificado más cultivado en Brasil

USDA

Después de diez años de investigación, la Empresa Brasileña de Investigación Agropecuaria (Embrapa) lanzó dos variedades de soja genéticamente mejoradas para adaptarse a plantaciones en el norte y noreste del país, regiones de gran importancia en la producción agrícola.

Embrapa está vinculada al Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Abastecimiento y a la Fundación de Apoyo a la Investigación del Corredor de Exportación Norte.

Las variedades de soja BRS 278RR y BRS 279RR, además de presentar alta productividad y estar adaptadas a las condiciones climáticas locales, son especialmente recomendadas para áreas que tienen dificultad con las malezas, pues presentan alta tolerancia al herbicida glifosato.

Los investigadores afirman que la BRS 278RR es estable en varios ambientes, lo que permitiría plantarla en áreas de distinta altitud. A su vez, la BRS 279RR es especialmente resistente a plagas que causan problemas en la región.

Los investigadores crearon ambas semillas después del cruzamiento sucesivo de especies de soja, hasta alcanzar las características deseadas. Luego, hicieron pruebas para estudiar el desempeño de las semillas una vez plantadas en lugares con condiciones como las del norte y noreste de Brasil.

“Esta diversificación de semillas permite al agricultor elegir cómo manejar o diversificar sus modos de producción, permitiendo optimizar el uso de máquinas e implementos, tanto en la plantación como en la cosecha”, explicó a SciDev.Net el ingeniero agrónomo José Ubirajara Vieira Moreira, de Embrapa.

Lo anterior se debe a que ambas variedades tienen ciclos de crecimiento distintos y si el productor desea usar diferentes tipos de semillas, podrá sembrar y cosechar en tiempos diferenciados cada sector de su plantación.

Para otro especialista de Embrapa, José Francisco Ferraz de Toledo, el lanzamiento refuerza las nuevas e interesantes posibilidades de mercado de la soja transgénica.

“Con las nuevas tecnologías hay formas de introducir en la soja cualidades deseables de otras especies, abriendo nuevas oportunidades de avance de la agricultura”, dijo.

La soya genéticamente modificada está permitida en Brasil desde el año 2005, a pesar de las controversias alrededor del tema (ver Brazil delays GM crops and cloning bill  y Brazil says ‘yes’to GM crops and stem cell research).

 

CHINA’S INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PLAN BOOSTS PATENTS August 24, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang araw! Good day!

Intellectual property planning has been a fairly neglected area in planning engagements by developing economies. Often than not, development planning presumes that citizens will patent or copyright their innovations, with the effect of scaling up patents at turtle pace.

China has shown the way to accelerate the pace of patenting by innovative citizens precisely by addressing the problem of intellectual property planning. This is new area in development planning, as one can see from the news caption below.

Happy reading!

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

New intellectual property plan to boost Chinese patents

Hepeng Jia

24 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Flickr/H@r@ld

[BEIJING] China has launched a national intellectual property rights (IPR) strategy to encourage innovation and strengthen its legal framework in the field.

The National IPR strategy outline, published earlier this month (5 June) by China’s State Council, aims to turn China into “a nation with an internationally leading level of creating, using, protecting and managing IPR by 2020”.

The strategy aims to boost the number of patents held by Chinese citizens over the next five years.

It also seeks to establish an effective legal protection system for genetic resources and indigenous knowledge.

Although China is one of the world’s top three nations in terms of patents issued (see China hits top three in patent applications), most of its patents for invention are owned by foreign companies operating in the country. According to China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), 53 per cent of the 67,948 invention patents issued in 2007 were filed by foreign individuals or companies.

The strategy will see China’s government revise laws on patent, trademarks and copyrights. The website of SIPO quoted its head, Tian Lipu, as saying that the new patent law will be submitted to the legislature for approval before the end of the year.

Previous Chinese patent law focused on the protection of the patent, but this revised law will also outline how a patent can be used and benefits shared, as well as how to avoid patent abuses.

The strategy will also seek to increase the ability of government departments and courts to help protect IPR.

Sun Pingping, a spokesperson for SIPO, told SciDev.Net that although there are many existing laws and regulations on IPR, the national strategy can coordinate their functions by guiding their revisions, refining and updating when necessary.

Sun Guorui, an intellectual property law professor at Beihang University in Beijing, says that the main significance of the strategy is it makes IPR creation and use a core value for policymaking.

“For example, in the science community, awards or promotion are given mainly as the result of publishing high-impact papers. But in the future, the number of patents filed can be an important indicator of scientists’ output,” Sun told SciDev.Net.

He adds that the strategy will need to be followed by more concrete action implemented by different government departments. For example, the health ministry will have to finalise its measures on how to protect the patents of traditional Chinese medicine.

 

PHILIPPINES, INDONESIA, CHINA LEAD MAIZE DROUGHT-RESISTANCE August 19, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

We peoples of Southeast Asia have been caught up in the cycles of droughts and heavy rains for as long as our memories can recall. The El Nino comes every now and then, bringing either a rainy season or too dry a spell for an entire crop season, thus endangering our own agricultural production.

Biotechnology innovations incidentally are very dynamic in the region, or in East Asia as a whole. The breeding of maize varieties that are resistant to drought has been among the forefront of research & development. Below is a news caption of the R&D efforts in maize by exemplar countries Philippines, Indonesia, and China.

Happy reading!

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

A-maizing: Asia’s drought-resistant maize varieties

Source: CIMMYT

16 June 2008 | EN | 中文

Flickr/thisfrenchlife

Maize is a staple crop in South-East Asia, both as a food and animal feed. But the farmers that grow the crop often live in drought-prone areas, where poor soil and disease exacerbate poor harvests.

To counter this, the Asian Maize Network was created, funded by the Asian Development Bank and led by CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre).

The network, running from 2005–2008, brings together scientists from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties — and deliver them to farmers.

Genetic material from drought-tolerant varieties was supplied by CIMMYT and funds put into setting up testing programmes in all five countries.

The first varieties have already been released for further testing in individual countries, and many more are in the pipeline, with the eventual aim of providing them to poor farmers at affordable prices.

The scientists involved say the project has helped them both in terms of capacity and partnership building. Many agree that the training and working with researchers from other countries has given them a new perspective on their work.

“I’m motivated to see that what I’m doing will really help farmers,” says one.

 

MOLECULAR BIOLOGISTS RECEIVE SHOT IN THE ARM August 16, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Going back down southern Africa, here comes a welcome news about incentives for biotechnologists in the region. The governance innovation has to do with improving processes whereby biotechnologists can get employed and practice their profession accordingly.

Enjoy your read!

[30 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

African molecular biologists receive European boost

Carol Campbell

17 June 2008 | EN

USAID / R. Zurba

Updated [18 June 2008]

Molecular biologists in Africa will be able to tap into greater resources after South Africa signed a cooperation agreement with the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO).

The agreement, announced on 5 June, is the first for an African country and follows five years of discussions. 

South Africa will now have access to core EMBO activities and programmes, such as fellowships, courses and workshops.

Iqbal Parker, director of the Cape Town branch of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, told SciDev.Net that South Africa-based scientists can also apply for grants previously only available to scientists working in EMBO’s 27 European member countries. The closing date for this year’s applications is August.

Flexible long-term fellowships, most beginning in January 2009, “will allow South Africa-based scientists to apply to work at institutions in other EMBO countries”, said Parker, who was a major driver of the agreement.

“Short-term fellowships will enable masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students to learn new techniques at Europe’s top institutions,” he adds.

Some practical training courses organised locally, but funded by EMBO, have already been run in South Africa in anticipation of this month’s membership approval. Although no other African nation is in the pipeline for membership, the practical training courses in South Africa are open to scientists from across the African continent.

“For most African scientists, attending training courses in Europe is out of the question because of cost, time and visa administration hassles. Hosting these courses in South Africa encourages more scientists from throughout the continent to participate,” says Tsungai Jongwe, a molecular biology masters student at the University of Cape Town Medical School.

”And there are many scientists from other African nations studying and working in South Africa, so they will benefit as well,” Jongwe, a Zimbabwean, told SciDev.Net.

Hermann Bujard, executive director of EMBO, says that the agreement includes provision for European scientists to visit South Africa, to give them “insight into the magnitude of problems on the African continent”.

“South African scientists will be empowered to employ the latest scientific advances to benefit their own communities.”