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. 

Advertisements
 

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.