Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom


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. 



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


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).



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


[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.