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Focus on... Biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnology is perceived by some as a science that has evolved over hundreds of years, including the art of brewing and Mendel's work on genetics. For others, however, biotechnology is defined as a new science using modern methods for genetic science. Whatever the origins, biotechnology is often associated with the controversial area of transgenics, or genetic modification. And yet, agricultural biotechnology is a much broader molecular science and its benefits have been evident for much longer than the previous decade when genetic modification of crops began to gain prominence.

In this edition of New Agriculturist, we focus on some of the latest developments in agricultural biotechnology, which include a variety of initiatives where genetic modification could bring real benefits to developing countries plus an interesting development in transgenic pigs. Issues of biosafety and open access to biotechnologies are also featured as well as other biotechnological advances, which are proving to be equally important in the improvement of crop varieties for the benefit of the world's poorest farmers.

Can GM-enhanced nutrition wait?

Can GM-enhanced nutrition wait?

Most GM crops are developed to provide disease or pest resistance or tolerance against abiotic (salt or drought) factors. However, research for developing countries is increasingly likely to include nutritional enhancement of staple crops.

Date published: March 2005

Marked for speed

Marked for speed

Molecular markers give breeders the edge in the race against crop loss due to pests and disease. As genetic mapping improves, molecular marker-aided selection promises to help tackle the highly complex problem of producing crop varieties able to tolerate submergence, problems soils and drought.

Date published: March 2005

Gene splicing improves pork farm waste

Gene splicing improves pork farm waste

Whether we support the use of genetically modified animals or not, research is moving ahead. In the last few years, scientists at Ontario's University of Guelph have created Enviropigs™, a line of transgenic pigs that cost less to feed and produce less noxious manure.

Date published: March 2005

The quest for drought tolerance

The quest for drought tolerance

Drought tolerance is a feature of some crop plants, and for many years farmers and, more recently, plant breeders have taken advantage of these tolerant varieties in traditional breeding. Can biotechnology now accelerate this effort to develop urgently needed drought-tolerant crops?

Date published: March 2005

Biosafety: managing biotechnology risks

Biosafety: managing biotechnology risks

Regulatory systems are already in place for the lucrative markets for GM technologies in developed countries. But many developing countries that wish to embrace GM technology to improve the lives of the poor still need assistance.

Date published: March 2005

A clean pair of genes

A clean pair of genes

The ability of Agrobacterium to incorporate its own DNA in that of another cell has made it a useful tool for genetic modification. However, scientists have had to refine techniques in order to produce plants that only have the desired genes.

Date published: March 2005

An important milestone for Bt maize

An important milestone for Bt maize

Maize losses to stem borers are estimated at US$72 million per year in Kenya alone but a public-private partnership aims to develop maize varieties that are resistant to stemborers and are better adapted to Kenyan growing conditions and meet farmer and consumer preferences.

Date published: March 2005

 

 

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