World Status

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An in-depth overview on the global seed industry. From a newly developed tomato variety in Argentina to progressive workshops on safety assessment of genetically modified crops in India.
Status Argentina

jan14_wrld_status_1Argentine researchers working with the National University of Rosario in Santa Fe province, Argentina, recently created a new hybrid tomato breed. The new hybrid tomatoes hold good weight, firmness, increased post-harvest life, and good flavor and color, among other attributes.

By analyzing a myriad of data, researchers identified genetic profiles of various tomato strains that had the above-mentioned qualities. Subsequently, selected plants were then genetically crossed to create varieties that hold all of the desired features.

“We evaluated 2,570 fruits and over 180 plants,” says Guillermo Pratta, researcher and director of the specialization in bioinformatics department at the National University of Rosario.

Two of these new varieties are currently enrolled in the National Registry of Cultivars National Seed Institute under the names Gemma and Cherub.

To create these varieties, the researchers from the Department of Genetics made crosses between a tomato variety from Argentina and a wild tomato species collected in Peru, whose most dominant feature was improved post-harvest life.

“Utilizing the wild tomato species to prolong the post-harvest life of the fruit, rather than the techniques of genetic modification, is one of this research group’s original focuses [since it] began working in the mid-1990s. This approach also enables the ability to produce a greater variety of tomatoes for the local and international markets,” said Pratta.

—Agencia CyTA – Instituto Leloir (Science and Technology News / Buenos Aires – Argentina)

Status India

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and Biotech Consortium India Limited in New Delhi recently organized a workshop on safety assessment of genetically modified crops at the ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru near Hyderabad, India.

In view of the increasing role of scientists and officials at state level in the development and evaluation of GM crops, BCIL has initiated communication and outreach activities through agricultural research institutions and state agricultural universities. The workshop was organized by BCIL in partnership with ICRISAT as part of this initiative. It was conducted parallel with the ongoing international workshop on Genetic Engineering Applications in Grains and Legume Crops organized by ICRISAT.

Participants of the workshop included scientists from various public and private sectors engaged in the development of GM crops. Research institutions engaged in food safety assessment as well as those conducting confined field trials also nominated scientists to participate.

In his keynote address, Ananda Kumar, director of the Institute of Agri-Biotechnology at Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University, spoke on the “Role of GM crops: Beyond Bt cotton.” According to Kumar, several GM crops are at various stages of research and development in India. He emphasized on the need to streamline regulations so that technologies can be taken forward.

“The phenomenonal success of Bt cotton has clearly shown the need for GM technology to deal with problems being faced by [the] Indian agriculture sector,” he said. “Biosafety concerns can be clearly addressed by scientific institutions in the country as effective capabilities are available to us.”

Vibha Ahuja, chief general manager with BCIL, introduced the objective of the workshop, highlighting the need for extensive capacity-building efforts in the area of safety assessment and of confined field trials using state-of-the-art guidelines.

B. Sesikeran, former director with the National Institute of Nutrition and chairman of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation, spoke on science and safety issues with emphasis on food safety.

“Indian food safety standards are based on best international practices, and are in accordance with the principles and guidelines of Codex Alimentarius,” he says. He continued to explain the key issues involved in food safety assessment such as toxicity, allergenicity, and compositional analysis, noting that India’s food safety standards provide sufficient information for the safety assessment of GM products.

Rajeev Varshney, research program director of grain legumes with ICRISAT, says that the Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops at ICRISAT is regularly involved in the conducting of awareness workshops to promote scientific and factual information on biotechnology products to the stakeholders.

At the workshop, BCIL introduced an e-learning module on Compliance Management of Confined Field Trials as a useful tool for Trial-in-Charges, for members of various committees at center and state levels, scientists from various public and private sector institutions, and other stakeholders engaged in the development of GM crops.

S.J. Rahman from  Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University explained in detail the procedure for the conducting of confined field trials. There was also a session focused on ongoing research and development efforts in various institutions. Various presentations were also given by scientists from the Directorate of Rice Research, the Directorate of Sorghum Research and ICRISAT.

—International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

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Status Germany

Germany’s first career portal specifically for the agricultural sector was launched this month. The www.agrar-jobportal.de website is a new platform and the latest offering from the Agricultural Information Centre Proplanta, a spin-off of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany.

Besides the latest job opportunities from across the agricultural sector, the portal provides comprehensive information on subjects like agricultural studies to green jobs and internships. The site also features agricultural career advice and events and news from around the world.

“With the new career portal, we complement our established site with agricultural employment news and the accompanying online journal for more information about jobs and careers in the green zone,” says Jörg Mehrtens, CEO and founder of Proplanta. “This virtual campus shows today’s variety of agricultural programs and assists in the search for majors. This portal is ideal for those with questions, comments, seeking campus news as well as a tool to connect our facility to the agriculture community that is beyond our borders.”

Today the university’s portal has a recorded 1.8 million monthly visitors. It includes, among other things, daily agricultural news, agricultural weather forecasts for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, market and price information, an agricultural technology exchangeand  virtual crop consultants.

“The agricultural job portal provides answers to those looking for what follows agricultural programs, and thus facilitates entry into professional life. Interested parties can also stay up-to-date via [an] RSS job feed and users can establish direct contact with employers by registering.”

—The Proplanta Agricultural Information Centre

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