Some developing countries are advancing biotech research, UN agricultural agency says

6 May 2005

Most of the genetically modified (GM) crops commercialized in developing countries have been acquired from developed countries, but several developing countries are doing significant research in the biotechnology of both GM and non-GM crops, the United Nations agricultural agency said today.

Most of the genetically modified (GM) crops commercialized in developing countries have been acquired from developed countries, but several developing countries are doing significant research in the biotechnology of both GM and non-GM crops, the United Nations agricultural agency said today.

Using a two-year-old database, FAO-BioDeC, which has about 2,000 entries from 71 developing countries, the Food and Agricultural Agency (FAO) predicts that some of these countries could soon have new GM crops, such as virus-resistant papaya, sweet potato and cassava, as well as rice tolerant of such abiotic stresses as salinity and drought.

The database stores “updated baseline information on the state-of-the-art of crop biotechnology products and techniques, which are in use, or in the pipeline in developing countries,” FAO says.

“Information was obtained from published literature, surveys carried out by ISNAR (International Service for National Agricultural Research) as well as information collected by FAO through fact-finding missions and expert consultations.”

It shows that Argentina, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa are leading the research advances on such crops as banana, cassava, cowpea, plantain, rice and sorghum, and on traits needed for food security, such as abiotic stress tolerance and quality. China is also working on improving goats.

The database also points out research gaps, FAO says. No research was reported on resistance to the tiny worm-like creatures called nematodes, despite the considerable losses they cause, and no research was being done on reducing post-harvest losses.

Many non-GM biotechnologies are being used commercially, but only a few studies have been carried out to assess their socioeconomic impact, it adds.

 

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