• Species, Speciation and the Environment
    By Niles Eldredge, Ph.D.

    The environment plays a major role in the evolution of species by:
    - dramatic environmental changes triggering extinction as well as speciation
    - species arising after splitting from an ancestral species when they acquire new adaptations
      to a changing environment
    - species stabilizing for million of years followed by abrupt disappearance when their
      ecosystem is disrupted
    See article in: http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/eldredge.html

  • Evolution: Fact and Theory
    By Richard E. Lenski, Ph.D.

    Evolution is both fact and theory, explaining:
    - the major patterns of change in nature
    - how these changes occur
    - fossil and genetic evidence of change
    See article in: http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/lenski.html

  • Biotechnology in crops: Issue for the developing countries.
    By Laura Spinney

    Crops are to some an answer to world hunger. To others these crops are a health risk and an environmental threat because some GM crops have proven to be genetically unstable; do not do what they were designet to do; are a risk to human health particularly children; cause animals who eat them to become immune to antibiotics and destry natural crops.
    See article in: http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/oxfam_spinney.html

  • How will the sixth extinction effect evolution of species.
    By Norman Myers and Andrew H. Knoll

    The current extinction crisis, if unchecked will disrupt evolution to a degree that earth will see a proliferation of pests; the tropics will no longer be powerhouses for the evolution of new species and the biodiversity losses will persist for millions of years.
    See article in: http://www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/myers_knoll.html

  • Enhancing crops to feed the poor
    Jikun Huang et al.

    One of the greatest challenges of the coming decades will be how to produce sufficient food for billions of people in poor countries.

    This article reports on the world's continuing vulnerabilities to food shortages and explores how technology can help the developing world meet its food needs.

    It examines the contributions of traditional crop breeding and agronomic techniques, and also explores those problems that can be best solved by biotechnology and other high-technology approaches.

    Source: Nature 418, 678

    Photo credit: ICRISAT

    (From SciDev.Net)

  • Atlas shows human toll of biodiversity loss
    A new atlas of the globe's biodiversity underlines the vital role of ecosystems in reducing poverty ahead of this month's World Summit on Sustainable Development.
    (From SciDev.Net)

  • "Introduced Species: The Threat to Biodiversity"
    by Daniel Simberloff, Ph.D.
    (An actionbioscience.org original article)

    Invasive species are a major threat to our environment because they

    - can change an entire habitat, placing ecosystems at risk
    - crowd out or replace native species that are beneficial to a habitat
    - damage human interprise, such as fisheries, costing the economy millions of dollars

  • "Speciation and Biodiversity"
    interview with Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.
    (An actionbioscience.org original article)

    The formation of new species can happen relatively quickly; however it cannot
    keep up with the current extinction rate.

    - Species require energy, stability, and enough space - all of wich are decreasing.
    - Some populations are n longer healthy because there are too few individuals.
    - In one human lifetime, half the world's species will desapear if the rate continues.

  • "The Weight of a Petal: The Value of Botanic Gardens"
    by H. Bruce Rinker
    (An actionbioscience.org original article)

    Plants play a key environmental role and botanical gardens are committed
    to their preservation. Plants

    - contribute to health of ecosystems
    - sustain us by giving us food, medicines, and other commodities
    - provide opportunities for recreation and exploration

  • Designer Seeds ( from www.beyonddiscovery.org )

    Limits of Traditional Breeding

    Plant Transformation

    Transgenic Crops

  • Decades of Cassava research bear fruit
    (extracted from IDRC Reports)

  • Rich in Protein Cassava
    (extracted from islamonline)


  • Crop diversity: Diversity in wild species has saved many crops from diseases devastations. Examples are given from  cacao, coffee, sugar cane and cassava...

    Read the entire message in: http://comet.sparklist.com/scripts/lyris.pl?visit=agbioview&id=215424315 (search for Nagib Nassar, then "View Message": BBC Questionnaire, Diversity...)


  • Common Ground, Common Future: How Ecoagriculture Can Help Feed 
    the World and Save Wild Biodiversity
    By Jeffery A. McNeely and Sarah J. Scherr

    The report provides for the first time a comprehensive summary of 
    the interactions between wild biodiversity and agriculture around the world. 
    It was commissioned by Future Harvest and developed over a two-year 
    period through a systematic review of existing agricultural and ecological 
    literature and local farming practices.

    See report in:  http://www.futureharvest.org/pdf/biodiversity_report.pdf 

  • Save the Seeds

    - Don Kennedy, The Washington Post, January 3, 2003

    Among all the scientific disciplines, one arguably has the greatest
    potential for providing human benefit on a global scale. Hundreds of
    millions of people in urban and rural areas in the poorest countries
    suffer from chronic hunger. Meanwhile, the world's great monocultures of
    staple grains -- rice, wheat and corn -- are at risk from novel pathogens,
    arising from sudden genetic alteration or from delivery by an

    The only line of defense depends on plant breeding, empowered by the new
    science of genomic analysis, which allows us to know far more about plant
    biology than ever before. But successful plant breeding requires the right
    resources accumulated over decades of painstaking effort -- and this
    resource is in danger of being lost.

    The tools are the collections of crop genetic diversity, stored in the
    seed banks and crop diversity collections maintained by international
    centers and more than 150 nations. These collections hold samples of
    thousands upon thousands of crop varieties and their ancestors. Using the
    material in the collections -- a task now made easier by modern methods --
    holds the prospect of fighting new plant diseases, dealing with drought
    and other consequences of climate change, and protecting us against the
    consequences of possible malevolent assaults on the crops that feed most
    of the world.

    The problem is that these storehouses of diversity are being allowed to
    depreciate. Serious underfunding prevents adequate curation. In many
    banks, living seeds are waiting to be duplicated while the cooling systems
    that protect them break down because there is no money to repair them. New
    work to capture and preserve the results of breeding experiments fails for
    lack of support. Data collected by the U.N. Food and Agriculture
    Organization demonstrate that in the years between 1996 and 2000, 66 of
    the 100 nations studied saw the size of their collections shrink, while
    gene bank budgets either decreased or remained constant in 60 of the
    countries over the same period. And funding for the vitally important
    Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which maintains
    important international seed banks, has decreased dramatically. So, for
    that and other reasons, has the rate at which they are gaining access to
    important new genetic resources.

    The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, adopted in Rome last
    year, represents a legal commitment by governments to conserve and use
    their crop diversity in the interest of food security. The United States
    signed the treaty on Nov. 1. Nevertheless, the disconnect remains between
    the long-term requirement for crop diversity conservation and the
    short-term nature of most funding for such conservation.

    Fortunately, there is a movement toward improvement. The Global
    Conservation Trust, which was established to strengthen and expand public
    and private resources in agricultural research, has made a good start on
    establishing an endowment to protect this global public good. The United
    Nations Foundation, other private donors and a number of European and
    Latin American nations have already made contributions to a fund targeted
    initially at $260 million. The United States has made a major commitment
    to support the trust.

    In our effort to feed people, we have created a vulnerable enterprise: Its
    weakness emerges in our inadequate knowledge of how to help small farmers
    in the poorest countries and -- on the other hand -- in the liability of
    the monocultures of our major cereal grains. Both depend on our capacity
    to keep their genetic armaments in good shape. That will take serious
    support, and unless we get behind the Global Conservation Trust, the
    support may not be there.
    The writer is editor in chief of Science magazine, president emeritus of
    Stanford University and a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug

    (from: http://www.agbioworld.org -
    Search the AgBioView E-mail Newsletter Archives)

    updated - january, 13, 2003.

  • Genetic Engineering and the Intrinsic Value and Integrity of Animals and

    -- Proceedings of a Workshop at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, UK.
    18-21 September 2002; Editors: David Heaf & Johannes Wirz Publisher:
    Ifgene - International Forum for Genetic Engineering, Publication date:
    December 2002 ISBN: 0-9541035-1-3 Format: A4; 116 pages; 35 illustrations

    Includes transcripts of all discussions. Summary and full details of how
    to order are at:

    (from: http://www.agbioworld.org -
    Search the AgBioView E-mail Newsletter Archives)

    updated - january, 13, 2003.

  • Biotech Potentials for the 21st Century

    - N. Clark, Futures 32 (2002)  (From Cropbiotech.net)

    "Governments must establish new initiatives, capabilities and institutions
    that can have a profound effect on legitimacy at a much more fundamental
    level. Only when this is done will biotechnology in Third World countries
    have the role and status it deserves." This was reiterated in a paper
    entitled "Biotechnology and development: threats and promises for the 21st
    century," written by N. Clark, K. Stokes, and J. Mugabe of the Wolfson
    Centre, Graduate School of Environmental Studies, University of
    Strathclyde in Glasgow, United Kingdom. The authors clarified the "complex
    issues of risk perception and management in connection with biotechnology
    and Third World development."

    The authors summarized the main threats and promises associated with
    biotechnology. Immense gains in food security, environmental protection,
    agriculture, health and industrial production were the benefits mentioned.
    However, threats are the alterations in life processes that are done, and
    the probable impacts that are still unknown. Moreover, the advent of third
    generation biotechnology has also raised ethical issues that are deeply
    felt by people and organizations at all levels.

    The article was written as a contribution to the current policy debate
    about the status of biotechnology for international development. Unless
    these are resolved, the UK researchers surmise, its economic potential is
    certain to be compromised, particularly for developing countries.

    Clark, Stokes, and Mugabe believe that "traditional approaches to risk are
    flawed from both a scientific and an ethical standpoint." Therefore, the
    authors suggest that decision-making "should not rest solely upon narrow
    instruments of decision-making as conventionally understood."

    Email N. Clark for inquiries about the paper at n.g.clark@srath.ac.uk. The
    full paper is published in Futures 32 (2002).

    (from: http://www.agbioworld.org -
    Search the AgBioView E-mail Newsletter Archives)

    updated - january, 13, 2003.

  • Foilinf a Deadly Duo
    Anne McCulloch, i.new, IITA

    In Nigeria, cassava is a vital crop. Find out how scientists set out to foil a deadly duo when two different forms of cassava mosaic disease performed a remarkable genetic recombination.
    See article in: http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za/2002/december/cmv.htm

  • Systematics, genetic diversity, and ethnobotany of "oca", Oxalis tuberosa Molina, and its allies.
    Eve A. Emshwiller, Ph.D.
    Abbott Laboratories Adjunct Curator
    of Economic Botany,
    Department of Botany
    The Field Museum
    (from http://www.fmnh.org/research_collections/pritzker_lab/pritzker/people/fellow_eve.html )

    The tuber crop "oca", Oxalis tuberosa, is one of the many cultigens that were domesticated in the Andean region long before Inca times. It is cultivated along with other Andean tuber crops belonging to four unrelated families in the highest agricultural zones (between about 2800 and 4100 meters elevation), primarily by traditional Quechua and Aymara agriculturists. My research on O. tuberosa involves the three interrelated aspects of systematics, genetic diversity, and ethnobotany. The systematic aspects center on the origins of domestication and polyploidy of the crop. Because oca is reported to be octoploid (2n = 8x = 64), the search for its origins includes not only the identification of the wild progenitor that was domesticated to become the cultivated crop, but also the origins of polyploidy: whether the polyploid arose in a single or in multiple events, whether its genomes were contributed by a single progenitor species or by more than one progenitor species or populations, whether the formation of the octoploid occurred before or after domestication, etc. These systematic questions are being explored in the context of the phylogenetic relationships of its close relatives, and some good candidates as the possible genome donors have been identified. The genetic diversity aspects include plans for investigation of the distribution and dynamics of the variation in cultivated oca and its wild relatives with the goal of providing information to help plan both in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts. The ethnobotanical aspects focus on the human influence on the evolution of the crop, particularly the effects of traditional agricultural management and other social factors on the maintenance or loss of genetic diversity in cultivated oca.

    This research is made possible by the generosity of a grant from Abbott Laboratories to The Field Museum.

  • 20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods
    World Health Organisation, October 2002

    The WHO has published this concise 'questions and answers' document that aims to address key concerns with regard to the nature and safety of genetically modified (GM) food.

    Questions include:

    - Are GM foods assessed differently from traditional foods?
    - What are the main issues of concern for human health?
    - How are GM foods regulated nationally?
    - What happens when GM foods are traded internationally?
    - Why has there been concern about GM foods among some politicians,
    public interest groups and consumers, especially in Europe?
    - What is the state of public debate on GM food in other regions of the world?
    - What further developments can be expected in the area of GM organisms?

    "20 Questions" points out that individual GM foods and their safety must be assessed
    on a case by case basis, making general statements on the safety of all GM foods
    impossible. It also states that no effects on human health have been shown as a result
    of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they
    have been approved.
    See article in: http://www.who.int/fsf/GMfood/q&a.pdf

  • Documenting biodiversity an urgent priority
    Stephen Blackmore

    The Convention on Biological Diversity has defined three major challenges: completing an inventory of life on Earth, analysing evolutionary relationships between species, and providing information via the Internet.

    In this opinion article, Stephen Blackmore, regius keeper at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, says that while progress has been made, attention needs to given to digitising species-level information as well as using historical data from biological collections.

    He points to the goals of the Global Taxonomy Initiative — for which developing countries can receive resources from the Global Environment Facility — and says that projects like this are essential in ensuring that the documentation of life on Earth becomes an urgent priority.
    See article in:

  • The Ecological Impacts of Agricultural Biotechnology
    By Miguel A. Altieri, Ph. D.

    Biotechnology may someday be considered a safe agricultural tool but studies suggest
    it may have harmful ecological consequences, such as:
    - spreading genetically-engineered genes to indigenous plants
    - increasing toxicity, wich may move through the food chain
    - disrupting nature's system of pest control
    - creating new weeds or virus strains
    See article in: http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/altieri.html



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