ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  10 March 2001


ngin comment:  Four items on Monsanto on Africa's New Rice etc.

Some interesting items via Monsanto Central Africa, Inc - see item 3 for full contents and the url.
The items in the 'Kuza' bulletin are generally very well explained - see, for example, the clear definitions in item 4: The ABCs of Ag and Biotech.

BUT nota bene that with item 1:

This refers to a wide cross, based on traditional sexual reproduction, ie no genetic engineering was involved. Confusion could be caused by the context in which this item is placed and some rather vague statements in items 1 and 2, eg "with advances in agricultural technology", "the use
of modern biotechnology", "modern biotechnology techniques" and "Modern biotechnology offers Africa unlimited opportunities to revive and improve its vanishing indigenous crops".

Wide crosses, as well as the use of genomics to inform traditional breeding, have absolutely nothing to do with GE.  For more on this, see Dr Michael Hansen's very informative article on
how genetic engineering differs from conventional breeding, hybridization, wide crosses and horizontal gene transfer. Available at:
This was also put out on the ngin list: 23 Feb 2001
*  *  *
1.     Africa's New Rice a Winner
2.     The Little Known Indigenous Rice
3.     Kuza Issue #6 - Focus: African Rice - full contents + url
4.     The ABCs of Ag and Biotech
1.     Africa's New Rice a Winner

Developers of a new series of rice varieties adapted to the harsh growing conditions in Africa received international acclaim for their efforts. The West Africa Rice Development Authority based in Cote d'Ivoire (WARDA) was the recipient of the 2000 King Baudouin International Agriculture Research Award.

The new varieties dubbed NERICAs (NEw RIce for AfriCA) are hybrids between a traditional type of African rice and more productive Asian varieties. Whereas the older African rice plants produced 75 to100 grains per panicle, or head of grain. The new plants produce up to 400
grains per panicle - a characteristic inherited from the plant's Asian ancestor.

Owing to the genetic differences, researchers have in the past failed to combine the hardiness of traditional African rice varieties with the grain producing potential of the Asian species through cross-breeding. However, with advances in agricultural technology this became possible
in the late 1980s.

Using a technique known as embryo-rescue, scientists were able to ensure that crosses between the two species would survive and grow to maturity.  Though genetic differences presented a difficulty in breeding the two species, the new varieties had high levels of hybrid vigour, according
to WARDA rice breeder, Dr Monty Jones. They were therefore faster growing, higher yielding and able to resist stress better than either parent plant.

"The new strains should move us towards more sustainable agriculture in West Africa, one of the world's most fragile environments," says WARDA Director General Kanayo Nwanze, "The more rice that can be grown on existing rice land, the less farmers will need to cut trees to meet
demand," he adds.

Besides their increased productivity the new rice plants are also faster maturing- ready for harvesting 30 to 50 days earlier than their predecessors, allowing farmers to grow extra crops of beans and vegetables, and that's not all.

They also reduce the need for weeding as their droopy leaves smother the grain-robbing weeds, they are more resistant to local pests and are well suited to Africa's acidic soils.

Equally important, the new plants have about two percent more bodybuilding proteins than older varieties. This is an important health benefit in a region where malnutrition affects millions of children and pregnant women.

This new rice for Africa may return benefits to upland Asian farmers as well. The African rice has many of the characteristics most needed by poor farmers in Asia and Latin America who grow upland rice, many of whom did not benefit from the first generation of improved Asian rice.
*  *  *
2.    The Little Known Indigenous Rice - (West African farmers have grown it for
       1500 years)

Modern biotechnology offers Africa unlimited opportunities to revive and improve its vanishing indigenous crops, especially the forgotten grains that for centuries, nourished communities in various agro-ecological zones.

Those involved in the improvement of rice using modern biotechnology  techniques, for example, tend to assume it is overwhelmingly an Asian crop. And it is alien to Africa. However farmers in West Africa have grown the African rice (Oryza glaberrima) for over 1500 years.

Chances that the rice could have been introduced from Asia remain minimal, as the African rice is indigenous to small-scale rural farmers in Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Lake Chad basin and other areas.

It is said that apart from being resistant to some pests and diseases, other positive characteristics of the African rice that has grown along river Niger for centuries include being able to cope with harsh weather, unreliable rainfall or water supply and infertile soils.

The African rice has the potential to nourish the continent's inhabitants and with some of the recent improvements -SEE RELATED STORY- this may soon be possible especially with the use of modern biotechnology.
*  *  *
3.     Kuza Issue #6 - Focus: African Rice
Africa's New Rice Winner
The Little Known Indigenous Rice
New and Simpler Method for Genetic Engineering
Monsanto Constructs First Complete Genome Map of a Livestock Species
GM Crops No Harm to Natural Habitats- Latest Study Reveals
Rice Genes are Mapped
Genetic Engineering and Vegetable Diseases
The ABCs of Ag and Biotech
*  *  *
4. The ABCs of Ag and Biotech

Hybrid: A plant resulting from a cross between parents that are related but not genetically identical: or the offspring of two different species.

Heterosis or Hybrid Vigour: The phenomenon in which the offspring of two genetically different parents grow faster, yield more or resist stresses better than either parent.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM): A sustainable, ecological approach to pest control that includes biological, mechanical and chemical means. The goal of IPM is to produce a healthy crop in an economically efficient and environmentally sound manner.

Nucleic Acids: There are two nucleic acids: DNA and RNA, made up of long chains of molecules called nucleotides. Nucleic acids are found in all living things.

Outcrossing: The unintentional breeding of a domestic crop with arelated species.


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