International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology


Beijing, May 19-22


  1. Prof. Gu Xiaocheng, Chairperson of the Council of Scientific Advisors of ICGEB. Life Sciences College, Peking University
  2. Prof. Rafael Rangel-Aldao, Governor of Venezuela to ICGEB, and Director of R&D, Empresas Polar, Caracas, Venezuela.

Agricultural Biotechnology to feed a growing world population: the need for a global consortium of technology transfer

Main Program Abstracts Proposal Inaugural Speech


International and Regional Ag-Biotechnology

CYTED: and Ibero-American consortium of plant biotechnology laboratories to produce transgenic Potato Cultivars with Combined Resistance to Viral, Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens from Latin America.

Alejandro Mentaberry, Instituto de Ingeniería Genética y Biología Molecular, Ingebi, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Plant Biotechnology at CIAT: Powerful Tools for the Characterization, Conservation, and Broadening the Genetic Base of Breeding Germplasm.

Zaida Lentini, Centro de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia.

Crop genetic engineering for disease resistance: the African experience.

David Berger, ARC-Roodeplaat, Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute, Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa.

Managing emergence of resistance in insects against insecticidal toxins of Bacillus thuringiensis

Raj.K.Bhatnagar, International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, Component, India.


Applications of Ag-Biotechnology for improvements of key crops in China

Genetic Engineering for Maize improvement in China

Guo-ying Wang, National Laboratory for Agrobiotechnology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100094, China)

Development of Resistance Management Strategies for Commercial Cultivation of Bt Cotton in China

Shi-Rong Jia, Biotechnology Research Center, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081

The Chinese Rice Genome Program

Hong Guofan, Center of Biotechnology in Shanghai under the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Applied Genomic Research in Rice Genetic Improvement

Qifa Zhang, National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China


Emerging key technologies

Homology-based cloning of R-Gene candidates from rice.

Zhang-Liang Chen, Li-Jia Qu, Chonglin Yang, Guofeng Zhu, and Hongya Gu, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China

Chloroplast transformation for enhanced expression of foreign genes

V. Siva Reddy, International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, Component, India

Genetic engineering of plants for abiotic stress tolerance

Sudhir K. Sopory, International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, Component, India.

Mechanism of Engineered Disease Resistance in Higher Plants by Transgenic Expression of a Proton Channel

Eric Lam, Associate Professor of Plant Science, Biotech Center, 59 Dudley Road, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.

Broad spectrum pathogen resistance by expression of nontoxic forms of pokeweed antiviral protein

Nilgun E. Tumer, Rong Di, Katalin Hudak and Oleg Zoubenko, Biotech Center for Agriculture and the Environment, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8520


Formation of a global consortium for the Transfer of Ag-Biotechnologies

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Africa
  4. Europe
  5. North America
  6. Latin America

Free discussions by all researchers interested in the establishment of an Organizing Committee to draft the basis of the Consortium and possible sources of funding.

Proposal Abstracts Main Program Inaugural Speech



The World Consortium on Plant Biotechnology




The Governors of Venezuela and Bulgaria, together with the Chairman of the Council of Scientific Advisers, and the Head of the New Delhi Component, organized an ICGEB-sponsored workshop on PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY, that was held in Beijing, from May 19-21, 1999. This workshop emerged from the broad actions suggested by the Report of the Working Group on the Joint Session of the Board of Governors with the Council of Scientific Advisors, headed by Dr. Xiaochen Gu, that took place last September 28-30, in Trieste during the fifth session of the Board of Governors, and in particular we have focused on the following issue for a future additional role of ICGEB in Member States:

"Become a point of interface between scientists and technologists of Member States interested in the development of biotechnology in their own countries through the organization of respective workshops. These workshops could consider various aspects of the possible activities of the research institutions in Member States in co-ordination with ICGEB, while addressing themes such as the relationship with the industrial sector, scientific issues at the cutting edge of science and the legal, regulatory and ethical aspects of biological and biotechnological research, which may lead to new strategies in biotechnology. The proposals originating from Member States and from members of the CSA should be addressed to the Director, who will make a decision on the workshop(s) to organize, in consultation with the CSA."

The meeting, considered research and cooperation activities in the area of plant biotechnology that are being developed in selected institutes and laboratories from four continents, namely, North and South America, South Africa, Europe, and Asia. Accordingly, the meeting was divided into three main sections: (a) Multilateral and/or international and regional programs of plant biotechnology, developed primarily in South America, India, and South Africa; (b) the national program of ag-biotech of the host country, China and; (c) emerging key technologies, from laboratories of the United States, ICGEB in India, and China. These presentations gave us a look of the feasibility for the formation of a world consortium of plant biotechnology within the framework of ICGEB as "a point of interface between scientists and technologists of Member States interested in the development of biotechnology in their own countries..".

The workshop was jointly sponsored by a host of international and national agencies and programs such as ICGEB, the Ibero American Program of Science and Technology for Development (CYTED, Madrid, Spain), the International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT, a member of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, CGIAR, in Cali, Colombia); and several governmental agencies from China such as the Ministry of Science and Technology and the China National Centre for Biotechnology and Development. During this event, a group of scientists from institutes and laboratories in North and South America, South Africa, Europe, and Asia presented successful examples of international and regional collaborations in plant biotechnology from four continents, such as those of ICGEB in India, CIAT, CYTED (which encompasses 21 countries of Latin America, Spain and Portugal); as well as national programs in countries such as China, Bulgaria, and South Africa. It thus became clear that a technological platform could be built from the virtual integration and/or alignment of international research centers and programs, with universities and institutes from different countries of the North and the South.

It was also evident from the workshop that ICGEB represents a unique vehicle to make possible this multinational cooperation for development because of its current research and conference infrastructure, institutional mandate and legal status as a truly international center representing a worldwide community of 41 Member States.


From all of the presentations of the China workshop it emerged key needs as the focus of future collaborations within the framework of a Consortium organized with ICGEB among Member States and other countries. These needs are the following:

  1. New biotechnological applications in plant resistance to disease, herbicide, insect, and abiotic stress, as well as those directed to increase crop quality and yield.
  2. More research in basic science, in particular, in stress signal transduction and genomics.
  3. New systems of biotechnological applications (i.e., integrated pest management)
  4. Societal Implications (biosafety, IPR, preservation of biodiversity)
  5. More effective cooperation at the national and international level.


There is then an important and urgent need for a Global Consortium on Plant Biotechnology (GCBT) assembled with the following objectives and gradual levels of international cooperation and corresponding funding:

    1. Level Forum, meaning the formation of a group of research leaders to exchange scientific, technological, and system information pertaining to the advances on the research and applications of agricultural biotechnology in their respective fields of interest and countries. The Forum would take place once a year, preferable at ICGEB in Trieste and it will require minimal external funding.

    2. Level Material Exchange, meaning the exchange among interested members of the GCBT of genetic material (i.e., genes, vectors, gene constructions, promoters, as it is currently done at CYTED). Requires minimal or no external funding.

    3. Level Researchers Exchange, meaning visits of scientists, researchers, and technicians to pursue mostly training to use genetic material. Requires some funding that could be obtained by bilateral agreements among the parties involved.

    4. Level Project Cooperation, meaning the formation of bi- or multinational groups working on a particular research subject or biotechnological application. Requires from moderate to substantial external funding.

    5. Level New Applications, coming as a result of Level Project Cooperation, meaning collaboration in field trials, environmental impact, evaluation of yields, qualities, etc. Requires substantial funding.

    6. Level Commercialization, meaning the introduction of transgenic crops with improved traits. Requires commercial agreements, IPR, and substantial funding.

The Consortium will be organized into Collaborative Working Groups (CWGs), with their respective scientific coordinators that will form the Organizing Committee of GCBT. Each of these scientists will be responsible for organizing the collaboration in their respective CGWs for attaining the different levels depicted above, as well as to make available to the GCBT of all the requested information (as needed) pertaining to their areas of expertise and research:

  1. Abiotic Stress Resistance (salt and drought), Drs. S.K. Sopory (ICGEB) and A. Atanassov (IGE).
  2. Genomics, Drs. N. Tumer and E. Lam (Rutgers U.)
  3. Disease Resistance, Dr. Z. Chen (Peking U.)
  4. Yield and Quality, Dr. R.X., Fang (China Acad. Sci)
  5. Insect Resistance, Drs. R.K. Bhatnagar (ICGEB), and Z. Lentini (CIAT)
  6. Technology Development, Dr. V. Siva Reddy (ICGEB)

Dr. Rafael Rangel-Aldao, was unanimously elected chairman of the organizing committee of GCBT.

General and specific crops of research collaboration: the group reached a consensus to focus around the general subject of gene discovery by the sustainable exploration and exploitation of the biodiversity present in the countries and regions participating in the CGBT. The specific focus will be in the following major crops: Rice, Potato, Maize, Cotton, and Cassava.

Sources of Funding: The group considered a step-wise approach to obtain funding as each level of cooperation materialize over a period of time that could span up to ten years. Level 1 implies just traveling to ICGEB in Trieste which was chosen as an ideal meeting point because of ICGEB infrastructure and its geographical location (flights roughly equidistant to America, Asia, and Africa). Levels 1, 2 and 3 could be partially funded by ICGEB and the local institutions of participating scientists, and for Level 3, project cooperation, it was envisaged a new type of grants from ICGEB, outlined below, by which three or more groups apply together as a network focusing on some of the scientific aspects as presented at the end of this proposal. For Levels 4 to 6, a global or multilateral collaboration proposal could be made to be submitted to international development banks (i.e. World Bank) by ICGEB.


The successful implementation of the consortium, even at its first three levels, could bring to the group, ICGEB, and Member States, the following benefits, among others:

  1. The formation of a highly qualified group of scientists and technologist to cooperate on a global scale by providing needed technologies to increase food production for the world.
  2. A collective infrastructure that will allow a cascade-type of amplification for the experimentation with new genes that includes: (a) Basic research laboratories, (b) National Plant breeding institutes, (c) Multi-crops interest and expertise, (d) International centers of germplasm and plant breeding in key crops, (e) National programs for the application of agricultural biotechnology,

  3. A flexible-type of global organization for cooperation that will require minimal initial support, little or no bureaucracy, and with the potential of obtaining substantial support for future activities.


  1. LEVEL 1.- We ask ICGEB to support a two day annual meeting, at the Trieste Component, of the scientific coordinators of the Collaborative Working Groups, who could also bring other scientists but at their own costs.
  2. LEVEL 2.- Ask ICGEB to make available to scientists of Member States the different genes, gene constructs, vectors, and procedures of plant transformation after due agreements of intellectual property rights.
  3. LEVEL 3.- As indicated in point 5 of Annex VI of the report of the V Session, (Document ICGEB/BG.5/30), to "Make available the laboratories in both Components to those scientists form Member States who wish to spend limited period of time to perform their own experiments [in plant biotechnology] subject to availability of space and approval by the relevant Head of Component [India]. The travel and subsistence cost of these visits will be borne by the visiting scientists." We ask, however, that some of the costs of the visits of participating scientists in the Consortium be partially cover by ICGEB.

  4. LEVEL 4.- We ask ICGEB to establish a new type of granting system for research projects, as explained below, within the framework of point 3, of the above referred document, namely: "As a possible output of the previous action [ICGEB as a focal point of encounter], or at the initiative of Member States, formulate major projects to be implemented by large consortia [such as the WORLD CONSORTIUM OF PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY proposed here] of laboratories with the logistical support of ICGEB and its eventual technical participation [as indicated for the India Component, here]. The appraisal of the proposed projects could be delegated to the CSA."

This new type of granting system, to be established in addition to the current one in practice, will consist in calling and funding collaborative projects of three or more countries and/or laboratories centered around technologies where ICGEB is scientifically strong. These areas, clustered by the Consortium as CWS, are: (a) Abiotic stress resistance, (b) insect resistance and, (c) technology development, as indicated above. We also ask ICGEB to strengthens its research in the other areas of the CWS, namely, genomics, yield and quality, and disease resistance.


56. The Board took note of documents ICGEB/BG.6/16 and ICGEB/BG.6/22, containing the description of two workshops held, and yet to be held, in line with the recommendations made by the Board and the CSA on the occasion of their joint meeting, during the Board's fifth session.

57. The Board endorsed the proposal made by the Governor of Venezuela for establishing an "ICGEB Global Consortium on Plant Biotechnology and Genomics". Based on the discussion of this item, it requested the Director to assure the follow-up of this proposal, with the understanding that the implementation of this initiative will be undertaken within the framework of the ICGEB, its programme of work and taking into account the Centre's financial limitations.

58. The Board also agreed that, in implementing its activities, the Consortium should give due consideration to the existing guidelines regulating the exchanges of genetic material, IPR-related issues, biosafety and bioethics, while taking note of the existing activities implemented by Member States in the framework of bilateral agreements.

59. The Board agreed that existing and new CRP projects on plant biotechnology and genomics should be considered within the activities of the Consortium. 60. On a final note, the Board indicated that the Consortium should serve as a model for the generation of similar initiatives in other major areas of biotechnology and genetic engineering, within the framework of the ICGEB.

60. On a final note, the Board indicated that the Consortium should serve as a model for the generation of similar initiatives in other major areas of biotechnology and genetic engineering, within the framework of the ICGEB."

Supported by UNESCO / MIRCEN network
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