Regional Agricultural Biotechnology Network
Near East and North Africa
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About Regional Agricultural Biotechnology Network  
The Near East and North Africa Regional Agricultural Biotechnology Network aims to facilitate exchange of information through the development of an information system for the collection and dissemination of information on advances in agricultural biotechnology research results. The objective of this regional training workshop is to strengthening Stakeholder Capacities in information and communication management for ARD (ICM4ARD) and coherence in information for ARD (CIARD) and Agricultural Knowledge for All.

Technical cooperation networks have become an increasingly important means of action for strengthening rural development, food security and poverty reduction and are initiated and supported through FAO, GFAR, ICARDA and NGO organizations [it is a non-profit professional and scholarly organization of scientists from both public and private academic institutions]. These networks have become a generic model for the establishment of functional mechanisms for collaboration and enhancement of communication and exchange of experiences among different countries in one region and/or different regions of the world.

The development objectives of the network are to mobilize the collective efforts of the interesting institutions or countries in the region towards promotion of production, protection, utilization, and economic return, enhancement of the product quality, conservation of the eco-system and natural resources and development of agricultural plant production and protection management applications. These could be achieved through the following:

a) Create awareness at various policymaking and technical levels within member countries on the importance of the development of agricultural biotechnology through an integrated approach.

b) Facilitate exchange of information through the development of a thematic knowledge and information network/system for the collection, management and dissemination of information on advances in agricultural biotechnology research results

c) Allow joint programs to be developed for the exchange of experiences and expertise and organization of training courses, workshops and conferences for the effective use and sharing of transferable technical information and skills.

d) Enhance cooperation for the analysis and solution of common problems through joint research and development projects. e) Contribute to the research and growers in developing good agricultural practices for biotechnology by facilitatin

g) exchange of information and best practices and putting into place a system of continuous technology adaptation and improvement that is anchored in environmentally and economic sustainability.

f) Contribute to the formulation of national networks in each country to strengthen collaboration among national institutions, non-governmental organizations, private sector and universities.

The objective of this network is to create a single access point where the different countries of the region can share a united vision of the agricultural biotechnology policies, regulations, research and innovations. The network will have full capabilities to allow stakeholders to collaborate, interact, decide, learn, support and monitor the agricultural plant production and protection management policies, regulations, research and innovations.

Biotechnology is a set of tools that utilize living organisms or parts of organisms to make or modify products, to improve plants for agriculture, or to engineer microorganisms for specific purposes. People have been doing this for centuries using bacteria, yeast, and other living organisms to make such familiar foods as bread, cheese, beer, wine, sausage, pickles, and yogurt. Our understanding of biology and how to use it has grown tremendously over the last 200 years, and especially in the last 30 years Scientists' greater understanding of life and its processes has enabled them to develop newer, more specialized techniques These modern techniques using molecular biology have been labeled Biotechnology.
 
Think of biotechnology as a scientific toolbox filled with many tools, Some of the tool, developed in recent years include cell and tissue culture, embryo transplantation, microbial fermentation, and genetic engineering Scientists use these tools, to do many things they make new food products, they breed improved plants, they do research on how living system interact, such as plants with insects and soil organisms.
 
 The techniques of biotechnology can be used to modify plants to change agricultural production system on the farm. But the use of Biotechnology in the food chain doesn’t stops with the farmer. Many foods processing techniques also are based on living systems. Food scientists can use biotechnology to modify food processing techniques and food ingredients.
 
For plants, biotechnology research has focused on two fronts. One" to make crop production more efficient by developing crop varieties that can withstand environmental stresses such as drought, flood, frost, or extreme temperatures. A related area of research is adapting crops to regions where they are not normally grown because of climate, altitude, or rainfall.
 
Biotechnology also is being used against plant pests such as weeds, insects, and diseases. These pests cause significant crop losses each year. Some researchers are using biotechnology to develop biological pest controls. Others have genetically engineered crops to resist diseases and insects. Herbicide tolerance has been engineered into some crops to increase weed control options.
 
The second front of crop biotechnology research is the creation of "designer".
 
Crops genetically engineering new varieties for specific purposes. Scientists are developing fruits and vegetables that have longer shelf lives, transport better, look or taste better, or that are higher in nutritional quality. Food processors sometimes desire crops with particular characteristics. For example, tomatoes containing less water have been developed to reduce processing and transportation costs. Some field crops, like corn or potatoes, could be more useful to food processors if there were varieties with better processing qualities or additional nutritional qualities such as protein or starch content. Crops also are being altered to develop varieties for specific industrial purposes. Oilseed crops such as soybeans and canola may be engineered to produce new fuels or industrial lubricants.
 
The tools of biotechnology are being used to produce improved microbes, such as yeast and bacteria, which are used in food processing. Microbes are used broadly in such processes as baking bread, brewing beer, making wine, and fermenting milk to produce yogurt and cheese.
Biotechnology has provided more pure and economical sources of a number of enzymes used to produce food. An example is the enzyme rennin, which occurs naturally in the stomachs of calves and has been used for centuries to produce cheese from milk. Scientists have isolated the gene responsible for rennin production and genetically engineered microbes to produce the enzyme in large quantities. Today, nearly all cheese in the United States is produced using rennin produced through biotechnology.
 
 Processed food commonly contains a number of additives to enhance aesthetic Characteristics (flavor, color, aroma, texture), nutritional value (vitamins, amino acids), or shelf life (antioxidants). After isolating the genes responsible for coloring agents, flavors, fragrances, or nutrients, scientists engineer bacteria to act as chemical factories to produce these ingredients. In other cases, scientists have learned to grow parts of plants in the laboratory that synthesize flavorings, such as vanilla or cocoa, so that it is no longer necessary to grow the whole plant. In some cases, vegetables or fruits may be engineered directly to produce either more or unique flavors, colors, and nutrients, eliminating the need for some food additives.
 
Over the course of history, scientists, farmers, and food processors have focused on producing food that is more plentiful and higher in quality. As the world's population has grown, however, the total supply of land available for agriculture has remained about the same. In some regions, cropland has declined as a result of urban development and/or environmental degradation, such as soil erosion or salinity from irrigation. So the focus of agricultural research in recent years has been on how to use available land more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly way.
 
Gains in agricultural productivity in the United States over the last 75 years have been tremendous. Examples of technologies that have contributed to productivity gains are machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, animal genetics, hybrid seed, integrated pest management, and no till fanning. These technologies have increased yields and labor productivity, while also reducing soil erosion and pesticide use. Many people think that in the future biotechnology can help significantly increase agricultural productivity to feed a growing world population.
 
There are several reasons for this. One is the complexity of nature. As biotechnology research progressed, researchers encountered unanticipated technical challenges. Each new stage or area of research, testing, and product development has had its own share of problems. So progress from the idea stage to the laboratory stage to the test plot stage to the final product stage has been slow.
 
People's desire to "do the right thing" with biotechnology is another reason progress has been slow. Scientists have been cautious and careful with the new powers unleashed by biotechnology. Private sector, university, and government scientists have developed guidelines for contained laboratory research. They have sought input from local communities prior to outdoor testing of new products. This takes time.
 
In addition to the guidelines scientists have developed, biotechnology is subject to government regulation.