Newsletter Scientifique #14 - March 2013



Biofuels stay at the forefront this month with new research for the optimization of the biofuel process (plant cell wall chemistry, termite digestion to enhance biomass degradation), and the diversification of the resources with camelina approved by EPA.

In the field of agriculture, scientists are looking for improving the resistance of the plants against diseases, stress, drought, ... by plant breeding or by using microbes. In France, the main topic in agriculture is related to animal health (e.g. antibiotic, TSE, or pest).

Food safety (strengthen the response to foodborne disease outbreaks), food security (sustainable food), and nutrition (evolution of health claims) remain a priority in the US and in France.

In the Highlights section, you have four announcements with PhD contracts proposed by IRSTEA or position for a professor in Molecular Chemistry available in France.

Enjoy your read!

Adèle Martial, Scientific attaché
Cécile Camerlynck, Deputy Scientific attaché

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Table of contents



IRSTEA - PhD contracts 2013

Irstea -French National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture- offers employment contracts to achieve a PhD in 3 years. Our institution is looking for candidates with a Master 2 and wishing to start a thesis on the subjects offered in 2013. Please find enclosed a link to our website for more information:


"LIFE SCIENCES: inventing - creating - having fun" 2013

The Office for Science & Technology of the Embassy of France in the United States of America will financially support French teams which participate in scientific competitions, contests or games organized by the United States, specializing in Life Sciences. The Office for Science & Technology hopes this program will encourage students and researchers to participate in exchanges with the United States, as well as initiate collaborations between French and American scientists, and promote scientific research and practice. DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS : APRIL 14th, 2013. Please find the pdf version of this call for projects here. Read more


Full-time or Part-time Professor in Molecular chemistry at the Ecole Polytechnique

The Chemistry Department at the Ecole Polytechnique wishes to recruit a candidate at Full Professor level on a full or part time basis. The candidate should be an internationally recognized expert within their field who is willing to transfer and establish a significant research activity to one of the molecular chemistry laboratories of the Ecole polytechnique. In this respect, preference will be given to candidates with expertise in biological chemistry, inorganic chemistry or physical chemistry. Submission Deadline: June 30, 2013. For more information about the position :


The Lycée Français is looking for a biology teacher (SVT)

The Lycée Français of Chicago is looking for a biology teacher to replace the actual teacher who is going on maternity leave on April 8th 2013. This job is to ensure the SVT classes from the 6th grade to the 9th grade (6ème - 3ème) during 16 hours a week. The candidate must have a work permit in the U.S., at least one license in the field of biology, and teaching experience would be appreciated.
If you are interested, please contact Mrs Ghislaine Bazir at or by phone au 773 665 0066.

Science & Technology in the US

National News


USDA Researchers Helping Plants Defend Themselves (Video) - March 4th

USDA researchers Richard Jones wants to help plant defend themselves against disease. Currently, Jones is working with potatoes at the Agricultural Research Service Labs in Beltsville, Maryland just outside of Washington DC. One of the biggest disease problem is referred to as late blight. And it’s an organism that gets on the potatoes and then sweeps to the field and basically kills them off. Its greatest claim to fame was the Irish potato famine, which was caused by late blight, and surprisingly it’s still a problem today and it’s over a hundred years later. Jones and colleagues are using genetic engineering to help potatoes fight off late blight without the use of fungicides. With genetic engineering you’re able to expand the options of moving genes around and manipulated them. Read more

USDA delivers satellite-based vegetative crop condition information service - March 6th

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announces the launch of a new state-of-the-art, satellite-based U.S. crop condition vegetation assessment and monitoring service named VegScape. Like the popular CropScape geospatial product, VegScape delivers interactive vegetation indices so that web users can explore, visualize, query, and disseminate current vegetative cover maps and data without the need for specialized expertise, software, or high end computers. The agricultural community, policy makers, researchers and other interested parties now have a tool for policy decisions, scientific inquiry, and educational efforts. New satellite-based data are loaded on a weekly basis during the growing season. One can compare year-to-year change for 12 years, compare conditions at a given time to mean, median and ratio vegetative cover over the 12 year span, and can overlay a crop mask to help identify crop land versus non-crop land, among many functions. When viewing the maps in most cases the deeper the green color the stronger the plant vigor while yellow/brown indicates poorer conditions. Read more


New product health, nutrition claims continue to grow - Feb 2013

The researchers from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA ERS) found that new food products introduced with health- and nutrition-related claims accounted for 43.1% of all new U.S. food product introductions in 2010, up from 25.2% in 2001 and 34.6% in 1989. Using data from the Datamonitor Group’s Product Launch Analytics database, the researchers were able to track new products carrying health- and nutrition-related claims from 1989 to 2010. The researchers then used Mintel’s Global New Product Database to compare the nutritional profile of new products with health- and nutrition-related claims to all new products over 2009 to 2010. The reduction in health- and nutrition-related claims from 1989 to 2001 followed enactment of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA), which required most food products to carry the Nutrition Facts label and established labeling rules for the use of voluntary nutrient content and health claims. Read more

FDA releases plan for improving safety of imported food - March 5th

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has unveiled its plan for improving food safety in countries that export food to the United States. The document, entitled “FDA’s International Food Safety Capacity-Building Plan,” fulfills one of the mandates of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted by Congress in 2011, which calls on FDA to “develop a comprehensive plan to increase the technical, scientific, and regulatory food safety capacity of foreign governments [that export to the U.S.] and their respective food industries.” The FDA plans to bolster food safety training for food manufacturers and regulators abroad, improve communication with foreign health agencies, and explore the possibility of a foreign inspection report that would be considered the equivalent of an FDA inspection. The agency outlined four main goals in its plan. Read more

Updated Web Tool Maps U.S. Food Access in Greater Detail - March 11th

Access to stores that carry healthy, affordable food can play an important role in people’s nutrition and overall health. Ensuring access to healthy food is a priority for USDA and a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Two years ago, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) first released the Food Desert Locator, an online mapping tool that used the 2000 Census and other data sets to identify low-income census tracts in which a substantial number or share of residents face challenges in accessing the nearest supermarket or large grocery store. My ERS colleagues and I have now updated and expanded the tool and renamed it the Food Access Research Atlas. Read more


US EPA approves advanced biofuel pathway for camelina oil - Feb 25th

The National Biodiesel Board released the following statement Monday after the U.S. EPA finalized its rule approving camelina oil as a new, low-carbon feedstock under the renewable fuel standard (RFS):
“This decision adds to the growing list of biodiesel feedstocks that meet the EPA’s standards for advanced biofuel and gives us yet another option for producing sustainable, domestic biodiesel that displaces imported oil,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “This is important for our energy security, for our economy and for addressing climate change, and we thank the EPA for conducting a thorough and fair review.” Read more

Biomass analysis tool is faster, more precise - March 5th

A screening tool from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) eases and greatly quickens one of the thorniest tasks in the biofuels industry: determining cell wall chemistry to find plants with ideal genes. NREL’s new High-Throughput Analytical Pyrolysis tool (HTAP) can thoroughly analyze hundreds of biomass samples a day and give an early look at the genotypes that are most worth pursuing. Analysis of a sample that previously took two weeks can now be done in two minutes. That is potentially game changing for tree nurseries and the biomass industry. When it comes to making fuels out of trees, crops, grasses, or algae, it’s all about the cell walls of the plants. Will they make it hard or easy for enzymes to turn the biomass into sugars? Differences in cell walls are enormous, and choosing the right ones can make the difference between a profit and a loss for tree growers, or between a fruitful or fruitless feedstock line for biomass companies. Read more

Midwest news


Understanding termite digestion could help biofuels, insect control - Feb 18th

A termite’s own biology with help from microorganisms called protists, are keys to the insect’s digestion of woody material, according to a Purdue University scientist. Michael Scharf, the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Endowed Chair in Urban Entomology, studies termite digestion to improve biofuels production and find better ways to control termites. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the cost of controlling termites and repairing damaged homes is $2 billion each year in the United States. Much of the study on how termites break down woody materials, which focused on the symbiotic relationship between the insect and the bacteria living in its gut, found that bacteria apparently have little, if anything, to do with termite digestion. Read more

’Fat Worms’ Inch Scientists Toward Better Biofuel Production - Feb 26th

Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves - a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds. The results, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, the journal of the American Society of Plant Biologists, show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves — an uncommon occurrence for most plants. Traditional biofuel research has focused on improving the oil content of seeds. One reason for this focus is because oil production in seeds occurs naturally. Little research, however, has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems, as plants don’t typically store lipids in these tissues. Read more

Other states’ news


New Club Wheat is Tough on Fungi, But Tasty in Baked Goods - Feb 14th

Pacific Northwest wheat growers now have added insurance against outbreaks of yield-robbing fungi, thanks to "Cara," a new, white winter club wheat cultivar developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. According to Kim Garland-Campbell, a geneticist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Pullman, Wash., "Cara" is the product of a cooperative wheat breeding effort to combine high grain yields and flour quality with resistance to multiple fungal diseases. Of particular concern is stripe rust, a disease caused by the fungus Puccinia striiformis, which has inflicted yield losses of up to 40 percent in Washington and other Pacific Northwest states. In fact, the release and subsequent sale of "Cara" in 2009 coincided with a stripe-rust epidemic that had overcome the resistance present in cultivars of club wheat that had been planted at the time. Read more

Microbes Team Up to Boost Plants’ Stress Tolerance - Feb 17th

While most farmers consider viruses and fungi potential threats to their crops, these microbes can help wild plants adapt to extreme conditions, according to a Penn State virologist. Discovering how microbes collaborate to improve the hardiness of plants is a key to sustainable agriculture that can help meet increasing food demands, in addition to avoiding possible conflicts over scare resources, said Marilyn Roossinck, professor of plant pathology and environmental microbiology, and biology. "It’s a security issue," Roossinck said. "The amount of arable land is shrinking as cities are growing, and climate change is also affecting our ability to grow enough food and food shortages can lead to unrest and wars." Read more

New Tools for Studying the Root of the Matter - Feb 20th

Like any structure, a root has its own architecture. Some roots burrow straight down into the soil. Others scatter weblike tentacles. However they turn out, root systems play a critical role in the health and survival of today’s crops. That’s why Agricultural Research Service scientists in Ithaca, New York, have developed a new tool for studying root architecture, one that brings them out in three-dimensional color. It’s a major step forward in a challenging field. Studying root-system architecture can be extremely difficult because the opaque nature of soils makes it hard to capture and visualize the root structures. Also, field conditions, such as soil chemistry and soil moisture, can vary from one site to the next, and changing conditions dramatically affect the shape, size, and health of a root system. But root structure, health, and formation have become important traits of interest in recent years as scientists search for varieties of crops with roots that equip them to adapt to drier habitats and changing climates. Read more

The Right Way to Roll Rye - Feb 28th

Growers who use cover crops are increasingly turning to a tool that can flatten out their actively growing fields, usually in a single pass. Known as a “roller/crimper,” the technology can help reduce and sometimes eliminate the need for herbicides and is ideal for organic farmers and growers interested in reducing herbicide use. Cover crops can improve soil quality; and in organic operations, they play a major role in keeping weeds in check. Crimpers boost those benefits. They have been used for years in South America and are beginning to catch on in the United States, says Ted Kornecki, an agricultural engineer at the Agricultural Research Service’s National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama. He has conducted a study evaluating several crimpers to give guidance to growers and has patented three crimper designs. Read more


When good food goes bad - March 5th

The Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburg Medical Center today released online ahead of print a new report, When Good Food Goes Bad: Strengthening the US Response to Foodborne Disease Outbreaks. The authors analyzed existing data and studies on foodborne illness outbreak response, identified emerging trends, and interviewed dozens of federal and state-level officials and experts from industry, professional organizations, academia, and relevant international organizations. The report puts forth a series of recommendations to accelerate and strengthen responses to foodborne illness outbreaks in the US. Last year, the US was hit with one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in recent memory when contaminated cantaloupe sickened more than a hundred people and killed dozens. The contamination was eventually traced to fruit from a single processing plant, but in addition to the illness and death that resulted, the entire cantaloupe industry was affected when the price of cantaloupes dropped by more than 30% nationwide as consumer fear drove down demand. Each year more than 40 million Americans become sick with foodborne infections. Among those who become ill, 128,000 will be hospitalized and 3,000 will die. Foodborne illness also takes a toll on our economy: Every year the US loses more than $77 billion in lost productivity by people who become sick, in addition to the economic impact a foodborne illness outbreak has on the affected industry. Read more

Oregon State University develops food supplements from wine grapes waste - March 13th

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered how to turn the pulp from crushed wine grapes into a natural food preservative, biodegradable packaging materials and a nutritional enhancement for baked goods. The United States wine industry creates a tremendous amount of waste from processing more than 4 million tons of grapes each year, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and California, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wineries typically pay for the pulp to be hauled away, but a small percentage is used in low-value products such as fertilizer and cow feed. "We now know pomace can be a sustainable source of material for a wide range of goods," said researcher Yanyun Zhao, a professor and value-added food products specialist with the OSU Extension Service. "We foresee wineries selling their pomace rather than paying others to dispose of it. One industry’s trash can become another industry’s treasure." Read more


Plant Breakthrough May Improve Biofuel Processing - Feb 19th

There may be a connection between two different types of cell wall glycans (sugars) and specific wall protein known as arabinogalactan protein. The initial discovery was made by Li Tan, who then approached researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) to continue the research. According to Tan and Debra Mohnen, who both work at part of the BioEnergy Science Center, this connection is not known to exist and does not conform to the commonly held scientific definitions of plant cell wall structure. Yet what they found could redefine the understanding of basic plant biology, and it may lead to significant improvements in the growth and processing of biofuel crops. “This is totally new,” said Tan, a research scientist in the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and lead author of a paper detailing the group’s findings published in the online journal The Plant Cell. “We had never seen linkages between these structures before, and we had to develop a variety of new tests to prove that what we saw was not simply a mistake or a contamination.” Read more

Engineering Cells for More Efficient Biofuel Production - Feb 19th

In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates. Not only do they contain more energy than ethanol, but they are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure. For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources. MIT chemical engineers and biologists have now devised a way to dramatically boost isobutanol production in yeast, which naturally make it in small amounts. They engineered yeast so that isobutanol synthesis takes place entirely within mitochondria, cell structures that generate energy and also host many biosynthetic pathways. Using this approach, they were able to boost isobutanol production by about 260 percent. Read more

How to Ensure Biofuel Crops Don’t Become Weeds - March 6th

A Virginia Tech researcher, along with several others, have offered a way to ensure that plants grown for biofuels do not become an invasive weed. According to Jacob Barney, an assistance professor of plant pathology, physiology and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, careful introduction of new species for production of more energy per acre is increasingly critical, as is the evaluation of new or bioengineered plants for agricultural or horticultural uses. The article, “Navigating the ‘Noxious’ and ‘Invasive’ Regulatory Landscape: Suggestions for Improved Regulation,” published in BioScience proposes a way to improve and streamline the regulatory methodology for evaluating the invasive potential of plants, especially biofuel feedstock. Biofuels are increasing in economic and ecological importance, said Barney, as the RFS continues to be implemented. Read more

Science & Technology in France

At the National level


First call for proposals of the ERA-Net SUSFOOD - Feb 20th

The first Joint Call for Proposals of the ERA-Net SUSFOOD on sustainable food production and consumption was launched on 15 February 2013. The research project consortia must apply to at least one of the three call topics:
1. Improving input, waste and side flow strategies to increase resource efficiency and provide added value in food products and food processing, manufacture, reducing input (energy, water) in the food chain.
2. Innovation in food processing technologies and food products to support a sustainable food chain.
3. Understanding consumer behaviour to encourage a (more) sustainable food choice. Read more

Institutions / Universities


Third edition of ANSES’s seminar on antimicrobial resistance and animal health: substantial progress but continued effort needed - Nov 2012

Over the last several years, the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, both in humans and animals, has become a major concern for public health and animal health. Certain emerging bacteria can cause therapeutic dead ends leading to critical situations in the treatment of certain serious infections. This issue is therefore the subject of major efforts both in France and throughout the world. This year once again, the event was an opportunity for the ANSES teams involved in this topic, which the Agency has placed at the forefront of its priorities since 2011, to present their work. The morning was devoted to the presentation of ANSES’s work on the monitoring of antibiotic consumption and resistant bacteria. The methods which have been implemented by the Agency for several years in the area of veterinary medicine with regard to these issues have now made it possible to provide an annual scoreboard and to identify both the areas where progress has been achieved and the areas where improvements still need to be made with regard to responsible antibiotic use. The afternoon was devoted to a more forward-looking approach, with the presentation of research work conducted by ANSES, INRA and other European teams, in order to better comprehend the mechanisms behind bacterial resistance, bacterial transmission between animals and possible modes of transmission of resistant bacteria between animals and humans. Read more

TSE control measures - Fev 25th

Since the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the UK and proof of the key role played by meat-and-bone meal in its propagation, risk mitigation measures have been taken in France and Europe. Designed to avoid ruminants becoming contaminated, thus limiting human exposure, these measures include the removal and destruction of specific tissues from carcasses since 1996, a ban on meat-and-bone meal for feeding production livestock since july 1990, active epidemiological surveillance programmes since 2000 and animal health measures. They are frequently reassessed both by Europe and France. Read more


Microbiological risks in food - March 6th

Many microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites) are able to contaminate foodstuffs and cause a variety of illnesses. Measures implemented by health authorities and practitioners have resulted in a significant reduction in the main diseases caused by food. However, recent episodes of contamination in Europe, especially related to fresh produce, call for vigilance with regard to microbial hazards. The Agency is actively involved on this topic, which was one of the priorities of its Work Programme in 2012. Read more

Companies and Research Cluster


Improving the integrated protection of rapeseed against attack from a harmful beetle - Feb 11th

The management of populations of insect rapeseed pests enables a reconciliation of economic profitability and protection of the environment. INRA scientists have recently demonstrated the importance of the landscape and crop management systems to the abundance of pollen or rape beetle, a rapeseed pest, and the damage it causes to plants. Their work opens new opportunities to manage pest insect populations by means of farming practices and non-cultivated habitats in a territory. Designing cropping systems that minimise the use of plant health products while optimising biological regulation requires a good knowledge of the biology of the pests concerned in their environment. INRA researchers at Versailles-Grignon, and their colleagues from AgroParisTech, have thus analysed the influence of farming practices and the landscape context on attacks by the rape beetle (Meligethes aeneus Fabr.), one of the principal insect pests that damages winter rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) in Europe. They carried out a large-scale trial (two years of studying 42 plots) and have developed a exploratory approach covering multiple scales which range from the plant (as the site of reproduction) to the landscape (where the insects live). Read more

INRA inaugurates its Sunflower Agrigenomics research centre in Toulouse - Feb 21st

On 21 February 2013, François Houllier, President of INRA, inaugurated the new Sunflower Agrigenomics centre at INRA’s Auzeville site. Also in attendance were Henri Michel Comet, Prefect of the Midi-Pyrénées region; Martin Malvy, former minister and current President of the Midi-Pyrénées region; and François-Régis Valette, President of the Communauté d’agglomération du SICOVAL. As part of a multi-disciplinary initiative (agricultural sciences, phytopathology, ecophysio¬logy, genetics, and genomics) and a privileged partnership between regional socioeconomic players, the “Sunflower Agrigenomics” centre features cutting-edge genomic technologies as part of its efforts to exploit a vast collection of genetic resources. The project aims to improve economic competitiveness by contributing to the varietal prototyping of sunflowers that are adapted to cropping systems requiring fewer inputs and which better preserve resources. It will also strengthen the competitiveness of breeding companies in the Midi-Pyrénées region, global leaders in the field of sunflower genetics. Read more

Get in touch with science

Many organizations give you the opportunity to learn and improve your mind about agriculture and food science. Please find below some of website about these:


Website to see this month

For the United States information

Federal agencies

JPEG : You will find the new funding opportunities provide by the department of Energy and see the latest grants in the energy field.

JPEG : The United States Department of Agriculture Kicks Off National Nutrition Month by Highlighting Breakfast, and releases announcements about the G-8 International Conference.

JPEG The US Food and Drug Administration releases information about Nutrition Facts Label for the National Nutrition Month.


JPEG : Learn what is an observational study, and other information about nutrients and diet.

News articles

JPEG : News from the United States covering advancements in science and technology (French articles).

For France information

Research centers

JPEG : The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety unveils a new website with news, information and reports about Agriculture, Food Science and Animal Science.

JPEG : The French National Institute for Agricultural Research unveils a new website to release all the news about Agriculture, Food Science, Ecology and Microbiology.

Information centers

JPEG : News from France on advancements in science and technology (French articles).

JPEG : France has a new agricultural exports record, bees are in danger with pesticides, development of the agroecology : find more on the website.

JPEG : FInd more about the National debate on energy in France.

European informations

JPEG : The European Food Safety Authority focus this month on the pesticide residues.

Coming events

Food Vision 2013 Hotel Martinez, Boulevard La Croisette Cannes, France March 20-22, 2013
Climate-Smart Agriculture Global Science Conference University of California Davis, California March 20-22, 2013
6th Annual Wind Conference Iowa Events Center Des Moines, Iowa March 25-27, 2013
International Biomass Conference & Expo Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, Minnesota April 8-10, 2013
Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar DoubleTree Hotel-Hilton Arlington Heights, Illinois April 10, 2013
Advanced Biofuel Leadership Conference Washington, DC April 15-17, 2013
2013 BIO International Convention McCormick Place Chicago, Illinois April 22-25, 2013


French Office for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC - website:
Consulate General of France in Chicago - website:


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Last modified on 18/03/2013

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