Newsletter scientifique #7 - June 2012



This month we would like to highlight the conclusions of the G8 outreach symposium on food security and price volatility, a subject of global importance.

Furthermore, we would like to bring attention to the recent breakthrough research in plant genomics. For example, please find news links on the International Consortium of the Tomato Genome, the recent analysis of the maize genome, the studies on domesticated rice, and the sequencing and mapping of foxtail millet for biofuel production.

Please find also in this month’s newsletter information from our two countries’ recent advancements in science and technology.

Enjoy your read!

Adèle Martial, Scientific attaché
Cécile Camerlynck, Deputy Scientific attaché

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Table of contents



G8 and G20 outreach about food security and price volatility - May 15th

The Embassy of France organized together with the Embassy of Germany an outreach on April 25th about the G20 action plan on food price volatility and agriculture. The French Ministry of Agriculture, the World Food Program and the Food and Agricultural Organization presented actions they lead to tackle the global issue of food security. This event was the first meeting of the Washingtonian Embassies Group on Agriculture and Food Security. Read more


An international consortium sequences tomato genome - May 30th

The Tomato Genome Consortium, a group of over 300 scientists from 13 countries, has sequenced the genomes of the domesticated tomato and its wild ancestor, Solanum pimpinellifolium. This achievement is expected to lower costs and speed up efforts to improve the worldwide tomato production, making it better equipped to combat the pests, pathogens, droughts and diseases that now plague growers. The work may also speed up improvements to other crops. The sequences were reported in this week’s issue of Nature. The life sciences research institute VIB as partner in the consortium, represented by Stephane Rombauts, Jeffrey Fawcett and Yves Van de Peer (PI) was mainly leading the gene prediction that translated the raw genome sequence in biological knowledge. We setup in collaboration with groups from US, UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Italy, India, Germany and France, a dedicated group solely aiming at delivering the best possible gene set biologist could use to improve tomatoes. Read more

Science & Technology in the US

National News


Metagenomics Offers Insight Into Poultry Diseases - May 17th

Less than 10 years ago, the world marveled at the completion of the human genome project, which involved traditional technology to identify all the genes in a single organism—the human. Today, a more powerful technology is being used to detect thousands of organisms in an entire community. Unlike traditional gene sequencing, the new molecular technique—metagenomics—eliminates the need to cultivate and isolate individual microbial species. Scientists can apply genomic analysis to mixed communities of microbes instead of to just one organism. Read more

New research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide facilitate the flow of genes from wild or weedy rice plants to domesticated rice varieties. As a result, domesticated plants could take on undesirable weedy characteristics that may interfere with future rice production. This is the first study to demonstrate that the effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations include not only an influence on gene flow between closely related domesticated and wild plant genotypes, but that this gene flow is not the same in both directions. The investigation was conducted by researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency. Read more

’Most comprehensive’ genetic analysis of maize plant will help raise yields, expand its range - June 3rd

An international research team involving 17 institutions including Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has published the most comprehensive analysis to date of the maize genome. It is an achievement that substantially increases scientists’ understanding of differences across related but different species of the plant, which most North Americans call corn, as well as the nature of differences found within individual maize species. The research is expected to speed development of improved varieties of corn, which is one of the world’s most important agricultural commodities. The analysis appears in two separate papers that appeared online ahead of print Sunday, June 3 in the journal Nature Genetics. The researchers – whose work was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is the fruit of two ongoing National Science Foundation (NSF) projects on maize diversity — sheds light not only on maize’s remarkable genetic diversity, but also on how the plant evolved, and how it continues to diversify as it adapts to changing climates and habitats. Read more


2012 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health - May 23rd

The 2012 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health, commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation, is the seventh annual national quantitative study designed to gain insights from Americans on important food safety, nutrition, and health-related topics. The research provides the opportunity to gain insight on how Americans view their own diets, their efforts to improve them, how they balance diet and exercise, and their beliefs and behaviors when it comes to food safety. Read more

FSIS confirms start of beef sampling for six non-O157 E.coli strains - May 31st

Sampling of raw beef manufacturing trimmings for six non-O157 strains of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) is set to begin from 4 June 2012, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has confirmed.
The ruling will see the testing of ground beef products for the seven relevant STEC strains, which include O26, O103, O111, O121, O45, O145 as well as the more common O157. The FSIS, which is a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), posted a Federal Register notice on its website to confirm the implementation of the new rule. Read more


Defense authorization bill could cut military biofuel initiatives - May 23rd

In mid-May the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $642 billion defense authorization bill that includes provisions to undermine military efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil. According to information provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the language of the bill would prohibit the U.S. Department of Defense from pursuing its public-private initiative to develop cost-competitive, commercially available advanced biofuels. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the initiative was signed by the DOD, USDA and U.S. DOE in 2011. The initiative would require a $70 million funding commitment in fiscal year 2013. The legislation would also repeal Section 526 of the 2007 energy bill, which stipulates that if the DOD buys alternative fuels, then those fuels cannot emit more carbon than conventional petroleum. Read more

Midwest news


Practical Tool Can ’Take Pulse’ of Blue-Green Algae Status in Lakes - June 4th

Blue-green algae is not your average pond scum — rather than consisting of plant-like organisms, blue-green algae actually are cyanobacteria, and some species are linked to the production and release of the toxin microcystin into the water. Human exposure to the toxin through drinking or recreational water contact can threaten public health by causing liver damage, neurological problems and gastrointestinal illness in humans. The Ohio State University researchers devised a tool that would allow inland lake beach managers to test water samples for the existence of a pigment called phycocyanin — the substance that gives blue-green algae their distinctive color. Measures of the pigment level combined with an assessment of the water’s transparency provide strong clues as to whether microcystin is at high enough levels to threaten health. Read more


Blossom end rot plummets in Purdue-developed transgenic tomato - May 21st

The brown tissue that signals blossom end rot in tomatoes is a major problem for large producers and home gardeners, but a Purdue University researcher has unknowingly had the answer to significantly lowering occurrences of the disease sitting on a shelf for 20 years. In the early 1990s, horticulture professor Avtar Handa developed a transgenic tomato with a thicker juice that yields 10 percent more tomato paste than parental, non-engineered tomatoes. He said large commercial producers were interested but weren’t ready to bring a transgenic tomato on the market, especially with the regulatory approval process that was required. So the research findings were published and the seeds stored away. Read more

Finding ways to feed pigs for less - June 7th

Results of a preliminary experiment conducted at the University of Illinois indicate that it may be possible to select pigs that can make efficient use of energy in less expensive feed ingredients, thus reducing diet costs. Less expensive feed is usually higher in fiber than the corn-soy diets typically used in U.S. swine production, explained Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. However, the white breeds that are used in commercial pork production use only about 40 percent of the insoluble fiber. "If you can increase that number to 50 or 60 or 70 percent, then of course, you would get a much better use of the energy in those ingredients," Stein explained. Read more


Aviation and Clean Technology Leaders Launch Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiatives - May 23rd

United Airlines (NYSE: UAL), Boeing (NYSE: BA), Honeywell’s UOP, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust today announced the formation of the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI), designed to advance aviation biofuel development in a 12-state region holding significant promise for biomass feedstock, technology development, job creation and sustainable commercialization. MASBI will deliver a comprehensive evaluation of the region’s biofuel potential and a plan to support regional and national needs in a responsible manner. MASBI’s Advisory Council will include national leaders in advanced biofuels, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Navy, other Federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. Read more

Research center makes biofuel breakthrough - June 11th

Researchers at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville have successfully produced an environmentally friendly, cost-effective biofuel from the non-edible portion of a corn kernel. "What we did was take the most common form of cellulose that exists and convert it into fuel ethanol," Advancing Biofuels Research Center Director John Caupert said. "What is exciting from the consumer’s viewpoint is that all the technology is currently commercial available." This groundbreaking research has the potential to lessen dependency on foreign oil and provide consumers with economically sound and environmentally responsible fuel options, said Doug McIllhagga, a communications spokesman for the university. Read more

Other states’ news


New Insights Into Irrigation Management - May 22nd

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are ensuring that farmers in the Pacific Northwest are benefiting from every drop of crop irrigation water. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Gary Lehrsch has developed irrigation guidelines to protect soil structure, maintain soil quality, sustain soil resources, and improve the delivery of water distributed via sprinkler irrigation to the root zones of growing crops. Lehrsch works at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho. In one 5-year investigation, he and colleagues evaluated the effect of sprinkler droplet kinetic energy on soil crust strength and aggregate stability. They irrigated sugar beet plots using sprinkler systems equipped with spray heads mounted six feet above the soil. Read more

Alternatives to Antibiotics in Animal Health - May 29th

Over the years, ARS scientists have developed and patented new technologies that could aid in reducing antibiotic use. Some of those tools have been shown to be effective in treating mastitis in cattle, controlling foodborne enteric bacterial pathogens, creating antimicrobials that kill disease-causing bacteria, and protecting poultry against parasites. Avian immunologist Hyun Lillehoj, at the ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville [Maryland] Agricultural Research Center (BARC), has devoted her career to developing alternative-to-antibiotics strategies to control infectious diseases in poultry. Read more

UGA scientists map and sequence genome of switchgrass relative foxtail millet - June 1st

A newly published genetic sequence and map of foxtail millet, a close relative of switchgrass and an important food crop in Asia, is giving scientists working to increase biofuel and crop yields a powerful new tool. The effort to develop the detailed genetic sequence and map involved 34 scientists from eight institutions and was spearheaded by researchers from the University of Georgia. The results appear in the early online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology. Lead author Jeffrey Bennetzen, Giles Professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of genetics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the sequence and map will allow scientists to systematically search for genes that influence traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, growth rate and cell-wall composition. Once those genes are identified, breeders can develop crops that require less water or pesticides, for example, or develop plants that can be easily converted into biofuels. Read more


UC Davis partners in $8.3 million effort to fight childhood malnutrition - May 14th

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, will join in an international research effort to develop new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent malnutrition in infants and children around the world. The Breast Milk, Gut Microbiome and Immunity Project is funded by $8.3 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be led by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. UC Davis will receive $1.1 million of the total. The UC Davis researchers who will participate in the project are nutritionist Kathryn Dewey and microbiologist David Mills. Read more

Researchers unpick cellular benefits omega-3 - May 16th

The processes behind the widely reported health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid has been revealed for the first time by a team of researchers in the USA. The US-based scientist mapped the cellular processes that power the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids by studying living mouse cells - finding that the beneficial fatty acids block an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase (COX), which produces the prostaglandin hormones that spark inflammation. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Professor Edward Dennis and his colleagues from the University of California, San Diego, said their findings also suggest it could be possible to boost the effect of omega-3’s and ’short-circuit’ inflammation before it begins. Read more


Gasification may convert mesquite and juniper wood to a usable bioenergy - June 5th

Biomass gasification is being considered as a possible technology for converting at least 10 million acres of Texas brush into biofuel, according to Dr. Jim Ansley, Texas AgriLife Research rangeland ecologist in Vernon. A study using an adiabatic bed gasifier to convert mesquite and redberry juniper species found in the Southern Great Plains into usable bioenergy gases was conducted by Ansley and Dr. Kalyan Annamalai, Paul Pepper Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Coal and Biomass Energy Laboratory, Texas Engineering Experiment Station at Texas A&M University in College Station. The team also included graduate students Wei Chen, Dustin Eseltine and Siva Thanapal in College Station, and Dr. Mustafa Mirik, AgriLife Research associate scientist at Vernon. Read more

Amyris is Awarded $8 million DARPA Contract under ‘Living Foundries’ Program - June 12th

Amyris, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMRS) announced today it has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop tools that can expand the scope of Amyris’s industrial synthetic biology technology platform across various biological platforms and cell types. The contract is worth approximately $8 million in funds to Amyris, conditioned on meeting certain technical milestones in connection with the DARPA’s Living Foundries research program. “Amyris’s cutting edge technology platform has been used to produce a life-saving anti-malarial drug as well as renewable fuels and chemicals. In support of DARPA’s ‘Living Foundries’ program, we will leverage our technology expertise to develop improved DNA assembly and rapid integration across complex biological platforms,” said John Melo, Amyris President & CEO. Read more

Science & Technology in France

At the National level


Reduction of Risk of Antibiotic Resistance - May 15th

The use of antibiotics in animal production to promote growth has been banned in the E.U. and therefore in France since 2006. The action plan for the reduction of the risks of antibiotic resistance in veterinary medicine was launched in France on November 18th, 2011. It aims to achieve a reduction of 25% in use of antibiotics in animal health over five years by developing alternatives capable of protecting animal health, while avoiding recourse to antibiotics. Read more

Institutions / Universities


Agreenium launches its On-Line Information and Service Platform - April 26th

“The Agreenium Portal”, was launched on 25 April, 2012. This web portal, a showcase of the Agreenium* members’ research and training, targets in priority the scientific and university community as well as students and young foreign researchers. In particular it allows its members to access training in Master’s Degrees, an international mobility programme for young researchers, as well as on-line documentary resources. Creation of this bilingual platform responds to Agreenium’s most important mission: reinforcing the visibility, recognition, attractiveness and international action capacities of the French research and agronomic and veterinary higher education training programme. Read more

Bee mortality: ANSES recommends reinforcing European plant protection product regulation and emphasises the need for a multifactorial approach to risks - June 1st

Cruiser OSR is a seed-dressing insecticide authorised for oilseed rape cultivation. It contains three active ingredients, including thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid-class insecticide. The results of a study published recently in the journal Science highlights the harmful effect of sub-lethal doses of thiamethoxam on the ability of forager bees to return to the hive. In this context, ANSES, in conjunction with its European counterpart EFSA, stresses the need to pursue research work in this area. It also calls for changes in the European regulations which would incorporate experiments enabling a better understanding of the sub-lethal effects of exposure to neonicotinoids into the process of plant protection product assessment. It also emphasises the need for a multifactorial approach to the risks in order to effectively counter the bee mortality phenomenon. Read more

Companies and Research Cluster


The gene that increases yields of sugar beets - May 21st

A European team of researchers, led by researchers at the University of Kiel in Germany and the Plant Science Center Umea in Sweden, has discovered a gene that could potentially increase the yield of sugar beets. Presented in the journal Current Biology, the study results indicate how the B gene involved in the run, the subject of extensive research into the culture of sugar beets, could help seed producers to increase the efficiency by reducing crop contamination that reduces yields and could also support the efforts of plant breeders to create new cultivars with larger beets. Read more (French article)

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

For the United States information

Federal agencies

JPEG : You will find here articles on saving energy to protect Earth and save money.

JPEG : This month, air quality and respiratory health are highlighted.


JPEG : The articles this month will speak about breakfast, food labels and calcium.

News articles

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

For France information

Research centers

JPEG : The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety would like to share their findings on Colony Collapse Disorder, diet and the risks of energy drink.

JPEG : The French National Institute for Agricultural Research release an article about the recent sequencing of the tomato genome.

Information centers

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

JPEG : Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fishing, Rural Affairs and Planning highlights news and information on organic agriculture.

JPEG : Food security, antibiotic resistance, bread, cheese and wine are on the top this month.

European informations

JPEG : The European Food Safety Authority focus on bee health and the impact of bees on agriculture’s highlighted.

Coming events

IFT Annual meeting + Food expo Convention center Las Vegas, Nevada June 25-28, 2012
Biomass 2012: Confronting Challenges, Creating Opportunities Washington, D.C. Convention Center - 801 Mt. Vernon Place, NW Washington, D.C. 20001 July 10–11, 2012
3rd Pan American Congress on Plants and Bioenergy I Hotel and Conference Center - 1900 S. First St. Champaign, IL, 61820 July 15-18, 2012
ADSA National Meeting Phoenix Convention Center Phoenix, Arizona July 15-19, 2012
Process Optimization Seminar Hilton President Kansas City, Missouri July 17-18, 2012


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 14/06/2012

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