Developing countries are becoming increasingly innovative in biotechnology, claimed a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, which says they are close to releasing important new genetically modified crops.

It says Argentina, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa are leading research on such crops as banana, cowpea, plantain, rice and sorghum. It said new GM varieties such as virus-resistant papaya, sweet potato and cassava, plus salinity and drought tolerant rice would be "released soon".

The report is based on entries in a two-year-old biotechnology innovation database, FAO-BioDeC, which has about 2,000 entries from 71 developing countries.