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November 26th, 2012

Do journalists get excited about plant breeding and genetics? And does it matter to Uganda’s population? According to Henry Luttaya, a B4FA Media Fellow who writes for Sunrise in Uganda, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ to both questions. In his recent article, ‘B4FA fires up journalists with knowledge on modern plant breeding‘, Luttaya reports that Uganda is facing food production challenges while its population continues to grow. Despite food security being a government priority, action must still be taken to reduce pressure on available land and provide enough food for Uganda’s citizens, he notes.

But what action can be taken? According to Luttaya’s article, increasing awareness about plant breeding is one method for beginning to take action and increase Uganda’s food security. As a participant in B4FA, he reports that “the journalists had the opportunity to learn about plant breeding concepts such as hybridization, tissue culture, genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And as commented by Ms. Sarah Natoolo, a reporter with the State Owned UBC radio, the intensive exercise helped her better understand the science of plant breeding: “I believe that as a country, we face enormous challenges in ensuring that the rural masses understand and use the new technologies to grow more food and get to live happier lives. I am confident that as a communicator I can use the acquired new knowledge to explain things better.”

The programme covered plant breeding techniques in-depth, discussed the field’s history and introduced the journalists to senior scientists from Europe and North America. However, one of the most interesting aspects was the fact that Uganda is itself a leader in plant breeding and biotechnology research – and the answers to Uganda’s food security may very well lie in the hands of its own talented crop of researchers. His article arises from a recent B4FA genetics course in Uganda supported by the John Templeton Foundation.

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