In the news...

June 10th, 2015

Lots of biotech stories from Africa this week – many of them from our own B4FA journalists. At the top of the list, the Tanzanian government has relaxed its GMO laws (Isaac Khisa), paving the way for scientists in the country to carry out confined trials on such disease-ravaged crops as cassava. In Cameroon, an in vitro plantain project has succeeded in producing 5 million plantain plantlets, which will later be transferred to farmers in an effort to help ensure food security, improve nutrition, increase employment, and boost the economy. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s first sugarcane bio-factory has opened, with the capacity to produce 1 million high-quality, disease-free sugarcane seedlings per year. The facility, which is the first in a series of five to be built in the next five years, is set to to give Nigeria’s sugar industry a boost.

Uganda has developed a five-year strategy to safeguard the country’s plant genetic resources as part of plans to boost food production (Isaac Khisa), while pharmacists are tipping farmers on opportunities for growing GM products (Henry Lutaaya) – raw materials for pharmaceuticals that otherwise must be imported from the United States. Henry Lutaaya also writes about why clear biotech regulation is needed in Uganda, while Michael Ssali reports on why support for a biotech bill in Uganda is justified.

In the world at large, the BBC World Service takes on the GM debate in its Inquiry series – “Is opposition to GM crops irrational?” Augmenting the audio report is a written article summarizing the views of the experts interviewed for the piece, including Calestous Juma, director of the Harvard-based Agricultural Innovation in Africa project, who says: “[Opposition to GM is] not irrational. Farmers who are opposed to GM crops because they might have negative impacts on their income… [P]eople who think that we are changing the environment in ways that are not predictable … have reasons for doing that. [But] I think it’s unhelpful because it’s driven by present-day observations, but does not take into account long-term considerations. I strongly believe that, as problems expand, you also expand your toolbox.”

Finally, we direct your attention to the FAO’s website for its recently released State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. The site includes links to regional overviews – including Africa – key messages, as well as interactive maps delineating world hunger and progress on Millennium Development Goals, making it a useful resource.

Thanks as ever for joining us, and please send questions, comments and links to

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Is opposition to GM crops irrational? The BBC talk to Harvard’s Calestous Juma, Pamela Ronald and other scientists

Audio: Is opposition to GM irrational?

RNA interference allows ag researchers to develop pathogen-resistant and more-nutritious crops
The Scientist

Where in the world is hunger? Check the interactive FAO Hunger Map 2015

Non-GMO salt-tolerant rice helps Bangladesh farmers
Genetic Literacy Project

Report: Climate-smart agriculture: acting locally, informing globally

Journalism is critical to farming innovation take-up

Event: Agriculture in Africa – Telling Facts from Myths: watch live on 15 June, from 9am Eastern time
World Bank

The suprising discovery that the world staple sweet potato is naturally transgenic may influence the PR around GM


Cameroon: In vitro plantain project will produce 5 million plantain plantlets by October

Zimbabwe: African countries should join hands to manage GMOs, say biotech experts

Kenya: With GMOs, we can easily feed ourselves
Daily Nation

State of Food Insecurity in Africa shows progress in halving the proportion and the number of hungry people by 2015
African Brains

East African countries urged to come up with policies supporting effective small farmer participation in Ag sector
East African Business Week

What Africa can do to manage the fallout of climate change
The Conversation

Africa has a long way to go to get more women into the sciences
The Conversation


Feeding Ghana’s future: increased financial support for women farmers can make the difference

Ghana signs $36.6m IFAD loan agreement for agriculture sector
Ghana Business News

Call for technical experts and trainers to improve competitiveness of women in the yam value chain
International Trade Centre


Nigeria’s first sugarcane bio-factory opens, producing disease-free crop seedlings
African Farming

Nigerian agriculture minister elected AfDB president
African Farming

“Agriculture can generate 4 million jobs” – Professor Akin Omotayo

Nigeria’s new leadership raises hopes for science


Tanzania relaxes law on GMOs
The East African, by B4FA Fellow Isaac Khisa


Pharmacists tip farmers on opportunities in GM products
Sunrise, by B4FA Fellow Henry Lutaaya

Uganda has developed a five-year strategy to safeguard the country’s plant genetic resources as part of plans to boost food production
The East African, by B4FA Fellow Isaac Khisa

Why clear biotech regulation is needed in Uganda
Sunrise, by B4FA Fellow Henry Lutaaya

The support for biotech Bill is justified
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Bananas, cassava face extinction
Sunrise, by B4FA Fellow Henry Lutaaya

UN food security report says Uganda has 10 million facing hunger

It’s farming season: beware of fake seeds

Kyazanga farmers’ co-op holds field day, touring gardens to learn best practices
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Featured image: Cassava root infected with whitefly-transmitted cassava brown streak virus. Tanzania’s new relaxed GM laws will make it easier for scientists to develop brown streak–resistant cassava varieties. Photo courtesy of Laura Boykin