In the news...

May 10th, 2018 /

From May 2-4, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted the Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18) in Rome, where experts met to discuss the latest data on the state of soil pollution and its effects on food security, environment and human health. At the meeting, the FAO released a report – “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” – which includes warnings that soil pollution reduces food security by reducing crop yields and availability of edible crops due to contamination. Planned outcomes of the meeting include establishing guidelines for sustainable soil management in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and gathering scientific evidence to support prevention and reduction of soil pollution, as well as promoting remediation of already-polluted sites. To read the FAO’s original report, visit this link.

In African agricultural biotech news this week, a piece in Daily Monitor addresses the possibility of growing hybrid banana varieties alongside traditional varieties, as will be taught at a banana enterprise workshop at MBAZARDI Farm Clinic in Mbarara District, Uganda, later this month. In Tanzania, field trials for high-yielding and pest-resistant sunflower varieties are under way to provide better seeds and improve income among smallholder farmers.

From the B4FA Fellows, Lominda Afedraru writes a piece on how to combat the Fall armyworm, while Michael Ssali addresses why Ugandan farmers buy seed nowadays rather than only using the traditional method of saving seed.

We’d also like to draw your attention this week to the many entries in our “Opportunities” listings, including upcoming conferences on cassava, hunger and nutrition in Nigeria and scientific innovation for sustainable development in African agriculture, as well as calls for nominations for the 2018 John Maddox Prize and the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize, which seeks solutions for Africa’s smallholder farmers to track and fight the pest. See below for further details.

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Meanwhile, we welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!


FAO releases alarming report on soil pollution
IPS News

6 reasons why soil pollution should not go unnoticed

Tanzania: New sunflower seeds improve yields

Uganda: Can hybrid bananas co-exist with the traditional type?
Daily Monitor

Exploring the best tactics to combat fall armyworm outbreaks in Africa
The Conversation Africa

AgBio news

Experts say biotech can help Nigeria’s environment
Alliance for Science

Nigeria partners West African countries to double cassava production

An assessment of the risk of Bt-cowpea to non-target organisms in West Africa
Journal of Pest Science

Using CRISPR to design superior foods
Alliance for Science

Kenya ranks high in transforming agriculture

How does the science of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ stand up more than 50 years later?
Genetic Literacy Project

Agricultural biotechnologies that improved safety, yields, food security in developing nations
Genetic Literacy Project

Concise booklet on new plant breeding techniques published
Wageningen University

As gene editing nears the field, regulators and consumers lag behind
The Progressive Farmer

Indian university’s insect-resistant GMO Bt cotton ready for field trials
Genetic Literacy Project

How scientists use meta-analysis to try to make sense of contradictory findings on neonicotinoids and bees
Genetic Literacy Project

Is monoculture a bad thing?
Genetic Literacy Project

Golden rice demo farm looms in Batac City, Philippines
Manila Bulletin

Best practices

Uganda: Why farmers always buy seed
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Soil pollution and its effects
Farmers Review Africa

Farming with a green thumb: five creative ideas for farming that could change lives in Africa
Deutche Welle

Climate change

Climate-smart production boosts West African rice self-sufficiency
Cornell University


Africa Business Group: Africa’s agriculture future bright

AIM-Africa to train 10,000 youth as farm Inspectors
Ghana News Agency

Agriculture will create jobs for youth in Africa
Inside Education

How gender dynamics affects women’s participation in cassava food value chains in Tanzania

FAO Conference on Near East and North Africa region to focus on Somalia, Yemen
African Farming

Video: By September, Nigeria will be biggest African exporter of fertiliser – Dangote

Borlaug Global Rust Initiative honors women in wheat research

Go to the farm and earn respect, Buhari tells Nigerian youths

Industrialisation, diasporan investment crucial to boosting Africa’s capital stock

Food security

Newly developed durum wheat could alleviate food security pressures in sub-Saharan Africa
Future Directions

Research unlocks rice gene diversity for food security

Talking Biotech: Can biofortified GMO soybeans help tackle vitamin A deficiency?
Genetic Literacy Project

Pests and diseases

Uganda: How to combat the Fall armyworm
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Can a genetic weapon combat one of the world’s major crop destroyers?

Africa struggles for weapons against armyworm curse
The Straits Times

Researchers move toward understanding deadly citrus disease
University of California, Riversid

Scientists develop disease surveillance system framework to improve food security
News Ghana


Philippines: Advocates seek a law on modern biotech
Business Mirror

Canadian plant scientists anxiously await word on how gene-edited crops will be regulated
Genetic Literacy Project

The GM debate

Uganda: Agriculture scientists want review on GMO law
New Vision

Delving into the GMO traits that cut back pesticide impacts globally
Genetic Literacy Project

Are you anti-GMO? Contempt for science has a human cost
Washington Post

Genetic engineering applied to agriculture has a long row to hoe
Taylor & Francis Online

What are the political drivers for GMOs in developing countries?

A CRISPR definition of genetic modification


Apply now for a grant to attend the 4th International Cassava Conference in Benin, June 11-15
Applications close May 15

Conference: Addressing Nigeria’s Hunger and Nutrition Challenges: What Works?
May 29, Imperial College Business School, London

Conference: Scientific innovation for a sustainable development of African agriculture. Ghent, Belgium, August 30-31

Conference: The March Toward a Hunger-Free Africa, 3-4 October 2018

Opportunity: Nominations open for the 2018 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science, recognising the work of an individual who promotes sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest. Deadline 3 August.

Call for entries: Fall Armyworm Tech Prize – seeking digital tools and approaches that provide timely, context-specific information that enable smallholder farmers and those who support them to identify, treat, and track incidence of fall armyworm in Africa. Deadline for entries: May 14.