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March 15th, 2018 / B4FA.org

This week, on the heels of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) newly released guide on management of the Fall armyworm, scientist Kevin Folta interviewed GE insect research and technology company Oxitech’s CSO Simon Warner about the potential of genetically engineered insects to tackle the problem, by turning off a gene to limit their development in the field. Listen to the podcast here.

Meanwhile, writes Mark Lynas, Ugandan scientists at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NCRRI) are ready with a hybrid maize variety that has demonstrated strong protection against fall armyworm in field trials. However, the scientists are frustrated that the currently stalled talks regarding the Biosafety Bill are delaying the deployment of these crop-saving plants.

NCRRI director Dr Godfrey Asea said: “We have done our research, now we have to make sure it reaches the farmer. This is the fourth trial. I think we have enough results. Once the regulatory environment allows us to move to the next stage, I think we are ready. Within a year or two we should have something ready for the farmer.” The maize, originally developed for drought tolerance to help cope with climate change, carries an insect-resistant Bt gene that protects it from fall armyworm as well as stem borer, and will help improve yields with fewer pesticides. Says Assea of the ongoing GM debate in Uganda: “As scientists, we cannot reach everyone in the country. Unfortunately, those who know the least seem to speak the most.”

In other news from Uganda, B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru writes that researchers at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) in Kawanda are ready to taste the fruits of their labor – new varieties of cooking bananas developed for resistance to pests and diseases, and for biofortification with iron and vitamin A. “This simple act, they say, is a key piece of the product development process,” writes Afedraru, making sure that the new variety tastes the same as conventional bananas. However, rolling out the new bananas to farmers will likewise be stalled by the Biosafety Bill delay. “The new law will need to be in place if the bananas are ever going to make their way into farmers’ fields,” writes Afedraru.

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Headlines

Talking Biotech: Can Oxitec’s genetically engineered insects combat fall armyworm crop damage and famine in Africa?
Genetic Literacy Project

As armyworm invasion devastates crops, Ugandan scientists bemoan GMO political stalemate
Mark Lynas, Cornell Alliance for Science

Uganda’s researchers ready to taste test their GMO vitamin A-enriched banana
Genetic Literacy Project, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

AgBio news

New improved high-iron and zinc beans released in Tanzania
Sweet Potato Knowledge

Genetic mutation can triple sorghum grain yields—and could boost rice, corn and wheat too
Genetic Literacy Project

Challenges facing Ugandan agriculture, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

5 Questions with UCT’s Jennifer Thomson, advocate for biotech in Africa
ISAAA

Agric biotech essential in advancing farming, say scientists
Nigerian Tribune

Genetic tweak makes plants use 25% less water
Yahoo News

China to deepen agricultural cooperation with Africa
People’s Daily

Bangladesh agriculture minister backs ‘Golden Rice’ and GM crops
One World News

UGA researchers design new technique to enhance crops
ISAAA

Kenya developing animal biotech regulatory guidelines
ISAAA

Meet GenED: The next generation of biotechnology
Food & Nutrition

Agriculture, when done in the right way, can improve biodiversity, improve soil quality, help improve health & help sequester carbon. It’s emerging as a solution to many of our global problems
Crop Trust

Millions of Chinese farmers reap benefits of huge crop experiment
Nature

Brazil and Africa explore common interests, particularly agricultural innovation
African Business

India: Govt likely to slash Bt cotton seed price to Rs740 per packet
Livemint

Brazil sugar mills start genetically-modified cane plantation
Reuters

Argentina approves three GM crops
ISAAA

First zinc-enriched maize released in Colombia to combat malnutrition
ISAAA

Nutritious red rice developed for the US
Cornell Chronicle

Best practice

Ethiopia to adopt Telangana irrigation model
Telangana Today

Intercropping maize with pigeon peas
Access Agriculture

Biodiversity

Durum wheat pre-breeding for food security: adding diversity into an ancient crop
Crop Wild Relatives

Distant cousins of domesticated crops harbor traits to feed a hungry planet
ICRISAT

As part of the Seed Vault 10 celebrations Ann Tutwiler will present a plan to create a cryopreserved global collection for crops that cannot be conserved by seed
Bioversity International

Climate change

Weather patterns putting a strain on Food Security in Southern Africa & Eastern Africa
BizCommunity

African women adopt smart solutions for climate change
CTA

Climate change mitigation beyond agriculture: a review of food system opportunities and implications
Cambridge Core

Development

A gender focus for agricultural research can benefit the whole community: International Women’s Day 2018
CGIAR

Time is now to scale up women’s rights and nutrition activism In Africa
AllAfrica

New Publication : – GENDER AND ICTs : Mainstreaming gender in the use of ICTs for agriculture and rural development
E-agriculture

Africa’s female scientists are breaking barriers, leading change
Biz Watch

South Africa: Women must seize the moment
News24

Kenya launches Pan African skills development program in agriculture sector
Xinhua Net

Farming sector must absorb more black agriculture graduates
Huffington Post

Information and communications technologies are essential to the empowerment and success of poor rural women
IFAD

Students begin studies in Africa’s first-ever junior management agribusiness training program
CNBC Africa

China does not attach any conditions to African assistance, says agriculture minister
gbtimes

Food security

African leaders aim to revive efforts to meet global nutrition goals
NewsDeeply

Kenya: Public, private cooperation key to food security
Daily Nation

Improving food security in West and East Africa
CSR Wire

29 African countries need food aid: FAO report
Infosurhoy

Nigeria, 36 others need help on food security, says FAO
AllAfrica

Cassava is consumed daily by over 100 million people in Africa but there is lack of impact evidence. Take a look at ISPC SPIA Brief to find out what true impact of improved cassava varieties is in Nigeria
CGIAR

China, BRICS to focus on Africa food security
The Brics Post

Pests and diseases

South Africa: Fall armyworm infests 10,000 hectares
Capricorn Review

‘Push-pull’ crop system to curb fall armyworms
ReliefWeb

Invasive species: Menace Africa can no longer ignore
SciDevNet

Seed co introduces new maize variety tolerant to lethal necrosis disease
Farmbiz Africa

Aflatoxin a serious threat to food security, experts warn
KBC

Policy

German coalition could lead to eventual ban of glyphosate in Europe despite ‘no harm’ findings
Genetic Literacy Project

Why CRISPR gene-edited foods aren’t subject to USDA’s GMO regulations
Genetic Literacy Project

To plant or not to plant? – The debate over GM seeds
Dispatch

Food security fears mount as debate on GMOs rages
AllAfrica

China in no hurry to approve GM crops for food, says MOA
Global Times

Viewpoint: Regulatory overreach looms as obstacle for New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) in agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project

Opportunities

All you need to know about the CONNECTED Network’s first stage of its first pump prime funding call for research on vector-borne crop diseases. Deadline: 8 April
Community Network for African Vector-Borne Plant Viruses

African Development Bank seeks junior consultant for Feed Africa flagships and initiatives Deadline 21 March

2018 African Youth Agripreneur Forum and AgriPitch Competition, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, 9-13 April 2018
AFDB

FAO 2nd International Symposium on Agroecology, 3-5 April, Rome
FAO

CSW62 2018 – Transformative approaches to achieve women’s tenure security at scale: the relation between equal land rights and women’s empowerment in rural Africa, New York, 13 March 2018
Europa

Editors Forum: Growing Science and Technology Reporting in Africa Kigali, Rwanda 27 March
SciDevNet

Resources

China and Brazil in African Agriculture
Science Direct

Crop Prospects and Food Situation, No. 1 March 2018
ReliefWeb