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January 17th, 2019 / B4FA.org

We focus on the state of agricultural biotech in Nigeria this week as the country’s National Biosafety Management Agency applies to commercialise Bt cowpea. If the application is approved, the genetically modified cowpea – which is resistant to the pod borer pest – will become the nation’s first GM food crop. Benefits would include higher yields and fewer pesticides used in crop production.

A post on Cornell’s Alliance for Science blog discussed the debate surrounding it. “Although scientists … believe that the GM cowpea can help farmers tackle the burden of pod-borer infestation, some environmental activists totally disagree with this perspective and are challenging IAR’s commercialization application,” writes blog author OpuahAbeikwen, the co-initiator of Science Cafe Nigeria and a 2016 Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow.

“To demonstrate their anger further, the anti-GMO campaigners have released publications, organized several activities to stop release of the crop into the environment and accused the NBMA of lacking neutrality. But … Dr. Rufus Ebegba, NBMA’s director general and chief executive officer, urged the activists to understand that neutrality in this context should not be without any tangible decision. He explained that the NBMA is not established to stop GMOs, but to ensure that they are safe to the environment as well as human health.”

The piece notes that Nigeria accounts for more than 58 percent of the world’s total output of cowpea production and is the world’s highest consumer of cowpea. “It is true that every new technology is bound to face suspicion and concerns, but Nigeria must be brave and overcome fear, especially when there is substantial scientific proof of safety measures in place,” writes Abeikwen. “It is time to bridge the gap between new scientific innovations and social cum cultural changes to ensure that African farmers can access all existing solutions to tackle the crises bedeviling global food systems.”

In a piece published in Leadership, Rose Gidado, country coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria, adds, “Adoption of modern biotechnology is a giant step of the Federal Government of Nigeria as part of the great efforts to diversify the economy from crude oil to agriculture, and as a means of providing adequate food security for its people as well as ensure the creation of jobs. For a country to have been said to be developed, she must be able to provide enough food for her population. … The introduction of modern biotechnology in Nigeria’s agriculture has come to save us, as more farmers using this innovative farming system are encouraged to farm. Adoption of agricultural biotechnology remains a great step in the right direction. “

Meanwhile, another Leadership report (“2019: Prospects for biotechnology development in Nigeria”) provides a snapshot overview of progress made in Nigeria to date and what to expect in the coming year.We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit B4FA.org for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.

Headlines

As Nigeria makes final move to commercialise Bt cowpea
Leadership NGA

GMO cowpea: Bridging the gap between innovation and social change
Cornell Alliance for Science

Providing succour to Nigerian farmers through biotechnology
Leadership NGA

2019: Prospects for biotechnology development in Nigeria
Leadership NGA

Nigeria: Biotechnology harmless, safe – experts
Leadership NGA

How African scientists are improving cassava to help feed the world
Nature

AgBio news

Uganda: Why farming is gaining more clout
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

East Africa: Low seeds quality affecting returns in Comesa Region
AllAfrica

Ghana: USAID praised for transforming agric in the north
AllAfrica

Young Ugandan biotech advocates push back against scare tactics of European and American-funded anti-GMO African environmental activists
Genetic Literacy Project

Nigeria: GMO controversies are trade war between agro-allied chemical firms and biotech sector – NBMA DG
Independent

Borlaug’s dream is being realized
Cornell Alliance for Science

Wild rice populations: A key resource for global food security
Science Trends

Heritage crops that feed on sea water could feed the UAE’s growing population
The National UAE

Blueprint for plant’s immune response has been found
ISAAA

Rice plants engineered for better photosynthesis make more rice
ISAAA

Scientists report functionally diverse Type V CRISPR-Cas systems
ISAAA

Short-stature hybrid corn, likely to debut next decade, could dramatically boost crop yields
Genetic Literacy Project

Merger wave: Effect on crop seed prices
All About Feed

CRISPR isn’t just for editing human embryos, it also works for plants and bugs: 5 essential reads
Alliance for Science

The five: genetically modified fruit
The Guardian

Spiders’ natural toxins to help protect crops in new project
Farming UK

We must end ‘over-regulation’ of crop gene editing to halt global food insecurity, says prominent Canadian agricultural scientist
Genetic Literacy Project

CIP Potato breeders have developed biofortified potatoes with elevated levels of iron and zinc to contribute to efforts to improve nutrition and end anemia in rural communities
International Potato Center

Developing biopesticides against whitefly: a pump-prime funded project
Connected

Best practices

How to make farming and agricultural extension more nutrition-sensitive: evidence from a randomised controlled trial in Kenya
Academic

Uganda: How to raise vegetables seedlings in greenhouses
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Biodiversity

Saving our seeds and why we could do more to protect genetic diversity
Genetic Literacy Project

Jim Bradeen on the role of crop wild relatives and food security 
International Potato Center

Managed bees versus wild bees? It’s not that simple in South Africa
AllAfrica

Climate change and environment

Amid global soil crisis, governments struggle to reach farmers
Devex

Development

Why Nigeria should first support rice farmers before it cuts off imports
The Conversation

Nigerian female entrepreneur passionate about agriculture
African Daily Voice

Why end products of research findings matter
SciDevNet

Tea farmers petition government over irrigation
Daily Monitor

The new finance solutions building Africa’s farmers’ and herders’ resilience
Trust

‪Gender enters a new era in the agricultural research community – CGIAR Gender
CGIAR

International investment – the key to unlocking Africa’s agricultural potential?
Devdiscourse

Uganda: Effect of grabbing agricultural land
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Energy and innovation

IITA’s mobile app to track cassava seeds now in Tanzania
IITA

IRENA highlighting geothermal’s role for food security and heating
Think GeoEnergy 

Could open source indoor farming help us feed 10 billion people?
Genetic Literacy Project

Food security and nutrition

Kenya: Hurdles derail plan to boost food security
Daily Nation

Zimbabwe: $5m campaign against hunger unveiled
AllAfrica

The African Development Bank launches a new Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Action Plan
Scaling up Nutrition

Uganda: Formula of making money from sunflower farming
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Pests and diseases

Fall armyworm marches on as pest that devastated African crops spreads in Asia
The Telegraph

African countries should turn to lower risk solutions to fight fall armyworm
ReliefWeb

Scientists are using CRISPR-based technology to target agricultural pests
European Scientist

Biotech could modify trees to protect against pests
Scientific American

The GM debate

Strongest opponents of GM foods know the least but think they know the most
The Guardian

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?
Genetic Literacy Project

2018 biotech review: Second generation of GMOs arrives as US anti-GMO movement falters
Genetic Literacy Project

‪Nobel laureates dismiss fears about genetically modified foods
The Guardian

Opposition to biotech threatens health of forests, experts say
Genetic Literacy Project

Opportunities and resources

Conference on Beating Famine in the Sahel in Bamako, Mali, 26-28 February Bamako Sheraton
Eventbrite

Course: Feeding a Hungry Planet: Agriculture, Nutrition and Sustainability
February 11, 2019
Edx

NASEM Forest Biotech Study: Report release webinar recording posted
NASEM