In the news...

August 2nd, 2018 /

This week we continue to report on reaction to the European Court of Justice’s ruling that gene-edited crops should be subject in the European Union to the same stringent regulations as conventional genetically modified (GM) organisms. Nature reports the decision as ‘a major setback for proponents of gene-edited crops, including many scientists’; the Science Media Centre quotes 15 leading scientists, whose reaction can be summed up in the words of Prof. Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre, ‘this is going to impact plant breeding in Europe hugely and negatively’. And the response to the judgement by the Royal Society adds ‘it means that new genetic technologies that the UK is at the forefront of developing now come under a regulatory approach that effectively prohibits their use’.

We also include, among our headline stories, a call for a ‘harmonised science-based approval process, whereby agreements are focused on facilitating efficient trade flows,’ as biotechnologies become more complex and widespread. In 2017, almost 190 million hectares of biotech/genetically modified (GM) crops were planted across 24 countries, and imported by 43 countries, despite significant variations in biotech crop regulatory policies covering their growth and their importation across the world.

10 ways CRISPR will revolutionise environmental science, from Cornell University’s Alliance for Science, outlines some of the long-term contributions that CRISPR can make in the fields of biofuels, developing bioplastics, bioremediation of polluted land, biosensing, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pesticide reduction, efficient water use, nitrogen fixation, eradicating invasive species and reducing food waste.

The week has also seen the publication of a new report from the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that identifies the five most promising possible scientific breakthroughs in the next decade to increase the food and agriculture systems’ sustainability, competitiveness, and resilience. ‘Realizing the vision this report recommends will require an holistic approach that combines scientific discovery, technological innovation, and incentives to revolutionise the way we approach greater food security and human and environmental health,” said committee co-chair John Floros of New Mexico State University, adding ‘the food system of tomorrow will depend on how well we are able to prepare for resilience today and how well we are able to build our capacity for the future’. Although the report, Science breakthroughs Advance Food and Agricultural Sciences by 2030, is mainly concerned with North American agriculture, it has, nonetheless, great relevance for the rest of the world.

We also hear from two B4FA Fellows. Michael Ssali writes about the problems  including deteriorating soils, pests and diseases, environmental destruction and climate change that need to be tackled if food and nutrition security in Africa is to be improved and warns that ‘neglecting science and agricultural research findings by African policy makers is behaving like the ostrich which hides its head in the sand in the face of an emerging problem’. Meanwhile, Lominda Afedraru contributes four pieces aimed at promoting best practice among farmers at the grassroots. These consider producing honeysweet potato and hibiscus for tea, juice and even wine. And in the fourth piece, Lominda provides advice on how to protect your soils for bumper crop yields.

We welcome questions, comments and story links to 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!

CRISPR plants now subject to tough GM laws in European Union

Experts’ reaction to Court of Justice of the European Union ruling that GMO rules should cover plant genome editing techniques
Science Media Centre

10 ways CRISPR will revolutionise environmental science
Alliance for Science

New report identifies five breakthroughs to address urgent challenges and advance food and agricultural sciences by 2030
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine

Synchronised policies needed for biotech
The Land

AgBio news
Ethiopia releases new, perennial sorghum variety

Biotech adoption gathers pace in Tanzania
The Citizen

Tanzania: New variety seed to curb maize withering disease

Talking Biotech: How scientists outsmart aflatoxins, cancer-causing fungi that threaten our food supply
Genetic Literacy Project

Fertilizer destroys plant microbiome’s ability to protect against disease

Financial benefit of using GM crops was $18.2bn in 2016 alone, report says
Farming UK

Nigeria: Federal government orders confiscation of GMO products without biosafety permits
The Sun

Rwanda: Civil society pushes for food fortification

Africa’s collaborative biotech research bears fruit, by B4FA Fellow Christopher Bendana
Alliance for Science

By repurposing old genome-sequencing machines to use in biochemistry experiments, these researchers are showing the value of outdated equipment

For non commercialization of Bt eggplant, Filipino farmers losing P33.85 billion
Business Mirror

Science breakthroughs to advance food and agricultural research by 2030
National Academies

Making Kenya like biblical Egypt
The Star

Philippines: Public participates in Golden Rice consultations

Global biotech seeds market to grow by 9.87% in 2022

How food biotechnology is improving food security
Borgen Magazine

Best practices
How changing the world’s food systems can help to protect the planet
The Conservation

Uganda: Bees give Obanyo honey and money
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda: How to grow sweet potatoes for cash
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda: Kyoshabire squeezes cash out of  hibiscus
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda: How to protect your soils for bumper crop yield
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

It’s been a particularly “wild” time for the Crop Trust recently, with teams heading to far-flung corners of the world to hunt for crop wild relatives
Crop Trust

Climate change
How does climate change affect women farmers differently than men? Listen to the BBC World Service radio interview with Sophia Huyer

Rivers in the sky: How deforestation Is affecting global water cycles
Yale Environment 360

Agriculture is a major driver in Kenya’s economic growth
African Farming

The United States has appealed to the government of Ghana to reduce the country’s food imports by increasing investment in the agricultural sector
Daily Guide

WFP launches new initiative on food

Africa must commit itself to its own development
New Vision

The Conrad Food Resource Bank welcomes guests from Burkina Faso in Africa

Greenpeace Africa urges Machakos County gov’t to allocate budget towards sustainable farming
Jollof News

The Chinese government says it is committed to supporting Nigeria in achieving food security
Business Day

China’s Xi and India’s Modi lend to Africa ahead of BRICS summit

EU support to increase farmers’ voices: the Farmers’ Africa Programme
European Commission

Low tech, high impact: Can an affordable, hand-powered innovation boost food production in Africa?
Next Billion

Kenyan agritech startup Tulaa raises $627K seed round to fund its continued expansion in the East African country & further develop its platform
Biz Community

Food security and nutrition
Uganda: The country must produce more food
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Society needs radical adaptation to attain nutritional needs in 2050

USDA: Global food insecurity to drop by 336m over decade
Ethics Daily

Nigeria’s low investment in seeds undermines food security

Nutritious vitamin A orange maize boosts health and livelihoods in Zimbabwe

Scientist says Kenya needs paradigm policy shift to consumption of own crops

How insurgency causes setback to Nigeria’s food security
Business Day

Building research capacity for sustainable water and food security in drylands of sub-Saharan Africa (BRECcIA)

Report: Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation

Pests and diseases
Bristol professor joins international experts to discuss crop diseases that threaten global food security
University of Bristol

Smallholders grappling with fall armyworm in Kenya

Kenya: How to control bean stem maggot
Farmbiz Africa

Delegates looking at ways to deploy the most effective Fall armyworm-combatting technologies in southern Africa
Namibia Economist

What is a genetically modified crop? A European ruling sows confusion
New York Times

Royal Society statement on the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the application of genome editing technologies to plants and animals
The Royal Society

Organizations, scientific leaders send open letter to EC president about plant genome editing

EU court tries, but fails, to clarify rules on GMOs and CRISPR

No regulatory exemption for gene-edited products in EU
The Scientist

GM crop ruling shows why the EU’s laws are wholly inadequate
The Conversation

European ruling could slow Africa’s push for CRISPR crops

Court ruling could lock out the benefits of genome editing from Europe

Science setback? What’s next now that European court rules gene-edited crops are GMOs?
Genetic Literacy Project

Risk, hazard and the Precautionary Principle
Genetic Literacy Project

The GM debate
Ahead of EU decision on new breeding techniques, Belgium acknowledges field trials of CRISPR-edited corn
Genetic Literacy Project

The public doesn’t trust GMOs. Will it trust CRISPR?

Download the plant biology app today and access top research in plant science
Wiley Publishing

Report: Community composition and functions of endophytic bacteria of Bt maize
South African Journal of Science

Report: Mechanization in African Agriculture: A Continental Overview on Patterns and Dynamics
University of Bonn

Advances: The John Innes Centre magazine, Summer 2018
John Innes Centre

August 2018’s CONNECTED monthly newsletter now available with news of new scheme for early career researchers who are network members to apply for a funded training visit to a research group in the UK
CONNECTED Network for African Vector-Borne Plant Viruses