In the news...

October 21st, 2015 /

On Friday 16 October, the world celebrated the 36th World Food Day – an annual event that aims to mobilize action around hunger in the world’s most vulnerable populations. Coming on the heels of the United Nations’ adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals, World Food Day focused even more global attention on the issues of hunger, poverty and food security. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at a World Food Day ceremony held at Milan’s World’s Fair, where he declared “Hunger is a terrible injustice,” and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva appealed for sustainable agricultural systems and social protection. “[P]roduction and economic growth alone do not solve the problem, if the hungry remain excluded,” he said. “India, Brazil and Ethiopia and other countries show us that increasing the power of the very poor to buy food offers an affordable key to hunger eradication.”

Meanwhile, food leaders gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, for the 2015 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, an annual conference convened by the World Food Prize, where scientists, statesmen and experts in agriculture and food policy from around the world meet to discuss efforts to achieve global food security. During the course of the conference, the 2015 World Food Prize was presented to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of Brac, the world’s largest NGO, dedicated to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries, including Ghana and Ethiopia.

Responses to the Sustainable Development Goals through an African lens were published this week, including an interesting piece from Brookings called “An African take on the Sustainable Development Goals, and the strong emergence of an African voice”. International Policy Digest published “Delivering sustainable development goals in Africa”. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan co-wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs encouraging support of smallholder farmers as well as the use of digital technology and biotechnology to help transform African agriculture.

In biotech news, scientists at Iowa State University have discovered the genetic mechanisms that allow hybrid sorghum plants to perform better than their parents, while researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Bonn have found the first genetic evidence of how nematodes attack plants. Wheat scientists at Kansas State University have had a breakthrough in documenting the genes of wheat wild relatives, which will help develop improved crops, and Food World News reports that banana extinction is on the horizon as the Cavendish variety, conventional in Western countries,lacks the genetic resilience to withstand a new strain of the devastating Panama disease, which began to be a threat to African crops in 2013.

From the B4FA Fellows, Michael Ssali writes that Uganda, as a coffee producer, can’t ignore climate change, while Lominda Afedraru reports on how Uganda scientists and a US university are to breed an improved sweet potato. And Isaac Khisa writes of the Ugandan government’s plan to unveil an electronic system that will let farmers discern whether inputs are counterfeit.

Thank you for joining us this week! As ever, please send materials, questions and comments to

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

World Food Day mobilizes action on global hunger in alignment with new Sustainable Development Goals
Food Tank

What progress has been made in tackling world hunger?
Institute of Development Studies

FAO: Social protection can help farmers out of poverty

World Food Day 2015: Female farmers hold the key to food security and ending poverty 
IB Times UK

World Food Programme: 5 things you didn’t know about post-harvest loss
World Food Programme

Seed security a top priority for World Food Prize forum

“Hunger is a terrible injustice.” Ban Ki-moon celebrates World Food Day
Deutsche Welle

2015 World Food Prize presented to non-profit leader Sir Fazle Hasan Abed  
Ag Professional

More women researchers needed ‘to deliver food security’

In 2050 there will be 9 billion people on earth​. H​ow to feed them
Guardian, UK

Banana extinction is in the horizon once more
Food World News

Discovery of new genetic markers to improve wheat

Genetic mechanisms that allow hybrid sorghum plants to perform better than their parents

Scientists discover genetic evidence for a key link in understanding how pests attack plants

Iowa State University agronomist explores the genetics that allow hybrid plants to perform better than parents
Iowa State University

Gene modification does not destroy ‘natural’ food system, could promote organic farming 
Genetic Literacy Project

The EU Commission is considering how genome editing should be classified, heralding the next phase of the GM debate
FG Insight

Talking Biotech podcast: GMO corn experiment for all; sugar beet domestication and breeding
Genetic Literacy Project

Sustainable farming practices you didn’t know are used with GMO crops
GMO Answers

Report: Public engagement on GMOs: When science and citizens connect
National Academies Press

Standing up for science
Nature Biotechnology

My hero is Norman Borlaug, and here’s why
Entomology Today

New brief explains how biofortification is part of dietary diversity
Harvest Plus

Podcast: Farming Today from the Universal Expo – “Feeding the Planet” w/ Mark Lynas

Agriculture: A $2.4 trillion industry worth protecting
Crop Life International


An African take on the Sustainable Development Goals, and the strong emergence of an African voice

Food and the transformation of Africa, by Kofi Annan and Sam Dryden
Foreign Affairs

Delivering sustainable development goals in Africa
International Policy Digest

Local start-ups hold the key to transforming Africa’s seed industry
The Conversation Africa

Another view: Africa’s farmers need tools to succeed
Des Moines Register

Lessons from McDonald’s that can help solve Africa’s food crisis
The National

Financing youth in African agriculture is a must
IPP Media

Africa gains in health, education, but numbers of poor grow
World Bank

The African Breadbasket by Paul Kagame & K.Y. Amoako
Project Syndicate

Report: “The Cost of Hunger in Africa” addresses child undernutrition in Egypt, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Uganda
World Food Programme

Africa’s youth and abundant arable land are a potential winning combination
The Conversation Africa


Ethiopia: Adopting biotechnology for agricultural improvement 

Ethiopia ‘should support domestic crop biotechnology research and development’
Genetic Literacy Project

Extension service a way out from subsistence farming


National food security organisation holds meeting on land, seed management


Sorghum – tips for a good crop

Strawberry farming – a get-rich crop or the latest fad?


Malawi’s toxic harvest: the problem with aflatoxins


Morocco’s agriculture-focused ‘Green Plan’ must benefit all, says UN Rights expert


The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) tasks farmers on modern biotechnology

Rice: Nigeria needs Brazilian model


Uganda, as a coffee producer, can’t ignore climate change
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Uganda scientists, US university to breed improved sweet potato
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Is agriculture still Uganda’s economic backbone?

Uganda Biosciences Information Center holds awards ceremony for 3rd National Biotech Essay Contest

Gov’t to unveil electronic system letting farmers know if inputs are counterfeit
The Independent, by B4FA Fellow Isaac Khisa


Addressing food security in Zimbabwe
Africa Times

Opportunities & resources

Work streams for high-level conference on Feeding Africa: Action plan for agricultural transformation – 21-23 October 2015

Event: IFPRI director general to speak at A Sustainable Food Future, 7 Dec 2015, London

Call For Papers – Pioneering STEM in Africa 2015 Summit, 3-4 Dec, Royal Society, London

“The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa” by Calestous Juma, second edition in paperback now available
Oxford University Press