In the news...

July 26th, 2018 /

As the Week in Review prepared to go to press this week, news broke that the EU’s top court had ruled that new gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 count as GMOs and should be regulated as such. This goes against the recommendations of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC)—the body representing the national science academies of the EU member states—and other scientific authorities, whose stance is that a product that does not contain foreign DNA should not fall under GM legislation.

“The potential costs of not using a new technology, or being slow in adoption, must be acknowledged,” EASAC has stated. “There is no time to lose in resolving the problems for food and nutrition security in Europe. More broadly, there should be full transparency in disclosing the process used and the EU should seek to regulate the trait and/or product rather than the technology used in generating that product. That is, when considering safety issues, the focus should be on assessing whether the novel attributes of the plant might represent a risk to the environment or human health, irrespective of the breeding technique employed.” This ruling came as something of a surprise, as  European Court of Justice advocate general Michal Bobek had, in January, advised that organisms with no added foreign DNA could be granted exemption from GMO rules. A summary of the ruling may be found here.

In Ethiopia, a conflict continues over the patent right to teff, a grain indigenous to the country and one of its most important staples. Dutch company Health and Performance Food International (HPFI) has registered the patent right for the preparation of teff products in five countries since 2003. Ethiopian legal experts are now preparing to file charges at the International Court of Arbitration to reclaim the patent right for teff. The grain originated in Ethiopia between BC4000 and BC1000.

According to an article in the Ethiopian Herald, “a 2005 agreement between Ethiopia and the Dutch company HPFI gave HPFI access to 12 Ethiopian teff varieties, which it was to use for developing new teff-based products for the European market. In return, the company was to share substantial benefits with Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Biodiversity Conservation. HPFI managed to obtain a broad patent on the processing of teff flour in Europe covering ripe grain as well as fine flour, dough, batter and non-traditional teff products. This patent, along with other values of the company, had then been transferred to new companies set up by the same owners, sources indicated.”

From the B4FA Fellows, we have two best practice pieces from Uganda. Michael Ssali writes about getting the most out of your farm by seeking the advice and cameraderie of extension workers and fellow farmers. Meanwhile, Lominda Afedraru discusses the best way to increase one’s watermelon yield in “The ABCs of growing watermelons”.

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EU top court rules new breeding techniques count as GMOs

Top EU court: GMO rules cover plant gene editing technique

Plant breeding techniques: Commission wants broader reflection on innovation in seeds sector

European court appears poised to rule that gene edited crops should not be regulated as GMOs
Genetic Literacy Project

Ethiopia: Attorney general to sue Dutch company over teff patent
New Times

Dutch company using scientific jargon to avoid teff patent right controversy
Ethiopian Herald

AgBio news

Eliminating viruses from cassava germplasm so it can safely be transported from East Africa to its genebank in Nigeria, where it’ll be conserved & made available to breeders & farmers

Nigeria: Kebbi rice farmers lament fertilizer shortage
Economic Confidential

“The New Breed — Training the Next Generation of African Plant Breeders, in Africa” has been nominated for the 2018 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding

Ghana: West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) boosts AGRA’s African food security vision

Uganda’s textile industry declines while its neighbors embrace GMO cotton
Alliance for Science

Nigeria: Cassava growers train Edo farmers on mechanisation, gap

Tanzania: Subsidise improved seeds, sunflower farmers plead

Kenya: Locals get training on tissue banana farming

New report identifies five breakthroughs to address urgent challenges and advance food and agricultural sciences by 2030

Gene editing the phytoene desaturase alleles of Cavendish banana using CRISPR/Cas9

Legumes for poverty alleviation, nutrition security & sustainable development. International Food Legume Research Conference highlights

GM crop adoption continues to lead to greater sustainability & socioeconomic opportunities for global farmers & citizens, according to new studies

Plants and fungi have co-evolved for millions of years and established very distinctive metabolisms. Yet in some cases, make structurally very similar, mirror, or even identical molecules
John Innes Centre

Orphan no more: Genomic boost to chickpea yield, climate resilience

Day in the life of … a wheat bioinformatician on her own research path
Earlham Institute

Kenya: High quality grafted fruit seedlings for Nyanza farmers
Farmbiz Africa

Japanese researchers assemble first accurate buckwheat genome

Vietnamese farmers share experiences in GM maize planting

Weird new fruits could hit aisles soon thanks to gene-editing
The Guardian

Best practices

Uganda: The ABCs of growing watermelons
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda: Getting the most out of your farm
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow MIchael Ssali

Beekeeping, the new eco-friendly cash cow for small scale farmers

Organic smallholders are cultivating resilient rice systems
Cambridge Core Blog

The importance of proper grain storage for food security
Farmers Review Africa

To feed the world sustainably, repair the soil
Scientific American


Ethiopia vs Europe: The intellectual property of an ancient grain, teff

Why we should cherish the ground we walk on

Check out the places that FAO designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)


China-Africa cooperation is a model of success; sharing resources is mutually beneficial rather than predatory
The New Times

Middle Eastern investment in Africa: A means to improve gulf food security?
Future Directions

Iowa food tech startup KinoSol to send 1,000 food dehydrators to Africa
Silicon Prairie News

Agriculture e-learning hub goes live
University World News

Video: The march towards a Green Revolution in Africa

Young, rich and ambitious: Nigeria’s ‘gentleman farmers’

Searching for balance in African food ecosystems
News Day

Blue Economy movement gaining traction in Africa
Financial Tribune

African scientists challenged to invest in developing communication skills to fight food insecurity and malnutrition

Energy and innovation

CABI launches space-age technology to fight crop-devastating pest outbreaks in Kenya
African Farming

FarmCrowdy continues to lead the digital revolution in agriculture
Ventures Africa

How satellite imagery is improving agriculture in developing countries
Columbia University

Need to accelerate your plant research or breeding? Introducing our protocols for speed breeding 2.0! How to scale up using large glasshouse facilities fitted with LED lighting, now available on BioRxiv
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Why Africa needs more agritech entrepreneurs

Now might be the time to invest in African agritech
IT News Africa

Food security & nutrition

Talking Biotech: The story of a vitamin-infused sweet potato that helped cut Africa’s infant mortality 25 percent
Genetic Literacy Project

Food security is Gambia’s most current lingering agriculture problem
Jollof News

Higher food costs feed ‘hidden hunger’ of poor dietary diversity
Business Day

Kenyan food security lessons, opportunities
Business Daily

Under the radar: Chronic food insecurity could hurt Liberia’s economic growth and stability
Global Risk Insights

Urban agriculture could transform food security

What needs to be done to ensure food security in Nigeria
CNBC Africa

Iron-biofortified pearl millet consumption improves cognitive outcomes in Indian adolescents

New study proves iron-biofortified beans enhance health outcomes for Rwandan women

Pests and diseases

Learning from plant protection regulatory data and Fall armyworm in Africa


Battle lines drawn as EU court weighs fate of gene-edited crops

Viewpoint: German farmers say neonicotinoid ban throws them back into ‘plant protection stone age,’ forces use of ‘dangerous’ pesticides
Genetic Literacy Project

The GM debate

Viewpoint: Should the ‘feed the world’ argument be reframed when it comes to GMOs?
Genetic Literacy Project

Looking for a list of GMO fruits & veggies that have animal genes inserted into them? There aren’t any
GMO Answers

Resistance to genetically modified seeds in Africa
Deutsche Welle

Throttled by activists at home, Indian GM seed firms see great demand overseas


Opportunity: Aflatoxin-control challenge for Africa, call for proposals. Seed funds of USD 15,000 to be awarded at the 3rd PACA Partnership meeting in Dakar, Senegal (2-4 October 2018). Deadline: 24 August 2018

Event: Revolution in Food and Biomass Production, Cologne, Germany, Oct 1-2

Interested to know about the latest advances in hybrid rice technology? Apply now and be equipped with advanced skills on hybrid rice seed production. Hybrid Seed Production Training, 23-25 October 2018, Hyderabad, India
IRRI Education

Opportunity: The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) now seeking competent individuals to fill posts    


Report: Socioeconomic factors that constrain or facilitate the adoption of technologies that promote sequestration of soil carbon in East Africa

Report: Multi-stakeholder partnerships: A report by The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition

East Africa Food Security Outlook, June 2018 to January 2019 – South Sudan

Mechanized: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture Value Chains, Malabo Montpellier Panel
Malabo Montpellier Panel

Drumbeat: Africa Bioscience Trends, Issue 6