This week, B4FA highlights computational biologist Geoffrey Siwo who is out to ensure that the ground-breaking gene-editing tool CRISPR will be available to all scientists everywhere in the world. He argues, “if scientists in Africa can read open-access papers about CRISPR but have no means to use it in experiments, they still can’t transform that knowledge into technologies that will improve the health of Africans.”
The diets of more than two billion people lack essential vitamins and minerals, making them vulnerable to disease and disability. To counter this, biofortification uses conventional crop breeding techniques to increase the nutritional value of the staple foods consumed most widely by low-income families in Africa, Asia and Latin America including cassava, maize (corn), beans, sweet potato, millet, rice, and wheat. A new map now shows the 60+ countries around the world where more than 290 biofortified varieties of 12 staple food crops have been released and are being grown or tested.
In other biotech news, we learn of a collaboration between researchers from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya, Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) in Tanzania and the Basque Institute for Research and Development in Agriculture (NEIKER) seeking to develop cassava varieties that are resistant to diseases and able to tolerate different environmental conditions such as heat, cold and drought. From Uganda, we further learn of research at the National Crop Resources Research Institute seeking to develop GM cassava that is resistant to cassava brown streak disease and cassava mosaic disease both of which are threatening food security. And we also report on an inter- and transdisciplinary research that is taking a novel approach for improved soil and crop management in yam systems for improved food security in West Africa
We also hear from B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru about researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya and Uganda’s National Agricultural Livestock Research Institute (NaLRI) working to develop an anti-tick vaccine to help livestock farmers. “We have antigens which can be used to produce candidate vaccines for tick-borne diseases affecting animals in the cattle corridor of Uganda,” explains collaborator Dr. Halid Kirundafrom Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MBAZARDI), adding, “once the vaccine is ready for use we will export it to other African countries suffering the same challenge.”
And there are two positive developments in the on-going war against the devastating fall armyworm. First, there is the launch by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) of a talking mobile phone app – Nuru – that will identify the caterpillar that is threatening the food security of 300 million people across Africa. And from a trial in Mozambique, we learn that Water Efficient Maize for Africa(WEMA) has been shown to resist the attacks from the pest and to provide a lasting solution to the plague.
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Biofortification’s growing global reach
East African research centres plot for climate-ready cassava
Harvest Science News
Searching for biotech solutions to problems plaguing livestock in Africa by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Genetic Literacy Project
Can biotech crops solve the hunger crisis?
Genetic Literacy Project
Alliance for Science
Open Access Government
Uganda: New rice harvester offers better harvest
Alberto Salas has dedicated his life to finding, researching, and preserving potato wild relatives, the distant relatives of the common spuds we enjoy today
International Potato Center
Monitor Farm Clinic: Sponsors promise more partnerships
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
New TimesFood security
Why it’s important to recognise multiple food systems in Africa
Possible solution to forthcoming food crisis
GODAN Action is a three year project to enable data users, producers and intermediaries to engage effectively with open data and maximise its potential for impact in agriculture and nutrition
Pests and diseases
WEMA maize shows resistance to armyworm
The GM debate
Gene editing, GMOs, and fear-based marketing
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
Is quantitative genetics still necessary in this age of genomics?
African Journal of Agricultural Research
Event: International Conference on Arabidopsis Research, annual conference centered on all aspects of modern plant biology using thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) as a model system. 25-29 June 2018, Turku, Finland
Opportunity: Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Ghana Chapter, has opened nominations for its media awards recognizing outstanding work of journalists in agriculture and biotechnology. Deadline: June 30
Enter the 2018 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards