In the news...

November 29th, 2018 / B4FA.org

This week, B4FA Fellow Rosemary Mirondo reports on Tanzania’s surprise decision not only to ban all GM crop trials but also to order the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) – which has been conducting field trials of GE drought- and insect-resistant maize and whitefly- and virus-resistant cassava crops – to immediately destroy all evidence of its research thus far. Dismayed Tanzanian scientists say that this represents a setback of a decade’s worth of biotech advancement in the country.

Mirondo reports that the government’s reason for the ban involved accusations that TARI contravened procedures. “[TARI] were supposed to give my ministry the findings which in turn would have consulted with other ministries to satisfy ourselves that the said GM seeds were safe and did not carry any risks to humans,” said agriculture minister Japheth Hasunga in an interview.

An opinion piece in Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) asking “Why did Tanzania just pull the plug on its GMO crop trials?” sums up the situation and considers the reasons behind the ban as well as what’s at stake for food security – as maize and cassava are both staple crops for Tanzania. Addressing the stated reason for the ban, GLP contributing writer Marc Brazeau says: “This is a very strange rationale. While if it’s true that TARI overstepped their bounds, that needs to be addressed in some way. However, it’s odd that the rules governing the trial work to limit transparency and public confidence in the results. In addition, it’s hardly a solid pretext for ending the trials and destroying the evidence. Visits from NGOs and local government officials, even if prohibited, have no bearing on the findings of the trials or the safety and efficacy of the crops.”

Meanwhile, at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity currently taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Cornell’s Alliance for Science interviewed experts on the role of agricultural biotechnology in conserving biodiversity. Dr Margaret Karembu, director of ISAAA AfriCenter Kenya, noted that agricultural biotech can increase productivity per unit of land and reduce the release of chemicals harmful to pollinators. Biotechnologist Dr Manuela Campa of Stellenbosch University in South Africa reduces food waste, making land use more efficient. Both experts noted that biodiversity is the source of genes on which biotechnological innovation depends.

We hear from B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali this week, who writes on the launch of the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) at Lukaya in Kalungu District, Uganda. The six-year pilot project funded by the government of Uganda, the International Development Agency (IDA) and the World Bank aims boost Uganda’s agricultural production by easing access to inputs and provide post-harvest facilities and equipment to farming organizations. Among the prioritized crops will be maize, beans, rice and coffee. Ssali also encourages the adoption of home-grown biotechnology innovations so as to fight crop diseases for the sake of food security.

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. We look forward to hearing from you!

Headlines

Tanzania: Shock as government bans GMO trials
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Rosemary Mirondo

Why did Tanzania just pull the plug on its GMO crop trials?
Genetic Literacy Project

Biotechnology boosts biodiversity conservation, experts say
Cornell Alliance for Science

AgBio news

IITA project develops new orange fleshed sweet potato variety to tackle malnutrition, reduce diabetes
Sundiata Post

A TVET-University collaboration generating impact: The CARP+ Seed Potato Project in Kenya
Ruforum

New study confirms Bt eggplant reduces pesticide use, helps farmers
Alliance for Science, by Mark Lynas

Check out this interactive map showing the public-sector biotech products in the pipeline around the world
CropLife International

Pakistan achieves biotech all-time high in 2017
ISAAA

Closer to harvest? The status of the Golden Rice project
Flip Science

Talking Biotech: As demand for food rises, the world needs more plant scientists
Genetic Literacy Project

Can genetic engineering deliver a natural microbial fertilizer for crops?
Genetic Literacy Project

India: Researchers develop transgenic rice with reduced arsenic accumulation
Down to Earth

CRISPR-Cas9 used to confer virus resistance in plants
ISAAA

Will Argentina be the first country approving a GMO wheat?
eFarm News

Genetically engineered corn may help offset effects of climate change
ISAAA

The amazing ways artificial intelligence Is transforming genomics and gene editing
Forbes

Best practices

Nigeria: Building an improved onion storage facility in Sokoto
World Vegetable Center

Uganda: Farm clinic to boost greengram production
Daily Monitor

Biodiversity

Sorghum: Africa’s untapped commercial agricultural potential
The Chronicle

Legumes offer hope for food security, poverty eradication
Standard Digital

There are more than 100 wild potato species found in South America & some of those are native to Brazil.  Samples are still being being collected
Crop Wild Relatives

Report: Characterization and Evaluation of Genetic Resources of Minor Pulses for Crop Improvement
World Vegetable Center

Climate change

5 things you need to know about the UN Emissions Gap Report
World Resources Institute

Development

Uganda: High expectations from cluster project
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Seeds for Impact West Africa Program launches in Ghana to support sustainable agriculture in Africa
Modern Ghana

Ghana: Ministry of Food and Agriculture plan to register 1 million farmers on Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) Programme
Prime News Ghana

World Bank, South Korea sign $3.8M grant to advance science in Africa
CGTN

Roundup: African experts root for paradigm shift to achieve agricultural transformation
XinHuaNet

East Africans plead with govts to raise agriculture budgets
The Citizen

Akinwumi Adesina, spearheading good governance by leading agricultural innovation and economic growth of Africa
Africa News

Energy and innovation

Tanzania: How radio changes maize farmers’ lives
The Citizen

How mobile phones are helping farmers grow bigger harvests
Gates Notes

Kenya: Telegram group connects over 22,000 onion, tomato, watermelon, cabbage, chili and capsicum farmers to markets
FarmBiz Africa

Kenya: Timely data will unlock farming potential, tech experts advise
Business Daily

Innovating for our future of food and agriculture
FAO

Food security

Ghana: Experts brainstorm on food, security
AllAfrica

Food security: Africa should be the answer
News24

Food safety index launched to alleviate hunger in Africa
Daily Nation

Rwanda: Nutrition gatekeepers: The indispensable role of parents
The New Times

Kenya: Officials from over 20 counties meet in Nakuru to discuss food security
Hivisasa

Amidst rising hunger, BCFN Forum to promote food sustainability
ReliefWeb

Small farms grow a large portion of the world’s food
The Nature of Food

Pests and diseases

Uganda: Fight crop diseases for food security
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

The value of testing: Fall armyworm tech
Fall Armyworm Tech Prize

How Africa is fighting Fall armyworm
Farming First

Animated infographic: Key facts about cassava in Africa and the devastating impact of vector-borne plant viruses
Connected Virus Network

Policy

East African Legislative Assembly visits WorldVeg in Tanzania
World Vegetable Center

East African Community (EAC) harmonises regulations to boost regional seed trade
Chimp Reports

The GM debate

Viewpoint: Science denialism threatens the potential of gene-edited crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Why fears in Nigeria over the safety of GMO cotton are misplaced
Genetic Literacy Project

Genetic modification technology benefits smallholder farms
The Daily Californian

Is opposition to genetic engineering moral?
National Review

Fear of GMOs scares China’s consumers, slows agricultural innovation
Genetic Literacy Project

Africa kicks against proposed gene drive moratorium at UN Biodiversity Conference
Alliance for Science

Opportunities and resources

FAO: El Niño 2018-19
ReliefWeb

Opportunity: Africa Oxford Initiative Visiting Fellowships 2019 seeks visiting fellows
Africa Oxford Initiative

Vacancy at CIP Potato for a coordinator for its growing Sweet Potato Research and Development Program in Ethiopia
CGIAR

Webinar: Urban & Peri Urban Horticulture: Experience from the field – Namibia, 29 November 2018 15.00-16.00 pm (Rome Time – GMT+2)
FAO

Opportunity: ENABLE Youth Uganda seeks to support young agri-entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35. Application deadline: 30th November, 2018
The Enable Youth Programme

Wageningen University short course: Plant genetic resources and resilient seed systems for sustainable food security 21 October 2019 until Fri 8 November 2019
Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University short course: Climate change and food security nexus, 16-27 September 2019
Wageningen University & Research