In the news...

January 31st, 2019 / B4FA Week in Review – 24 January 2019

Nigeria’s National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has approved the commercial release of Bt pest-resistant cowpea, its first genetically modified food crop. The decision follows nearly ten years of research seeking a solution to the scourge of the Maruca vitrata pod boring insect, a pest that can reduce cowpea yields by up to 90 percent.

Bt cowpea, developed by Nigerian scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is modified to resist the pest and will increase yields by 20 percent while reducing the need for pesticides. 

“Results from the research, have shown that Bt cowpea will reduce the use of pesticides from eight to about two sprays per season and increase yield up to 20 percent,” says a summary of the decision published by ISAAA. “This means that Nigeria will record a revenue increase of more than N48 billion ($132 million) annually from cowpea.”

Cowpea, popularly called “beans”, is an important staple food for Nigeria – so much so that it imports around 500,000 tonnes of cowpea annually, according to a report in Cornell’s Alliance for Science. This is Nigeria’s second GM crop approval; it released Bt cotton for commercial cultivation last July.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Lominda Afedraru, who writes for Uganda’s Daily Monitor about how to raise vegetables seedlings in greenhouses, and Michael Ssali, who reports on how to achieve high crop yields, also in the Monitor.

We are also delighted to highlight the Daily Monitor’s profile of Michael Ssali himself, tracing his career from English teacher to the bureau chief of the Masaka region to coffee farmer. B4FA greatly values Mr Ssali’s unique insights and contributions both as a Ugandan journalist and as a farmer.We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. 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.


Nigeria approves its first GMO food crop
Alliance for Science

Nigeria approves first GM food crop for open cultivation

Despite controversy, Nigeria ‘approves’ first genetically modified crop
Premium Times

Ssali combines journalism and farming
Daily Monitor

AgBio news

Researchers develop disease-resistant climate-smart grains to help eradicate poverty in Africa
Bakery and Snacks

Nigeria: NBMA solicits public comment on the application for GM cassava confined field trial 

COMESA to label seeds
Daily Monitor

Kenya: Questions galore as state pushes for adoption of GMOs
Daily Nation

IRRI recognized for excellence in transgenic research management

GMO crops create “halo effect” that benefits organic farmers, says new research
Alliance for Science

GMO corn is transforming farmers’ lives in Philippines
Alliance for Science

Pesticides and Food: It’s not a black or white issue, Part 1: Has pesticide use decreased?
Genetic Literacy Project

Pesticides and Food: It’s not a black or white issue, Part 2: Have pesticides improved?
Genetic Literacy Project

Pesticides and Food: It’s not a black or white issue, Part 3: How dangerous is glyphosate?
Genetic Literacy Project

Can ‘heart-healthy,’ gene-edited soybeans build consumer trust in new biotech crops?
Genetic Literacy Project

Wheat School: Biotech tools are vital here, and for developing countries
Real Agriculture

New technologies show better details on GM plants

A summary of the 11th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA): “Agriculture Goes Digital – Smart Solutions for Future Farming”

Bayer maintains strong position in Access to Seeds Index
Farmers Review

CropLife’s list of the most influential reports about plant science in sustainable agriculture, published over the last 12 months

A look at the neglected ‘1%’ of biotech crops that slashed chemical use and boosted yields
Genetic Literacy Project

Best practices

Uganda: How to achieve high crop yields
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Uganda: How to raise vegetables seedlings in greenhouses
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru


Africa and Asia come together to lead “Smart Food” – a global initiative to diversify staples
FARA Africa

Scientists developing biofortified ‘Amazon Peanut’ with boosted levels of disease-treating proteins, fatty acids
Genetic Literacy Project

World Vegetable Center looks into wild relatives of eggplant for food security

To secure the future of food, look to the ancestors of eggplant

“When we place an economic value on preserving biodiversity, markets will automatically shift.”
Food Tech Connect

Climate change and environment

Italy Prime Minister Conte opens Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development in Rome

To predict droughts, don’t look at the skies. Look in the soil… from space
The Conversation

Wasting & dining – the new water dilemma

The Sahel is engulfed by violence. Climate change, food insecurity and extremists are largely to blame
World Economic Forum

Dramatic growth in laws to protect environment, but widespread failure to enforce, finds report
UN Environment


AfDB helps transform agricultural production methods in Madagascar
African Farming

Youth unemployment, Africa’s biggest problem  – UNEP-EBAFOSA
Sun News Online

Planting for food and jobs… to move Ghana beyond aid

Smart agriculture in action: UN Environment and partners are working in Africa to boost agricultural production, create jobs, and counter climate unpredictability
UN Environment

An African opportunity for post-Brexit Britain

Continent in an uptrend
Welt Ohne Hunger

FAO encourages investing in rural development and agriculture
African Daily Voice

Global Research Hubs tackle world’s toughest challenges – UK Research and Innovation
UK Research and Innovation

AGCO and BMZ support farm mechanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa
African Farming

Energy and innovation

This app lets Kenya’s farmers monitor crops from eyes in the sky

Africa: Smart agriculture in action

Reducing high yield gaps with decision-support apps

How this female entrepreneur is using tech to fight food shortage In Zimbabwe

Food security

SENTINEL research project advocates improved food security in sub-Saharan Africa

AFRICA: World Resources Institute’s prescriptions to feed the world without destroying it

Analysis: food security project supports model farmers in Ethiopia
Addis Standard

Food Security Early Warning System – Agromet Update, Issue 3: 2018/2019 Agricultural Season

Pests and diseases

Sri Lanka: Protecting crops from the menace of Fall armyworm
Sunday Observer

Which insects transmit cassava viruses? A pump-prime funded project in Uganda & the UK aimed at better understanding which insect vectors transmit viruses associated with Cassava Brown Streak Disease

Gene drive alternative could lead pesky insects to dead ends


French MEP: Politicians should not play with people’s fears and pesticides

The GM debate

Study suggests science education improves attitudes about GMO food
Alliance for Science

Opportunities and resources

Report: FRR VOLUME 4 NO 1_2019:Adoption of Technologies and Crop Productivity in Ethiopia: The Role of Agricultural Information
FARA Africa

Call for proposals: The UK Medical Research Council and the UK Department for International Development African Research Leader scheme 2019, deadline 9 Apr 2019
Medical Research Council

Know the perfect candidate for the $100,000 Africa Food Prize? Nominate them here before Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Africa Food Prize

IUPAC 2019 offers 50 sponsored places to the next generation of leaders in crop protection to participate in Agri Summit, Ghent, Belgium 19-23 May. Apply now. Deadline 1 February

Free online course: Feeding a Hungry Planet – SDG Academy
SDG Academy

Free online courses: Feeding a Hungry Planet: Agriculture, Nutrition and Sustainability, starting February 11, 2019. Enroll now!

PAEPARD Funding Opportunities – January 2019

Genomics for Journalists: all-expenses-paid science “boot camps” for journalists, 24-26 March, University of Illinois. Deadline: 1 Feb 2019