In the news...

October 4th, 2018 /

This week, for the first time, scientists from Brazil, the US and Germany used CRISPR-Cas9 to create a new crop from a wild plant within a single generation. Using a relative of the wild tomato from South America as the parent plant species, the researchers modified it so that the following plants were larger than the wild tomato, produced 10 times the number of fruits, and had more of an oval shape, which prevents splitting. The modified plants retained the flavor and health-giving lypocene content of the original plant. This breakthrough proves that it will now be possible to take healthy plants and transform them into entirely new crops. The results have been published in Nature Biotechnology.

Another article this week announced that CRISPR may similarly be used to modify Physalis pruinosa, otherwise known as the groundcherry or Chinese gooseberry. Currently sold only as a specialty fruit, researchers think that the nutrient-packed groundcherry – loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin B, beta-carotene, phytosterols, and antioxidants – could be better harnessed and more widely cultivated if it could be amended to grow in closer clusters, making it easier to harvest, and to not drop its fruits as easily, a problem that raises the danger of contamination.

In Nigeria, the government has granted permits for confined field trials on genetically modified maize, rice, cassava, sorghum and cowpea after an in-depth assessment of socio-economic, environmental and public health effects. The field trials are aimed at developing crop varieties that are pest- and disease-resistant. It is hoped that successful GM crops will help mitigate losses from climate change and other environmental stressors.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Lominda Afedraru, who writes about the potential opportunities Uganda may have lost due to its delay in embracing agricultural biotechnology, and from Michael Ssali, who likewise urges his government to pass the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Act so that farmers may take benefit from biotech innovation.

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. We look forward to hearing from you!


Pioneering biologists create a new crop through genome editing

CRISPR tames the wild groundcherry

Nigeria: Government commences field trials on GMO crops

Opportunity lost: Has Uganda paid a price for not embracing GMOs, biotechnology?
Genetic Literacy Project, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

AgBio news

Evolution of plant breeding
SAI Food

Scientists have moved one step closer to RNA editing, which could be the next stage of CRISPR

French beans (mishiri) farmer In Meru puts soil analysis to the test

Uganda: Increase science application in agriculture
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Nigeria: Kebbi records bumper millet harvest

Double-stranded RNA from GM corn breaks down rapidly in agricultural soils

GMO plants could boost production of earth-friendly biofuels
Genetic Literacy Project

The Green Revolution has yet to transform African agriculture
IPP Media

Ministry of agriculture developing new technology to offer quality potato seeds
FarmBiz Africa

India: These farmers are reaping rich dividends
The Hindu

We’ll test new ideas in India, and export them to other geographies
Business Today

Best practices

Burkinabe farmer wins ‘alternative Nobel’ for drought-fighting technique

10 elements of agroecology that can guide us toward sustainable food systems

Uganda: Former politician Dr Ian Clarke does not regret turning to farming
Daily Monitor

Do biotech crops boost yields for organic farmers?
Genetic Literacy Project

Africa’s nomadic herders help, not harm, land and planet – UN

Explore new urban farming ideas in Nourished Planet


More than a thousand vegetables, many of them forgotten
Biodiversity International

Senegalese chef puts supergrain fonio on New York menus to boost African farmers

Innovators look to “accidental crops” as a nutritious, environmentally friendly and free source of food

Climate change & environment

Record-high yields suggest climate change no threat to coffee production
Genetic Literacy Project

Climate Hazards Group: Strengthening defences against food insecurity
Open Access Government

Living Planet: Is climate change to blame for extreme weather in Africa?

Kenya: Video – As fortunes in livestock farming continue to dwindle due to perennial drought, some pastoralists in Turkana have now ventured into crop farming
Kenya CitizenTV


We’ll only stop young African scientists from leaving if we help them fix these key problems at home
Quartz Africa

Third CAADP leadership retreat opened to boost Africa’s agriculture
African Farming

Global collaboration needed to win war on hunger, says AfDB head
Public Finance International

One billion people in hunger – AfDB

African Development Bank seeks partnerships to lift 1 billion people out of hunger global hunger

2018 Apiexpo: Why Nigeria must harvest beekeeping gains

Reviving Nigeria’s agricultural sector

NGOs are causing Africa’s agriculture to stagnate
Modern Ghana

Gender gaps in African agriculture are holding back progress
Eagle Online

Leaving no one behind: Empowering Africa’s rural women for Zero Hunger and shared prosperity

Africa mismanaged its development ways: Fixation on commodity exports pulled nations deeper into unequal trade alliances
Gulf News

How Olam leverages its African footprint to improve cocoa sustainability
Food Navigator

Making markets work for indigenous vegetables in the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya

Belt and Road initiative aligns with African nations
The Telegraph

Nigeria: IITA and AfDB to help Taraba transform cassava in the framework of TAAT

Facebook ropes in African leaders
Business Report

Energy and innovation

Kenyan entrepreneur wins global award for increasing farmers’ yields with solar energy
FarmBiz Africa

Promising blockchain applications for agriculture
ICT Update

Food security

Nigeria: Escalating humanitarian crisis and apprehension over food insecurity

Pests and diseases

Report: Plant-Parasitic Nematodes and Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa
Annual Reviews

Global actions needed to combat fall armyworm

EFSA re-confirms toxicity of organic pesticide, exposes PEST Committee boss

We must stop the relentless march of pests that attack crops
The Telegraph


The Netherlands: EU ruling on new breeding techniques could harm seed exports
Cornell Alliance for Science

Report: We Need Smarter Regulation of Food and Agricultural Biotechnology
Regulatory Transparency Project

The GM debate

Video: Biotech could drive sustainable economic growth, but public support is crucial
Genetic Literacy Project

Could green benefits of biotech crops win over ‘ideological’ environmentalists?
Genetic Literacy Project

What CRISPR gene editing has taught us about the GMO debate
Genetic Literacy Project

Opportunities and resources

Global Plant Council calendar of events
The Global Plant Council

Report: Making markets work for indigenous vegetables in the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya

Webinar: Future Climate for Africa – Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development in sub-Saharan Africa, 4 October 2018, 9:00 EDT
Future Climate for Africa

A decision-making tool for countries to implement the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing
Biodiversity International

ISAAA’s database of Biotech/GM crop approvals for various biotechnology stakeholders

Collaborate with African partners to increase the pace of development & scale of uptake of agricultural & food systems innovation? Register for DFID’s Agri-Tech Catalyst networking event on 5 Oct, Edinburgh
Innovate UK

Register for the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network e-conference on the response to Fall armyworm in Africa, Oct 22-26