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November 8th, 2018 /

This week, 13 members of the World Trade Organization have signed a communication stating that “precision biotechnology techniques, as a whole, constitute an essential tool for agricultural innovation. Their use provides farmers with access to products that increase productivity while preserving environmental sustainability.” The signatories of the International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology – released during a meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in Geneva, Switzerland – hope to launch a dialogue on how to support policies that enable agricultural innovation, including genome editing.

According to the WTO press release, “Proponents indicated that the debate on precision biotechnology could build on the discussion of recurrent concerns at the Committee, including the rise in anti-microbial resistance (AMR), the spread of animal diseases, the increase in pest pressures as well as the nexus between animal health and welfare. The new biotechnology tools carry the potential to reduce significantly the costs and timelines to bring new products to market – thereby enabling public researchers and small technology companies to support local needs and challenges, particularly in developing countries.”

Supporting countries thus far include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Paraguay, the United States, Uruguay and Viet Nam. To read the original statement, visit the WTO website.

Meanwhile, Tanzania’s confined field trials of GM maize, now two years old, are showing signs of success in withstanding stem borer and Fall armyworm as well as drought. The trials are being carried out in the semiarid Makutupora in Dodoma Region. Senior agricultural research officer Dr Justin Ringo states that the maize will benefit Tanzanian farmers as long as the government’s regulations allow commercialization of the seed.

In Ghana, scientists are soon to apply for commercial release of pest-resistant Bt cowpea, which, if they are successful, will be the country’s first genetically modified crop. Bt cowpea requires fewer pesticides and produces higher yields than conventional cowpea. According to a post in Cornell’s Alliance for Science blog, “The Bt cowpea variety developed by the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) … has shown a high level of resistance to the destructive maruca pod borer, which can destroy up to four-fifths of yields on cowpea farms.” Scientists are currently producing seeds of the variety in preparation for its commercial release approval.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Lominda Afedraru, who writes of Ugandan researchers battling anti-GMO propaganda, and Michael Ssali, who reports on the possibility of harnessing insect farming to reduce hunger and generate money.

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!


13 WTO members support policy approaches to enable innovation in agriculture

Tanzania’s field trials of GM maize shows signs of withstanding stem borer and Fall armyworm
Farmers Review Africa

Ghana prepares to commercialize its first GMO crop
Alliance for Science

AgBio news

Ugandan researchers hit the road to battle anti-GMO propaganda
Genetic Literacy Project, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Editing Nature: A call for careful oversight of environmental gene editing
Yale University

Genetic sequencing sheds new light on potato and sweet potato diversity
International Potato Center

Gene silencing could help boost rice yields in developing world
Genetic Literacy Project

What’s wrong with bananas: How industrial agriculture stole sex from our most important fresh fruit crop

Ghana: Farmers urge govt to fast track seed policy

Agri-tech can turn African savannah into global food basket – African Development Bank
African Brains

CRISPR gene editing could save pigs from devastating disease
Genetic Literacy Project

Can biotechnology help protect the world’s chocolate supply?
Genetic Literacy Project

Ghana: Int’l confab on ecological agric begins at Jirapa

India-Myanmar pigeon pea project gets a research boost
The Hindu

Genetic search reveals key to resistance in global cotton pest

Research shows that fighting world hunger can be profitable for ag biotech firms

Professor recommends patent system to regulate gene editing

Researchers develop a tool to predict off-target editing by CRISPR

Healthier oil? US farmers poised for first harvest of gene-edited soybeans
Genetic Literacy Project

USDA approves edible cotton
The Scientist

Best practices

Uganda: Insect farming can reduce hunger and generate money
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Irrigation: A game-changer for small-scale farmers
Daily Monitor

Nigeria: You can make millions farming mushroom – expert

Zimbabwe: Grow small grains, Mbire folk urged

Six ways agroecology can help shape the future of farming
Farming First

Ugandan entrepreneur encourages growing a garden in your bluejeans: giving backyard farming a new look
Daily Monitor


The lead scientist of a collecting mission to Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, blogs about the results of the banana samples that were sent for analysis

Climate change and environment

Climate change will make rice less nutritious, putting millions of the world’s poor at risk
The Conversation

5 major crops in the crosshairs of climate change

Mitigating against climate change key to improved food security and nutrition
Standard Digital

Q&A: Climate finance for poorer countries is ‘in our interest’

Fighting ‘existential crisis’ of encroaching desert sands
UN News

How Africa can up its game on water management for agriculture
The Conversation

Climate change: Oceans ‘soaking up more heat than estimated’

Insect populations are declining around the world. How worried should we be?

We must decolonise water rights for Africa to advance: The majority of small-scale farmers have no legal access to water
Financial Times

Global hunger for soybeans ‘destroying Brazil’s Cerrado savanna’

This is the ‘last generation’ that can save nature, WWF says


African Union’s development goals hampered by skills shortages
University World News

Africa’s future needs a better research culture—and not just for scientists
Quartz Africa

Tanzania: Small-scale farmers plead with govt to allocate 10pc of budget to agriculture
The Citizen

African women scholars urged to seize global opportunities
University World News

Ugandan agriculture graduates acquire advanced farming skills in Israel

Funding agriculture in East Africa, key to unlocking sector’s potential
The Exchange

Can organic production be the driving force for development in Africa?

Research is often unpaid in sub-Saharan Africa

UAE and Uganda to establish one of the world’s first agricultural free zones
The National

Aid to Africa focus of UN case studies
China Daily

Interview: China contributes greatly to curbing global hunger, food security, says FAO chief

FAO and the New Development Bank plan to join forces in boost for efforts to achieve 2030 agenda, focusing on water and soil

Let’s not talk about agriculture, but agribusiness
Daily Maverick

Food security key to poverty alleviation
The Herald

Tear down visa barriers that block scholarship

Quick take: Why is African agribusiness luring GCC investors?
The National

Irrigation-short Africa may get $9 billion boost to spur harvests

Energy and innovation

‘Thermaculture process more effective than pesticides per acre’
African Farming

Tech alone ‘won’t raise farm yields’

Technological innovations such as use of mobile phones to aid farming are unlikely to increase yields unless strong institutions exist, an academician says

Food security

‘Nearly 30 million people in Southern Africa food-insecure’

WFP calls for more effort to end hunger, malnutrition

World Food Day: How IITA is addressing food security in Africa
National Accord

OHAGA: Crop insurance can improve food security
Daily Nation

Zambia can be the breadbasket of Southern Africa

Pests and diseases

Plague of caterpillars threatening food crisis may be halted with safe pesticides
The Guardian

The greatest danger with aflatoxin contamination in food


Talking Biotech: How regulation threatens the future of biotechnology
Genetic Literacy Project

Viewpoint: Europe’s GMO process-based crop regulations are a great way to kill innovation
Genetic Literacy Project

FAO DG encourages lawmakers to transform food systems

The GM debate

U.S., WTO partners sign biotech statement
Farm and Dairy

New push in pipeline for acceptance of GMO seeds
IPP Media

Movie stars and soyabeans: China’s public worries pointlessly about GM food
The Economist

China struggling with consumer skepticism in push to introduce GMO corn
Genetic Literacy Project

Video: Why many food companies won’t pick a side in the GMO debate
Genetic Literacy Project

You may not like GMOs, but our planet sure does
GMO Answers

Opportunities and resources

Opportunity: Communication specialist, ref: FARA/adv/Comm/2018. Deadline: November 15, 2018

A range of fully-funded, 4-year, PhD studentships now available through the Doctoral Training Partnership (@NRPBIODTP) at the John Innes Centre
John Innes Centre

PhD Open Day: If you’re interested in doing a PhD with John Innes Centre, hear more about advertised projects and the Rotation PhD Programme at noon, 19 November 2018.
John Innes Centre

Resource: Latest food security news ‘hotspots’
Food Security Portal