In the news...

March 1st, 2018 /

This week, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrated its 10th anniversary by accepting a shipment of more than 70,000 seeds from 23 institutions around the globe to its storage facility – bringing the total number of seeds to more than 1 million varieties. The seeds include such staples as rice, wheat and maize, as well as cowpea, sorghum, pearl millet, pigeon pea, eastern European beans, the Estonian onion potato and the Bambara groundnut – a drought-tolerant crop being developed for cultivation in Africa. Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, stated, “Safeguarding such a huge range of seeds means scientists will have the best chance of developing nutritious and climate-resilient crops that can ensure future generations don’t just survive, but thrive.”

“[The anniversary] comes at a time when agriculture is facing multiple challenges from extreme weather and the demands of a world population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050,” said Norway’s Minister of Agriculture Jon Georg Dale. “This means it is more important than ever to ensure that seeds – the foundation of our food supply and the future of our agriculture – are safely conserved.”

As part of the celebrations marking the Seed Vault’s anniversary, the Crop Trust, which runs the vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), gave awards to the Global Gatekeepers of crop diversity. “The Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are the global gatekeepers of crop diversity, having spent decades committed to their belief in the absolute importance of seed conservation,” said Haga. “They understand – and have helped thousands of others learn about – the deep connection between seeds, our agricultural history, and our future. Without the passion and dedication of these scientists the world would be a far less rich, far less diverse place.”

Award recipients include Daniel Debouck of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Jean Hanson of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ahmed Amri of The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Hari D Upadhyaya of The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Dave Ellis of The International Potato Center (CIP) and Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton of The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The Crop Trust also gave a Legacy Award to Cary Fowler, one of the founders of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the Crop Trust’s former executive director, who oversaw the Vault’s design and construction. Congratulations to these esteemed protectors of the world’s crop biodiversity.

We are also pleased to highlight a piece by our own B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru published in Genetic Literacy Project about African agricultural scientists’ engagement with gene editing and synthetic biology research. The feature offers a sneak peek into what researchers are doing at the National Agriculture Crops Resources Research Institute in Namulonge, Uganda, including the development of disease-free cassava.

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Happy 10th anniversary to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault! Over 1 million unique crop varieties are now held there
Crop Trust

Seven scientists receive inaugural Legacy Awards at Svalbard for dedicating their careers to crop conservation

Africa could become a world agricultural leader in CRISPR and other new breeding techniques (NBTs)
Genetic Literacy Project, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

AgBio news

Ghana CSIR affirms safety of GM crops

Why we should genetically modify coffee
Real Clear Science

The latest research on GMO corn suggests it’s safe and even healthy

Study adds weight to benefits of genetically engineered crops

Study reveals how plants get their nitrogen fix

Sainsbury laboratory scientists solved 79-year-old mystery of plant response to heat

Green super rice for a greener revolution

ScienceAlly Plant researchers encounter the complexities of science as they seek to boost food security and nutrition in Africa through the development of disease-resistant GMO
Alliance for Science

The World Academy of Science (TWAS) announces new fellows for 2018, including include Dr Jennifer Ann Thomson

GMO potato can help Bangladeshi farmers cut pesticide use
Alliance for Science

Building a backup bee: The world’s largest almond grower is creating a novel replacement for the embattled honeybee
The Fern

Best practice

Fighting plant pests
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Maize everywhere, but no store anywhere

Farmers to increase yields with new biological fertilizer


Celebrating the “Global Gatekeepers” of crop diversity

Dr Hari D Upadhyaya, Head Genebank, bags Legacy Award for lifetime work on preservation of crop diversity. ICRISAT has deposited over 111,000 accessions of its mandate crops and five small millets at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Low genetic diversity afflicts coffee and dogs: Genetic engineering could help

Climate change

New climate-smart technologies will boost agriculture and jobs in West Africa
Climate Action

Helping small farmers weather climate shocks


Adesina urges America to support African agriculture as a business
African Brains

African women and their diaspora will drive global research

Prize awarded to women scientists from developing world

Social media campaign empowers women in science

Setting an innovative vision for transforming agriculture and food security under climate variability and change in East Africa

African Universities to help AUC achieve Agenda 2063

Decent jobs for rural youth key to Africa’s prosperity: UN
The Asian Independent

Job creation around agriculture can spur youth employment in Africa – UN agency
UN News

New COMESA initiative to ease access to quality seeds

African Development Bank leader calls for investment in African agriculture
Farm Futures

Tea and potatoes show potential of intra-Africa agricultural trade

Pacheco claims Mozambique can still export pigeon peas

Energy and innovation

Perfecting microbes to biomanufacture cells like computer chips
Genetic Literacy Project

Food security

UN warns of rising food insecurity across Africa
Daily Monitor

San community embraces permaculture for food security

Chemical-free, low-cost crop storage bags that preserve food longer now commercially available
Purdue University

Half a million more Kenyans to face food insecurity in 2018

Pests and diseases

‘Mycotoxins a threat to food safety’

New technology alone won’t halt aflatoxin menace, experts warn

Drought-hit Malawi farmers use sugar and fish soup to battle pests

Improved seeds could help Kenyan farmers battling armyworm
Daily Nation

Fall armyworm threat looms large over South Africa
African Farming

The GM debate

After two decades, scientists find GM corn can have positive impact on health, due to fewer mycotoxins

Meta-analysis of 21 years of data reveals benefits of GE maize

African scientist: Europe’s fear-based stance on GMOs hurts developing world’s ability to combat hunger


MSC and PhD Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management (CESAAM) Scholarships 2018 now available.

October university forum to focus on food security

VACANCY: 2 PhD positions: The role of symbiont-driven resistance to parasitoids in greenhouse biocontrol success. Wageningen University, Netherlands
Wageningen University

Open Call for Proposals of the 2nd Phase of the African Union Research Grant, February 23, 2018
African Union

Bioversity Int seeks an Associate Scientist, Banana Germplasm Evaluation, to join their team of experts

The first stage in the CONNECTED pump-prime funding calls will begin on Monday 12 March 2018, with an invitation to potential applicants to submit an Expression of Interest
Connected Network