In the news...

November 1st, 2017 / B4FA.org

A focus on cassava this week, as scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur, St. Louis, Missouri are using CRISPR to develop cassava plants that are resistant to the whitefly-borne viruses that wreak havoc on East African crops. The team are now conducting field trials of GM cassava in Uganda and Kenya. In Angola’s Zaire Province, an as-yet unidentified disease is destroying cassava plantations – as well as citrus, potatoes, and vegetables. Local leaders are calling for help from agronomy specialists to identify and fight the plague. Also in Angola, two cassava stem-multiplication and vegetable-growing micro-projects were launched in northeastern Lunda Norte province, under the FAO’s Tele-food campaign, with the hope of improving food security and self-sufficiency in rural communities, including refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Meanwhile, an alarm has been raised in Nigeria regarding cassava diseases by Dr Justin Pita of West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE), the body in charge of addressing root-and-tuber crop diseases. Dr Pita named begomovirus and brown streak viruses as a threat to Nigerian cassava crops as they move from East Africa to Central and West Africa. “We have to create tangible awareness on its existence and its possible impact on the nation’s cassava production if eventually it happens,” said Pita, who announced that WAVE is convening research institutes and universities in West and Central Africa to prepare for the emergence and spread of these viruses. Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world, according to an article by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe, where efforts are underway to improve cassava-based ethanol productionvia the Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-Processing (CAMAP) programme, rather than importing it from other countries. Currently, Nigeria consumes between 300 and  400 million litres of ethanol a year, of which only 3 per cent is produced domestically.

In other biotech news: researchers at Oxford University have added a maize gene to rice to ‘supercharge’ it with more efficient photosynthesis. If it works, rice productivity could be increased by 50 percent, which could go a long way towards feeding the planet’s increasing population. The FAO, Bioversity International, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the World Banana Forum havelaunched a programme to fight a new strain of Fusarium wilt, Tropical Race 4 (TR4). “This is a major threat to banana production in several regions of the world,” said Hans Dreyer, director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division. “We need to move quickly to prevent its further spread from where it is right now and to support already affected countries in their efforts to cope with the disease. And finally, a South African scientist has discovered that soil-dwelling fungus Beauveria bassianais an effective biocontrol agent against the maize weevil, a pest that destroys stored grains in Africa. Damaged grain is susceptible to molds that release mycotoxins, which can lead to liver poisoning and liver cancer in people and animals who eat it.

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Global

Breakthrough in efforts to ‘supercharge’ rice and reduce world hunger
University of Oxford

Big data meets CRISPR: ‘Cloud biology’ platform could speed up gene editing crop improvement
Genetic Literacy Project

First field trial with GM Maris Piper resistant to late blight went brilliantly
Potato Pro

CRISPR has the potential to revolutionize the biotechnology sector, both in agriculture and in health care
World View

GMO nutrition-enhanced corn in development could cut cost of animal feed
Genetic Literacy Project

This invisible edible coating lets fruits and vegetables stay fresher for longer
Food Tank

RNA editing possible with CRISPR-Cas13
The Scientist

Anthony Bourdain tells the story of how we can reduce food waste
Food Tank

European Parliament votes to ban glyphosate by 2022 in non-binding vote
Genetic Literacy Project

Is organic really better for the environment than conventional agriculture? What the data says
Our World in Data

Bangladesh to provide incentives for farmers to grow more GMO Bt eggplant
Genetic Literacy Project

New campaign launched to contain a major threat to banana production
Biz Agriculture

Video: Genetic scientists work to save global banana industry
BBC

Steroids for crops? Not quite, but peptides could revolutionise how food is grown
ABC

Should ‘precision breeding’ biotech be included in GMO regulation?
Food Navigator

Fact sheet: Farmer producer companies raising yields of minor millets in Madhya Pradesh, India
Biodiversity International

“GMOs: Road to sustainable agriculture”
Helix Works

Glyphosate-gate: Policy and science implications of IARC’s ‘predetermined’ cancer finding
Genetic Literacy Project

Pan-Africa

CRISPR crop: Disease-resistant cassava staple could help tackle hunger in Africa
Genetic Literacy Project

In a race to prevent hunger, Danforth researchers use CRISPR to gene-edit cassava
KWMU, St Louis Public Radio

The traditional vegetable and sweet potato research revolutionising the way we build food security & nutrition in Africa
BizCommunity

Adesina to set up a foundation for African youth development in agriculture
AllAfrica, by B4FA Fellow Jimoh Babatunde

New World Food Prize Africa Institute to produce Borlaug-Adesina Fellows, financing youth of Africa to feed Africa
CNBC Africa

‘It is not ideology that feeds people, it is science’, Food Prize winner says
Alliance for Science

Cowpea protected from a devastating pest, free for smallholder African farmers
EurekaAlert

Chinese experts transform African agriculture with education programs
Global Times

Initiative to grow Africa’s food security
Brand South Africa

Leaders push for new national accountability in African agriculture drive
Herald

Invasion of maize-eating caterpillars worsens hunger crisis in Africa
The Guardian

Is the fall armyworm crisis Intrexon’s next big opportunity?
Motley Fool

With two new initiatives, AfDB’s ‘Feed Africa’ strategy takes shape
Devex

Editorial: Africa has potential to become global food basket
New Times Rwanda

Africa’s cotton industry looks to the future
African Business

AfDB launches pilot programme to cultivate the savannah in eight African countries
African Brains

Africa calls for caution on glyphosate
SciDevNet

Op-ed: Women, Africa’s forgotten farmers
Daily Maverick

Could East Africa be the new frontier for food and grain production?
Biz Agriculture

Agriculture, the key to Africa’s food crisis
Afrikanews

Angola

Cassava stem multiplication and vegetable growing micro-projects launched in Lunda Norte
AllAfrica

Ghana

Capacities for emerging challenges in agriculture need attention
Ghana News Agency

Ghana holds Food Safety Conference
GhanaWeb

Kenya

Video: How gene editing could help Kenyan farmers combat crop disease
Genetic Literacy Project

Innovation for climate-smart agriculture key to ending hunger
AllAfrica

Kenya’s vegetable evangelist claims a prize – and takes on climate change
Thomson Reuters

Namibia

Fall armyworm outbreak expected
AllAfrica

Nigeria

Begomovirus, Brown Streak Viruses: 2 new cassava diseases might ravage Nigeria if not checked
Pulse

Eliminating crude ethanol imports through enhanced cassava production
Vanguard, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

NBBC scribe wants Nigerians to embrace agricultural biotechnology
World Stage

Nigeria prepares for commercial release of Bt cowpea and Bt cotton in 2018
ISAAA

VC of Obafemi Awolowo University wants govt to use OAU farm for biotech trials
Punch

Rwanda

Invest in food security and rural development
New Times Rwanda

South Africa

South African scientist’s maize weevil control breakthrough
Farmers Weekly

Tanzania

What Tanzania needs to achieve 2020 irrigation target
SciDevNet

Kilimanjaro farmers embrace vanilla
AllAfrica

TMA urges farmers to seek guidance from agro-experts
AllAfrica

Uganda

Ugandans to eat GMO potatoes in 2020
Observer

Disease-resistant potato field tests show positive results in Uganda
ISAAA

Talking Biotech: Uganda farmer-scientist on benefits of GMO disease-resistant bananas
Genetic Literacy Project

How to grow tissue culture bananas
Daily Monitor

Uganda – Is it still Africa’s bread-basket?
AllAfrica

Zaire

Plague destroys cassava fields in Tomboco
AllAfrica

Opportunities and resources

Open discussion (until 17 November): Sustaining the impact of capacity development initiatives for African youth in agriculture FAO

Event: XI International Symposium on Banana, 12-17 August 2018 Istanbul, Turkey