In the news...

May 10th, 2017 / B4FA.org

This week there is much news from the world of bioscience. First we report on the 110-fold increase in adoption rate of biotech crops globally in the last 21 years of commercialization – growing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2016.  Commenting on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2016 report, Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) commented “The United Nations warns that our food supply must double by 2050 to meet the world’s expected population growth to 9 billion people … GM crops produce bigger yields on less land and help farmers and growers mitigate the environmental challenges of climate change”.

Another study published this week by the Stockholm Environment Institute, Creating Sustainable Bioeconomies: The Bioscience Revolution in Europe and Africa, discusses the new opportunities for economic transformation are already being built on Africa’s abundant biological resources and how the emerging bioeconomy has the potential to transform primary production, especially in agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, health and industry.

We also report on developments in plant breeding: unlocking the genetic secrets of the plant prized for producing tea in China; scientists in Brazil taking steps towards genetically modifying sugar cane so it naturally produces more sucrose; and the success of 77 scientists in sequencing the barley genome, after 10 years of work.

Our featured article (opposite) looks at the work of plant breeders, across the globe, to develop new hybrid banana varieties with 30 per cent higher yields and a 50 per cent increase in diseases resistance compared to the current varieties. Further, we report on scientists from the global maize research community intensifying their work to eradicate fall army worms that are devastating farms across southern and eastern Africa.

But less encouraging news comes from a team of researchers at Cornell University, United States, who conducted a genomic analysis of cassava varieties and found that mutations have corroded it, leading to many dysfunctional versions of genes and putting this staple food for hundreds of millions at risk.

From the Genetic Literacy Project, we include discussions of whether the plant patent system restricts innovation and hurts small breeders at a time when we desperately need continuous agricultural innovation, and how biofortified genetically engineered foods with increased iron, zinc and vitamin A can help tackle that hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiency.

And lastly this week, we report from the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum where the consensus was that there are huge business opportunities for graduated African youths in agriculture and agribusiness. However, Nteranya Sanginga, the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), reminded the Forum that helping African youths to invest in agricultural production and the agricultural value chain is all too often discussed, but little is actually done by governments.

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Global
Report: Biotech/GM Crops Surge to a New Peak of 185.1 Million Hectares in 2016
ISAAA

Report shows GM crops favored by world’s farmers
Bio

With the barley genome sequenced, better beer and whiskey is on the table
New Atlas

Genetics to boost sugarcane production
SciDevNet

Secrets of tea plant revealed by science
BBC

Agronomist urges farmers to commit to weed control to prevent herbicide resistance
PhysOrg

Talking Biotech: GE’s role in breeding more disease resistant and nutritious potatoes
Genetic Literacy Project

Gene tweaks could lead to improved corn and sorghum yields
Genetic Literacy Project

GMO sustainability advantage? Glyphosate spurs no-till farming, preserving soil carbon
Genetic Literacy Project

The African Union is on a mission to transform the continent by 2063. This is what you need to know
World Economic Forum

Food science gets the big screen film treatment
Food Manufacture

Reinventing rice for a drier, wetter, weirder world
Tech Review

Tackling hidden hunger: Biofortified genetically engineered foods increase iron, zinc and vitamin A
Genetic Literacy Project

Science needs to be rescued from the committed anti-science lobby
Swarajya

Cassava is genetically decaying, putting staple crop at risk
Meridian Institute

How ancient crops could counteract climate change effects
PhysOrg

Nature Plants: Saving the world
Nature

Drones that detect early plant disease could save crops
Imperial College London

Projects boost food security in Arab countries, improve rice production and address plant health
IISD

Advancements in agriculture, good for people and the planet
The Hill

Why scientists are scared of Trump: A pocket guide
New Yorker

EU nations should overcome GMO hypocrisy
POLITICO Europe

China’s slowdown in approval of GMO imports harming US farmers
Genetic Literacy Project

Climate change could drive coastal food webs to collapse
AllAfrica

Does plant patent system restrict innovation and hurt small breeders?
Genetic Literacy Project

Health Canada announces changes to come for glyphosate labels
CBC

Did National Academies of Science GMO report go far enough in affirming GMO safety consensus?
Genetic Literacy Project

Food security early warning system
ReliefWeb

How desperately poor Bangladesh emerged as world innovator in pest-resistant, nutritionally fortified GM crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Fighting post-harvest losses through mobile-friendly video
Agrilinks

Modified soybeans yield more in future climate conditions
PhysOrg

Change in the Making: the renewed effort to mainstream gender in CGIAR research
CGIAR

Pan-Africa
If we develop Africa’s bioeconomy it will be as transformative for us as digital has been
Quartz Africa

Africa’s subsistence-minded farmers should become commercially-minded
How We Made It In Africa

East Africa is now obviously a low-rainfall area, so the region must adapt to climate change
D+C

Huge opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness for graduate African youths
AFDB

Boosting agriculture could mitigate African famine threat in a warming world
DevEx

The BecA-ILRI Hub to support implementation of World Bank centers of excellence initiative
Africa Bioscience

Speech for the Feed Nigeria Summit, delivered by Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AFDB
AllAfrica

Unlocking the potential of agriculture for Africa to reduce poverty and end hunger
ReliefWeb

Solyenta explores potential of hybrid potatoes in East Africa
FreshPlaza

Maize scientists vow to intensify research on armyworm invasion in Africa
Paepard

Ethiopia
Melkam sorghum seed brings bumper crop
AllAfrica

Namibia
Mutation breeding improves food production
New Era

South Africa
South African farmers meet tough challenges
Agriculture

Tanzania
Banana high yields seeds in the offing
AllAfrica

Soil erosion in Tanzania – in pictures
Guardian, UK

Confusion about soya bean markets discourages farmers
Barza Wire

Massive finance boost for Tanzania food production
Shareaholic

Uganda
Banana, coffee intercropping pose acute food crisis
Daily Monitor

When is Uganda allocating 10% budget to agriculture?Independent

Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe hosts UN meeting on agricultural development
Southern Times

Opportunities and resources
EVENT:
Youth in agribusiness: shaping the future of agriculture, 18 May 2017, ACP Secretariat, Brussels, Belgium