In the news...

July 12th, 2017 /

Lots of interesting biotech news from around the world this week. A genetically modified banana fortified with Vitamin A has been developed in Queensland, Australia, and is to be grown in Uganda, in the hopes of improving the health of East African children. The highland or East African cooking banana variety, which is eaten steamed as a staple, is low on micronutrients, whereas the new variety is producing more than four times the target level of Vitamin A. A blog post by GMO Answers also addresses how genetic engineering is being used to rescue East Africa’s bananas from banana wilt disease.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, new disease-resistant and biofortified cassava varieties should be ready for the market in three years. The so-called Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa Plus (VIRCA Plus) varieties – developed in collaboration between Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in the United States and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri Biotech Applications – are expected to improve livelihoods and health of Kenyans and other Africans.

In Pakistan, farmers are adopting a new zinc-enriched high-yielding wheat, known as Zincol. This nutrient-enhanced, abundantly yielding variety was first released to farmers in 2016, and in addition to containing 20 percent more zinc than conventional wheat, it also happens to be delicious. All this is great news for people in South Asia, particularly Pakistan, where zinc deficiencies cause child stunting and high infant mortality, as well as impaired immune function and more.

Researchers at  the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have discovered a cheap and simple way to increase drought-tolerance in plants – by simply growing them in vinegar. A study published in Nature Plants reports that vinegar activates a biological pathway in maize, rice and wheat that helps them survive drought. In their experiment, researchers tested the effect of several organic acids on plant drought tolerance after 14 days – and only plants treated with vinegar survived. “Although transgenic technologies can be used to create plants that are more tolerant to drought, we must also develop simple and less expensive technologies because genetically modified plants are not available in all several countries,” says Jong-Myong Kim, one of the leaders of the study.

Another study, by a team led by Dr Nick Pullen at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom, suggests that genetics play a bigger part in plant growth than previously thought, as distinct from relying on resources such as nutrition, water and sunlight. This might affect how we think about global climate data. “Climate models need to incorporate genetic elements because at present most do not, and their predictions would be much improved with a better understanding of plant carbon demand”, says Dr Pullen.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Michael Ssali, who writes from Uganda that farmers need demonstration farms, and Lominda Afedraru profiles a South Sudanese refugee who is profiting from farming in Uganda.

As ever, please send questions, comments and story links to [email protected] and visit  for further reading and useful resources. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.


Farmers in Pakistan benefit from new zinc-enriched high-yielding wheat

Vinegar: A cheap and simple way to help plants fight drought

Genetics may lie at the heart of crop yield limitation

We need to talk about nutritious and valuable “forgotten” fruits

Time to fund the conservation of coffee – it’s the right thing to do

A whole-genome sequenced rice mutant resource for the study of biofuel feedstocks

‘Cow of the future’: Genetically engineered ‘heat resistant’ cattle could adapt to climate change Genetic Literacy Project

Vietnam: Workshops on trust networks for food safety held
Vietnam News

GMO rice that could reduce synthetic fertilizer usage developed by Indian scientists
Genetic Literacy Project

LA Times: Food Evolution GMO movie persuasive not polemical, ‘potentially revolutionary’
Genetic Literacy Project

Scientists shouldn’t miss a chance to expose fake news

A passion for papaya is not propaganda
Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter

Global hunger challenge requires mix of high-tech, GM and organic methods
Genetic Literacy Project

Is it true there are no long term GMO safety studies?
Genetic Literacy Project

CIMMYT 2016 annual report ‘Maize and wheat for future climates’

Global hunger challenge requires mix of high-tech, GM and organic methods
Genetic Literacy Project

World hunger on the rise again, reversing years of progress


New cassava varieties to ease hunger pangs
Media Max Network

Improved cassava varieties to ease hunger in Africa

Genetic engineering: one tool saving East Africa’s bananas
GMO Answers

What the G20 said on Africa

Aid experts wary of G20’s ‘Marshall plan’ for Africa

Why African farmers should be at the heart of the G20 discussions in Hamburg
Malabo Montpellier Panel

Report: Feasibility Study of Iron Fortification of Rice in sub-Saharan Africa

Soil nutrient depletion, major cause of food shortage in Africa, say experts

Not just food: For southern Africa to succeed, think nutrition

East Africa Food Security Alert, July 6, 2017

Africa embracing open data to tackle food insecurity
In-depth News

Fighting the pest that is ravaging Africa’s agriculture
African Business Magazine


“Bridging the Seed Gap” project offers high-quality vegetable seeds in Ethiopia for smallholder farmers
African Farming


Ghana’s Northern Rural Growth Programme is transforming agriculture


Ministry of Agriculture, FAO launch vegetable, poultry project


Govt ‘worried’ over armyworm risk to Kenya’s food security
Business Daily Africa


At Media Day, IITA advocates innovation to attract youths into agric

‘Nigeria yet to tap benefits of biotechnology’
The Nation

South Africa

Vertical farming in Africa to boost growth at September Urban Agri Summit in Johannesburg
African Brains


Studying cassava mosaic disease in order to prevent starvation
North Caroline State University

Farmers urged to use improved seeds


Farmers need demonstrations and practicals
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Refugee strikes gold in farming
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Bananas with boosted Vitamin A developed in Queensland to save African lives
ABC News

How I prepare my garden to grow passion fruits
Daily Monitor

How human urine has helped boost Wasieba’s banana farm
Daily Monitor

Uganda govt insists GMO bill has to be passed