In the news...

January 13th, 2015

We’ve got lots for you to chew on this week, including a fascinating story from Science about what new archaeological findings reveal about the genetic evolution of maize. It turns out that our understanding of how the plant evolved and spread is more complex than had been thought. In biotech news, a recent article in Nature explains targeted genome editing, and how it may be treated in US and European regulatory laws, while a new US-Chinese study reports that biotech and traditional farming practices can be combined to maximise agricultural sustainability.

Good news from Africa: an article in Nature reports that sub-Saharan Africa is going through a major agricultural transformation, leading to a rapid rise in food production. Meanwhile, Uganda is set to host Africa’s first banana germplasm gene bank, which will help protect and preserve threatened varieties of the fruit. Ugandan scientists are also planning to develop a maize variety that preserves sweetness, reports B4FA Fellow Isaac Khisa.

We also hear from B4FA Fellows Abdallah el-Kurebe, who writes about the case for growing Bt cotton in Nigeria as a way to avoid over-dependence on oil, and Michael Ssali, who reports about the importance of biotechnology to Ugandan farmers. Noah Nash submits a video report on how Ghanaian farmers are being encouraged to use poultry manure as fertilizer. And Lominda Afedraru interviews a Ugandan farmer about the challenges of purchasing the right agro-inputs. In our featured story, she reports on how Ugandan organisations are trying to increase coffee production by offering training manuals on agronomy practices.

We hope you enjoy the week’s selection, and look forward to receiving your questions, comments, and story links at Thanks for reading!

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Regulatory uncertainty over genome editing
Nature Plants

Report: Biotech and traditional farming are compatible approaches to sustainable agri

How corn became corn: archeology reveals the fascinating evolution of modern maize

Scotts’ GMO turfgrass approved as USDA concludes no risk review necessary for ‘gene gun’ modifications
Genetic Literacy Project

Scientists urge revamped regulations for genetic engineering
Genetic Literacy Project

Anti anti-GMO organic farmer’s 2015 plea: ‘Let’s end the war over food’
Genetic Literacy Project

India: Bt cotton not to blame for farm distress, say scientists
The Hindu

Avoiding “foreign genes” trap: Tale of two potatoes highlights new era of GE crops
Genetic Literacy Project


En route to plentiful food production in Africa: hunger & pessimism being replaced by a rapid rise in food production

Kenyan top doctors support agri-biotech, call for lifting of GM ban

Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative aims to strengthen research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa
Royal Society

Cairo University Faculty of Agriculture to exchange knowledge with nanotech company


Video: Adapt poultry manure and fertiliser to improve crop yield, Ghanaian farmers told
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash


Nigeria’ s dwindling oil revenue: the case for BT cotton
News Diary, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

Nigeria, 2014 – a look back at the concerns and expectations in agric sector
People’s Daily, by B4FA Fellow Mohammed Kandi


UNESCO to boost science and technology in Tanzania
African Brains

Bumper food harvest lacks markets

Tanzania generates US$100mn from cotton sales
African Farming


Uganda to host Africa’s first banana germplasm gene bank
Daily Monitor

Farmers want access to biotechnology
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Ugandan scientists to develop ‘sweet’ maize variety
The East African, by B4FA Fellow Isaac Khisa

Challenges farmers face in choosing and buying the right agro-inputs
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Training manual to help farmers boost coffee production
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Featured image: With a unified set of guidelines for extension workers, coffee farmers will get better information on the various stages to improve yields. Photo: Dominic Bukenya, from the original article.