In the news...

March 15th, 2017 /

There’s been a report of a breakthrough this week from scientists at the University of Arizona, who are using transgenic maize plants to produce RNA molecules that stop fungi from producing aflatoxin. A report published in Science Advances showed that the transgenic maize infected with the fungus suppressed the toxin – which makes crops unsafe for human consumption – to below detectable levels. The technique needs to be field-tested extensively, but if this solution proves successful, it could dramatically improve food security, especially in developing countries. For more, read “Researchers have pioneered a new approach that could save crops from aflatoxin contamination”. Meanwhile, Inner Mongolia University is also using RNA interference to develop a way to defend against armyworm. For more on this, read “Knockdown of northern armyworm genes thru oral delivery of RNAi Effectors”.

In Uganda, bananas are the focus of the week as banana plants genetically modified to resist bacterial xanthomonas wilt (BXW) are being planted in test fields. The gene that confers resistance to bananas is taken from sweet pepper, as all wild and domestic banana species are susceptible to BXW. The disease has been prevalent in Uganda since 2001, and in 2007 it caused a 67 percent loss of Uganda’s banana plantations. For more, read “GM BWX-resistant bananas start their journey to the farmer”. Meanwhile another article reports on the trial of a mobile phone app-based plant diagnostics network to collect data on banana diseases from the field, and using this information to provide farmers with training on disease detection and control and preventative measures. For more, read “Building networks of farmers and scientists via mobile phones: Case study of banana disease surveillance in Uganda”.

Also from Uganda, we hear this week from B4FA’s Lominda Afedraru, who writes about how fish producers can now look for a market using a new smartphone app, and farming methods that help farmers respond to climate change. From Ghana, Noah Nash sends a story on an appeal to stakeholders in the rice industry to extend support to rice farmers to reduce rice imports. We also hear from Hope Mafaranga, who writes that the Ethiopian Minister of Environment Kare Chawicha has called on environmentalists to embrace biotechnology as a way of mitigating climate change (see featured story).

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.


Knockdown of northern armyworm genes thru oral delivery of RNAi Effectors

Researchers have pioneered a new approach that could save crops from aflatoxin contamination
University of Arizona

Video: Managing aflatoxins in groundnuts during drying and storage
Access Agriculture

The history and economics of coffee, and the impact of a plant pathogen on coffee production
Into Biology

How CRISPR gene editing can speed up domestication to make crops more sustainable, nutritious
Genetic Literacy Project

Could ‘resurrection’ crops survive drought and feed a hungry planet?

From new beans to ancient plants, drought-busting crops take root
Thomson Reuters

Report: Chinese agriculture in Africa: perspectives of Chinese agronomists on agricultural aid

Researchers find wheat bread genome dark matter

India: Commerce Minister sees scope for ties with Africa in pharma, food security
Hindu Businessline

Kevin Folta: Fighting the Yellow Dragon – the war to save Florida citrus
Science 2.0

Why does anybody own CRISPR? An argument against academic IP
MedCity News

Biodynamic farming is on the rise – but how effective is this alternative agricultural practice?
Guardian UK

National Academies: Conflict of interest claims directed at GMO report ‘unfair and disingenuous’
Genetic Literacy Project

Green genes: Germany’s top organic researcher says environmentalists should embrace CRISPR editing
Genetic Literacy Project

Faster, more accurate crop breeding for today’s ‘gene jockeys’
Genetic Literacy Project

Infographic: Bt traits revealed

Report: Agriculture in 2050: Recalibrating Targets for Sustainable Intensification
Food Climate Research Network

Women’s empowerment: How does it affect food production?

UCLA scientists develop new approach to understand plant growth

Scientists publish the first genetic radiography of pasta wheat from 21 Mediterranean countries

A high-efficiency CRISPR/Cas9 system for targeted mutagenesis in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.)

Famines in the 21st century? It’s not for lack of food
The Conversation US

Should university agricultural research scientists partner with industry?
Genetic Literacy Project

Golden Rice could help relieve vitamin A deficiency if countries ditch ‘misguided regulations’
Genetic Literacy Project


Environmentalists urged to embrace biotechnology to improve food security, by B4FA Fellow Hope Mafaranga

11 African countries doing field tests for GM crops

Report: Raising Crop Productivity in Africa through Intensification
MDPI Open Access

Farmers in Sahel learn ways to avoid drought disaster

We could stop tons of food losses by scaling these African-made low-tech cooling units
Quartz Africa

Tasting the sweet fruit of profit from farming
The Africa Report

Smart Farming in 2017 and beyond: Zenvus smartfarm technology for innovative farming in Africa
Africa Agribusiness

Networking project launched to empower African girls in science

Africa told to embrace technology for food security
Daily Nation

Investment key in adapting to climate change in West Africa

Africa’s Green Revolution can reduce global poverty
African Exponent

It begins with a girl
Huffington Post

3 leading orgs & MasterCard Foundation partner to improve livelihoods for 1.1 million African smallholder farmers
MasterCard Foundation

Africa needs to adapt to the changing climate
Hufflington Post


“Let’s complement each other’s work to reduce rice imports,” farmers told
Ghana News Center, by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash


“Minister wrong to ban biotech research”
Daily Nation

Smart Food show to promote healthier lifestyles in Kenya
Thomson Reuters


Led by Nigeria, Africa opening door to genetically modified crop cultivation
Genetic Literacy Project

Nigeria has not officially embraced GMO, but investigating improved ag, says minister

Famine: World Bank group mobilises immediate response for Nigeria, five other countries


UN chief in Somalia on emergency visit to focus on famine

South Africa

Plowing a new path for female farmers in South Africa
News Deeply

Is South Africa ‘feeding its people toxins’, as the IFP alleges?


GM BWX-resistant bananas start their journey to the farmer
Alliance for Science

Building networks of farmers and scientists via mobile phones: Case study of banana disease surveillance in Uganda

Improved cassava varieties makes a fortune for Akutu
Daily Monitor

Fish producers can look for a market using new smartphone app
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Technologies that help farmers respond to climate change
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Uganda needs a caffeine fix: insights from Vietnam’s coffee market success
The Conversation Africa

Food scarcity forces sorghum prices up
Daily Monitor


Southern Zimbabwe faces food crisis

Opportunities and resources

Africa Food Prize opens 2017 nomination

Job vacancy: ILRI  Kenya lead plant breeder with solid practical experience in public and/or private sector setting.

Opp: LEAP-Agri call for proposals for research & innovation, EU-AU partnership on
food & nutrition security & sustainable agriculture.