In the news...

February 17th, 2015

This week, the genetically altered, non-browning “Arctic” varieties of Grannysmith and Golden Delicious apples have been approved in the United States, according to the New York Times. The first crops will be planted in spring, and could reach stores in 2017. Arctic apples are meeting with some consumer opposition despite the fact that they were created by gene silencing – not transgenic modification. This leads to the question of whether gene editing will be considered GMOs, and how that might affect future regulation. This helpful and well-timed overview by Biofortified breaks down gene editing and how it works.

Recent bioscience news includes scientists’ discoveries of a potential way of controlling leaf blotch disease in wheat; the mechanism that serves as the master switch for plant growth; and a newly developed variety  of sorghum that could dramatically increase yields.

From Africa, we hear that the continent is poised to be a significant player in the global rice trade. Kenyan maize farmers are seeing the benefits an anti-striga weed technology, while the country’s cotton farmers are petitioning the government to lift the ban on importing Bt cotton seeds. B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru writes in from Uganda about discerning the differences between maize varieties, while Michael Ssali reports on the importance of preserving food from the field as a key aspect in the fight against hunger. From Ghana, Noah Nash posts a video about cotton farmers’ fear of a lack of a domestic market for its product, while Kandi Mohammed reports on the progress of Nigeria’s biosafety bill.

Many thanks for joining us this week. We look forward to receiving your questions, comments, and story links at [email protected].

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Gene-altered apples get U.S. approval
New York Times

An overview of gene editing
Biofortified

Will gene-edited products be considered GMOs?
Genetic Literacy

Mark Lynas on why he changed his mind on GMOs
Genetic Literacy Project

Even in 2015, the public doesn’t trust scientists – Mark Lynas
Washington Post

Scientists find mechanism for master switch of plant growth
RIKEN

Scientists find potential way of controlling leaf blotch disease in wheat
Bioscience for the Future

Scientists improving sorghum’s yield
ISAAA

India needs GMOs to be sustainable and resilient to climate change
Genetic Literacy Project

Why do we need pest management?
Biofortified

On-farm system turns rice plants into biofuel and fodder
SciDev

Bag it up: Crop bags help store harvests safely
Daily Monitor

Anti-GMO sociologists mute attacks on biotech, urge greater sensitivity to cultural impacts
Genetic Literacy Project

Royal Society Exchange Programme award helps  sub-Saharan African scientists to partner with UK-based institutions
Royal Society

The need for knowledge-based journalism in politicized science debates
Climate Shift Project

Anne Glover discusses life as Europe’s science adviser  
Science

Pan-Africa

Trends in global rice trade
IRRI

Report: Can adoption of improved maize varieties help smallholder farmers adapt to drought? Evidence from Malawi
Eldis

Cotton farmers in Kenya submit petition to lift GM import ban
ISAAA

Kenya: Good news for maize farmers as striga weed kept at bay
AllAfrica

Kenya: Baobab use goes beyond fruits and vegetables
African Farming

DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative: for scientists developing research consortia btwn sub-Saharan Africa & UK
Royal Society

Africa’s economy is rising. Now what happens to its food?
New York Times

Ghana

Video: Cotton company’s expresses fear for non availability of accessible market
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

Food sovereignty group sues Ghanian government over GM crop trials
Genetic Literacy Project

Nigeria

Biosafety law crucial to responsible GMO practice
People’s Daily, by B4FA Fellow Kandi Mohammed

Desertification – water scarcity hits Sokoto farmers
AllAfrica

Can Nigeria attain rice self-sufficiency this year?
AllAfrica

Tanzania

Food price fall helps tame inflation
AllAfrica

Will Tanzania follow Burkina Faso in embracing GM crops to fight ravaging diseases?
Genetic Literacy Project

Vegetable project transforms farms to cash cows
FarmBiz Africa

Uganda

Food preservation: A way to fight hunger
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Biotech crops adopted globally, as Uganda still debates laws
Daily Monitor

Farmers must take note of different maize varieties
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Civil society organizations urge trade ministry to consider food security, climate change
AllAfrica

Featured image of maize field by Lominda Afedraru, from original article.