In the news...

May 17th, 2017 /

There are many interesting developments in crop biotech this week. Among them, researchers at the University of Arizona are reported to be closing in on a way of using genetic modification to shut down the production of aflatoxin in maize. Using RNAi technology, which inhibits gene expression, says a summary in Genetic Literacy Project, scientists are silencing aflatoxin genes in Aspergillus – the fungus that produces the toxin – in maize kernels. “The ear could still show the greenish, powdery fungal spores on the surface, however, aflatoxin should not enter the kernels,” says one article on the subject. If it comes to fruition, this new improvement could drastically improve the lives of people in developing countries, where aflatoxin is an ongoing health concern.

At the University of California, Davis, plant geneticist Pamela Ronald is reported to be making progress on a new drought-resistant variety of rice. Meanwhile, a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Botany has found that a genetically modified soy crop yielded more when subjected to both increased temperature and carbon dioxide levels, promising a crop that will thrive in changing environmental conditions. Oddly, the researchers found no substantial increase in yield when it is grown under only one of these changed conditions.

In news from Africa, an article published in The Ethiopian Herald details how scientists in Ethiopia are working to improve sorghum varieties, and notes achievements and challenges to date. Meanwhile, Tuta absoluta moth, the scourge of tomato farmers, has returned to Nigeria, and has destroyed tomato production on farms in three regions.Ghana and Kenya continue to struggle with the armyworm invasion, with Ghana calling an agricultural state of emergency. B4FA Fellow Samuel Hinneh, in a feature published in SciDevNet, reports on how scientists in Africa are convening to develop research and prevention strategies to tackle the problem.

We hear from B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali, who writes about how one Ugandan farmer is adapting to climate smart agriculture, and from Fellow Alex Mchomvu who writes about Tanzanian farmers currently disheartened by confusion around soya bean markets.

Finally, we’d like to highlight the National Academies for Sciences’ call for scientific input into their new study:Science Breakthroughs 2030: A Strategy for Food and Agricultural Research. This new study aims to develop a compelling scientific strategy for food and agricultural research for the next decade and beyond.

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.


GMO corn that shuts down aflatoxins could be healthcare boon in developing countries
Genetic Literacy Project

New GMO could reduce cases of liver cancer

New generation GMO soybeans: How genetic tweaking might offset impact of rising temperatures
Genetic Literacy Project

Drought-resistant varieties of rice show progress at University of California Davis
Genetic Literacy Project

Video: Obama on GMOs — ‘Humanity has always engaged in genetic modifications’
Genetic Literacy Project

Infographic: How RNAi helps protect crops, prevent spoilage and increase nutrients in food
Genetic Literacy Project

Wheat multipathogen resistance gene confers anthracnose and rust resistance in sorghum

CRISPR race: Gene editing’s lower costs, regulations open door to more competition, improved crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Study finds unexpected strategy to delay or reverse evolution of resistance by pests to GM crops

Brazil leads the developing countries in GM crop adoption

In future climates, modified soybeans yield more

Bangladesh’s embrace of GMO technology may embolden innovation in developing countries
Genetic Literacy Project

Scientists refining GM techniques to make them hardier, less reliant on pesticides, and capable of producing higher yields
The American Interest

Hybrid plants could reverse pest resistance to GMOs

Livestock for food security and nutrition—Committee on World Food Security policy recommendations

Report: Designing Global Governance for Agricultural Development and Food and Nutrition Security
Review of Development Economics

Global bio-pesticides market analysis 2014–2022 published

World Bank earmarks $200 million on agric project in 9 states

Global GM crops reduced farm chemical usage and CO2 emissions in 2016 boom year
Genetic Literacy Project

New strains of staple crops serve up essential vitamins

In California, veggies grown with toilet water could be hitting tables

The right to agricultural technology

India panel recommends commercial use of first GM food crop

Transgenic plants against malaria
Global Plant Council


Action plan developed to tackle fall armyworm in Africa
SciDevNet, by B4FA Fellow Samuel Hinneh

Experts call for multi-pronged approach to fight fall armyworm in Africa

Maize breeders benefit from using drones

Report: A New Emerging Rural World – An Overview of Rural Change in Africa

African government urged to attract youth into agriculture
Ghana News Agency

Smallholder farmers hold key to food security

Africa to import a staggering US$110bn of food by 2025
New Era

Bridging the gender gap in African agriculture
News Ghana

When old knowledge prevents adoption of new socio-economic practices

Using agriculture and agribusiness to bring about industrialisation in Africa
The Africa Report

Africa needs investment from the G20 in its infrastructure if European efforts to increase trade are to have any positive effect

Africa must start by treating agriculture as a business, says AfDB president
African Business

Rainfall set to boost growth in southern Africa


Efforts towards improving sorghum varieties

A growing demand for mushroom


Armyworm invasion forces Ghana to declare agricultural state of emergency
Face2Face Africa

Conference on Science Agenda for Africa opens in Accra

Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa kicks off regional consultation in Accra
News Ghana

USAID promotes investment in Ghanaian agriculture
African Brains

Climate change and changing food security risk in Ghana
International Scholars Journals


Foreign pest has invaded Kenyan farms, and nobody knows what to do. Tighten your belt, it’s about to get messy

10 things you need to know about the armyworm

Kenyan maize and cotton farmers petition for Bt maize and Bt cotton seeds

Kenya farmers pray for Genetically Modified seeds to fight drought


As droughts worsen, phones and radios lead way to water for Niger’s herders


What role can biotech play in addressing food security in Nigeria?

Ensure Nigeria doesn’t become dumping ground for GM, nor shy away from GM benefits, says minister

Disastrous tomato pest, Tuta Absoluta, returns, destroys tomatoes in three local govts

GMOs: Nigerian Federal Government tasks regulatory agencies ‎on synergy
Nigeria Today

South Africa

Why South Africa’s agricultural industry needs digital transformation

Pumpkin leaves, sweet potatoes, Hugo beans, baby black jacks and wild fruits have been rejected for a more westernised diet of processed meats, fast food and oily treats
Health-E News

South Africa’s farmers are tackling the future head on
FG Insight

Researchers: South Africa suffers from fragmented policymaking in agriculture & food security
Biz Community


Confusion about soya bean markets disheartens ranchers
by B4FA Fellow Alex Mchomvu

Dar secures Chinese cassava market


Adapting to climate smart agriculture by Ugandan farmer
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

How farmers are fighting banana wilt disease
Daily Monitor

Opportunities and resources

Science Breakthroughs 2030: A Strategy for Food and Agricultural Research: a new NAS study launched on ambitious scientific opportunities in food and agriculturecalls for input from scientists to help develop a scientific strategy for food and agricultural research.

Nominations are new being accepted for the AfricaFoodPrize. Nominations close Monday 5th June, 2017.

Call for papers and workshop proposals: IAALD – Africa Conference, Pretoria, South Africa, deadline 30 September

Photo: Panos (from original article)