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May 24th, 2017 / B4FA.org

This week, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Norwegian Arctic – meant to be an impenetrable, permanent vault to protect the world’s crop biodiversity – was flooded after extraordinarily high temperatures melted surrounding permafrost. Fortunately, the flood did not damage any of the stored seeds, which are meant to serve as a backup of food crop genetic diversity for research and in case of catastrophe. However, the breach did call into question the vault’s safety. The Norwegian government is now redesigning parts of the vault to prevent future accidents.

In the meantime, India’s environment ministry seems to be giving the green light to commercially produce genetically modified mustard. If approval goes ahead, it will be the first GM food crop in India, where currently only GM cotton is grown. While GM in India is still debated, this article by Shivendra Bajaj, the executive director of theAssociation of the Biotech Led Enterprises- Agriculture Focus Group (ABLEAG), lists “compelling reasons why India needs agricultural biotechnology”.

The Cornell Alliance for Science blog features an illuminatingpost by Mark Lynas on the state of GM in China, comparing its policies to the rest of the world and showing that there is as much fractious debate there as anywhere else. “Like India, China grows millions of acres of Bt cotton. As in India, too, farmers have benefitted via reductions in pesticides, and studies have shown increases in insect biodiversity as wildlife bounces back. China also allows virus-resistant papaya and Bt poplar trees — but that’s it,” he writes. “Other than these three crops, no cultivation of GMOs has been permitted. But like Europe, China is utterly dependent on imports of bulk commodities like soya, of which the vast majority are genetically modified. So like Europe, there is the hypocrisy of importing millions of tons of food from abroad that farmers at home are forbidden from growing.” Lynas also points to policy gridlock hampering research, and illegal growing of Bt rice and maize.

Turning to Africa, a piece in Africa Rising discusses thedoubled-up legume system undergoing trials in Zambia, in which pigeon pea and groundnut, separately or together, are rotated with maize to increase soil nutrients. According to the article, this conservation agriculture method may reduce erosion and reduce land-preparation labour, while boosting maize yields. And from Uganda, we hear from B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali, who writes about best practice when setting out to grow Robusta coffee.

As ever, please send questions, comments and story links to karen@b4fa.org and visit B4FA.org  for further reading and useful resources. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.

Global

Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts
Guardian, UK

Upgrade on Svalbard Global Seed Vault to prevent permafrost melt from harming seeds
ABC Australia

Norway to boost protection of Arctic seed vault from climate change
BBC

India: Why scientists are welcoming nod to commercial production of GM mustard
News18

PM Narendra Modi government rethinking plan to get GM food in India for the first time ever?
Financial Express

Compelling reasons why India needs agricultural biotechnology
Deccan Herald

Indian farmers may soon adopt indigenously developed insect resistant cotton
ISAAA

Shadows and mirrors: why GMOs in China face a tough go
Cornell Alliance for Science, by Mark Lynas

As Syngenta deal closes, ChemChina and Sinochem press $120 billion deal
Reuters

Israel will not require additional regulations for gene-edited plants
Genetic Literacy Project

Genebanks are forever
Crop Trust

How to feed the world after climate change – we have to change the entire agricultural system
Slate

Can CRISPR feed the world?
PhysOrg

Gene editing will cut time, costs of commercializing new genetically engineered crops
Genetic Literacy Project

More genes turned on when plants compete
Michigan State University

Activists say that without long-term studies, GMOs can’t be considered safe: What does science say?
Genetic Literacy Project

Twice the tomatoes on the vine, thanks to a bit of genetic tweaking
Science

A chicken in every pot? New research makes the poultry case for food and nutritional security
ILRI

Six tips to recognize good science
Food and Farm Discussion Lab

Geneticists engineer a virus to fight citrus disease
The Scientist

CGIAR Research Program on Maize
CGIAR

Podcast: Horticulturalist Kevin Folta exposes US Right to Know’s smear campaign against biotech scientists
Genetic Literacy Project

Overexpression of galactinol synthase gene improves drought tolerance in rice
ISAAA

Establishing seeds as the key element in climate-smart responses to food security
ReliefWeb

Pan-Africa

How digital technology is changing farming in Africa
Harvard Business Review

Enhancing food security in Africa through implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement
ICTSD

India hosting African Development Bank’s annual meetings this week
Domain B

Government action needed on climate resiliency and food security in West Africa
MongaBay

Study reveals the gender gap in Tanzania, Uganda climate policies
CGIAR

JICA, IRRI, PhilRICE share rice seed production expertise with African farmers
Manila Bulletin

Ethiopia

Maize seed adoption program surpasses goal
AllAfrica

Ghana

Ghana’s narrow food base could threaten the country’s food security
Joy Online

Kenya

How agriculture neglect has led to food crisis
Standard Kenya

Nigeria

Starting a cocoa farm this season
AllAfrica

Army worms invade maize farms in Benue, Abuja
AllAfrica

‎Food security: ‘Dependence on food aid, foreign donors‎ will not help Nigeria’
Business Day

South Africa

If drought continues, more farmers will close shop
AllAfrica

The state of South Africa’s agriculture sector
BizNis Africa

Tanzania

Tanzania’s bean exports feed 10 countries
African Farming

Uganda

When you set out to grow robusta coffee
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Zambia

Doubled-up legume technologies in conservation agriculture show potential for scale up in Zambia
Africa Rising

Opportunities and resources

Vacancy: AfDB Division Manager Agriculture Research, Production & Sustainability, Côte d’Ivoire. Deadline: 7 June 2017

World Food System Summer School: Food Systems in Transition, Côte d’Ivoire, 27 January – 10 February 2018

TWAS accepting applications for its Research and Advanced Training Fellowship for young scientists. Deadline: 1 October 2017

Webinar: Farmers’ Rights – Achieving Complementarity Between the Informal and Formal Seed Systems, 30 May 2017