In the news...

September 27th, 2017 /

Two reports this week lead the news. The first, a report by Biodiversity International that states Earth’s sixth mass extinction of global wildlife is under way – and posing a serious threat to global food supplies. “Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” says Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International. “If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she wrote in a feature article for the Guardian. “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing. It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

Meanwhile the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a report that world hunger is on the rise for the first time this century. The report, which is the first UN global assessment of food security and nutrition following the adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), indicated that In 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people reached 815 million, up 38 million the previous year, largely caused by conflict and climate shocks. The forward reads: “Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature…. This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.” According to an article about the report in the UK Guardian, “Africa has the highest levels of severe food insecurity, affecting 27.4% of the population – almost four times that of any other region.”

In biotech news from Africa, the National Biosafety Authority in Kenya has approved field trials for disease-resistant GMO bananas. The bananas have been modified to make them resistant to the Xanthomonas Wilt disease – also known as Bacterial Wilt. Meanwhile, the Guinea yam, a staple part of the Nigerian diet, has had its genome sequenced by an international team of researchers spanning the UK, Germany, Japan and Nigeria. One big discovery was identifying regions of the genome determining sex in yams, which will be vital for accelerating marker-assisted breeding projects. Importantly for Central and West Africa, says an article in Earlham Institute, “this new knowledge will help transform yams from being a neglected ‘orphan’ crop. With assisted breeding programmes, the crop can be better domesticated, boosting food security and economic well-being in an area undergoing the world’s most rapid population expansion.” The discovery may also help in the improvement of other crops, the story says.

And in Uganda, more good news about cassava as the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) Plus project successfully modified a farmer-preferred variety for resistance against cassava brown streak disease.

Great news from the B4FA Fellows as Henry Lutaaya and Michael Ssali each win an Agricultural Biotechnology Journalism Award 2017, Michael receiving a Certificate of Excellence for his story “Coffee”. We will soon be running an interview with him to discuss this well-deserved success, and meanwhile, highlight his story for the Daily Monitor this week about why every school needs a garden.

We also hear from Lominda Afedraru, also writing in the Daily Monitor about Ugandan farmers growing Chinese vegetables and cereals and a report on the VIRCA cassava breakthrough (“New cassava variety developed”) And finally, we’re pleased to feature an interview with B4FA Fellow Christopher Bendana, addressing how to report on crop biotech when critics spread misinformation?

As we have mentioned previously, the current funding of B4FA is about to end, and we are urgently searching for future support. This is now imminent, so if you feel that this weekly newsletter, our Tweets and website ( are useful and that you could help, please contact us at[email protected] soon as possible for further details. We hope to hear from you.

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Sixth mass extinction of wildlife also threatens global food supplies
Guardian UK

Chips, chocolate and coffee – our food crops face mass extinction
Guardian UK

Report: Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems
Biodiversity International

‘Alarm bells we cannot ignore’: world hunger rising for first time this century
Guardian UK

For the first time in a long time, global hunger is on the rise

Report: How Close Are We to Zero Hunger?

The regulatory status of gene-edited agricultural products in the EU and beyond
Portland Press

Why GMO crops (probably) can’t compete for this $22 billion ingredient opportunity
Motley Fool

Outcomes of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2017
World Economic Forum

Global call for zero tolerance on food loss and waste

Video: Miracle tomato? Israeli scientists developing tasty, drought-resistant variety
Genetic Literacy Project

Did GMO connection prompt Gates Foundation to halt support for corn-aflatoxin breakthrough?
Genetic Literacy Project

Conflicts drag down food security amid growing global food output

Coffee lovers and farmers will be hurt by warming planet, say researchers

RNA discovery could help boost plant heat, drought tolerance

Suppressing aflatoxin biosynthesis is not a breakthrough if not useful
Pest Management Science

CRISPR scissors utilized to break yield barrier in crops

Fred Gale: Is China ready to reshape global agriculture?

Asking farmers what they need
Cornell Alliance for Science


Sequencing the white Guinea yam genome

Disappearing traditional crops pose threat to food security, experts warn at African Union conf

Initiative to build African science journalism capacity

“Is agriculture the backbone of Africa?” asks a gathering of journalists in Ethiopia
Daily Mail

Farming and rural non-farm activities can provide solutions to rising youth employment in Africa
African Brains

Africa prefers India’s non-interfering development model over China
Economic Times

Meeting of African journalists asks: Can Africa feed itself?

New $280 million partnership launched to spur agricultural transformation for at least 11 African countries
Rockefeller Foundation

How to help farmers prepare for climate change
The Conversation, Africa

Re-branding agriculture
YPard Africa

Water harvesting techniques for smallholder and large-scale farmers
Farmbiz Africa

Cassava brown streak disease: historical timeline, current knowledge and future prospects
Molecular Plant Pathology

Fall armyworm: the foreign invader costing African farmers $3 billion

AfDB, Brazil to train African youth in cassava processing

Agriculture projects in Africa have to be bankable: AfDB
Africa Farming

Produce more grain, African countries told
Daily Mail

Agriculture holds the key to unlocking Africa’s vast economic potential
The Guardian

African Development Bank pledges $540 million for Chad
New Business Ethiopia

Closing the gap between the youth and agriculture in Africa
CNBC Africa


Farmers accessing affordable crop storage


Kenya approves field trials for disease-resistant GMO bananas
Genetic Literacy Project

Kenya’s urban youth harness technology to venture into gainful agribusiness


Agriculture takes centre stage at the Bank of Namibia’s annual symposium


NEPAD develops concept to drive Nigeria’s economic recovery, growth plan
Sunrise Nigeria

As Nigeria assures no GMO corn imported, environment minister embraces biotech
Genetic Literacy Project

House passes amended bill on seed industry

OFAB Nigeria recognizes media for effective biotech reporting

Nigeria to generate N48bn from PBR Cowpea annually-IAR


I envision a golden era for Rwanda’s agric sector, says expert

Farmers to get disease-resistant cassava


Climate change and gender: a heated debate in Tanzania
CGIAR Climate


Uganda harvests another successful GM cassava trial

Ugandan farmers growing Chinese vegetables, cereals for local market
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

New cassava variety developed
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Why every school needs a garden
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Integrating biotech training in Uganda’s education system

Why children in Western Uganda suffer higher rates of malnutrition

Interview w/ B4FA Fellow Christopher Bendana: How to report on crop biotech when critics spread misinformation?
Genetic Literacy Project

What are the best practices of tomato planting?
Daily Monitor

Why farmers should apply organic fertilisers
Daily Monitor

Opportunities and resources

Accepting applications for 2018 Borlaug Global Research Alliance Fellowships, deadline 5 November
Lecturer in crop protection wanted at School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia