In the news...

April 5th, 2017 /

Last week, US president Donald Trump signed an order to undo the Obama administration’s climate policies, making clear that the United States has no intention to meet former pledges to cut carbon emissions. While this reversal is aimed at protecting coal-based energy within the country, its effects are far reaching, as Obama’s Clean Power Plan underpinned the US commitment to the Paris Agreement of December 2015. As the world’s second-largest polluter after China, America’s withdrawal from the agreement effectively undoes global progress. This will likely have a knock-on effect on food security around the globe, particularly on subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, writes Tim McDonnell for National Geographic. “[T]he chance that global temperature rise will stay ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the limit agreed to in Paris, will vanish,” says McDonnell. “The impact to developing countries—where livelihoods are more often linked directly to the land and where the money is scarce to, for example, build a storm surge barrier or develop a drought-resistant seed—will likely be even more severe,” he writes.

“Sub-Saharan Africa already has the world’s least-productive farms … [and] 23 percent of Africans, 220 million people, are chronically undernourished, the world’s highest rate….” Rising temperatures and increasingly erratic rainfall will only make the situation worse, he says. “The hotter the world gets, the worse off Africa’s rural poor will be. And if that doesn’t bother this administration, it should, since economic depression and political instability are ultimately harmful to U.S. business, military, and diplomatic interests in Africa.”

In biotech news, an international team of researchers led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands hassequenced the genome of the ‘resurrection plant’Xerophyta viscosa, which can tolerate severe drought for long periods of time. This breakthrough may lead to faster development of crops that can cope with extreme drought associated with climate change.

Meanwhile, the government of Uganda is increasingly under pressure to pass a bill to regulate genetically modified crops, particularly in the wake of recent drought-related food shortages. The bill’s proponents argue that drought-resistant crop varieties that have already been developed should be offered to farmers in order to improve the country’s food security. “Researchers have developed genetically modified bananas and cassava, which are resistant to drought and diseases such as bacterial wilt and cassava brown streak but cannot have access to these varieties without a law in place,” points out Charles Ogang, the president of Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE). Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni also agrees the bill will help the country resolve some of the problems the agriculture sector face.

From the B4FA Fellows, we hear from Michael Ssali, who writes from Uganda about the armyworm disaster* spreading across Africa, and tells the story of a man who left nursing to try his hand at mixed farming. We also hear from Abdallah el-Kurebe, who reports on Senegal’s adoption of agricultural biotechnology.

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.


Carbon Brief: Trump signs order dismantling Obama-era climate policies

Report: Global Food Insecurity Risks US National Security, Development Brings Market Opportunities
The Chicago Council of Global Affairs

Key research priorities for agricultural microbiomes identified

A step forward to making crops tolerant to severe drought
Wageningen University

Traveling droughts bring new possibilities for prediction
IIASA Vienna

How to feed 9.7 billion people? CRISPR gene editing for crops
Singularity Hub

We need to talk about ‘cut-and-paste’ genome editing, warns Jennifer Doudna
Oxford Today

Ripen on demand? New generation of GMO crops could dramatically increase yield
Genetic Literacy Project

Report: Organic Movements Include Gene Manipulation to Improve Sustainable Farming

The business case for soil

Australia: Productivity report calls for scrapping of GM ban, cuts to ag regulation
Grain Central

India: ‘Delayed commercialisation hampering GM crops development’

New rice strain could help farmers predetermine harvest time

To expedite development of climate-resistant crops, Australia may have to relax gene-editing rules
Genetic Literacy Project

Pakistan: Scientists asked to expedite research in agro-biotechnology
Daily Times

Scientists discover gene that doubles artemisin in production in Artemisia annua plant

Scientists engineered Artemisia annua to produce twice the amount of artemisinin, important for malaria treatment
The Scientist

Synthetic biology in chloroplasts and how it might be utilized in future crop breeding
GlobalPlant Council

Giving GM crops fair shot: Cultural cognition theory opens consumer minds
Genetic Literacy Project

Talking Biotech: What environmental hazards remain from the accidental release of GMO grass seeds?
Genetic Literacy Project

Majority of EU countries vote against 2 new GM corn varieties but approval still possible
Genetic Literacy Project

EU nations go on blocking GM crops
Euro Biotechnology

EU nations vote against GM crops, but not enough to block them

EU court adviser sets high bar for states’ GMO bans
Courthouse News Service


Trump’s new Executive Order will worsen hunger in Africa
National Geographic

Effective biosecurity key to food security in Africa

A world class ecosystem of pan-African transformation through mathematical sciences is launched in Rwanda
African Media Agency

World Bank: Special issue of Food Policy debunks myths about African agriculture
World Bank

The armyworm disaster*
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

African Development Bank to hold 52nd annual meet in Gujarat

Soybean farmers in east and southern Africa get a boost

African tech start-ups pitch poverty solutions

Investment key in adapting to climate change in West Africa

Africa needs to ‘beef up’ its act on food security
Southern Times

Africa is gardening the Sahel to keep the desert out. Is it working?
TRT World

The challenge ahead – harnessing gene editing for sustainable agriculture

International Committee of Red Cross: ‘Time to ring alarm bell on mass starvation in Africa’

PAEPARD: Review of Successful Scaling of Agricultural Technologies

Are ICTs improving agriculture or just smearing digital ‘lipstick’?   

Famine in East Africa sounds the alarm for a new approach to food security
Impact Alpha

Video: Fertilisers, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and the future of sub-Saharan Africa

Burkina Faso

GM cotton: Burkina Faso settles dispute with Monsanto
EnviroNews Nigeria


Boost for mango farmers as Icipe launches fruit fly bait

Irrigation boosts banana yield by 30%
FarmBiz Africa

Opinion: Indigenous seeds best for Kenya’s food security


Harnessing gene editing for sustainable agriculture in Africa & changing the debate on GMO crops

Premier Seeds has drought-resistant maize and sorghum seeds for north-east

Reducing the cost of irrigation farming


‎GMOs: Senegal supports adoption of agric biotech
EnviroNews Nigeria, by B4FA Fellow Abdallah el-Kurebe

South Africa

Western Cape Agriculture under threat due to climate change

SA’s drought a ‘harvest of dysfunction’ – Oxfam


Case IH gives an insight into advances in farming in Tanzania
African Farming


Pressure to pass GMO bill gains momentum

Buliggwanga left nursing to try his hand at mixed farming
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Opportunities and resources

Webinar: Ecological Footprint Explorer open data platform goes live, April 5-6

* Correction: Please note that in Michael Ssali’s article, “herbicides” should read “pesticides”.