In the news...

June 7th, 2017 /

This week, news was dominated by US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The Conversation published an overview (“How bad could Trump’s Paris Agreement withdrawal be?”) by climate scientist and climate policy scholar Robert Koop, who puts the situation in perspective with best- to worst-case scenarios from a scientific standpoint. Meanwhile, AllAfrica publishedan African perspective written by Wanjira Mathai, chair of the Wangari Maathai Foundation. “The decision by President Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change will be greeted with anger, dismay and incomprehension across the African continent,” she writes. “It comes as hunger on a massive scale is unfolding across East Africa, with drought and conflict leaving a record 26.5 million people in urgent need of food, water and medical treatment,” she continues, finally urging Africans of all spheres to enter the conversation and join the rest of the world in tackling “21st century global threats that know no borders.”

Several items this week address the climate change issue from a food security perspective. First, on the subject of growing crops with fewer emissions, a new study published in Plant Science describes a natural, affordable alternative to the use of nitrogen fertilizers by transferring a trait known as biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) from wild grasses to crops such as wheat and sorghum to improve nutrient uptake while dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, ICRISAT’s Smart Food Project aims to popularize neglected nutrient-rich and drought tolerant crops like sorghum, millets, and legumes like chickpea, pigeon pea, green gram, and groundnut to help balance meeting nutritional needs with sustainable food sources. Part of its campaign is a Kenyan reality show that gathered amateur chefs together in a cooking competition using such ingredients.

Also addressing the importance of biodiversity’s role in food security is a piece in The Conversation, Africa about reclaiming orphan crops such as African persimmon, marama bean, prickly pear, guava, yams, finger millet, fava bean, and bambara groundnut. “More than 95% of the global population’s food needs relies on maize, rice and wheat,” says the article. “Essentially, people have lost interest in the use of indigenous crops for food and prefer the more costly commercial crops, despite high rates of poverty. If perceptions of these orphan crops were improved, poverty in Africa could be better managed.” The piece goes on to call for the mobilization of African research networks to learn more about the agricultural and economic value of such crops, and asks African scientists cooperate to combat invasive species. B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali tackles the same subject from a Ugandan standpoint in a feature for the Daily Monitor, “We should care about food diversity”.

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How bad could Trump’s Paris Agreement withdrawal be? A scientist’s perspective
The Conversation

Smart Food Project hopes to popularize nutrient-rich, drought-tolerant crops to ensure food security
Food Tank

Five methods to evaluate the potential impact of climate change on food and nutrition security

Nitrogen-efficient crops on the horizon: Can we grow more with fewer emissions?

Podcast: Botanist James Wong speaks to Crop Trust & Kew re: conserving the genetic diversity of crop wild relatives

Climate change could slash staple crops: Study
Daily Climate

Biofortification: Is it the next ‘Green Revolution’ for more nutritious food?
Genetic Literacy Project

Politics plague India’s GM food crop plans

Why communication Is vital, even among plants and funghi

Mobile app to help farmers overcome crop damage launched in India

Bananas: the fight is on, but the banana we know may lose
Radio Canada International

Who wants disease-resistant GM tomatoes? Probably not Europe

Greater involvement of women in plant clinics has improved the climate resilience of the farmers in Cambodia

India: Study points to quality issues in Bt cotton seeds
Down to Earth

Video: Pest-resistant GE cowpeas could reduce pesticide use, increase yields of African staple
Genetic Literacy Project

Talking Biotech: Plants that ‘protect themselves’ and reduce pesticide may be future of crop biotech
Genetic Literacy Project

Researchers develop high-oleic safflower strain
Olive Oil Times

Food Evolution—Neil deGrasse Tyson-narrated documentary on GMO debate—set for June 23 release
Genetic Literacy Project

New wave of extinctions predicted for vital food species

Spinach genome will help breeders improve disease-resistance, yield and quality
Genetic Literacy Project

Two new proteins connected to plant development identified

Draft genome of spinach published by researchers from US and China

Japan, a potential biotech sugar beet country

Moving zinc-enriched wheat into the mainstream

In a ‘World of Plenty,’ G7 must fight famine


With or without the US, Africa must push ahead with Paris climate pledges

Africa must re-adopt its orphan crops in the face of a changing environment
The Conversation, Africa

Thirteen African countries seal agriculture industrialization deal with India
World Grain

Experts urge African leaders to spend more on agricultural development

New Africa fund targets women-led agribusiness
Global Trade Review

Putting East African smallholder farmers on the path to global soybean market
African BioSciences

African Union launches business plan to transform agriculture
New Vision

Premiere African biosciences center for excellence gets a new director
Africa BioSciences

Fall Armyworm devastates crops in sub-Saharan Africa: A quick and coordinated regional response is required

Africa corn silos overflow in South as food crisis hits East
Bloomberg Markets

AfDB adopts investment strategies to develop Africa’s agriculture
African Farming

Premiere African biosciences center for excellence gets a new director
Africa BioSciences

Could big data help end hunger on the Continent?


State offers 700 hectares of land to youth, residents


Farmers tete-a-tete with agric minister

Check out the latest virtual issue of New Phytologist on Root Traits
New Phytologist

Farmers demand seeds, agric minister responds

Health, Environment and Information Network trains farmers on alternative pest management


Aflasafe products tested in Ghana for aflatoxin control in maize and groundnut


Clues and solutions to Kenya’s puzzling food price crisis
The Conversation, Africa

GM corn and cotton varieties developed by Kenyan scientists ready for field trials
Genetic Literacy Project

Kenya biosafety regulators commend Malawi’s Bt cotton national performance trials


Ministry of Agriculture provides agro-inputs for rice, cassava farmers


Climate-smart agriculture project to improve productivity & resilience of Niger’s agriculture sector


IITA donates ‘Seeds of Renaissance’ to Nigeria to address humanitarian crisis

Nigeria’s hungriest face starvation as aid funds dry up in northeast – UN


Workshop to validate amendments proposed to GMO Act 2004


Irish potato farmers appeal for help as pests ravage gardens
New Times


Monsanto plans to open GM seed production facility in Tanzania


We should care about food diversity
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Uganda’s agriculture is not attractive to direct foreign investments, says expert
New Vision

Journalists in Uganda urged to support passing of biotech law through factual reporting

What Uganda needs to do to manufacture more and crack export markets
The Conversation, Africa

Uganda to reinforce food safety awareness through agricultural education
New Vision

Opportunities and resources

ILRI vacancy: Head, Communications and Knowledge Management. Closing date: 30 June

Distance learning course ‘Plant Pathology and Entomology’: five modules & exam available via Wageningen University & Research

Ten postdoctoral positions available via Oxford University

Symposium on Climate Change and Droughts Resilience in Africa. Nairobi, Kenya 16-18 October 2017

IARSAF 20th Annual Symposium: “Contribution of Graduate Research in Transforming African Agriculture” Ibadan, Nigeria. Deadline June 24.