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November 8th, 2017 / B4FA.org

In a major breakthrough that could potentially save many lives and food waste, an international collaboration of scientists from the United States and India have found a way to inhibit aflatoxin-producing fungus in groundnuts. Aflatoxins, which are a significant threat to African food sources, are produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which infect crops such as groundnut and maize during drought, or in poor storage conditions. According to a story about the discovery in PhysOrg, the researchers used genetic modification to allow the groundnut to prevent fungal infection, as well as to deactivate target genes responsible for aflatoxin syntheses. The full report, published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, is available here.

Meanwhile, cowpea – an important source of vegetable protein in sub-Saharan Africa, has been engineered to produce a Bt protein, which will protect it against the Maruca pod borer pest. According to an article in ISAAA, Bt cowpea could yield as much as 25 percent more than other cowpea varieties, and may be released for free next year to farmers in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.

In other biotech news, Chinese scientists have developed rice that can grow in diluted seawater. The crop yield exceeded hopes, delivering up to 9.3 tonnes per hectare rather than the expected 4.5 tonnes. A group of six scientists has sequenced the bread wheat genome – a task that one article calls the crop geneticist’s Mount Everest because it is so large and complex. It is hoped that the genome will help unlock improvements on this ancient human staple. An article in Genetic Literacy Project discusses the role gene silencing could play in controlling wheat contamination, particularly Fusarium Head Blight.

In African news, a seed firm in Zimbabwe, Mukushi Seeds, is pioneering hybrid maize seed varieties that it hopes will improve yields, going up against the big multinationals. ASouth African wheat-breeding program aimed at improving the country’s wheat yields has been launched. And finally, Ugandan scientists have announced that the country’s first batch of locally grown genetically modified potatoes will be commercially available in 2020.

From the B4FA Fellows we hear from Michael Ssali, with two stories, one addressing the importance of agricultural land management, and the other food production for health.

Global

Scientists develop groundnut resistant to aflatoxin
PhysOrg

Scientists engineer cowpea to produce Bt protein against raruca pod borer
ISAAA

Chinese scientists develop rice that can grow in seawater, potentially creating enough food for 200 million people
Independent

Gene silencing could control disease, contamination in wheat and other crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Small group scoops international effort to sequence huge wheat genome
Nature

Borlaug Dialogue delegates widen net to curb threat from fall armyworm
Thomson Reuters

Army worms: Eliminating these munching menaces
Epic Gardening

New reference genome sequences of hot pepper reveal the massive evolution of plant disease-resistance genes
Genome Biology

Glyphosate – a key ingredient in soil-saving no-till farming
Farmer Jake

Pumpkin genomes sequenced revealing uncommon evolutionary history
Boyce Thompson Institute

When GMOs are the movie star
Scientific American

Scientists explore national security implications of gene editing
PhysOrg

The case that humans are creating new species despite killing off so many
Vox

Video: How glyphosate herbicide enables no-till, environmentally friendly farming
Genetic Literacy Project

Protect pollinators, plant trees? Nebraska researchers look to land for answers
KUNC

GM Camelina can provide omega-3s for fish
Biofortified

Viewpoint: European anti-tech groups threaten to derail CRISPR gene editing in agriculture
Genetic Literacy Project

Should gene-edited plants be government regulated?
TechWire

Fears grow that EU glyphosate ban could disrupt global trade
Politico

Climate change already bringing disease, air pollution and heatwaves
Guardian, UK

GMOs: Road to sustainable agriculture
Helixworks

Experts urge conservation of plant genetics resources to end hunger
Xinhua

Viewpoint: Why GMO crops are planet’s best ecological choice
Genetic Literacy Project

Will CRISPR-Cas kick start a new Green Revolution?
Ag Professional

When genetic engineering came of age: World’s first GMO—GE insulin—approved 35 years ago
Genetic Literacy Project

Is science in the developing world colonised?
SciDevNet

Ban on weedkiller glyphosate won’t save anyone from cancer
New Scientist

Never underestimate the power of vegetables
World Vegetable Center

Understanding GM crops
Innovators Mag

Pan-Africa

Talking Biotech: Mark Lynas—activist resistance to crop biotech hurting small African farms
Genetic Literacy Project

Toxin-neutralizing GMO peanuts could solve serious food safety issue in Africa and Asia
Genetic Literacy Project

Four things you should know about food security in Africa
Washington Post

Bringing youth back to agriculture in Southern Africa
FAOAfrica

World science journalism meeting stays out of Africa
SciDevNet

Africa is now primed for a Green Revolution
New African Magazine

Album: Chinese agriculture experts in Africa
Xinhua Net

Will forcing pastoralists to grow crops deliver food security for East Africa?
ReliefWeb

Challenges in agriculture need competent capacities – FAO
Modern Ghana

Can Akinwumi Adesina save Africa?
Ynaija

Opinion: A century of Africa’s agricultural development
AllAfrica

Do you know that Africa is building the 8th wonder of the world?
Culture Custodian

Dividend or disaster: UNICEF’s new report into population growth in Africa
NewsWire

Helping smallholder farmers is essential to ending world hunger
HuffPostBlog

UF Partners with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to combat food insecurity in Africa
IITA, CGIAR

Report: Transgenic cowpeas expressing Bacillus thuringiensis Vip3Ba protein are protected against Maruca pod borer
Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC)

Student teams advise small businesses in Africa to help them thrive
Cornell

Gambia

Farmers raise voices of concern, agricultural minister responds
AllAfrica

Kenya

Farmers replenish soils, produce own oils with Moringa project
FarmbizAfrica

Malawi

Malawi needs an urgent shift from relief to resilience
AllAfrica

Niger

Niger to declare 2018 Year of Agricultural Revolution
AllAfrica

Nigeria

Stakeholders unveil national youth agriculture manifesto
Vanguard

VC blames African universities for continent’s backwardness
The Eagle Online

Dividend or disaster: UNICEF’s new report into population growth in Africa
NewsWire

Rwanda

Experts devise ways to develop drought, disease-resilient crops
AllAfrica

How irrigation can help nations achieve food security
AllAfrica

South Africa

South African saga: Anti-GMO activist groups’ disinformation campaign against new disease-resistant corn
Genetic Literacy Project

Innovative breeding platform to improve wheat yields
AllAfrica

Tanzania

Production of GMOs imminent as researchers deliberate
Daily News

App alerts buyers of prospected harvest
FarmbizAfrica

Uganda

Agriculture land management vital
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Food production for healthy living
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Ugandans to eat GMO potatoes in 2020
Observer

Tears and cheers over new GMO law
AllAfrica

Naro raises alarm over deadly Irish potato pest
AllAfrica

Zambia

Zambia and IFADnews report shows potential of agriculture to combat poverty, hunger
Food Tank

Is Zambia being too hard on GMOs?
Daily Mail

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe seed firm taking on the multinationals
BBC

Govt vows to tackle armyworm
AllAfrica

Govt, WFP commits to ending hunger in Zimbabwe
AllAfrica

Opportunities and resources

Webinar: Learn how to create engaging science communication videos (free), November 15

SIL Plant Breeding Master of Science degree program in genetics and plant breeding

Online course on climate change and agriculture by UNITAR, FAO and UNDP, starts 13 November

Event: Sorghum in the 21st Century, 9-12 April 2018, Cape Town, South Africa

Biocontrol Africa, March 2018, Nairobi, Kenya

Agriculture and Food summit 2017: Putting Sustainability on Europe’s Farm-to-Fork Menu, November 30, 2017, Paris