In the news...

August 9th, 2017 / B4FA

In a week when it has been reported that climate change could lead to a reduction in protein in staple crops, as well as some other key nutritional components including iron and zinc, Professor Paul Vincelli of the University of Kentucky argues that genetic engineering is an environmentally-friendly choice and that the latest techniques, coupled with a rapidly expanding ability to analyse massive amounts of genetic material, will allow us to make super-modest changes in crop plant genes which will enable farmers to produce more food with fewer adverse environmental impacts. Further, he says, “the wise use of advanced genetic-engineering methods has the potential to increase the sustainability of food production systems, particularly given the well-established safety of genetically-engineered crops and their products”.

Across Africa, however, the introduction of genetically modified crops remains controversial, with approval processes often becoming seriously bogged down. Now, three researchers in the United States have published a study that used modelling to calculate how delays in the introduction of three genetically engineered crops — disease-resistant matoke (banana), insect-resistant cow pea and maize — have impacted Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Benin and Niger. They also demonstrate that the effect of alleviating malnutrition by using GM crops could be substantial. For example, the benefits from reduced malnutrition from the use of GM matoke in Uganda could be up to about $1,150 million, about $795 million from the use of GM corn in Kenya, and around $475 million from GM cowpea in Nigeria.

There have two encouraging research developments this week. Firstly, there’s news of a new GM wheat variety that could reduce the need for fertilizers. Pakistani researchers have inserted a fungal gene, which produces an enzyme that breaks down phytate, a naturally occurring a phosphorus-containing compound, into wheat and are shortly to begin field trials. Then at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia, scientists have successfully mapped the genome of cotton bollworm and corn earworm, two of the most devastating caterpillar pests in agriculture that together cause in excess of $5 billion in control costs and damaged crops.

And in this week’s featured article, We must fight soil pollution, B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali stresses the need to guard against soil pollution and degradation as we strive to adopt new farming practices that will improve farm yields and feed a growing population.

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High cost of biotech seeds drives one farmer to switch some acreage to non-GMO
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Scientists can’t be silent

Brazil’s transgenic sugarcane stirs up controversy

Tropics most prone to soil erosion

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Can genetic modification turn annual crops into perennials?
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Indian scientist: Promoting ‘rich man’s’ organic food’ and delaying insect-resistant GMO eggplant hurts poor
Genetic literacy Project

Infographic: How crops are genetically modified to resist plant viruses
Genetic literacy Project

Unjustified delays in approving biotech crops take thousands of lives, say researchers
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Cracking the code of megapests

On what (and how and when) to measure when measuring impacts of agricultural research for development

Food security for a rapidly growing global population – powerful solutions could be beneath our feet
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Taking it to the farmer – the missing link in global food security?

Sugar companies to launch GMO education campaign
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Sustainable wheat: new GM variety could reduce need for fertilizers, preserve phosphorus
Genetic Literacy Project

When genetic engineering is the environmentally friendly choice
Genetic Literacy Project

Brazil gives GM sugarcane a go
Farmers’ Weekly

25 environmental benefits of GMO sugar? Industry launching ‘fresh look’ education campaign
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Climate change is draining protein out of staple crops
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Cambridge-led collaborations aim to tackle global food security and public health challenges
University of Cambridge

Biotechnology thriving in Pakistan
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Challenges in commercializing biotech crops tackled in seminar

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Botswana hosts African Caucus: “Economic Transformation & Jobs Creation: A focus on Agriculture and Agribusiness”
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Study assesses costs of forgoing GMO food crops in Africa
Alliance for Science

Cornell trains gender-responsive researchers in Africa
Cornell University

Why controlling rats on small-scale African farms is vital for food security
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Capitalize on African biodiversity

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Pan-African food and non-food biomass expert network unveiled
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AfDB President champions agricultural industrialisation in Africa
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Diversification: African countries prioritise agriculture
Weekend Post

Microinsurance to help Ethiopian farmers protect against drought
African Farming

Ghana news: Let’s make agriculture a business, not a way of life – Adesin

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Kenya: Seed company rolls out maize variety for arid and semi-arid areas
Daily Nation

See how one project in Kenya has more than doubled maize yields, increased incomes and improved land management
World Bank

Nigerian startup Releaf secures $120,000 investment to connect African agribusinesses to customers they can trust

South Africa
Government to transform agricultural sector

We must fight soil pollution
B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali, Daily Monitor

As land becomes limited especially in urban arrears, zero grazing seems to be the way to go
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Fighting hunger, increasing incomes and rebuilding communities in post-war Uganda

Zim, SA cull million plus chickens after an outbreak of avian flu
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Why Zimbabwean researchers need to work with farmers

Opportunities and resources
Access Agriculture seeks to recruit a Social Media Co-ordinator to increase awareness of its video platforms

Call for proposals: sustainable intensification of agricultural systems in sub-Saharan Africa
Opens 4 Sept 2017
Closes Nov 2017

Advances, Summer 2017
(pdf) John Innes Centre

ILRI vacancy: Research Assistant – Animal Nutrition.
Closing date: 27 August