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October 30th, 2019

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most food-insecure region in the world, with an estimated 237 million throughout the region suffering from chronic undernutrition.

Frequent droughts are partially to blame for the persistent food shortages and the dry conditions make farming particularly challenging for the region’s smallholders. The TELA Maize Project has been working on commercializing genetically modified (GM) drought-tolerant and insect-resistant maize varieties for more than a decade and field trials are now beginning to raise hopes for finding a long-term solution to the region’s food insecurity.

GM maize hybrids providing insect protection — commonly known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) — and drought tolerance (Bacillus subtilisDroughtGuard®) have shown better yields than traditional maize varieties in field trials in multiple countries, particularly when stressed by drought and insect pests such as stem borer and fall armyworm, said Sylvester Oikeh, TELA project manager at the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation.

“Bt maize has shown a 52 percent advantage over non-Bt maize when they are both grown under the same stem borer insect pest conditions,” Oikeh recently told a group of agricultural biotech scientists at the National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge (NaCCRI). Read more …