In the news...

July 8th, 2019 /

WE HAVE CHANGED …Due to severely restricted funds, we have changed what we do regularly. Our newsletter is now be published MONTHLY – this is the fourth. 

We hope you value what we do. We have raised just enough fund to continue until the end of 2019. Nonetheless, we still need to raise funds for the future and we also want to forge partnerships with African organisations and individuals so that, through active cooperation, we can together both continue and widen our activities. Can you help, or do you know of someone who might? Or have you any comments and criticisms about what we are doing, and how we could improve? Please contact Professor Christopher Leaver, CBE, FRS, FRSE or Bart Ullstein as soon as possibleWe really want to hear from you.

During June, we have covered more than 400 stories on biosciences and farming in Africa on Twitter (@B4FA). Rather than inundating you, our readers of this Month in Review, we have selected just a few topics on which to concentrate.
This month we start with two rounds of congratulation. First to Qu Dongyu, China’s deputy agricultural minister, who has been elected the new Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Before joining China’s agriculture ministry, Qu worked at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, where he focused on conducting research and innovation, raising rural income, reducing poverty through science and technology and building a quality assessment system for produce. Qu has said that, as Director General, he wants to focus on hunger and poverty eradication, tropical agriculture, drought land farming, digital rural development and better land design through transformation of agricultural production. 
We also congratulate Dutch seed-breeder Simon Groot of East-West Seed who has been awarded the 2019 World Food Prize. The seed company, which he founded in 1982 as a partnership with Philippine seed trader Benito Domingo, now has 973 improved varieties of 60 different vegetable crops. “As the use of his seeds spread throughout the Philippines and to Thailand, Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, farmers’ daily lives were uplifted and consumers benefited from greater access to nutritious vegetables,” Kenneth Quinn, the president of the World Food Prize Foundation, said in awardingthe prize. “Mr. Groot in effect developed a stunningly impactful global network of seed producers who are transforming the lives of 20 million farmers every year”.
In our featured article, Dr. Margaret Karembu, one of B4FA’s founding advisors, warns crop biotech proponents not to oversell its benefits to wary consumers, and highlights three communications pitfalls – claiming genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will feed the world and are a silver bullet to ending hunger and poverty; assuming that increased knowledge will automatically lead to acceptance of GM technology; and belabouring technology processes at the expense of the products. Rather, she suggests, cultivating shared values with stakeholders and understanding what stakeholders want to know about innovations and what they care most about are the cornerstone of effective communication. Africa’s chance to benefit from biotech developments, she emphasises, will rely heavily on its ability to efficiently regulate and effectively communicate their potential.

We also report on news from China where about 300 new strains of saltwater-tolerant rice have been planted on 670 hectares of experimental alkali fields in search of resilient, high-yield varieties that can grow on previously unproductive land. Qualified varieties will then be promoted for commercial cultivation nationwide, covering about one-fifth of the 100 million hectares of saltwater soil that is believed to have potential for rice cultivation in the country. Facing the dual pressures of shrinking productive arable hectarage and dwindling irrigation capacity, research into saltwater-resistant rice can help safeguard food security in not only in China but in many other places around the world.

Mark Lynas reports on comments by Professor Johnathan Napier of Rothampsted Research, who pioneered the development of plants that produce heart-healthy omega-3 fish oils, arguing that misinformation and over-regulation are stopping or slowing the development of potentially life-saving products. Napier focuses in particular on Golden Rice, which has been genetically modified to provide more vitamin A than other rice varieties and was first created by scientists nearly 20 years ago, with the initial concept developed at least 10 years before that. “Vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem in the developing world, killing or blinding over a million children a year, and affecting hundreds of millions of people in total. Yet, as of last year, no Golden Rice has ever been grown for human consumption,” Napier says. “The technology is proven, the rigorous safety studies have been done, the nutritional research shows Golden Rice is an excellent source of vitamin A – but still it is not being produced, despite having been formally approved for feed or food use in USA, Canada and New Zealand and Australia,” he continues. “It’s been stuck in a development limbo for far too long now, and is not available to the people who would benefit from it.” The original article is available in Nature Plants (behind a paywall).
Bad news continues on the spread of African swine fever, with new outbreaks in industrial farms in Viet Nam and Poland. Originating on Africa, it has surfaced in the past in Russia, Brazil, and various parts of Europe, where it still maintains a stronghold in wild boar populations. But it only escalated into the biggest animal disease outbreak ever when it reached China last August last year, spreading like wildfire across the world’s largest pig congregations, with the governmentculling more than 1.2 million pigs to date in an attempt to control new infections. This month’s Review also includes a report in Forbes Magazinesuggesting that the African swine fever crisis could disrupt global food companies. We also include a report from the Scientist on the intensive efforts around the world to develop a vaccine quickly and the challenges the virus presents that are yet to be overcome.

We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.During June, we have covered more than 400 stories on biosciences and farming in Africa on Twitter (@B4FA). Rather than inundating you, our readers of this Month in Review, we have selected just a few topics on which to concentrate.

Qu Dongyu, China’s deputy agricultural minister, was elected Sunday as the new director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
Star Tribune, China

Dutch seed developer wins 2019 World Food Prize
Alliance for Science

Communicating the science of gene modification: lessons from last two decades

Trials underway for saltwater rice strains
ECNS, China

Mark Lynas writes: World is missing out on biotechnology‘s lifesaving benefits, plant scientists warn
Alliance for Science

African Swine Fever
‘No way to stop it’: millions of pigs culled across Asia as swine fever spreads
The Guardian, UK

Scientists race to build vaccine for African swine fever
The Scientist, US

Swine flu outbreak is a wakeup call to change farming and diets
Treehugger, US

Agriculture insight: the impact of African swine fever
Livewire Markets, US

How the African swine fever crisis could disrupt global food companies
Forbes Magazine, US

Global meat prices likely to remain high following African swine fever outbreak
Business Live, South Africa

African swine fever hits industrial farms in Vietnam, 2.8 million pigs culled

Poland confirms African swine fever break in 8,000-head herd – ASF has been spreading across the country through wild boars
National Hog Farmer, US

The challenges of delivering genetically modified crops with nutritional enhancement traits

The superpowers of genetically modified pigs. Scientists have engineered swine that pollute less, fend off disease, and produce more meat, but you won’t find them outside experimental farms . . . yet
The Scientist, US

Gene-editing technology may produce resistant virus in cassava plant
Global Plant Council, Canada

From health clinics to farms, CRISPR has a bright future, but diligence required to limit ‘off-target’ effects
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Nutritionally enhanced GMO crops could boost public health worldwide, so why have we developed so few?
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Can precessed food boost global nutrition, despite its unhealthy reputation?
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Compositional analysis of genetically engineered GR2E “Golden Rice” compared to conventional rice
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, US

Golden Rice, Part 4: Cost-effective GMO crop can save lives and dramatically boost developing economies
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Yes, there is evidence that Bt brinjal is 100 per cent safe (Part I)
Times of India

Scientific challenges to CRISPR crops ‘largely settled,’ though political, social concerns remain
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Twenty-one years of using insect resistant (GM) maize in Spain and Portugal: farm-level economic and environmental contributions
GM Crops and Food

GMOs: ‘Science can overcome scepticism’
Food Navigator, UK

USDA proposes to ease biotech regulation
Agri-pulse, US

Why GMOs aren’t responsible for a spike in food allergies
Genetic Literacy Project, US

GMO Bt crops slow global spread of fall armyworm pest, but some bugs resistant to insecticidal plants
Genetic Literacy Project, US

People in Africa eat GMO foods. So why do they oppose new crops developed by their own scientists?
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Ghana considers new rules to enhance its GMO regime
Alliance for Science, US

Gene editing could save Ghana’s cocoa from extinction, scientists say 
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Kenya at crossroads over sustainable farming or GMOs
Xinhua, China

Kenya plants demonstrations of insect-resistant GMO maize
Alliance for Science

Nigeria’s greenlighting of Bt insect resistant cotton and cowpeas may spur Africa’s acceptance of GMOs
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Swaziland (eSwatini) finds success with GMO cotton
Alliance for Science

Indian geneticist: ‘Policy paralysis’ on biotech crops threatens country’s food production
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Dispelling falsehoods about GM crops
Financial Express, India

Farmers to sow illegal seeds to demand GM brinjal, HT cotton
Times of India, India

Illegally grown GM aubergines highlight India’s continuing ambivalence to transgenic crops
Chemistry World

Benefits to low-input agriculture. 
Nature, UK

Where – and why – is agroforestry hiding?
Landscape News, Germany

The Great Insect Dying: the tropics in trouble and some hope
Mongabay, US

Study: plant species lost at alarming rate – in the past 250 years, 571 plant species have gone extinct
The Scientist, US

Worldwide phylogeography and history of wheat genetic diversity
Science, US

Opinion: agriculture must replace small science with big science
The Scientist, US

Grow faster, grow stronger: speed-breeding crops to feed the future
New York Times

Breeding improves wheat productivity under contrasting agrochemical input levels
Nature, UK

Poor nations could be future ‘guardians’ of agrobiodiversity

Opuah Abeikwen: fighting to protect Nigeria’s indigenous crops
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Nigeria can be agricultural power house in Africa – Adesina
PM News, Nigeria

Togo is, in West Africa, the leading exporter of organic products to the European Union
Togo First

A sweet deal? Study shows higher cocoa prices could end child labour in Ghana
The East African, Kenya

Combating poverty through intersectional approach to agriculture
The Guardian, Nigeria

Could sweet potato be a solution to Africa’s food insecurity, malnutrition? 
New Times, Rwanda

Experts link distraction from agriculture to poverty
The Guardian, Nigeria

ABU produces insect-resistant cowpea
Daily Trust, Nigeria

African experts root for organic farming to boost food security
Xinhua, China

EU to fund Kenyan smallholder agribusiness in latest boost for agriculture
The East African, Kenya 

Climate-smart community seed banks conserve and share essential farm biodiversity resources
CTA, Netherlands

Africa’s first online network for women entrepreneurs in agribusiness launched in Nairobi
CTA, Netherlands

Africa’s female agripreneurs to propel next wave of growth, prosperity
Xinhua, China

Introducing APBA, an initiative of scientists in Africa from HEIs, research organizations and private companies who felt the need to change the narrative of crop improvement and the seed sector in Africa
African Plant Breeders Association

Cotton by-products promise opportunities for Africa
Food for Mzansi, South Africa

Cotton SA could emerge as a serious contender
Daily Maverick, South Africa

We must do more to boost banana yields
The Citizen, Tanzania

Uganda defies odds, crop volumes rise
The East African, Kenya

B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali asks: To use or not to use chemicals?
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Natural way to keep your garden fertile – advice from B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
The Monitor, Uganda

Five things you should do for pigs
Daily Monitor, Uganda

How to grow avocados for export
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Poultry health: common diseases in chicken and how to treat them
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Inter-cropping maize with sunflower reduces damage
Daily Monitor, Uganda

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru writes: Dairy farmers share their strategies for getting more milk
Daily Monitor, Uganda

Taking Nigerian agriculture to the next level
The Guardian, Nigeria

Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security 2019  awarded to a unique mapping approach that will give smallholder farmers a ‘best fit’ for what to grow, where and how
Eco-business, Singapore

Helping Africa’s smallholders feed the world
Project Syndicate, US

Africa: more investments in smallholders needed to address food insecurity

Genetically modified crops can increase smallholder farmers’ yields by 20 per cent
Leadership, Nigeria

Campaigners are rooting for biological methods of controlling crop pest and diseases by African small-holders farmers
The Standard, Kenya

Can forests and smallholders live in harmony in Africa?
Forest News

New CASA programme to benefit 565,000 smallholders in Uganda, Malawi and Nepal

Drones offering high-tech help to smallholder farmers
New Times, Rwanda

Why does Africa’s continental food security policy framework matter to small-holder farmers everywhere

Expert advises Kenya to promote smallholder farming for food security
Africa CGTN

Africa’s potential is in its youth and teen entrepreneurs

Spurring youths’ interest in agriculture
Leadership, Nigeria

Empowering Africa’s youthful agripreneurs
African Business

Young Ghanaians are quitting their jobs to become farmers and encouraging others to do the same
Independent, UK

Nestlé, AGRA partner to support 2,000 young agriculture entrepreneurs in West Africa
Ghana Web

About 30 students from Africa will live in rural China this year to study agricultural technology and then return home to coach farmers in techniques for increasing their crop yields
Daily Star, China

Enemy at the gates: how plant scientists at Cambridge are trying to defend our most important crops from a deadly disease
University of Cambridge

Caterpillar’s devastating march across China spurs hunt for native predator 
Nature, UK

GMO crops could have slowed fall armyworm pest advance across China
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Video: Code of the Wild: a documentary exploring the genome editing revolution
Technology Works

Video: AfDB’s Jennifer Blanke on the Feed Africa Strategy
CNBC Africa

Video: How digitisation could transform rural farming in Africa
CNBC Africa

Podcast: ‘Endarkenment’—How glyphosate-cancer hysteria spreads despite ample evidence of weed killer’s safety
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Podcast: How biotech, big data and robotics help farmers grow more food on less land
Genetic Literacy Project, US

Event: First African Conference on Edible Insects – 14-16 August in Harare, Zimbabwe
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Event: Africa Agtech Expo and Forum the latest international agriculture technology expo and conference to be held in Lagos, Nigeria, will be launched from 15 – 16 Oct 2019 
Farmers Review Africa

Event: Harnessing the next wave of innovation and technology for a sustainable African agriculture sector, 15–16 October, 2019
Africa Outlook

Event: Conference – Advances in classical breeding and application of modern breeding tools for food and nutrition security in Africa – Accra, October 23-25, 2019 … apply now
African Plant Breeders Association

Event: 3rd African Symposium on Mycotoxicology (ASM) joint MYTOX-SOUTH Conference to take place from 6 to 9 September, 2020 in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Opportunity: WACCI: Call for Applications 2020 – PhD training in Plant Breeding. Closing 31 July 2019

Opportunity: Funding opportunities and scholarships in AR4D – June 2019

Opportunity: The International Science Council (ISC) is seeking a Science Officer to assist with the planning and implementation of ISC’s mission, UK

Opportunity: Falling Walls Engage is seeking the Science Engagement of the year 2019. Apply now and win a trip to Berlin, Germany!, UK

Opportunity: job opportunities with the UKRI GCRF Accelerate Hub
University of Oxford, UK

Grant Opportunity: Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) support

Opportunity: Call for Applications – PASET RSIF PhD scholarships