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January 11th, 2018 /

Before the end of 2017, Uganda President Museveni declined to sign the long-debated National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012, asking for clarification on various items including patent rights of indigenous farmers. The bill, passed by Ugandan parliament last year, provides a regulatory framework for biotechnology research, development, and release. This week, Ugandan parliament resumes after its holiday break, and it is expected that the bill will be revisited as a matter of priority. Meanwhile, the chair of Uganda’s committee of science and technology Robert Sekitoleko has pledged to educate the president on the issues of concern, stating that the reason patent rights were not addressed in the bill is that a preexisting patents law already covers them, according to an article in The Ugandan. As the impasse over the bill unfolds, leaders in Uganda’s Kasese district are asking for priority to receive GM cassava and maize as soon as they are available, as the community is facing severe food shortages due to viral cassava damage.

In biotech news, teams at the John Innes Centre (Norwich, UK), University of Queensland and University of Sydney have pioneered a new speed-breeding platform that promises to accelerate the crop breeding process by using a glasshouse or other environment with enhanced LED lighting, allowing photosynthesis for 22 hours a day. ”Using the technique, the team has achieved wheat generation from seed to seed in just 8 weeks,” says a post by John Innes Centre. This means, for example, that breeders will be capable of growing six generations of wheat, chick pea, or barley per year – a threefold increase on current breeding technologies – enhancing the possibility of advancing understanding of crop genetics and bringing improved varieties to market more quickly. The full paper, Speed breeding is a powerful tool to accelerate crop research and breedingis available at Nature Plants.

From the B4FA Fellows, we present several stories from Michael Ssali, who writes about how one farmer improved his yield by following Brazil’s coffee-growing practices, how to take out an agricultural loan, and the importance of educating farmers in nutrition in the fight against hunger.

As always, please send questions, comments and story links to [email protected] and visit for further reading and useful resources. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.


Speed breeding technique sows seeds of new green revolution
John Innes Centre

Speed breeding LED technique grows food six times faster than conventional farming
ZME Science

Yes, we may have no bananas, but monoculture wasn’t so easy to avoid

The banana as we know it is dying…again

Chocolate is on track to go extinct in 40 years
Business Insider

Can gene editing save the world’s chocolate?
Scientific American

Farmers need to avoid consistent use of plant protection products (PPPs) that could hinder soils functions and ecosystems

Sweet potato square one
Crop Wild Relatives

Talking Biotech: How genetic engineering can reduce cancer-causing contaminants in peanuts
Genetic Literacy Project

Gene editing: The key to food security in a warmer world?

New technologies are re-engineering traditional plant breeding to meet global food security challenges

Genetic modification and genome editing rely on active roles for researchers and industry

Can online gamers help developing nations solve aflatoxin crop contamination?
Genetic Literacy Project

France may replace well-tested herbicide with pelargonic and other more toxic
Genetic Literacy Project

WFP is counting the beans to measure the affordability of food

Herbicide-resistant ‘super weeds’? Don’t blame GMO crops, study says weed scientist Andrew Kniss
Genetic Literacy Project

Farmers will need a genetically diverse portfolio of improved crop  varieties that are suited to a range of agro-ecosystems and farming  practices, and resilient to climate change

Global glyphosate herbicide ban would cause substantial damage to economy and environment, study shows
Genetic Literacy Project

A peace plan for resolving GMO conflict
Alliance for Science, by Mark Lynas

Want to fix agriculture? Stop with the name-calling — and death threats
The Washington Post

We need proper and inclusive discussions on what strategies we should use to ensure sustainable agricultural growth
Daily Nation

Market-oriented production and profitability, economic growth, and radical economic transformation are just some of the challenges agriculture will face in 2018
Biz Community

Avoiding GMOs isn’t just anti-science. It’s immoral
Washington Post

Challenge of food waste is put centre stage at conference
Farming Life

Dr Robert Mwanga: “What innovations in food production are likely to have significant impact in the next decade?”
World Food Prize


This is how we should honor Calestous Juma’s vision for an Africa of innovation
Quartz Africa

Calestous Juma: how Africa can honour his legacy

Remember Calestous Juma: Africa’s brave sustainability pioneer
Huffington Post

Why education is the next big trend in African agriculture
Biz Community

Can online courses fix Africa’s food insecurity?

Q&A: Promoting gender and agriculture research

Africa’s tropical forests could be next in line as global food demand grows
The Conversation

Meet the African women making strides in agriculture
Face2Face Africa

Experts and political leaders agree that Africa’s enormous agricultural potential can feed the continent and spur socio-economic growth

To transform agricultural extension, give youth and women a voice
World Bank

Emergency support to smallholder farmers affected by El Niño in Southern Africa
Relief Web

Dietary deficiencies are a hidden threat to health
Phys Org

Burkina Faso

Assessing the real cost of Burkina Faso’s decision to phase out GMO cotton
Alliance for Science


Ethiopian scientist praised by Bill Gates for impacting lives of small-scale farmers
Africa News


In Kenya, struggling potato growers ink a new deal

Too dry for maize? Try cowpeas: Kilifi farmer reaps big from new crop
The Star Kenya

Use of data key to growth in agriculture in Kenya
The East African

Research on solar pumps promises better tidings
Daily Nation


Strengthening synergies between groundnut projects in Nigeria


Rwanda’s agricultural transformation journey from 2007 to 2017
New Times Rwanda

South Africa

Rethinking agriculture in South Africa – constraints and opportunities


Introducing groundnut varieties more tolerant to Rosette disease in Tanzania

Researchers and policymakers meet in Tanzania to discuss cassava agronomy

Armyworms overrun farms within Lake Zone


Ugandan president refuses to sign biosafety bill into law
Xinhua Net

Impasse over GMO Bill

MPs vow to educate Museveni on GMO bill
The Ugandan

Parliament resumes – GMO Bill on agenda
The Ugandan

Response to president’s letter on Biosafety Law
New Vision

Ugandan leaders seek priority release of GMO seeds in Kasese District
Alliance for Science

Steps to follow when taking an agricultural loan
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

How Brazil’s coffee system inspired Nkandu
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Fight hunger by educating farmers
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

GM potato: Variety could deflate GMO myths’ bubble in Uganda
Daily Monitor

Museveni urges Ugandans, Africans on development

Opportunities and resources

Addressing food security in Africa: JR Biotek Foundation opens applications for its second annual international workshop and symposium

ASSAF, AAAS, TWAS-ROSSA seek candidates to participate in inaugural regional training workshop on science diplomacy. South Africa, 21-25 May 2018. Deadline 9 February