In the news...

January 18th, 2018 /

Biotech highlights from African agriculture this week: Kenya’s potato farmers are reported to be adopting a new practice to boost seed quality: using rooted apical cuttings as starter material for seed production, rather the traditional certified seed. The practice of taking cuttings from tissue culture, allowing them to grow roots, then planting the rooted cuttings in the field produces up to 15 or more tubers. In a region where access to quality seed is limited, this technology has the potential not only to increase yields, but to provide a more reliable supply of high-quality seed. It also offers youth an opportunity to launch businesses in seed production.

A news story in BizCommunity reports that more than 1 million Nigerian smallholder farmers are now growing biofortified crops. In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, biofortification organization Harvest Plus country manager Dr Paul Ilona said that efforts to roll out biofortification practices to farmers has resulted in yield increases of biofortified crops at 20% over local varieties. Harvest Plus’ mission is to develop and scale up the delivery of biofortified crops to prevent malnutrition, as well as to provide global leadership on biofortification evidence and technology.

In Ibadan, Nigeria, confined field trials of transgenic cassava have been launched by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), collaborating with ETH Zurich Plant Biotechnology Lab. The project aims to gather data about the plant’s starch metabolism mechanisms as well as to reduce starch breakdown in cassava roots after shoot pruning and before harvest.

In video, Undark magazine recently posted a short film tackling the problem of Ug99 stem rust, a virulent strain of stem rust fungus discovered in Uganda that destroys wheat crops — one that scientists worry could threaten global food supplies. Aggressive and fast-evolving, the rust is spreading quickly throughout Eastern Africa, South Africa and Egypt.

Finally, if you’re looking for an overview of last year’s biotech news, tune in to Kevin Folta’s podcast Talking Biotech, devoted to the best biotechnology science stories from 2017—and what to expect in 2018.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to invite all journalists covering our area of interest to send us your stories for inclusion on B4FA’s Twitter feed and in this newsletter. Our aim is to amplify the stories relevant to the role of biotech in African agriculture, sustainable agriculture, and global food security. Please send story titles and URLs along with any questions or comments to [email protected] Please also for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!


Talking Biotech’s best biotechnology science stories from 2017—and what to expect in 2018
Genetic Literacy Project

Bangladesh develops country’s first GMO rice variety
Genetic Literacy Project

Accidental discovery could save bees from their greatest threat
Real Clear Science

Jon Entine explains why bee informed partnership data on U.S. bee death rate is misleading because bee population is growing around the world; asks why more focus isn’t on Varroa mites
Genetic Literacy Project

CRISPR crops—exempt from GMO regulations—reaching US market in record time
Genetic Literacy Project

Organic GMOs could be the future of food—if we let them

There’s more to the Indian diet than polished rice and wheat
The Hindu

Are GMOs the key to global food security?

Policy support gap for ‘climate-smart’ agriculture

Gene editing – and what it really means to rewrite the code of life
The Guardian

In climate battle, China reaches out to Africa
Global Times

Sara Menker: How can we farm enough food to feed the world?

A global food crisis may be less than a decade away, says Ethiopia-born data analyst
TED Talks

Talking Biotech: Bayer geneticist Ray Shillito on communicating with the public about agricultural biotechnology, and more
Genetic Literacy Project

Golden rice – a miracle tarnished by irresponsible activism
The Hill

We produce enough food on this planet to feed everyone: So why do we need GMOs?
Genetic Literacy Project

Sex on the farm: How gene editing can revolutionize feeding the world

For India’s farmers it’s agtech startups, not government, that Is key

Scientists use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to improve drought and salt tolerance in rice

Researchers find genetic mechanism that could enhance yield of cereal crops

FSANZ releases approval report for food derived from Provitamin A Rice Line GR2E

Gene editing holds potential to revolutionize agriculture
Farm Bureau

Meet the woman using CRISPR to breed all-male “terminator cattle”
Technology Review

This army of AI robots will feed the world

GACSA Annual Forum focuses on collective action for climate-smart agriculture

Tom Arnold: How Ireland can influence the world when it comes to hunger
Irish Times

Less chewing the cud, more greening the fuel


Kevin Folta: African farmers blocked from using life-saving GMO bananas by European activists
Genetic Literacy Project

“Making Farming Cool” podcast series showcases agribusiness in action

Cocoa farming: The key to reversing deforestation in West Africa
Huffington Post

African mothers in science need more support. Providing it is actually easy
The Conversation

Horn of Africa Drought Response Issue No. 16 (30th November 2017)

Policy support gap for “climate-smart” agriculture

Why education is the next big trend in African agriculture

Accelerating Africa’s energy transition
Project Syndicate

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso loses rank as top African producer after dropping GMO cotton
Alliance for Science


Climate change cuts plantain production, and rates of children attending school


Rooted apical cuttings to boost potato seed systems in Kenya
International Potato Center

Rejuvenating a Kenyan success story from the ashes of collapse
African Indy

Green gram is new cash cow in Kenya’s drylands amid climate change


Water shortage cuts commercial banana production


1 million farmers grow bio-fortified crops in Nigeria

IITA begins confined field trials of transgenic cassava

Why we support field trials of genetically modified cassava in Nigeria
Premium Times

Role of biotechnology in ensuring food security, sustainable agriculture
The Nigerian Observer

Scientists project good harvest this year, as plans to release BT cotton, cowpea, others gain support
Nigerian Tribune


Rwanda takes early steps towards legalising GMOs
The New Times

South Africa

Agriculture is changing and so must agri-economists
Farmers Weekly

At long last, researchers develop a wearable fit for plants
Digital Trends

Banana shortage looms in Arusha


Out of Uganda: Stem rust – an aggressive crop killer threatens global food

Experts predict a tough 2018 for farmers due to climate change

In Uganda, anti-GMO scare tactics even taint conventional hybrid crops
Genetic Literacy Project, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Increasing food production
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali


Central farmers urged to report armyworm

Opportunities and resources

Seed systems: Models and lessons learned