In the news...

January 4th, 2018 /

Happy new year greetings to all our readers around the world! This week we catch up with news from around the holidays, including a look forward from Food Tank highlighting 188 organizations concerned with supporting food security efforts to watch in 2018, including IFAD, the Crop Trust, the One Acre Fund, and others.

Before the end of 2017, scientists identified the first rust pathogen gene that wheat plants detect to “switch on” resistance, a breakthrough that allowed wheat rust to be detected in samples in hours rather than weeks – a time difference that could help save crops from devastation. ““For the first time it will be possible to do DNA testing to identify whether a rust in a wheat crop anywhere in the world can overcome a rust-resistance gene, called Sr50, which is being introduced in high-yielding wheat varieties,” said Professor Robert Park, in a blog post by the University of Sydney. The paper, “Loss of AvrSr50 by somatic exchange in stem rust leads to virulence for Sr50 resistance in wheat” was published in Science in late December.

A summary of the African food security situation in 2017 reported that the number of people experiencing food insecurity on the continent rose from 220 to 224 million people last year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which attributes the rise to changing weather patterns leading to loss of livestock and crops, as well as to conflict. However, according to an article published in the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA), some African countries improved food production with the help of modern technologies, including improved seed varieties, modern equipment, fertilizers, and the practice of conservation agriculture. “In Ethiopia, for instance, farmers increased wheat yields by 14 percent as a result of newer agricultural technologies,” says the article. “And in Kenya, the practice of conservation agriculture has taken root, resulting in bigger yields.” Innovations in financing to allow farmers access to the necessary technology has also contributed to these successes, says the article.

Also before the end of 2017, the French Development Agency and World Bank pledged EUR 1 million to the ‘Triple A’ initiative launched in Morocco in 2016, dedicated to adapting agriculture in Africa to the effects of climate change. The coalition of African countries, development finance institutions, NGOs and the private sector is to create a pool of experts to promote innovative solutions and best practices.

From our B4FA Fellows, we hear from Michael Ssali, who profiles a Ugandan farmer who has chosen to grow clonal coffee. The farmer, Charles Lwanga, explains that he now grows cloned Robusta coffee exclusively because while traditional Robusta coffee plants only yielded six kilograms of dry coffee beans per tree, cloned Robusta plants yielded 14 kilos.

Finally we are pleased to kick off 2018 with the good news that B4FA has received generous support from the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture that will allow us to continue with our communications activities and to build a partnership programme that will allow us to develop our activities in a long-term, sustainable way. We look forward to continuing to bring you news about biotech in African agriculture. Now more than ever, we’d appreciate your feedback about what you enjoy, find useful, and would like to see. If you are interested in our partnership programme, or feel you could help us move forward, please contact [email protected], and we will be delighted to follow up with you.

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.


Who will make waves in food and agriculture in the new year? Food Tank’s 118 organizations to watch in 2018
Food Tank

Wheat disease breakthrough to help feed the world
University of Sydney

Scientists have identified the very first rust pathogen gene that wheat plants detect to “switch on” resistance

Report: Loss of AvrSr50 by somatic exchange in stem rust leads to virulence for Sr50 resistance in wheat

Researchers trace potato’s origins, its untapped potential

CSIRO scientists develop new type of wheat with ten times more fiber

JGI and UNC develop functional genomics database for plant microbiome studies

Large-scale trials reveal secrets to adaptation of modern corn hybrids

Chocolate could run out in the next thirty years because the crop will be harder to grow in a warming climate, experts warn
The West Australian

Food security in Middle East, North Africa deteriorating, says UN agency

South Australian companies ‘test the water’ with GM-free labels

Society of Toxicology: No verifiable evidence of potential for adverse health effects of GE crops

These are not your father’s GMOs
Technology Review


More people went hungry in Africa last year. But new initiatives also bore fruit

Experts to adapt African agriculture to climate change

Prof Calestous Juma: Globally known researcher whose predictions came to pass
Daily Nation

Calestous Juma, 64, dies; sought innovation in African agriculture
New York Times

Preventing the next African famine

Building the next generation of African agricultural economists

Op-Ed: Small farmers to revitalise agriculture in Africa
CNBC Africa

EAC agricultural food systems increase youth opportunities
Daily News


In Egypt, genetic crop modification is on hold
Al-Fana Media


Breathing life into dying soils

Agricultural Commercialization Cluster system is aiding agricultural transformation

Teff gets mechanization solution


Africa’s Top 10 most food-secure countries: Ghana ranked 8th


African solutions urgently sought for agricultural revolution


USDA FAS-GAIN reports agri-biotech updates in Mozambique


AfDB supports Namibia’s agriculture sector


Groups criticise Nigerian agency on genetically modified cassava
Premium Times


Why one farmer chose to grow clonal coffee
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Using soilless media to grow vegetables
Daily Monitor

Strange worms destroy potato gardens in Teso
All Africa


Sorghum found to be Sudan’s staple food of all time

Opportunities and resources

Book: Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Climate Change in Africa