In the news...

September 16th, 2015 / B4FA.org
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This week in biotech news, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School Calestous Juma writes about the pest-resistant maize variety that Kenya is about to introduce. “It is estimated that the spotted stem borer and the African stem borer reduce Kenya’s maize crop by 13 per cent or 400,000 tonnes annually,” writes Juma. “Controlling the pest using biotechnology will not only reduce Kenya’s food imports, it will also equip the country with new techniques that can be redeployed for other sectors such as drug and vaccine development.”

Juma asserts that this development, led by a team of local scientists, means Kenya is on the cusp of becoming a regional leader in crop biotech. The approval process for environmental release of Bt maize is underway, and Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority has received public comments as it examines the application. A decision is thus expected in October 2015.

Food security has also been a recurring theme, including an op-ed asserting that African food security relies on upgrading capacity to process and store food, and that US companies can and should help. An article in Environmental Leader points out that in contrast to the MDGs, which posited food security as a developing world problem, SDGs recast the issue as a global one – and that we must tackle as a global community such problems as food waste, improved nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and so on. A piece in CropLife International lists top five tools for fighting food insecurity, an FAO Sweden report looks at water’s role in food security and human dignity, and an analysis coming out of South Africa reflects on our shifting view of the term “food security” in Africa – that it’s an issue that’s more than just about severe hunger.

From the B4FA Fellows, Michael Ssali reflects on the controversy surrounding Uganda’s Namulonge land saga, in which part of the land on which the Namulonge agricultural research institute is located has been leased by the government to a businessman for commercial farming. The research centre is dedicated to investigating high-yielding and disease-resistant crop seed production as well as genetic research, particularly on cassava. Lominda Afedraru writes about adding value to African indigenous vegetables: a number of organizations are working with women to help strengthen cultivation of such indigenous vegetables as amaranthus, African eggplant, Jute mallow, cowpea and pumpkin for their nutritional value as well as an important source of income. And from Ghana, Noah Nash sends in a video reporting on women enrolling in a Climate Resilience Agriculture and Food Systems project.

Thank you as always for joining us. We’d love to hear from you – please send news items, questions and comments to karen@b4fa.org.

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world

Nitrogen-use efficient rice demonstrates an average yield increase of 30 percent in four years of field trials
Market Watch

Brazil expands portfolio of crops with intro of new herbicide resistant soy
Genetic Literacy

The genetic innovation that kept the world from starving (no, it’s not GMOs)
Genetic Literacy Project

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) emphasizes importance of field trials of GM crops
ISAAA

Food security: our problem, not their problem: how the SDGs adopt a more globally cooperative view
Environmental Leader

FAO Food Price Index registers sharpest fall since December 2008
FAO

Why do some academic scientists stand up for GM crops?
Forbes

Ban bad capitalists, not GM crops
Asian Age

Report: Water, food security and human dignity
FAO Sweden

Rothamsted, GENeS, and science communication
BioFortified

Freedom of information requests reveal how scientists interact with seed, chemical and organic companies
Genetic Experts

GMO foods should be labeled, but not for safety, says bioethicist
NBC News

Science-deniers must be denied
Live Mint

Weeds tell farmers the kind of soils they have the and crop to grow on them
FarmBiz Africa

Using FOIA to read scientists’ emails
Scientist

Three priorities for the future of climate science
SciDevNet

Pan-Africa

Pest-resistant maize variety opens way for technological advancement
Nation, by Calestous Juma

Kenya’s NBA receives public comments as it examines Bt maize environmental release application
ISAAA

Despite mistrust, GM foods gaining momentum in Kenya
Standard

Kenyan farmers ask questions about GMO maize ahead of its release
AllAfrica

Kenyan Parliamentarians endorse government plan to lift GMO ban
ISAAA

African food security relies on upgrading capacity to process and store food; US companies can and should help
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Food insecurity is more than just severe hunger
AllAfrica

Climate change is water change: smallholder strategies needed in Africa
Ag4Impact

As drought destroys maize, Zimbabwe tries out new staples, sorghum and millet
AllAfrica

How will a population boom change Africa?
BBC

Weak links hamper knowledge sharing in agriculture
AllAfrica

South Africa: Act now to protect Western Cape’s bees
AllAfrica

Report: FAO’s support for Zambia, including food security, fisheries, forestry and rural development
FAO

South Africa: Rural pupils join science community
African Brains

An African plant breeder’s opinion on GMOs
Biofortified

New fertilizer plant set to reduce cost, boost agriculture in Kenya
Ventures Africa

African women smallholder farmers set to benefit from project to build resilience against climate change
Daily Mail

East Africa urged to embrace modern farming to fight food insecurity
AllAfrica

Kenyan schoolchildren to learn about soil using new educational materials
FarmBiz Africa

East Africa: Growing food is good; improved handling and packaging can bring greater profits
AllAfrica

South Africa: Food security threat looms, says economist
IOL

Kenya gets new online grain trading platform
African Farming

Ghana

Video: Women enrolled onto Climate Resilience Agriculture and Food Systems project
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

Nigeria

Program set to boost cassava yields with new varieties and practices
The Nation

Tanzania

Tanzania: Farmers’ use of proper technology pays off in Kilimanjaro
Daily News

As drought hits maize, Tanzania cooks up a sweet potato fix
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Report: Food security in a climate perspective: private sector investment in smallholder ag in Tanzania & beyond
Eldis

Tanzania gets mobile phone-based agricultural service\
African Farming

The truth about cotton in Tanzania
AllAfrica

Uganda

Reflecting on the controversy around Namulonge land saga
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Namulonge: the food crop nucleus of Uganda
AllAfrica

Adding value to African indigenous vegetables
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Portable biosensor that helps detect aflatoxins created by group of Ugandan scientists
AllAfrica

Progress in fight against fake seeds
AllAfrica

Using modern technologies to plan planting seasons, monitor crop production
AllAfrica

Strengthen Uganda’s agriculture institutes
DailyMonitor

Uganda’s niche in organic agriculture
DailyMonitor