In the news...

August 20th, 2015 / B4FA
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Kenya continues to lead Africa’s biotech news this week, as the nation responds to Deputy President William Ruto’s recent proclamation that the Kenyan government would soon lift the ban on GM. Kenyan parliamentarians have assured scientists of their support for biotechresearch after touring various agri-biotechnology research facilities during a biotechnology travelling workshop in Nairobi. Meanwhile, Kenyan biotechnology experts drawn from a range of universities have expressed approval for the decision.

Meanwhile, Zambia officially launched commercial sales of vitamin A maize. The maize, which was conventionally bred to contain more beta carotene, can provide up to 25 percent of a diet’s vitamin A needs, and will be widely available to consumers across the country to purchase. “Vitamin A deficiency affects more than half of all Zambian children aged under five, increasing their risk of preventable blindness, disease and death from severe infections,” says the report. And the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) has announced that since 2014, it has released 60 crop varieties, 30 per cent of which withstand inclement weather.

In other biotech innovation news a new, low-cost lab-based soil analysis technique developed by the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS) measures the light reflected by a soil sample to gather data used to determine the properties of the soil. Soil testing helps farmers decide what kind of fertilizers are needed to amend the soil before planting, reducing the risk of crop failure and financial loss. This technique, called “infrared spectroscopy”, costs farmers only US$1, compared to US$100 for conventional soil testing methods. Meanwhile, a new genetic spray that uses RNA interference is being investigated by large biotech companies as a way to offer quick and accurate control over genes without having to modify them. It will be interesting to watch how this new development will change the debate over genetic manipulation of crops.

From the B4FA Fellows this week, Noah Nash sends a video about Kofi Annan promoting consumption of nutritious, orange-flesh sweet potato in Northern Ghana, as well as addressing management of weeds in riceagriculture, while Samuel Hinneh writes about a new project based on applied science that will help cocoa farmers adapt to the effects of climate changeLominda Afedraru and Christopher Bendana both address the possibility for more sustainable use and production of energy in Uganda, due to the country’s natural renewable energy resources like biomass, water and compost, as well as solar, wind and geothermal.

Both authors highlight how the use of cheap solar energy is boosting the entrepreneurial activities of Ugandan youth, who are using solar panels to power their barbershops, for example. Afedraru also submits a story about how farmers may benefit from farm tools being developed for their needs by scientists at Agricultural Engineering and Appropriate Technology Research Institute, Namalere (AEATRI).The tools address such needs as energy, water harvesting and storage, soil science and more.

Thank you as ever for joining us, and please send questions, comments and links to karen@b4fa.org.

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world
Genetic sprays that don’t modify a plant’s genome might bring benefits with less controversy
Technology Review

ERECTA gene’s Identification and its drought adaptation with common bean
ISAAA

Researchers use computational technology to identify genes for insect control
ISAAA

Plant science ‘should focus on stem, leaf and root crops’, says Cambridge researcher
East Anglian Daily Times

UN readies tool to widen science and tech access
African Brains

Can the Earth feed 11 billion people? Four reasons to fear a Malthusian future
The Conversation

Global warming increases ‘food shocks’ threat
BBC

China develops non-GMO vitamin enhanced “golden scallop” that could address malnutrition
Genetic Literacy Project

“GM technology is essential for climate smart agriculture” – Professor MS Swaminathan
ISAAA

World food supply at growing risk from severe weather  
Science Insider

Today is Earth Overshoot day: it’s getting earlier every year
Footprint Network

Pan-Africa
Spectroscopy analysis of soil to help African farmers
African Farming

Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research releases crops capable of withstanding inclement weather
AllAfrica

Irrigation risks spreading invasive pests across Africa
SciDevNet

Kenya bets on GM maize to increase yields

AllAfrica

Kenya: How to graft tomatoes for disease resistance
AllAfrica

Zambia launches widespread sales of Vitamin A maize
Harvest Plus

Kenya: New hope for mango farmers as destructive bug meets its foe
AllAfrica

Africa’s historic moment: pan-African food security
International Policy Digest

The African Union Commission and FAO establish knowledge platforms between IGAD member states
African Brains

CDT Director: Bt cotton necessary to boost cotton yields in Zambia
ISAAA

Kenya: Finally, an about-turn on GMOs
AllAfrica

Kenya has capacity to grow GMOs, parliamentarians say
ISAAA

Kenya: Scholars back William Ruto on GM food
AllAfrica

Kenya: Biotechnology can ensure food security
AllAfrica

Kenya: Farmers find way to control weeds with intercropping
AllAfrica

How African cattle farmers are working to mitigate emissions
African Brains

Egypt looking at farming in sub-Saharan Africa
AfricanFarming

Kenyan farmers reap rewards of switching to maize
AfricanFarming

Activists threaten adoption of virus resistant GMO cassava that could rescue Africa’s staple
Genetic Literacy Project

Kenya: How one couple profits from a 1-acre town-based garden, fruit by fruit
AllAfrica

Southern African Development Community faces cereal deficit
AllAfrica

Report: ICTs for agriculture in Africa
Eldis

South Africa: Young blood a prerequisite for future of farms
Mail & Guardian

Investing in Africa’s agriculture is the next best thing
CNBC Africa

Ghana
Video: Kofi Annan promotes consumption of orange flesh sweet potato in Northern Ghana
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

Video: Management of weeds in rice
by B4FA Fellow Noah Nash

New project to help cocoa farmers tackle climate change
SciDev, by B4FA Fellow Samuel Hinneh

Ghanaian farmers to receive agriculture training
AfricanFarming

Dispatch from Ghana: Agriculture benefits more than just farmers
World Bank

Nigeria
Nigeria now has competitive advantage in wheat production, says gov
AllAfrica

Association calls for assistance to acquire cassava flat dryers
AllAfrica

Tanzania
Tanzanian farmer brings forest back to life
SciDevNet

Tanzania launches agriculture development bank
African Farming

Agriculture sector should tackle food insecurity
AllAfrica

Pres Kikwete addresses agriculture sector, reassures nation of food security
AllAfrica

Uganda
Youth embrace solar energy to spur their businesses
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Solar energy takes business to Kole
New Vision, by B4FA Fellow Christopher Bendana

How farmers can benefit from fabricated farm machinery
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru

Karamoja sub-region needs water for crop production, not food aid
AllAfrica

Dodgy fertiliser is keeping Uganda hungry
Guardian UK

Views and opinions in Week in Review are solely those of the author or authors and do not necessarily represent those of B4FA.