In the news...

August 5th, 2015 / B4FA
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This week has seen more about the new GM rice that both increases yields and reduces methane emissions – rice paddies contribute up to 17 per cent of human-induced methane emissions, and that contributes to climate change; the results came after a three-year field trial in China. “The new rice sounds like a win-win for good yields and reduced climate impact,” said Paul West, lead scientist for the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.Then, a multi-national team of researchers led by US scientists has identified a bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables them to resist devastating blight. And Zamri Zainal of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a team of researchers has found that the stress-associated protein (SAP) family found in rice increases salt tolerance in other plants.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, scientists are lobbying for the introduction of a GM maize variety capable of controlling stem borer and African stem borer that are a threat to maize production in the country. The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), both Nairobi-based, said the maize variety from the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) has been developed over a period of three years. “Once it is approved for commercialization, it will contribute to Kenya’s national aspirations of improving agriculture through the adoption of appropriate technology,” KALRO Director General Eliud Kireger. Stem borer insect pests are blamed for drop maize yields by an average of 400,000 tonnes annually in the country.

In a piece arguing the need for better crops for better nutrition, Howarth Bouis, the director of HarvestPlus, a global research and implementation programme that develops and disseminates nutrient-rich food crops to reduce hunger, discusses biofortification — using conventional crop breeding techniques to make crops, and food, healthier. Today, 10 million people in rural households are growing and eating biofortified foods, and with partners, these are being scaling up to reach millions more. Because they are high yielding, biofortified crops are attractive to farmers to grow. They are also affordable, as biofortified food generally sells for the same price in the market as nonbiofortified varieties.

Contributions from B4FA Fellows this week include pieces from Samuel Hinneh on a new regional laboratory in Ghana that is seeking to develop the vegetable industry through research, development and innovation to improve food and nutritional security in West Africa. It will do this through increased use of indigenous vegetables. The laboratory will facilitate new approaches for engaging relevant stakeholders in the vegetable value chain for addressing the challenges of the industry. And Lominda Afedraru checks in with a piece using farm waste for biogas production – an alternative source of energy. When any organic matter, such as cow dung, crop residue and chicken wastes, is fermented in the absence of oxygen, biogas is generated. It’s colourless and odourless, an ideal fuel for a variety of applications such as cooking, lighting and motive power, while the waste from a biogas plant is an excellent organic manure that improves soil fertility. And Michael J. Ssali reports on smallholder John Mugera, who has been selling grafted mango and orange seedlings to farmers. John says it is a business that people with small land holdings can engage in to earn income and improve their livelihoods.

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

Biosciences & plant genetics around the world
New GM rice plant could increase yield and cut greenhouse gas emissions
IFL Science

Researchers unlock the rice immune system
Phys.org

How a new type of rice can fight global warming
Forbes Magazine

Overexpression of stress-associated protein from rice increases salt tolerance in Arabidopsis
ISAAA,org

Better crops for better nutrition
devex.com

“Bubble desalination” – latest effort to boost crop growth
SciDev.net

Mary Ann Liebert features women in biotechnology law and regulation
ISAAA,org

Why former organic farmer, food inspector turned against Big Organic to embrace GM
Genetic Literacy Project

Why everyone who is sure about a food philosophy is wrong
Washington Post

Pan-Africa
How do economists talk about Africa?: Review of Africa – Why Economists Get It Wrong
The Economist

Can East Africa avoid a major food crisis in the near future?
The Arusha Times

Kenya: Ready onion market bringing profits to underemployed youth
Daily Nation

Kenya steps up to UN year of soils
Farmbiz Africa

Kenya: “Use greenhouses to raise yield” Gov Ongwae
The Star

New GM, stemborer-resistant maize ready for Kenya; scientists are lobbying for approval
The Star

Kenyan scientists seek commercial release of GM Maize variety
Coastweek.com

Kenya: Machakos farmers adopt improved, drought-resistant maize varieties
The Star

Sorghum value addition opens new frontiers for Kenyan farmers
Farmbiz Africa

Malawi: Plan to pump water for irrigation from Lake Malawi
Malawi News Agency

Agri-biotech and biosafety communication training in Malawi
ISAAA,org

Audio: Redefine Africa with knowledge, says South African sci-tech minister Naledi Pandor
SciDev.net

Ghana
Aflatoxins contamination needs to be tackled
Ghana News Agency

New vegetable lab launched to boost food security, by B4FA Fellow Samuel Hinneh
SciDev.net

AGRA’s sponsored students graduate with PhD in plant breeding
GhanaWeb

Biotechnology is essential for Africa
GhanaWeb

Ghana shares its new superlab with West African scientists 
SciDev.net

Nigeria
Dangote to produce 1 million tonnes of rice in five years
Daily Trust

Desert-to-Food project to produce food from desert dunes, contain desertification
This Day

Tanzania
Growing of biotech crops increases, forum told
Tanzania Daily News

Uganda
As disease threatens Uganda’s banana crop, ActionAid and anti-GMO groups block solution
Genetic Literacy Project

Farmers can reap big on a small piece of land, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali
Daily Monitor

Providing insurance to farmers must be supported
Daily Monitor

Garlic could spur household incomes, cottage industries
Daily Monitor

With clean seed and good roads, Kigezi farmers smile to the market
Daily Monitor

Using farm waste for biogas as alternative source of energy, by B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru
Daily Monitor

Uganda pulses farmers get India export boost
African Farming and Food Processing

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