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10TH APRIL 2018
Welcome to issue 3 of the DrumBeat!

Major regional developments over the last month include:

  • Successful completion of the 3rd Biennial National Agricultural Biosciences Conference (NABIO) 2018, held in Kampala, Uganda, and organized by SCIFODE and partners. Following the conference, optimism is high within the pro-biotech community as they eagerly await outcomes of the March 28, 2018 tabling of a report on the National Biosafety bill in Parliament. The bill originally passed in October 2017 was referred back to the August body by President Yoweri Museveni citing concerns that needed to be addressed. Speaking at the official opening of NABIO 2018, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, assured guests that the report on the bill would be tabled for debate before Parliament broke off for the Easter holiday.

  • Kenya is taking positive strides with steps towards commercialization of Bt cotton. The National Environment Management Agency (NEMA), one of the eight regulatory agencies working closely with the National Biosafety Authority, has invited public comments on an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for proposed National Performance Trials of Bt cotton. NPTs are a penultimate step prior to commercialization. For details on how to participate in this process, visit the "Regulator’s Corner" below.

Finally, DrumBeat would like to encourage young African scientists to apply for the Science & ScienceLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. The Prize is awarded annually to one young scientist for outstanding life science research for which he/she was awarded a doctoral degree in the previous two years. Deadline for application is July 15, 2018.

Happy reading!


Regionally, Kenya’s National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) invited the public to submit comments on an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for proposed National Performance Trial (NPTs) on Bt Cotton. The deadline for submitting comments is 13th April 2018. Our readers are encouraged to participate in this process.

Globally, a number of countries continued to approve biotech crops for food and feed use. In March 2018, Argentina, Brazil and Singapore granted approvals for commercial use of biotech soybean. Argentina and Singapore also approved biotech maize, whereas Canada approved a Golden Rice event, possessing enhanced provitamin, for food use.

Taming the Cereal Killer: Kenyan Scientists on the Verge of Striga (Witchweed) Control
Story of the month
The Nagoya Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

The Nagoya- Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety entered into force on 5th of March 2018. Through providing international rules and procedures in the field of liability and redress relating to living modified organisms (LMOs), the protocol aims at contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The binding agreement provides that States must require operators to take response measures in the event of damage resulting from LMOs which find their origin in the transboundary movement. These measures should also be taken where there is sufficient likelihood that damage will result if timely response measures are not taken. Cristiana Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), urged all parties to the Biosafety protocol to ratify the Supplementary as soon as possible. To date, 171 parties have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which is a supplementary agreement on the CBD.

Overexpression of rice thaumatin-like protein (Ostlp) gene in transgenic cassava results in enhanced tolerance to Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f. sp. Manihotis

Cassava production is greatly hampered by infection due to anthracnose, one of the most destructive fungal disease affecting production in sub-Saharan Africa. This study aimed to improve anthracnose resistance in cassava through genetic engineering.

Development of next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based SSRs in African nightshades: Tools for analyzing genetic diversity for conservation and breeding

This study aimed to develop and apply polymorphic simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers in a broad collection of entries from two species of African nightshades, Solanum scabrum (Mill.) and S. villosum (Mill.).

Cross-species multiple environmental stress responses: An integrated approach to identify candidate genes for multiple stress tolerance in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) and related model species

This study introduces an integrated approach to assess candidate genes for multiple stress responses across species. The work identifies target genes linked to Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) controlling yield and stress tolerance in sorghum and closely related species.