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Welcome to Issue 8 of the DrumBeat!

In this issue, we continue to explore Africa’s position in using bioscience innovations to solve key food & nutrition, health and environmental challenges. This has become urgent amidst rise in societal adversities, ranging from escalating climate change effects, disease outbreaks and a rapidly decreasing capacity of food systems to sustain the burgeoning population. The opinion piece features a personal account of Dr. Edgar Traore, coordinator for the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Burkina Faso chapter. Dr. Traore recounts the plight of Burkinabé cotton farmers, two years after suspension of cultivating biotech cotton.

Our video of the month features, Dr. Cecilia Mweu, a research scientist at the Institute of Biotechnology Research, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya. Dr. Mweu, a pioneer member of the African Women for Biosciences (AWfB) endeavors to make help reduce poverty in marginalized communities of semi-arid regions of Kenya by encouraging planting of Doum palm tree. Her research aims to provide clean planting materials of the beneficial gingerbread tree to these communities. In the regulator's corner, we highlight countries that made approvals for use of biotech crops as food and feed over last one month, key among them, Zambia.

Happy reading!


The month of August 2018 saw four countries make approvals for commercial use of biotech crops. In Africa, South Africa maintained lead in adoption of biotech crops by approving two new soybean events improved for herbicide tolerance and modified product quality while Zambia approved for food use, products of biotech maize improved for both herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Outside Africa, South Korea approved a biotech maize for food use. The stacked event has been modified for herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and abiotic stress tolerance. USA approved DHA canola with modified oil/fatty acid production while the European Union approved two biotech maize events improved for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance for food and feed use.

Biotechnology Scientists’ Awards Ceremony
4th African Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity
The 8th Africa Nutritional Epidemiology Conference
OFAB Media Awards
Story of the month
Farmers' pressure seen as missing link in removing bad policies in Uganda

The persistent low agricultural productivity in Uganda has been blamed on poor agricultural policies. The low productivity is cited as the number one reason why farming is a loss-making venture and source of poverty for majority of the people in the country. Local scientists say the stalemate surrounding the passing of the country’s Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2017 has exacerbated farmers’ misery as they are left at the mercy of poor technologies. Scientists believe the situation can only be unlocked if farmers exert pressure on policy makers to make the needed policy changes.

Detecting the severity of maize streak virus infestations in maize crop using in situ hyperspectral data

Maize streak geminivirus (MSV) causes maize streak disease, a major disease limiting maize production over widespread areas of Africa. The use of remote sensing techniques for detecting the MSV infected maize was evaluated in this study. Results illustrate the strength of hyperspectral data in detecting different levels of MSV infection. This study underscores the potential of remotely sensed data in the accurate detection of food crop diseases such as MSV and their severity, which is critical in crop monitoring to foster food security especially in the resource-limited sub-Saharan Africa.

First Report of Sweet potato badnavirus A and Sweet potato badnavirus B in South Africa

Sweet potato is an important root crop, having significant nutritional and economic value in sub-Saharan countries such as South Africa. Sweet potato badnaviruses were first discovered in Peru using small RNA deep sequencing and were later detected in Tanzania, Honduras, and Guatemala. The authors of this study report detection of sweet potato badnaviruses in plants collected during a survey in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa. Future studies are necessary to determine what role badnaviruses play in the etiology of sweet potato disease, because they are known to trigger infections and cause emerging diseases.

Prevalence of Aflatoxin Contamination in Maize and Groundnut in Ghana: Population Structure, Distribution, and Toxigenicity of the Causal Agents

Aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnut is perennial in Ghana with substantial health and economic burden on the population. The present study examined for the first time the prevalence of aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnut in major producing regions across three agroecological zones in Ghana. Out of 509 samples, 35% had detectable levels of aflatoxins. Observed and potential aflatoxin concentrations indicate that on-field aflatoxin management strategies need to be implemented throughout Ghana. The recovered atoxigenic L morphotype fungi are genetic resources that can be employed as biocontrol agents to limit aflatoxin contamination of maize and groundnut in Ghana.

Beyond Promises: Facts about Biotech/GM Crops in 2017
Media Reporting on Biotechnology in Africa: Perspectives from African Journalists
Top Ten Facts about Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in Africa by 2017