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Welcome to Issue 9 of the DrumBeat!

In this issue, we bring you stories making headlines in Africa as the continent continues to explore biosciences to address key food, health and environmental challenges. In the opinion piece, Dr. Leta Bedada, a senior biotechnology research scientist at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) offers perspectives on application of agricultural biotechnologies in improving food production. The video of the month highlights voices from Kenyan policymakers in support of adopting Bt cotton for revitalization of the country’s textile industry. This came after a study tour of the Bt cotton sub-sector in India, presently the leading cotton producer in the world. Kenya is currently conducting National Performance Trials for Bt cotton and expects to commercialize in 2019. In the story of the month, we feature Mr. Daniel Magondu, a Kenyan farmer who accompanied the policy makers delegation to India. From his experience, Magondu urges the Kenyan government to expedite the process of lifting the ban on importation of GM foods that has stifled progress in delivery of agricultural biotechnologies to Kenyan farmers. Representing the Society for Biotech Farmers of Kenya (SOBIFAK), Magondu affirms that Kenyan farmers whose livelihood relies heavily on farming are eagerly waiting for improved cotton seeds, and it would better be Bt cotton.

Happy reading!


Biotech crops approved for commercial use in September 2018

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
South Korea Maize Herbicide tolerance 26/09/2018
Australia Cotton Insect resistance 18/09/2018
New Zealand Cotton Insect resistance 18/09/2018
Taiwan Maize Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance 10/09/2018
Canola Herbicide tolerance and modified product quality 04/09/2018
Brazil Cotton Insect resistance 10/09/2018
Soybean Herbicide tolerance and modified product quality
Argentina Potato Viral disease resistance 10/09/2018
Maize Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance
Columbia Maize Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance 10/09/2018
Philippines Soybean Herbicide tolerance 10/09/2018
Science Forum 2018
1st International Congress of Green Biotechnology
20th International Conference on Agriculture and Biotechnology
Story of the month
Lift the GM Ban and Give Kenyan Farmers a Chance

As a Kenyan small holder farmer and farmer leader, I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say we feel disregarded by our leaders except during campaign times when they need our votes! On numerous occasions, we have called on the government to lift the GM ban, but to no avail. Sadly, we continue being left behind by farmers in other parts of the world who have access to modern biotechnology tools. This became very real to me after visiting cotton farmers in India during a Bt cotton seeing-is-believing study tour.

Assessment of benefits and risks of growing Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) as a biofuel crop in sub-Saharan Africa: a contribution to agronomic and socio-economic policies.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the main goals behind the development of a biofuel industry are employment creation and income generation. Jatropha has emerged as a candidate for biodiesel production. This paper aims to assess the benefits and risks, especially risks, of growing Jatropha for biodiesel production. Jatropha should be screened through a science-based risk-assessment procedure to predict the risk of becoming invasive before it is released for large-scale commercial cultivation. The net GHG savings can be achieved through the cultivation of Jatropha, considering two main factors: no land-use change and crop management without chemical fertilization.

Genetic Diversity Analysis Reveals Genetic Differentiation and Strong Population Structure in Calotropis Plants.

The genus Calotropis (Asclepiadaceae) is comprised of two species, C. gigantea and C. procera, which both show significant economic potential for use of their seed fibers in the textile industry, and of their bioactive compounds as new medicinal resources. In this study, the authors developed twenty novel EST-SSR markers and applied them to assess genetic diversity, population structure and differentiation within Calotropis. The study provides novel insights into the genetic diversity and population structure of Calotropis, which will promote further resource utilization and the development of genetic improvement strategies for Calotropis.

Next-Generation Sequencing Reveals the First Complete Genome Sequence of Cowpea aphid-borne mosaic virus from Uganda

This work presents the first complete genome sequence of Cowpea aphid-borne mosaic virus (CABMV) isolated from cowpea in Uganda and compared with five CABMV complete genome sequences from Brazil (2), India (2), and Zimbabwe (1). The genome most resemble the genomes of two Brazilian isolates (MG-Avr and BR1) and one Indian isolate (RR3).

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition, FAO 2018
Global Status and Economic Benefits of Biotech Maize Production by 2017
Africa Agriculture Status Report 2018: Catalyzing Government Capacity to Drive Agricultural Transformation