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Welcome to issue 13 of the DrumBeat!

This issue takes us back to Nigeria as we celebrate a major breakthrough for the region – commercial approval of a GM food crop, Bt cowpea! Africa has finally contributed one crop to the global biotech basket. We speak to Prof. Mohammad Ishiyaku, Principal Investigator of the Bt Cowpea project. In an exclusive interview under our Story of the Month section, Prof. Ishiyaku reflects on the product development process and shares some words of advice for other researchers conducting similar projects across Africa.

In our Opinion, Dr. Manuela Campa from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, urges scientists to participate in shaping global policies and decisions and stop unscientific global science agreements. She draws her thoughts from the recently concluded United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The Video of the Month takes us to the Kingdom of eSwatini, commonly known as Swaziland, where a farmer from Nisela farms is planting Bt cotton following an approval for importation and environmental release. We continue to bring you up to speed with current biosciences related activities under our Upcoming Events sections, and highlight relevant research and publications from the region.

The New Research in Biosciences, Africa, section features a recent paper by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) researchers showing that genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 technique destroys banana streak virus in the genome of Gonja Manjaya, a banana variety commonly grown in East and Central Africa. Also highlighted is a paper by Donald Danforth Plant Science Center scientists and an international team of researchers, including one from the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Nigeria, who used genetic engineering to improve mineral micronutrient concentrations in cassava.

Enjoy your read!

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
Nigeria Cowpea Insect Resistant (IR) event for cultivation. January 22, 2019
Argentina Maize 3 Herbicide Tolerant (HT), Herbicide Tolerant (HT) and Insect Resistant (IR) events for food and cultivation. January 14, 2019
Argentina Soybean Herbicide Tolerant and Abiotic Stress Tolerance (HT + ST) and Herbicide Tolerant (HT) events for food and cultivation. January 14, 2019
Brazil Sugarcane Insect Resistant (IR) for commercialization. January 14, 2019
South Korea Maize Herbicide Tolerant and Insect Resistant events (HT + IR) for food use. January 14, 2019

eSwatini Joins Biotech-Growing Countries

Subscribe to AfriCenter Youtube Channel
African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) Congress 2019
Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region
The UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment
Story of the month

Nigeria is on the path to becoming the first country to cultivate biotech cowpea after the country's biosafety agency granted approval for open field cultivation by farmers. In an exclusive interview with The DrumBeat, the project’s Principal Investigator Prof. Mohammad Ishiyaku gives a detailed account of his experiences during the product development process and offers valuable lessons and advice to African policy makers and fellow researchers leading similar projects on the continent.

CRISPR/Cas9 editing of endogenous banana streak virus in the B genome of Musa spp. overcomes a major challenge in banana breeding

This study reports a strategy to inactivate banana streak virus by editing the virus sequences. The regenerated genome-edited events showed mutations in the targeted sites with the potential to prevent proper transcription or/and translational into functional viral proteins. The study paves way for the improvement of B genome germplasm and its use in breeding programs to produce hybrids that can be globally disseminated.

Biofortification of field-grown cassava by engineering expression of an iron transporter and ferritin

Less than 10% of the estimated average requirement (EAR) for iron and zinc is provided by consumption of storage roots of the staple crop cassava in West African human populations. This study used genetic engineering to improve mineral micronutrient concentrations in cassava. The team also confirmed that the higher mineral levels don’t disappear during cooking.

Genetic diversity of symbiotic bacteria nodulating common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in western Kenya

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) in legumes plays a critical role in improving soil fertility. Despite this vital role, there is limited information on the genetic diversity and BNF of bacteria nodulating common bean. This study evaluated the genetic diversity and symbiotic nitrogen fixation of bacteria nodulating common bean in soils of Western Kenya.

UNDP: Climate Change Adaptation in Africa
Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2015