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29TH MAY 2019
Welcome to issue 16 of the DrumBeat!

We would like to begin by congratulating ISAAA’s newly appointed Global Coordinator, Dr. Mahaletchumy Arujanan. The DrumBeat celebrates Dr. Maha's appointment as she strives to take ISAAA to greater heights.

In the Opinion piece, we hear from Dr. Margaret Karembu, a seasoned science communicator and Director of ISAAA AfriCenter, who shares her lessons on communicating the science of gene modification from the last two decades. Karembu calls on the scientific community to cultivate shared values with their stakeholders, adding that investing time to regularly engage them is not an option, but an obligation.

As co-convenor for the upcoming Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC) Symposium, slated to take place on 29th - 30th August, 2019, in Pretoria, South Africa, Dr. Karembu calls on all stakeholders with an interest in genome editing to register, and participate in framing the region's genome editing narrative. Africa's chance to benefit from genome editing lies heavily on its ability to efficiently regulate and communicate its potential. This is the premise upon which ABBC 2019's theme "Getting it Right: Communicating about Genome Editing" was conceived.

The Story of the Month curates vibrant twitter discussions that took place during the first national dialogue on genetically modified crops in Kenya. Kenyans under the leadership of the Principal Secretary for Agricultural Research Prof. Hamadi Boga made a case for biotech crops and defended science, while urging the country’s leadership and those opposed to the technology to #MakeScienceCount.

This month's video takes us to coastal Kenya where a farmer narrates her struggle with cassava viral diseases. The publications and upcoming events sections continue to keep you updated on the latest biosciences trends in the region.

Enjoy your read!

Country Crop Modified trait Date of approval
United States Soybean Modified oil/fatty acid February 26th, 2019

Cassava Virus: Farmers Appeal for Intervention Amid
Crop Loss Occasioned by Cassava Diseases

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International Conference on Plant and Soil Science
The Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN) Annual International Conference
11th Triennial Conference of the African Potato Association (APA)
Story of the month

Kenya held its first national dialogue on genetically modified crops last month. The event brought together a diverse range of stakeholders in an attempt to bridge the knowledge divide. During the dialogue, Principal Secretary for Agricultural Research Prof. Hamadi Boga hinted that the government will make a decision on the GM foods import ban by July 2019. DrumBeat has curated vibrant twitter discussions that took place under the hashtag #MakeScienceCount.

Utilization of bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.) for sustainable food and nutrition security in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe

Research findings indicate that Bambara groundnut has great nutritional and agronomic potential, but it remains scientifically neglected. This study was conducted in seven districts in semi-arid regions of rural Zimbabwe to gather knowledge on current production and utilization of the crop, assessing its role in providing sustainable food and nutrition security for rural populations and determine priorities for follow-up research.

The risk posed by Xanthomonas wilt disease of banana: Mapping of disease hotspots, fronts and vulnerable landscapes

This study mapped aggregated Xanthomonas wilt (XW) disease distribution and hotspots in the African Great Lakes Region (AGLR) and identified vulnerable landscapes across African banana production zones. Presence of XW hotspots and vulnerable areas with low or no disease pressure suggest key areas where proactive measures e.g. quarantines and information sharing on XW diagnosis, epidemiology, and control could be beneficial.

Genetic diversity and population structure of early-maturing tropical maize inbred lines using SNP markers

This study assessed the genetic diversity of 94 early-maturing white and yellow tropical maize inbred lines using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. Three heterotic groups were revealed. Wide genetic variability existed among the inbred lines making them unique with the potential to contribute new beneficial alleles to maize breeding programmes in the tropics, especially in the West and Central Africa (WCA) sub-region.

Global Report on Food Crises, 2019
WFP Hunger Map 2018