Monthly Archives: June 2015

Calestous Juma: GM is an important tool..

Calestous Juma directs the Harvard-based Agricultural Innovation in Africa project, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and supports the use of GM crops.

Calestous Juma directs the Harvard-based Agricultural Innovation in Africa project, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and supports the use of GM crops.

“In 30 years we’ll have a population of nine billion people to feed and that will increase demand for the quantity and diversity of the food that we need – that’s why we have to consider GM as one of the tools – but not the only tool – that would help humanity to address those challenges.
“[Opposition to GM is] not irrational. Farmers who are opposed to GM crops because they might have negative impacts on their income – you can say they are not being irrational. And then people who think that we are changing the environment in ways that are not predictable, they have reasons for doing that.
“[But] I think it’s unhelpful because it’s driven by present day observations, but does not take into account long-term considerations. I strongly believe that, as problems expand, you also expand your toolbox.
“I don’t think that genetic engineering in itself embodies a particular farming system. Yes, it is true that the way the technology is developed initially could exclude some sections of the Continue reading

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Pamela Ronald: Humans have modified crops for thousands of years

Pamela Ronald runs the Lab for Crop Genetics Innovation at the University of California, Davis. Her team won an award for its decade-long work to isolate the gene that makes rice tolerant to floods.

Pamela Ronald runs the Lab for Crop Genetics Innovation at the University of California, Davis. Her team won an award for its decade-long work to isolate the gene that makes rice tolerant to floods.

“Everything we eat has been genetically improved or modified in some manner: 8,000 to 10,000 years ago our ancestors took corn mutants and crossed these to develop different types of corn varieties so they could harvest them better.” The ancient Greeks wrote about grafting – attaching the stem of one plant to the roots of another. The specific skills of modern genetic engineering were developed in California 40 years ago. “That allows genes from any species to be moved into other types of organisms. For example, insulin was the first genetically-engineered medicine, and it’s been very useful because insulin used to have to be harvested from animals, but now human insulin can be produced in microbes and used by diabetics. Continue reading

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Why Adesina’s election is important for agriculture

akinwunmi-ayo-adesinaIn a surprise upset, Dr. Akinwumi (Akin) Adesina was elected to be the next President of the African Development Bank (ADB), defeating seven rivals in six rounds of voting. Adesina holds a PhD in agriculture economics from Purdue and has been serving as the Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria since 2011.

Adesina is the first agriculture economist to become President of the ADB. He is a dynamic leader with a passion for rural development (and bow-ties). According to The Guardian, under his leadership in Nigeria, “food production increased by 22 million tons and food imports dropped more than a third,” creating some three million jobs.

The ADB is one of Africa’s largest lending institutions, making Adesina one of the continents most prominent financial leaders. Africa now has six of the world’s fastest growing economies and, as agriculture becomes more efficient, the economy will grow even faster. Over 65% of the population farms or are engaged in agriculture. However, yields are so low that feeding the family takes 70% the family’s disposable income and Africa must spend $35 billion to import food. Continue reading

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Agriculture Minister Matia calls protesters against BT brinjal ‘ignorant’

BangladeshThe minister said at programme in Dhaka on Thursday that she was using such ‘harsh words’ with full ‘responsibility’. “We are having soybean since the 1960s. This is entirely a GMO (genetically modified organism). But the moment we introduced BT brinjal, there was a whirlwind of criticisms. This is either deviousness or ignorance,” she said.

“The words are harsh but I’ve said this with responsibility.” Bangladesh was the first South Asian country to allow the cultivation of genetically modified BT Brinjal in 2013 amid a huge uproar by environmentalists. Protesters argue India and the Philippines have long researched genetically modified varieties of brinjal but have not allowed their cultivation, in view of their likely adverse effects on health and the environment. Continue reading

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How important is Biosafety Law to Nigeria’s economy?

BiosafetyTHE need for strategies and products to protect public health and agriculture in the event of a natural emergency or man-made biological incident cannot be over emphasized. Nigeria is a heterogeneous entity in which its citizens must live in safety conditions and saved from harmful incidences through chemicals in biological research and non-laboratory organisms.

Nigeria as a country is endowed with a variety of plant and animal species, which consist of about 7,895 plant species, identified in 338 families; 2,215 genera; 22,000 vertebrates and invertebrates species. All of these animal and plant species that form Nigeria’s biodiversity are in abundance within the country, highly cherished and therefore, need conservation and sustainable utilization.

The emergence of Modern Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), coupled with their perceived adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity and human health needed a biosafety management system. Therefore, Nigeria signed and ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety 2000 and ratified 2003 in commitment to Global Biodiversity Management. Continue reading

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Biotechnology will ‘increase Uganda’s GDP’

KAMPALA – Uganda’s economy will make economic strides when Uganda embraces biotechnology, says Fred Omach, the minister of state for general duties in the ministry of FINANCEHe believes that the country’s GDP can add another 2% on the average annual 7% if biotechnology, including genetic engineering, is embraced.

There are several businesses already using biotechnology from the traditional ones like beer companies to the modern ones like Agro-Genetic Laboratories and BioCrops engaged in tissue culture to produce banana plantlets. Omach, who was opening the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) stakeholders’ conference at Serena HOTEL

IN Kampala, said that the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill – currently under review in parliament – would have been passed in 2004 at latest, since the country ratified the Cartagena Protocol in 2001. Continue reading

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The last thing Africa needs to be debating is GMOs

Joe DeVries is American, but he has spent three decades in Africa, helping farmers improve yields, fight pests and control disease. I met him in his office in Nairobi and asked how he’d ended up so far FROM HOME . He told me his career dated to one moment, when he was an undergraduate studying agronomy. “I was in the back of the class,” he said, “probably falling asleep. And the professor looked at us and said, ‘One of you will go out there and make the world a smaller place.’ Somehow, I knew he was talking to me.”

For DeVries, a smaller world is a place where tools for better farming — improved seed, appropriate fertilizer, access to agricultural and financial infrastructure — are available wherever people farm, and he’s making that happen as director of the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a nonprofit organization devoted to improving African agriculture. Continue reading

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Akinwumi Adesina of Nigeria has been elected as the 8th President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Adesina,Adesina2 who is the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Africa’s biggest economy, won the vote by 58.1 per cent of the total votes cast by both regional and non-regional members. “I’m honored & humbled by the support I’ve received & the confidence placed in me. Our best days are ahead,” Adesina said on twitter.

AfDB governors began voting on Thursday to elect a new president to guide the pan-African lender through the continent’s increasingly complex financial environment. Adesina was one of eight candidates, which included Cape Verde’sFINANCE minister, Cristina Duarte, and Bedoumra Kordje of Chad, who vied to take over from Rwandan Donald Kaberuka. Kaberuka will step down in August after serving two five-year terms, the limit for a president.

Adesina will assume office on 1 September 2015.

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Biotechnology, Panacea For Bio-economy

Experts in the science and technology sector have underlined the significance of biotechnology in the national development of a country. They have continually stressed that biotechnology has the potential to increase agricultural productivity, thereby enhancing food security and farmers’ income as well as developing better health care delivery system, boosting efficient industrial development processes for transforming raw materials, detoxifying hazardous wastes, reducing mortality rates and other environmental problems.

In his keynote address at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agric-biotech Applications (ISAAA) global biotech update report for 2014 in Abuja, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Abdu Bulama, lamented that Nigeria had been unable to key into the opportunities provided by modern biotechnology or harness the benefits of the application because of the absence of a regulatory framework, the bio-safety law, in the nation. Continue reading

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Biotech crops: Fastest adopted crop technology in the world — Report

THE global hectare of biotech crops has in creased more than 100-folds from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 181.5 million hectares in 2014 making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times.

This was revealed by the director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Lucy Ogbadu, at the International Service for the Acquisition of Agric-biotech Applications (ISAAA) global biotech update report for 2014 in Abuja.

She noted that a new and rigorous 2014 comprehensive global meta-analysis of 147 published biotech crop studies over the last 20 years, confirmed the significant and multiple benefits that biotech crops have generated over the past 20 years. Prof. Ogbadu disclosed that the meta-analysis concluded that “on average GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22percenr, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent “Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.” Continue reading

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