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October - December, 2011

A Quarterly Newsletter of the African Biotechnolgy Stakeholders Forum

Message from the Executive Director The role of modern biotechnology in the economic transformation and sustainable development of Africa is the subject of increasing debate and controversy. The debate has recently acquired new dimensions as a result of a variety of factors including rapid scientific and technological advances, increasing commercialization of genetically modified foods, increasing food insecurity in Africa, and growth in the activities and influence of environmental activists. Recent famines and hunger in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa have moved the debate from the confines of scientific and environmental groups to the centre of public policy and politics in the region.

Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China. In 2006, GM crop production also reached noteworthy levels in Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay and Australia.

The divergent views and policies on biotechnology between Europe and the USA have created confusion and complicated policy choices for African countries. Most African countries are not sure of whether to follow the more permissive U.S. approach toward GM crop technologies, or the more precautionary EU approach. The world’s leading producers of GM crops are the United States,

In Africa, biotechnology tools used in agriculture include tissue culture, molecular characterization, marker assisted selection, molecular diagnostics and genetic modification (GM). Currently tissue culture is applied in many countries for rapid multiplication of planting materials for vegetatively propagated crops such as coffee, banana, pineapple and root crops. However, few countries have

Agriculture contributes over 25% of GDP and employs above 70% of the labor force in most African countries’ economies. Agricultural productivity is constrained by a many factors including abiotic and biotic stresses. The challenge is to develop technologies that can overcome these limiting factors, and can be utilized by small-scale farmers who use minimal external inputs. Such technologies can include use of biotechnology products.

adopted GM for crop production improvement, and for agricultural research and development. The GM crops that are under commercial production in Africa are cotton (South Africa and Burkina Faso), maize (South Africa and Egypt) and soybean (South Africa) while various crops and traits are under research and development. The AFRICAN BIOTECHNEWS is a quarterly publication of the ABSF organization that seeks to communicate all issues in African biotechnology in a balanced and accurate manner to a global audience. We hope that our presentation of biotech news stories and information will further enhance the debate and inform governments and other stakeholders on the African continent to make informed but decisive choices on the direction that they will take in the biotech debate. The important question to ask ourselves that should direct our debate is “Since biotechnol-

Updates for Kenya BT Cotton Information, Progress to Commercialization


he main reason for the low yields being tCotton is recognized as one of the industrial crops in the country that does well in the arid and semi-arid (ASAL) areas. The crop therefore has the potential for creation of employment, poverty alleviation, and as source of food security. Despite the country having a land potential of over 350,000 hectares without irrigation and up to 1,000,000 hectares with irrigation for cotton production, farmers cultivate only 10% (potential without irrigation) with average yields ranging from 300 to 500 kilogram per hectare compared to a potential of about 2500 kilograms per hectare. The main reason for the low yields being that cotton is generally a pesticide intensive crop. A survey by KARI indicates that 35% of farmers cited pest control and inappropriate seed as taking up about 32% of production costs. The African bollworm was identified as the most damaging pest causing up to 100% yield loss. A forum of key cotton stakeholders in June 2010 formulated a taskforce to draw a roadmap for the commercialization of Bt-cotton technology. The initiative was aimed at establishing the prerequisites for the commercialization ultimately delivering the process.

of the Bt-cotton commercialization initiative in the country, was been identified as one of the main implementers of the outreach and stewardship programme of the initiative. ABSF was therefore selected to chair the Outreach & Stewardship committee for Bt cotton commercialization. Between June 2010 and May 2011, ABSF and other stakeholders have been holding workshops in all the cotton growing regions of Kenya including Western, Rift Valley, Central and Coast regions. The Bt. Cotton balls in one of the Trial fields at KARI, Kenya main target group for these forums has been extension Successful commercialization of transgenic cotton will provide an opportunity for Kenyan workers and cotton farmers - past, current and potential. farmers to join millions of farmers all over the world and more notably in African counTo ensure the participants were equipped with tries like South Africa and Burkina Faso who are already benefiting from commercial plant- relevant information on Bt-Cotton technology the topics had been carefully selected ing of Bt-cotton. The Key cotton Stakeholdto cover: Biotechnology policy, Legal and ers behind the commercialization initiative regulatory framework for Kenya, Public include KARI, ISAAA, KEPHIS, CODA, ABSF, NIB, NBA, Africa Harvest and ginners concerns to deployment of GM crops in Kenya, Overview of cotton development in among many others and are playing a pivotal Kenya, Cotton production in various regions, role in supporting the process. Bt-Cotton research in Kenya, Bt-Cotton commercialization initiative, BioAware initiative ABSF, being a key stakeholder for biotech in and global status of biotech crops. Kenya and Africa as a whole, and a promoter

Dr. Felix M’mboyi, the New ABSF CEO

ogy development, what impact has it brought on major crops including rice, corn, wheat, cotton, and other crops around the world”? And are biosafety issues being adequately addressed in tandem with the technology development and deployment process? ENJOY THE READERSHIP!

In this ISSUE ABSF Programmes and Development 1-7 Science and Food Production


Biotechnology and Food Politics 16-20 Briefs, Conferences, Workshops and Seminars


Published by: The African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum Editor: Dr. Felix Mmboyi Assistant Editor: Bibiana Iraki Consultanting editor: Francis Onditi Design & Layout: Francis onditi & Noel Lumbama Printed by: Noel Creative Media Limited

MISSION: ABSF Mission is to create an innovative and enabling Biotechnology Environment in Africa through Education , enhancement understanding and awareness creation on all aspects of Biotechnology, Biosafety and Intellectual Property Rights

Programme & Development

New Board of Directors at the ABSF organization as its serves continental wide biotechnology issues through its versatile network, the Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA).

The board set another date for a session to make various appointments including elections for the board chair, treasurer, and secretary. Similarly, the board will also appoint three working committees including the scientific committee, policy and regulatory affairs committee and the networking and communications strategy committee. The brief profile of each of the board members is as below:


From Kenya

ABSF New Offices along Mountain View, Nairobi Kenya

BSF has appointed a new Board of Management in an extraordinary board members meeting that was attended by the Ag. CEO Dr Felix M’mboyi alongside the outgoing long-serving Director, Prof. Norah Olembo. The meeting which took place on the 22nd of September 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya, was also attended by the current

Chair of the Board, Mr Joseph Wekundah. The new board brings together highly experienced and relevant personalities who have excelled in their fields of science, policy and trade issues in Africa. Alongside the Kenyan counterparts, the board is also comprised of a representative from Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Western Africa. This will enhance the image of the

Mr. Joseph Wekundah

He has been serving as the ABSF Board Chair for a long period of time and is also the Executive Director of a biotech NGO called “Biotechnology Trust Africa” based in Kenya. He is a founder member of the ABSF organization. Towards the end of the year, he is expected to give way to a new board chair when the next board meeting convenes to selected new office bearers.

Mr. Otulah Owuor

He is a founder member of the ABSF organization and is currently the Chief Editor of a monthly science newsletter called “Science Africa” that strongly advocates for utilization of science and technology especially biotechnology in development. He is also a board member of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) in Kenya and serves as its subcommittee chair for science communication.

Dr Charles Waturu, PhD.

He is a Senior Scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and serves as one of the centre Directors of a KARI countryside research centre in central Kenya. He is the Chief Scientist for Bt Cotton Research in Kenya and is respected in African scientific research forums as a key contributor and supporter of use of genetic engineering in crop production. ABSF works directly with this scientist in the “Taskforce for Commercialization of Bt Cotton in Kenya by 2014”, and also in a host of other forums including Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) and other government task forces in science and technology.

New Director Appointed at ABSF Organization


he newly appointed Board Of Directors at the ABSF organization have already began to make significant organizational transformations by appointing an Executive Director to replace the long serving Executive Director Prof. Norah Olembo who is proceeding on retirement. Dr Felix M’mboyi, who until his appointment as the Acting CEO was the Deputy Director and Director of Programmes at the organization. Immediately after his appointment, Dr M’mboyi promised a raft of radical transformations in the organization to make it more responsive and visible on the African continent and in the global arena through development of more dynamic biotech programmes, strengthening of existing networks and in the adjustment of the human resource base at the institution. Amongst the new and critical areas he has already embarked on with results is the formulation of a new Strategic Plan 2012-2016; a new ABSF Quarterly Scientific Newsletter; appointment of a new Communications and Public Relations officer who has excellent and relevant qualifications, and a plan to re-negotiate with development partners for more robust funding of the activities proposed in the strategic plan.

Prof. Olembo, who has been appointed to the position of the organization’s Patron, will also serve in an advisory role to the Board of Management due to her rich experience in biotechnology as a founder member of the organization and as a lead woman scientist in Africa. Dr M’mboyi holds a PhD in Sustainable Development (USA), Master degree in Agricultural Economics (Kenya) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics (Kenya). He possesses professional training in Management Focused Monitoring and Evaluation from the World Bank InstituteWashington and Computer Applications in Data Processing and Analysis and Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) from Michigan State University. He also possesses a Certificate as a Trainer of trainers (TOT) from the Agricultural Resources Centre in Kenya and a Certificate in Global Gender Perspectives in Development from the Gender Campus at the International Training Centre (ITC) in Rome, Italy. Dr M’mboyi recently (2009) served as the Agriculture Sector Advisor at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kenya where he was the principal technical officer who advised on

all issues related to the agricultural sector in Kenya. His role was in line with helping the Prime Minister in the coordination function for the Ministry of Agriculture. He continues to serve as a principal consultant in the agriculture sector on various important issues related to macroeconomic agri-business investments and agriculture subsidy schemes. Dr. M’mboyi previously worked as the Cooperative Development and Training Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. He has served as a Graduate Fellow at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi; and as a Research Scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) where he headed the Socioeconomics section at the National Animal Husbandry Research Center (NAHRC). He has also previously worked as an Assistance Programmes Officer at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kenya; as a Research Fellow /Agricultural Economist under a USAID funded programme at the Tegemeo Institute of Agriculture Policy and Development, Egerton University; and as a Monitoring and Evaluation Programmes Officer at the Project Operational Department of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Kenya office, before taking

Dr. Felix M’mboyi, the New ABSF CEO

up the position of a Visiting Research Fellow at Czech University of Agriculture, Institute of Tropics & Sub Tropical Agriculture in Central Europe. Dr. Felix M’mboyi has been involved in many other research and development activities and has written manuscripts on several topics in development, monitoring and evaluation. He also serves as an Honorary Director to several environmental and Developmental NGO’s operating in Kenya.

New Communications and Public Relations Officer

M Bibiana Iraki, Communications and Public Relations Officer, ABSF




s Bibiana Iraki is the newly appointed Communications and Public Relations Officer, owing to her unique skills and education background which are ideally aligned with the organization’s new direction under the ongoing radical transformations. Miss Iraki holds a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology from Cardiff University in the UK, and a Masters degree in Journalism from

Glamorgan University, also in the UK. She also possesses a certificate in communicating risks and benefits of modern biotechnology from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA-AfriCenter), and has attended various Science Communication conferences held by the British Science Association which enabled her to foster more knowledge and insight on issues related to communicating science. October - December, 2011

Her passion for communicating science, and especially biotechnology, propelled her to conduct her Masters research on this subject matter. The final manuscript entitled “Science Communication in the Social Media Era: A Case of Kenya’s Agro-biotechnology Communication” saw her conduct extensive research on this topic, as she attempted to investigate whether social media had a place in Kenya’s agro-

biotechnology communication initiatives. Miss Iraki previously worked at Science Africa as an intern where she covered and reported on various scientific events in Kenya, and assisted in the synthesis of the monthly science publication. She has also worked as an online reporter and an online desk editor for the university’s online radio station.

Programme & Development

F Regional Secretariat Offices, Nairobi Dr. Edwardina Otieno, PhD.

She serves as the Chief Scientist Officer at the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) in Kenya. She has been working directly with ABSF on a number of governmental appointed task forces including various activities of the BioAware strategy which has been transferred to her office from the Ministry of Agriculture. ABSF serves on various sub committees and committees appointed under her office on science and technology and also in the initiation, formulation and development of new government policies and regulations.

Dr. Francis Nanga’yo, PhD.

He is a Senior Manager at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in Kenya and has been working together with ABSF and other stakeholders in spearheading the development of the biotechnology policy, the biosafety law and the development and gazettement of the biosafety regulations. He is also on the task force to commercialize Bt cotton and has positively interacted with ABSF in a number of biotechnology issues including membership to OFAB and as a partner and contributor to the collaboration between ABSF and AATF in the hosting of the 1st Ever All

Africa Congress in Biotechnology that was held in Kenya in 2008. Currently he coordinates stakeholders alongside ABSF in streamlining advocacy to government on behalf of stakeholders on all biotech related issues.

Dr. Samson Wasao, PhD.

He is a Senior Project Manager at the UNDP poverty, environment and livelihood programme based in the UN complex in Nairobi, Kenya. He is a key personality respected in food security and livelihood programme issues and has been a strong advocate for the use of advanced agricultural technology to fast track achievement of the MDGs, especially in realizing food security in developing countries. He will bring to board the experience and networking relevant for engaging the UN system in the context of biotech and agriculture, environment, and in reducing poverty through agricultural systems development. He will be instrumental in enabling ABSF to engage with FAO, UNDP, IFAD and WFP.

Dr. Stephen Mugo, PhD.

(WEMA) project and strongly advocates for the application of genetic engineering in the development of new maize varieties for developing countries. He has been instrumental in resource mobilization and funding and currently is making pre-arrangements for the organization to be engaged in the Gates Foundation pipeline funding for the WEMA project from 2013.

Prof. Marble Imbuga, PhD.

She is a Professor at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and serves as the current Vice Chancellor. She has had a long association with ABSF at a very personal level and will be the main link between ABSF and its engagement with universities in Kenya and the region. ABSF has a current MoU with JKUAT’s Centre for Biotechnology research where the organization purchases tissue culture bananas for its food security programmes and also capacity building for extension officers and farmers in technology utilization in agriculture production.

From Africa

He is a much respected Senior Scientist and maize breeder at CIMMYT in Kenya and in Africa. He is the Chief Scientist in the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project as well as the Water Efficient Maize for Africa

Dr. Esther Khosa, PhD.

She serves as the Director of Zimbabwe’s Scientific and Industrial Research and Devel-

opment. She has been serving as the ABNETA country coordinator for Zimbabwe and the southern Africa region. She has been working actively with ABSF over the last 7 years and is a very reliable scientist with deep rooted networks in southern Africa and outside Africa.

Dr. Hans Adu Dapaah.

He is the current ABNETA coordinator in Ghana. He has been very instrumental in disseminating and relaying biotech information in West African region. He joined the Crops Research Institute (CSIR) in September 1993 as a research scientist, and became the Director in July 2008, a position that he continues to hold. Since 1995, Dr. Adu-Dapaah has refereed scientific papers for many journals, including: the Ghana Journal of Agricultural Science, the African Plant Science Journal, and the Botswana Journal of Agriculture and Applied Sciences.

Dr. Emmarold Muneney

He is the Director of the Cashew Biotech research and a senior scientist for the MARI centre in Tanzania and a key advocate for use of advanced biotechnology in crop production. He has been serving as the ABNETA country coordinator for Tanzania since 2003.

ABSF New Structure to be Unveiled 2011


BSF has been in existence as a not for profit organization seeking to promote the development of biotechnology in Africa since its inception in 2000. Over this period, the organization has worked with a number of key stakeholders in public, private sectors and development agencies to spearhead the deployment of biotechnological applications in Africa including tissue culture and GM crops. With significant successes in its past programmes, the organization gets itself at crossroads as it attempts to fit into a new era where the African continent has made great strides towards development in its science and technology knowledge base, especially in biotechnology related developments. In order to remain relevant and continue making important contributions to biotechnology in Africa, ABSF has put in place mechanisms that will lead its energized team to evolve and transform the organization’s method of conducting its core business.

The New Structure

ABSF has been working with various key stakeholders in Africa behind the scenes in the last couple of months to design a new working structure commensurate with realities on the biotechnology front. We have realized that our vision and mission that has been key in developing our strategic plan and implementation frameworks for various projects and activities needs revamping in line with new realities on the ground. The organization’s new working structure has been engineered with a new vision and mission statement that seeks to specifically see the African continent adopt modern biotechnology including GM crops for improved food security amongst smallholder farmers, and enhanced commercialization of the technology for medium and large

scale farmers who wish to improve their productivity and increase their farm income. We shall therefore want to work with the understanding that African countries now have a better perspective of what biotechnology can achieve for their populations if used in a responsible manner. The Board of Management is comprised of 11 members from Kenya and sub Sahara Africa most of whom are leading scientists and personalities in their fields of science and policy. The advisory committee/working groups will be composed of important personalities in the field of science, policy, media and communication and private sector entities.

ABSF staff poses for a group photo at the organization’s premise, Mountain View, Nairobi, Kenya

terms and basis. This will improve efficiency in the utilization of resources solicited from development partners and donors.

Country coordinators/representatives are being re-engineered to involve transformation from individual to institutional country coordinators. They will be expanded to include membership from West, East, North, Central and Horn of Africa. This is meant to expand our mandate in Africa. The Programmes Director and the Finance & Administration Director will lead a dynamic team of technical officers and administrative officers respectively. Most important will be the fact that ABSF has convinced the Board of Management, Advisory Committee/Working Groups and Country Coordinators to work on volunteer

What is at Stake?

ABSF so far remains one of the only local based not for profit organization whose mandate is both national and regional. Our involvement in Kenyan biotechnology development programmes is boosted by the fact that most of the biotech stakeholders in Kenya are members of the ABSF, and also that the organization was originally formed by the former KARI Director and his staff before ownership transfer. We therefore have the advantage of maintaining great influence and direct contact with all lead regulatory institutions, ministries, departments and research organizations that other partners don’t have direct access to.

October - December, 2011

ABSF will therefore remain the critical link between public sector and private sector, and a vital bridge for international and development organizations to access key contacts in Kenya’s public sector institutions.

Resources for ABSF Operations

We have been increasing our resource base gradually since 2006 and will have the organization expand its resource base to a minimum of 4 primary donors by the end of 2011 and an additional 6 secondary donors by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, CLI funding remains critical in terms of enabling the organization have a sharp focus on leading the process towards commercialized production of GM crops by the year 2014. Dr. Felix M’mboyi, ABSF Ag. CEO AFRICAN



Programme & Development

ABSF Profile Our Vision

What We Offer

ABSF aims to create an enabling environment in which Africa can participate and benefit from biotechnology in a responsible and sustainable manner. The organization, through the dissemination of accurate and balanced information, aims to enhance the understanding and awareness of biotechnology on the continent.

 Accurate and balanced information


Driving Force Biotechnology is a key Asset for Africa in the new millennium. Agricultural, medical and environmental biotechnology offers Africa formidable tools to address food insecurity, disease, environmental pollution and poverty.

Who We Are The African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) is a not-for-profit, non-political and non-sectarian association providing a platform for sharing, debating and understanding all issues pertaining to biotechnology in agriculture, health, industry and environment. ABSF represents all stakeholders in biotechnology in Africa currently with over 5317 individual members in 31 African countries, including small and medium sized enterprises involved in research, development, testing and commercialization of biotechnology applications as well as national biotechnology forums and country level coordination in 18 African countries. Through its membership, ABSF is the window and voice of millions of biotechnology stakeholders in Africa representing farmers, scientists, consumers, manufacturers, politicians and government bodies.

What We Do  ABSF provides a forum that brings

together all groups and individuals with a stake in biotechnology to debate and dialogue issues surrounding biotechnology.

 Our primary focus is Africa but

because of the global character of biotechnology, we also represent Africa’s views and activities in worldwide fora.

 ABSF through its member groups

fosters dialogue with and a steady flow of information about biotechnology to African policy makers, governments, scientists, farmers, consumers, manufacturers, mass media and institutions of learning.

 We are actively engaged in creating

linkages and networking throughout Africa and facilitating outreach on biotechnology in the region.




to decision makers, media, producers and consumers on national and international biotechnology and biosafety developments and application.

 Opportunities to participate in ABSF working groups and task forces activities

 Platform for interacting with

governments and other stakeholders and voicing views on biotechnology

 Forum for linking and interacting on behalf of its members, with international biotechnology fora.

 Mechanisms of facilitating

identification and development of new biotechnological products and services in Africa.

ABSF’s communication strategy What Is ABNETA? The Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA) is made up of stakeholders from across Africa who may affect and/or be affected by the development of agricultural biotechnology in Africa. These, basically are people from all sectors who may want to discuss, support, present concerns, develop or use biotechnology in support of agriculture on the continent. It is a joint venture between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) initiated in the year 2004. The initiative was a response to the regional biotechnology communication challenge of ensuring that the various countries on the continent look at and view modern biotechnology through the same technical and socio-economic lenses. This kind of together-we-stand ideology is necessitated by the fact that Africa consists of many but relatively small economies that need to present a uniform stand to the rest of the world for socio-economically viable international relations covering trade and other forms of global partnerships. The main aim of ABNETA therefore is to promote communication and collaboration among stakeholders in agricultural biotechnology from across Africa with a view of fostering common understanding of the biotechnology development agenda on the continent and rest of the world.

To execute the above mandate, ABNETA applies four key channels namely: 1. Members Data base 2. Country Coordinators Approach 3. ABNETA website ( 4. Face to face events 5. The ABNETA E-Newsletter 6. Social Media

Membership and Country Coordinators Members Data base

Since inception, ABNETA has continued to recruit members in the various stakeholder categories. The common categories under which ABNETA members are recruited are farmers, researchers, policy makers, journalist, extension service providers, agricultural traders, institutional stakeholders such as donors, Agri-biotech Nongovernmental Organizations and private companies. The database, which has contacts and qualification of each stakeholder, allows easy, timely and targeted access to the right stakeholders. The network has over 5317 (mostly scientist, extension service providers and contact farmers) members at present and the recruitment are ongoing. Registration is Absolutely Free at Go to “Register now” and choose your category. You will be in our database and start receiving important information on agribiotech related opportunities and events. It is simple and takes less than five minutes. Below is a section of the ABNETA contact farmers’ database.

The Country Coordinator Approach The approach involves ABSF/ABNETA secretariat identifying and entering into partnership with highly placed scientist in particular countries. Such scientists, who are in most, if not all cases, residents and citizens of the respective countries, serve as the biotech communication focal point for the network in their respective countries. The country coordinators, being residents and citizens of the concerned countries are in closest proximity to biotech issues and occurrences in their respective countries hence in the best position to report about biotechnology in such countries. They also know where

ABNETA’s specific mandate includes:

 Promote information sharing and

collaboration between stakeholders in agricultural biotechnology

 Enhance region-wide public awareness on issues related to agricultural biotechnology

 Provide a forum for agric-biotech

stakeholders to discuss issues, improve skills, share ideas and challenges in agricultural biotechnology October - December, 2011

biotech information is most needed thus able to effectively and efficiently relay regional biotech information to the right people or institutions. These coordinators represent the network in their home country, and their country on the network, thereby enhancing the flow of information between the members and the secretariat. The network has so far recruited coordinators in over 18 different African countries with Eastern and Horn, Central, Northern, Southern and West Africa all represented. The countries with ABNETA coordinators include Egypt, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, DRC Congo, Namibia, Ghana, Central African Republic, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya. The network also has a regional coordinator based at the ABSF secretariat whose main function is to oversee activities of the network. The information flow within the network across Africa may be illustrated by the figure below. Some of the information that we have regularly received from and shared with country coordinators include funding opportunities, scholarships and invitation to conferences such as the recent AfricanEgyptian Forum in Agriculture “Seed Industry and Biotechnology” conference held in Cairo – Egypt July 24-26, 2011 and which we widely circulated to other relevant stakeholders.

The ABNETA Website

Though initiated with Africa as the main target, ABNETA has attracted a global audience covering, Europe, Asia, North America, Latin America, and Africa. This is quite evident from the spread of countries that access and use the ABNETA website. In the period January to August 2011, Kenya recorded the highest visitors followed by the United States, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, India, Ethiopia and Nigeria. The site has records monthly averages of about 3,200 visitors and 50,000 hits with numerous local and foreign inquiries reaching us every week. We are currently linking the site to other online resources to enhance information sharing.

Programme & Development Fig 2.2: Monthly Usage of ABNETA Website

Fig 2.1 Map of Africa showing how various countries are networked through the country coordinator approach

A summary of ABNETA website usage for the period of January to part of August 2011 is shown in figure 2.2. Face to face functions have also proved to be very effective especially with regard to strategic interventions in the agri-biotech subsector. This usually takes the form of conferences, workshops, seminars, roundtable meetings and seeing-is-believing field tours such as the annual regional workshops that bring together high caliber participants from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Plans to hold sub-regional (Eastern, West, Central, Northern and Southern Africa) annual workshops are underway with All Africa biotech congress coming after every three years. Some of the face to face events that ABNETA has previously organized include: 1. The First African Congress on Biotechnology held in September 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya.

8. ABSF mass media and policy makers/ CIMMYT maize project workshop march 2000. 9. Seminar on opportunities for reviving cotton industry in the East African region through biotechnology in April 2001. 2. Scientists Communication and MPs workshop on biotechnology and biosafety, towards the development of national biosafety framework for Kenyan scientists in August 2003. 3. Mass media and policy makers’ workshop on biotechnology in April 2003. 4. Biotechnology awareness baseline survey for the 2003 science congress in conjunction with Kenya Biotechnology Information Centre (KBIC). 5. ABSF in conjunction with TuskeeGee (TU): Agribiotech teachers’ workshop, 19th July 2001. 6. Workshop in Nairobi for mass media and policy makers and other biotechnology stakeholders, March 2000. 7. Public lecture during a luncheon to discuss the role of biotechnology in alleviation of hunger and poverty in Kenya, in November 2000.

10. Workshop on the development of functional national biosafety framework in October, 2003. 11. Luncheon with MPS to discuss draft of biotechnology and biosafety policy and bill for Kenyans in October 2003. 12. International Conferences, workshops and seminars

The network has been on the forefront of communicating biotechnology through organizing various international fora in Africa. Similarly, through the networks, the organization has managed to organize country level forums especially in the countries where the network has working country coordinators. One of the most successful events that was launched through the ABNETA platform was the 1st Ever All Africa Congress in Biotechnology held in 2008 in Kenya and attended by 39 countries with over 400 delegates from across the world.

Social Media and E-Forums

ABNETA recognizes the importance and power of modern ICT in reaching out to biotech stakeholders. Of particular popularity with modern ICT is proliferation of social media. ABNETA has taken advantage of this development by establishing Twitter and Facebook pages where biotech stakeholders can access or leave comments on current and/ or emerging agri-biotech issues.

Newsletter and Publications

This is yet another important tool used by the ABNETA fraternity. The secretariat calls for articles from registered members covering a particular theme which is usually indicated in the preceding issue of the newsletter. For example, the table of contents for the July 2011 newsletter issue is shown in figure 2.3 on the next page. In addition to the quarterly newsletter, ABNETA has a number of publications including the ABNETA brochure, posters and frequently asked questions.

ABNETA in Summary

To ensure timely flow of information within the network, ABNETA employs a two way push and pull approach where information held by ABNETA secretariat may be pulled by members through email requests, phone calls and visit to the office among other avenues, or the same information may be pushed by ABNETA secretariat to members who may need it through email, telephone or other channels of communication. The secretariat may also pull information from members by making inquiries and specific request, or members may push to the secretariat the information they think may enhance biotechnology development if shared by other stakeholders. ABNETA therefore provides a forum for double edged two way traffic kind of communication where both the secretariat and members have a chance to pull and push information in a manner illustrated by the diagram below.

Challenges 1. Politics: Biotech communications has been politicized in many African countries leading to pushing science to the back stage.

- Unique Visits - Number of visits

2. Lack of financial resources: Collection, analysis and dissemination of biotech information requires highly qualified personnel and facilities that may be

- Pages - Hits - Bandwidth

too costly for many institutions.

October - December, 2011




Programme & Development Fig 2.3: Section of the ABNETA Quarterly Newsletter

stakeholders to the benefit on products of biotechnology.

 To assess the level of biotechnology

awareness and knowledge in region and province.

 Information dissemination and

experience sharing among farmers and scientists in the society.

Way Forward Collaboration and sharing of resources tackle the resource constraint obstacle to communication, while active participation of scientist in the biotech debate may help check political voices that in most cases are lacking in facts.

The role of ABSF regional secretariat in biotech communication

and international guest speakers. E.g. the recent sensitization workshop for cotton stakeholders in Western province towards the commercialization of Bt cotton in Busia. We had a number of stakeholders involved, including the Ministry of Agriculture under BioAware, KARI, and the Cotton Development Authority (CODA). The targeted groups in the workshops were the extension officers in the province.

International Forums

The major concern about the national outreach programmes is capacity building, and the goal of the initiative is to enhance biotech acceptance and use by creating awareness and understanding of biotechnology applications, benefits, and concerns. This targets a number of key stakeholders such as farmers, scientists, policy makers, students, seed companies and consumers so that ultimately, they are able to know and understand modern biotechnology as compared to traditional biotech applications e.g. in brewing. ABSF secured wide recognition as a credible biotechnology association for Africa .

ABSF has been organizing international forums including workshops, seminars and conferences to communicate latest advances in biotechnology. In most circumstances, the forums follow a format of presentations and discussions of various themes and topics pertinent to biotechnology as a major science discipline. Many of the forums have been held in Kenya, Eastern Africa countries, Southern Africa countries and in West Africa. The forums aim has been to enrich international audience with cross country information on various trends in the biotechnological applications, both in crops and livestock.

Workshops and Seminars

Agricultural and Trade Shows

ABSF in the past have been known to organize workshops and seminars with various stakeholders. These workshops have been fundamental in enlightening the farmers on agricultural biotechnology and the benefits thereof, thus increasing awareness. They have also helped in enhancing farmers’ knowledge on policy issues, as well as enabling us to gauge the farmers’ experience and knowledge levels with regards to biotechnology practices such as tissue culture, whilst evaluating the potential role of the farmer or farm level groups in technology adoption. ABSF has throughout its existence organized workshops and seminars as well as held press conferences with local

Over the last one decade since its inception, ABSF has used agriculture and trade shows in Kenya as one of the most important channels for communicating biotechnology to farmers and other interested stakeholders. We have partnered with same minded organizations like ISAAA, A-Harvest, BTA, universities, farmers and other groups in bringing knowledge about biotechnological applications closer to farmers who visit agricultural shows in droves. The key objectives of our programme in this regard are as follows:

 To raise awareness on biotechnology.  To expose farmers and other

From Secretariat (info pushed to or pulled by stakeholders)

To Secretariat (info pushed to or pulled by the secretariat from stakeholders)




ABSF has in the recent past acted as an umbrella for other biotech stakeholders in biotech exhibitions at the Nairobi International Trade fair, and every year, biotech institutions display their information and products on biotechnology for public interest. Together, we exhibit: communication materials on biotechnology in form of brochures, pamphlets, posters and video shows. Similarly, we work with industry, universities and farmers to exhibit biotechnology plants and products, laboratory demonstrations etc. ABSF now participates in the following national shows: Nairobi, Kakamega, Mombasa, Kisumu and Kitale. We have - through our farmer strategy projects - developed permanent orchards of tissue culture bananas in Western Kenya and Eastern Kenya regions, where farmers can visit and learn more on how to beneficially utilize biotechnology for food security and household income.

Luncheons and Breakfast Meetings

Breakfast meetings and luncheons have been very effective in communicating biotechnology to key policy makers in government including ministers, permanent secretaries and leading public figures. We have also effectively used this as a tool to reach out to parliamentary committees on agriculture, science, education and health, and lobbied key legislators and opinion leaders in having particular legislations passed that would benefit the biotechnology environment. Recently, we have used this tool in lobbying for gazettement of the biosafety regulations and in making key amends to have the regulations facilitate biotechnology development in Kenya. Breakfast meetings and luncheons have also been very effective as a means of rapid response communication that has enabled stakeholders get better coordinated in responding to urgent policy and legislative issues that must be addressed on short notice.

Communication through Training

ABSF was the first biotech institution in Kenya to establish a curriculum for media reporting science. We have used this tool effectively in recruiting media personalities, especially journalists who report on science, to increase their capacity on all aspects of biotechnology including how to report accurately and in a balanced manner. Through this medium, the journalists are evolving and becoming better communicators of biotechnology, and the growth is apparent in various print and electronic media houses in Kenya. Media training is an activity that we undertake once or twice a year depending on need. In the past, we have held regional media training workshops to build the capacity of media in the Eastern Africa region for accurate science reporting.

October - December, 2011

Seeing-Is-Believing Tours

One of the most popular approaches that ABSF uses to disseminate biotechnology applications is “Seeing is Believing”. This approach draws its strength from the saying that one ‘picture is worth a thousand words’! It is therefore our believe that by setting up seeing is believing sites amongst the target farmer communities, and allowing such target beneficiaries to see for themselves how the new biotechnology application actually performs gives first hand information to the community thereby eliminating information gaps that may be filled by misinformation. This should lead to faster acceptance and adoption of the various superior technologies, which should in turn enhance agricultural productivity, increase income generation, and alleviate both poverty and food insecurity. ABSF has effectively used this platform to educate the stakeholders on where biotechnology starts from, to how and where it reaches the farm by taking them through the process from the laboratory, to the greenhouse, to confined fields, then to the farmer. This provides firsthand experience that can change perceptions.

Technology Transfer through Farmer Demonstrations

This has been one of the most effective ways of communicating about biotechnology and its benefits to the farmers. Essentially, ABSF has been working with various service providers including KARI, universities and private companies involved in technology generation and agriculture inputs provision. By linking with a series of farmers and farmer based institutions on the ground, ABSF has established demonstration plots at the community level where farmers can visit and learn about how biotechnology applications are domesticated. In essence, through this practice, we have managed to communicate about the practical efficacy issues related to tissue culture bananas which are now very popular amongst the farmers across the country. We currently have demonstration centers in Busia, Kakamega agriculture show grounds, Vihiga, Nairobi and Yatta bin Ukambani. These demonstration sites teach farmers about crop husbandry practices, the advantages of growing biotechnology crops and how the science differs to conventional cropping through its desired benefits.

Resource Centre

The ABSF resource centre contains publications in biotechnology including CD ROMs, newsletters, magazines and other materials from relevant partner institutions. The resource centre not only acts as a communication portal through its networked and easy to access computer resources, but consolidates biotechnology information packages and dispenses to the public through the web portal. The resource centre is accessible to the public for free, students undergoing studies, and also offers internship and postgraduate research facilities to students interested in biotechnology. To enhance its activities and increase effectiveness, the resource centre has recently acquired state of the art computing facilities, modern work stations and 24 hour round the clock fast internet access for use by any student, the public and researchers interested in biotechnology.

Programme & Development Academic and Policy Publications

ABSF and ABNETA have been routinely writing books and other publications in biotechnology and agriculture related fields. These publications are free of charge and can be accessed via the organization’s internet portal. We believe that through publications that we can also effectively communicate about biotechnology to various interested audiences. Our publications are detailed and describe various developments in crop research and policy and legislative development in the biotechnology sub sector in Kenya.

Summary of Some ABSF Success Stories  Has worked with stakeholders in

developing biosafety regulations and lobbied for their gazettement opening the way for commercialization of transgenic technologies in Kenya.

 Led stakeholders in drafting and

discussing the Biosafety Bill and lobbying for passage of the bill into law and its eventual assent by the President of Kenya.

 Held the 1st ever all Africa congress on biotechnology in Kenya in September

2008 with over 400 delegates from 39 countries of the world that had representation from all the continents.

 Led stakeholders in the drafting and

discussion of the biosafety policy which was later approved by the cabinet.

 Established of the first networks

in Africa known as “Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa” – ABNETA that disseminates accurate information on biotechnology to scientists, policy makers, farmers, students, consumers, general public and the media.

 Establishment of farmer based

demonstration sites for biotechnology applications in tissue culture for various crops including bananas, sweet potatoes, fruits and tree crops.

 Proactive communication mechanisms with stakeholder groups at all levels developed.

 Interactions with government officials, politicians, consumers, media and scientific communities.

 Wide media coverage and support from a cross-section of stakeholders.

 Secured wide recognition as a credible biotechnology Association for Africa

 Lobbied legislation and active

implementation of the biosafety system in Kenya and enhancement of novel biotechnology products

 Initiated journalists and scientists training in biotechnology communication and reporting

 Organized workshops and seminars

as well as held press conferences with local and international guest speakers

 Established international contacts and networking in Africa and globally

Challenges and Way Forward

In our endeavor to communicate and build capacity in biotechnology in Kenya and the continent, the ABSF organization programmes have been expanding at a rate that is higher than resource availability and as a result various programmes as set out in the ABNETA strategic plan towards the enhancement of ABNETA activities have largely not been achieved fully. However discussions are underway with

various development partners to have full restoration of resource flow to enable the implementation of various programmes in Kenya and the African continent. As the country ushers in a new era of allowing commercialization of transgenic crops, ABSF has been re-evolving and transforming its communication strategy to be in sync with the realities and needs of the stakeholders. In the recent times, the organization has begun actively communication through the mass media including both print and electronic media and also through social media to enable a wider audience access its information. ABSF has also stepped up efforts to partner with all other lead agencies and organizations both in public and private sector with a view to undertaking collaborative biotechnology programmes and effectively through collective channels, communicating the same to the rest of the public, including key interest groups. We believe that it is only through team work that biotechnology can effectively be communicated for wider reach on the continent.

ABSF Unveils its 3rd Strategic Plan for 2012-2016 Period


he ABSF regional secretariat offices in Kenya, under the newly appointed Ag. Executive Director, Dr Felix M’mboyi has unveiled its 3rd strategic plan for the period 2012-2016. The first two plans laid the foundations of the ABSF and this third one builds on that achievement. The five-year Strategic Plan presents the vision, mission and the framework that is intended to guide ABSF’s work and organizational development during the period 2012-2016. The strategic concepts behind this strategic plan build on achievements on the area that ABSF has demonstrated success in comparison to its peers in Sub Sahara Africa. It also takes into account the lessons learnt from the implementation phase of the previous plan. The board and staff of ABSF are convinced that the Forum’s second Strategic Plan will address some of the most important issues facing the region, in a manner that ordinary citizens, scholars and policy makers will find useful. During the last 10 years, ABSF has undergone major institutional changes and made programmatic adjustments in response to changing biotechnology scenarios in Sub Sahara Africa. In its first and second Strategic Plan (2000-2004; 2005 - 2010), it stated its vision, mission and the strategy of its key areas of interest in biotechnology. It is now necessary to refine our strategic direction because ABSF has undergone significant expansion in staff, funding and developed interest in new programmatic areas in biotechnology. Further, the high dynamism of biotechnology demands that we revise our plan in line with the changing scenarios. The new ABSF Strategic Plan development has benefited immensely from the full engagement of our Board of Directors, staff and partners. The strategy is nevertheless a flexible one, informed and geared towards our rapidly changing external biotech environment on the continent. With an individual membership of 5300 drawn from 31 countries in Africa and a target of 45 countries by 2015, we pride ourselves on being agile and able to respond to all

emerging issues in the field of agricultural biotechnology. In September 2008, ABSF coordinated a number of Biotechnology Stakeholders to host the first ever All Africa Congress on Biotechnology in Nairobi, Kenya. The congress, whose official opening was conducted by Kenya Government’s Minister for Agriculture, was attended by over 400 delegates from 39 countries. Further, the ABSF is coordinating a taskforce comprising various Stakeholders to work out a road map towards the commercialization of Bt Cotton that has been undergoing Confined Field Trials (CFT) in Kenya with a target to achieve commercialization by year 2014.

Structure of the Strategic Plan

This African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) Strategic Plan provides a roadmap for promoting the development of an enabling policy and regulatory environment for modern biotechnology in Africa. ABSF plans to achieve this through effective networking of various stakeholders, advocacy and provision of a forum for dialogue in the biotechnology discourse. This Plan is organized in six chapters: The first chapter gives a brief introduction of modern biotechnology generally and presents an outline of the development of the biosafety regulatory framework with its genesis from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Chapter also presents an overview of the situation regarding Biotechnology/Biosafety policy, legal and regulation in Africa and identifies the key issues in Africa including socio-economic considerations and the regional approach to Biosafety policy guidelines (COMESA initiative). Finally, the chapter demonstrates how ABSF fits in to address the issues identified to ensure that Africa catches up with the rest of the world in the application of biotechnology for socio-economic development. The second chapter of the plan presents the ABSF; its legal status, mandate, functions,

organizational structure, operational scope. ABSF envisions “An enabling environment for Biotechnology development and application in Africa”. The Mission of ABSF is “To promote the creation of an enabling environment for innovative utilization of biotechnology application in Africa through effective networking of various stakeholders, advocacy and provision of forum for dialogue on the Biotechnology discourse”. Chapter Three presents a situation analysis from a consideration of the internal and external environments affecting the organization and an analysis of the stakeholders with whom the Authority must work collaboratively to achieve the objectives of the organization. Through the analyses, ABSF’s strengths and weaknesses as well as threats and opportunities are identified using the SWOT and PESTEL analysis models. The analyses point to the issues that require addressing by the organization during the Plan period. Chapter Four addresses the strategic model. From the SWOT and PESTEL analysis models, five Strategic Issues were identified, namely: Public Awareness, Communication and Participation; Collaborations and Linkages; Biotechnology Research, Development and Integration; Financial Resource Mobilization for ABSF programmes roll-out; Capacity Building. For each of the stated issues, relevant strategic objectives were formulated along with appropriate strategies and activities to address them. This Strategic Plan defines the Forum’s activities in the five key programme areas approved by the Board. These are (i) Capacity Building, Policy Dialogue and Public Interface on emerging Issues in Biotechnology in sub Sahara Africa, (ii) Networking of Biotechnology stakeholders & relevant institutions in sub Sahara African through the Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA), (iii) Public Awareness & Communication and Biotechnology Knowledge Base Management as

October - December, 2011

a Development Tool, (iv) Environmental Resources Management Programme. Most important of all under this new Strategic Plan, ABSF intends to create a fully fledged biotechnology research programme in all the relevant biotechnological issues that sub Sahara Africa is facing and for this special purpose, a journey launch has been planned within the third year of the strategic plan implementation. By targeting real beneficiaries of this research, the Forum’s overall standing as an independent biotechnology research centre will rise even higher than today. ABSF expects to influence the processes of agenda setting and actual biotechnology policy & legislation formulation through a strategic approach to its key constituency: legislators, policy–makers, academia, non-governmental organizations, natural research centres, private sector and the media. Chapter Five outlines the implementation plan through a detailed matrix for implementation of each Strategic Objective. The matrix summarizes the following: Activities, Expected Outputs, Performance Indicators, Lead Implementer and Collaborator/s, Target, Timeframe and the Expected Impact. Budgetary estimates required to undertake each of the activities have also been indicated. Actual measured parameters will be contrasted against preset targets in order to rate performance in the implementation process. The chapter also presents the Authority’s projected financial resource requirements to implement this Strategic Plan and gives an indication of risks and their mitigation. Chapter Six presents a design for an effective and efficient performance evaluation mechanism for implemented programmes. The evaluation will serve two purposes; to enquire into the efficacy of each planned programme, and to assess the progress and overall impact of implemented programmes. It is also proposed that a professional Monitoring and Evaluation Officer be assigned the management of M&E programmes of the organization. AFRICAN




Ugandan Food to Double with Biotech Food Prouction By Dr. Charles Mugoya and Clet Wandui-Masiga


our billion people in 29 countries today grow process, consume and trade in geneticallymodified (GM) crops in the world, while in Uganda GM bananas, cotton, maize, cassava and sweet potato are in advanced trials. Uganda’s GM trials by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) are progressing very successfully with the first commercial release expected very soon [estimated by 2013-14]. Crop-Yields To Double Commercial adoptions of these GM crops will more than double their current yields thus increasing agrocrop production and food supply. Banana, Cassava, Sweet potato, cotton and maize are key staple food and income-security crops, with potential for industrialization in Uganda. These crops are also ranked among the high priority crops for agricultural research to contribute to food security and poverty alleviation.

Cassava Cassava has been prioritized by NEPAD as a ‘poverty fighter’ which will spur industrial development in Africa. In Uganda, the biggest impact on poverty reduction will come from concentrating on staple crops with cassava ranking highest among the group with a growing domestic mar-

ket. Cassava is described as a classic food security crop that offers the advantage of a decent harvest amidst erratic rainfall and infertile soils. In Uganda, cassava production averages 12 t/ha which is far less compare to yields in china (16.3 t/ha), Indonesia (16.2 t/ha) an India (31.4 t/ha). The low average yields in Uganda are cause by an array of factors including susceptibility of commonly grown of commonly grown varieties to major diseases and pests in variability climate patterns.

Major-Impact Diseases

Tissue culture in banana varieties is a common biotechnology practice in Uganda

Cassava brown streak disease(CBSD) an cassava mosaic disease are and cassava mosaic disease are the most damaging disease causing over 50% yield loss and threatening the livelihoods of farmers. GM cassava has been developed by NARO in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, (IITA) and the Danforth Centre, for resistance to these two diseases and is currently under confined field trials (CFT’s) at

the National Crops Research Institute (NaCCRI), Namulonge in Uganda. If successful, this will increase cassava yield from the current 5 million tons to 14 million tons. Bananas- The Largest Grown Crop In Uganda bananas are cultivated on more than 1.6 hectares which is if far beyond any other crop in the country. Its production is at 9 million metric tons per annum and the main reason for this low production is attributed to diseases such as Sigatoka and banana bacterial wilt (BBW). GM banana resistant to these two diseases is under confined field trials. Once commercialized, this will increase banana yield of over 50 million hectares. Those GM banana varieties have been developed by NARO in collaboration with Katholek University of Leuven, Belgium, and international Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Sweet Potatoes Sweet-potatoes in Uganda are grown on an estimated half a million hectares and used for human consumption, as livestock feed, and in industrial processes to make alcohol and starch. Productivity of sweet potatoes is greatly limited by sweet potato virus disease complex and weevils. The current production is at three million tons. GM

sweet potatoes have been developed that are resistant to these diseases and pests by NARO and International Potato Centre (CIP) and are undergoing greenhouse evaluation and confined field trials. When commercialized, this may raise sweet potato yields to 12 million tons.

Maize-No.1 Staple Drought is the number one biotic factor responsible for maize loss in sub-Saharan Africa. Research on GM drought-tolerant maize is in advanced stages and this could increase maize production from the current 1.8 million tons to 5 million metric tons. From scientific projections and analysis, it’s clear that commercializing and adoption of GM crops already in Uganda and in advanced research stages will more than double the production of key staple crops and thus increasing food supply, stabilizing food prices and will improve food security, economy and improve livelihoods. As the research is still being advanced, Ugandan scientists should be congratulated together with the regulatory authorities. The Uganda parliament should move quickly to pass the bio safety bill that will facilitate acquisition and adoption of GM crops

Program for Biosafety Systems Launches New Website


he Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), which is facilitated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a new website (http://pbs. during its annual meeting in Warrenton, VA last month. The website




is a one-stop-shop for information on the responsible development and use of biotechnology in the developing world. It provides information on PBS’ two regions of focuses—Africa and Asia—and provides tools and resources—including easy-to-download copies of its publications— for policymakers throughout the world. Members of the extensive

PBS team journeyed from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America for the fourday meeting, during which PBS laid out its plans for 2012. Check the website for regular updates about its progress in

October - December, 2011

the development of effective biosafety systems. For more information visit:


AATF’s Project for Improvement of Banana for Resistance to Banana Bacterial Wilt Disease in Africa


ananas and plantains are an important food source for over 100 million people in SubSaharan Africa. In the East African highlands and most of the Great Lakes region, bananas are a major staple food and a source of income for over 50 million smallholder farmers. East Africa produces 16.4 million metric tonnes per year – about 20% of the world output. However, many biotic and abiotic factors greatly reduce productivity for banana cultivated under traditional African farming systems. For instance, in 2001, an outbreak of banana bacterial wilt (caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum) broke out in Uganda leaving in its wake a trail of crop destruction and utter misery among affected farms. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) estimates economic loss due to diseases in Uganda alone to be at a staggering US$ 200 million. AATF is collaborating in a public/private sector partnership project to develop Banana Bacterial Wilt-resistant transgenic bananas from east African preferred germplasm.


To enable smallholder farmers in SubSaharan Africa have access to adapted high yielding bananas from East African highland germplasm with resistance to banana bacterial wilt (BBW)..

ried out by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda. Current laboratory tests on the efficacy of the gene show that it is working.

AATF Interventions:

The problem

Banana bacterial wilt disease threatens production of banana in the Great Lakes region. As a result, a 50% decline in household incomes from banana sales and a corresponding increase in banana prices were observed during 2001 and 2004 in Uganda. Other costs associated with BBW include labor for cutting down and disposing of infected plants, de-budding the male flowers and disinfecting cutting tools. These cultural disease control methods currently in use have not been successful and hence the need for exploring feasible alternatives. AATF has brokered access to a gene from Academia Sinica in Taiwan that is currently being used for transformation. The work on transformation is being car-

 Facilitating access to appropriate genes

 Liability assessment and protection  Fostering strategic partnerships

for development of BBW resistant banana in the Great Lakes region of Africa Fostering interim interventions to replenish banana plants by clean planting materials

The prisoners till the maize fields planted with these varieties under the watchful eye of Mukiti and their wardens. It all began when Dryland Seeds contacted Mukiti to grow KDV1 and KDV4 on his personal farmland. Impressed by their performance and business potential, Mukiti convinced his superiors to allow him try the grain varieties on the prison farm. Mukiti and his men grew KDV1 in April 2010 and KH500-21A in October of the same year.

ratories in the Great Lakes region of Africa including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania

 NARO – National Agricultural Research Organisation of Uganda

 IRAZ – Institut de recherche

agronomique et zootechnique


He refers to KDV1, KDV4 and KH500-21A— drought tolerant maize varieties developed by CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), marketed by Dryland Seeds Ltd in Eastern Kenya.

Tropical Agriculture

 Academia Sinica

he Government of Kenya Prison in Machakos, Kenya, is not your average prison. Here, the inmates have their food security in their hands—quite literally. This is because they work the prison farm, which grows, among other food crops, three new CIMMYT maize varieties.

These new varieties give good yields even when rain is scarce,” says Paul Mukiti, the prison farm manager.

 IITA – International Institute of  Public and private tissue culture labo-

Partner institutions

New Maize Varieties Keeping Kenyan Inmates Fed

The prison is situated in a drought prone area and with 1,000 inmates there at any one time, the prison management needs all the help it can get to feed its inmates. “We need 5 bags of maize daily—for the three meals—for all the inmates.

Dr. Felix M’mboyi, the New ABSF CEO

 Product validation and stewardship

GM Bananas Protected against Xanthomonas Wilt Disease Trailed in Uganda By Anna Meldo

expected by the end of 2011.

ganda has launched field trials of its own genetically modified (GM) bananas in an effort to counter a disease that is devastating plantations in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The GM bananas are genetically engineered to resist the Xanthomonas musacearum or BXW, a wilt-causing bacterium that destroys the entire plant. Scientists at the National Banana Research Program in Kampala, led by Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, obtained three banana varieties resistant to BXW by transferring two different sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum) genes into bananas - one encoding the hypersensitivity response-assisting protein and another the plant ferredoxin like protein. Results from the field tests, carried out at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories Institute in Kawanda, are

“The next step is a multi-location field trial that will take a further two years,” says Leena Tripathi, a biotechnologist from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya, also involved in the project. Support comes from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, African Agricultural Technology Foundation and USAID. The transgene patent holder, Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, based in Taipei, issued a royalty-free license for commercial production in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Crop scientists in the country are making significant progress for both GM banana and drought-tolerant maize. Parliament should now pass the biosafety law needed to permit an eventual release of these improved varieties to farmers,” says Robert Paarlberg, a policy analyst at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.

U Dr. Felix M’mboyi, the New ABSF CEO

“KH-500 needs more rain and takes longer but gives very good yields and that’s why we grew it in October,” says Mukiti. Last year, the prison’s maize farm yielded 170 bags of the two varieties. The prison had enough maize to feed the inmates and a surplus which it sold for extra income.

For more information visit:

“This maize has helped us to save a lot of money which we would have been using to buy maize for the inmates,” says Mukiti. Currently, a 90-kilogram bag is retailing at KSh 2,700 (USD 30) and the prison would have spent at least KSh 13,500 (USD 150) per day to feed the prisoners. Last April, Mukiti and his men planted three acres to KDV 1 and two acres to KDV 4 and in June the crop was doing well, despite the prevailing drought. Mukiti is thankful for the new seed and confidently awaiting next month’s harvest. For more information visit: http://dtma.cimmyt. org/index.php/component/content/article/110news-articles/147-new-maize-varieties-keepingkenyan-inmates-fed October - December, 2011

Dr. Felix M’mboyi, the New ABSF CEO





BIOTECH RESEARCH: Does Bt protein persist or break down during the agricultural cycle?


The soil is the basis of production for farming and is a complex ecosystem, in which the individual components are closely interrelated. Organic substances, like proteins compete for binding sites in the soil or are broken down by chemical and microbiological processes. This includes the Bt protein Cry1Ab from MON810 Bt maize, which is effective against the European corn borer. Bt protein is known to enter the soil, particularly through rotting plant remains after harvesting. But it is only now that Helga Gruber, a PhD student at the LfL and TUM has investigated the extent to which this occurs and whether Bt protein can accumulate in the soil as a result of longterm cultivation. She was able to use trial fields on which, during her project, MON810 Bt maize was being grown for the eighth and ninth year in succession. These sites were therefore extremely suitable for investigating the potential Soil samples were taken at various points on the Bt maize long-term monitoring sites before sowing and after the accumulation of Bt protein. maize harvest. As a control, the isogenic (not genetically modified) parent variety was also grown on the trial fields.

hen genetically modified Bt maize is cultivated, Bt protein enters the soil via root exudates, harvest residues and pollen deposits. If Bt maize is used as cattle feed, Bt protein could also enter the soil through liquid manure spread on the fields. Scientists from the Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture (Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft)

and the University of Technology in Munich (TUM) have for the first time investigated what happens to the Bt protein throughout the agricultural cycle – from cultivation to animal feed, to the spreading of liquid manure and the following crop. They were able to gain important insights into the breakdown and persistence of Bt protein in the soil following long-term Bt maize cultivation.

The plants were harvested in the autumn. Remains of stems and roots and maize stubble were left on the field and turned under again. Soil samples were taken after harvesting and before the new crop was sown. The protein was extracted and the Bt protein analysed with a highly sensitive, specific protein detection method (ELISA).

Ten soil samples were extracted using the probe rod for each depth and combined to produce representative mixed samples.

Liquid manure was collected over the course of six days from cows fed on Bt maize in a longterm feeding experiment.

Predefined quantities of liquid manure were taken from the slurry tanks and spread on the trial fields. At the same time, slurry samples were taken for analysis to investigate the effect of slurry storage on the Bt protein.




“Our results show that Bt protein that enters the soil through harvest residues breaks down quickly. We did not find any accumulation of the protein on the long-term trial fields. In the spring before the next crop of maize was sown,

Dr Martin Müller, Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture (LfL), head of the working group on gene transfer and GMO safety research at the Institute for Crop Science and Plant Breeding, and scientific project director .

we were no longer able to detect any Bt protein on any of the plots,” says Helga Gruber.

The Aim: Comparable Measurements

The sensitive ELISA detection test was developed beforehand for animal specimens from a feeding experiment with Bt maize at TUM’s Physiology Department (under Prof. Heinrich H.D. Meyer), and validated in line with EU guidance. The test was then checked and used for the detection of Cry1Ab in other sample materials, including animal feed, slurry, soil and harvested crops. “This validation ensured that the data would be comparable and we were able to trace the breakdown of the Bt protein through the various types of sample material,” Helga Gruber explains. Bt proteins, like other proteins, are bound in the soil and it is possible that, even in this form, they could have an insecticidal effect on non-target organisms. “But the

Marking out the Finsing grassland plot on which slurry from cows fed on Bt maize and from cows fed with the closely related isogenic parent variety was spread.

October - December, 2011

SCIENCE & FOOD PRODUCTION only way to discover the actual insecticidal effect of any Bt protein bound in the soil is to conduct a bioassay. So, in collaboration with Dr Sebastian Höss (Ecossa, Starnberg) we conducted nematode bioassays using soil from our Bt maize sites, including soil samples in which we had detected Bt protein. The evaluation of these trials will be published shortly.”

No Bt Protein Or Genetically Modified DNA Detected In Milk

Maize is used to feed animals that supply us with food. In another project, Dr Patrick Gürtler therefore investigated the potential effects of feeding dairy cows with Bt maize over the long term. Eighteen cows were fed GM maize for 25 months, while another group of 18 cows was fed non-GM maize. The milk yield of the two groups was compared over this period and various metabolic parameters were analysed, as well as the health of the animals. “The use of Bt maize had no impact on feeding behaviour, milk yield or animal health, or on the performance and metabolic parameters,” says Dr Gürtler, summarizing the results. As well as these parameters, samples of blood, dung, urine and milk were taken and examined for genetically modified DNA and Bt protein. However, no elements of these were found in either the blood or the urine. Neither was any Cry1Ab DNA detected in the dung, but the animals excrete the Bt protein in their dung, so the protein does enter the slurry. “In terms of the milk, we can summarize our results by saying that no Bt protein or genetically modified DNA was detected in the milk. This means that we were unable to detect any transfer of these Bt maize components from the animal feed to the milk”.

“No Indication of Genetically Modified DNA Entering the Soil via Slurry”

Since Bt protein and Cry1Ab DNA could also enter the soil through liquid manure, the researchers investigated this agricultural route of entry as well. The aim was firstly to find out whether Bt protein does in fact enter the soil via slurry. Secondly, it was important to find a way of measuring the Bt protein throughout the entire agricultural process in order to be able to say to what extent the Bt protein is broken down at each stage.

During the long-term feeding study with MON810 Bt maize, a field trial was conducted using the liquid manure from the cows fed on Bt maize and from the control group. The liquid manure from the different groups was collected at different times, stored in tanks and spread on grassland and trial maize fields at predefined times that are usual in farming practice. The feed, the liquid manure from the cows, the soil of the fertilized plots and the plants were then analysed for both Cry1Ab DNA and for Bt protein. Helga Gruber and her team were not able to detect any Cry1Ab DNA in the slurry, but did find very small amounts of the Bt protein. “This was because of Bt maize plant material that had not been fully digested,” Helga Gruber explains. Neither was this Bt protein completely broken down while the slurry was in storage.

Maize plants of the same variety treated with the same type of slurry (four repetitions) were processed at the same time

However, the scientist was able to show that more than 95 per cent of the Bt protein is destroyed when the maize plants are processed to make animal feed, which means that the feed contains much less of the insecticide protein than the maize plants on the field. Once the liquid manure had been spread on the fields, Bt protein could no longer be detected in the soil because the slurry was quickly broken down in the biologically active soil. Nor was any Bt protein detected in the harvest (cut grass and isogenic maize). “Through this project we have for the first time traced the breakdown and persistence of the Bt protein throughout the cycle of slurry management on a farm growing MON810 Bt maize and feeding it to cattle. Our most important finding was to show that the Bt protein does not accumulate in the soil as a result of long-term Bt maize cultivation, and that only minimal residual quantities of Bt protein are brought onto fields in the slurry. Here, the remaining Bt protein breaks down so fast that it does not enter the feed again via the harvested crop,” says Helga Gruber summarising the results. For more information visit: of technology in Munich/

Liquid manure from the cows fed on Bt maize was applied to the grassland areas after mowing.

The cut grass from the plots treated with slurry from cows fed on Bt maize is harvested to test for Bt protein residues.

Bt maize plants and the isogenic, Bt-free control variety grown on the slurry-treated parts of the field were harvested separately and prepared for further analyses.

Soil samples were taken from the sites treated with slurry to trace what happens to the Bt protein in the slurry management process of the trial farm using Bt maize as fodder.

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BIOTECH RESEARCH: Butterflies Not at Risk from Bt Maize, Scientific Study Establishes the Link between Aachen University Biotechnology and Conservation of Biodiversity Studies reveals Bt Crops Can Provide Area-Wide Target Pest


echthild Schuppener of RWTH Aachen University has investigated whether the small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies could be at risk from the cultivation of genetically modified Bt maize. The Bt maize in question produces three different Bt proteins, two of which target the European corn borer. Since the European corn borer is a moth, it was probable that other species of moth and butterfly would be sensitive to these Bt proteins as well. After three years of research, the scientist concludes that the risk to butterflies from the Bt maize she studied is negligible.

Butterflies like the peacock butterfly can come into contact with Bt maize if the pollen lands on their food plants. Source: www. gmo‐

The scientists started by conducting a feeding experiment in the laboratory with butterflies she had bred herself. The aim was to find out how sensitively the caterpillars respond when they eat pollen from Bt maize. The Bt pollen feed was found to start having an effect at doses of 200 to 300 pollen grains per cm². At these levels the caterpillars ate less. At 1000 pollen grains per cm² the mortality rate was much higher than for caterpillars fed on conventional maize pollen. In the field, the scientist investigated how much maize pollen lands on the food plants of butterflies under natural conditions. Mechthild Schuppener set up pollen traps at various distances from the maize field, and placed a stinging nettle plant next to each one. As expected, the highest pollen quantities were found right next to the field edge, with an average of 150 pollen grains per cm² in the pollen traps, but only a fifth of this quantity on the stinging nettle leaves. The pollen concentrations that led to increased mortality among the caterpillars in the laboratory were not found in the field. In another part of the project, two different agricultural landscapes were mapped for nests of the two butterfly species during the maize-flowering period. It emerged that caterpillars do develop near maize fields, but that only some of them are there during the maize-flowering period.





ecent study by Crop Life organization hints at the benefits of biotech to environmental conservation and preservation. The GM Crops article delivers and supports several key messages and proof points about the environmental benefits of biotech crops:

By Increasing Yields on Existing Farmland, Biotech Crops Help Preserve Natural Habitats and Our World’s Biodiversity:

A large and growing body of literature has shown that the adoption of biotech crops has increased yields. A recent study of peer-reviewed literature comparing yields of biotech and conventional crops found that: – 74 percent of results showed positive results for adopters of biotechnology versus non-adopters. When just developing countries are compared, this figure rises to 82 percent. The average yield increases for farmers range from 16 to 30 percent in developing countries, and up to seven percent in developed countries. Researchers estimate that 2.64 million hectares of land would probably be brought into grain and oilseed production if biotech traits were no longer used.

Biotech Crops Help Facilitate Conservation Tillage Practices, Preserving Soil And Moisture:

In the U.S., herbicide-tolerant crops made it easier and less risky to adopt conservation tillage and no-till. Between 1996 and 2008, adoption increased from 51 to 63 percent of planted soybean acres. A survey of 610 soybean growers across 19 U.S. states found that growers of glyphosate-resistant soybeans made 25

percent fewer tillage passes than growers of conventional soybeans. In Argentina, the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans increased no-till adoption from about 1/3 of soybean acreage in 1996 to over 80 percent in 2008.

Biotech Crops Have Not Decreased Crop Diversity:

The impact of the introduction of biotech crops on crop diversity has not been thoroughly studied. However, the small number of studies that have been done find that the introduction of biotech crops has not decreased crop diversity. From a broader perspective, biotech crops may actually increased crop diversity by enhancing underutilized alternative crops, making them more suitable for widespread domestication.

Plant Biotechnology Is A Powerful Tool To Help Feed A Growing World, Sustainably:

Biotech crops can continue to decrease the pressure on biodiversity as global agricultural systems expand to feed a world population that is expected to continue to increase for the next 30 to 40 years. In addition to the potential benefits of expanded adoption of current technology, several pipeline technologies offer additional promise of alleviating the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity. For example: Bt eggplant, which is expected to increase yield and reduce insecticide applications, is currently under consideration by Indian regulators. Drought and salinity tolerance technologies would alleviate the pressure to convert high biodiversity areas into agricultural use by enabling crop production on suboptimal soils.

Suppression, Reducing Crop Losses And The Need For Pest Control Measures:

Evidence of regional suppression of European corn borer and corn earworm was gathered from an area of Maryland, where Bt corn adoption was over 60 percent. Populations of European corn borer have also declined in the Midwestern U.S. stemming from long-term plantings of Bt corn. Researchers found that the majority of pest suppression benefits of Bt corn adoption accrued to non-Bt corn growers in the area. In a 10 year study in Arizona, researchers concluded that Bt cotton suppressed pink bollworm, a major pest, with densities declining only in regions where Bt cotton was abundant. In China, analysis from 1992 to 2007 indicated that the planting of Bt cotton was associated with a significant decrease in regional outbreaks of cotton bollworm in multiple crops.

Mounting Evidence Shows That Biotech Crops Have No Significant Adverse Effects On Non-Target Organisms:

The potential impact of Bt crops on soil organisms is well studied, however few or no effects on soil organisms have been reported. Studies of the potential impact of Bt crops on non-target herbivores and beneficials have not detected significant adverse effects, and no evidence of landscape-level effects. Field studies have confirmed that the abundance and activity of parasitoids and predators are similar in Bt and non-Bt crops. In a Canadian study, no differences in bee larval survival, adult recovery and pupal weight were detected in a comparison of colonies in conventional and GM canola fields.

ABSF Book Chapter Contribution to ISAAA Publication


n its effort to contribute to the quest for food security in Africa, ABSF has continuously executed its mandate with main focus on advancement of biotechnology. ABSF is also in cognizance of the fact that, advancement of knowledge in the field of biotechnology requires innovation as well as dissemination of this knowledge to stakeholders and other actors in the region and

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globally. It is upon this salient linkage between knowledge generation and dissemination that scientists at ABSF are collaborating with other researchers to publish a book entitled “Communicating Biotechnology in Africa: ABSF’s Role, Successes & Challenges.” The ABSF scientists are collaborating with ISAAA to realize this important contribution to knowledge management.


Global Status of Commercialized

Biotech/GM Crops in 2010 by ISAA International


010 is the fifteenth anniversary of the commercialization of biotech crops, first planted in 1996. As a result of the consistent and substantial economic, environmental and welfare benefits offered by biotech crops, millions of large, small and resource-poor farmers around the world continued to plant significantly more hectares of biotech crops in 2010. Progress was made on several major fronts: accumulated hectares from 1996 to 2010 reached an historic global milestone; a significant double-digit year-over-year increase in biotech crop hectarage was posted, as well as a record number of biotech crop countries; the number of farmers planting biotech crops globally increased substantially; across-the-globe growth, reflected increased stability of adoption and that biotech crops are here to stay. These are very important developments given that biotech crops already contribute to some of the major challenges facing global society, including: food security and self-sufficiency, sustainability, alleviation of poverty and hunger, help in mitigating some of the challenges associated with climate change and global warming; and the potential of biotech crops for the future is enormous. Accumulated hectarage from 1996 to 2010 exceeded an unprecedented 1 billion hectares for the first time, signifying that biotech crops are here to stay. Remarkably, in 2010, the accumulated hectarage planted during the 15 years, 1996 to 2010, exceeded for the first time, 1 billion hectares, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the enormous total land area of the USA (937 million hectares) or China (956 million hectares). It took 10 years to reach the first 500 million hectares in 2005, but only half that time, 5 years, to plant the second 500 million hectares to reach a total of 1 billion hectares in 2010. A record 87-fold increase in hectarage between 1996 and 2010, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. The growth from 1.7 million hectares of biotech crops in 1996 to 148 million hectares in 2010 is an unprecedented 87-fold increase, making biotech crops the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. Importantly, this re-


Effects of Bt maize on ‘stressed’ honeybees

S Scientific research in Bt. maize is underway in most leading research institutes such as the Institute for Biodiversity in Regensburge -Germany

flects the trust and confidence of millions of farmers worldwide, who have consistently benefited from the significant and multiple benefits that biotech crops offered over the last 15 years, and has provided farmers with the strong motivation and incentive to plant more hectares of biotech crops every single year since 1996, mostly with double-digit percentage annual growth. Over the last fifteen years, farmers, who are the masters of risk aversion, have consciously made approximately 100 million individual decisions to plant an increasing hectarage of biotech crops year after year, because of the significant benefits they offer. Surveys confirm that close to 100% of farmers decided to continue to plant, after their first experience with biotech crops because of the benefits they offer. Strong double digit-growth of 10% in hectarage in the 15th year of commercialization – notably, the 14 million hectare increase was the second largest increase in 15 years. Global hectarage of biotech crops continued its strong growth in 2010 for the fifteenth consecutive year – a 10%, or 14 million hectare increase, notably the second largest increase in 15 years, reaching 148 million hectares, – up significantly from a 7% growth or 9 million hectares increase and a total of 134 million hectares in 2009. Measured more precisely, in 2010 adoption of biotech crops increased to 205 million “trait hectares”, equivalent to a 14% growth or 25 million “trait hectares”, up from 180 million “trait hectares” in 2009. Measuring in “trait

hectares” is similar to measuring air travel (where there is more than one passenger per plane) more accurately in “passenger miles” rather than “miles”. Number of countries planting biotech crops soared to a record 29, up from 25 in 2009 – for the first time, the top ten countries each grew more than 1 million hectares. It is noteworthy that in 2010, the number of biotech countries planting biotech crops reached 29, up from 25 in 2009. Thus, the number of countries electing to grow biotech crops has increased consistently from 6 in 1996, the first year of commercialization, to 18 in 2003, 25 in 2008 and 29 in 2010. For the first time the top ten countries each grew more than 1 million hectares; in decreasing order of hectarage they were; USA (66.8 million hectares), Brazil (25.4), Argentina (22.9), India (9.4), Canada (8.8), China (3.5), Paraguay (2.6), Pakistan (2.4), South Africa (2.2) and Uruguay with 1.1 million hectares. The remaining 19 countries which grew biotech crops in 2010 in decreasing order of hectarage were: Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland, Egypt, Slovakia, Costa Rica, Romania, Sweden and Germany. The number of biotech crop mega-countries (countries growing 50,000 hectares, or more) increased to 17 in 2010 from 15 in 2009. The strong growth in 2010 provides a very broad and stable foundation for future global growth of biotech crops. For more information visit: www.ISAAA/ Brief 42-2010

cientists have not so far been able to find any harmful effects of genetically modified Bt maize on healthy bees. But what happens if the insects have already been weakened by disease? In other words, what if they are exposed to several potential stress factors at the same time? This is a question scientists at the University of Würzburg are researching. A few years ago in a field experiment conducted by researchers from Jena University, bees fed exclusively on Bt maize pollen were found to be more sensitive to a chance infection by the intestinal parasite Nosema than bees that ate conventional maize pollen. These indications of a potential interaction between Bt protein and the intestinal parasite Nosema have not yet been cleared up. The Würzburg scientists are now investigating the question once again in a feeding experiment and hope to obtain new findings. The results of the experiments will be ready later this year. In other research into the learning behavior of bees, scientists are testing whether genetically modified Bt maize can affect the learning ability of bees. For more information visit: http:// Bees in stress test

Effect of Bt Corn on non-target Microorganism


engxiao Tan from the South China Agricultural University together with a team of scientists conducted a study to assess the effects of Bt corn (Bt11 and MON810) on the community structure of the non-target microorganism known as Glomus, which is an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF).

analyses (TWINSPAN and detrended correspondence analysis) of the roots revealed differences between Bt and non-Bt isolines. However, differences were also found among the non-Bt corn cultivars. The researchers concluded that the corn genotypes have greater effect on the AMF community than the age of the growing plants.

Through microscopic visualization, no significant differences were found in the colonization of AMF in the Bt corn roots when compared with the non-Bt lines. Further

For more information visit: S0038071711003208.

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The 20 Frequently asked Questions on GMOs: Facts Sheet What is a GMO?

The term “GMO” stands for “genetically modified organism.” Most often it refers to an agricultural plant, such as cotton or maize that has had its genetic information altered through genetic engineering.

What exactly, has been modified in GMOs?

It is the DNA of the plant that has been modified. DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid, tiny molecules contained in cells, the building blocks of all living things whether animal, plant or microorganism. All living things contain genes that are arranged in molecules of DNA in their cells. Type of cell determines type of organ, and type of organ determines type of organism. These DNA molecules carry the genetic information that tells a cell how to grow. Scientists discovered the shape and structure of these DNA molecules in 1953.

How is the DNA of a GMO modified?

Modifying the DNA of plants is something farmers have been doing for a long time. When plants were first “domesticated” into agricultural crops, it was because their DNA had been modified over many hundreds of years through traditional processes such as seed selection by farmers, and then later through controlled breeding by scientists called “plant breeders.” GMOs take this traditional crop plants one step farther, by making further changes in their DNA using genetic engineering, a technique first developed in 1973. This technique does not rely on sexual reproduction; instead it moves individual genes with desired characteristics or “traits” directly from source organisms into the DNA of target or host organisms, which thus become “GMOs”.

What are some examples of GMOs?

One example is maize plant modified (engineered) to produce an insecticidal protein that confers resistance to insect pests such as the stem borers. Another example is a rice plant (called “Golden Rice”) that has been modified by adding several new genes that provide more Bcarotene, and hence enriched in Vitamin A, good for preventing loss of human eyesight.

What agricultural GM crops are now commercially being grown?

As of 2010 the four primary biotech crops that were commercially grown were: biotech soybeans, maize, cotton, and canola. Biotech soybeans accounted for 50% of all the hectarage under biotech crops in the world. Biotech soybean is widely grown in Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay and other countries. Biotech maize is grown in over 16 countries including Brazil, Egypt, Spain, South Africa, and U.S.A among others. In addition, biotech cotton was planted on 30% of the total area under biotech crops. Countries that grow biotech cotton include Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, India, China, among others. Other biotech crops include sugar beet and alfalfa in U.S.A and Canada, papaya, poplar and rice in China, squash in U.S.A and brinjal (eggplant) in India.

Which countries are growing GMO crops commercially?

There are 29 countries growing Biotech crops commercially as at 2010, the leading among them (in terms of hectares) being U.S.A, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay, and Bolivia respectively. Of the 29 biotech crop countries in 2010, 19 were developing and only 10 were industrial countries; in addition, another 30 imported biotech crop products for a total of 59 countries approving use of biotech crops, either for plant-




ing or importing; 75% of the world’s population live in the 59 countries.

Is it true that farmers in most European countries do not grow GMOs?

Eight EU countries planted biotech crops in 2010; six countries continued to plant 91,193 hectares of Bt maize (compared with 94,750 hectares in 2009), led by Spain; three countries, the Czech Republic, Sweden (the first Scandinavian country to plant a biotech crop), and Germany planted small hectarages of “Amflora” potato totaling 450 hectares in the three countries for seed multiplication and initial commercial production. “Amflora”, approved in 2010, is the first biotech crop to be approved by the EU for planting in thirteen years. Other biotech potatoes varieties, including one that is resistant to the important disease “late blight”, the cause of the Irish famine of 1845, are under development in EU countries and expected to be released before 2015, subject to regulatory approval.

Is it true that farmers in many developing countries do not yet grow GMOs? In Africa, South Africa, Egypt, and Burkina Faso grow biotech crops commercially. This is in addition to other countries like Brazil, The Philippines, Argentina, China and India who are leading growers of GM crops commercially by small scale farmers.

What are GMOs good for?

Almost all of the transgenic crops currently being grown commercially have been designed to provide benefit to farmers by reducing the cost or effort required to control insect pests, plant diseases or weeds. These GM crops lower production costs for farmers, but the crop itself is not substantially different for consumers either in appearance, or taste. Another category of GM plants designed with new traits of direct value to consumers is now beginning to appear. GM plants with a greater ability to resist abiotic stress – such as drought, or heat, or salt are emerging from the research pipeline as well. The greatest benefits from planting GMOs have so far been realized by farmers in the United States, China, Argentina, India, South Africa and Brazil where more GMOs are planted.

Can small farmers in developing countries also benefit from planting GMOs? The farmers in developing countries are most likely to benefit from the GMOs now available to farmers that grow maize, cotton, or soybeans, and those looking for new weed and insect control options. As at 2010, over 14.4 million scale small farmers in developing countries grew GM crops. The proportion of biotech crops has also consistently increased in developing countries, from 14% in 1997 to 48% in 2010. Biotech crops gave farmers in developing countries an additional income totaling US$ 5.7 Billion in 2009.

Would small farmers in Africa be able to benefit from planting GMOs?

Reliable data on the profitability of GM planting in Africa is limited to just South Africa. In South Africa, one widely cited case in which small farmers have profited is the case of small cotton farmers in Makhathini Flats, and in KwaZulu Natal. These farmers have been allowed by their government to plant GM cotton since 1997/98, and one study in 2001 showed that when they switched from conventional to GM cotton they suffered less insect damage, sprayed fewer insecticides, and enjoyed an average net income gain of $50 per hectare, per season. African farmers might also benefit from planting GM maize, to protect against insect pests such as stem borers. South Africa first approved the planting of GM yellow maize in 1997, and by

2002 roughly 20 percent of that nation’s yellow maize crop was GM, with the net income of farmers who planted GM increasing on average by $27 per hectare per year, under non-irrigated conditions. GM white maize was introduced in South Africa in 2001. By 2005 GM varieties were planted on roughly 9 percent of total white maize area and 26 percent of yellow maize area.

Do private multinational companies control GMOs?

In many developing countries, GMOs are now being developed more by public sector government research institutes. These national agricultural research institutes often have permission to sell the GM seeds they are developing locally without paying any fees to any foreign holders of patents on the technology, and the local farmers that get these seeds can also save, exchange, and replant them without restriction, in keeping with the “farmers’ privileges” that are recognized in nearly all local intellectual property laws.

How will farmers in Africa be able to get access to GM seeds?

Once the sale of GM seeds has been approved by a government in Africa, the problem of getting access to GM seeds will not be any different from the problem of getting access to improved varieties of non-GM seeds. Hybrid varieties of maize, for example, typically must be purchased anew every year if the desired hybrid trait isn’t to be weakened. GM hybrids also will most likely be purchased anew every year. On the other hand, open pollinated GM varieties can be replanted just as readily as non-GM open pollinated varieties (OPVs).

Are there risks to planting or eating GMOs? All GMOs like other food crops must be tested for known risks to human health and the environment before government regulators approve them for commercial use. Large numbers of GMOs have now passed these tests and have been grown and consumed widely for more than a decade. To date, none of these approved GMOs has been shown to pose any increased risk to human health or to the environment, compared to the conventional non-GMO version of the same plant. This is a conclusion that has now been reached by a considerable number of scientific bodies, including the Research Directorate General of the European Union (2001), the French Academies of Sciences and Medicine (2002), the Royal Society in London (2003), the British Medical Association (2004), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (2004), the Pontifical Academy of Sciences-Vatican (2009) and the European Commission Directorate-General for Research (2010).

How are GMOs regulated?

GMOs tend to be regulated country-by-country, although the European Union also operates a coordinated region-wide approval and regulatory system for GMOs. Given the strong safety record associated with all the GMOs that have been approved so far, current levels of regulation would seem more than adequate. Internationally, the most important regulatory agreement governing GMOs is the 2000 Cartagena Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which entered into force in September 2003. This Protocol requires that national governments adopt a minimum set of information sharing and consent procedures when exporting or importing some living modified organisms (LMOs).

Can developing countries afford the costs of testing? Developing countries such as Kenya have well trained scientists and regulators on GMO

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screening and testing. When screening new GMOs for food safety risks, authorities in developing countries with limited technical capacity have the option of monitoring, recognizing, and then adopting the findings of regulatory authorities in other countries that they trust. For example, African countries could approve any GMO that had been tested and approved by EFSA. Developing countries should feel secure approving what others with stronger testing capabilities have already approved, given that the human biology of food digestion varies so little from one region or population to the next.

How are GMOs assessed for biological safety?

GMO plants are screened for environmental risks on a case-by-case basis, first by growing them within fully contained greenhouses, and then by growing them in confined or isolated field trials, and finally in large scale field trials. The process can take several years. Monitoring for biosafety can continue after an approval for commercial planting is given. If necessary, approvals may be limited to just some parts of a country, and they can be made conditional on the planting nearby of non-GM “refuge” crops, to slow the emergence of GMO-resistant pest populations.

What is the Role of Kenyan Government in Biotechnology development?

The government actively participates in biotechnology development through relevant public research, extension and regulatory authorities. The research role is played mainly through the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) among other institutions. The extension role is on the hand played by the Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock development and the Higher education Science and Technology through the BioAware strategy while the regulatory role is under the National Biosafety Authority, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) among other agencies .

Does Kenya have Capacity to handle GMOs? The country has access to both manpower and appropriate equipment to conduct credible research, evaluation and regulation of GM related activities. KARI has been conducting research on GM crops using internationally recognized standards for years and KEPHIS has a modern laboratory with capacity to effectively adhere to internal scientific protocols. The National Bio-safety Authority, which is the main regulatory agency, has access to highly qualified scientists both from within and from collaborating institutions with which the NBA has express authority to work with. The regulatory framework consisting of the biotechnology policy, the Biosafety Act and the Biosafety regulations is also in place to guide handling of modern biotechnology in the country.

How will consumers benefit from commercialization of GM Organisms?

Being a net cost reducing technology, farmers will be able to record lower production costs per unit and transfer some of the efficiency gains to the final consumer who will then buy goods at lower price and make a saving. The current research aimed at enhancing nutritional value of some common crops will also avail more nutritive foods to consumers in one package. Dr. Felix M’mboyi, Executive Director, ABSF


BIOTECH RESEARCH: German Genetic Engineering Perspectives:

Are soil-dwelling nematodes susceptible to genetically modified Bt maize?


ebastian Höss of the Institute for Biodiversity in Regensburg has been studying nematodes in agricultural soils for years. Nematodes are very important for soil fertility. In one research project, Sebastian Höss and his team are therefore investigating whether nematodes are sensitive to a particular type of GM maize. Nematodes, or roundworms, are the most species-rich and abundant group of soil-dwelling organisms, and are found in almost all habitats, including the soil, rivers and lakes and the sea. By specialising in a range of different feeding habits, they oc-

Sebastian Höss

cupy key positions in food webs and play a vital role in the soil nutrient cycle. In a research project funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research,

the scientist is investigating the effects on nematodes of the genetically modified Bt maize cultivar MON89034xMON88017, which contains three different Bt proteins. In the soil, nematodes can be exposed to the Bt proteins from Bt maize and are therefore potentially at risk. In laboratory experiments the scientists initially observed a negative effect of the Bt proteins on the nematodes. The nematodes responded to all three proteins with a significantly reduced breeding rate. However, the worms had been exposed to much higher concentrations of the Bt proteins than one would expect to find in the soil of a Bt maize field. The Bt maize was then grown in field trials for three years and the team investigated

whether the nematode communities were any different to those found in the fields of conventional maize, both in terms of numbers and in terms of species composition. According to the preliminary results of the 2008 and 2009 field trials, the Bt maize under investigation has no impact on the nematode communities in the soil. By contrast, significant changes in the nematode community were observed over the course of the growing season, and as a function of the sand content in the soil, irrespective of whether the plot contained genetically modified or conventional maize. For more information on Bt maize research projects visit:

Strategies for Strengthening GM Population Growth, Land Use and Climate Technology Adoption in Africa Change to Affect West Africa’s Crop Yields,


concerted effort from developed countries including international organizations must be put in place to ensure that Africa benefits from modern biotechnology. African governments should come up with a coherent strategy to adopt modern biotechnology. Ademola Adenle of the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies in Japan gives these insights in an article Response to issues on GM agriculture in Africa: Are transgenic crops safe? Published in BMC Research Notes. Adenle proposes a strategy that involves educating the public, farmers and government institutions, the media and private companies to increase understanding of GM technology. He also suggests adoption of common policies and a regional platform through

Study by University of Bonn don reveals

which African governments can engage in dialogue and develop a common biotechnology regulatory approach.


ow input fallow systems in West Africa, land use effects, and population growth will have as much effect as climate change in the next decades. This was the conclusion of an article “Future productivity of fallow systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: Is the effect of demographic pressure and fallow reduction more significant than climate change?” published in the journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

“Africa might pay a huge price in many years to come if the continent continues to depend on outsiders before making decisions that determine their future. Europeans are well fed and may not necessarily require GM technology to boost their crop productions, but African farmers need fast technology that can solve part of their agricultural problems,” Adenle concludes. For more information visit: groups/18208928/27836806/ name/Response%20to%20issues%20on%20GM%20agriculture%20in%20Africa-%20 Are%20trans.

Advancing knowledge and collaboration in biotechnology increases farm productivity for different varieties of crops including tomatoes

Thomas Gaiser of the University of Bonn and colleagues quantified the regional effect of future population growth on crop yields in West Africa and compared it with the potential effects of climate change scenarios. Maize field projections were made based on projected ratio of fallow and cropland as well as land use scenarios. Results

showed that maize yields followed a decreasing trend and yield reductions amounted to up to 24% in the period 2021-2050. On the other hand, yield reductions due to projected climate change accounted for a yield decrease of up to 18% in the same period. For more information visit:

KENYA: Two New Wheat Varieties offer Hope against Stem Rust


JORO, 13 October 2011 (IRIN) - There is renewed hope for wheat farming in Kenya following the release of two wheat varieties that are more resistant to wheat stem rust Ug99. The deadly mutant fungus, Ug99, named after its discovery in Uganda in 1999, is spread by wind-borne spores. By 2003, most of Kenyan’s wheat varieties had been identified as susceptible to the fungus which causes infected plants to produce fewer seeds or die. The two new wheat varieties, dubbed Eagle10 and Robin, were developed by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) after years of research. Though not nearly as widely grown as maize or rice, wheat nevertheless is an

important component of the country’s domestic food production - being grown on about 4 percent of the country’s arable land (160,000 hectares out of 4,000,000 hectares of arable land), according Peter Njau, a plant breeder at KARI.

Since 2005, KARI has screened over 200,000 wheat germplasms, of which only 10 percent were found to have some resistance to Ug99. Of the 10 percent, only a handful could adapt to the Kenyan environment, according to KARI plant breeder Peter Njau. The selected varieties then underwent advanced trials in wheat growing areas and at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS).

“That was how Eagle10 and Robin wheat varieties were born,” explained Njau at the KARI centre in Njoro, Rift Valley. “Both varieties have very good baking and bread-making qualities.” Though the new varieties were found by scientists at KARI to be resistant to both Ug99 and yellow rust, only time will tell if they will offer satisfaction to Kenyan wheat farmers.

“The first step of screening involved identifying some wheat germplasm which were resistant,” he explained. Then, the experts evaluated these lines, checking if they would be suitable for commercial production in Kenya. Those which looked like a good bet were then developed further for the Kenyan farmer.

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KARI in Njoro is one of only a handful of screening centres for stem rust resistance around the world. Eagle10 was selected for lower altitude regions such as lower Narok, Naivasha and Laikipia in Rift Valley, while Robin is for the medium to high altitude areas like Njoro, Mau Narok and Timau. aspx?reportid=93963





Stakeholder Meeting on Emerging Biosafety Legislation in Africa


frican leaders recognize that science and technology will play a major role in the economic transformation and sustainable development of the continent. Biotechnology has been identified as a technology that has the potential to contribute to the drive towards improving the socioeconomic status of the African populace. However, the safe and responsible development, adoption and utilization of the technology requires establishment of the necessary regulatory biosafety framework. As such, AU-NEPAD Agency has recommended that biotechnology and biosafety should adopt the “co-evolutionary” approach in which the functions of regulation are to protect the health of humans and the environment while at the same time promote innovation. Forty-five African states have recognized the need for agricultural biosafety and hence have ratified the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. These countries are at different levels of developing their biosafety regulatory frameworks to implement provisions of the Protocol. As of 2009, 14 African countries including South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Togo, Tunisia, Mali, Mauritius, Algeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe had developed their national biosafety frameworks (NBFs) with 9 countries including Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, Madagascar and Zambia with interim NBFs and the remaining countries have no NBFs or at best at ‘work-in-progress’ stage. The Protocol gives countries the leeway to interpret and enact biosafety laws that will suite there national interests and hence the variation in provisions for biosafety legislation from one country to another. In an effort to address these differences and promote intra-Africa trade, a number of regulatory harmonization initiatives are on-going including those of the ECOWAS and COMESA regions. It is important that African countries develop workable regulatory frameworks that are science-based, predictable, transparent and balanced and this process begins with the enactment of appropriate legislation. ABNE in collaboration with other stakeholders is planning to organize a meeting that will bring together various biotechnology and biosafety stakeholders and national focal points involved in the biosafety law development process in their respective countries with a view for the participants to exchange ideas and information, share experiences and strategize on how to support legislating process on the continent.

Overall Objective

The objective of this meeting is to facilitate the establishment of workable agricultural biotechnology regulatory framework in Africa through a platform that would synergize work on emerging biosafety legislation in Africa.

Specific Objectives  Identify mechanisms for coordinating biosafety law review activities across the different organizations

 Provide channels to enhance exchange of information on biosafety issues among the stakeholders

 Consolidate resources among the stakeholders for synergy

 Identify focus countries to work with initially  Develop a database that keeps track of progress in developing and legislating biosafety laws

 Ensure continuous capacity building activities for

regulators on developing and implementing biosafety legal frameworks.




Labeling Standards: What Others Say Codex Alimentarius and the World Trade Organization


n July 2011, after almost twenty years of debate, the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted a document that compiles various Codex food labeling texts that are also applicable to foods derived through biotechnology. The Codex document does not endorse mandatory labeling; instead the text explicitly states that “any approach implemented by Codex members should be consistent with already adopted Codex provisions.” It also clearly states that there is no intent “to suggest or imply that foods derived from modern biotechnology are necessarily different from other foods simply due to method of production.” Mandatory labeling requirements based solely on the fact that genetic engineering was used for producing foods is not appropriate in that those requirements are not based on food safety, could disrupt trade, and do not conform to World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. It is unlikely that labeling of foods derived from biotechnology could be justified under the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement, since these labeling requirements are not science based and, following a positive safety assessment, do not pose a health and safety problem. The WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement also cautions that requirements should not be more trade restrictive than necessary. Since there are alternative labeling approaches (e.g., voluntary or organic prohibitions), it would not be likely such a labeling mandate could be justified under the TBT agreement. WTO agreements also prohibit discrimination, yet a labeling mandate would clearly discriminate against imports from those countries like the United States, Argentina and Canada where the technology is used widely.

Labels Must Be Factual, Verifiable, Understandable And Not Misleading In practice, consumers erroneously view a GM labeling statement as a “warning,” which inappropriately stigmatizes safe food products. As a result, importers and retailers will not purchase products with GM labeling, and food manufacturers will take all the necessary measures to ensure that food products entering markets with mandatory labeling requirements are derived from conventional crops. Consequently, even though regulations are intended to provide consumer information and choice, biotechnology-derived products do not reach those markets and consumer information and choice are not facilitated. A very real cost of mandatory labeling is that certain markets have been virtually closed to biotechnology derived products, thus diminishing consumers access to these foods and to the opportunities that products of biotechnology can offer, such as better nutrition and lower pesticide residues.

Mandatory Labeling Increases The Cost Of Food At Every Step Along The Value Chain The costs of food products to comply with mandatory labeling rules are increased at every stage of production and distribution. Mandatory labeling is difficult to implement for food companies and could lead to disruption in the food sector. When faced with mandatory labeling requirements, exporting companies often find that labeled products will not be accepted by importers. Companies must October - December, 2011

then decide: Can production be relocated? Should products be removed from the market? Should they be reformulated? Can non-GM ingredients or products be satisfactorily substituted without changing the product (e.g., wheat for corn)? Is it possible to source non-GM materials even at a higher cost? With any of these options, ingredients must be tested and analyzed and laboratory costs can be excessive. The costs of new labels and labeling inventories will be minor compared to these other costs. According to a 2007 IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) brief on international labeling policies of GM foods (http://programs.ifpri. org/pbs/pdf/pbsbrieflabeling.pdf), “[a] few studies have been published on the cost of mandatory labeling in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and in the U.S. state of Oregon and the Canadian province of Quebec. The main costs estimates range from $0.2 up to $10 or even $20 per capita per year. The only study in a developing economy (the Philippines) evaluates that mandatory labeling would result in a 11–12% production cost increase, which could translate into 10% consumer price increases. These estimates depend on several critical characteristics, such as the threshold level (the lower the threshold, the more costly the system), the capacity of the industry to comply with requirements (the lower, the costlier), and the public authority’s capacity to enforce the labeling rules. More generally, the economic effects of labeling are intrinsically linked to the presence or absence of domestically produced GM crops, and imports or exports of GM food products. The more a country produces and uses products that may contain GM food, the more costly a mandatory labeling regulation will be.”

Implementation of Mandatory Labeling Is Expensive For the Government Any new labeling requirement must be enforced in order to assure compliance. Unenforced policy is inefficient policy. Consideration needs to be given to the capacity and resources required for a nation to implement and enforce labeling regimes. Testing laboratories, trained personnel, both for enforcement and regulatory branches of government also come with significant cost (as mentioned in the 2007 IFPRI brief above). Over the long term, use of new technologies in will be undermined at great cost to sustainable agriculture development.

Labeling Of Foods Derived Through Biotechnology Does Not Advance Consumer Health All scientific information to date supports the view that there are no health or food safety concerns with products derived from biotechnology. We support advancing labeling standards for foods, whether developed through modern biotechnology or another method, if there is a change in nutritional composition or if an added component could be toxic or allergenic. Such regulations should be based on the quantifiable chemical characteristics of the food product and not the method of production. In that regard, the standard would be objective, science based, verifiable and enforceable because the properties of the food could be measured. Developing labeling regulations outside these scientific principles, such as labeling requirements solely based on the application of agricultural biotechnology in the production process, distracts attention from the legitimate health, safety and nutritional issues related to the food product.


“....Sustainable, profitable and productive agriculture continues to be boosted by the contribution of biotech crops”, writes Graham Brookes of the PG Economics Limited, United Kingdom


he latest annual update report of global biotech crop impacts shows the technology continues to provide important economic and environmental benefits and is making positive contributions to global food production and food security. “Biotech crop adoption continues to contribute to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreasing pesticide spraying and significantly boosting farmers’ incomes, especially in developing countries” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. “The technology has also made important contributions to increasing crop yields, reducing risks, improving productivity and raising global production of key crops”

Previewing the findings of the study, the key findings are::  Biotech crops have contributed to sig-

nificantly reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. This results from less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with biotech crops. In 2009, this was equivalent to removing 17.7 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing

7.8 million cars from the road for one year;

 Biotech crops have reduced pesticide

spraying (1996-2009) by 393 million kg (-8.7%) and as a result decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 17.1%;

 Herbicide tolerant biotech crops have

facilitated the adoption of no/reduced tillage production systems in many regions, especially South America. This has made important contributions to reducing soil erosion and improving soil moisture levels;

 There have been substantial net

economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.8 billion in 2009 and $64.7 billion for the fourteen year period. The farm income gain in 2009 is equivalent to adding 4.1% to the value of global production of the four main biotech crops of soybeans, corn, canola and cotton;

 Of the total farm income benefit, 57% ($36.6 billion) has been due to yield

gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. Two thirds of the yield gain derive from adoption of insect resistant crops and the balance from herbicide tolerant crops;

 The share of the farm income gains,

both in 2009 and cumulatively (19962009), has been about 50% each for farmers in developing and developed countries;

 The cost farmers paid for accessing

GM technology in 2009 was equal to 30% of the total technology gains (a total of $15.3 billion inclusive of farm income gains ($10.8 billion) plus cost of the technology payable to the seed supply chain ($4.5 billion 2));

 For farmers in developing countries

the total cost of accessing the technology in 2009 was equal to 18% of total technology gains, whilst for farmers in developed countries the cost was 39% of the total technology gains. Whilst circumstances vary between countries, the higher share of total technology gains accounted for by farm income

gains in developing countries relative to the farm income share in developed countries reflects factors such as weaker provision and enforcement of intellectual property rights coupled with higher average levels of benefits in developing countries;

 Since 1996, biotech traits have added

83.5 million tonnes and 130.5 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn. The technology has also contributed an extra 10.5 million tonnes of cotton lint and 5.5 million tonnes of canola;

 If GM technology had not been avail-

able to the (14 million) farmers using the technology in 2009, maintaining global production levels at the 2009 levels would have required additional plantings of 3.8 million ha of soybeans, 5.6 million ha of corn, 2.6 million ha of cotton and 0.3 million ha of canola. This total area requirement is equivalent to about 7% of the arable land in the US, or 24% of the arable land in Brazil.

Crop Life International Urges Global Leaders to Continue Investments in Agricultural Development 6 June 2011, Brussels — In observance of World Environment Day, CropLife International calls on global leaders attending the G20 Meeting in Cannes, France to increase investments in agricultural research and development. Farming challenges such as climate change, limited natural resources, and population growth can only be addressed through agricultural innovations. Advances in farming tools and technologies have enabled the more efficient use of resources, decreased agriculture’s environmental footprint, as well as increased crop productivity. Agricultural developments help preserve the environment, as well as drive economic development for farmers, local communities, and national governments. Over the past 20 years, agriculture has depended on science to become increasingly environmentally friendly while boosting farm incomes. Practices like no-till agriculture have improved farmers’ ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to produce more food on current land in production. In fact, in 2009 alone, the use of modern biotech crops with no-till agriculture prevented the release of 17.7 billion kilograms of greenhouse gases while increasing worldwide farm income by 10.8 billion dollars. However, with the global population increasing towards 9 billion by 2050 and 10 billion by 2100, further innovation will be needed to increase the tools available to farmers.

Crop life international urges global leaders to continue investment in Agricultural development

“In 2010, the share of private sector investment in agriculture continued to rise. This investment has produced technologies benefiting our planet and farmers worldwide. However, it is not enough, “said Howard Minigh, President and CEO of CropLife International. “In celebration of World Environment day we urge nations to increase their investment in agriculture. By investing in technology, knowledge building, and predictable regulatory frameworks, countries can instill confidence in continued private investment and increase the tools available to farmers.”

In the next three to five years, crop varieties that can withstand drought, boost yields, and provide increased nutrition will reach markets around the world. These crops will reduce poverty by increasing farm incomes and provide for healthier families. But more will be needed to increase production by 70% in the next 40 years, and innovation in agriculture will be essential. The private sector will continue to invest and provide new tools for farmers; however, the efforts of governments in ensuring proper infrastructure and knowledge to use these tools will be crucial.

October - December, 2011

“Agricultural innovations improve farming efficiency and enable sustainable farming practices, as well as maintain and improve crop productivity, and support secure incomes for farmers worldwide,” continued Minigh. “In order to continue this course of advancement, countries must make the commitment to science, innovation, and agricultural research and development. The agricultural community strongly encourages our global leaders to make a strong commitment to agriculture and to food security and economic development worldwide.” AFRICAN




African Scholar Accuses West of Food Hypocrisy


key African scholar has accused the west of arrogance and hypocrisy in the debate over global food security. Dr Felix M’mboyi, a Director with the Kenya based African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum said “the affluent west has the luxury of choice in the type of technology they use to grow food crops, yet their influence and sensitivities are denying many in the developing world access to such technologies which could lead to a more plentiful supply of food. Dr M’mboyi will be giving a key note speech at CropWorld 2011, a global food and agribusiness conference being held in London on the 29th October. The event will be considering a wide range of issues relating to global crop production and food security. “The developing world should be allowed to make an informed choice as to which technology to use to produce their food. GM technology should not be ruled out, it should

all form a part of the mix along with conventional and organic production,” said Dr M’mboyi. “Due to decisions being made particularly in the EU, our farmers are not allowed to make the choices they desperately need to make.” he added

to long term given that the continents’ population is likely to catapult to 2 Billion by 2050 necessitating improved technological applications in the continents food production systems. Clearly, biotechnology offers multiple benefits to African farmers,” Said Dr M’mboyi.

Dr M’mboyi argues that many African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Nigeria wish to look at the GM option as part of their broader agricultural strategy in order to address future food needs. There are, however, major disagreements between African development organizations from the EU who oppose the introduction of GM crops into Africa arguing that food shortages result not from a lack of food but from an inability of poor countries to buy it.

“There is a big challenge ahead for those engaged in the GM debate, particularly in view of the negative perceptions of GM technology by some EU organizations that fund development projects in Africa or facilitate trade agreements. The continent is left in a dilemma as to whether or not embracing GM technology will lose development funding and trade links with Europe,” he added.

“The alternative options offered by these EU organizations, including the increased use of organic crop production may not be viable in the medium

Dr M’mboyi will be one of a number of international experts speaking at Crop World Global 2011 who will be addressing the problems caused by a growing world population and mounting pressure on its natural resources.

The conference, which is the only global event to embrace all aspects of crop production, will be examining how world agriculture can meet the challenges and increase food production by more than 50% over the next 19 years. The conference, which will be addressed by the UK’s Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Rt Hon Jim Paice MP, as well as a range of speakers drawn from countries including Australia, India, The United States and Brazil, will run for three days from the 31st October to the 2nd November 2011 in London. “We see this as a unique opportunity to bring together a group of international experts of the highest level to discuss, debate and inform those attending – and a wider global audience – how agriculture is going to meet the increased demand which will be placed on it,” said Clare King, CropWorld Conference Director. Further details are available at www.

OFAB Kenya Chapter Unveils Comprehensive Strategic Plan: 2011-2021


he Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) is a loose affiliation of national chapters: currently there are chapters in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria, with Egypt and Ghana about to be established. This strategic plan has been produced through a participatory process involving representatives of a broad range of OFAB stakeholders based in Kenya. It is specific to the Kenya chapter of OFAB but it is hoped that it will also be useful to inform strategic planning by the other national chapters. The strategic plan has been developed to enable OFAB to develop as an organisation and to meet clear and growing needs: for a platform for the many players in the agricultural biotechnology landscape in Kenya to come together, share information and ideas; and for a source of objective and readily understandable information that is packaged for and targeted to non-expert audiences, including Kenyan consumers, farmers and policy- and decision-makers. OFAB Kenya’s definition of agricultural biotechnology is: the responsible application of life sciences within an enabling environment that ensures safe use. This includes the application of tools such as genetic engineering (for the production of genetically modified organisms), tissue culture, marked-assisted breeding, diagnostic, bio-prospecting and biosafety. OFAB can best be described as community of interest. It is a group of people interested in sharing information and discussing agricultural biotechnology. Its members are not necessarily experts or practitioners




of agricultural biotechnology – they only need to be interested in the topic. Similarly to other communities of interest, the purpose of OFAB is to provide a place (physical and virtual) where people who share an interest in agricultural biotechnology can go and exchange information, ask questions, and express their opinions about the topic. OFAB Kenya’s overall goal is to win over hearts and minds by providing objective evidence to convince individuals and people within organisations that agricultural biotechnology has an important and useful role to play in enhancing food security and creating wealth. To win over their hearts, OFAB’s key message is that agricultural biotechnology is safe, overcoming fears and countering misinformation and misconceptions. To win over their minds, OFAB’s key message is that agricultural biotechnology can deliver tangible benefits to individuals, groups, organisations and society. For some audiences, benefits will need to be framed in compelling economic arguments; this is the language with which OFAB will primarily communicate with politicians, farmers and the private sector

as well as donors and investors. But benefits will also be social, such as cheaper food leading to better nourished people who are healthier and more able to realize their full potential, and a safer environment due to reduced pesticide being needed in pest-resistant crops. Strategic niche and comparative advantage: In developing OFAB’s strategic plan it became obvious that the agricultural biotechnology landscape in Kenya is extremely crowded with many organisations, governmental, non-governmental and private sector, representing a broad spectrum of opinions and interests occupying this space. This, however, was considered to present a significant opportunity: there was a clear need for a platform where these actors could come together for rational, facilitated discussion and debate and to identify potential synergies and opportunities for collaboration and cooperation. Recent events in Kenya, especially the debate and furor surrounding importation of GMO maize in response to the ongoing drought, also highlighted the need for an effective and highly responsive system to source, package and channel sound, unbiased and readily understandable in-

October - December, 2011

formation to various audiences, especially consumers, farmers, politicians and other decision and policy makers and to counter misleading and misinformed claims and opinions. OFAB appears to be well suited to occupy this strategic niche. Since it was formed in 2006, OFAB has succeeded in organizing a regular series of monthly stakeholder meetings which attracted prominent keynote speakers and large and diverse audiences. It has also established an effective secretariat and a growing membership. Now is the opportunity to build on this sound foundation and to transform from being an effective and respected talking shop to playing a broader convening and information gathering and sharing role that can achieve useful outcomes and lead to tangible impacts. Within the four key areas of its mandate OFAB has developed indicative types of activities they intend to pursue, the partners it will collaborate with, and the types of outputs, outcomes and impacts these activities will generate. For more information visit the organizational website:


Kenyan media reports Revival of the biotechnology debate On the 15th of August 2011, Kenya gazetted the biosafety guidelines, opening its market to GM imports. Although the move was expedited owing to the prevailing food shortage in the northern part of the country, it was met with a lot of resistance, displaying the lack of knowledge on GMO related issues in the country.

The divergent views presented a platform for political overtones, creating a scenario which played well into news values. Consequently, the debate that had been dormant for a long time and thus deemed as un-newsworthy soon found itself infiltrating its way back into the news cycle. Fortunately, efforts in the past by ABSF and other stakehold-

October - December, 2011

ers to train journalists on balanced and accurate biotechnology reporting proved worthwhile. However, although the calibre of reporting has improved, there were still days when journalism norms such as dramatisation prevailed. Below are samples of some of the headlines that hit the newspaper stands during that period:





COMESA, Acknowledges the role of Biotechnology in Crop yield, Household income and Nutrition quality


he Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the largest trading economic bloc on the continent, has 19 member states, a population of over 389 million people, an annual import bill of around US$32 billion and export bill of US$82 billion. Agriculture plays a big role in the economies of COMESA countries in terms of livelihood, employment and international trade. Agricultural commodities which are major drives for growth in intra-COMESA trade during 2008 amounted to some US$6.3 billion. Of this, food and agricultural raw materials constituted US$2.1 billion. However, cyclical droughts and abiotic stresses in the region predispose these countries to food security problems, while biotech challenges such as disease pathogens and pests affect productivity of most staple crops. This has prompted the need to explore all available tools and options that would make a contribution in raising productivity, incomes and improving environmental quality. In recognition of the importance of regional integration and trade, Article 4 of the COMESA treaty calls for member states to among others to: establish a customs union; and simplify and harmonize their trade documents and procedures. It is against this background that COMESA Ministers of Agriculture have consistently called for a regional approach to expanding opportunities for agricultural production, enhancing regional food security, increased regional trade and market access through research value addition and trade facilitation. In response, key priorities for COMESA in consolidating its strategic objectives include implementing major programs in infrastructure, trade and agriculture. In the agricultural sector, the focus is on implementing the comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), a programme of the African Union whose implementation mandate in the region rests with COMESA. CAADP was established by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development of Agriculture in Africa. The overall goal of CAADP is to “Help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agricultureled development, which eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity, and enables expansion of exports.” Agricultural Biotechnology, among the diverse options available, has been recognized as a viable tool that would make a significant contribution for improving crop yields, household incomes, and the nutritional quality of staple foods in an environmentally sustainable way. Indeed, the African Union (AU) Member States are seeking to develop strategies for addressing the challenges surrounding development and safe development of modern biotechnology for addressing poverty, hunger and malnutrition on the continent. Members have over the years been encouraged to develop functional biosafety systems and also domesticate the internationally legally binding instrument – the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The aim of the Protocol, which entered into force on September 11, 2003, is to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) result-




ing from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking into account human health and the environment and specifically focusing on transboundary movements (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2000). Article 14 of the protocol states that countries may enter into bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements and arrangements to manage transboundary movement of GMOs The importance of regional cooperation in harnessing the technology safely and responsibly and handling of other GMO related issues is evident from the experience of other global regional blocs. In cognizance of this reality, COMESA endorsed the implementation of the initiative – Regional approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (RABESA) in 2003. RABESA was initiated by COMESA Ministers of Agriculture with the broad objective of supporting harmonization of biosafety policies among its member states. Since inception, the RABESA initiative has been implemented in close collaboration with the COMESA Secretariat, the Policy Analysis an Advocacy Program (PAAP) of ASARECA, ISAAA Africenter and the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). At the end of 2009, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) was created and endorsed as a specialized agency of COMESA by the council of Ministers and the Heads of State. The main goal of ACTESA is to increase farmer productivity and incomes in the COMESA region through trade in stable crops. In cognizance of the potential of biotechnology in enhancing the quality and productivity of staple crops, a biotechnology and biosafety unit has been created within ACTESA. ACTESA will now be responsible for spearheading the biotechnology agenda of the COMESA region. A number of consultative meetings and studies were conducted during the first phase of the RABESA initiative and afterwards a COMESA regional workshop was held in May 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting made three recommendations for regional policy on GMO-related areas:

1. Adoption of a centralized regional risk assessment so as to create standardized and more transparent, cost-effective procedures; enable the sharing of resources, information and expertise. 2. Establishment of a central regional clearing-house to provide advice/guid-

in modern biotechnology and biosafety that would undertake a broad range of risk analysis issues. Its strategy includes policy and legal frameworks as one of four pillars under the compressive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The AU position therefore, includes inter alia the establishment of a mechanism to facilitate the harmonization of regulatory systems.

ance to member states on commercial trade in GM products. 3. Development of guidelines on procurement of GM food aid at a regional level, which would then be used by each country to make decisions on case-by case basis Other general policy recommendations included: a. Development of regional centers of excellence in biotechnology and biosafety; a. Establishment of a panel of experts to provide technical advice on issues pertaining to the development, handling and management of GMOs in the region; a. Intensified efforts to increase public awareness of GMOs at the national level; a. Capacity building in all aspects of biotechnology and biosafety; and a. Proactive action by the COMESA secretariat on issues of collaboration and co-operation with the African Union, other regional economic communities, international organizations and other relevant entities in raising the region’s capacity in the area of biotechnology and biosafety. The need for regional cooperation was further reiterated at the AU workshop held in October 2006 in Addis Ababa and attended by experts representing diversity interests. A High level Africa Panel of Experts on Biotechnology (APB) was established to advise the AU on matters of biotechnology and biosafety and an African position on biotechnology developed and approved by the AU. The main message from the APB was: “… regional economic integration in Africa should embody the building and accumulation of capacities to harness and govern modern biotechnology. Regional economic integration can be an institutional vehicle for mobilizing, sharing and using existing scientific and technology capacities including human and financial resources as well as physical infrastructure for biotechnology, R&D and innovation” (African Union, 2006). The African Union Commission’s purpose is to guide modern biotechnology developments at national, sub-regional and regional (Africa-wide) levels. It aims to harmonize, coordinate and enhance capacity in a cost effective way. The idea is to create and strengthen regional centres of excellence

The implementation of the second phase of the RABESA initiative was endorsed at the 4th meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Agriculture held in Khartoum in March 2007. This phase focused on the development of harmonized regional policies concerning different aspects of GMO governance. The main issues to be addressed in the policy statements and guidelines were summarized as follows:

An assessment of the status of biotechnology and biosafety policies and frameworks within Member States concluded that the COMESA countries are at different levels of development in terms of biotechnology and biosafety policy and legislative frameworks and would thus greatly benefit from a regional approach to development and implementation of biotechnology and biosafety policies and legal frameworks. The 5th meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Agriculture held in Seychelles in 2008 endorsed the drafting of regional biosafety guidelines and policies for: b. Handling commercial planting of GMOs c. Handling commercial planting of GMOs d. Trade in GMOs & e. Procurement of emergency food aid with GM content The development of regional policies and guidelines is a direct response to the resolution by the COMESA Ministers of Agriculture. It is within the foregoing context that these policy statement and guidelines for handling commercial planting of GMOs, Trade in GMOs and Emergency Food Aid with GM content have been developed to respond to the COMESA Ministers of Agriculture resolutions and directives. The policies and guidelines duly recognize national sovereignty and existence of national biosafety laws and policies. A Panel of Experts (PoE) has been established a permanent policy guiding committee within COMESA on matters related to biotechnology and biosafety and will direct implementation of the policies and guidelines.

The main issues to be addressed in the policy statements and guidelines were summarized as follows: Areas of focus

Appropriate option/recommendation

Reason advanced

1. Commercial planting of GMOs

Centralized regional assessment, national decision making

• Standardized and more transparent • Cost effective • Sharing of resources, information and expertise

2. Commercial trade policy in GM produce

Advice/information from a central regional clearing house, national decision making

• • • • •

3. Emergency food aid policy

Guidelines developed at regional level, decision to be taken at the country level on case by case basis

• Facilitates transit of food aid to neighbouring states • Facilitates provision of food to the needy

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Regional level assessment is cost effective Cooperation in assessing issues Assures national commitment Information sharing Capacity building


Annual Biosafety Capacity Building Coordination Meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, April 11-12, 2011


everal continent-wide and sub-regional biosafety capacity building initiatives have assisted and continue to assist African countries to establish functional regulatory systems. Noting that these efforts have largely been uncoordinated and duplicative, and the need to foster collaboration and coordination, biosafety initiatives in Africa agreed to meet annually to identify and develop joint programs to leverage financial and human resources for synergy. These coordination meetings were planned to strengthen stakeholder and partner involvement and to enhance knowledge and experience sharing as well as the exchange of biosafety information and database. The inception meeting was held in Paris in 2009 and this was followed by a second meeting in Ouagadougou in April 2010. The key outcomes of these meetings were:

 A listserv was created for information exchange;

 Point/contact persons were appointed for focus countries;

 Consensus was reached on the

importance of sharing the calendar of events among various initiatives;

 The commencement of the process

that would see to the creation of a central repository of crop biology documents and biosafety resources;

 The use of on-the-ground biosafety experts;

 Discussion of the need to address

inimical clauses related to liability and redress in some national biosafety laws;

 The need to formalize partner-

ships between and among biosafety initiatives/service providers.

A unique dimension to the meeting of April 2011 was the inclusion for the first time of national focal points. Present at this third biosafety coordination meeting were national focal points from 12 member states, representatives from 12 biosafety initiatives/service providers in Africa and observers from industry. The meeting was organized by the AU-NEPAD Agency’s African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) in collaboration with the IFPRI/Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). This two-day stakeholder meeting on emerging biosafety legislations in Africa sought to:

 Bring together key stakeholders

and national focal points to analyze the current situation and exchange ideas, experiences and information

 Strategize together on how to

better coordinate/communicate/

Annual Biosafety Capacity building coordination meeting, Nairobi, Kenya April 11-12 2011

collaborate to support legislative processes

 Strengthen common understand-

ing, and improve programme alignment and joint commitment among stakeholders and focal points to build future collaborative efforts

 Identify action steps and responsibilities within countries and technical assistance providers to move the biotechnology and biosafety agenda forward

The meeting commenced with brief presentations by Prof. Diran Makinde, Director of AU-NEPAD Agency ABNE and Dr. Judith Chambers, Director of IFPRI-PBS who set the scene by giving an update on the biosafety status in Africa and highlighting critical and emerging issues on the biosafety legislative landscape in Africa. Regional efforts towards harmonizing biosafety regulations were also presented by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The proposed legislative environment for COMESA and ECOWAS countries, the scope of the regulations and the implications were discussed. Industry perspectives on biosafety legislative issues as outlined in the compact were also presented within the context of the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol. Participants then worked in groups categorized based on as focal point or service provider and association with a regional economic bloc to discuss coordination, collaboration and synergy toward a workable agricultural biotechnology framework in Africa. Participants shared knowledge and expertise in biosafety capacity building that will ensure that national systems will establish regulatory frameworks that are evidence/science-based,

credible, transparent, predictable, and workable. The second day involved strategic planning which ultimately culminated into identified action steps, timelines, and responsibilities. The underlying philosophy guiding these action steps was they must be significant, realistic, create momentum and show progress.

✔ AU-NEPAD Agency ABNE was

by consensus nominated to serve as the coordinator for biosafety service providers/initiatives and requested to regularly monitor developments.

✔ To strengthen partnerships, ensure synergy and minimize duplication among service providers, PBS was mandated to collate individual work plans and to produce a master plan of training activities.

✔ In-country working groups for

biosafety were suggested for Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, and Tanzania and these groups were to be coordinated by respective focal points.

✔ ISAAA and PBS were tasked to

organize a strategic planning workshop on biotechnology/biosafety outreach and communication.

✔ To build the capacity of lawyers

in biotechnology/biosafety issues, ABNE was asked to lead in organizing a training workshop.

✔ ICGEB and PBS were to lead in

organizing training for African regulators in risk assessment and dossier review.

✔ Biosafety initiatives would con-

tinue using the existing listserv for purposes of information-sharing.

The targeted end date for implementing the above-listed activities is January 1, 2012.

October - December, 2011

Key Recommendations Participants unequivocally underscored the importance of preparatory meetings for stakeholders on the outcomes of the COP-MOP 10 including the Nagoya-Kuala-Lumpur Supplemental Protocol on Liability and Redress that outlines appropriate mechanisms for the assessment and reparation of damage to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and other critical; environmental risk assessment; and socio-economic considerations in biosafety decision-making at both country and regional levels. Such meetings would create the much needed platform for consensus building on these issues and facilitate the development of strategies. The need for continuous biosafety capacity strengthening for regulators, policy and decision-makers was also emphasized. Participants concurred that biosafety training for regulators, policy and decision-makers must be institutionalized in Africa and training and information kits/manuals must be developed as a matter of priority. Stakeholders also highlighted the unique advantage of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) as the implementing arm of the AU and recommended focused and concerted efforts by the NEPAD Agency in defining and developing common positions for member states and in advancing Africa’s interest during international negotiations on biosafety. Participants noted that biotechnology and biosafety capacity efforts transcend technical inputs and there was the need to complement such efforts with political considerations. A key catalyst in developing workable functional regulatory systems is demonstrable political will and commitment. Consequently, the NEPAD Agency must engage the political leadership in member states to ensure ownership and leadership of the biosafety capacity development process.




ABSF Report on Bt-Cotton Commercialization Sensitization Workshop for Cotton Stakeholders at Agricultural Training Centre, Busia, Western Kenya, 27th May, 2011


Participants of the ABSF Workshop in Busia, western Kenya, 27th May 2011

First PAN-African Biotechnology Stewardship Conference: Africa Managing Safe and High Quality Biotechnology Crops, Accra, Ghana, 28-30 November 2011



tewardship addresses the responsible management of a technology from its conception, through its development and product use, to its final discontinuation. It aims to provide products that are safe and that meet high standards of quality and product

More and more African countries are establishing biosafety regulatory frameworks, thus clarifying the regulatory processes needed to introduce products in a safe way. Several initiatives already address awareness creation in biotechnology and biosafety legislation. As expectations rise, approaches are urgently required on how to ensure quality and integrity – in addition to safety considerations – in the products emerging from biotechnology. To address the current gap in capacity for stewardship, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), with the support of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), developed the project Strengthening Capacity for Safe Biotechnology Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (SABIMA). This project provides training for specialists in the selected countries on biotechnology stewardship, as well supporting awareness creation and information dissemination. As part of the conclusion of this project, the First Pan- African Biotechnology Stewardship Conference will present SABIMA achievements and discuss experiences of introducing biotechnology stewardship in Africa.

Raise awareness: on the importance of implementing stewardship practices for safe management of agricultural biotechnology in Africa (in addition to the implementation of regulatory systems using science-based decision making)

Connect stakeholders: such as scientists, funding and technology donors, governmental agencies, regulators and commercial organizations involved with agricultural inputs and development Explore funding: possibilities and donor support allowing integration of stewardship into national R&D, science and technology agendas Review: scale-up projects on agro-biotech stewardship in Africa, providing an opportunity to shape further work in this area.



By Daniel Otunge (AFSTA Head of Communication and Advocacy) The twelfth Annual Congress of the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) will be held in the beautiful island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, from 5-8, March 2012. Zanzibar is a unique coral islands lying in the expansive Indian Ocean, about 40 kilometers from the hinterland of Tanganyika. It is made up of about 50 islands, including Pemba, which united with Tanganyika in April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Along the vast Indian Ocean seafront where the congress will be held, is lined up with several luxury beach resorts, exotic restaurants, the Sultan’s Palace (House of Wonder), the Old Fort, and the docks. The main crops grown in Zanzibar include various species of spices, such as cloves, ginger, cardamoms, and cinnamons. They also grow food crops suchlike as rice, maize and horticultural crops.

The Congresses inform participants of advances, barriers and options which may influence seed business endeavours on a global scale. The annual congress provides an opportunity for international stakeholders as well to learn more about opportunities and challenges facing the seed sector in Africa.

Share experiences: between public and private sector practitioners, on biotechnology issues, with an emphasis on the African agricultural context

one of the implementers of the outreach and stewardship programme of the initiative. It is for this reason that the Institution organized for and sponsored a Bt-cotton sensitization stakeholder workshop in Busia at the Agricultural Training Centre in May 2011. The workshop targeted Western Region heads of extension services from the Ministry of Agriculture who are viewed as the link between the researcher and the farmer together with other key cotton stakeholders in the region. This group was among the prioritized stakeholders for the outreach and stewardship activities of the commercialization programme for year 2011.

AFSTA Congress 2012 Set For Zanzibar, Tanzania

AFSTA Congress is an essential annual event for seed industry leaders, investors, policy makers, scientists, regulators, researchers, farmers, media and other professionals working in the area of seed production and trade. The Congress provides a unique forum where the latest critical developments in the seed industry are examined, and where future directions of the industry in Africa are interrogated.

Conference objectives


he African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) is a not-for-profit, non-political and non-sectarian association providing a platform for sharing, debating and understanding all issues pertaining to biotechnology in agriculture, health, industry and environment. Through its membership, ABSF is the window and voice of millions of biotechnology stakeholders in Africa representing farmers, scientists, consumers, manufacturers, politicians and government bodies. Being a key stakeholder of the Bt-cotton commercialization initiative, ABSF has been identified as

In Africa, thanks to AFSTA, quality seed is no longer taken for granted. It is growing in recognition as the most important agricultural input that plays a significant role in ensuring food security. That is why annually, AFSTA identifies leading international experts to lead exchange of ideas on key seed issues. In 2012, such experts will stimulate discussions on the following topics. • Role of the seed industry in facing the challenges of the climate change

October - December, 2011

Challenges and prospects for an integrated seed market in Africa

Access by African farmers to seed technology

Status of noxious weeds in Africa and its impacts on certified seed production and trade

Recent trends in vegetable breeding

Highlights of the Seed business trends and statistics in Africa and globally

Besides the stimulating discussions, AFSTA Zanzibar Congress 2012 promises to be the most business friendly of all. The Congress’s National Organizing Committee (NOC), chaired by Patrick S.N.Ngwediagi, is working tirelessly to ensure that the congress will meet expectations of the most discerning entrepreneurs. But there are other reasons for you to be in Zanzibar in 2012. Tanzania is a melting pot of tourism attractions. While there, especially in the mainland, you stand a good chance of being greeted by the Big Five--Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Rhino and Buffalo. There are also the famous fabulous landmarks such as The Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and the The Kilimanjaro, also known as the peak of Africa. Zanzibar offers unforgettable tourism and leisure experiences guaranteed by the beautiful Indian Ocean coastlines and aquatic sports allure. Not to mention the wonder and rich history of the island. There will be excellent opportunities for networking, making trade deals and exhibiting your flagship products as well as sharing your ideas with award winning agriculture reporters. Hence, if seed or agriculture is your businesses, then AFSTA Zanzibar 2012 is the place to be. For more information, contact the secretariat at or tel. +254 20 2727853/60. To register for this exciting congress visit www.afsta. org for details and registration forms.

ABSF Exhibits At the Nairobi international show 2011


enyan President Mwai Kibaki, who is also the Agricultural Society of Kenya patron, officially opened the event on the 30th October 2011. During the official opening of the International Trade Fair, by virtue of its strategic position and site, the President showed interest and stopped to look at the bright and elaborately crafted biotech stand with very nicely displayed tissue culture banana bunches and seedlings. The Nairobi International Trade Fair whose Theme was “Driving Agribusiness in Attaining Food Sufficiency and Vision 2030” took place from 26th to 2nd October 2011. Exhibitors comprising government agencies, Ministries and private companies displayed and sold their goods and services in the week-long event. ABSF objectives of attending the trade fair were:

 To raise awareness on biotechnology

 To expose farmers and other

stakeholders to the benefit on products of biotechnology

 To assess the level of biotech-

nology awareness and knowledge in region and province

 To inform famers where the

biotechnology products are almost reaching commercialization.

The ABSF exhibition focused on strengthening human and infrastructural capacity with a specific mandate of providing much-needed support to farmers. It also included improving the level of knowledge of scientists, government officials and target communities so that effective transfer and application of new biotechnologies can take place. The show attendance was quite impressive with thousands attending the educative and informative event especially during the weekend when most families found time to visit the fair. The total number of people who passed through the ABSF exhibition centre was put at 4,136, which is a slight decline from the impressive count of 5,230 that was registered in 2010. This may be attributed to the poor weather and harsh economic times experienced during the SHOW period. ABSF significantly participated in the SHOW by exhibiting and displaying biotech information, and products on biotechnology for

public interest through communication materials on biotechnology in form of brochures, pamphlets, and posters. Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa demonstrations, and registration of farmers, policy makers, scientists and media personnel. Similarly, ABSF technical staffs were involved in biotech awareness and knowledge building campaigns to all members of the public who wished to be educated on biotechnology. This year, ABSF received an overwhelming interest from consumers in tissue culture bananas, farmers were able to get disease free planting materials that mature uniformly and give higher yields. It is however important to note that farmers may only benefit from a given technology when they actually adopt it. The availability of superior technologies like tissue culture on the shelves of advanced laboratories in the cities must therefore be accompanied with targeted means of availing such technologies to farmers if both poverty and food insecurity are to be alleviated among the distant rural farmers. The absence of awareness creation and capacity building of the target beneficiaries about the new technology also creates knowledge gaps that may be filled with misinformation leading to delayed adoption or non adoption of the otherwise superior technology. And most of the farmers were overwhelmed with the awareness we created.

Kenyan president stops to have a glance at the ABSF exhibition centre

The ABSF stand during the Nairobi International Show 2011

During the exhibition, ABSF worked in collaboration with other biotech stakeholders in making this year event a success and they included: 1. Genetic Technologies International limited – GTL who supplied us with tissue culture banana seedlings which were on high demand and from the analysis of demand of these products; one would be satisfied to conclude that most of the people who understand the benefits of biotechnology have gone a step further and accepted to use biotechnology applications in their production systems. 2. Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International – A-Harvest with whom we worked together to display fresh tissue culture banana product produce from their farmers. The exhibition at the Nairobi International Trade Fair during the 2011 event was a huge success

The Ag. ABSF CEO, Dr. Felix Mmboyi at the organisation’s stand during the Nairobi International show

and a pointer to the importance of collaborative ventures in years to come. ABNETA managed to October - December, 2011

recruit an additional 325 new members comprising of scientists, farmers, policy makers, media

personalities, students from universities and public interest groups. AFRICAN



Workshop On Regional Biosafety Policies and Guidelines Held In Nairobi, Kenya, 14th March 2011


he Kenya National Workshop on RABESA/COMESA regarding the Regional Biosafety Policies and Guidelines took place on the 14th March 2011 at the Pan Africa Hotel with attendance by the key biotechnology stakeholders in both public and private sector including civil society. The objective of the workshop was to discuss the Draft Regional Biosafety Policies and Guidelines that have been developed over time through an initiative known as ““Regional Approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (RABESA) since 2003. Amongst the participating organizations included: ABSF, ISAAA Afri-Center, A-Harvest, NCST Kenya, NBA Kenya, Ministry of Agriculture Kenya, Ministry of Higher Education Science and Technology, IFPRI Kenya/Uganda, ASARECA, COMESA, University of Nairobi, media, and other key institutions. ABSF was one of the key technical institutions that made presentations by virtue of its Executive Director being an appointed expert to the panel of scientists reviewing the policy guidelines. Dr Felix M’mboyi represented the organization during the meeting. A number of consultative meetings and studies were conducted during the first phase of the RABESA initiative and afterwards a COMESA regional workshop was held in May 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting made three recommendations for regional policy on GMO-related areas: 1. Adoption of a centralized regional risk assessment so as to create standardized and more transparent, cost-effective procedures; enable the sharing of resources,

Workshop on Regional Biosafety Policies and Guidelines Held in Nairobi, Kenya, 14th March 2011

information and expertise. 2. Establishment of a central regional clearing-house to provide advice/guidance to member states on commercial trade in GM products. 3. Development of guidelines on procurement of GM food aid at a regional level, which guidelines would then be used by each country to make decisions on caseby case basis Earlier, the RABESA team organized a regional workshop for COMESA member states, 19-20 April 2010, to discuss the draft regional biosafety policies and guidelines, the biosafety roadmap and the communication strategy. The specific objectives of the workshop were: 1) to seek regional convergence and collaboration on how to regulate GMOs in the areas of commercial planting, trade and emergency food aid within the COMESA region, and 2) to obtain broader stakeholder input into the draft documents.

At the end of the ministerial workshop, the ministers decided that: a) Member states should complete national consultations on the harmonized 3 regional draft policies and guidelines on GMO production, trade and emergency food assistance with a view to presenting them to the joint meeting of ministers of agriculture, environment and natural resources for consideration and adoption, and b) ACTESA should develop a long term comprehensive program on biotechnology/biosafety for the region for consideration and adoption by ministers at next meeting. RABESA was initiated by COMESA Ministers of Agriculture with the broad objective of supporting harmonization of biosafety policies among its member states. Since inception, the RABESA initiative has been implemented in close collaboration

with the COMESA Secretariat, the Policy Analysis an Advocacy Program (PAAP) of ASARECA, ISAAA Africenter and the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). At the end of 2009, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) was created and endorsed as a specialized agency of COMESA by the council of Ministers and the Heads of State. The main goal of ACTESA is to increase farmer productivity and incomes in the COMESA region through trade in stable crops. In cognizance of the potential of biotechnology in enhancing the quality and productivity of staple crops, a biotechnology and biosafety unit has been created within ACTESA. ACTESA will now be responsible for spearheading the biotechnology agenda of the COMESA region. A number of consultative meetings and studies were conducted during the first phase of the RABESA initiative and afterwards a COMESA regional workshop was held in May 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting made three recommendations for regional policy on GMO-related areas: 1. Adoption of a centralized regional risk assessment so as to create standardized and more transparent, cost-effective procedures; enable the sharing of resources, information and expertise. 2. Establishment of a central regional clearing-house to provide advice/guidance to member states on commercial trade in GM products 3. Development of guidelines on procurement of GM food aid at a regional level, which guidelines would then be used by each country to make decisions on caseby case basis.

Bill Gates Gives AATF US$l million Boost for Agro-Technology


AIROBI-The African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) has received a US$l million support package from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate her (AATF’s) operations, which seek to boost agricultural output through greater use of science and technology. AATF’s Communication and Partnerships Officer, Nancy Muchiri, says the funds will mainly support general operations, resource mobilization as well as monitoring and evaluation of various on- going projects, which aim at helping smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa improve their livelihoods and productivity through use of innovative technologies. Muchiri, explains that African leaders have identified use of technology in agriculture, the sector widely acknowledged as the continent’s ‘engine for growth’, as the best bet for reducing poverty and combating hunger. “Food security is a major challenge in Africa. Food shortages, high food prices and related social unrest can very often lead to other problems, including political instability,” she said in a press statement. Through NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the African Union aims to help African countries improve economic growth through agriculture-led development. One of the major approaches of AATF aims at promoting agricultural research and technology dissemination and helping farmers gain access to proprietary technologies that




are donated by public and private entities on royalty-free humanitarian basis. These technologies have the potential to address some of the key productivity constraints that affect these farmers. “The support from Gates Foundation will help AATF become a stronger institution and enhance its capacity to achieve its mission of helping African farmers improve their livelihoods through better agricultural technologies,’ says Dr. Jacob Mignouna, the Acting AATF Executive Director “We are dedicated to ensuring that this new support will make us a more efficient and effective institution” Through consultations to establish priorities and farmer demands, AATF projects aim at addressing the impact of climate change on crop productivity, loss of yield caused by pests and diseases, low soil productivity, poor plant breeding processes and low mechanization. Based on the above priorities, AATF is working with various country institutions, both from government and private sector, in projects aimed at improving priority food crops in over ten African countries. Currently, only about 20 per cent of cropland in Africa is sown with improved cereal varieties. Many new varieties of maize and rice have been developed, and are in use in some countries, but they must be adapted to Africa’s environmental conditions, a core mission of AATF projects. Such projects include the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which seeks to develop maize varieties that can withstand the drought periods that the continent October - December, 2011

continues to experience. Other projects include Striga control in smallholder maize farms, development of Maruca-resistant cowpea varieties, improvement of banana for resistance to wilt disease and improving rice productivity in nitrogen and water-deficient environments. “One of the latest projects is the biological control of aflatoxin in maize and peanuts,” Mignouna states. “We are dedicated to ensuring that this new support will make us a more efficient and effective institution,” he says adding:” .... [and it] will translate into faster progress towards ensuring that existing technologies get to farmers’ fields,” says Dr. Mignouna. What is being done CAADP is pushing for substantial changes in how agricultural business is done in Africa. These include realising the CAADP agricultural goals across Africa while promoting agriculture as a priority for sustainable development. Rwanda was the first country to sign the CAADP Compact in 2007. By May 2011, 26 countries had incorporated CAADP into their agricultural strategy by signing the CAADP Compact. AATF is anot-for-profit organisation that facilitates and promotes public/private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate proprietary agro-technologies for use by resource-poor smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. (

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