Knowledge for Development

Developments

News items relevant to the policy dialogue on S&T for Development.


U.S., African scientists seek biotech answer to hunger

Reuters, 27 March 2006. Article about a team of African scientists who will be working in Iowa over the next three years, tinkering with the genes of sorghum seeds. By taking genes from other crops as well as manipulating genes within the sorghum plant itself, scientists believe they can remake sorghum into a more easily digestible crop richer in vitamins A and E, iron, zinc and amino acids and protein.

4/04/2006


‘Landmark’ decision reached on trade in GM products

SciDev.Net, 24 March 2006. In what the EU’s environment commissioner Stavros Dimas has called a ‘landmark’ decision, 132 countries have agreed rules on the international trade in products containing genetically modified (GM) organisms. The rulings, made at last week’s meeting of parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, centre on how such products are labelled. It says any shipments containing GM organisms must state this, and identify which organisms are present, what their intended use is, and how they have been modified. If it is not possible to identify the GM organisms, shipments must bear a label saying that they ‘may contain’ modified organisms. Countries that are party to the protocol will have four years to implement the rule.  

4/04/2006


Food security concerns pose GMO challenges for Southern Africa

Southern African News Features, 23 March 2006. Southern Africa is projecting a maize surplus of more than two million tonnes during the 2005/06 agricultural season but divergent views on genetically modified crops raise interesting questions about the role of intra-regional trade in bridging shortfalls in some SADC member states. Most countries have strict regulations governing GM organisms. South Africa, which has the biggest maize surplus, allows production and distribution of GMO food. This could have repercussions on domestic industry in most countries in the region.

4/04/2006


Improve water efficiency in farming, urges report

SciDev.Net, 23 March 2006. Hundreds of millions of people will remain trapped in poverty unless major changes are made to the way water is managed for agriculture, say scientists. In a report released at this week’s World Water Forum in Mexico, they say that global demand for food will double by 2050 and, unless farming is made more efficient, so will the amount of water needed to produce this food. The report, by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and nine partners, challenges researchers to find ways of making farming more water-efficient.

4/04/2006


Kenya: New farm guidelines to aid farmers

East African Standard, 23 March 2006. The Pesticides Initiative Programme (PIP) has developed an agricultural toolbox to guide horticulture farmers on good agricultural practices in line with European food regulations. The new guidelines will assist exporters and farmers with a permanent access to a wide range of information and other related documents on food safety and traceability. It is also designed to help farmers penetrate the EU markets. The guidelines consist of a PIP pesticide database, specified training for farmers, food safety glossary, a video library on protection of plants and a photo library on good cultivation practices, among others.

4/04/2006


Trouble cooking over potatoes

IPS, 22 March 2006. Trouble is cooking over the move by Syngenta International to introduce a genetically modified form of potato. The new strain has been dubbed the ‘terminator’ because it puts at risk more than 3,000 naturally grown varieties of potato. Indigenous farmers in Peru, the birthplace of the potato, have pleaded with Syngenta to publicly abandon its patent on ‘terminator’ technology, which could be used to prevent the sprouting of potatoes unless they are treated with chemicals supplied by the patent owner. Indigenous leaders from the Andean region of Peru signed a strongly worded letter to the company as officials met this week for the Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) in Curitiba in Brazil.

4/04/2006


Soil Biodiversity Key to Environmentally Friendly Agriculture

Harold Doan, 22 March 2006. Press Release - United Nations Environment Programme Improved crop yields are being enjoyed by some developing world farmers who have turned to soil living bacteria and fungi rather than artificial fertilizers to boost harvests. The improvements are some of the first fruits of a project involving countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Uganda implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with co-financial support of Global Environmental Facility (GEF). It is aimed at understanding and harnessing ‘below ground biodiversity’ for sustaining, restoring and improving the fertility of the land.

4/04/2006


Climate change to create African 'water refugees' - scientists

Reuters AlertNet, 22 March 2006. LONDON (AlertNet) - Climate change is expected to shrink many African rivers dramatically, triggering massive refugee movements and even war, according to scientists at the Africa Earth Observatory Network.

4/04/2006


Africa needs technical help to enact GM rules

SciDev.Net, 20 March 2006. Most developing countries will struggle to enact a key UN agreement on genetically modified (GM) organisms because they lack the necessary technology and personnel, a conference has heard. Hartmut Meyer, biosafety advisor to the German aid agency GTZ, was speaking at the meeting of parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, in Curitiba, Brazil. The protocol is intended to allow countries to protect their biodiversity from the potential risks posed by GM organisms, by banning GM imports for instance. African nations in particular lack the capacity to implement the protocol, and this will not change unless wealthier countries provide technical assistance, said Meyer.

4/04/2006


Online network to boost biotechnology research in agriculture

Information for development, 17 March 2006. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will launch an online network this month to boost biotechnology research and policy development in Africa. Accordingly Agricultural Biotechnology Network for Africa (ABNET) will be formed to enhance interactions among the African biotechnology community so that they can use new tools to overcome problems facing poor farmers across the continent. The network will gather relevant information and host electronic discussions on its website. The main aim is to promote dialogue on policy issues such as biosafety and the conservation of genetic resources. It will encourage researchers, policymakers, farmers and the media to share information and discuss how biotechnology can improve agriculture.

4/04/2006


Africa’s vets to gain from web-based training

SciDev.Net, 16 March 2006. Veterinary schools in sub-Saharan Africa have joined forces to create an Internet-based training programme that will allow vets to study for postgraduate degrees while continuing to work. The African Universities Veterinary E-Learning Consortium, launched on 8 March, will create online courses for vets unable to attend full-time residential courses. The consortium will develop online programmes in collaboration with the AfricanVirtualUniversity and the University of Edinburgh, UK. These will include masters and PhDs, and ‘continuing professional development’ courses in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

4/04/2006


Governments recognize ‘essential role’ of agrarian reform and rural development in fight against poverty

FAO, 10 March 2006. Representatives of 96 FAO member countries participating in the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, recognized ‘the essential role of agrarian reform and rural development to promote sustainable development’ of the planet. The conference brought together 350 government delegations and representatives of over 70 farmer and civil society organizations, reiterated their commitment to achieving the MDGs. They recognized that ‘food insecurity, hunger and rural poverty often result from imbalances in the process of development which hinder access to land, water and other natural resources and other livelihood assets.’

4/04/2006


Priority area assessment on capacity building in science

ICSU, 6 March 2006. This report claims that capacity building in science is a critical part of the solution to solve the ‘apparent crisis in science’. It focuses on three crucial challenges to building scientific capacity: the widening gap between advancing scientific knowledge and technology and society’s ability to capture and use them; the declining interest in the study of science and engineering; and the need for better institutions to turn knowledge consumers into knowledge creators and to move knowledge to where it is needed, especially in developing countries. The report discusses human capital, problems of supply and demand, mobility and brain drain, and makes recommendations on improving scientific capacity building. 

4/04/2006


East Africa: Investor in $7m plan to fund seed production

The East African, 28 February 2006. African Agricultural Capital will invest $7 million in small and medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector in East Africa to boost production and marketing of ‘genetically improved’ seeds. The organisation, which is based in Kampala, will give loans ranging from $100,000 to $1 million to companies with the potential to expand and deliver products and services in the rural areas. According to AAC officials, the investments will fund farm inputs, technical services and improved access to market opportunities. The funds will also help entrepreneurs get storage and agro-processing facilities. However, it is specifically interested in the production of staple crops and seed.  Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and a Belgian organization, the AAC will focus on private sector-led development of agricultural output and marketing.

4/04/2006


New FAO website helps foresters cope with invasive species

FAO, 20 February 2006. FAO has created a new online database and a website to help foresters deal with the growing problem of invasive species introduced from foreign ecosystems. Invasive species are plants, animals or other organisms that move into an area where they didn’t traditionally live and out-compete native varieties, often with negative consequences for local ecosystems. But FAO’s new website and database include plants, woody species and vertebrates as well as insects, diseases and micro-organisms.

4/04/2006


An EU Strategy for Biofuels

EC, 8 February 2006.The EU is supporting biofuels with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, boosting the decarbonisation of transport fuels, diversifying fuel supply sources, offering new income opportunities in rural areas and developing long-term replacements for fossil fuel. The Commission has adopted an EU Strategy for Biofuels along seven policy axes: stimulating demand for biofuels; capturing environmental benefits; developing the production and distribution of biofuels; expanding feedstock supplies; enhancing trade opportunities; supporting developing countries; and supporting research and development.

4/04/2006


A home-grown solution to African hunger

Christian Science Monitor, 1 February 2006. Imagine a modern-day Eden - tended by a cheerful garden gnome - sprouting in the SaharaDesert. That’s the feeling you get, walking onto a 50-acre farm in Malawi bursting with rows of healthy corn, thick sugar-cane stalks, and plump mangoes - all at the epicenter of Africa’s growing food crisis. It’s tended by Glyvyns Chinkhuntha, a man with no formal agricultural training, but a spirit of innovation, and a reverence for Roman aqueducts. Using just hoes and shovels, he’s built an elaborate gravity-driven irrigation system of earthen berms and inch-deep trenches. It’s revolutionary in a country where just 2 percent of farmers’ land is irrigated, despite the proximity of Lake Malawi. In fact, people here see Dr. Chinkhuntha as a kind of water wizard. He’s proof, some say, that despite climate change, poverty, and other obstacles, home-grown solutions do exist for Africa’s recurring hunger problems.

4/04/2006


International food congress coming to Cape Town in 2010

Engineering News, 3 March 2006, the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (Saafost) will be hosting the 15th World Congress of the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) in Cape Town, in 2010.

10/03/2006


South African GM label confusion

Nature, 06 March 2006, Most maize and soy products sold in South African food stores contain detectable amounts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including products that are labeled 'non-GMO,' 'GMO-free,' or 'organic,' reveals a study by the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein in South Africa.

10/03/2006


Technology centre to be established in Patterson' name

Jamaica Gleaner News, 18 Feburary 2006, Jamaica will soon have a regional science and technology centre that will be named for Prime Minister PJ Patterson The institute will offer a high-level course for senior public officials and private sector leaders on science and technology innovation.

10/03/2006