All over the world, experts are working on ground-breaking innovations in plant science that could significantly improve peoples' lives, particularly in developing countries. Access2Innovation promotes the idea that people should be allowed to choose the technologies they use and the food they eat, whether they are farmers, scientists, policy makers or consumers. Sign up to show your support and tell us your story.
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Brinjal, or eggplant, is one of the most important vegetables in South Asia, but in Bangladesh more than half the crop is lost in a typical year due to the 'fruit and shoot borer' pest. To protect harvests farmers typically spray their crop with pesticides every 1-2 days, or 80-100 times during the growing season.
Using a gene donated by the Indian seed company Mahyco, Bangladeshi scientists developed brinjal that is resistant to this insect pest. Munsur Sarker was one of 20 farmers who planted the first seedlings of genetically engineered Bt brinjal. Unfortunately, NGOs based in Bangladesh are lobbying heavily against Bt brinjal, and are trying to deny Bangladeshi brinjal farmers access to an innovation developed by their own government plant scientists. Click here to watch video and to learn more.
Bananas and plantains are the world's fourth-most important food crop after rice, wheat and corn. In sub-Saharan Africa, 100 million people depend on banana - often served steamed and mashed in the staple dish, matoke - for a quarter or more of food calories.
Unfortunately, a disease called 'banana xanthomonas wilt' (BXW) is sweeping through East Africa, destroying plantations and livelihoods of small farmers. Controlling BXW is difficult and expensive; eradication impossible. The most promising option comes from a team of scientists in Uganda. They have developed disease-resistant banana cultivars through genetic engineering. But it is far from clear that Ugandans will be able to access the innovation of their own government-funded scientists. Click here to learn more.
Many people think that Europe maintains a strict non-GMO policy. In reality, the European Union imports millions of tonnes of genetically-modified commodity crops, mainly corn and soya, largely used for animal feeds. European livestock farming is entirely dependent on these imports from abroad, and European consumers depend on them for dairy and meat products.
However, European farmers are denied the choice of whether to grow GM crops - irrespective of whether these crops might benefit European farming by allowing the use of fewer and less damaging pesticides, or whether they might improve productivity and lower costs. Indeed, it has been estimated that European farmers lose billions of euros per year because they are stuck with more expensive and inefficient non-GM farming. Instead these benefits accrue to farmers in other countries, whose GM products are then imported into Europe. Click here to learn more.
In the mid-1990s the papaya farmers of Hawaii were threatened with devastation by a newly rampant disease, papaya ringspot virus. Luckily scientists like Dennis Gonsalves from Cornell and other from the universities in Hawaii were already working on the problem. Using some of the newly-invented tools of biotechnology, they used a genetic sequence from the virus and inserted it into the papaya genome.
Decades after the industry was saved, anti-GMO groups have circled back to Hawaii, sparking a political battle in the state to restrict or forbid cultivation of all GM crops. If the activists succeed, Hawaiian papaya producers may be denied access to innovations they have already become dependent upon - harming their livelihoods and undermining many years of successful public sector work. Click to read more.
Forest biologists are seeking federal approval from the FDA, USDA and EPA to reintroduce an almost-extinct species — the American chestnut — back into the forests of the eastern United States. The scientists have genetically modified the trees to resist the devastating Chestnut blight that over the last 100 years has almost killed every nut-bearing American chestnut tree on the planet.
William Powell, Charles Maynard and their colleagues from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), have taken genes from wheat, Asian chestnuts, grapes, peppers and other plants to create hundreds of transgenic trees that are almost 100 percent genetically identical to wild American chestnut trees yet immune to the chestnut blight, or Cryphonectria parasitica. Read more.
In a village in Mozambique, performers act out a familiar rural scene.
Two female farmers have just finished harvesting their produce when they are approached by a trader who offers to buy up all of their cabbage at a lowball price. When the women object, he positions the deal as a generous favor.
Philbert Nyinondi, a 2015 Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow and the Open Forum on African Biotechnology (OFAB) coordinator for Tanzania, files this video report from regions across Tanzania.
Watch as the farmers express their concerns and their desire and need for access to innovation:
Collaboration and access to innovation creates vertical farm that supplies Opaskwayak Cree First Nations people with fresh produce year-round.
Africa has for many years remained a conservative continent but there appears to be a new wind blowing for the application of technological innovation to agricultural production. The continent is gradually opening up to the idea that biotechnology could play a key role in helping farmers overcome a number of the challenges they are grappling with now.
Hello Tractor is using mobile technology to connect small-holder farmers to tractor owners in a way that is beneficial to both sides.
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, often called "Africa's Norman Borlaug," is pro-access, pro-science and pro-change. Now the president of the African Development Bank, he was the first Nigerian minister of agriculture who vocally supported biotechnology.
Dr. Norman Borlaug, whose scientific research sparked a “green revolution” in agriculture that saved millions of lives, was prescient.
As a member of the African diaspora, I feel it is my duty to stay informed on what’s happening on the continent, as well as to contribute to its development. Therefore, I was thrilled when invited to teach a short course on scientific writing at the West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI) this past January in Legon, Ghana. Known as a the “Gateway to Africa,” Ghana has always been seen as an example of Africa’s forward momentum towards economic growth and human development and it is only natural that this proud nation would want to lead in the agricultural sector as well.
The security crises caused in past years by Boko Haram, which prevented farmers in the Northeast region of Nigeria from growing food, has prompted the United Nations to declare the country is in dire need of food intervention.
“A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages in 2017 as conflict and the risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers from planting for a third year in a row, causing a major food crisis," said Peter Lundberg, deputy humanitarian coordinator of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).