On this page, you can find all the news related to IPBO.

For plant biotechnology outreach news from UGent and VIB: Hightlights Plant Biotechnology Outreach UGent

Cotton in Africa

vib_fact_CottonAfrican_Web front pageCotton is predominantly a smallholder crop and represents a crucial source of income for millions of farmers and their families in more than 20 countries across all regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite its economic potential, the cotton industry is subject to a number of risks, such as price fluctuations of both inputs and cotton on the world market, changing weather conditions, and damages by an extraordinarily wide range of insect pests, which cause significant losses to cotton production and fiber quality. All these risk factors threaten the sustainability of cotton production in Africa. Due to strong insects’ pressure, cotton is heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides. This poses significant health hazards for many farmers and generates extensive environmental pollution. In 2016, a total of 8 African countries either planted, actively evaluated field trials or moved towards grant approvals for the general release of insect-resistant Bt cotton. In South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan, Bt varieties spread rapidly because they provided a significant reduction of insecticide use and bollworm damage, an increased yield and higher farmer profits. They also allowed conservation of beneficial natural enemies. However, in 2016, the government of Burkina Faso temporarily suspended the growing of Bt cotton to address a concern about fiber length observed in the varieties farmers have successfully grown over the last eight years.
The Facts Series “Cotton in Africa” reviews the impact of Bt cotton on African agricultural systems. It highlights the importance for donors and governments that invest heavily in the hope that GM crops will bring significant improvements to the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers to first paying attention to the fundamental institutions that support broader agricultural development and technology generation (with or without GM crops).


You can download the publication here

Maize in Africa

Front cover maizeMaize is the most-produced cereal worldwide. In Africa alone, more than 300 million people depend on maize as their main food crop. In addition, maize is also very important as feed for farm animals. Currently, approximately 1 billion tons of maize are grown in more than 170 countries on about 180 million hectares of land. 90% of the world’s production is yellow maize, but in Africa, 90% of the total maize production is white maize. In Africa, maize production is continuously and severely affected by a number of threats, such as weeds, insects, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, fungi, low quality seed, low levels of mechanization, suboptimal post-harvest management, drought and climate change. Therefore, the maize production in Africa is very low: while the average yield worldwide is approximately 5.5 tons/hectare/year, production in Africa stagnates at around 2 tons/hectare/year. To continue to guarantee maize food and feed security in Africa, good agricultural practices, intercropping, new hybrids obtained by conventional and marker-assisted breeding, and genetically modified (GM) plants are valuable tools to develop varieties with increased yield and resistance to pests, weeds, diseases and drought. Several breeding programs also develop new maize varieties with enhanced nutritional value.


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June 24th 2017: Launching of the “Marc and Nora Van Montagu Fund”

DSC05664 Friday, June 24th 2017, the “Marc and Nora Van Montagu Fund” was launched in the BELvue museum in Brussels in the presence of politicians, ambassadors, scientists, colleagues and friends of Marc and Nora Van Montagu. Jo Bury, director of VIB, and Jonathan Gressel, Prof. Em. at the Weizmann institute of Science, emphasized during their talk the importance of Marc Van Montagu for the development of Plant Biotechnology, and the importance of this area for the agriculture for Africa. Marc Van Montagu thanked also his wife Nora, because his career would not have been what is today without her support.
The MNVM fund will foster project development and partnerships with Africa, a mission we can only achieve with the generous contributions of individuals or institutes who support our cause.
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Release of the IIBN book: Innovative farming and forestry across the emerging world: the role of genetically modified crops and trees

iibn-book-cover This book makes the “business case” for the role of biotechnology innovations for sustainable development in emerging and developing economies. It seeks to support the factual debate on biosciences and technology for developing and emerging economies. The book argues that careful applications of biosciences and technology to clearly identified development challenges can result in positive outcomes of communities, farmers and enterprises, environment and society at large. The book provides a compilation of selected studies from different emerging and developing countries that illustrate either the potential or demonstrated value of a particular biotechnology application for sustainable agricultural innovation and/or industrial development.

Bananas: the green gold of the South

Front cover BananasThere are few people in the world who are not familiar with bananas. With an annual production of 145 million metric tons in over 130 countries, bananas are the fourth most important food crop in the world. One third of all bananas are cultivated in Asia, another third in Latin America and the other in Africa. Only 15% of the worldwide production of bananas is exported to Western countries, which means that 85% of bananas are cultivated by small farmers to be consumed and sold at local and regional markets. Africa is highly dependent on banana cultivation for food, income and job security. Even so, yields fluctuate at around nine percent of their maximum capacity, for reasons including suboptimal conditions for agriculture such as drought and lack of soil nutrients, but above all because of the multitude of diseases and pests that attack the plants. To guarantee food security in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as worldwide export of bananas in the future, there is an urgent need for improved banana varieties with an increased yield and nutritional value, which are resistant to all pests and diseases. This is currently primarily done by classical breeding, but this breeding process is not easy and takes up a lot of time. Efforts are also being undertaken to introduce resistance to disease through biotechnology and genetic transformation of bananas. This will open the way for the generation of new and improved banana varieties that contribute to sustainable, environmentally friendly and economically viable agriculture.


You can download the publication here

Publication: RNAi-based gene silencing through dsRNA injection or ingestion against the African sweet potato weevil Cylas puncticollis(Coleoptera: Brentidae)

With this paper, the authors investigated whether RNAi can serve as a suitable strategy to control the African sweet potato weevil Culas puncticollis (SPW). Therefore, they evaluated the toxicity of dsRNA targeting essential genes by injection and oral feeding in SPW. The results showed that the full potential of RNAi in SPW is affected by the presence of nucleases and that for the application in food protection, one should constantly provide new dsRNA and/or protect it against possible degradation.
Prentice et al., 2016. Pest Manag Sci.


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East African scientists and regulators attented an advanced biosafety course

Uganda 2015-1

On November 4-13, a 10-day course, organized by IPBO in collaboration with UGent and CIP (International Potato Center), took place in Entebbe, Uganda.
This course was funded with support of VLIR-UOS, the International Potato Center, the 2 Blades Foundation, Ghent University and the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB).


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Publication: Removing Bt eggplant from the face of Indian regulators

With this paper, the authors argue for a return to science-based regulation of GM crops and a concerted effect to counter the misinformation widely promulgated by activists.
Gupta et al., 2015. Nature Biotechnology


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UMIP awarded Prof. Marc Van Montagu the title of Doctor Honoris Causa

Features of Santander UMIP (Universidad Internacional Menédez Pelayo) awarded Marc Van Montagu the title of Doctor Honoris Causa during the summer course “Agrobiotechnology and Bioeconomy” held in Santadar in July 2015. Marc Van Montagu delivered also the opening lecture “The Sustainable Development Goals” during that summer course.


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Prof. Marc Van Montagu received the Iran Agriculture Gold Metal

Marc-Van-Montagu_aangepastMarc Van Montagu has been awarded with the Iran Agriculture Gold Metal from H.E. Mahmood Hojjati, Agricultural Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran, during the 9th Biotechnology Congress of Iran.


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Publication: Fatal attraction: the intuitive appeal of GMO opposition


This paper wants to explain the discrepancy between public opinion and the scientific evidence about GMO crops. This paper argues that intuitive expectations about the world render the human mind vulnerable to particular misinterpretations of GMOs and discuss the implications for science education, science communication, and the environmental movement.

Blancke et al., 2015. Trends in Plant Science


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IPBO contributed to the VIB initiative “Science on the road”

With the project “Science on the road” (= Wetenschap op stap” in Dutch), VIB wants to make young children familiar with science. International studies demonstrated that especially at the age of 11 and 12, the interest of children for science is created. Therefore, a “real scientist” visits a group of students and tells them in 2-3 hours about his/her research.
For IPBO, Sylvie De Buck went to a school in Nevele, and informed two groups of students about DNA, chromosomes, plant breeding, GMO’s, Golden Rice … After that, the students became scientists themselves and isolated DNA from tomato.
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Prof. Marc Van Montagu appointed as UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador for Agribusiness


Marc Van Montagu, Founder and Chairman of IPBO, has been appointed “Goodwill Ambassador for Agribusiness” by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

LI Yong (General Director of UNIDO): “We want to recognize a remarkable carreer that has brought such dramatic improvements to the lives of the rural poor around the world. By bestowing this recognition on Professor Van Montagu, we want to highlight, from the perspective of UNIDO, the impact of biotechnology on the food and agribusiness industries of the 21th century and beyond” .


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Publication: Transcriptome Analysis and Systemic RNAi Response in the African Sweetpotato Weevil (Cylas puncticollis, Coleoptera, Brentidae)


This paper provide valuable sequence data on an important insect pest and demonstrates that a functional RNAi pathway with a strong and systemic effect in sweetpotato can further be explored as a new strategy for controlling this pest.

Prentice et al., 2015. PLOSOne


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Publication: DTREEv2, a computer-based support system for the risk assessment of genetically modified plants


DTREEv2 is a computer-based decision support system for the identification of hazards related to the introduction of GM-crops into the environment. DTREEv2 can be used by researchers, risk assessors and regulators in government and industry.

Pertry et al., 2014. New Biotechnology


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Publication: Regulatory options for genetically modified crops in India


This study examines the regulatory system of genetically modified crops in India and the steps that led to the regulatory logjam.

Choudhary et al., 2014, Plant Biotechnology Journal


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