Biotech Updates

Uganda Holds Banana Research Training for African Scientists and Biotechnology Regulators

October 5, 2016

International Plant Biotechnology Outreach of VIB, Ghent University and KU Leuven, in collaboration with Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), conducted a 10-day banana research course for scientists and biotechnology regulators from East and West Africa. The program titled ‘Banana research in Africa: Modern breeding techniques, regulatory and biosafety issues' took place in Uganda's capital Kampala, and ran from September 19-30, 2016.

The course aimed at training participants on modern breeding techniques, how to collect relevant and reliable data to perform risk analysis, and on how to communicate scientific results and goals. The first part of the workshop kicked off with an overview of the most important banana diseases and how to address them through conventional breeding, as well as biotechnological approaches. Participants also learnt about regulatory and risk assessment principles relevant to Africa. The course was strengthened by a visit to GM banana field trials and the different sessions were structured around theoretical lectures and group exercises.

The last two days of the training, conducted by ISAAA AfriCenter, emphasized on how to communicate research findings and goals to a non-scientific audience. According to Dr. Jerome Kubiriba, Program Leader of the National Banana Research Program, the course was timely and provided an opportunity for scientists in Africa to advance their research and communication skills. "Scientists have not effectively communicated to the public on how breeding and GMOs work so as to build trust and assurance on safety," he said. "This is what NARO and our partners wish to achieve," he added.

According to Prof. Rony Swennen of IITA and the Belgian University KU Leuven, the course was a great opportunity for "creating a network of scientists across Africa to share lessons and build on successes." Prof. Swennen added that a harmonized biotechnology policy in Africa would ease the work of such a network by enabling scientists to build on research findings from each other's countries.

For more information about the course, contact Dr. Marc Heijde of VIB-International Plant Biotechnology Outreach (IPBO) through