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The Ecosystem: innovation in biocontrol held back by lack of fast-track registration

08 Nov 2022 | News

New rules for approving microorganism-based plant protection products coming into effect in November don’t go far enough to lift the regulatory drag on innovation. This will hold back efforts to phase out chemical pesticides

By Ian Mundell

Combine harvester in a field

Registering a biocontrol product can take several years longer in the EU compared to the US. Photo: Andriy Medvediuk / Bigstock

New rules on the data required to register microorganism-based plant protection products coming into effect this month should benefit both start-ups and established companies, by speeding up registration and time to market. But the change falls short of the fast-track procedure the industry was hoping for.

The problem biocontrol companies face is that any plant protection products destined for the European market must go through an approvals process that was designed with chemical pesticides in mind.

This can be an awkward fit for products with active ingredients such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. The new data requirements are intended to tackle this anomaly, tailoring registration procedures for these microorganisms to their biology and ecology.

“The data requirements are a step in the right direction, a bit of biology logic that gets into a legislative system mainly inspired by chemicals, but it is not enough,” Herman Van Mellaert, president of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association (IBMA), told the European Parliament in mid-October. “We need further initiatives in terms of Commission guidelines and measures to make [the current regulation covering plant protection products] and these new data requirements work, so that we can get through the system on a fast track.”

A similar sentiment can be heard from start-ups in the field. “In the US, you can register a biocontrol product within 2-3 years, while the same process in Europe takes seven or more years. So, making that quicker, more efficient and simpler will help a lot,” Anna Ogar, co-founder and chief executive of Microbe Plus, told Science Business. “For now, the changes that are proposed for a faster regulatory approval seem like a good idea, but we need to know what the final shape of the law will be.”

The irony is that Europe’s lawmakers and the biocontrol industry should be on the same page. The Commission’s desire to reduce the use of chemical pesticides is written into the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, and its draft regulation on the sustainable use of pesticides, which proposes a 50% reduction target for pesticide use by 2030. Alternatives need to be available on the European market sooner rather than later.

The lengthy process is a particular problem for privately funded start-ups. “Investors do not want to hear that regulatory approval will take several years, even those who may be used to the pharmaceutical sector,” Ogar said. “Shortening that period from 5-7 years to three years will make a space for patient investors. They can be confident that the product will either be positively assessed, or they can terminate it, but either way they will have an answer much earlier in the process.”

Microbe Plus, based in Lublin, Poland, was founded in 2020 and currently has a staff of seven. It is developing a blend of different strains of bacteria that protect against plant pathogens and also act as a stimulant. “By making a blend we try to cover multiple crops, at various stages, and the broadest pathogen spectrum possible,” Ogar said. “So far, we’ve validated our product on more than 50 different pathogens in 20 different crops.”

These strains have been isolated and genetically characterised in-house. “We started with around 2,000 strains and have narrowed it down to 10 that we are working with, and which appear to be the most effective, efficient and, importantly for regulatory approval, have a good safety profile,” Ogar said. “Nowadays, efficiency is less important than safety protocols for newly registered products.”

Over the past few years, Microbe Plus has put its blend through laboratory tests, greenhouse tests, and field trials. “We’ve proved that we can improve yield by 5% to 15%, which is a good result for open field trials.”

So far, this work has been self-funded and supported with grants, the next step is to secure a first funding round. But the cost and complexity of the product registration process that lies ahead means that, like many start-ups in the sector, Microbe Plus cannot afford to work alone.

“For a young company that doesn’t have a track record, it is impossible to secure money for this process, so partnerships, joint ventures or licensing are the only way,” Ogar said. The company is in the process of partnering with a big crop protection producer, which is validating the technology in Europe and the US.

If this feels a little like giving up early on the entrepreneurial dream, there are compensations. One is that it presents an opportunity for the product to have a global impact, far beyond what a start-up could hope to achieve on its own. Another is that industry partnerships are not as one-sided as they once were.

“Nowadays the big corporations are much more open to discussing the possibilities for long-term collaboration with start-ups,” Ogar said. “They realise that buying the intellectual property is one thing, but further development proceeds much faster and more efficiently when the people who had the idea are still on board.”

Regulation holds back innovation

Even established biocontrol companies are hampered by Europe’s registration process, and this is being exacerbated by a parallel demand that they re-register existing products to fit with new EU transparency rules.

According to José Carvalho, regional representative for Europe and the Middle East at the multinational Certis Biologicals, this has resulted in a shift in investment towards keeping current biocontrol technologies on the market, and registering new products that are similar to existing technologies.

“This reduces uncertainty for our boards and our investors, who need to advance millions of euros to bring these products to the market,” he told the European Parliament. “But there will be no innovation if our resources are spent looking at existing technologies.”

The industry sees the need to act quickly, and for the moment has stopped arguing for an entirely new regulation, inspired by biological principles, to oversee its products. “We don’t have the time to wait for a new regulation,” Van Mellaert said. “We have to work with what we have, but there is a lot of potential to work with [the current regulation] in such a way that we create that fast track and enable nature-based solutions to have access to the market.”

One development the IBMA would like to see is provisional authorisation, allowing industry and farmers to get experience using biocontrol products under real world conditions. According to Carvalho, this would be possible under the existing regulation.

The industry also wants to see the tailored data requirements for natural products used as active ingredients, such as substances used to modify the behaviour of insect pests.

Alongside regulatory reform, farmers need help making the transition from synthetic to bio-based products. “It requires from them a better understanding of how biological products work. For example, you have to apply them at a different rate, at different times, and it involves a learning process,” Ogar said.

There is still a level of resistance. “Farmers are afraid that when the biologicals come, they will be less effective, much more expensive, and they will have to apply them multiple times. So, their immediate reaction is to stick to chemicals as long as they can.” This is a challenge that the industry, regulators and governments will have to address together, she adds.

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Philippines second country to approve genetically modified eggplant

The Philippines becomes the second country after Bangladesh to approve the commercial cultivation of genetically modified eggplant. 

The Bt eggplant, first developed in India, contains a natural protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), making it resistant to the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), the most devastating insect pest for this crop.

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquitic and Natural Resources and Development, stated that the Bt protein is safe for humans and animals because it is highly specific to the shoot borer larvae. 

Although developed in India, the Bt eggplant is banned in that country.

Soruce: www.fareasternagriculture.com

Publication date: Thu 10 Nov 2022

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Australia joins forces with New Zealand and United States to strengthen

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

To further shape science-based international food standards that help protect consumers and support trade, we are partnering with New Zealand and the United States to deliver a two-day South West Pacific Codex Outreach Workshop in New Zealand, on Tuesday 8 November and Wednesday 9 November 2022.

Designed to foster increased engagement and participation in Codex across the region, the workshop is a key opportunity to discuss the needs of the region to ensure standards developed in Codex in the future are reflective of the needs of our region, and make a positive impact on food safety and trade in the Pacific.

Food is one of Australia’s most important exports. We export about 70% of the food we produce.

Codex is the international intergovernmental body, recognised by the World Trade Organisation, that sets food standards to protect the health of consumers and promote fair practices in food trade. It was established by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1962.

Australia, along with 11 other Codex member countries in neighbouring Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – will meet.

It is important for Codex members from the South West Pacific region to work together on the future for developing standards that affect the global trade in food.

To discover more about Codex, visit: Codex – International Food Standards – DAFF (agriculture.gov.au)

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.

Why?

Tags:AgricultureAustraliaCook IslandsFijiGovernmentGuineaKiribatiMicronesiaNauruNew ZealandpacificPapua New GuineaSamoaSolomon IslandsTongaUnited StatesVanuatu:World Health Organization

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India approves first genetically-modified crops in 20 years: Herbicide-tolerant cotton and mustard

Harvir Singh | Rural Voice | October 24, 2022

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The commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops may get approval in the country after 20 years. These crops are herbicide-tolerant (HT) Bt cotton, called HTBt cotton, and GM mustard. According to highly placed sources, the road to approval of commercial cultivation of these two crops has almost been cleared.

The mere formality of approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) remains. As per the information obtained by Rural Voice, the sub-committee appointed by GEAC has submitted its report to the latter. Positive recommendations have been made in this report for the commercial cultivation of HTBt cotton and GM mustard.

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One of the members of the committee says that the cultivation of HTBt cotton has already been going on illegally in the country in about 30 per cent of the area. Seeds are being supplied for the same illegally. Given this, it would be better if it is given approval so that farmers may get seeds of the right quality and seed sellers may be held accountable in case of any defect.

The other crop likely to get GEAC approval is GM mustard. Mustard plays a key role in the supply of edible oils in the country. But we have constantly failed on the front of increasing mustard productivity. Scientists argue for this that the solution lies in giving approval to the cultivation of GM mustard.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post here

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August 18, 2022 

Vinod Pandit 

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Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures: Challenges and opportunities in Asia and the Pacific region

Global agricultural exports have more than tripled in value and doubled in volume since 1995, exceeding US $1.8 trillion in 2018. Plant and plant-based products contribute more than 50% to the total trade. International trade in fruits and vegetables stands at 24% followed by 15% cereals; and 10% comprising coffee, tea, cocoa & spices.

This progress was possible by smaller and bigger economies coming together under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade agreement umbrella. Membership was confirmed with the signing of agreements, including the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement.

SPS agreement

The Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement is defined as, “including all relevant laws, decrees, regulations, requirements, and procedures regarding food safety”. It ensures that nations enact health and safety measures based on sound scientific methods. What is more, it sets the framework by which international, regional, and national agencies create and implement SPS standards. Obligations towards its implementation are a crucial step toward enhanced transparency in the trade of agriculture commodities between member countries.

However, the emergence of new and stricter standards for agricultural imports in developed economies has also led to a number of new challenges for developing countries trying to increase their trade as a means for economic growth.  Many of these challenges are related to compliance with these rigorous standards. In addition, weak institutional capacities of National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs) in the least developed countries (LDCs) for compliance and trade agreement negotiations involving SPS are key factors in limiting the inclusivity of small-scale actors in value chains.

CABI and FAO study

To understand these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and CAB International (CABI) are leading a study in the Asia and Pacific region. Entitled “Regional webinar on Opportunities and Challenges in Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures – Modernizing SPS to facilitate agricultural trade in Asia”, it focuses on Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kiribati, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Solomon Islands, and Vietnam.

The study’s objective is to understand the status quo and specific challenges for each country. In addition, what SPS requirements would allow the individual countries to meet the requisite compliances and support improved and wider integration into global value chains?  The study is being conducted by CABI experts from India, China, Pakistan, the UK, and Kenya.

Understanding the realities

Mr. Gopi Ramasamy (Regional Director, CABI South Asia) stated that despite agriculture contributing significantly to country GDP in most Asia pacific countries, Asia’s share of global trade is still at 20-25%. Intra-regional trade is happening much easier than global trade. The ongoing study will help us to understand the ground realities in the Asia Pacific region in terms of trade and the way forward to augment global trade from Asia through technological and policy interventions.  

Dr. Yubak Dhoj GC (FAO RAP, Bangkok) said that FAO through its strategic narrative of supporting the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems and respective programme priority area (PPA) BN5: Transparent markets and trade is committed to improved market transparency and equitable participation in markets, global value chains and international trade that can be achieved through policy coordination and human and institutional capacities for evidence-based decision-making. The commissioned study will identify such issues and opportunities to achieve the objective of PPP for improved transparency and trade.

SPS issue in Asia and Pacific countries

Dr. Vinod Pandit (CABI India), Project Manager for the study stated that “Such barriers or trade restrictions to market access must be understood, removed or complied with, in order for smallholder farmers in these countries to move beyond subsistence agriculture”. He further said that the study has a well-drafted plan to a) analyse & document the issues pertaining to SPS in Asia and Pacific countries, b) Develop a position statement on SPS issues in the region, c) Orientation and introduction of digital tools like PRA, HST, ePhyto, PCE, etc. Dr. Pandit reported that the country reports developed out of this work will serve as a ready reckoner to national and international organizations. The project team also envisages using the outcomes of this study for future implementation in the region.

Study team member Dr. Julie Flood (CABI UK), explained that though countries in the region are having almost uniform issues related to pests, pesticides, and procedural issues, they are at different stages of adoption of SPS agreements and systems (e.g., digital uptake). 

Stakeholder motivation

Ms. Kritika Khanna (CABI India), Team manager highlighted the interest and motivations of different in-country stakeholders in being part of this study. She mentioned that as a part of the project, a series of workshops and webinars have been conducted with active participation, meaningful debates, and discussions from a large number of stakeholders. An immediate need was felt to help countries in raising the bar on compliance with international standards and trading partner requirements.

Dr. Shama Praveen (CABI India) who has done an in-depth analysis of the country reports informed that though countries broadly face issues related to pests and MRLs, country trends show significant cases of MRL issues related to pesticides and aflatoxins.

Dr. Hongmei Li (CABI China) team member who worked extensively in South East Asia pointed out that the Asia and Pacific region is making major contributions to agricultural production and export globally. Timely and effective alignment with SPS will effectively reduce unnecessary losses among the international trades. This will improve the incomes of smallholder farmers.

Strengthening infrastructure

There is an urgent need to strengthen infrastructure and capacity building for pests identification and pesticide issues. Dr. Jayne Crozier (CABI UK) team member is of the view that this in-depth study will lead to a better understanding of issues countries in the region are facing. What’s more, critical analysis will help in developing a regional approach to minimizing the issues related to agri-trade.

Dr. Habat Ullah Asad (CABI Pakistan) team member is responsible for documenting and analyzing SPS issues in Pakistan stated that the Pakistani agro-food industry has a high potential for international exports. However, Pakistan is facing problems due to its wider resource and infrastructure constraints that limit not only its ability to comply with SPS requirements but also its ability to demonstrate compliance. However, the establishment of a national SPS authority for SPS stakeholder coordination; capacity building of relevant public, and private stakeholder personnel, and improvement in infrastructure, and storage facilities will help ensure proper SPS compliance from field to destination.

Digital tool implementation

A regional webinar series on digital tools highlighted that country stakeholders are looking forward to orientation, adoption, and implementation of the digital tools in these countries, and are seeking international support to facilitate their installation and usage. Stakeholders are of the view that these tools will largely facilitate agri trade in their country.

The study as a whole will attempt to understand the field level bottlenecks in different countries in Asia that are influenced by various socio-economic, technological and policy level factors. Documenting these challenges and addressing them through subsequent interventions is expected to augment cross-border trade from Asian countries resulting in increased global trade from these economies. 

AsiaPhytosanitarypacific

Agriculture and International Development

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Press release

Strict controls on pine and cedar tree imports into Great Britain implemented

Emergency regulation introduced to protect treescapes and strengthen biosecurity following the interception of Pine Processionary MothFrom:Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsPublished28 April 2022

A group of pine processionary moths on a pine tree.
Pine processionary moth (Credit – Max Blake, Forest Research).

Emergency legislation restricting the movement of pine and cedar trees into Great Britain to help protect against the imminent threat of the tree pest Pine Processionary Moth has been announced today (Thursday 28 April).

Pine Processionary Moth is present in North Africa and Southern Europe, in particular in Italy. It has also recently been spreading northwards through France. As a result of this legislation, it will no longer be possible to import pine and cedar trees grown in countries where Pine Processionary Moth is established, such as Italy and France. Exceptions apply in cases where Pest Free Areas are designated, or where the trees have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime.

The new regulation, in the form of a Statutory Instrument, will strengthen requirements for the import of pine and cedar trees into Great Britain from Friday 29 April. The bolstered measures will only permit imports of these species, both of which are host species of Pine Processionary Moth, from:

  • Countries officially confirmed by the National Plant Protection Organisation as free of Pine Processionary Moth;
  • Officially designated pest-free areas;
  • Nurseries where the trees have been grown under complete physical protection for their lifetime.

The controls apply to all businesses which import living plants and their constituent parts, including live plant foliage and plants for planting, into Great Britain. The restrictions do not apply to processed plant products, such as timber, wood chips and packaging materials.

This action comes following the confirmed interception of Pine Processionary Moth on a small number of pine trees at tree nurseries in England and Wales, imported from France in February this year. Pine Processionary Moth larvae and caterpillars can cause significant damage to pine and other conifer tree species, and pose a risk to human and animal health.

Professor Nicola Spence, UK Chief Plant Health Officer, said:

We have taken authoritative and immediate action to protect tree nurseries and the wider natural environment from the imminent threat of Pine Processionary Moth.

The increasingly globalised plant trade, along with climate change, continue to present new and emerging risks from pests and diseases. Strengthening our rigorous standards of biosecurity – already among the highest in Europe – will both minimise the net potential losses to our existing treescapes and serve to realise our long-term vision for the nation’s trees and woodlands.

Across Great Britain, rapid and robust plant health enforcement action has taken place to prevent the spread of Pine Processionary Moth into the wider environment. The infested trees at the affected nurseries were swiftly contained and destroyed, whilst tracing work to identify other consignments that may be affected is ongoing. Although there is no evidence of pest spread into the environment, increased surveillance and pheromone trapping will be carried out over the summer as a precautionary monitoring measure.

Healthy trees and plants benefit people, the environment, and the economy. Protecting the long-term welfare of our treescapes will underpin Government efforts to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament and plant 30,000 hectares of trees across the UK per year by 2025, as well as form part of wider efforts to achieve Net Zero by 2050.

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Published 28 April 2022

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Learning from Plant Protection Regulatory Data and Fall Armyworm in Africa

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EEFS Project 

Esther Ngumbi

Jul 19, 2018

Photo by Fintrac Inc.

This post was co-authored with Esther Ngumbi.

Fueled by climate change and global trade, the threat from invasive pests to countries in which the pests were not present or previously reported will continue to increase, with many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries expected to be the most vulnerable. Reliable pest management and robust pest control at country borders are critical and go hand in hand with strong agricultural and agribusiness sectors. Strong plant protection regulatory frameworks have an important role to play to facilitate safe trade and help safeguard agriculture. As countries build these regulatory frameworks, they need data and information to drive decision-making. This post explores findings from a technical note funded by USAID’s Office of Market and Partnership Innovations which examined plant protection data available through the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture Index for Feed the Future focus countries and countries in SSA. We take a particular look at its relevance for the current Fall Armyworm outbreak in Africa and strengthening plant protection systems in the future.

Recap on Fall Armyworm in Africa

Africa continues to battle an outbreak of invasive, transboundary pests including the Fall Armyworm (FAW). This pest was first reported in mainland West Africa (Nigeria, Togo, Benin) and on the island of Sao Tome in early 2016 and is now confirmed in many African countries, including several Feed the Future countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. FAW in Africa has caused significant damage to maize crops in particular. According to a 2017 report by Day et al., annual economic losses in 12 maize-producing African countries (Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are estimated to be between $2.5 and $6.2 billion. Invasion by FAW will further impact international trade, since countries where the pest has not yet been detected are expected to place additional production or handling requirements on exports from FAW-affected countries. Affected countries in Africa are prioritizing immediate and long-term solutions to mitigate and contain the devastating impacts of FAW. To learn more about this issue, check out a recent article here.

World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture

The World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) 2017 data, collected across 62 countries, provides important and timely inputs for policymakers as well as private and public sector actors across agricultural and agribusiness value chains. Launched in 2013, the EBA datasets measure and score the strength of the legal and institutional environment for agribusinesses. In 2017, this included 62 economies scored across eight topic indicators including: seed, fertilizer, machinery, finance, markets, transport, water, and information and communications technology. [1] It can support the identification of barriers that impede agricultural sector regulation and growth and provide a way to benchmark, track, and monitor progress and reforms made by countries over time. A subset of the markets data included a Plant Protection Index. For more information, check out the EBA methodology and consult the technical note on Plant Protection Data in Action for a closer look at the EBA Plant Protection Index analysis for Feed the Future focus countries and SSA.

Plant Protection System Strengthening for Prevention and Response to Fall Armyworm in Africa

Many African countries, research institutions, aid organizations, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN have been on the frontlines addressing the FAW invasion. They have implemented many immediate solutions, including ramping up efforts to rapidly identify pests, assess its geographic extent, create awareness, and initiate control responses and measures to contain outbreaks. However, owing to their short-term nature, many of these actions will cease when the pest is no longer considered invasive. And many of these efforts are challenged by the fact that they can only go so far given the limitations of the enabling environment. The data provided through EBA offers important contextual information that could be used to direct multipronged response options and to tailor and prioritize optimal response options for the current enabling environment in a given country.

Moving forward, Feed the Future and SSA countries must strengthen their national plant protection regulatory frameworks to effectively deal with future invasive and transboundary pests and pathogens. By implementing recommended best practices such as rigorous pest surveillance, pest risk analysis and updated lists of quarantined pests, countries can strengthen their plant protection regulation frameworks and their ability to deal with future invasive and transboundary pests.

Illustrative Data-Driven Actions to Strengthen Plant Protection Systems 

The following actions were identified as ways African countries can utilize available data and best practices: 

  • Designate a national plant protection unit that will set national standards, guidelines and protocols to implement the phytosanitary systems; conduct pest and plant surveillance; enforce border inspections of plant consignments; create and maintain updated lists of regulated and quarantine pests; and make these lists available to the public and other stakeholders. 
  • Produce yearly reports of the progress African countries make toward improving the key weaknesses identified and increasing their plant protection index scores.
  • Hold annual or biannual regional technical training workshops. These workshops — facilitated by IPPC staffers together with experts from countries that have strong plant regulatory frameworks — could bring together national plant protection employees, border control staffers and research/university scientists. 
  • The World Bank, in partnership with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and stakeholders like USAID, to create regional online repositories to host resources, tools and other information, including pest identification manuals, lists of regulated quarantine pests, pest databases, border inspection manuals, and any other materials that is related to plant pests including regulated and quarantined pests. 
  • Create harmonized regional protocols and procedures and further establish regional pest diagnostic labs to help in the diagnostics of key regulated pests.
  • Build pest databases by major crop with accompanying pictures of the listed insects, their host information, life cycle, distribution, current status and available recommended control measures.
  • Allocate enough funding and resources to designated national agencies, so that they can rigorously and effectively carry out comprehensive pest surveillance. Furthermore, countries should develop coherent and coordinated dissemination of information about pests within and between countries.
  • Create lists of regulated quarantine pests and upload them both on a national plant protection agency website and the IPPC website. 
  • Countries and national plant protection agencies must obligate landowners to report pest and pest outbreaks, and there must be penalties for failing to comply.

Stay tuned for more from the World Bank EBA team and more useful resources utilizing EBA from the Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Food Security projects in posts to follow! 

[1] Countries are scored across topic indicators according to their performance against a global ideal or distance to the frontier (DTF) on a scale of 0-100, with a larger DTF score indicating better performance in that area. Topic indicator scores are an average of the DTF score for each of the topic’s 1-5 indicators. See also DTF Scoring Basics Technical Note. Gender, livestock, environmental sustainability and land indicator data were added this year but are available for a more limited set of countries and are not yet scored. Please consult the EBA website for information about the evolution of these indicators as part of EBA.FILED UNDER:MONITORING, EVALUATION, AND LEARNINGPOLICY AND GOVERNANCE

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Learning from Plant Protection Regulatory Data and Fall Armyworm in Africa

twitter sharing button
facebook sharing button
email sharing button
profile image of EEFS Project
profile image of Esther Ngumbi

EEFS Project 

Esther Ngumbi

Jul 19, 2018

Photo by Fintrac Inc.

This post was co-authored with Esther Ngumbi.

Fueled by climate change and global trade, the threat from invasive pests to countries in which the pests were not present or previously reported will continue to increase, with many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries expected to be the most vulnerable. Reliable pest management and robust pest control at country borders are critical and go hand in hand with strong agricultural and agribusiness sectors. Strong plant protection regulatory frameworks have an important role to play to facilitate safe trade and help safeguard agriculture. As countries build these regulatory frameworks, they need data and information to drive decision-making. This post explores findings from a technical note funded by USAID’s Office of Market and Partnership Innovations which examined plant protection data available through the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture Index for Feed the Future focus countries and countries in SSA. We take a particular look at its relevance for the current Fall Armyworm outbreak in Africa and strengthening plant protection systems in the future.

Recap on Fall Armyworm in Africa

Africa continues to battle an outbreak of invasive, transboundary pests including the Fall Armyworm (FAW). This pest was first reported in mainland West Africa (Nigeria, Togo, Benin) and on the island of Sao Tome in early 2016 and is now confirmed in many African countries, including several Feed the Future countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. FAW in Africa has caused significant damage to maize crops in particular. According to a 2017 report by Day et al., annual economic losses in 12 maize-producing African countries (Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are estimated to be between $2.5 and $6.2 billion. Invasion by FAW will further impact international trade, since countries where the pest has not yet been detected are expected to place additional production or handling requirements on exports from FAW-affected countries. Affected countries in Africa are prioritizing immediate and long-term solutions to mitigate and contain the devastating impacts of FAW. To learn more about this issue, check out a recent article here.

World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture

The World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) 2017 data, collected across 62 countries, provides important and timely inputs for policymakers as well as private and public sector actors across agricultural and agribusiness value chains. Launched in 2013, the EBA datasets measure and score the strength of the legal and institutional environment for agribusinesses. In 2017, this included 62 economies scored across eight topic indicators including: seed, fertilizer, machinery, finance, markets, transport, water, and information and communications technology. [1] It can support the identification of barriers that impede agricultural sector regulation and growth and provide a way to benchmark, track, and monitor progress and reforms made by countries over time. A subset of the markets data included a Plant Protection Index. For more information, check out the EBA methodology and consult the technical note on Plant Protection Data in Action for a closer look at the EBA Plant Protection Index analysis for Feed the Future focus countries and SSA.

Plant Protection System Strengthening for Prevention and Response to Fall Armyworm in Africa

Many African countries, research institutions, aid organizations, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN have been on the frontlines addressing the FAW invasion. They have implemented many immediate solutions, including ramping up efforts to rapidly identify pests, assess its geographic extent, create awareness, and initiate control responses and measures to contain outbreaks. However, owing to their short-term nature, many of these actions will cease when the pest is no longer considered invasive. And many of these efforts are challenged by the fact that they can only go so far given the limitations of the enabling environment. The data provided through EBA offers important contextual information that could be used to direct multipronged response options and to tailor and prioritize optimal response options for the current enabling environment in a given country.

Moving forward, Feed the Future and SSA countries must strengthen their national plant protection regulatory frameworks to effectively deal with future invasive and transboundary pests and pathogens. By implementing recommended best practices such as rigorous pest surveillance, pest risk analysis and updated lists of quarantined pests, countries can strengthen their plant protection regulation frameworks and their ability to deal with future invasive and transboundary pests.

Illustrative Data-Driven Actions to Strengthen Plant Protection Systems 

The following actions were identified as ways African countries can utilize available data and best practices: 

  • Designate a national plant protection unit that will set national standards, guidelines and protocols to implement the phytosanitary systems; conduct pest and plant surveillance; enforce border inspections of plant consignments; create and maintain updated lists of regulated and quarantine pests; and make these lists available to the public and other stakeholders. 
  • Produce yearly reports of the progress African countries make toward improving the key weaknesses identified and increasing their plant protection index scores.
  • Hold annual or biannual regional technical training workshops. These workshops — facilitated by IPPC staffers together with experts from countries that have strong plant regulatory frameworks — could bring together national plant protection employees, border control staffers and research/university scientists. 
  • The World Bank, in partnership with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and stakeholders like USAID, to create regional online repositories to host resources, tools and other information, including pest identification manuals, lists of regulated quarantine pests, pest databases, border inspection manuals, and any other materials that is related to plant pests including regulated and quarantined pests. 
  • Create harmonized regional protocols and procedures and further establish regional pest diagnostic labs to help in the diagnostics of key regulated pests.
  • Build pest databases by major crop with accompanying pictures of the listed insects, their host information, life cycle, distribution, current status and available recommended control measures.
  • Allocate enough funding and resources to designated national agencies, so that they can rigorously and effectively carry out comprehensive pest surveillance. Furthermore, countries should develop coherent and coordinated dissemination of information about pests within and between countries.
  • Create lists of regulated quarantine pests and upload them both on a national plant protection agency website and the IPPC website. 
  • Countries and national plant protection agencies must obligate landowners to report pest and pest outbreaks, and there must be penalties for failing to comply.

Stay tuned for more from the World Bank EBA team and more useful resources utilizing EBA from the Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Food Security projects in posts to follow! 

[1] Countries are scored across topic indicators according to their performance against a global ideal or distance to the frontier (DTF) on a scale of 0-100, with a larger DTF score indicating better performance in that area. Topic indicator scores are an average of the DTF score for each of the topic’s 1-5 indicators. See also DTF Scoring Basics Technical Note. Gender, livestock, environmental sustainability and land indicator data were added this year but are available for a more limited set of countries and are not yet scored. Please consult the EBA website for information about the evolution of these indicators as part of EBA.

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Nigeria grants approval for genetically modified maize

The approval allows for open cultivation in the country.

ByPress Release October 10, 2021 3 min read

The government of Nigeria has granted environmental approval for evaluation and open cultivation of TELA Maize, a new maize variety developed by researchers at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, that resists fall armyworm, stem borers, and tolerate moderate drought.

The government’s decision was contained in a certificate issued to IAR by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), the federal government agency mandated to regulate genetically modified products in the country.

The Certificate dated October 8, 2021, with permit code no. NBMA/CM/003, was issued to IAR for General\Commercial Release of TELA Maize Genetically Modified for Drought Tolerance, Resistance to Stem Borer and Fall Armyworm. It comes into effect from October 8, 2021, to October 5, 2024.

A decision document accompanying the certificate from NBMA said that in arriving at the decision to grant the permit, the agency took into consideration the advice of the National Biosafety Committee, the National Biosafety Technical Sub-Committee, and the risk management report provided by the applicant.

“The Agency was convinced that there are no known adverse impacts to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, taking into account risk to human health. The permit, pursuant to this decision, is without prejudice to other extant legal requirements.

“This permit authorises the permit holder and persons covered by the permit to commercialise the TELA Maize genetically modified for drought tolerance and insect resistance,” the decision document from the NBMA stated.

Reacting to the decision, Professor Ishiyaku Mohammed, Executive Director, IAR, said It is really inspiring for IAR to secure NBMA approval for the commercial release of the drought-tolerant and insect-resistant Maize (TELA MAIZE).

“This goes to further highlight IAR’s capacity and commitment to providing effective solutions to agricultural problems facing our farmers and optimizing food security for Nigerians. The approval will open the way to combating the devastating effects of both drought and insect pests through the deployment of this new variety of maize into our farming system.

“The next step is to further evaluate the performance of this new variety by farmers on their fields in all the major maize growing belts in Nigeria. Thereafter we shall seek another approval by the National variety release committee before making the seeds commercially available for farmers to plant in the 2023 cropping season.

Canisius Kanangire, AATF Executive Director, said the approval has shown that Nigeria is really the giant leading the way in Africa and ensuring that smallholder farmers benefit from life-changing technologies that have transformed farming in other parts of the globe.

“The approval by the government of Nigeria is a sign that we are making good progress especially in our quest to expand the options for smallholder farmers on the continent to profit from their labour by using affordable technologies that enhance productivity and reduce incidents of insect pests’ infestation.

“TELA Maize is coming at a time when farmers are spending so much to reduce insect and pest attacks as well as battling with the issue of drought. With TELA Maize, farmers in Nigeria will have relief from frequent constant chemical sprays which affect their health. The saving from chemical use can be converted to address other family needs,” Mr. Kanangire added.

Sylvester Oikeh, AATF TELA Maize Project Manager, said this is the beginning of a new era for maize farmers in Nigeria who have suffered greatly from the twin problem of drought and devastating insect pests occasioned by climate change. The resources and time spent in protecting maize against insect pests will be used for other operations. The maize produced will provide healthier grains for farmers and consumers alike.

Rabiu Adamu, the TELA Maize Principal Investigator, said with the deregulation, the institute is now permitted to conduct multilocation trials to evaluate the yield and adaptability of the TELA hybrids across the different agro-ecologies in Nigeria.

“The highest yielding hybrids exhibiting tolerance to drought and resistance to stem borer and fall armyworm will be released to farmers for cultivation. We hope to register some of the outstanding hybrids to commercialize through Nigerian seed companies for farmers to grow in the 2023 rainy season.

Prof. Adamu added that: “The deregulation will fast-track our work to achieve the mission of the project to avail farmers with transgenic maize to solve the challenges of drought, stem borer, and fall armyworm.

TELA Maize Project in Nigeria is part of an international Consortium coordinated by AATF, involving Bayer, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the National Agricultural Research Systems of seven countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda since 2018. The Project builds on gains from a decade of excellent breeding work to develop conventional climate-smart drought-tolerant maize known as DroughtTEGO varieties.

About AATF

Founded in 2003 to address Africa’s food security prospects through agricultural technology, AATF believes that the agricultural sector is a key foundational pillar as Africa consolidates its economic growth and carves out its new position as a major global economic powerhouse and the next growth market in the world. It was formed in response to the need for an effective mechanism that would facilitate and support negotiation for technology access and delivery and formation of appropriate partnerships to manage the development & deployment of innovative technologies for use by smallholder farmers in SSA:

About IAR

The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Samaru was established in 1922 as the research division of the Department of Agriculture for the defunct Northern region of Nigeria. IAR was formally transferred by law to the later established Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) on October 14,1962. It is the Institute in Nigeria with the mandate for genetic improvement of crops such as Maize, Sorghum Cowpea, Castor, Cotton, Jatropha, Sunflower, Artemisia and Groundnut and overall farming systems of all crops in Nigeria.

For more information and photos contact:

Alex Abutu,

Communications Officer, West and Central Africa,

AATF.

a.abutu@aatf-africa.org

+234 8068701960

Yakubu Dodo

Information Officer,

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New law vital weapon in war on destructive invasive species

The Royal Gazette

Sékou Hendrickson Updated: Oct 04, 2021 07:52 AM10

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Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs (File photograph)Related Stories

  • A law designed to safeguard Bermuda’s borders from the threat of destructive pests will help protect the environment for future generations, the home affairs minister has said.

But Walter Roban added that the Invasive Alien Species Act would not penalise citizens for accidentally having restricted species on their property.

Mr Roban said: “I just want to erase the belief that there’s going to be an effort to go around Bermuda, search people’s gardens and then fine them for what’s in their gardens. That is not what this law is about.”

“If by some chance someone, for some reason unbeknown to them, discovered a prohibited species in their possession, they have the opportunity to bring it to the attention of the department and have it dealt with without any penalty to them.

“But if you intentionally bring something here you will be subject to the law.”

Mr Roban added: “We human beings are the most invasive species on this island, so that means we have a responsibility to carry out the appropriate management and protection of this environment, which we’ve been shaping, changing and damaging over the last four centuries of settlement.

“It’s not just a ministerial objective – I, as a Bermudian resident, believe there is work that we can do to protect our environment and this Bill that I carried through is just a part of that package of protections that we need to have.”

Mr Roban was speaking after the House of Assembly passed the legislation.

People who import or trade in invasive species could face fines of up to $50,000 or two years in jail under the new law.

Mr Roban said the legislation was drawn up after months of consultation with environmental groups and the public.

He added the legislation was needed because invasive species could destroy ecosystems that Bermudian industries depended on.

Mr Roban highlighted lionfish, native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans but which has spread across the Caribbean and northern Atlantic.

The predator could eat most of the fish in Bermudian waters and destroy the fishing industry if left unchecked.

Mr Roban said that the cedar blight of the 1940s, when the scale bug killed off 99 per cent of the island’s cedar trees, was an example of the ecological destruction caused by pests imported by accident.

He added that restoration projects set up after the blight, some of which continue to the present, had cost the government millions of dollars.

Mr Roban added that casuarina trees, imported from Australia in the 1950s as windbreaks to replace wiped-out cedars, later caused coastal erosion through their roots – a problem that the government also had to combat with expensive management projects.

He said: “Some things that happened long before many of us were born – and, in some cases, before our parents were born – have had impacts that we still have to manage today.

“The chief challenge with invasive species is that they often push out the native species and when that happens it potentially creates an imbalance in our ecosystem.”

Andrew Pettit, the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said that HM Customs helped keep unwanted plants and animals at bay.

But Mr Pettit added: “This legislation is critical – without it we don’t have the tools to manage things coming out from the horizon.”

He added that management of pests already on the island was a problem.

Mr Pettit said: “Plants are really hard to deal with and they’re going to be an ongoing battle, especially the ones that are proliferated through birds because they have a natural spreading mechanism.”

Mr Pettit added that the best way to help the fight against invasive species was for the public to be aware of the seriousness of the problem.

He said: “These species are dominating, so the more we can educate the public the more they can take on a role to actively help us manage this.”

• For more information on invasive species or to alert the authorities to suspicious or exotic plants and animals, phone the DENR at 236-4201.

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Singapore: New accreditation scheme underway for pesticide-free vegetables

Work is being done on a new accreditation program to certify farms in Singapore that meet the national guidelines of producing pesticide-free and sustainably grown vegetables. This new program – to be drawn up by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), which ESG oversees, together with the Singapore Food Agency – will ensure that independent certification bodies can competently assess and recognize clean and green farms.

In March of this year, guidelines to ensure produce from local vegetable farms are grown sustainably & free from pesticides were launched. They are known as the Singapore Standard (SS) 661: Specification for Clean and Green Urban Farms and contain criteria that urban farms have to meet in terms of minimizing contaminants in the food production process, as well as sustainable practices on resource and waste management.

ESG’s director-general of quality and excellence, Choy Sauw Kook: “You will also know that local farmers have implemented management systems to optimize the use of resources, such as water and electricity, in the farming process. With this information in hand, consumers know that locally-produced vegetables are grown without chemical pesticides and responsibly.”

This is where the accreditation program comes in to provide ‘an additional layer of checks’. “The accreditation program that the SAC is developing will ensure that conformity assessment bodies are qualified to assess farms’ compliance with the clean and green standard. This is how quality and standards build trust among consumers,” Ms. Choy told channelnewsasia.com.

Publication date: Wed 29 Sep 2021

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