Category Archives: Latest News


By: CropLife International

As the global federation representing the plant science industry, our purpose at CropLife International is to advance innovation in agriculture for a sustainable future and to play a leading role in enabling sustainable food systems.

We are guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our global ambitions for zero hunger, carbon neutrality, and nature positive agriculture and continue to be an industry that is grounded in science. We are committed to keeping abreast of, and contributing to, the latest science- and evidence-based information that supports our global ambitions. Below are 10 reports and studies published in 2021 that offer valuable insights and updates on our industry’s progress against these ambitions.



The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Improving Global Food Security

Global Food Security

Decades after the Green Revolution helped improve food security across the world, climate change, a lack of access to technology, and trade issues are causing food insecurity to rise again. In response, NGOs, academia, governments, foundations, and the private sector are urging renewed collaboration and partnerships to recover and return to accelerate food production and improve food distribution. An October article in the journal Global Food Security, The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Improving Global Food Security, discusses the rationale for public-private partnerships and explores the range of these collaborations and their impacts on global food systems. The authors recommend the use of both strategic and tactical partnerships should be accelerated to improve global food security.

Click here for the report


State of Food and Agriculture 2021: Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-Related SDG Indicators 2021

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

According to a November FAO report, COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of food systems and led to increased global food insecurity and malnutrition. The report, State of Food and Agriculture 2021, examines the challenges of building more resilient food systems and provides recommendations on ways to transform food systems to be more responsive to shocks and stresses. FAO also released its 2021 Statistical Yearbook in November, outlining the economic dimensions of agriculture, the production, trade and prices of commodities, food security and nutrition, and sustainability and environmental aspects of agriculture.

A related FAO report, Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-Related SDG Indicators, assesses the progress being made on eight of the key food and agriculture-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from Zero Hunger to Responsible Consumption and Production. The report also includes a section on how the private sector can better monitor and report progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Click here for the report


Cancer incidence in agricultural workers: Findings from an international consortium of agricultural cohort studies (AGRICOH)

Environment International

Cancer Incidence in Agricultural Workers: Findings from an International Consortium of Agricultural Cohort Studies (AGRICOH), published on 27 August in Environment International, evaluated cancer incidence in male and female agricultural workers relative to their respective general populations. The researchers analyzed cancer incidence in almost 250,000 agricultural workers across six countries and determined that the overall cancer rate occurred less in agricultural workers than in the general population.

Click here for the report


Letter to the editor regarding the article “The global distribution of acute unintentional pesticide poisoning: estimations based on a systematic review”

BMC Public Health

CropLife International, with feedback from its Regulatory and Stewardship Steering Committees, responded to an article on claims of pesticide poisoning originally published in BMC Public Health on 7 December 2020. In our letter to the editor, published 27 October, we agreed on the need to understand the extent of possible pesticide poisonings, but questioned the methodology and findings from the original article. The letter concluded by noting that a constructive and informed discussion on the role of crop protection and the use of pesticides in sustainable food production is important and pesticide safety should be addressed in partnership with governments, farmers, NGOs, and other stakeholders.

Click here to read the letter



Correlating Genetically Modified Crops, Glyphosate Use and Increased Carbon Sequestration


As the world gathered in Glasgow for COP26 in November to discuss climate change and commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a  newly published study in the journal Sustainability highlighted the role that plant science innovations such as biotech crops and crop protection can play in promoting climate-smart agriculture. The original research study, Correlating Genetically Modified Crops, Glyphosate Use and Increased Carbon Sequestration, concludes that herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops and glyphosate can increase soil carbon sequestration, thereby keeping carbon dioxide in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.

Click here to read the report


Adaption Gap Report 2021: The Gathering Storm

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

While the world looks to mitigate climate change by stepping up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the existing impacts of climate change is just as relevant. The sixth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm looks at how the world is progressing in adapting to these intensifying impacts. The report finds there is an urgent need to step up climate adaptation finance, with the estimated adaptation costs in developing countries five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows and the finance gap widening, in part due to COVID-19 impacts.

Click here to read the report



Impact Assessment Study on EU 2030

Wageningen University & Research

An October study from Wageningen University & Research predicts that the effects of the European Commission Green Deal, including the proposed Farm2Fork (F2F) strategy, will result in a loss in productivity through lower agricultural yields, leading to price hikes and an increase in agricultural imports to Europe. The study, commissioned by CropLife Europe and CropLife International, looked at potential impacts from four different scenarios and case studies involving reduction targets of various inputs and available resources. The executive summary is available now, with a full report expected in 2022.

Click here to read the executive summary


The Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) 2020 Annual Report

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The 2020 Annual Report – Plant Production and Protection, spearheaded by Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of FAO provides in-depth information and key facts and figures from the newly re-named FAO Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP). This is the first Divisional Annual Report of its kind and is expected to be published annually. NSP works with countries and a broad range of partners in developing and promoting approaches to sustainable crop production that build on existing ecosystems while enhancing and protecting biodiversity and natural resources.

Click here to read the report


A Special Issue on of the Journal of Regulatory Science on Genetically Modified Organisms

Journal of Regulatory Science

Regulatory modernization could create a more predictable, effective, safe, transparent, and timely path to market for agriculture innovations. These innovations are critical to contributing to the achievement of sustainable food systems as they provide solutions for farmers to address a changing climate while meeting growing food demand within the limitations of our planet. A special issue of the open-access Journal of Regulatory Science on Genetically Modified Organisms, published in January in conjunction with CropLife International, provides peer-reviewed recommendations to modernize the regulation of genetically modified crops.

Click here to read the report


UN Food Systems Summit Synthesis Reports

UN Food Systems Summit

The United Nations Food Systems Summit, held virtually in September, held a series of Food Systems Summit Dialogues in the year-long lead-up to the event. The Dialogues were meant to provide a powerful opportunity to engage meaningfully, explore collectively, and emerge resiliently for sustainable food systems. To date, more than 1,600 Food Systems Summit Dialogues have been announced with more than 100,000 participants, 148 National Convenors, and 109 National Pathways. Synthesis reports, with conclusions, recommendations, and implications for transforming food systems, have been published that include a majority of the IndependentMember State, and Global Summit Dialogues. CropLife International held an Independent Dialogue in May, Unleashing Innovation to Transform Local Food Systems, and published a feedback report and a takeaways blog.

In conjunction with the UN Food Systems Summit, a Scientific Group was formed to deliver the latest evidence-based and scientific approaches to food systems transformation. The resulting report, Science and Innovations for Food Systems Transformations and Summit Actions, provides summarized recommendations on action for hunger and healthy diets; equity and assistance; sustainable resource management; food production systems; and finance, investment, and trade.


By: CropLife International

Farmers were a coredemographicrepresented at the UN Food Systems Summit Pre-Summit, and for good reason. Farmers produce our food and cultivate the world’s farmlands — it would be impossible to positively transform global food systems without engagingfarmersandranchers.

Kylie Epperson and her husband Jordan are young farmers in northeast Missouri in the United States. Their diversified family farm is the center of their lives, and every day they strive to produce food and animal feed while preserving the beauty and fertility of their farmland.

CropLife International asked Kylie some key questions about what it’s like to be a young farmer, what kind of everyday challenges she faces and how she champions sustainability on the farm.

As a young person, what made you want to become a farmer? 

Kylie Epperson: I married into the farm, but there is something to be said for choosing to marry a farmer AND wanting to return to work on the farm alongside my husband. Agriculture is a way of life like no other. Farmers are true entrepreneurs, mechanics, engineers, marketing experts and so much more. We grow food, especially here in the United States, to feed millions of people around the world. I love being able to run my own business and raise our family in a rural, farm setting.

“Farmers are true entrepreneurs, mechanics, engineers, marketing experts, and so much more.”

What are the main crops you grow on your farm and why?

KE: We grow yellow corn and soybeans on our farm in Missouri. We also raise hogs. Most of the crops we grow go into feed for hogs and cattle. Raising hogs helps us to diversify our farming operation and better manage risk in both commodities.

What does a normal day look like on your farm? What is your routine?

KE: As a 50/50 partner with my husband on our farm, my main role is working in our farm office. A typical day for me is waking, rounding the kids up and driving about 10 minutes to our home farm. After arriving at the office, I look over any urgent matters on my desk, sort and pay bills, review finances and any other accounting matters at hand. I also manage grain inventory and sales. Between bills, grain inventory and tending to three children at work, that makes up most of my day.

What are the major challenges you face on your farm?

KE: One of the major challenges we have on our farm, and really as an industrywide problem, is labor. It is incredibly hard to find a qualified individual who loves the land and animals just as much as you do and takes care of them to the level that you see fit. More and more people are leaving rural America, and that is a threat today and will continue to be a challenge in the future.

“There is not one person who cares more about the quality of our soil, water and air than a farmer.”

How do climate change and biodiversity issues affect your farm?

KE: As a row crop and hog farmer, we take all measures available to us to ensure we are doing right by our environment, by our land and by our community. There is not one person who cares more about the quality of our soil, water and air than a farmer, and we put practices in place to ensure we are doing our part to take care of the environment.

What would you say to young people who want to know about farming and plant science?

KE: Agriculture is one of the most rewarding environments to make yourself a part of. The community, the ability to work with your hands and with the land every day, the opportunity to raise a family on a farm, teaching your kids life lessons from a young age, gosh, so many amazing things about farming.

However, farming isn’t for the faint of heart. Farmers rely heavily on matters outside of our control, like commodity prices, land availability, weather and more, and often those uncontrollable matters throw curveball after curveball. Farmers are resilient, though, and you quickly learn the love for the land and the faith for the future is much greater in agriculture than the fear of the unknown. Agriculture is a community and profession that once you start, you’ll never want to leave.

Kylie takes a special interest in telling her story through her InstagramFacebook and blog, where she charts the ups and downs of modern farming from the perspective of a young family. This is in part due to increased interest in farming from consumers who have increasing concerns about sustainability and the supply chain, or are just taking a greater interest in where their food comes from.

Kylie is just one of many young farmers and advocates throughout the world working to make our planet a greener and more sustainable one. Check out what other youth champions have to say about how we can better transform our food systems.


By: CropLife International

Addressing the many threats to food security was a key priority at the United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit earlier this year. West Asia regional director for Youth4Nature Rayan Kassem offered closing remarks sharing his vision on how food systems could be meaningfully transformed. In celebration of International Youth Day and as part of our responsibility to include and uplift youth perspectives, we reached out to Kassem to learn more about his perspective on how key stakeholders can collaborate to help deliver more sustainable food systems for the world.

Kassem outlined 11 key action points that he believes will be vital for creating equitable and sustainable food systems.

  1. We must consider the indirect causes of food system challenges, not just direct impacts like hunger, poverty and climate change. Looking at factors like war, smuggling, food prices, violence and food import dependence is key.
  2. We need to create an accountability scheme for decision-makers. Our generation is making history as the first generation to actively care about the future of the planet. We must continue to call for accountability every time a shock, stress or challenge happens within food systems.
  3. We should address trade dependencies and politics within food systems. Some countries might have disputes and create artificial trade barriers. We need to protect food systems from such trade disruptions.
  4. We need to move beyond our unsustainable view that we can produce as much as we want, whenever and wherever we want. We need to create a new system where resources are looked at in a finite way.
  5. We need to look at subsidies. We should stop subsidizing agricultural products that are harmful for our health and for the health of the climate and biodiversity. Instead, we should shift those subsidies to local farmers and agricultural products that are good for our health and our planet. We should subsidize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole plant-based food products as well animal protein that is produced sustainably be it fish or land-based animals
  6. We need to take care of farmers’ livelihoods. Farmers are the basis of our society as the producers of our food. Yet, they aren’t often able to have equitable livelihoods.
  7. We need to switch from monocultural tree planting to nature-positive, sustainable food production so that agriculture doesn’t hurt the health of our environment or impact the climate.
  8. We need to prioritize food justice and sovereignty, including regional culture and the heritage of food production and consumption. How people eat and how they produce food is very specific to their cultures and hundreds of years of interaction with nature. The development of food production and consumption patterns are often local, so food systems should not be approached from a global perspective with a standard diet and way of producing food.
  9. We must use resources sustainably. That means growing crops best suited to each region based on their natural resources.
  10. Developing countries must have access to agricultural technologies. The use of these technologies helps farmers produce food more efficiently. There is still a very large gap between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere in access to technologies.
  11. Lastly, we need a circular economy. Technology has advanced enough to create products from food waste, and we need to incorporate these products into local, regional and global food production.

Kassem believes that if we address these 11 strategies, we will be able to improve global food systems and end world hunger. He added that we already have the policy systems in place, through both the United Nations and member states, to address these points — we just need action. Youth advocates are key to encouraging decision-makers to create lasting, long-term policies that leads to more equitable, sustainable and accessible food systems.

28 July 2021, Rome, Italy – Rayan Kassem, West Asia Regional Directorfor Youth4nature. Closing Plenary of the Pre-Summit Systems, Pre-Summit of the United Nations Food System Summit 2021. FAO headquarters (Plenary hall)
©UN Photo/ Giulio Napolitano

As the global federation representing the plant science industry, CropLife International is committed to advancing innovation in agriculture for a sustainable future, and to playing a lead role in enabling sustainable food systems. We are proud to feature the voices of stakeholders like Rayan Kassem that are shaping global negotiations at the UN Food Systems Summit.

To hear food systems perspectives directly from youth leaders, check out our most recent map: How Youth Envision Global Food Systems in 50 Years.


New Research Reveals Growers in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand & Vietnam Increasingly Impacted by Effects of Climate Change

Singapore, 30 August 2021 – A finding officially released today highlights a key challenge with regional food production – chiefly that a significant number of growers in Southeast Asia’s largest agricultural-producing countries are concerned with the impact of climate change (68.5%).

This finding, part of new research titled the 2021 ASEAN Farmer Sustainability & Resilience Study, was conducted by leading agricultural and animal health market research company Kynetec and carried out in the first quarter of 2021. CropLife Asia contracted with Kynetec to conduct the survey among 525 corn, rice, fruit and vegetable farmers across Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report warning against the effects of climate change and calling for rapid actions in global cooperation. The report was referred to by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as “code red for humanity” and has spurred additional discourse on how society can support more aggressive climate change action.

“Farmers across Southeast Asia are facing increasing challenges that threaten their livelihood, food supply chain resiliency, and the sustainable supply of safe and nutritious food on which we all depend,” said Dr. Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of CropLife Asia. “As the prevalence of climate change-induced droughts, floods and erratic weather patterns continue to grow, Southeast Asia’s smallholder farmers are under tremendous pressure to cope. There is no food and agriculture stakeholder more important than our farmers – and no voice more critical than theirs in the debate around how to make our food systems more resilient. We owe these food heroes our attention and full support.”

While over 68% of farmers surveyed noted the effects of climate change (flood, drought) as a challenge of unique concern, the number of farmers from the Philippines and Vietnam raising their concern with climate change was particularly high. In those countries, the number was 77% and 70% respectively.

The innovative technologies of plant science continue to enable farmers to produce more safe and nutritious food with fewer impacts to the world around us. Biotech crops have been developed with improved traits such as increased yield, better resistance to pests and/or improved nutrition, among others – and allow for sequestration of carbon in the soil through practices such as no-till farming. These are crucial tools that help farmers address global challenges such as food insecurity and climate change.

Meanwhile, farmers rely on crop protection products (or pesticides) to grow more food on less land and raise productivity per hectare. Without pesticides, 40% of global rice and maize harvests could be lost every year and losses for fruits and vegetables could be as high as 50-90%. These losses in yield would likely mean additional land would need to be cleared for agriculture, leading to increased carbon emissions.

More findings from the 2021 ASEAN Farmer Sustainability & Resilience Study are scheduled to be released throughout the remainder of this year.

About CropLife Asia

CropLife Asia is a non-profit society and the regional organization of CropLife International, the voice of the global plant science industry.  We advocate a safe, secure food supply, and our vision is food security enabled by innovative agriculture.  CropLife Asia supports the work of 15 member associations across the continent and is led by eight member companies at the forefront of crop protection, seeds and/or biotechnology research and development.  For more information, visit us at

For more information please contact:
Duke Hipp
Director, Public Affairs
CropLife Asia
Tel: (65) 6221 1615


By: CropLife International

A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and in such amounts that it is a main part of a population’s diet, supplying a significant amount of energy and nutrition. These crops are in such high demand that they need to be high-yielding and resistant to pests, diseases and environmental stresses.

There are more than 50,000 edible plant species on the planet, but only a few hundred contribute meaningfully to our diet. In fact, just 15 crops provide 90 percent of global energy intake and “the big four” – maize, rice, wheat and potatoes – are staples for about 5 billion people. Such reliable, widespread crops are the basis of food systems and human subsistence. Plant science technologies, such as crop protection products and biotech seeds, have helped keep these staples stable, even in the face of climate change.

The most productive staple crop in the world is maize, which yielded 1.1 billion tons in 2019 alone, followed by wheat, rice and potatoes at 765, 755 and 370 million tons, respectively.  But what about staple crops beyond these heavy hitters? Here is a look at the unsung heroes of agriculture. In different parts of the world, they help feed rural communities and entire countries, with more nutrients than the big four.

Soybeans have been grown as a crop for thousands of years. As legume plants, they fixate nitrogen, absorbing this essential nutrient from soil bacteria, which is a talent most crops lack. This means fertilizer is usually not needed when growing soybeans. Moreover, plant science technologies have led to higher and higher soybean yields. No wonder they are one of the world’s fastest expanding crops!

While low-carb soybeans are highly prized for their oil, they are considered a staple food because of their protein. They are among the best sources of plant-based protein in the world, plus contain vitamins and minerals. They are processed into milk, tofu, tempeh and other high-protein products. Japan and China are major consumers of these foods.

Global soybean production is concentrated in Brazil and the United States on sizeable farms, but the crop is also grown in many other countries by smallholder farmers.

In both developed and developing countries, the adoption of biotech soybean varieties has more than doubled yields since the 1960s. That’s why these varieties account for up to 81 percent of global production. Herbicide-resistant biotech soybeans also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent as they allow for no-till farming, which keeps carbon in the soil.

Cassava is a staple for more than 600 million people across Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of fiber and potassium. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations identified it as a vital crop in the fight against hunger and formed a partnership to bolster its genetic improvement.

Cassava is grown by many farmers in developing countries due to its ability to thrive in poor soils as it requires less water and fertilizer than alternatives and can be harvested anytime from eight to 24 months after planting, meaning it can be left in the ground as a living food store. The only caveat is that long periods in the soil makes cassava more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Cassava farmers have typically struggled with these challenges as the crop is notoriously resistant to traditional plant breeding techniques due to unreliable flowering patterns.

However, gene-edited cassava flowers more reliably, giving researchers great hope for the future of this crop. Biotech varieties could help control pests and diseases as well as enhance yields and nutrition. This crop has untapped potential; experts estimate that introducing such varieties could increase cassava production in Africa by 150 percent.

Sweet potatoes are vital in the diets of people in parts of Africa and Asia, where they are a major source of subsistence. They are a rich source of vitamin A and good source of fiber.

Drought-tolerant sweet potatoes grow incredibly well on marginal land and do not require a large degree of care. Farmers are sweet on these qualities so these potatoes have expanded faster than all other staple crops in sub-Saharan Africa in the last 20 years. They have also attracted the attention of researchers who would like to use sweet potatoes to improve the health of children.

In rural sub-Saharan Africa, around 48 percent of children have vitamin A deficiency. This can degrade immune systems, increasing the risk of diarrhea and even causing blindness. In 2009, this dire situation led to the formation of the Sweet Potato for Profit and Health Initiative, which developed varieties with greater virus resistance, drought tolerance and lower sugar levels. It led to commercial production of orange-fleshed sweet potato biofortified with beta carotene. This variety significantly raises vitamin A levels in children, further cementing the sweet potato’s status as a vital staple.

Known as an “orphan crop” due to not being widely traded, yams are a staple food for more than 100 million people in the tropics, particularly western and central Africa. They are “yam-packed” with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. 

Contrary to popular belief, yams are distinct from sweet potatoes; they are less sweet, more starchy, larger and cylindrical with bark-like skin that’s difficult to peel and flesh that’s purple or pink when mature. Yams can grow up to 1.5 meters and 60 kilograms! 

Indigenous to Africa and Asia, yams are now also commonly grown in the Caribbean and Latin America. There are more than 600 varieties! 

Farmers favor them as they can be stored for four to six months without refrigeration, giving people a vital safety net between growing seasons.  

The yam’s orphan status has led to a recent research push into biotech improvements. The genetics of yams are the least understood among major staple food crops, partly due to biological restraints. The domestication of wild yam species is ongoing in Africa, further widening the genetic base. As such, this crop has more potential for biotech innovation than any other major staple and efforts to improve the yam’s disease resistance and yield are underway.  

High in protein and potassium, sorghum has been a staple crop in semi-arid areas of Asia and Africa for hundreds of years and millions of people rely upon it. This crop is well-liked by subsistence farmers due to its ability to thrive in harsh environments where other crops grow poorly or fail. It is the only viable grain and plant protein for many of the world’s most food-insecure people.  

Most varieties are heat- and drought-tolerant, while higher-yielding dwarf varieties have seen increasing commercial production in countries like the United States.

Combining these varieties with modern crop protection and smart water management can see yields increase by as much as eight times.  

Sorghum’s natural qualities make it ideally suited for drought-susceptible regions, with climate change expected to further enhance its status as one of the most important cereal crops on the planet. This led to it being selected for biofortification, as natural varieties contain a compound that reduces the body’s ability to use iron and zinc, which can cause anemia. These new varieties tackled this challenge while also gaining beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. This is a great example of plant science improving nutrition for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.  

With populations and food systems across the world facing the impacts of climate change, combined with the ever-increasing need for farmers to produce more with less, safeguarding staple crops is more important than ever. While “the big four” of maize, rice, wheat and potatoes are caloric powerhouses, other staple crops offer more nutritionally like soybeans, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams and sorghum.

With populations and food systems across the world facing the impacts of climate change, combined with the ever-increasing need for farmers to produce more with less, safeguarding staple crops is more important than ever. While “the big four” of maize, rice, wheat and potatoes are caloric powerhouses, other staple crops offer more nutritionally like soybeans, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams and sorghum.


Today, PLANT SCIENCE INNOVATIONS are making staple crops more profitable, more nutritious and better protected against unpredictable weather. Cassava is no exception. Both farmers and consumers throughout the world can reap the benefits of varieties that are healthier, heartier and more abundant.

Cassava provides sustenance for over 800 million people. A perennial woody shrub native to Latin America, cassava is primarily grown as an annual crop in the humid tropics. Studies indicate it is the only staple crop that stands to benefit from climate change. As more land is rendered unusable due to changing temperature and rainfall patterns, cassava will likely gain ground as a staple around the globe.

We spoke with Chiedozie Egesi of NextGen Cassava Breeding Project, who is at the forefront of new innovations to enhance this already resilient and hearty staple crop. Read our interview with him to learn how and why cassava is a major staple crop of the developing world and what its future holds. (This interview has been formatted for brevity and clarity.)

Chiedozie Egesi – Project Leader at NextGen Cassava Breeding Project
Chiedozie Egesi, leader of the NextGen Cassava Breeding Project, tells us how he and his team are developing better cassava plants to resist challenging growing conditions, be more productive and deliver more nutrition.

Tell me about your role at NextGen Cassava. What type of research do you lead?

Our main objective is to empower African cassava farmers through innovative, sustainable cassava breeding. We have begun the process of modernizing cassava breeding institutions in Africa and use cutting-edge tools for efficient delivery of improved varieties of cassava.

My role includes project coordination, charting the course we take and ensuring that our partners are supported to deliver on the project mandate. We specialize in cassava breeding implementation—cutting-edge research technologies that make for more efficient processes and demand-led breeding.

Why is cassava a staple crop in South America, Africa, and other developing countries?

Cassava is a major calorie source for over 800 million people. It has high productivity in marginal environments, making it an invaluable asset for food security—it survives where other crops fail. It also has naturally high resilience to climatic changes. Finally, it is produced mainly by smallholders [farmers with less than 2 hectares of land] – mostly women – with simple technologies, allowing it to be easily grown across multiple countries and environments.

What challenges have cassava farmers faced in recent years?

Cassava producers face several main challenges these days. First, many pests and diseases have constrained production for cassava growers. Part of this is actually because of cassava’s long growth cycle—its long duration in the field increases its exposure to pests and viruses. Also, cassava is perishable, which leads to limited flexibility in handling. Lastly, poorly linked value chains in Africa cause frequent boom-and-bust cycles of high and low productivity. The markets have not been well developed to make for sustainable agribusiness.

How have plant science innovations helped cassava farmers?

A recent example is the timely delivery of new, “best-bet” varieties to cassava farmers. Genomic selection is an integral technology that has enabled us to get these more resilient, more productive and more nutritious varieties. We have employed innovative “citizen science” approaches to enable participatory selection of improved varieties. In addition, new technologies have helped us rapidly screen large breeding populations. Others include techniques to improve flowering in cassava, an essential step for hybridization through pollination. Application of a combination of hormones has enabled us to make cross combinations that were not very easily done due to the poor flowering of some cassava varieties.

Which plant science innovations does NextGen Cassava utilize in its work with smallholder farmers?

We predicted the performance of new varieties based on the genetic information of their parents using modeling systems. This allowed us to reduce the generational cycle time for cassava from about 10 years to five. Better varieties can now get to farmers faster, and we are still working on further improving this. We are designing research that maps preferences and links to social differences such as gender, age, education, region, poverty and food security levels.

How will climate change continue to impact cassava and smallholder farmers?

Cassava is one of the most climate-smart crops in the tropics and has the capacity to withstand changes in the atmosphere, which it can use to its advantage for more productivity. As climate change continues to be a challenge for smallholder growers in Africa, cassava farmers stand a better chance to make more profitable agribusiness due to the robustness of the crop. 

How will supporting plant science innovations help communities that depend on cassava?

Support for plant science innovations is needed to help communities that depend on cassava in Africa. New technologies will transform cassava production and deliver the best varieties for maximum impact on growers and their families.

For more information about cassava and its role as a staple crop in different countries around the world, please check out these resources:

Kenya Approves Disease-Resistant Biotech Cassava

In June 2021, the Kenya National Biosafety Authority approved the environmental release of genetically modified cassava, which is resistant to cassava brown streak disease. The disease-resistant cassava was developed under the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa Plus project, a collaborative program between Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, National Crops Resources Research Institute of Uganda and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Learn more about this breakthrough from the Cornell Alliance for Science and ISAAA.

Repairing the Root of the Problem

Despite the ability to turn cassava into an endless number of palatable dishes, the tuber has two major issues affecting the people who rely on it the most. First, cassava faces the threat of brown streak disease, limiting available food and second, the crop has a natural toxin that can cause severe physical and mental damage in the populations who need it most. For the millions it feeds, this important crop must be usable. That’s where plant biotechnology and gene editing come in. This video from the American Seed Trade Association and University of California at Berkeley shows the research being done to improve this staple crop for the millions who depend on it.

Save and Grow Cassava: A Guide to Sustainable Production Intensification
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has published a booklet about the production of cassava. It notes that cassava was first cultivated 9,000 years ago on the southern edge of the Brazilian Amazon, where it is still grown. Today, around 300 million tons of cassava are produced globally, with Nigeria as the world’s largest producer. Around 90 percent of harvested roots are destined for human consumption, while about 10 percent are semi-processed on-farm as animal feed. Read the entire 100-page PDF on the FAO website.

African Scientists Improve Cassava to Help Feed the World
2019 article in the journal Nature explains how researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria are using both traditional breeding and genetic modification to improve the starchy staple crop. In Africa, where consumption is highest, cassava plants bear smaller yields than their cousins in Asia and South America. But African varieties tend to be more tolerant of blights, such as the deadly cassava mosaic disease now spreading across Asia.

Source: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

Breeding Better Crops, From Maize to Cassava
In this video from the Gates Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and Cornell University, plant geneticist Ed Buckler explains that cassava has not been bred as effectively as other crops – such as maize – and there is tremendous potential including disease and insect resistance, by taking new, modern breeding tools and applying them to cassava.

Developing GM Super Cassava For Improved Health and Food Security: Future Challenges in Africa
The potential for GM cassava also includes biofortification. According to a study in the open access journal Agriculture & Food Security, more than 800 million people suffer from micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries with Africa accounting for almost 50 percent of the children who are clinically or sub-clinically deficient in vitamin A, particularly under five years of age. The study found that an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that GM biofortified cassava will benefit the health of millions in Africa and that GM cassava conferred with disease and pest resistance will increase cassava production as it is currently plagued by cassava mosaic diseases (CMD).


Highlights need for agricultural innovation in addressing Asia’s growing food security crisis / Helping reach region’s hungry, undernourished

Singapore, 13 July 2021 – With the release of the United Nations (UN) 2021 State of Food Security & Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, CropLife Asia highlighted the need for the region’s food value chain stakeholders to work together in transforming our food systems to better enable food security, improved nutrition, and affordable healthy diets for all.

The challenge of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of ‘zero hunger’ globally by 2030 has grown even more complicated with the broad impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this latest UN report, it is estimated that the number of people affected by hunger worldwide in 2020 was between 720 and 811 million people. This is a marked increase of over 100 million more people than in 2019. The prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) has also climbed up to around 9.9 percent in 2020 compared to 8.4 percent the previous year. This new report also confirms a sadly familiar refrain for Asia: our region is failing to deliver food security for far too many – particularly among the more vulnerable parts of society. Asia continues to be home to the greatest number of undernourished people with 418 million suffering from hunger in 2020.

“The challenge of feeding Asia and the world requires us to explore all possible solutions. This can only be achieved through greater collaboration with others, as multi-stakeholder approaches are crucial for transformation of our food systems.” said Dr. Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director, CropLife Asia. “The plant science industry champions innovation in both crop protection and plant biotech, as well as precision and digital agriculture solutions to benefit both people and the planet.”

“The innovative technologies of the plant science industry have a key role to play, but it is only one part of the solution,” Dr. Tan added. “Ensuring that an ample supply of affordable and nutritious food reaches those who need it most is a shared responsibility. Farmers’ access to innovation is an increasingly crucial component to combatting food insecurity in Asia and around the world.”

Global crop losses due to pests and disease are a major contributor to global food loss and waste. These losses would be twice as high without the use of crop protection products. Crop losses can be further reduced through more effective crop protection stewardship practices. Without innovations such as crop protection products and plant biotechnology, global pre-harvest crop losses could double(1). Meanwhile, biotech crops are developed with improved traits such as increased yield, better resistance to pests and/or improved nutrition, among others. These traits are crucial tools that enable farmers to produce more food using fewer resources to feed our growing world.


About CropLife Asia

CropLife Asia is a non-profit society and the regional organization of CropLife International, the voice of the global plant science industry.  We advocate a safe, secure food supply, and our vision is food security enabled by innovative agriculture.  CropLife Asia supports the work of 15 member associations across the continent and is led by eight member companies at the forefront of crop protection, seeds and/or biotechnology research and development.  For more information, visit us at

For more information, please contact:

Duke Hipp
Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Partnerships
CropLife Asia
Tel: +65 6221 1615


By: CropLife International

Nisreen Elsaim

Nisreen Elsaim

There is no planet B. Our earth’s environment must be both preserved and restored in order to secure a sustainable future for generations to come. The United Nations’ 13th Sustainable Development Goal states that we must take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Younger generations of advocates are taking notice of this imminent concern.

To meet these goals, all industries and sectors of the world must make climate change — and the existential threat it poses — a top priority. The agricultural sector is far from an exception. But it will be a solution.

We spoke with Nisreen Elsaim, chair of the United Nations (UN) Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and chair of the Sudan Youth Organization on Climate Change, about the effects of climate change, especially in developing countries, and the role agriculture and plant science can play in combatting it. This interview had been formatted and adapted from its original recording for brevity and clarity.

Can you tell us about the U.N. Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and what you do?

Nisreen Elsaim: The first ever Youth Climate Summit happened in 2019 in New York, right before the Climate Action Summit. Between the two summits, there was some youth involvement with the secretary-general to expand the influence of young people and better recognize their efforts in addressing climate change. One of the recommendations was to establish an advisory board for the secretary-general with young people taking action on climate. This led to the creation of the Youth Advisory Group.

This group is very diverse both in graphical representation and background. For example, Paloma Costa from Brazil represents Latin America and she’s a lawyer. Archana Soreng is from India; she’s in research and comes from an indigenous community. Vlad Kaim is from Moldova; he represents Eastern Europe and he’s the economist of the group. And I represent Africa. My background is in physics, and I have a master’s degree in renewable energy. I’m currently focusing on climate policies.

Our mandate is very simple: we advise the secretary-general on things that young people think should happen within the UN system. We play the role of a bridge between the secretary-general and young people.

What makes developing countries the most vulnerable to climate change? And how have the impacts of climate change been felt in Sudan?

NE: I recorded a video that covers just this. We know that climate change is real and that it is human made. A third of Sudan is covered by desert and desertification is a growing problem. The country has gone through a decades-long civil war and conflict over natural resources. This has put biodiversity, fertile land, food and water security in greater danger and made the country very vulnerable in the face of climate change. Floods destroy buildings, fields and people’s livelihoods, and they will get worse as climate change gets worse.

The country cannot compensate farmers who’ve lost whole harvests to floods. There are some insurance companies, but not everyone has access to them. Many farmers don’t have other options so they stick to agriculture. It’s a risky investment, especially in the flood season, which we know already they cannot change. Some farmers skip the flood seasons and try to intensively do agriculture in different seasons, but others take the risk.

There are many misconceptions about climate change in agriculture. What do you think is the most common myth that you encounter around the two topics?

NE: Well, I think there is more misunderstanding, or misjudging, about the situation. Not only in agriculture, but also with livestock. A lot of people think that eating meat is increasing a lot of emissions in the environment. And it’s true, but in certain climate or weather conditions, it’s different. For example, a cow in Sudan does not produce the same amount of methane as a cow in Poland or in Germany. Why? Because the climate situation in Sudan is very dry and hot. And we all know that methane is actually an organic result of fermentation.

Fermentation requires the presence of water. It needs specific conditions which don’t really exist in a dry, hot country like Sudan, but they do in humid, wet and cold countries like Poland, the Netherlands or Germany. So, it’s not the same impact. It’s not the same effect. And definitely, it’s not the same emission of methane gas.

What tools can help farmers best address the challenges presented by climate change?

NE: Desertification is a huge issue in Sudan and it’s moving very fast, covering big areas. Many tools can help address desertification. One example is center pivot irrigation, where you actually irrigate the crops in circles which helps farmers use water efficiently.

What are the concerns associated with misinformation around climate change and agriculture and the way that our food is produced?

NE: First, farmers who have a misunderstanding of the problem will implement the wrong solution, which perpetuates the problem.

A lot of consumers care about the origin or impact of their food. So, economically it will impact the farmer, especially in countries where farmers sell directly to consumers. If the consumers stop buying from the farmers, the farmers’ livelihoods are at serious stake.

In addition, general misunderstandings create a very negative atmosphere. In a country like Sudan, this will impact the policies, legislation and laws. Policies could be passed without any scientific basis.

What role do you think agriculture can play in helping communities adapt to climate change?

NE: In order for agriculture to help the community adapt to climate change, we must first help the agriculture industry adapt to climate change.

If agriculture becomes somehow immune to — or at least less impacted by — climate change, then it directly helps and supports communities through better food security, economic prosperity and so on. It will secure farmers’ income. It will secure food security, which is very important. And if we ensure a very good agricultural cycle, then we can even have other activities to increase the income and diversity of food. Building the resilience of communities through green jobs like agriculture is key.

What major milestones in the youth movement for climate change are you looking forward to?

NE: One of the things we are looking forward to is the Youth COP that will be held in Milan in September. It will be a very good milestone for the youth movement of climate change and climate diplomacy.

Climate change poses an existential threat to all countries, sectors, industries and businesses on earth — no matter how big or small. The only way to properly tackle this challenge is to work together. The agricultural sector offers much in the way of climate change solutions. The sooner we can dispel myths surrounding agriculture and climate change, the sooner we can more effectively fight back against it.