2Blades Foundation Newsletter
Issue 5 | November 2017 
World Food Prize discussions focus on harnessing technology to transform agriculture

This month at the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue and World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, political, corporate and academic leaders came together to celebrate Dr. Akinwumi Adesina , 2017 World Food Prize laureate . Over twenty years of visionary leadership, Dr. Adesina has galvanized political support to transform food production across the continent. In prominent roles as Nigerian Minister for Agriculture and Vice President at AGRA , Adesina's initiatives have boosted agricultural production, tackled corruption in the fertilizer industry and vastly expanded credit availability for smallholder farmers.

In his current role as President of the African Development Bank , Dr. Adesina launched the $24 billion Feed Africa initiative in 2016, a ten year program to build food self sufficiency across the continent. At the World Food Prize, he announced a bold new vision to transform 16 million of Africa's 400 million hectares of savanna into productive agricultural regions for corn, soybean, and livestock, based on the successful transformation of the Brazilian Cerrado into fertile agricultural land. This aligns well with our own ambitions to deliver disease resistant soybean for Africa which will draw on our work developing rust resistant varieties for Brazil.

The unifying theme of the symposium was how technological transformation in agriculture can provide a 'Road out of Poverty' for many in low income countries. Seed companies are embracing gene editing to accelerate this process, and executives from Monsanto, Bayer, and DowDupont presented their hope that this modern breeding tool can create an easier path to market in relation to regulatory approvals. 2Blades has been involved applications of gene editing since acquisition of the TAL Code rights in 2009. A combination of editing approaches and 'conventional' transgenic techniques for stacking multiple genes together in crops, still a critical tool in the crop improvement tool box, could rapidly improve varieties with disease resistance and achieve other outcomes not possible by editing alone. However, while some regulatory doors are open for gene editing, we should ensure that roads are not blocked for transgenic techniques that can introduce genes and stacks of genes not yet possible with editing.

If agriculture is to provide a road out of poverty for smallholder farmers, they will need access to all appropriate tools that can ensure resilient agricultural production. Recent advances in passing biosafety laws in Uganda are an important step, and we hope that once farmers begin to benefit from transgenic and gene edited crops, other countries will follow their lead. We are heartened to see an increased emphasis on translating the best technologies to agriculture around the globe, and remain committed to delivering improved varieties to smallholder farmers at no charge, helping to pave the road.
Congratulations to 2017 World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
2Blades at the World Food Prize
We were pleased to partner with the UK Science and Innovation Network to host a side event focused on translating research for farmer benefits. As a US organization with a UK footprint at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, we were able to emphasize our deep connections to the UK and how we are using this relationship to ultimately bring disease resistant crops to farmers all over the world.

´╗┐Other efforts to tackle crop disease were brought to the fore across different sessions. In particular, efforts by CIMMYT to combat maize lethal necrosis disease and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's program on tackling cassava brown streak disease were highlighted as important efforts that will boost resiliency of smallholder farmers.
2Blades President, Dr. Diana Horvath emphasizes the importance of delivering durable genetic crop disease solutions for global food security.

As part of our  program to understand the genetic diversity of resistance genes in three important plant families, we have released the DNA sequences of a collection of disease resistance genes from 69 accessions of  Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant in the cabbage family, and from 8 accessions in the Solanaceae family, of which potato and tomato are members. Read more .  

In the last issue of our newsletter, we focused on the failure of the Florida tomato industry to adopt our transgenic tomatoes that have strong resistance to bacterial spot disease. Now this story has been featured by the Genetic Literacy Project. Read more .

From the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, to the spread of Panama disease of banana today, crop disease is a major force that has shaped history.

We have collated some of the major outbreaks throughout history to demonstrate the frequency and impact that these diseases can have.

Let us know if there are other outbreaks we should add.
Upcoming talks and events

Catch 2Blades at these upcoming industry events:

November 2-3 2017:   5th Plant Genomics & Gene Editing Congress USA , Philadelphia, PA
Dr Lynne Reuber, Program Director
"Applications of Plant Genomics to Engineer Durable Disease Resistance in Crops"

December 4-7 2017:   American Seed Trade Association Seed Expo , Chicago, IL
Dr Diana Horvath, President
"Durable Resistance for Soybean Disease"