January 19, 2016

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

A man sorts cocoa beans in west Ivory Coast. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Chocolate Makers Fight a Melting Supply of Cocoa
Global demand for chocolate, as well as cocoa prices, have risen steadily in recent years, but production is down. In response, Mondelez International has launched a cocoa sustainability program in Ghana, advising farmers on better ways to space seedlings, apply fertilizer, and prune trees. A similar program in Ivory Coast, the world’s number one cocoa grower, helped produce record crops in 2014-2015.
Stopping the Big Burp
The world’s ruminant livestock are an often neglected source of the greenhouse gas methane, which is estimated to be 25 times more powerful than CO2. In New Zealand, scientists at AgResearch are looking for ways to reduce the amount of methane the country’s animals produce. Possible approaches include the development of drugs to block enzyme action, vaccinations, strategic breeding, changes to the animal’s diet and, last but not least, a “fart tax” on farmers.
Our Favorite Banana May Be Doomed; Can New Varieties Replace It?
A fungus called Tropical Race 4 is killing off the Cavendish banana, the type of banana you find in the average grocery store. In response, scientists are commencing the search for a banana that is immune to Tropical Race 4 and could replace Cavendish. The sprint to beat the fungus relies on genetic diversity in Puerto Rico at the USDA's tropical agriculture research station—it’s just one of many banana collections around the world that might just hold the key to stopping the fungus's deadly reach.
Farm in a Box: Shipping Containers Reused for Fresh Produce
A Boston company is recycling shipping containers and turning them into high-tech mobile farms. Freight Farms says its Leafy Green Machine helps farmers produce a consistently bountiful crop (roughly the typical yield of an acre of farmland) while using 90% less water, no pesticides, and just 320 square feet of space.
How Biotech Will Help Achieve Zero Hunger
Enhanced seeds that can boost agricultural productivity and improve nutrition are one of the tools necessary to help eradicate extreme poverty and global hunger. If we hope to feed an expected population of 9.7 billion people by 2050, we need to increase agricultural productivity by 60% using less water. This means empowering smallholder farmers, particularly women, engaging the private sector, and scaling up proven technologies.
Asia Races to Find Drought-Resistant Rice
The International Rice Research Institute is working to develop seeds for new rice varieties that will be able to resist climate stresses such as floods, drought, and soil salinity that are expected to become more frequent due to global warming. Flood-resistant rice strains are already paying off in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, where millions of farmers now grow rice that can survive submergence in water for 14 to 20 days. Previously popular high-yielding rice varieties would be destroyed after just four or five days under water.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA