February 22, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Foodborne Illnesses, Trade Slow Downs, Urban-Rural Water

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From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future

By 2050, over one half of the world’s population could be at risk due to stress on water resources. How will we grow an adequate quantity—and quality—of food to feed and nourish a rapidly growing, urbanizing world in the face of increasing water insecurity? Hear from government leaders, social innovators, and influencers at this year's Global Food Security Symposium. Register now.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-09-21/5xdymt/557772/224304/quote2.pngTOP STORY

Foodborne Illnesses Remain a Stubborn Problem
Africa continues to suffer from the world’s highest rate of foodborne illnesses. A new report from the World Bank’s Global food Safety Partnership suggests a major reason why: much of the infrastructure development on the continent related to food safety are concentrated in export-focused industries. One unintended consequence of this focus is that investment in food safety for the domestic consumer remains weak. According to the WHO, foodborne diseases are responsible for 137,000 deaths and 91 million acute illnesses in Africa each year, with the majority of those affected under the age of five.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvc/557772/225998/camera_icon.pngPHOTO OF THE WEEK

Both city dwellers and rural residents must think differently about water and the future of the food and water system. Read more in our series, Uncharted Waters.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/globe_icon.pngBIG ACTORS

Wins and Loses: An EU appointed group of experts have detailed the positives and shortcomings of the External Investment Plan (EIP) to create jobs in African agriculture. They pointed to the $96 million guarantee from a French Development Agency that is designed to give affordable credit to underserved producers and small rural businesses. They also explained how, despite the EIP incentives, agriculture is still seen as too risky to attract investment.

Tractor Trade: John Deere, manufacturer of agriculture, construction, and heavy equipment, has been in discussion with the government of Zimbabwe about providing $50 million worth of agriculture mechanization equipment and farmer training. This deal will help support food security and help Zimbabwe reach their economic development goals.

Cities, Centered: FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva promoted urban commitments to food security and nutrition at a meeting in New York. Da Silva emphasized a local focus to compliment national efforts to meet 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 11, aimed at sustainable cities, is deeply linked with and important to all other SDGs. 

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvw/557772/226010/insights_icon.pngCOUNCIL INSIGHTS

Uncharted Waters: Growing Cities, Changing Diets

Already, a quarter of cities are classified as water stressed. By 2050, 66 percent of the world’s people will live in cities, generating a potential increase in demand for water of 80 percent and significant and likely competition or conflict between cities and rural areas. However, booming population growth will also mean demand for food will also increase by 50 to 60 percent, largely fueled by growing cities and their changing diets. Cities need farmers to produce more food and more diverse foods, but they will also need them to do so with less water so that there is enough go around. A tough but solvable challenge.

Read the latest post in our new series, Uncharted Waters, as we explore the challenges of feeding and nourishing a rapidly growing global population in the face of water scarcity.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkywr/557772/226026/grow_Icon.pngFOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES

Border Crossing Disease: Vietnam confirmed that African swine fever has been detected on three farms. These are the first cases in Vietnam, a country where pork accounts for more than three quarters of their total meat consumption. China, Vietnam’s neighbor, has seen the rapid spread of the disease on their farms since last August.

Armyworm Attack: India’s corn production has been greatly destroyed by below-normal monsoon rains and an infestation of armyworm. To buffer the impacts the government will have to lift their current 60 percent import tax and find a country that will import non-GMO strains of corn to them. India’s agriculture supports approximately half of their 1.3 billion people, resulting in increased concerns about their agricultural economy.

Locusts at Large: The FAO reports that a current locust outbreak in Northeast Africa and Saudi Arabia could have major impacts. Recent heavy rains and cyclones caused conditions perfect for a blooming in the locust population, and swarms have migrated quickly. Locusts are a threat to agricultural production—in one day, one swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/news_icon.pngDEEPER DIVE

Winged Invaders: Major locust swarms have plagued northern and western Africa as recently as 2004, where large populations massed in the Sahel before continuing across the continent to northern Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. One swarm in Morocco during this outbreak was reported to be nearly 143 miles long and 94 miles wide and contained over 69 billion insects. Strong rains in the Red Sea coastal plains during fall 2018 have allowed for two generations of locus breeding, increasing the threat of another major outbreak.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/chart_icon.pngDATA CRUNCH

Meet the Future’s Meat: A new study examines the potential climate impacts of the nascent cultured (lab-grown) meat industry in comparison with traditional beef production. The tech-intensive industry may not be as climate friendly as previously thought. Although traditional meat, especially cattle, produces large amounts of methane, this greenhouse gas dissipates more quickly than CO2. If cultured meat production utilizes current manufacturing methods, it may end up producing more greenhouse gas than the industry it hopes to replace.


Avoiding Food Insecurity: South Africa will have to produce 50 percent more food by 2050 to feed an estimated population of 73 million people, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Smallholder farmers without support, market dominance squeezing out smaller players, and the cost of healthy food were detailed as the key hurdles to food security. If actions to correct unsustainable practices are not addressed and fixed soon, there will be a food security crisis.

Hunger Concerns: The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa announced that 257 million Africans, a fifth of the total population, are undernourished as hunger continues to rise in the continent. Causes included the worsening of global economic and environmental conditions and, in many countries the combination of conflict and climate variability.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkzwh/557772/226054/big_ideas.pngBIG IDEAS

A Nudge in the Eco Direction: Sweeping programs may not be the only way to support healthier, more sustainable eating. The concept of “nudging,” from behavior science, suggests that making small changes to choice architecture can have big results. By changing the placement of healthy options, or by making a plant-based option the default at a restaurant, a business can change how people eat. These nudges can add up to a big impact.

From Vine to Table: Naturipe, a farmers’ co-op and fruit distributor, is working with software company SAP on an initiative that applies blockchain technology to food supply chain to improve food safety and reduce waste. From farm to customer, each crate of fruit is attached with a QR code to ensure complete visibility of the produce. Temperature recorders and GPS trackers are used to track and follow fruit quality. Information will be uploaded to the blockchain cloud where customers can view as well by scanning the QR code.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkzwt/557772/226058/dc_icon.pngDC REPORT

US Farm Exports Expected to Fall: USDA announced that it expects US agricultural exports to fall by $1.9 billion from last year to $141.5 billion. USDA tied the fall in exports to the ongoing trade dispute with China. In the 2019 crop year the United States exported 24 million metric tons of soybeans, down 13.5 million metric tons from this time last year. With the trade dispute, exports to China alone have plummeted by 90 percent.

SEE ALSO: Ag Secretary Says that US Can Recover Lost Farm Trade to China

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/market_icon.pngTRADE & COMMODITIES

Global Trade Slow Down: According to the World Trade Organization, world trade has slumped to a nine-year low. Officials sited concerns related to ongoing trade tensions and financial volatility. The metric is based on trade volume in export orders, international air freight, container port throughput, car production and sales, electronic components, and agricultural raw materials. Agricultural raw materials were among the lowest metrics within the indicator, approaching levels seen during the financial crisis.

DowDuPont Expansion: Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture unit separating from DowDuPont Inc, reported that expected total sales for 2019 will be flat due to a weakened euro and Brazilian real, higher crop inventories, and commodity prices. Corteva is planning on marketing a mew genetically modified soybean to farmers in Brazil, Canada, and the United States within the next year.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngUPCOMING EVENTS

SXSW Conference Panel: Cultivating the Next Generation of Food Leaders
Date: March 13
Location: Austin, Texas
Global Food Security Symposium 2019
Date: March 20-21
Location: Washington, DC
Land and Poverty Conference 2019: Catalyzing Innovation
Date: March 25-29
Location: Washington, DC

FAO/WHO/WTO International Forum on Food Safety and Trade
Date: April 23-24
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2019
Date: Jun 12-13
Location: Stockholm, Sweden


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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


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