July 10, 2020 | By Julia Whiting

Global Food for Thought: Nutrition Costs | Livestock Funding | Locust App

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The Cost of Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition in low- and middle-income countries is costing firms up to $850 billion a year, a new report finds. Industries that rely on manual labor are most affected, including mining, agriculture, and construction. However, the report claims there were big losses caused by malnutrition in all 13 business sectors examined. Across 19 countries studied, productivity losses due to employees underperforming because they were underweight cost companies around $38 billion, while losses due to obesity cost up to $27 billion. These findings were scaled up to account for all low- and middle-income countries. Researchers believe their estimations are probably low, as they were not able to study conditions such as anemia and short stature. Recommendations include workplace nutrition policies, subsidized food at work, and paying employees a living wage.

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

​​​​​A man sprays pesticides against desert locust in a maize field in the village of Nadooto near the town of Lodwar, Turkana county, Kenya (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


Looking Back with 2020 Vision: In 1993, IFRPI launched its 2020 Vision Initiative to end hunger and malnutrition. This week a panel of three former three directors general—Shenggen Fan, Per Pinstrup-Andersen, and Joachim von Braun—discussed successes of the past 17 years and the challenges that lie ahead. After the panel discussion, the Council's Distinguished Fellow Catherine Bertini delivered one of four rapid fire presentations. Bertini explored the humanitarian issues the world has faced that couldn't have been predicted in 1993, including intensifying emergencies and an unpredictable climate. Next week, you can watch Bertini in an online discussion of the impacts of COVID-19 on women & girls.

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

LIVE STREAM: How to Understand our Globalized World
Date: July 14
Time: 1 pm CDT

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women & Girls
Date: 14 July
Time: 8 am CDT

LIVE STREAM: Autonomy and Activism in Hong Kong
Date: July 15
Time: 8:00 am CDT

LIVE STREAM: Anne Applebaum on Autocracy’s Seductive Lure
Date: July 23
Time: 12:30 pm CDT

Did you miss one of our previous livestreams? Don't worry! They are all available on our website to watch at any time. 


Palm Oil under Investigation: Malaysia’s Sime Darby Plantation, the world's largest palm oil company, will investigate claims of forced and child labor brought to global attention by an activist group which petitioned to the US Customs to ban the company's palm oil imports. The producer relies on over 337,000 migrant workers from neighboring Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh.

Trouble for Sugar: Sugar crops in Europe are threatened with the spread of beet yellows virus, which could reduce sugar production by 25 percent in France and Germany and up to 50 percent in Belgium. Brought on by aphids, the virus battle is complicated by the EU ban on the insecticides neonicotinoids as well as particularly dry weather, exacerbating the presence of aphids and increasing the risk of crop damage loss.

Lessons from the World’s Small Farms: The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization and its food systems. Large food systems help keep costs low, however, there are often costs to the environment, workers, and small farmers. Successes in small farming communities in around the world hold lessons for larger agricultural operations.

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

How much palm oil does Malaysia produce? Malaysia produces 28 percent of the world’s palm oil, and accounts for one third of world palm oil exports. The nation is second only to Indonesia in production and is projected to produce almost 20 million metric tons in 2020. The majority of Malaysian palm oil is exported, and the biggest buyers are India, China, and the EU.

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

An App for the Locust Fight: E-Locust is a new app used to help control desert locust in Kenya. The project, in coordination with the FAO, works to train locust scouts to locate swarms by uploading videos and pictures onto the app. Once a photo is uploaded, the app signals and deploys a team to spray pesticides on the swarm formations.


Trapping Carbon with Rocks: Enhanced rock weathering, the topic of a newly published research study, is the process of crushing rock onto farmland soil and transforming bicarbonate ions to carbonate minerals which will store carbon indefinitely. The study is the first to model and simulate what individual countries can contribute if large-scale carbon removal through this practice would be adopted. The study found if the US, China, and India adopted the method, up to one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide could be pulled from the air.


Print Your Dinner: 3D printing is being researched as an alternative to salmon and tuna for vegan markets in Europe. Using mushroom and pea proteins, the plant protein printing technologies have the capabilities to show realistic distributions of red and orange meat as well as white connective tissue and present a unique opportunity to be a sustainable and convincing alternative to commercial fish.

Food Systems Handbook: A new, open-source effort has launched in the form of a Food Systems Handbook. The Handbook crowdsources information on food crises as they develop, in the hopes of providing up-to-date information and resources to policy makers, NGOs, and the private sector. 


The New NAFTA: Amid the market challenges farmers and ranchers are facing due to Covid-19, the USMCA trade deal, or the “new NAFTA”, offers hope to the US agricultural industry, primarily through greater access for US wheat and dairy products abroad. The USMCA intends to improve North American supply chain security and resiliency, making the region more competitive through transparency, innovation and regulatory cooperation.

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

Climate Lessons: The Government of Uganda, in combination with assistance from the FAO and the Global Environment Facility, launched a project aimed to protect Uganda’s agriculture sector by promoting climate change interventions in agriculture. The project aims to expand access to climate smart agriculture knowledge through trainers and a Farmer Field School approach to implement climate change adaptation practices with a gender responsive approach.
Funding Livestock: The IFC and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have put $2.6 billion into the global livestock sector over the past decade, despite warnings about the sector’s impact on the environment. A recent report found that the funds went to large operations and multinational corporations, including a beef cattle feedlot in Madagascar, that is owned by a conglomerate of more than 20 companies. Activists argue that development bank funds should not go to large companies who raise livestock.

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

A Merge: Argus Media, a commodity pricing agency, absorbed Agritel, a French consultancy firm that offers risk management services for farmers and agribusiness. The move to acquire the company leads Argus to expand into agricultural markets with their fertilizer and biofuel services.

An International Exit: Guatemala will be leaving the International Coffee Organization, feeling that the organization has not done enough to address low coffee bean prices. The COVID-19 pandemic has tanked coffee bean prices, leaving little profit for small farmers. Coffee is the second biggest export for Guatemala and brought in $663 million the previous harvest season.

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

Transforming Food Systems for Affordable, Healthy and Sustainable Diets for All
Date: July 14
Time: 10 a.m. CDT

Managing Agricultural Trade in an Increasingly Chaotic World
Date: July 22
Time: 10 a.m. CDT

Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


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


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.