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A protein called Rubisco is found in the leaves of most plants and sucks up carbon dioxide from the air and converts the carbon to sugar for the plant to use. Researchers at the University of Illinois are seeking ways to “hack” this process of photosynthesis to become more efficient by altering the plant’s DNA. Such a development would make the plants more productive. The research program is now working with tomatoes, soybeans, and cowpeas. Modified plants have grown as much as 40 percent larger than the unmodified counterparts.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Pigs are seen in a piggery. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)
African Billionaires Increase Philanthropy: Four of Africa’s wealthiest individuals have now signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has not yet taken the pledge, but has already created the Dangote Foundation with an endowment of $1.25 billion to support education, the arts, and humanitarian relief.
China Sets Poverty Eradication Example: China is responsible for more than 70 percent of the global fall of poverty levels over the last 40 years. In the 1960s, nearly 50 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty; today, that number is around 10 percent. Much of this shift is related to market reforms which stimulated agricultural productivity growths in the late 1970s, including private land ownership.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ISSUES
China’s Pig Problem: China has confirmed about 100 cases of African swine fever, a disease deadly to pigs. China’s animal husbandry and veterinary affairs bureau has said there will be an increase in investigations and punishments regarding the illegal activity in the pig industry. Taiwan, an island neighbor, fears their supply of pigs could soon become infected.
Disease Outbreak: South Africa has detected foot and mouth disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral disease that affects livestock. FMD is associated with a significant economic impact; Namibia has already suspended all imports from South Africa.
East African Aquaculture: The five-year fish farming project, True Fish, starts this year in East Africa and will run until 2024 under a budget funded by the European Development Fund. This comes after years of aquaculture not developing to its potential. Leaders from Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda are scheduled to meet in early February to get the project underway.
What is Foot and Mouth Disease: Also known as hoof and mouth disease, foot and mouth disease (FMD) causes a high fever and blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that can cause lameness. FMD is highly contagious between domestic animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and pigs. Humans have rarely been infected with the disease but can transmit the virus between farms. Vaccination campaigns have shown promise, but the FMD virus quickly evolves and mutates which makes vaccine development difficult.
Coca-Cola and China’s Obesity Fight: A new study authored by Susan Greenhalgh has focused on the Chinese government’s efforts to address a rising obesity crisis, as the percentage of obese Chinese adults more than doubled in the past two decades. In 1978, Coca-Cola was the first international company to re-enter China, where funding for chronic disease research was extremely low at the time. Chinese scientists accepted corporate research funding, and Greenhalgh argues that this partnership allowed the soda company to influence the Chinese government’s nutrition policy development.
Chinese Water Pollution: China’s extended campaign to tackle water pollution saw improvements and declines in 2018. The major waterways saw improved water quality, while rivers in the northeast were more polluted. The amount of water that can be used for agriculture and industry increased 1.6 percentage points.
Cassava Creation: Researchers in Nigeria have been working to improve the cassava crop by crossing African and Asian varieties to create a more resilient and universal crop. Five newly breed varieties have been sent to Thailand for planting.
Opinion – The Riddle of Indian Agricultural Marketing: Farmer protests in India have continued over low farm incomes, with some pointing to gaps in agricultural marketing as a culprit. More than 80 percent of Indian farmers grow on less than two hectares of land and face difficulties such as small agricultural surpluses, distances to procurement centers, and cumbersome bureaucratic procedures that hinder their ability to make use of government agency marketing tools.
Applications Open: Michigan State University is hosting the first annual Global Youth Advancement Summit from June 11-13, 2019. At this youth focused summit, delegates will be at the helm fully participating, and in fact driving, all summit activities. To accomplish this, GYAN has launched an open call for proposals to identify young people with innovative ideas, business ventures, and social impact initiatives that address global inequities. The application deadline has now been extended; apply now!
Ugandan Innovation: The Artificial Intelligence for Earth Innovation Awards have been given to 11 innovators around the world. Including Ketty Adoch, a Ugandan geographical information systems specialist in agriculture. Torsten Bondo, a business development manager and senior remote sensing engineer from Denmark, who applies AI to improve crop water efficiency in Uganda also received the award
Israel Takes Flight: Israel Aerospace Industries will introduce drones for large-scale precision agriculture with the help of Brazil’s Santos Lab Comercio E Industria Aerospacial. Israel’s new ability to produce reports on large farming areas with drones will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming decade.
Feed the Future Successes: Farmers in Ghana have seen an increase in agriculture productivity with the introduction of modern technologies and improved seeds. The Feed the Future USAID Agriculture Technology Transfer Project has been praised by stakeholders for making these significant contributions to the country.
TRADE & COMMODITIES
Monsanto in India: The Supreme Court in India has ruled that Monsanto, the US biotech company, can claim patents on its GM cotton seeds. India is the world’s biggest producer of cotton. Critics of the ruling say the high cost of GM seeds will be added to the growing debt crisis. Opposition rulers will seek a change in the patent agreement.
China Approves GM Crops: China has approved five new GM crops to be imported. This comes as the US trade delegation is meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing. The US is the world’s largest producer of GM crops and China has pledged to buy a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, and manufactured goods and services from the US.
Tanzanian Crop Production: An increase in crop production in Tanzania resulted in a dramatic drop in the prices over the past couple years. Farmers have been reassured of a reliable and consistent market with National Food Reserve Agency and the Cereals and Mixed Crops board buying their produce.
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
EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2019
Date: Jun 12-13
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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