November 8, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Trade Deal | Chickpeas | Innovation

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An End in Sight?

After a months-long trade war with global agricultural market consequences, the United States and China have announced the first phase of a larger trade deal. This first step includes the United States and China agreeing to phase out tariffs. No time table has been released, but China’s ban on US poultry imports and the US tariffs scheduled to go into effect on December 15 are believed to be part of the negotiations. Although officials seem tentative, some markets reacted positively to the news. OF THE WEEK

Farmers work at their farmland on a bank of the River Nile in Luxor, Egypt, October 27, 2019. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh) ACTORS 

Food Security Partnerships: The FAO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a permanent intergovernmental organization comprising of eight Eurasian member-states, agreed to boost joint efforts aimed at providing food security and sustainable development for present and future generations. FAO and the SCO have previously collaborated on topics such as transboundary animal diseases.


Gender and the UN Security Council: In 2000, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda was instituted via a unanimous passage of a UN Security Council Resolution. One key aspect of this agenda is “gender mainstreaming.” The Chicago Council’s Women, Peace, and Security Fellow Katelyn Jones offers a systematic and quantitative analysis of Security Council meeting transcripts to examine how the WPS agenda has affected member states’ approaches to security council concerns.


Dangerous Rains: Heavy rains have caused flooding in East Africa, affecting over 1 million people and rainfall is expected to continue for at least a month. Crops have been destroyed and over 180,000 people have been displaced. The floods are a worrying sign of how climate change is affecting vulnerable communities, already dealing with dry spells and the aftermath of war.

Tragic Realities for Indian Farmers: The number of female farmers dying by suicide in India is increasing. Indian farmers’ debt cycle as a result of an agrarian crisis is a decades-long problem, exacerbated by a lack of public information on its true extent. Ballooning rates of microlending, often targeted at women, is believed to be a contributing factor.

Dearth of the Nile: Egypt faces increasing food and water scarcity as the Nile, the country’s predominant source of water, comes under pressure from increased usage, upstream dams, and higher temperatures. Limits on water-intensive rice planting and government efforts to update irrigation practices have faltered. If nothing changes, Egypt is expected to cross the absolute water scarcity threshold within six years. DIVE

How the Nile Helped Develop Agriculture: The Nile as we know it formed more than 120,000 years ago. The Nile Valley was first home to early herding peoples, and has been foundational to Egyptian irrigated agriculture for more than 5,000 years. This strong agricultural base allowed for the growth of Egyptian society. Diversion dams constructed from the nineteenth century onwards have altered the flow of the river, and have continued to spur international controversy as upstream nations have been accused of endangering their downstream neighbors. CRUNCH

Opinion – Data Crucial to Early Response: Ongoing efforts by the World Bank and the United Nations to tackle Somalia’s food crises highlight the importance of data-driven insight in effectively executing anticipatory action. 

Fishy Absence: Researchers in Japan have found evidence that a widely used variety of pesticides has had the unintended consequence of starving local fish. The study reminds scientists of the complicated effects and implications on food webs and ecosystems.


Climate Resilient Chickpea: Scientists at the UC Davis’ Feed the Future Innovation Lab are fortifying chickpeas, a traditionally vulnerable crop, by making them genetically diverse and resilient to climate change. As the primary source of protein for 20 percent of the world’s population, chickpeas offer a significant opportunity in the fight to build global food security. 

New Delhi Chokes: The city is suffering from the worst air quality on the planet, forcing schools and offices to remain shut while the government scrambles to respond. Every winter the Indian capital’s pollution problem is exacerbated as thousands of farmers in surrounding areas set fire to their land in preparation for the upcoming sowing season. Yet farmers feel unfairly blamed, and point to year-round pollution that persists beyond their burning season.


Cleaner Cows: Cows emit methane when they eat grasses and other feed, making them a primary source of global methane emissions. A California startup is experimenting with a seaweed supplement to traditional feed, claiming it can dramatically reduce or even eliminate these emissions. The supplement is still only in use on university farms but has been tapped for a pilot project next year.

Food Tank Fellowship: Researchers and writers are encouraged to apply to Food Tank’s Research, Writing, and Event Fellowship. Based in Chicago, fellows will receive mentorship and support from Food Tank staff while assisting with a wide range of projects. Apply here.


A DARPA for Farmers: Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA) introduced new legislation to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Terra (ARPA-Terra) at the USDA. The goal of the agency would be to invest in innovative agricultural technologies that will increase economic opportunity for farmers and ranchers. The bill sets the bar for future agricultural R&D policy and has the potential to yield innovations that will benefit global agriculture. & COMMODITIES

Food Prices Rise: Food prices have risen for the first time in five months, according to the latest figures from the FAO. The jumps can be raced to increases primarily in sugar and cereal prices. Lowered sugar production in Thailand and India, as well as a lowered global cereal production forecast contributed to the rise.

China Diversifies Supply: Still reeling from the African swine flu epidemic, the Chinese government said it will reduce the number of small slaughterhouses in operation. The news comes as China announced new deals to import pork from Danish and Brazilian companies while lifting bans on Canadian meats. EVENTS
International Summit on Agriculture & Food Science
Date: November 11
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Innovation and Investment in Food and Agriculture: Convening a Global Network
Date: November 14
Location: Chicago, IL

International Conference on Agricultural Statistics
Date: 18-19 November
Location: New Delhi, India

Global Summit on Food Microbiology & Nutrition
Date: 2-3 December
Location: London, UK

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.