August 16, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Transitions | Food Safety | Cocoa Investment

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A Fond Farewell: 

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is bidding farewell to our managing director Alesha Black after nearly four years of excellent stewardship. She has guided the program through over a dozen publications and multiple symposia. Alesha will continue to work with the Council as a Non-Resident Fellow, and we eagerly anticipate her future accomplishments. 

Apply for the Managing Director, Global Food and Agriculture Program OF THE WEEK

Cocoa beans are pictured next to a warehouse at the Village of Atroni, near Suyani, Ghana. (REUTERS/Ange Aboa) ACTORS 

Tackling Food Safety: USAID has awarded Purdue University $10 million to establish a Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety in conjunction with Cornell University. The lab will develop programs to improve food safety in several African and South Asian countries and work to raise awareness on food safety issues worldwide.  

Drought Relief and Migration: The World Food Program is planning to quadruple the number of people assisted in Central American countries afflicted with drought. Maize and bean harvests have been harmed by five years of recurring drought, which is seen as a major driver of migration within and from the region.


Highlighting Insights from the Next Generation: Every year, our Next Generation Delegation is a highlight of the Global Food Security Symposium. The 2019 Delegation included entrepreneurs, students, authors, and lawyers, all with unique stories and insights on agriculture. This summer we have been featuring blog posts from the 2019 Next Generation Delegation, which cover domestic and international perspectives on the complex relationship between water and agriculture.


Opinion - Diversify crops: Demand for commodities like coffee, palm oil, and avocados has seen the world lose 70 percent of its food diversity since the 1900s. A study has found that monocropping commodities increases food insecurity. Open agricultural data can encourage businesses to develop corporate social responsibility and allow farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices.

Cocoa Investment: The World Bank recently announced a five-year plan to double Ghana’s cocoa production and improve its access to the $9 billion global cocoa industry as part of an initiative to create jobs and boost agribusiness. The World Bank will provide seedlings, inputs, and training on best agronomic practices to cocoa farmers.

Something Smells Fishy: According to a recent study, higher ocean temperatures are causing the mercury content in some fish species to increase, despite declining mercury emissions. It postulates that fish are changing their diets as a result of overfishing, and warmer water is requiring fish to expend more energy and eat more. DIVE

Why Food Diversity Matters: More than 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food, yet fewer than 200 make significant contributions to global food production. In fact, only nine crops account for 66 percent of all crop production. Diverse plants and animals help make food systems more resilient to pests, disease, and climate change. Reliance on a few crops makes species-specific shocks more devastating. CRUNCH

Coffee, Hold the Beans: Following the trend of meatless meat and dairy-free milk, a company has developed bean-free coffee. Impossible Foods, maker of the Impossible Burger, recently invested $2.6 million in Atomo, signaling confidence in the product. Based on a map of coffee’s molecular makeup, Atomo has created a beverage that contains many of the same chemical compounds as coffee. 


Pest Invasion: : Fall armyworm has spread to 21 provinces in China. Outbreaks largely affect smallholder farmers, who generate 90 percent of China’s crops. Managing fall armyworm is costly and difficult. Drought in southern China has already damaged crops, and the added pressure of this pest has led many farmers to consider switching crops or abandoning farming. 

Rice Growth: An African Development Bank project in Mali has seen rice and cereal yields rise dramatically after four years. The $52 million project aims to improve agricultural production of rice and vegetables to increase food security and reduce poverty. The project has built irrigated land, improved lowland quality, and allocated areas for women to establish market gardens. In some regions, rice yields per hectare have almost tripled.


Is Grass-Fed Beef More Environmentally Beneficial?: With many agricultural and climate researchers calling for reduced meat consumption, there has been an increasing debate on whether grass-fed beef is more environmentally beneficial than feed-lot finished beef. Measuring the impacts of feedlot and grass-fed methods is challenging. Several studies have suggested that feedlots lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, while others have suggested that the grass-fed approach results in carbon-trapping benefits.

See Also: London College Bans Beef
Soil and a Systems Spproach: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report on climate change, agriculture, and land use has spurred a number of responses and proposed solutions. Revitalizing soil through cover crops and farming techniques is one approach. Others have advocated for looking at food systems holistically, rather than focusing on isolated actions like reducing meat consumption.


Corn Slump: The USDA has released data revealing that American farmers planted more corn this year than expected, despite rains shrinking the number of acres planted. The announcement caused corn futures to fall to 2013 lows. Some farmers have questioned the report, citing discrepancies between National Agricultural Statistics Service and Farm Service Agency numbers. & COMMODITIES

End to Food Imports: Nigeria’s President Buhari has directed the country’s central bank to stop providing foreign exchange for food imports, stating that Nigeria has achieved food security. The central bank’s policy has historically been to stimulate agricultural growth and reduce dependence on food imports. Since 2015, the bank has been banned from providing foreign exchange for 41 domestically produced items and will now strictly work to diversify Nigeria’s economy.

How Brexit Affects Food Imports: Approximately 30 percent of the UK’s food comes from the EU. Brexit, with or without a deal, will have impacts on imports worth billions. An interactive shows agricultural export and import flows between the UK and EU that will be affected. 

See Also: British Farmers Race Against Brexit Clock to Fatten Sheep EVENTS

Global Food Innovation Summit
Date: September 3-5
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Aid & International Development Forum Global Summit
Date: September 4
Location: Washington, DC

FoodBytes! Chicago
Date: September 19
Location: Chicago, IL
Feeding the Future
Date: September 26
Location: London, England

Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium
Date: October 16-18
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention
Date: October 16-18
Location: Hyderabad, India

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.