October 19, 2018

This Week's GFFT News: Gene-Editing, Crop Burning, and Famine in Yemen

Apply now! Applications are now open for the 2019 Next Generation Delegation.

The Next Generation Delegation program provides an opportunity for promising students from around the world to attend the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC.

Delegates engage in symposium discussions and to interact with business and policy leaders, civil society, and social entrepreneurs working on agriculture, food, and nutrition issues. Applications are due on or before November 4, 2018

Top Story

State of the World: The FAO released its State of Food and Agriculture report, which focuses on migration. The report urges countries to adopt policies that maximize the positive economic and social impacts of migration. Though migration poses challenges, the report concludes that it also creates opportunities for rural development, equality, and the agricultural sector in sending and host communities.

Check out the FAO’s Digital Interactive for the 2018 State of Food and Agriculture Report.


The world’s largest rice gene bank has secured indefinite funding: The International Rice Research Institute was recently given a perpetuity fund by the Crop Trust, guaranteeing the institute $1.4 million annually for their research on creating new varieties of rice that can withstand flood and drought conditions as well as offering farmers increased yields. The Institute houses the largest rice collection in the world, with over 136,000 varieties.

Business Opportunities Abroad: In a new Agri-Pulse op-ed, John Willard III, the CEO of CAW Industries, Inc., discusses the expansive market potential for US agribusiness in developing nations. CAW Industries, Inc. is now partnering with food security stakeholders and seeking win-wins for profitability and global food security.

Opinion – EU Gene-Editing Decision: Marshall Matz argues in a new op-ed that the EU’s decision to regulate new gene-editing techniques in the same process as transgenic genetically modified plantswill unduly limit European biotech companies.


Apply Now!  Applications are now open for our 2019 Next Generation Delegation.
The Next Generation Delegation program provides an opportunity for promising students from around the world to attend the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC.

Delegates engage in symposium discussions and to interact with business and policy leaders, civil society, and social entrepreneurs working on agriculture, food, and nutrition issues.
Applications are due on or before November 4, 2018.


Giving a New Meaning to Food: World Food Prize Laureate David Nabarro argues that only through repurposing our food systems and giving food a new meaning can we ease the burden of global malnutrition. Civil society, governments, businesses, and researchers must enter in a collaborative dialogue to be able to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of ending malnutrition by 2030.

Opinion: Indigenous women’s land rights are the key to food security and nutrition. When land rights are recognized, women are able to improve their families’ diets and indigenous communities are better able to produce food for global consumption.

From Field to Air: Burning crops and fields contributes up to 50 percent of the smog pollution found in New Delhi, making it the most polluted city in the world. But abandoning the practice is no easy matter for farmers, who argue that despite its environmental impact, burning crops and fields remains the cheapest and least time consuming method of preparing their fields. 


Stubble Burning, or crop burning, is a widespread traditional agricultural practice that is utilized by farmers across the globe to clear straw stubble from fields after harvest. The practice has many advantages for farmers: it is cheap, fast, and kills pests and weeds. However, the smog produced is harmful for both the farmer’s health, and that of nearby urban centers. Burning cereal residues also removes nutrients from the soil—over 60 percent of nutrients stored in crop residues are lost through burning. 


Climate shifts affect crop production:  A study focused on global crop yields of four main staples—maize, wheat, soybeans, and rice—between 1979 and 2008, an estimation of a third of the variation in annual global crop productionwas attributed to fluctuations in temperature and rainfall. The study also revealed that some crops are more vulnerable to weather-variations than others.


New Funding for Nigerian Agricultural Development: The Aliko Dangote Foundation will invest $50 million to tackle the challenge of malnutrition in Nigeria and the African continent. The funding will support efforts to strengthen agricultural systems, as many of the continent’s malnourished people live in rural areas and are themselves farmers.

War and Famine in Yemen: Yemen could be facing the world’s worst famine in 100 years if the war continues, with up to 14 million people at risk. Initial calculations underestimated the level of need by between 1.5 to 2 million people. The famine is mostly driven by the increase in food prices caused by the civil war and currency destabilization.

New Oversight in Pig Farms: In response to the growing disease crisis in Chinese pig farms, the Chinese vice agricultural minister recommended that local governments increase oversight of large-scale pig farms. A new providence has reported an outbreak of the contagious African swine fever. Almost 50,000 animals have been slaughtered as officials seek to contain the outbreak.


Peer-to-peer Network helps Nigerian Farmers: One of the major challenges for local farmers is that they lack access to affordable loans. A breed of new peer-to-peer lending companies provides a solution through matching farmers with small investors. One of the companies, Farmcrowdy, has helped 7,000 small-scale farmers receive a total of $6 million from 2,000 investors in the last two years.

A Start-Up Scene Boosts Agriculture: In order for precision farming techniquesto become usable for farmers on the ground, they need to be affordable and user friendly. For example, Precision Agriculture for Development is developing a text message based tool that will help Kenyan farmers fight the fall armyworm, a devastating crop pest.

Aquiculture Training for Disabled Farmers: A new grant from the USAID has allowed INMED to expand its Adaptive Aquiculture Program, which allows people with disabilities in the Free State Province of South Africa to develop skills in aquaponics. Free State Province is considered the breadbasket of South Africa.


Bipartisan Commitment: In a new op-ed, Erik Pederson, Director for Government Relations for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, highlights the bipartisan support for international development demonstrated by the recent reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act. Much like the Marshall Plan, agricultural development abroad supports strategic alliances and economic partnerships—six of the 12 fastest growing economies are in Africa, and the continent’s food sector alone is poised to reach a value of $1 trillion by 2030.


Arabica Beans are Up Almost a Third: A increase in the value of the real, Brazil’s currency, has prompted a scramble to cover bets on the coffee and sugar market by hedge funds, which lead to a sharp rebound in both commodities. When the real’s value is lower, Brazilian farmers and exporters tend to sell more of their product to maximize returns, while a strong real will encourage them to hold back goods to avoid lower returns. Brazil is the largest producer of both sugar and coffee.
SEE ALSO: 70 percent of coffee farms in Central America are inflicted with coffee rust, a debilitating fungus. Since 2012, farms have seen a 50 to 80 percent loss of production, and there is no cure in sight; scientists warn that rust-resistant coffee varieties are not a long-term solution to the problem.

Wheat Shortage in Zimbabwe Continues: National Railways of Zimbabwe, a struggling rail transporter, has failed to transport nearly 179 wagonsof wheat. The situation is forcing bakers to raise the bread prices from $1.10 to $1.30 in the informal sector. Zimbabwe needs to import $12.5 million worth of wheat per month, enough flour to produce 1.9 million loaves of bread per day.


91st National FFA Convention
Date: October 24-27
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Food Loves Tech
Date: November 2-3
Location: Brooklyn, NY

International Forum on Food and Nutrition
Date: November 27-28
Location: Milan, Italy
Kellogg Leadership Alliance Conference
Date: November 29-December 2
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
International Phytobiomes Conference 2018
Date: December 4-6
Location: Montpellier, France

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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


| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.