What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Is Feed the Future delivering results? Yes – with some limitations, Global Food for Thought

Global leaders launch initiative to bridge conservation and agriculture, Bioversity International.

Corporations and the fight against hunger: why CSR won’t do, The Guardian

How Africa Can Transform Land Tenure, Revolutionize Agriculture, and End Poverty, World Bank

Small-scale Farmers: The Missing Element in the WIPO-IGC Draft Articles on Genetic Resources, Quaker United Nations Office.

What women farmers want to know, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Here are ways to make agriculture Africa’s best economic alternative, IPP Media

Innovation on farms, to improve food supply, addressed by conference, Irish Times

Findings Could Help Slash Child Malnutrition, Voice of America [Read more…]

Quality Protein Maize

A long-standing need to genetically enhance the nutritional value of cereal grains such as maize, led to the development of quality protein maize (QPM), a process which began in the 1960s. Maize is a significant food source for much of the developing world. Indeed in 12 developing countries, it makes up over 30% of total dietary protein.

In 1985 CIMMYT began a QPM hybrid breeding initiative. The aim to breed for a naturally-occurring mutant maize gene that increases levels of lysine and tryptophan, two amino acids necessary for protein synthesis. The development of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in the 1990s aided the speed with which to measure levels of lysine, which was previously both slow and costly.

Due to progress made by researchers on QPM and the apparent benefits for human nutrition, there has been a renewal of interest in QPM R&D and since the mid 1990s, QPM has been tested at research stations all over the world (at a rate of around 600 to 1000 hybrid combinations of maize per year). [Read more…]

Modelling Undernutrition

A new paper published in the Lancet in July 2012 aimed to redress the gaps in reporting child malnutrition across the world. Authors wanted to investigate the validity of a modelling approach to determining the status of child malnutrition at global, regional and national levels. Using data from a variety of sources, such as nutrition and household surveys and summary statistics from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, the authors calculated weight-for age Z scores. Using a Bayesian hierarchical mixture model to estimate Z score distributions, the authors investigated the validity of this model and its outcomes.

The overall findings were that globally in 2011, 314 million children under the age of five were mildly, moderately or severely stunted and 258 million were mildly, moderately or severely underweight. These results were also assessed with a view to exploring the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 (halving hunger and poverty by 2015). For all developing countries (141 in total), there is less than a 5% chance of meeting the MDG1 target but this chance is not evenly distributed with 61 of these countries reporting a 50-100% chance. Indeed while progress to meet MDG1 in Sub Saharan Africa would appear weak with only three countries on track, a further 13 are on track to halve poverty and 10 to halve hunger.