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.

Deep emissions cuts needed by 2050 to limit warming: U.N. draft, Reuters

Teaching a humongous foundation to listen to small farmers, Grist

New report links aquaculture and poverty reduction, WorldFish

The MDG Hunger Target and the Contested Visions of Food Security, Fukuda-Parr & Orr

The Power of Numbers: Why the MDGs were flawed (and post2015 goals look set to go the same way), From Poverty to Power

At last, some evidence on the national impact of the MDGs. In Zambia, rivalry with other governments and measurable indicators have made a difference, From Poverty to Power

The GMO Fight Ripples Down the Food Chain, The Wall Street Journal

How GMO crops conquered the United States, Vox

Coming soon: Genetically edited fruit?, EurekAlert

Let’s Use Organic and GMOs to Feed the World, Huffington Post [Read more…]

The indoor farming revolution

ID-100257129Indoor, vertical, hydroponic, urban. Whatever you want to call them, these high-tech farms are popping up all over the world from office buildings in Japan to research laboratories in the Netherlands to O’Hare International airport in Chicago, and even your own home. Here we talk about what they are, how they can revolutionise the food industry and what the major drawbacks are.

Introducing indoor farming

Access to arable land and fresh water is declining, traditional commercial farming methods are environmentally unsustainable and climate change is becoming less of a threat and more of a reality. In the face of these challenges we must produce enough food to feed a growing population, many of whom are chronically hungry. Some believe the answer lies in a radical transformation of our food production systems, namely indoor farming, a method that can reduce the inefficiency and waste (e.g. of water or of crops) associated with modern farming practices.

Indoor farming is happening across the globe, although predominantly in developed countries. The world’s largest indoor farm at 25,000 square feet is located in the old SONY factory located in eastern Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture. Some 380 enclosed farms growing fruit and vegetables are operating in Japan, including some run by electronics companies Fujitsu, Toshiba and Panasonic. But what is indoor farming? [Read more…]

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.

Africa Needs Science, Not Aid, The New York Times

Biotechnology in Africa, Springer

AfDB’s NERICA dissemination project receives US Treasury Award, PAEPARD

Can we change the goals of development without changing the implementers?, IIED

Fishy business, Nature

Climate change research goes to the extremes, Northeastern

Harvest of controversy, The Hindu

UPDATE 1-Brazil farmers say GMO corn no longer resistant to pests, Reuters

Geneticists offer clues to better rice, tomato crops, Phys.org

Climate change wins precarious slot in proposed development goals, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Milking it in Malawi, Global Food Security [Read more…]

Hunger – An Outdated Problem

Agriculture for Impact recently found out about a new online platform and campaign, Transfernation, aiming to tackle hunger through food re-distribution. Here one of their founders, Samir Goel, talks about why we need to shift our thinking about food to tackle hunger, an issue that should be a problem of the past.

THunger is an issue that is talked about constantly: at conferences and congregations, by the average farmer to senior world leaders. In the earlier days of mankind, well before industrialization and the rise of mass food production, this problem made logical sense. The challenge of getting enough food to feed ones family let alone society was a day-to-day struggle for many. Given the massive strides we have made in technology and education since; hunger should be a thing of the past. The fact of the matter is that we produce more than enough food to feed significantly more people than the entire world’s population.

If there is enough food for everyone why are we faced with widespread hunger and disparity in terms of access to food? We believe the problem lies in our own production system and cultural norms, problems that we can fix right now. Imagine if we could do that: a world in which people no longer go hungry. Perhaps hunger will never be entirely eliminated but it could very well become an afterthought, secondary to some of the other issues we face. In fact if just in America we stopped wasting the estimated forty percent of food produced that goes to waste each year we would be able to feed the entire food insecure population of America and then some. That’s what we are aiming to do here at Transfernation. Transfernation was co-founded in autumn 2013 by Hannah Dehradunwala and myself during our sophomore year of college. Transfernation aims to connect corporations and social institutions so that all the extra food from corporate events can go to homeless shelters and soup kitchens to help those in need. We are currently developing our online platform, which will act as a connector by providing corporations and social institutions with the necessary information to schedule food pick-ups to redistribute corporate extra to where it is needed. Eventually we aspire to become the person-to-person food-sharing network, essentially a “Craigslist for food”. [Read more…]

Efficiency the key to feeding more people without environmental damage

ID-10028951A new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, published in Science, shows that an extra 3 billion people in the world need not lead to higher levels of hunger if existing cropland is used more efficiently, additionally reducing agriculture’s environmental impact. The report focused on 17 crops that account for 86% of the world’s crop calories as well as the majority of irrigation and fertilizer use. The hope is that the report can help guide and prioritise donors’ and policy makers’ activities for the greatest benefit.

The report identifies three areas of priority that, with the suggested actions, hold the most potential for meeting global food needs and reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint, a key pillar of sustainable intensification. Geographically the majority of these opportunities occur in China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan and Europe. To summarise we need:

1. To produce more food on existing land, in particular closing yield gaps. An estimated 850 million people could be fed by closing the most dramatic yield gaps, in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, by 50%.

Closing yield gaps may seem a simple task through technology and access to productive resources but the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) believe that we need to rethink how we approach yield gaps, taking a whole systems approach.

2. To grow crops more efficiently, in particular using water and nutrients more precisely and reducing climate impacts. The largest potential gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as pinpointed by the study, could come from deforestation in Brazil and India, rice production in China and India and crop fertilization in the U.S.

The U.S., China and India, and particularly their maize, rice and wheat production, were also found to be the largest sources of the overuse of nutrients in the world. Across the globe 60% of nitrogen and around 50% of phosphorus applications are in excess of amounts needed by crops. A 2012 article on China Dialogue highlights the dangers of overusing fertilizer. Improving the efficiency of fertilizer use would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Together with Pakistan these countries are also responsible for the majority of irrigation water use, water that could be reduced by 8 to 15% without yield penalties by improving crop water use efficiency.

3. To use crops more efficiently, in particular reducing food waste and reducing the proportion of crop calories going into livestock feed as opposed to directly for human consumption. Current crop animal feed, predominantly maize, could feed approximately 4 billion people. Such a shift would require widespread behavioural change, reducing the overreliance on meat in developed countries, although the report’s authors highlight the potential to shift crops from livestock to humans in times of crisis. [Read more…]

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.

The sustainable intensification of European agriculture, Rise

The Role of Trees in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics, PAEPARD

World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs – NGOs, The Guardian

Food waste reduction could help feed world’s starving, BBC

The Next Green Revolution May Rely on Microbes, PBS

Which governments are doing best/worst in the fight against hunger and undernutrition?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Food security report – MPs call for ‘Plan B’ for animal feed, Farmers Guardian

Fertilizers: quality over quantity, Global Food Security

Picking up the pieces from a failed land grab project in Tanzania, Global Post

Agronomic and environmental aspects of the cultivation of genetically modified herbicide-resistant plants, Tappeser et al (eds)

Malnutrition a threat with use of climate-resilient crops, scientists say, Thomson Reuters Foundation

‘Land grabbing’ could help feed at least 300 million people, study suggests, EurekAlert [Read more…]

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.

G8 and FAO’s open-agriculture projects set to join forces, SciDev.Net

Agriculture: Engage farmers in research, Nature

Can you be resilient on one acre or less?, IFPRI 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference

Center for Food Safety Report Warns TTIP Could Undermine Critical Food Safety and Environmental Regulations, Center for Food Safety

A bigger rice bowl, The Economist

Miracle grow: Indian rice farmer uses controversial method for record crop, The Guardian

AGRA-backed companies become largest seed producers in sub-Saharan Africa, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Birth of the Great GMO Debate, Scientific American

Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change, The Wall Street Journal [Read more…]