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.

Putting meaning back into “sustainable intensification”, Loos et al, Ecological Society of America

The Top 10 Most Innovative Companies In Africa, Fast Company

2014 World Food Prize Honors Critical Breakthroughs in Wheat, World Food Prize

Gates Foundation funds production of ‘smart rice’ variety, Far Eastern Agriculture

Discovery of a bud-break gene could lead to trees adapted for a changing climate, Oregon State University

Parasites, killing their host, The New York Times

FAO Success Stories on Climate-Smart Agriculture, FAO

Climate change activists: your focus on food insecurity is backfiring, The Guardian [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.

Fairtrade: celebrating the first 20 years. What’s next?, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Linking school feeding programmes with local small-scale farmer production, PAEPARD

FAO Food Price Index sees sharpest rise in months, FAO

The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study, GLOBE International

Behind the Brands, Oxfam

RFA released for Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Sustainable Intensification, USAID

The magazine of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Special Issue 2014 on Food, John Hopkins

Crossfire: ‘Does Fairtrade have more impact than conventional trade or trade certified by other sustainability standards?’, Anderson et al, Food Chain

Changing sources of growth in Indian agriculture, IFPRI

We have no bananas today, The Economist

Renowned Expert: GMOs Pose More Risk Than We Think, The Motley Fool

Gene identified by Purdue scientists may ease the genetic modification of plants, Purdue University

FANRPAN has been ranked one of the world’s top think tanks, PAEPARD

[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.

Highlight: the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association (NASFAM) in Malawi, PAEPARD

FAO launches new standards for plant genebanks, FAO

Africa and India cultivate agricultural research ties, SciDev.Net

Who will pay for ecosystem services?, IIED

It’s not the ‘skipping’ three who should be questioned, it’s the wasteful supermarkets, The Independent

Pesticides halve bees’ pollen gathering ability, research shows, The Guardian

Natural Gas and Albacore: What Tuna Says About the Future of Mozambique, New Security Beat

Press Briefing of H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, PAEPARD

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa, IIASA

Genetic weapon against insects raises hope and fear in farming, New York Times [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.

African farming: Cassava now the centre of attention, Financial Times

Why GMOs matter — especially for the developing world, Grist

Abundance Doesn’t Mean Health, New York Times

Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie, Wired

Global Food Businesses Support Climate Smart Agriculture through New Web App, Cool Farm Tool

Lant Pritchett on why we struggle to think in systems (and look for heroes and villains instead), Duncan Green

African Orphan Crops Consortium announces 100 crops for sequencing, UC Davis

Plant Genetic Resources and Climate Change, CABI

India needs to export excess foodgrains, Money Life

Update on WTO Doha Round

bali_logoChapter four of One Billion Hungry describes the Uruguay and, later, Doha rounds of international trade negotiations. At the time of publishing little headway had been made in reducing tariffs, trade barriers and protectionist measures in the agricultural sector (tariffs for agricultural products are an average 62% compared to 4% for industrial goods) and since the Doha round began in 2001, there has been a stubborn stalemate between developed and developing countries. Reducing the number of proposals to agree in 2011, including measures on intellectual property and trade in services, (and spurring the moniker “Doha Lite”), the World Trade Organisation were seeking agreement between the 159 member countries at a recent meeting in Bali, the success of which looked likely to determine the continuance of Doha altogether, and the value of the WTO itself as this would be the first ever deal agreed under the WTO since its inception 1995.

On the 3rd to the 7th December ministers of trade met in Bali and despite several disagreements and standoffs, which threatened to derail the process, an agreement was met. So what was agreed exactly?

Central to the agreement is “trade facilitation”, which commits members to implement binding rules that reduce the amount of customs paperwork needed and set maximum time limits for goods crossing borders, a proposal that is estimated to add over $1 trillion to the global economy. For regions where goods crossing borders are subject to lengthy delays and difficulties, resulting in high transaction costs, an agreement such as this could lower the cost of imports. Reducing these transaction costs associated with trade by just 1% could boost the global economy by $40 billion, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. And the bulk of this increase in economic wealth is expected to benefit developing countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and the Central African Republic, which, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, have the worst scores for the ease with which goods can be traded across their borders.

A further agreement was around increases in farm subsidies, which are currently limited under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. India insisted it should be allowed to subsidise grain as part of its effort to tackle food insecurity, paying farmers higher than market prices for grains for its government domestic stores. As an interim measure, WTO members agreed not to bring disputes against countries breaching the farm subsidies limits as part of food security measures while a longer term solution is found but there remains concern that this gives India the power to distort global trade and undercut producers in other countries. Despite the negative impacts of subsidies, an alternative is yet to be found, and without this compromise India would have backed out of the agreement altogether, although they did agree not to ”distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other [WTO] members”. Development agencies are concerned that the agreement only last four years and only relates to currently held public food stock holding programmes. [Read more…]

Where are we on climate change?

ID-100103034 (2)Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and advisor to the UK government through the Committee on Climate Change, recently gave a talk at Imperial College London on the latest research and actions around climate change.

Global CO2 levels are currently at 397ppm (parts per million), a level not seen for 4.5 million years. We have increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by 40% since the Industrial Revolution. While there has been a clear and significant increase in global temperatures since 1850, we have seen a hiatus on temperature rises in the last decade. While sceptics may use this as evidence to support their claims, a decade of cooler temperatures is not outside the range of predictions from climate models.

Global sea levels are rising 3mm per year. While the melting of the Western Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is contributing around 1mm of this increase, it is unknown how likely this is to accelerate if we reach a threshold point of destabilisation. In the Arctic, recent pictures of the ice cap in mid-September (when it is at its minimum size) show it is half the average size it was in the last century. By 2050-2060 we would expect the arctic ice cap to have vanished come September.

We have seen some significant heat extremes in the past decade: the 2003 European heatwave, 2010 Russian heatwave and more recently the 2012 US drought. Work by NASA scientists Dr James Hansen and colleagues indicates a shift to more frequent and severe bouts of high temperatures. But it is not just heat extremes, as the climate changes we are also seeing cold extremes in certain locations despite remarkable warmth elsewhere. This indicates our ability to predict regional trends is much more limited than our ability to predict global averages and while we may, in the past have viewed climate change as a warming of the planet, now we are trying to understand it as a disruption of our climate systems, one that will have severe and varied results. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

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

India farmers think big but grow micro to enrich their soil, The Guardian

The radical nature of development in the near future is already assured, The Guardian Poverty Matters Blog

Africa must get real about Chinese ties, Financial Times

Harsh deal climate in sub-Saharan Africa, Financial Times

Goldilocks Had It Right: How to Build Resilient Societies in the 21st Century, New Security Beat

The G8 and land grabs in Africa, GRAIN

The solution to Africa’s woes lies with Africans, not the west, The Guardian

East Africa: East African Farmers to Gain From Disease Resistant Banana, AllAfrica

Climate Conversations – “Part app, part map” tracks Amazon forest loss, AlertNet

Climate Conversations – Threshing mills make life less of a grind for West African women, AlertNet

World poverty: Can the G8 deliver on the promise it made at Gleneagles?, The Guardian

Mark Lynas: truth, treachery and GM food, The Guardian

Technology drives Africa transformation, Financial Times

Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North’s Growing Seasons, NASA