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.

Why illegal fishing off Africa’s coast must be stopped, The Guardian

Can Synthetic Biology Survive In A World Haunted By ‘Frankenfood’?, Forbes

Global land prices and the future of farming, Financial Times

We’re massively underestimating climate costs, experts warn, Grist

Agro-sylvo-pastoral systems to feed West and Central Africa, PAEPARD

Call to halve target for added sugar, BBC

A Global Biotechnology Perspective, Scientific American [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.

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.

Weight of the world: 2.1 billion people obese or overweight, Reuters

Despite all the highs and lows around the world, our number one challenge is how to feed humanity with nutritious food!, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development

Food, health and sustainability: we become what we eat, and so does Earth, The Guardian

12 Data visualizations that illustrate poverty’s biggest challenges, ONE

The Science of Inequality. What the numbers tell us, Science

3,000 rice genome sequences made publicly available on World Hunger Day, EurekAlert

UPDATE 2-EU member states back compromise to allow GM crops-diplomats, Reuters

EU biofuel targets need 70m ha of land, says report, Farmers Weekly [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.

Rice gene digs deep to triple yields in drought, SciDev.Net

Short-term action needed to meet 2° warming goal – report, Thomason Reuters Foundation

Africa’s agriculture commodity exchanges take root, Forbes

Keeping pace with plant pathogens, National Science Foundation

Genetically modified crops pass benefits to weeds, Nature

Hungry for change, The Age

China gobbling up wheat, as US exports to nation soar, NewsMax

Put a corn cob in your tank, The Wall Street Journal

Pesticide risks need more research and regulation, SciDev.Net

Mali’s fish traders get wise to wetland conservation, Thomson Reuters Foundation

What if Food Labels Served as Warning Signs Instead of Marketing Devices?, Take Part

Paper recommendation: Landscape Sustainability Science, Ideas for Sustainability

 

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.

Does “sustainable intensification” distract from sustainable development?, Ideas for Sustainability

Pro-organic group wants FDA to ban ‘natural’ label on GMOs, The Hill

Eight questions that need answers about lab-bred meat, The Conversation

From survival to competition: informality in agrifood markets in countries under transition, IIED

Rice gene digs deep to triple yields in drought, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Africa can feed itself and contribute to world food security, Dr Namanga Ngongi

How African innovation can take on the world, CNN

China approves first genetically modified Argentine cargo, Reuters

Most of Africa ‘not positive’ about growing genetically modified crops, BD Live

GM rice delivers antibodies against deadly rotavirus, SciDev.Net

 

Current increases in crop yields will not meet future food demand

ID-10062725 (2)Global food production must increase if we are to meet the rising demand for food, feed and fuel brought about by growing populations, incomes and western diets. It must increase in the face of severe natural resource constraints.  Current production growth, however, will not meet the world’s food needs, as a recent article by Ray et al, entitled Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050, attests.

To achieve food security we need to increase food production between 50 and 100% by 2050. Ray et al, however find that for four key global crops, maize, rice, wheat, and soybean, which currently produce nearly two-thirds of global agricultural calories, yield increases between 1961 and 2008 were only 1.6%, 1.0%, 0.9%, and 1.3% per year. To put this in perspective, a 2.4% per year rate of yield gains is needed to double crop production by 2050.

This high level analysis masks a lot of geographic variation. For example, maize yields are improving in Ethiopia, Angola, South Africa, and Madagascar but decreasing in such countries as Morocco, Chad, Somalia, Kenya and Zambia. There is a similar diversity in yield changes for soybean, wheat and rice.

One answer is to expand the amount of land we grow crops on (extensify), a solution that would be disastrous for the environment, for carbon emissions and for biodiversity, for which habitat loss is the biggest threat. The other is to intensify, increase the yields from existing agricultural land. Often intensification is associated with large-scale high-input commercial agriculture, also detrimental to the natural resource base. The UN estimates that 80% of the required increase in food production between 2015 and 2030 will have to come from intensification. Additionally strategies to reduce food loss and waste, change consumer eating preferences and ensure the food system is more equitable could also have a large impact.

In another recent article in Science, Garnett et al discuss a new paradigm that is gaining traction, one outlined by the Montpellier Panel in their 2013 Report, Sustainable Intensification: A New Paradigm for African Agriculture. Sustainable intensification (SI), which aims to reconcile food production and environmental protection, has been much discussed on this blog and is receiving increasing attention from decision makers. Garnett et al outline the four premises underlying SI: [Read more…]