Agriculture

Better food safety crucial for Africa
March 19, 2009 09:11 AM - SCIDEV

Africa must protect its food supplies from contamination by prioritising and investing in food production systems, says Ruth Oniang'o, editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Food Agriculture Nutrition and Development. January 2009 saw Kenya destroy US$8 million worth of maize — the country's staple food — after it was found to be contaminated with aflatoxin. But it seems the government agency concerned was more worried about recouping storage costs than righting its failures, says Oniang'o.

Why are GM Foods Not Labeled?
March 16, 2009 09:13 AM - My Green Choices

Genetically modified food, also known as GM food or genetically engineered food, entered the food supply in the 1990s. GM foods contain small pieces of foreign DNA (from other organisms and often from another species) however SA companies are not required to label foods that use GM ingredients. The foreign DNA in GM foods is engineered into the food in hopes of producing desirable traits like resistance to herbicides and pesticides, or resistance to specific pests. Insect-resistant maize, for example, is modified by inserting a bacterium gene that produces toxins and acts as an insecticide. Others have a gene that makes them indestructible when sprayed with certain herbicides.

Supreme Court limits advocacy groups' standing to challenge public lands rules
March 4, 2009 09:36 AM - NY Times

Advocacy groups cannot challenge federal regulations on public lands unless they can prove they are themselves directly threatened by the proposed rules, the Supreme Court ruled in a split decision today. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices sided with the Bush administration, which argued that environmental groups do not have the standing to sue the Forest Service on land management policies that might contradict congressional action.

Chinese farmers could cut fertiliser use, keep yields
March 3, 2009 09:12 AM - SciDev

The scourge of nitrogen pollution in China could be prevented by more efficient use of nitrogen fertiliser in farming — without compromising crop yields, researchers have found. Farmers in China often practise 'double-cropping', where a second crop of food is planted in the same field after the first crop has been harvested.

Study critiques corn-for-ethanol's carbon footprint
March 3, 2009 08:56 AM - Duke University

To avoid creating greenhouse gases, it makes more sense using today's technology to leave land unfarmed in conservation reserves than to plow it up for corn to make biofuel, according to a comprehensive Duke University-led study. "Converting set-asides to corn-ethanol production is an inefficient and expensive greenhouse gas mitigation policy that should not be encouraged until ethanol-production technologies improve," the study's authors reported in the March edition of the research journal Ecological Applications.

Poor communities get help with climate adaptation
February 27, 2009 08:41 AM - SciDev

A new global initiative will generate and share knowhow on strategies to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Global Initiative on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change was announced by Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the UK-based International Institute for Environment Development (IIED), at an international conference on community-based adaptation to climate change in Dhaka, Bangladesh yesterday (24 February).

Sourcing small and local
February 26, 2009 09:58 AM - WBCSD

Major multinational food and drink companies have a powerful role to play as drivers of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. By sourcing materials from poor countries in the region, for sale in domestic and international markets, these businesses can create jobs for local people and boost agricultural production. Global companies are starting to integrate the poor into their value chains as suppliers, distributors and retailers in ways that are profitable for their business. These approaches are what the United Nations Development Programme callsinclusive business models.

Global seed vault marks 1-year anniversary with four-ton shipment of critical food crops
February 26, 2009 08:34 AM - Global Crop Diversity Trust

LONGYEARBYEN, NORWAY (26 February 2009)—Four tons of seeds - almost 90,000 samples of hundreds of crop species - from food crop collections maintained by Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, USA, and three international agricultural research centers in Syria, Mexico and Colombia, were delivered today to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as it celebrated its one-year anniversary. The repository, located near the village of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, has in one year amassed a collection of more than 400,000 unique seed samples – some 200 million seeds.

Saving wheat crops worldwide
February 24, 2009 09:54 AM - CSIRO Australia

CSIRO Plant Industry scientists and international collaborators have discovered the key to overcoming three major cereal diseases, which in epidemic years cost wheat growers worldwide in excess of AUS$7.8 billion. In a paper published today in the prestigious journal Science, scientists from CSIRO Plant Industry, the University of Zurich and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center have identified a wheat gene sequence which provides protection against leaf rust, stripe rust and powdery mildew.

The Hidden Link Between Factory Farms and Human Illness
February 18, 2009 09:41 AM - Organic Consumers Association

You may be familiar with many of the problems associated with concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. These "factory farm" operations are often criticized for the smell and water pollution caused by all that concentrated manure; the unnatural, grain-heavy diets the animals consume; and the stressful, unhealthy conditions in which the animals live. You may not be aware, however, of the threat such facilities hold for you and your family’s health — even if you never buy any of the meat produced in this manner.

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