The Global Fool

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Global Threats: The Spread of Crop Pests
Sep02

Global Threats: The Spread of Crop Pests

By Roberta Attanasio One of the major global threats to food security is the current spread of crop pests, unintentionally moved by human activity across world regions at unprecedented rates. Crop pests include viroids, viruses, bacteria, oomycetes, fungi, nematodes, and insects. In the past, this spread was limited by physical barriers such as mountains, seas and deserts. However, such natural limits are now bypassed because of the rapid increase in international and intercontinental agricultural trade. To date, more than 12,000 alien species have been documented in Europe by DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventory for Europe), a unique three-year research project involving more than 100 European scientists and funded by the European Union. Many of these species are insects. Indeed, it seems Europe has already been invaded by over 1,000 insects, including some of the most invasive species, such as the Tobacco Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), the Western Corn Rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera) and the Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). What are invasive alien species? According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, invasive alien species are animals, plants or other organisms introduced by man into places out of their natural range of distribution, where they become established and disperse, generating a negative impact on the local ecosystem and species. Several factors contribute to the spread of invasive alien species. Border controls form the last line of defense against these invasions – inspectors intercept and stop consignments that are contaminated with harmful alien species. Insufficient border controls may lead to increased spread. Results from a study entitled “Gaps in Border Controls Are Related to Quarantine Alien Insect Invasions in Europe” and published last year in the scientific journal PLOSone, suggest that European countries with gaps in border controls are subjected to invasion by higher numbers of insect pests. Although spread of crop pests is facilitated primarily by human transportation, increasing concerns are related to the effects of climate change — climate change allows the establishment of pests in previously unsuitable regions. Indeed, results from a new study entitled “Crop pests and pathogens move polewards in a warming world” (published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change) indicate that global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests and pathogens towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km a year. The study is based on the analysis of published observations collected over the past 50 years. It examines the distribution of 612 crop pests and pathogens to conclude that their movement north and south towards the poles, and into previously un-colonized regions, corresponds to increased temperatures during that period.   Daniel Bebber, lead author...

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Quinoa Production Goes Global
Aug17

Quinoa Production Goes Global

By The Editors There are at least two staple foods that The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) would like to see in our future: edible insects and quinoa. While it may take some time to see edible insects on the Western dinner tables, quinoa is already around, well-respected and well-adapted. The FAO has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” A few days ago (August 12-14) the role that quinoa’s biodiversity and nutritional value plays in providing food security and nutrition and in the eradication of poverty, was discussed at the International Quinoa Research Symposium hosted by Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington.  The symposium featured presentations from quinoa experts from around the world and included, in addition to discussion and presentations of current research, hands-on demonstrations at area field trials. WSU sponsored the symposium as partial result of funding received in 2012 by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. The grant will help develop adapted varieties and optimal management practices for quinoa production in diverse environmental conditions. The new acquired knowledge will be disseminated to Extension educators who can educate producers. Indeed, until about 15 years ago, quinoa was practically unknown outside of the Andean region of South America. Now, quinoa is a lucrative export crop and, as you may expect on the basis of FAO and USDA endorsement, is expected to go global.  However, during the symposium, agricultural researchers from different countries, including Egypt, Tibet, Denmark, France, Australia and others, reported not only stories of success but also stories of failures. Many varieties of quinoa only grow well in the cool, dry, highlands of the Andes. Researchers are testing different varieties from the Andean countries to identify some that will grow well in different areas while, at the same time, produce a seed that people like. Because quinoa production is expected to go global, researchers are also finding ways to mass-produce this crop and harvest it with machines — because of the extremely variable maturity periods, quinoa is usually harvested by hand. However, one of the major issues at the moment is that of fairness to the Andean farmers. During the conference, there was discussion of a potential solution: the creation of a special brand from quinoa produced in the Andean region, where indigenous peoples have preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature. We’re looking forward to this (potential) new brand of Andean “soul food” and we hope this will be one of many...

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Quinoa: A Future Sown Thousands of Years Ago
Aug14

Quinoa: A Future Sown Thousands of Years Ago

By The Editors The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared the year 2013 “The International Year of the Quinoa” to serve as a catalyst for increased production and consumption of quinoa. The Andean indigenous peoples have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature. Like the potato, quinoa was one of the main foods of the Andean peoples before the Incas. Traditionally, quinoa grain are roasted and then made to flour, with which different types of breads are baked. It can also be cooked, added to soups, used as a cereal, made into pasta and even fermented to beer or chicha, the traditional drink of the Andes. When cooked, it takes on a nut-like flavor. Quinoa can be found natively in all countries of the Andean region, from Colombia to the north of Argentina and the south of Chile. The main producing countries are Bolivia, Peru and the United States. The cultivation of quinoa has transcended continental boundaries: it is being cultivated in France, England, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Italy. In the United States it is being grown in Colorado and Nevada, and in Canada in the fields of Ontario. In Kenya it has shown high yields. The crop can also develop successfully in the Himalayas and the plains of northern India. Quinoa can play a significant role in the eradication of hunger due to its nutritional qualities and agronomical versatility. The International Year of the Quinoa constitutes the first step in an ongoing process to focus world attention on the nutritional value of quinoa and the role that quinoa plays in providing food...

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The $11 Trillion Reward
Aug07

The $11 Trillion Reward

By The Editors According to a brand new report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), increasing our consumption of fruits and vegetables could save more than 100,000 lives and $17 billion in health care costs from heart disease each year. In addition, better farm policies, designed to encourage production of healthy food instead of processed junk foods, will help us reap those benefits. “The $11 Trillion Reward: How Simple Dietary Changes Can Save Lives and Money, and How We Get There” examines the linkage between fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of cardiovascular diseases. These diseases, the leading killer of Americans, include coronary heart disease and stroke, which together are responsible for 725,000 U.S. deaths each year. The report finds that if Americans consumed just one additional serving of fruits or vegetables a day, the nation would save $5 billion in health care expenditures and prevent 30,301 heart disease and stroke deaths annually. If Americans were to go a step further and ate a full 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily, as recommended by federal dietary guidelines, it could prevent 127,261 deaths each year and save $17 billion in medical costs. The economic value of the lives saved from cardiovascular diseases is an astounding $11 trillion. “Eating right is good for your health, and it rewards both your wallet and the economy,” said Jeffrey O’Hara, an agricultural economist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program and author of the report. “Helping Americans eat more of the right foods should be a public policy priority.” Current farm policies set by Congress and implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) channel taxpayer dollars into subsidies for commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans, which are used as feed for livestock, biofuels and as processed food ingredients. These policies offer few incentives for farmers to grow fruits and vegetables – effectively discouraging production of the very foods federal dietary guidelines recommend. “In addition to these perverse subsidies, these policies mean that consumers and taxpayers are footing the bill twice – once to subsidize commodity crops that become ingredients in unhealthy foods, and again to treat skyrocketing rates of costly diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and stroke,” said O’Hara. The three-minute video below, produced by UCS, summarizes how we can achieve an $11 trillion reward through forward-looking farm...

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It’s World Breastfeeding Week!
Aug04

It’s World Breastfeeding Week!

By The Editors World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. According to the Innocenti Declaration, breastfeeding is a unique process that:  Provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development. Reduces incidence and severity of infectious diseases, thereby lowering infant morbidity and mortality. Contributes to women’s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and by increasing the spacing between pregnancies. Provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation. Provides most women with a sense of satisfaction when successfully carried out. Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.     You can read below the objectives of World Breastfeeding Week 2013: 1. To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding. 2. To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counselling, and unite efforts to expand peer counselling programmes. 3. To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies. 4. To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth. 5. To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular Step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive...

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