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Agroecology, Blue Foods, and Happier Meals

Global Food for Thought by Julia Whiting
REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria
Venezuelan fisherman clean equipment from oil spill.

Check out the week's top news and research in food, agriculture, and global development.

Top Story

Protests Turn Deadly

After a year of protests over Modi’s agriculture laws in India, violence broke out in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district between farmers and ruling party supporters. At least nine people were killed, including four farmers and four members of the BJP party. In response to the violence, authorities banned gatherings and suspended internet in the district. Farmers say they are going to step up protests in the region, and demonstrations were staged in New Delhi and Bengaluru.

Council Insights

What Americans Think

Americans support US global engagement and leadership, finds the 2021 Chicago Council Survey. Focused on the Biden administration’s “Foreign Policy for the Middle Class,” the survey also finds that majorities of Americans consider improving public education and reducing racial and economic inequality as very important to the US international influence. Read the full report to find out more.   

Food & Agriculture

Fisheries Impacted by Oil Spill

A breach in a Venezuelan-owned pipeline gushed for at least 10 days, leaving an oil slick that floated over fishing grounds and coating nets before washing onto the shores of western Venezuela. Shrimp farms and fishing grounds in the area have been harmed by the spill, but the country lacks the means to compensate those who have been impacted.

Drought in Kenya

The drought in Kenya has left millions without food and water and killed hundreds of thousands of animals in the North and Coast regions. Currently, more than 2.5 million Kenyans are facing a food shortage. The United Nations is issuing a $139-million flash appeal to aid 1.3 million people in Kenya hardest hit by a severe drought.

Climate and Conflict

In advance of November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), a new report identifies 30 hotspot countries facing high levels of ecological threats—such as food and water risk—alongside other factors like government corruption. The researchers call for integrated approaches for relief and development.

Deeper Dive

Long-lasting Locust Damage

Two years of devastating locust swarms have compounded the effects of Kenya’s multiyear drought. According to the most recent FAO assessment, the locust situation remains very serious in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Locusts from Ethiopia and Somalia’s summer breeding sites are expected to mature soon.

Data Crunch

Not All Meat

Campaigns in rich nations that pressure the developing world to eat less meat could harm the lives of millions, new research has found, highlighting the dangers of one-size-fits-all climate remedies. The European Research Council says a black-and-white “meat and dairy are bad” message is heavily skewed towards Western farming practices, threatening to undermine economies in low-income countries that rely on non-intensive, low-impact cattle farming.

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Open-Source Solutions

The Food Systems Handbook, a collaborative project to identify effective food systems interventions via research, interviews, and roundtable discussions, published new research on crop diseases and pests. Informed by an expert roundtable and other research, the report includes impacts crop diseases and pests and potential solutions.

Opinion: Blue Food Revolution

Our food system currently leaves three billion malnourished and will have to feed 10 billion people by 2050. Fish, shellfish, and algae that are caught or cultivated in fresh or saltwater are poised to play a key role in addressing this gap and building a better food system in the future, argues Jim Leape, Co-Director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions.

Big Ideas

Funding an Agroecology Transition

A venture capital company, RePlant Capital, aims to increase farmer profitability and environmental outcomes by financing the transition of farmland from agrochemical practices to regenerative and organic agriculture. To help more farmers make the transition, RePlant aims to deploy $2 billion to farmers.

The Business Case for Traceability

Envisible, a food procurement company, uses a mobile-based traceability platform to increase transparency in the food supply chain. Many farmers and fishers live in rural areas with low connectivity. Envisible is making the case to major telecom companies that producers interested in traceability are potential new customers, in the hopes of expanding broadband access.

DC Report

Investment in Sustainable Agriculture

USDA Secretary Vilsack announced an investment of more than $146 million in sustainable agricultural research projects aimed at improving a robust, resilient, climate-smart food and agricultural system. The program will focus on a broad base of research including addressing labor challenges, promoting land stewardship, and correcting climate change impacts in agriculture and critical needs in food and nutrition.

Big Actors

Potential Pig Culling

Britain's farming industry has warned that up to 150,000 pigs may have to be culled within weeks unless the government issues visas to allow more workers into the country. Trade associations representing all areas of the UK’s food chain propose a one-year visa that will allow international workers to be recruited for jobs such as truck drivers, abattoir workers, chefs, and other food industry positions.

Trade & Commodities

Fighting for Market Control

Thousands of Bolivian coca leaf growers stormed the country’s main coca market in La Paz following violent clashes with security forces. The dispute is centered on who should have control over the market, which includes 90 percent of Bolivia’s legal coca leaf business.

Happier Meals, Happier Planet

McDonald’s, one of the world’s largest beef buyers, set a target to cut global greenhouse emissions to net-zero by 2050. Roughly 80 percent of their total emissions currently come from the food supply chain, including beef, chicken, dairy, and other proteins.

About the Author
Julia Whiting
Former Research Associate
Council expert Julia Whiting
Julia Whiting joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2019 and was a research associate with the Global Food and Agriculture Program. She supported the development of research reports on global food security issues as well as coordinated digital engagement and content for the program.
Council expert Julia Whiting