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Strategic Leniency, Golden Rice, and a Fertilizer Ban

Global Food for Thought by Julia Whiting
A farmer in India burns paddy waste.

Our weekly roundup the top news and research in food, agriculture, and global development.

Top Story

Strategic Leniency

The government of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has decided to drop legal proceedings against farmers alleged to burn crop waste. The state is considering dropping fines for crop residue burning as well. The practice is punished in multiple states due to its contributions to winter air pollution. At least one farmers’ group believes that the leniency is meant to placate farmers ahead of an election for the state assembly in New Delhi. As protests against Modi’s agricultural policy continue, courting the farmers’ votes has gained new importance for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Council Insights

The Space Economy

As billionaires and corporations invest record levels of political and economic capital, what challenges will the US government and private industries face in the beckoning commercial space age? Join a panel of experts including the president and CEO of Chicago’s Adler Planetarium to take a deep dive into how the burgeoning private space exploration industry will change the world.

SEE ALSO: How Space Technology Helps Farmers Fight Climate Change

Food & Agriculture

Growing Golden Rice

The Philippines is the first nation to approve the commercial propagation of Golden Rice, a vitamin-A enriched grain, following more than a decade of field tests. The country is one of the world’s largest rice importers.

Security & Food Security

Years-long conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria’s agricultural heartland and northwest states has been exacerbated by climate change-induced resource scarcity. More farmers are abandoning their land to flee the fighting, driving already inflated food prices even higher.

Long-term Supply Shifts

After the worst frosts Brazil has experienced in 27 years, many farmers in key growing regions are removing dead coffee trees from their fields. In the worst cases, farmers are converting fields for grain to take advantage of the highly profitable corn and soy crop rotation. Fewer trees in the world’s top coffee producer could continue current high coffee prices for years to come.

Deeper Dive

How does coffee make the grade?

Typically speaking, coffee is graded and classified by altitude, botanical variety, preparation, defects, density, and size. The theory of classification by size is that high-altitude coffees produce larger, denser berries. These plants also grow more slowly and develop sought after flavor profiles. Brazilian coffee is grown at relatively low altitudes, usually resulting in lower acidity.  

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Data Crunch

Let the Data Speak

When estimating climate change will affect agriculture, how researchers choose to group locations for analysis can yield very different results. A new study advocates for using three statistical methods—already used for energy conservation and the labor market—that use data, rather than researcher assumptions, to drive the choice of location groups for analysis.


Protecting whom?

Survival International and other human rights organizations seek to stop UNEP-supported targets to preserve 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030, arguing that such an agenda may threaten Indigenous and local communities’ land rights and food security. Historically, the establishment of protected areas around the world have displaced Indigenous tribes, who often lack formal land rights.

Big Ideas

Human-supplied Nutrients

New research comparing human-derived supply of and crop demand for phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium in 107 countries has identified areas in which nutrient re-use could benefit local sanitation and agriculture.

DC Report

US Hunger Improves

New data from the US Census Bureau show that hunger has dropped slightly in the US. Despite the slight improvement, 2 million more people are enrolled in SNAP over last year, and food banks are reporting food distribution at levels 40 percent higher than 2019. The recent increase in SNAP benefits is expected to drive the expansion of fresh food offerings in dollar stores.

Big Actors

Crises Compounding

One third of Afghanistan’s population is experiencing food insecurity. After years of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and drought have threatened the nation’s food security, the WFP is warning that international response to the Taliban could make matters worse. The agency is calling for $200 million necessary to continue providing aid to the people of Afghanistan.  

Fertilizer Ban

Spain’s government has banned fertilizer use near one of the region’s largest saltwater lagoons after tons of dying fish washed ashore and sparked environmental protests. The country is experiencing widespread desertification due to over farming and excessive irrigation, in addition to its nutrient pollution woes.

Trade & Commodities

La Niña, Again

La Niña is forecast to cut rain fall by 20-30 percent in Argentina over the next 6 months. The lack of rain is expected to shrink yields of soy and corn, the nation’s main export crops, and interrupt normal shipping routes. Adding to growers’ stress, predicted rainfall is nowhere near the levels required to replenish Argentina’s stressed groundwater.

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