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January 24th, 2019 / B4FA.org

This week the The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health published a report attempting to achieve scientific consensus on what constitutes a diet both healthy for human bodies and sustainable for the planet. “Food in the Anthropocene”, commissioned by the medical journal The Lancet and published on 17 January 2019, was produced over two years by 37 scientists and researchers from around the world – including experts on agriculture, climate change and nutrition – and makes recommendations on actions to speed up food system transformation.

The Commission recommends a diet based on plant-based foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Meat and dairy are allowed but in limited quantities. “Food systems have the potential to nurture human health and support environmental sustainability; however, they are currently threatening both,” says a summary of the report, published on The Lancet’s website.

“Providing a growing global population with healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge. Although global food production of calories has kept pace with population growth more than 820 million people have insufficient food and many more consume low-quality diets that cause micronutrient deficiencies and contribute to a substantial rise in the incidence of diet-related obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” it says. “Because much of the world’s population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.“

The Commission’s dietary recommendations were made in consideration of environmental health – including limiting greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, protecting biodiversity, limiting expansion of farmland and preserving water resources. The ideal diet will also affect almost everyone on Earth. “This plan requires changes to diets in pretty much every corner of the world. Europe and North America need to cut back massively on red meat, East Asia needs to cut back on fish, Africa on starchy vegetables,” says a piece from the BBC.

However, not everyone agrees fully with the report’s findings. The Sustainable Food Trust for example published a rebuttal stating that this one-size-fits-all approach could prove harmful to environment and health. “[D]ue to a fundamental lack of agricultural understanding, some of the main dietary recommendations are incompatible with the food production outcomes of truly sustainable farming systems,” says the piece. “If fully implemented, the recommendations would make it impossible to introduce sustainable and restorative farming systems in countries like the UK, where a high proportion of farmland is only suitable for growing grass,” it continues. “In addition, grass and grazing animals need to be reintroduced into many all-arable crop rotations to address the serious problems of soil degradation and biodiversity loss.”

Meanwhile, a piece published in Cornell Alliance for Science’s blog hails Nigeria’s recent breakthroughs in crop biotechnology– including commercialization of Bt cotton, deregulating Bt cowpea and winning a court case filed by anti-GMO activists – and anticipates progress in this sector in the coming year. “Bt cotton is currently being planted in demonstration trials, side-by-side with conventional cotton so farmers can see the difference between the two varieties,” says the report. Beyond Bt cotton and cowpea, other crops in the works are virus-resistant cassava biofortified with iron and zinc, salt-tolerant, nitrogen- and water-efficient rice, African bio-fortified sorghum, Bt maize and cassava genetically modified to prolong shelf life.We welcome questions, comments and story links to [email protected]. Please also visit B4FA.org for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation.

Headlines

The diet to save lives, the planet and feed us all?
BBC

EAT-Lancet report’s recommendations are at odds with sustainable food production
Sustainable Food Trust

New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists
The Guardian

World’s 1 billion people are hungry and 2 billion eat too much wrong food
Down to Earth

Nigeria’s GMO crop research to advance in 2019
Alliance for Science

AgBio news

At least 60% of wild coffee species face extinction triggered by climate change and disease
The Independent

Six in 10 wild coffee species endangered by habitat loss
The Guardian

Wild coffee species threatened by climate change and deforestation
Nature

Why South Africa and Sudan lead the continent in GMO crops
Alliance for Science

‘Blueprint’ of plant’s immune system could speed breeding of disease-resistant crops
Genetic Literacy Project

Young Ugandan biotech advocates push back against scare tactics of European and American-funded anti-GMO African environmental activists
Genetic Literacy Project

Scientists breeding new disease-resistant soybeans to crack down on parasitic nematode
Genetic Literacy Project

Speed up seed policies harmonisation
SciDevNet

Liberia: Center for Women Agriculture Program (CWAP) revolutionizes agriculture in Nimba County
AllAfrica

Seed companies urged to educate farmers
Chronicle

Potatoes have a form of ‘depression,’ but scientists have an idea to cure them
Gizmodo

The Taking Maize Agronomy to Scale (TAMASA) project aims to narrow maize yield gaps in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania through the development and scaling out of decision-support tools.
CIMMYT

Have you heard of tan spot disease and how it affects #wheat yields globally? Learn about it and how an ambitious research is helping develop crop varieties with enhanced resistance
CGIAR

Nominations for $.1m African Food Prize begins
Daily Trust

Yam genetic markers identified by researchers allow plant breeders to separate male from female plants at the seeding stage resulting in improved efficiency in planning & carrying out crosses in breeding programs
CGIAR

Four expanding technologies that could help boost crop yields and preserve the environment
Genetic Literacy Project

Brazil and Nigeria announce historic agricultural partnership
The Brazilian Report

Best practices

Uganda: Racks add value to coffee
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

Uganda: Insect farming can reduce hunger and generate money
Daily Monitor, by B4FA Fellow Michael Ssali

A model farmer adopts conservation agriculture in North Africa
ReliefWeb

Drying groundnuts in ventilated stacks
Access Agriculture

This high-tech agriculture has doubled & tripled the profit of Nigerian rice farmers
Krishijagran

Biodiversity

Top Senegalese chef backs ancient grain as next superfood
AllAfrica

Development

Gilbert Houngbo – President of IFAD on how to make agric profitable for smallholders
Deythere

Energy and innovation

Rural African communities to benefit from farm mechanisation
The Citizen News

New upgraded invasive species Horizon Scanning Tool launched
CABI

Value addition through digitalisation for Ugandan coffee farmers
ICT Update

CIMMYT is collaborating with CIAT & other CGIAR research centres to analyze data & identify correlations between different farming practices & crop yields to help sustainable intensification
Food Tank

Food security

Africa and Asia come together to lead a global initiative to diversify staples
Down to Earth

Nigeria: FG, IFAD restates commitment to food security
Blueprint

Pests and diseases

Zimbabwe: Govt steps up fight against armyworm
AllAfrica

The GM debate

How Europe has priced out innovation: the example of plants
The Parliament Magazine

India: Innovation is not exploitation
Daily Pioneer

Opportunities and resources

Applications for the 2019 Fellowship schemes are now open. Deadline: midnight February 8th
Africa Oxford Initiative

Course in potato breeding techniques, Ghent, Belgium June 11-28. Scholarships available
Ghent University

Vacancy: Consultant – Baseline Survey Rwanda. This post is to work on the CABI-led Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) recently launched in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Apply before 25 Jan 2019 here.
CABI

AIMS NEI Fellowship Program for Women in Climate Change Science
AIMS

Calling students & recent graduates from agricultural edu institutions interested in food security, environment, and sustainable crop protection: IUPAC 2019 Next Generation Programme, Ghent, Belgium 19-23 May 2019
IUPAC Next Generation Programme

Cornell Alliance for Science now accepting applications to be a Global Leadership Fellow. Deadline 1 March 2019
Alliance for Science