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Daily Archives: January 10, 2019

Global Canopy: New Tools Provide Significant Opportunity for Latin American Banks to “Underwrite Regional Food Security”, Through Better Management of Soft Commodity Risks | Business Wire

LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–New research from Global
Canopy, developed in partnership with WWF, has found that banks
operating in Brazil and Paraguay stand to benefit from improving
policies to manage the negative environmental and social impacts of soft
commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil and timber production.

Soft commodity production is a major driver of tropical deforestation
and contributes a significant portion of the 15-20% of carbon emissions
linked to the loss of forests globally. If banks put in place safeguards
to ensure the sustainable production of soft commodities they can
capture the opportunity to align their portfolios with the Sustainable
Development Goals and transition to a low carbon economy.

Research released today finds that 9 of 14 Brazilian banks (64%)
explicitly state that their clients need to operate legally. However,
there is room for improvement too, as only one bank encourages companies
to ensure Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and none require companies
to meet key labour standards.

Today’s package of tools added to Global Canopy’s SCRIPT
(the Soft Commodity Risk Platform), to help banks and investors analyse
their exposure to risk in soft commodity supply chains include:

Financial support for the project has come from the Gordon and Betty
Moore Foundation.

Tom Bregman, Senior Sustainable Finance Associate, Global Canopy

“The banking sector in Latin America has a historic opportunity to
underwrite regional food security and reap the multi-trillion dollar
benefits across its lending and investment portfolios. But first there
is a real need to put in place policies that properly assess the
environmental and social risks of those they finance. Every year, over
nine million hectares of tropical forests are cleared to make way for
the production of soft commodities such as palm oil, soy, cattle, and
timber. And more than 30% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed
beyond their biological limits.“

Raj Kundra, Vice President, International Finance, World Wildlife

“While there are encouraging signs that regional banks are starting
to act in areas such as labour rights or palm oil, there is still a long
way to go. The majority of banks assessed do not have adequate seafood
and soft commodity policies to seize the opportunity of financing the
food security of tomorrow. That’s why today’s tool and guidance is so
important. They help provide a platform to bridge the capacity gap,
enabling banks to develop meaningful policies that help manage supply
chain risks and opportunities.”

For more information see


Jim Bradeen on the Role of Crop Wild Relatives and Food Security – International Potato Center

Jim Bradeen on the Role of Crop Wild Relatives and Food Security – International Potato Center

Dr. Jim Bradeen is a professor and head of the University of Minnesota Plant Pathology Department. He studies the genomics of disease resistance with a focus on late blight.

Dr. Jim Bradeen is a plant genomicist who mines the genetic diversity found in crop wild relatives. Head of the University of Minnesota Plant Pathology Department, Bradeen studies the genomics of disease resistance with a focus on potato late blight, the disease responsible for the Irish potato famine in the 19th century, which costs potato famers billions of dollars globally each year. He shares insights on the role of crop wild relatives in tackling the challenges of achieving global food security in the face of climate change and population growth.

The wild potato Solanum bulbocastanum harbors genes that render the plant resistant to potato late blight disease. Photo courtesy of Jim Bradeen

What is the difference between a cultivated potato and a crop wild relative?

Our crop plants such as potato really have been adapted to human needs. For example, we focus on nutritional quality or yield or culinary attributes. Many of the crop wild relatives lack some of those traits but are rich sources of other genetic diversity. Wild species have co-evolved with changing diseases and environmental stresses. As a collective, they offer rich genetic diversity that can be mined for cultivated crops.

Why is it important to study the evolutionary history of crop wild relatives? How does this apply to a crop like potato?

The evolutionary history of any group of plants tells us something about the way that those plants function. For the potato late blight system, some of the crop wild relatives have been dealing with Phytophthora infestans for thousands of years, for millions of years in some cases. Understanding evolutionary history, understanding and leveraging the wild species that have existed in native environments alongside the pathogens for a long period of time gives us new strategies, new insights on how to manage this disease in a cultivated potato background in an agricultural setting.

As the world population grows and our resources become more and more constrained, could the use of crop wild relatives help feed the 9 billion people who are expected to populate the Earth in 2050.?

Understanding the genetic diversity found in crop wild relatives is important in helping our plants adapt. Much of agriculture as we’ve known it over the last 10,000 years has happened in an environment that was largely stable. As the global climate changes and our crop plants face new challenges from pests and diseases, we need genetic variation that will improve the adaptability and resilience of the potato crop. Wild species are genetic treasure troves of diversity. I’m interested in particular in disease resistance, but crop wild relatives could also help adapt to changing environmental challenges like drought or flooding.

Leaves severed from greenhouse grown plants are inoculated with the late blight pathogen (Phytophthora infestans) and incubated under high humidity. Disease development, evidenced by blacked tissue and sporulation, indicates susceptibility. Photo Courtesy of Jim Bradeen

Can you explain a little bit about how the late blight resistance found in crop wild relative can be transferred into a domesticated potato variety?

Some of the wild potato species can be directly crossed with potato. Transferring traits like disease resistance can be done with a traditional breeding approach. We also have molecular approaches these days that allow us to clone genes from wild species and transfer that particular gene into a cultivated potato background. There are new technologies for gene-editing that allow us to understand the genetic diversity of alleles, disease resistance alleles in wild species, and then edit existing alleles in the potato genome as well, so that they look like the wild species. We have a rich toolbox of methods to transfer genes between crop wild relatives and crop potato plants.

Wild potato species are sources of useful genes for enhanced late blight resistance.  Here, cultivated potato with (right) and without (left) a late blight resistance gene from the wild species Solanum bulbocastanum show significantly different responses to late blight disease. Photo courtesy of Jim Bradeen

How does your research benefit smallholder farmers?

The focus of our research, the focus of plant pathology research in general, is about changing the lives of farmers and making our science accessible to crop improvement. The work that we do in the genomics of disease resistance, late blight resistance of potato crop wild relatives for example, has the end goal of improving disease resistance in domesticated varieties and subsequently reducing the need for chemical inputs for potato production worldwide.

What role do you think the International Potato Center (CIP) plays in this?

CIP has been at the forefront of potato improvement for a long time. I had the pleasure of touring the CIP genebank and was amazed by the genetic diversity it houses. Those resources are made available worldwide to researchers and breeders for advancing the potato crop. The genebank is an incredibly valuable resource for the scientific community and the world at large.

With Farms Atop Malls, Singapore Gets Serious About Food Security

With Farms Atop Malls, Singapore Gets Serious About Food Security

By Rina Chandran

SINGAPORE, Jan 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Visitors to Singapore’s Orchard Road, the city’s main shopping belt, will find fancy malls, trendy department stores, abundant food courts — and a small farm.

Comcrop’s 600-square-metre (6,450-square-foot) farm on the roof of one of the malls uses vertical racks and hydroponics to grow leafy greens and herbs such as basil and peppermint that it sells to nearby bars, restaurants, and stores.

The farm’s small size belies its big ambition: to help improve the city’s food security.

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Comcrop’s Allan Lim, who set up the rooftop farm five years ago, recently opened a 4,000-square-metre farm with a greenhouse on the edge of the city.

He believes high-tech urban farms are the way ahead for the city, where more land cannot be cultivated.

“Agriculture is not seen as a key sector in Singapore. But we import most of our food, so we are very vulnerable to sudden disruptions in supply,” Lim said.

“Land, natural resources and low-cost labour used to be the predominant way that countries achieved food security. But we can use technology to solve any deficiencies,” he said.

Some of our Comcrop Volunteers on this sunny Saturday morning #comcrop #comcropsg 03 Mar 2018

A post shared by Comcrop at Scape (@comcropsg) on

Singapore last year topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Food Security Index of 113 countries for the first time, scoring high on measures such as affordability, availability, and safety.

Yet, as the country imports more than 90% of its food, its food security is susceptible to climate change and natural resource risks, the EIU noted.

With some 5.6 million people in an area three-fifths the size of New York City — and with the population estimated to grow to 6.9 million by 2030 — land is at a premium in Singapore.

The country has long reclaimed land from the sea, and plans to move more of its transport, utilities, and storage underground to free up space for housing, offices, and greenery.

It has also cleared dozens of cemeteries for homes and highways.

Agriculture makes up only about 1% of its land area, so better use of space is key, said Samina Raja, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University at Buffalo in New York.

“Urban agriculture is increasingly being recognised as a legitimate land use in cities,” she said.

“It offers a multitude of benefits, from increased food security and improved nutrition to greening of spaces. But food is seldom a part of urban planning.”


Countries across the world are battling the worsening impacts of climate change, water scarcity, and population growth to find better ways to feed their people.

Scientists are working on innovations from gene editing of crops and lab-grown meat, to robots and drones to fundamentally change how food is grown, distributed and eaten.

With more than two-thirds of the world’s population forecast to live in cities by 2050, urban agriculture is critical, a study published last year stated.

Urban agriculture currently produces as much as 180 million metric tonnes of food a year — up to 10% of the global output of pulses and vegetables, the study noted.

Additional benefits, such as reduction of the urban heat-island effect, avoided stormwater runoff, nitrogen fixation and energy savings could be worth $160 billion annually, it said.

Countries including China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia could benefit significantly from urban agriculture, it said.

“Urban agriculture should not be expected to eliminate food insecurity, but that should not be the only metric,” said study co-author Matei Georgescu, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University.

“It can build social cohesion among residents, improve economic prospects for growers, and have nutritional benefits. In addition, greening cities can help to transition away from traditional concrete jungles,” he said.

Singapore was once an agrarian economy that produced nearly all its own food: there were pig farms and durian orchards, and vegetable gardens and chickens in the kampongs, or villages.

But in its push for rapid economic growth after independence in 1965, industrialisation took precedence, and most farms were phased out, said Kenny Eng, president of the Kranji Countryside Association, which represents local farmers.

The global food crisis of 2007-08, when prices spiked, causing widespread economic instability and social unrest, may have led the government to rethink its food security strategy to guard against such shocks, Eng said.

“In an age of climate uncertainty and rapid urbanisation, there are merits to protecting indigenous agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods,” he said.

Local production is a core component of the food security roadmap, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore, a state agency that helps farmers upgrade with technical know-how, research and overseas study tours.

Given its land constraints, AVA has also been looking to unlock more spaces, including underutilised or alternative spaces, and harness technological innovations to “grow more with less”, a spokeswoman said by email.


A visit to the Kranji countryside, just a 45-minute drive from the city’s bustling downtown, and where dozens of farms are located, offers a view of the old and the new.

Livestock farms and organic vegetable plots sit alongside vertical farms and climate-controlled greenhouses.

Yet many long-time farmers are fearful of the future, as the government pushes for upgrades and plans to relocate more than 60 farms by 2021 to return land to the military.

Many farms might be forced to shut down, said Chelsea Wan, a second-generation farmer who runs Jurong Frog Farm.

“It’s getting tougher because leases are shorter, it’s harder to hire workers, and it’s expensive to invest in new technologies,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We support the government’s effort to increase productivity through technology, but we feel sidelined,” she said.

Wan is a member of the Kranji Countryside Association, which has tried to spur local interest in farming by welcoming farmers’ markets, study tours, homestays and weddings.

Small peri-urban farms at the edge of the city — like those in Kranji — are not just necessary for food security, Eng said.

“The countryside is an inalienable part of our heritage and nation-building, and the farms have an intrinsic value for education, conservation, the community and tourism,” he said.

At the rooftop farm on Orchard Road, Lim looks on as brisk, elderly Singaporeans — whom he has hired to get around the worker shortage — harvest, sort and pack the day’s output.

“It’s not a competition between urban farms and landed farms; it’s a question of relevance,” he said.

“You have to ask: what works best in a city like Singapore?”

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran. Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)