• FDA indefinitely delays enforcing 4 FSMA provisions

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that, for now, it will not enforce four rules related to the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a law passed in 2011 that signaled the biggest overhaul in the U.S. food safety laws in seventy years. The provisions the FDA does not intend to enforce include aspects of the “farm” definition, requirements related to written assurances from a manufacturer’s customers, requirements for importers of food contact substances, and requirements related to certain human food by-products for use as animal food within three of FSMA’s rules that relate to human and animal food safety, foreign supplier verification, and growing standards for human food.

  • Predicting the effect of climate change on crop yields

    Scientists now have a new tool to predict the future effects of climate change on crop yields. Researchers are attempting to bridge two types of computational crop models to become more reliable predictors of crop production in the U.S. Corn Belt. “One class of crop models is agronomy-based and the other is embedded in climate models or earth system models. They are developed for different purposes and applied at different scales,” says the principal investigator on the research. “Because each has its own strengths and weaknesses, our simple idea is to combine the strengths of both types of models to make a new crop model with improved prediction performance.”

  • Gaps in FDA food recall process

    A new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was lacking when it came to following food recall protocols. Timeliness, or lack thereof, was the theme of the HHS’s report.

  • Northeast farmers face warming climate, drenched fields

    For the past two decades, the Northeast has been getting warmer for longer periods of time. It also has seen a 71 percent increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events – more than any other region in the United States. Farmers in the Northeast are adapting to longer growing seasons and warming climate conditions – but they may face spring-planting whiplash as they confront fields increasingly saturated with rain.

  • The odds of a megadrought in western, southwestern U.S.

    In the southwestern United States, water management is a top concern. If a megadrought occurs, large-scale water management decisions affecting millions of Americans must be made to protect agriculture, the ecosystem and potable water systems. Understanding the odds of a widespread megadrought becomes important for planning purposes. To help untangle fact from speculation, climate scientists have developed a “robust null hypothesis” to assess the odds of a megadrought – one that lasts more than thirty years – occurring in the western and southwestern United States.

  • S&T funds training of the next generation of animal health experts

    Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) are highly contagious with high morbidity and mortality. These diseases quickly cross-national borders, negatively impacting a country’s economic stability and public health by reducing exports, food quality and quantity, and the availability of livestock products and animal power. They pose serious threats to a country’s well-being, and scientists around the world are continuously investigating new methods to prevent their spread. This past summer, DHS S&T funded two programs — Texas A&M University’s Bench to Shop program and Kansas State University’s Transboundary Animal Disease Fellowship — to train the next generation of animal health experts.

  • NOAA-funded effort to better predict droughts

    On average, droughts cost an estimated $9 billion in damages every year in the United States, according to NOAA. A single drought in 2012, which spread across the U.S. and brought very dry conditions to Michigan, caused some $32 billion in damage nationwide, mostly due to widespread harvest failure. Scientists work to develop a better system to predict droughts.

  • Millions may face protein deficiency as a result of human-caused CO2 emissions

    If CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, the populations of eighteen countries may lose more than 5 percent of their dietary protein by 2050 due to a decline in the nutritional value of rice, wheat, and other staple crops. Researchers estimate that roughly an additional 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is the first study to quantify this risk.

  • Helping prepare for livestock disease outbreaks

    The United States is the world’s largest producer of beef. In 2015, the latest year data is available, the beef industry was valued at $105 billion Protecting millions of cattle from potential disease outbreaks is thus a crucial part of our nation’s economic security, as well as a public health priority. Two new web-based tools funded by the DHS S&T are making it easier for public officials and livestock farmers to predict cattle shipments and prepare for potential disease outbreaks.

  • Farming practices require dramatic changes to keep pace with climate change

    Major changes in agricultural practices will be required to offset increases in nutrient losses due to climate change. To combat repeated, damaging storm events, which strip agricultural land of soil and nutrients, farmers are already adopting measures to conserve these assets where they are needed. Researchers investigating nutrients in runoff from agricultural land warn that phosphorus losses will increase, due to climate change, unless this is mitigated by making major changes to agricultural practices.

  • A case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) discovered in Alabama

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced an atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, in an eleven-year old cow in Alabama. This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States. BSE is not contagious and exists in two types — classical and atypical. Classical BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, beginning in the late 1980s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people.

  • Current water use for food production is unsustainable

    About 40 percent of the water used for irrigation are unsustainable withdrawals that violate so-called environmental flows of rivers, a new study shows for the first time. If these volumes were to be re-allocated to the ecosystems, crop production would drop by at least 10 percent on half of all irrigated land, especially in Central and South Asia. Improvement of irrigation practices can sustainably compensate for such losses at global scale. More integrated strategies, including rainwater management could even achieve a 10 percent net gain of production.

  • New Web-based tools help protect the food supply

    Our economy, livelihood and wellbeing depend on food and its supply chains. Supply chains may break if a natural disaster destroys a crop in its primary production region, or if someone tampers with food to cause harm or raise profits. In such cases we need to find out quickly about these incidents and find alternative sources of food ingredients and supplies.

  • Climate change to deplete some U.S. water basins, reduce irrigated crop yields

    A new study by MIT climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds that certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation. The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.

  • New foot-and-mouth disease rapid diagnostic kit licensed

    DHS S&T announced today the licensing of a rapid-response (three-hour) Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) diagnostic kit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB). S&T says that the diagnostic kit, developed by a large research consortium of federal agencies, academia and animal health industry scientists, is the first licensed FMD diagnostic kit that can be manufactured on the U.S. mainland, critical for a rapid response in the event of a FMD outbreak.