Food supply chain safety

  • U.S. corn yields increasingly vulnerable to hot, dry weather

    The United States produces 40 percent of the world’s corn, mostly in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. As more than 80 percent of U.S. agricultural land relies on natural rainfall rather than irrigation, corn farmers in these regions depend on precipitation, air temperature, and humidity for optimal plant growth. U.S. corn yields are growing more sensitive to heat and drought. Farmers are faced with difficult tradeoffs in adapting to a changing climate in which unfavorable weather will become more common.

  • New bug sensor saves crops, people

    For hundreds of years humans have attempted to kill unwanted insects. While some blanket methods have been successful, they can be costly and create environmental problems. A new sensor developed by UC Riverside researchers aims to change that by counting and classifying the insects so that the substance used to eradicate the harmful insects can be applied on a precision targeted level. The inexpensive wireless sensors have 99 percent accuracy, and they are expected to have applications fighting insect-borne diseases, such as malaria, and insects that damage crops.

  • Vermont mandates labeling of foods containing GMOs

    On Wednesday, legislators in Vermont passed a billrequiring the labeling of foods which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making the state the first in the United States to pass such a law without contingencies. Proponents of the law, and of similar attempts across the country, hailed the legislative approval as a victory. About twenty other states have pending measures regarding labeling GMO-based foods, but the biotech and food industries have been lobbyingfederal legislators to prevent such measures.

  • PathSensors introduces portable pathogen identifier system

    Baltimore, Maryland-based PathSensors, Inc. has introduced the portable Zephyr Pathogen Identifier system. The company says it delivers rapid, reliable detection of bacteria, virus, and toxins in powder and liquid samples in minutes. The Zephyr Identifier uses CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) technology, which is licensed from the MIT-Lincoln Laboratory.

  • Court to decide a Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” case

    Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law is the center of a case set for trial later this week, in which developers of CapX2020, the region’s power grid improvement project, will contest a lawsuit by Cedar Summit Farm. The state law requires utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms along the path of the power line if the affected landowners demand it. CapX2020 argues the farm does not meet the buyout criteria set in the law.

  • “Dressed” laser aims at clouds to induce rain, lightning

    The adage “Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it,” may one day be obsolete if researchers further develop a new technique to aim a high-energy laser beam into clouds to make it rain or trigger lightning. The researchers work on surround the beam with a second beam to act as an energy reservoir, sustaining the central beam to greater distances than previously possible. The secondary “dress” beam refuels and helps prevent the dissipation of the high-intensity primary beam. Gaining control over the length of a filament would allow the creation of the conditions needed for a rainstorm from afar. People could thus artificially control the rain and lightning over a large expanse.

  • Britons worry that new EU food inspection rules would risk U.K. food safety

    The European Food Safety Authority(EFSA) in June will introduce a new Europe-wide food inspection regime, arguing that there is a need to modernize the food inspection process. The EFSA plans to reduce seventy pieces of detailed regulation down to a framework of five overarching laws to “reduce the burden on business.”Among other things, the new rules will replace laws that list diseases banned from the meat supply with a more general requirement on safety, health, and welfare. The EFSA claims that many of the diseases and parasites inspectors currently find are harmless to humans and are not considered major animal diseases. U.K. consumer advocates, meat inspectors, and veterinarians say the new rules threaten the safety of the U.K. food supply.

  • Food-related disease outbreaks can teach us about the consequence of food terrorism

    Since unintentional food-related outbreaks have become so common, policy makers could use data from unintended foodborne disease outbreaks to estimate the effects of intended foodborne disease outbreaks. The impact on trade and economies is the primary motive for food terrorism, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but beyond the financial loss, such intended foodborne disease outbreaks may even impact political stability.

  • Bacteriophage “cocktail” eradicates 99 percent of E. coli in meat, spinach

    Treating food products with select bacteriophages — viruses which target and kill bacteria — could significantly reduce concentrations of E. coli, a new study shows. An injection of bacteriophages — also known informally as “phages” — nearly eradicated a toxin-producing strain of E. coli in contaminated spinach and ground beef, in some cases decreasing E. coli concentrations by about 99 percent. Interest in using phages as antibacterial treatments has increased with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • FDA proposes rules to prevent terror attack on U.S. food supply

    Food terrorism could have drastic economic effects. A DHS risk assessment discovered that should a pathogen like foot-and-mouth disease be introduced to Great Plains ranchers, total damages would exceed $50 billion, affecting U.S. beef exports and dramatically reducing consumer demand for beef products.In order to prevent or reduce the risk from a potential terror attack on the nation’s food supply, the FDA proposed new rules to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

  • Heat waves threaten global food supply

    A new study has, for the first time, estimated the global effects of rising temperatures and elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) on the production of maize, wheat, and soybean. Earlier studies have found that climate change is projected to reduce maize yields globally by the end of the century under a “business as usual” scenario for future emissions of greenhouse gases; however, this new study shows that the inclusion of the effects of heat waves, which have not been accounted for in previous modelling calculations, could double the losses of the crop.

  • International food trade can alleviate water scarcity

    International trade of food crops led to freshwater savings worth $2.4 billion in 2005 and had a major impact on local water stress, a new study finds. Trading food involves the trade of virtually embedded water used for production, and the amount of that water depends heavily on the climatic conditions in the production region: It takes, for instance, 2,700 liters of water to produce one kilo of cereals in Morocco, while the same kilo produced in Germany uses up only 520 liters. The researchers found that it is not the amount of water used that counts most, but the origin of the water.

  • Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than earlier thought

    A new study shows that global warming of only 2°C will be detrimental to crops in temperate and tropical regions, with reduced yields from the 2030s onward. In the study, the researchers created a new data set by combining and comparing results from 1,700 published assessments of the response that climate change will have on the yields of rice, maize, and wheat.

  • Methane from Deepwater Horizon oil spill has entered food web

    When millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, so did large volumes of methane, or natural gas. Now, researchers have confirmed that methane-derived carbon has entered the Gulf’s food web through tiny organic particles floating in the Gulf. The presence of methane is not cause for alarm though, the researchers said. Overall, it has a benign impact on the food that makes it from the sea to people’s dinner tables.

  • Improving livestock diets to bolster food security, combat climate change

    Livestock production is responsible for 12 percent of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, primarily coming from land use change and deforestation caused by expansion of agriculture, as well as methane released by the animals themselves, with a lesser amount coming from manure management and feed production. A new study shows that within the current systems, farmers would find it more profitable in coming years to expand livestock production in mixed systems — where livestock are fed on both grass as well as higher quality feed — rather than in pure grass-based systems. This development, would lead to a 23 percent reduction of emissions from land use change in the next two decades without any explicit climate mitigation policy.