Washington, DC, United States
Washington, DC, United States

The International Food Policy Research Institute is an international agricultural research center founded in the early 1970s to improve the understanding of national agricultural and food policies to promote the adoption of innovations in agricultural technology. Additionally, IFPRI was meant to shed more light on the role of agricultural and rural development in the broader development pathway of a country.The mission of IFPRI is to seek sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty through research.IFPRI carries out food policy research and disseminates it through hundreds of publications, bulletins, conferences, and other initiatives. IFPRI was organized as a District of Columbia non-profit, non-stock corporation on March 5, 1975 and its first research bulletin was produced in February 1976. IFPRI has offices in several developing countries, including China, Ethiopia, and India, and has research staff working in many more countries around the world. Most of the research takes place in developing countries in Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia.IFPRI is part of a network of international research institutes funded in part by the CGIAR, which in turn is funded by governments, private businesses and foundations, and the World Bank. Wikipedia.

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New joint report by World Bank, FAO, and the International Food Policy Research Institute looks at prospects for fisheries and aquaculture.

News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: www.technologyreview.com

Pamela Ronald stands in front of two rows of rice plants, sprouting from black plastic pots, in a stifling greenhouse on the edge of the University of California, Davis, campus. Researchers in Ronald's plant genetics lab starved the grasses of water for more than a week. The ones on the right, the control in the ongoing experiment, are yellowing and collapsing. The leaves in the adjacent plants, equipped with an added gene, are thick, tall, and green. The hope is that these or similar genetic alterations could help rice and other crops survive devastating droughts, preventing food shortages in some of the poorest parts of the world. Ronald, a trim scientist with short brown hair, smiles as she looks down at the early results. She has spent the last three decades working to make rice, a food staple for more than half of the world's population, more resistant to environmental stress. She was a central player in one the greatest recent success stories in plant genetics, isolating a gene that allows rice to survive extended periods of flooding. It’s a huge challenge in low-lying parts of Asia, wiping out around four million tons of rice each year in India and Bangladesh alone. A decade after her lab’s discovery, more than five million farmers grow rice varieties engineered with the so-called Sub1 gene, covering more than two million hectares across Asia. The latest research could be even more significant, as climate change ratchets up the frequency and intensity of droughts across large swaths of the Earth, threatening the food security and stability of entire nations. The number of extreme droughts could double by the end of the century, devastating fields and farmers across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Ronald's work provides a powerful statement for the potential of modern genetic tools to preserve livelihoods and lives, offering a counter narrative to the widespread fears and distortions surrounding genetically modified crops (see “Why We Will Need Genetically Modified Foods”). “This focus on genes in our food is a distraction from the really, really important issues,” she says. “How can we reduce the use of toxic inputs? How can we feed the poor and malnourished? How can we be sure that farmers have access to seeds, and that consumers can afford the food that’s produced?” Ronald grew up San Mateo, California. Her mother was a talented gardener and cook. Her father was a businessman who fled Nazi Germany as a child. Years after arriving in California, he built a 500-square-foot cabin in south Lake Tahoe, where the family spent summer vacations. One hot day when she was around 15, Ronald and her brothers hiked a steep path into the High Sierra. At the saddle, they happened upon a couple hovered over a book. They were a pair of professional botanists who were cataloguing flowers. She had developed an affection for plants from the time she spent with her mother in the garden and kitchen, but this was the first time she realized you could make a living working with them. In the late 1980s, during her PhD program at UC Berkeley, Ronald started working with peppers and tomatoes. But as she began her postdoctoral work, she decided to shift her focus to rice, realizing that even small advances in stress tolerance for such a critical crop could help a lot of people. Tomatoes and peppers are “important for salad, but I wanted to work on supper,” she says. “I wanted to work on a staple food crop, I wanted to move to something more important.” Ronald arrived at UC Davis as an assistant professor in 1992. Her small, square office carries signs of the work she’s done since, including Asian tapestries, illustrations and covers from journal articles, and arrayed copies of "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food," the 2008 book she co-wrote with her husband, Raoul Adamchak, who teaches organic farming at UC Davis. Ronald’s work on flood-tolerant rice started in the mid-1990s, as a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded collaboration with colleagues at UC Davis. Over the course of a decade, the team pinpointed and isolated the Sub1 gene in an ancient but unpopular Indian rice variety, known as landrace, that enables it to survive even when it was submerged under water for more than two weeks. Since then, the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, backed by more than $70 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has bred that gene into 10 popular Asian rice varieties. In turn, the nonprofit put the seeds into the hands of farmers in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, and other nations. Rice is a tough crop to grow, requiring a lot of work and a lot of water. Too much all at once kills it, but so does too little. It takes just a week without rain to significantly decrease yields in hilly rice-growing areas. The challenges of rice production are only bound to get worse in many areas, as climate change raises temperatures, reduces rainfall in certain places, and increases flooding or sea level rise in others. Under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, rice yields would be nearly 15 percent lower than otherwise expected at midcentury, and prices would be 30 percent higher, according to a 2015 report in Environmental Research Letters. Shifting farming practices and the fertilizing effect of increased carbon dioxide could offset some of these climate impacts. But it’s going to become much harder and more expensive to maintain yields in many areas, and rich nations will have far greater capabilities than poor ones to make the necessary changes, says Keith Wiebe, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. Crops altered to survive harsher environmental conditions will be a crucial tool for helping “small farmers who produce in the more tropical environments, who will be the most exposed to climate shocks,” says Alain de Janvry, a UC Berkeley economist. The work at Ronald’s lab on drought-tolerant rice varieties is in an early phase. She declines to discuss details, including the basic approach, until they’ve conducted additional experiments to verify the initial results and published their findings. Other scientists around the world are also racing to develop drought-resistant crops, and have already achieved some advances, including sprays, hybrids, and genetic alterations that help crops switch into water-preserving modes at earlier signs of trouble, or otherwise enable plants to get by with less moisture. But greater advances will be required to confront the growing challenges ahead, and drought tolerance is a tricky problem. The trait generally involves various genes and cellular communication pathways. It’s crucial that any improvements not come at the expense of yield, taste, and other qualities important to farmers and consumers. And there would seem to be hard limits on how much can ever be achieved, as all plants need water. On an overcast Saturday in late April, Ronald stood on stage at a brick plaza on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, addressing the sign-wielding crowd gathered for the March for Science. “Science is based on data, not on alternative facts,” she said, pausing for applause at the end of most sentences. “Science is not a buffet where people can pick and choose the parts they like, and throw out the rest.” But people do, of course. The weakest applause line of her speech before the crowd, gathered largely to protest the Trump administration’s denial of climate science, was when she said that science had improved California’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In other words, when she took a moment to acknowledge a field that could help address some of the problems arising from a changing climate. It was typical Ronald, determined to assert where she believes the science leads, whomever the audience. Genetically modified crops have become incredibly contentious, widely portrayed as reckless attempts to tinker with Mother Nature for the sole benefit of seed conglomerates. But Ronald argues the body of science shows they’ve been both safe and beneficial. She publicly sparred with the Union of Concerned Scientists on these issues, suggested Greenpeace was “misinterpreting data,” and criticized Vermont’s GMO labeling laws in these pages (see “How Scare Tactics on GMO Foods Hurt Everybody”). Taking on the role of public face for the field has, of course, earned her critics. GMOWatch called her a “GMO propagandist,” and reveled in highlighting that her lab retracted a pair of papers in 2013, due to mislabeled bacterial strains and a faulty test. (Others praised the lab for discovering their own error, and taking pains to correct the record.) The gravest concerns over GMOs center on transgenic plants, such as the soybeans or corn engineered with a foreign bacterial gene that allowed for the use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. But Ronald’s research highlights the broader definition and promise for genetic alterations. Sub1 rice sidestepped any anti-GMO backlash because, while it required the tools of modern genetics to isolate and express the gene, it doesn’t carry along any non-rice DNA. The trait from one rice variety was added to others through modern breeding methods, accelerated by analyzing the DNA of offspring to avoid false paths. Ronald notes that every major food crop has been altered by human hands in one way or another. And some of the most important advances in the future, to improve yields, nutrition, environmental tolerance, or biofuels, may be possible only with increasingly powerful gene-editing technologies such as TALENs and CRISPR. What should matter to lawmakers, regulators, or critics isn’t which implement was pulled from the ever-advancing genetic toolbox, but whether it produced a positive or negative impact on human health or the environment. At this point, we have a four-decade track record of genetic engineering in plants, medicine, and cheese, with no evidence of harm, Ronald says. The danger is that unfounded fears could come at the expense of easing real human suffering, if misguided regulations slow down the science, or protests prevent seeds and crops from reaching the farmers and consumers who need them most. For Ronald, the real goal should be sustainability in the broadest sense, applying whatever combination of breeding, organic farming, or genetic technology helps us feed a growing population without exacting a higher environmental cost. “We need to make policy based on evidence, and based on a broader understanding of agriculture,” Ronald says. “There are real challenges for farmers, and we need to be united in using all appropriate technologies to tackle these challenges.”

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-IP | Phase: SSH.2011.2.1-1 | Award Amount: 10.36M | Year: 2012

One of the biggest challenges facing global society today is the widespread and growing presence of hunger and food insecurity. Given that the lead time for some social and technological solutions is long, a long-term framework on global food and nutrition security (FNS) is required. FoodSecure aims at improving the resilience of the food system, by providing a means to mitigate risks and uncertainties in the world food system caused by economic and climatic shocks while providing for sustainable economic growth. The project provides an analytical toolbox to experiment, analyse, and coordinate the effects of short and medium term policies, thereby allowing for the execution of consistent, coherent, long-term strategies with desirable consequences. The FoodSecure collaboration responds to the challenge of food shortages and volatility by providing stakeholders, in the EU and beyond, with the capacity to assess and address the short term and long term challenges of food and nutrition security both effectively and sustainably. The project draws on an expert, multi-disciplinary, science team to provide a complete set of knowledge to inform and guide decision makers and other stakeholders in formulating strategies to alleviate food shortages. The food system is analysed in relationship to the ecosystem, energy, and financial markets, all of which are potential sources of shocks that can disrupt the food system. In addition, it is examined in light of fundamental societal trends and changing attitudes towards food consumption and production. The project emphasises the diversity of challenges of FNS in countries and regions. The project delivers new empirical evidence on the drivers of global FNS, and classifies regions and livelihood systems in typologies . A harmonised data system and modelling toolbox are developed for forecasts (on short term) and forward looking (towards 2050) on future hunger. A support for effective and sustainable actions will include the identification of the critical pathways for technological and institutional change and for EU policies in the areas of development aid, climate change, trade, common agricultural policy and renewable energy, including sustainability criteria.

Ruel M.T.,International Food Policy Research Institute | Alderman H.,International Food Policy Research Institute
The Lancet | Year: 2013

Acceleration of progress in nutrition will require effective, large-scale nutrition-sensitive programmes that address key underlying determinants of nutrition and enhance the coverage and effectiveness of nutrition-specific interventions. We reviewed evidence of nutritional effects of programmes in four sectors - agriculture, social safety nets, early child development, and schooling. The need for investments to boost agricultural production, keep prices low, and increase incomes is undisputable; targeted agricultural programmes can complement these investments by supporting livelihoods, enhancing access to diverse diets in poor populations, and fostering women's empowerment. However, evidence of the nutritional effect of agricultural programmes is inconclusive - except for vitamin A from biofortification of orange sweet potatoes - largely because of poor quality evaluations. Social safety nets currently provide cash or food transfers to a billion poor people and victims of shocks (eg, natural disasters). Individual studies show some effects on younger children exposed for longer durations, but weaknesses in nutrition goals and actions, and poor service quality probably explain the scarcity of overall nutritional benefits. Combined early child development and nutrition interventions show promising additive or synergistic effects on child development - and in some cases nutrition - and could lead to substantial gains in cost, efficiency, and effectiveness, but these programmes have yet to be tested at scale. Parental schooling is strongly associated with child nutrition, and the effectiveness of emerging school nutrition education programmes needs to be tested. Many of the programmes reviewed were not originally designed to improve nutrition yet have great potential to do so. Ways to enhance programme nutrition-sensitivity include: improve targeting; use conditions to stimulate participation; strengthen nutrition goals and actions; and optimise women's nutrition, time, physical and mental health, and empowerment. Nutrition-sensitive programmes can help scale up nutrition-specific interventions and create a stimulating environment in which young children can grow and develop to their full potential. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Gruere G.P.,International Food Policy Research Institute
Food Policy | Year: 2012

This article provides an analysis of the implications of the growth of nanotechnology in the agriculture and food sector in OECD countries. Three main policy challenges are identified related to funding and investment, risk governance, and public acceptance. Each of these interconnected challenges underlines a number of ethical questions that need to be addressed. Several recommendations are laid out to move forward and adapt to these emerging policy issues. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Headey D.D.,International Food Policy Research Institute
World Bank Economic Review | Year: 2013

We provide the first large-scale survey-based evidence on the impact of the global food crisis of 2007-08 using an indicator of self-assessed food security from the Gallup World Poll. For the sampled countries as a whole, this subjective indicator of food security remained the same or even improved, seemingly owing to a combination of strong economic growth and limited food inflation in some of the most populous countries, particularly India. However, these favorable global trends mask divergent trends at the national and regional levels, with a number of countries reporting substantial deterioration in food security. The impacts of the global crisis therefore appear to be highly context specific. © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. All rights reserved.

Gruere G.P.,International Food Policy Research Institute
Nano Today | Year: 2011

The labeling of nano-enabled consumer products is increasingly being discussed at the policy level. This article summarizes some of the main considerations in the emerging debate on nano labeling. Blanket mandatory labeling, while justifiable, does not appear to be feasible, useful, and/or beneficial at this stage of the technology and regulatory development process. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Headey D.,International Food Policy Research Institute
Food Policy | Year: 2011

Although fundamental factors were clearly responsible for shifting the world to a higher food price equilibrium in the years leading up the 2008 food crisis, there is little doubt that when food prices peaked in June of 2008, they soared well above the new equilibrium price. Numerous arguments have been proposed to explain overshooting, including financial speculation, depreciation of the United States (US) dollar, low interest rates, and reductions in grain stocks. However, observations that international rice prices surged in response to export restrictions by India and Vietnam suggested that trade-related factors could be an important basis for overshooting, especially given the very tangible link between export volumes and export prices. In this paper, we revisit the trade story by closely examining monthly data from Thailand (the largest exporter of rice), and the United States (the largest exporter of wheat and maize and the third largest exporter of soybeans). In all cases except soybeans, we find that large surges in export volumes preceded the price surges. The presence of these large demand surges, together with back-of-the-envelope estimates of their price impacts, suggests that trade events played a much larger and more pervasive role than previously thought. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Headey D.D.,International Food Policy Research Institute
World Development | Year: 2013

We utilize a rich cross-country data set to understand within-country changes in nutrition, with a focus on the role of general developmental factors. We find that economic growth is a strong predictor of nutritional performance, as is growth in food production, although only in more food insecure countries. We find no evidence that infrastructure is directly important, but greater asset ownership, improved access to health services, higher rates of female secondary education, and lower fertility rates, are all strong predictors of improvements in nutrition. We show that national success stories are largely consistent with these findings. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: INTERNATIONAL COORDINATION ACT | Award Amount: 252.03K | Year: 2013

This award provides support to U.S. researchers participating in a project competitively selected by a 13-country initiative on global change research through the Belmont Forum and the G8 countries Heads of Research Councils. The Belmont Forum is a high level group of the world?s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research and international science councils. It aims to accelerate delivery of the international environmental research most urgently needed to remove critical barriers to sustainability by aligning and mobilizing international resources. The G8 Heads of Research Councils developed a funding framework to support multilateral research projects that address global challenges in ways that are beyond the capacity of national or bilateral activities. Each partner country provides funding for their researchers within a consortium to alleviate the need for funds to cross international borders. This approach facilitates effective leveraging of national resources to support excellent research on topics of global relevance best tackled through a multinational approach, recognizing that global challenges need global solutions.

Working together in an inaugural call of the International Opportunities Fund, the Belmont Forum and G8HORCs have provided support for research projects that seek to deliver knowledge needed for action to mitigate and adapt to detrimental environmental change and extreme hazardous events that relate to either Freshwater Security or Coastal Vulnerability. This award provides support for the U.S. researchers to cooperate in consortia that consist of partners from at least three of the participating countries and that bring together natural scientists, social scientists and research users (e.g., policy makers, regulators, NGOs, communities and industry).

This award supports research activities that will address important knowledge gaps in water supply, demand and sharing, and in the application of research to the effective management of freshwater security in Southern Africa. Numerous challenges including population growth, drought-induced food shortages, increasing energy demands and a variable climate interact to make Southern Africa especially sensitive to freshwater security threats. Adding to these challenges is a lack of institutional and policy instruments for equitable and sustainable management of supply and demand in the broader hydro-economy. This project will integrate an understanding of short to medium term hydro-meteorological variability and its socioeconomic consequences to develop approaches for improved regional water resources management. Researchers will develop an improved understanding of hydro-meteorological variability and human-environmental interactions to characterize how this variability affects the regional hydro-economy. This will be achieved through careful case study and co-designed research and facilitated high level knowledge exchange. This project will contribute an improved understanding of the global climate-water-food-energy nexus to support decision making and equitable and sustainable freshwater management.

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