Making progress on the biological management of Red Palm Weevil at KhairPur – Sindh


By Riaz Mahmood and Naeem-ul-Haq, CABI Central and West Asia (CWA), Rawalpindi

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is of high economic importance for livelihood for hundreds of farmers families in Pakistan. Fruit and tree parts are of many uses. Date palm trees are spread over 98,000 hectares across Pakistan making it the fifth largest date producer in the world at 0.7million metric tons, with most orchards found in Sindh and Balochistan.

However, Sindh leads the way producing more than 0.28 million tons annually and the Khairpur district of Sindh is famous for its date palm orchards. Simple dates, dry dates, sweets made of dates and even date pickles are available in various varieties in the district. High quality of date is produced in this area for local consumption and also exported to many countries. Around 85% of these dates are dried and turned into chuhara, the majority of which is exported to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

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Dr Rob Reeder goes ‘bananas’ about pests and diseases on the Urban Farm Podcast


Plant pathologist Dr Rob Reeder has this week spoken to Greg Peterson of the US-based Urban Farm Podcast about how the global supply of bananas (particularly the Cavendish variety) could be put at risk from a three-pronged attack of pests and diseases.

In the podcast, Dr Reeder reveals the reasons why the fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4), together with the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) and the Banana Skipper butterfly (Erionota spp), could destroy banana plantations across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

As part of the solution to the problem, which could cost the global banana industry $35 billion as highlighted by CABI in a story publicised in December, Dr Reeder underlines the work of the Plantwise programme including how it helps farmers in developing countries diagnose and manage pests and diseases at its plant clinics.

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How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Enter the Food Chain in non-GMO Producing Countries

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock and crops, as well as trade and consumption of GMOs are highly controversial topics.

Proponents of genetic engineering argue that GMOs represent the only viable solution to food shortages in an ever-growing global population. They claim that the use of GMOs in agriculture and their consumption have caused no harm to livestock or humans so far. Heated debate also persists over GMO food labelling, with food manufacturers in the USA arguing that mandatory GMO labelling hinders the development of agricultural biotechnology, and may also "exacerbate the misconception” that GMOs endanger human health.


Animals: GMO or non-GMO?

However, opponents of GMOs are far from convinced, and they are concerned about the potentially negative impact of GMOs on the environment, livestock and humans. The inevitability of GMO-contamination to some level has been widely recognised in non-GMO producing countries, but many countries, including EU countries, seek to control its spread. Opponents of GMOs are also concerned about the lack of data on the long-term effects of GMO use. These concerns have been effective in limiting GMO acceptance by the public.

Our guest blogger, Dr Tatjana Brankov of University of Novi Sad, Serbia, in her opinion piece below, describes how GMOs find their way to the daily diet of livestock, and subsequently to human diet, in different geographical regions of the world, including non-GMO producing countries.

To find out what this means for customers who want to avoid GMOs in their diet, or to farmers who want to keep their farms GMO-free, read on…


How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) enter the food chain in non-GMO producing countries

by Tatjana Brankov, Faculty of Economics, University of Novi Sad, Serbia.

Edited by M Djuric, CAB International, Wallingford, UK 

A superficial review of the legislation on transgenic foods and feeds indicates that consumers in non-GMO producing countries consume GMO-free food. However, less attention is paid to the fact that GMOs can enter the food chain through the import of transgenic foodstuff and feedstuff or by contamination.


Crops: GMO or non-GMO?

In some countries, transgenic food production is fully equal to conventional production. The concept of substantial equivalence, developed by the OECD and further elaborated by FAO/WHO “embodies the concept that if a new food or food component is found to be substantially equivalent to an existing food or food component, it can be treated in the same manner with respect to safety, i.e. the food or food component can be concluded to be as safe as the conventional food or food component” (FAO/WHO 1996). Such a situation exists in a number of countries, including the USA, where it has been estimated that up to 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves, from soda to soup, and from crackers to condiments contain GMO ingredients (Center for Food Safety 2017).

On the other side, EU countries apply the precautionary principle as a guiding approach for trans-border movement of GMOs (Myhr and Traavik, 2002). As the EUR-Lex glossary explains, this principle “relates to an approach to risk management whereby, if there is the possibility that a given policy or action might cause harm to the public or the environment and if there is still no scientific consensus on the issue, the policy or action in question should not be pursued.”

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Building capacity for greater food security in Pakistan


Around 30-40% of crops around the world are lost to insect pests thereby affecting the ability of the 500 million small-scale farmers around the world to contribute towards the goal of achieiving zero hunger and ending poverty. Reducing losses by just 1% could feed millions more people but many countries in the Developing World need support to implement biological control programmes to reduce food losses.

As part of CABI’s mission to help farmers grow more and lose less, we have been funded by USAID – via the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – to help Pakistan improve its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) systems and therefore open up its fruit and vegetables to more high-end global markets that were previously untapped. Currently these products only contribute 13% of the country’s export but improvements to its SPS capabilities could see this number rise significantly.

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Around the World in 80 Spices

By P N Ravindran

From the dawn of civilization spices were sought after eagerly. The seafarers of the ancient lands braved the raging waves and winds to go to distant lands in search of spices and aromatics.

The discovery of the fairyland of spices and Spice Islands was one of the major aims of most circumnavigations that the age of Renaissance had witnessed. Such navigational expeditions and discoveries had opened up the flora and fauna of many countries to the rest of the world; the most notable among them was the ‘Columbian exchange’ following the discovery of American continent by Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. Columbus went in search of India and black pepper but discovered America and red pepper. The exchanges that followed the discovery of new lands changed radically the cuisines of the world and medicines too, “reshaping every one’s food basket and medicine chest significantly.”

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Irrigation facilities to enhance all year seed supply by farmers in central Uganda

Farmers sign seed supply agreements

Lack of access to quality seed, particularly of traditional crops that are not well integrated into the formal sector, remains a key challenge for increased productivity of these crops in African farming systems.

CABI, working with national and regional partners, aims to strengthen seed systems in Africa through developing farmer seed enterprises and linkages to markets. Focus has been on traditional varieties that are farmer-preferred for their nutrition, food security, income and environmental sustainability. This is aimed at enhancing access to quality seed of farmer-preferred varieties locally, nationally and regionally.

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Stuffed and starved: is sufficiency the new efficiency?

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Attending a recent Chatham House event, one statistic seemed to encapsulate the crisis of our current food system:

795 million eat too little while 2 billion eat too much.

After the initial shock of hearing this, I couldn’t help but wonder; if there’s plenty of food to go around why are we simultaneously starving and stuffing ourselves?

The implications of this imbalance in food distribution are enormous for global health, economic productivity and the environment.

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