Italians Show Energy and Food Can Grow in Harmony

As global food demand rises, so does the controversy of growing crops for biofuels on arable land. But it’s not really as cut and dried as some critics make it out to be. The food versus fuel debate just might miss the fact that there are people practicing ways to create greener energy and produce the same amount of food all while improving soil health. 

To be fair, conventional biofuel production is frequently in conflict with growing food. Farmers that raise only biofuel crops could instead be using the land to grow food for people. And, biofuel production may increase food prices by competing for space with ...

Why Getting Nepal the Right Seeds After the Earthquakes Matters

When two major earthquakes hit Nepal this past spring, it devastated the country’s agricultural sector. Cultivated terraces were washed away by landslides and covered in rubble. But farmers lost more than just their crops, cattle, and homes (see Nepal Earthquake Strikes One of Earth’s Most Quake-Prone Areas). Gone, too, were the seeds they had uniquely adapted to their land over the course of decades.

Farming communities in central Nepal’s mountainous region were some of the hardest hit areas in the country. Seeds, tools, food stocks, and buildings were destroyed. In the six most-affected districts, the Food and Agriculture Organization of ...

That Fatty Taste, Like Pluto, May Have a Hard Time Earning Respect

In the last few weeks, there’s been a slew of headlines announcing fat as the newest taste scientists have discovered in our palate. A new study in the journal Chemical Senses suggests that people can in fact distinguish the taste from the other five—sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. But is that enough to make fat the next official taste? The answer is maybe.

One of the challenges in naming a new primary taste is that no one really agrees on what the criteria for one is. It’s a bit like the debate over Pluto’s status as a planet: Experts can, and do, disagree.

One thing that is not in ...

Can Breadfruit Overcome Its Past to Be a Superfood of the Future?

An unusual crop that was once a staple across the tropics seems to be making a comeback. Starchy and packed with nutrients, breadfruit isn’t a typical fruit. And while this cousin of the mulberry may not be at the top of anyone’s dream menu, it could be the key to food security in part of the world.

That's because breadfruit is high in complex carbohydrates (the kind that are good for you), protein, and micronutrients like iron and zinc. And compared to white rice and potatoes, breadfruit scores lower on the glycemic index, so it won’t shock your blood sugar. That’s good news for the Pacific Islands where diabetes ...

World Food Prize Winner: Women Are Key to Agriculture Investment

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed of Bangladesh says he has seen many defeated men in his life, but never a defeated woman. That’s why he focuses much of his nonprofit’s money on supporting female farmers in developing countries. And his work in this arena for the last 40 years has earned him this year’s World Food Prize.

If you haven’t even heard of the World Food Prize, why care about it? Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, explains: “It was created to deal with the single greatest challenge that human beings have ever faced: Can we feed the nine billion people that will soon ...

Capturing the Cinnamon Harvest in Sumatra

Many people have probably never heard of cassia, but the everyday spice is tucked away in kitchen cupboards across North America. Commercially branded as cinnamon, cassia is the most commonly sold type of cinnamon in U.S. and Canadian supermarkets.

In February, documentary filmmakers and brothers Michael and David Hanson ventured to the Indonesian island of Sumatra to document coffee and tea cultivation. While there, they heard about an upcoming cassia harvest in the island’s lush Kerinci Valley, and jumped at the opportunity to film it, providing an intimate window on the people who cultivate the spice. (more…)

This Ag Innovator Wants to Find Your Broccoli by IP Address

For all of you who think urban agriculture and vertical farming are hobbies for wealthy people with time on their hands, meet Caleb Harper. A 2015 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and a research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab, Harper is helping turn urban agriculture into a reality by reinventing how we grow food indoors to feed our growing population.

Harper, who comes from a farming family, wants to grow food closer to where people live—increasingly, in cities—and avoid environmental risks like drought, storms, and insects, which threaten the quality and quantity of what we eat. “The food will not need pesticides or chemicals, and it'll be predictable 365 ...

Aflatoxin, a Silent Threat to Africa’s Food Supply

Food supply issues aren’t uncommon in Africa. Famines caused by drought, flood, or conflict are frequent. But there is another constant threat to the continent’s food security that receives little public attention: Foodborne toxins known as aflatoxins.

Produced by fungus in the same way that penicillin is, aflatoxins can cause disease and are blamed for liver cancer. That’s pretty alarming since they largely affect food staples like corn and groundnuts. But there are scientists working on solutions.

The toxins are naturally occurring and exist at high levels in much of Africa’s food supply. Some scientists  estimate that up to one-third of Africa’s food supply is infected with aflatoxins at levels higher than ...

Why Corn–Not Rice–Is King in China


Rice has long been a cultural symbol of the Chinese diet. First cultivated by Asian farmers some 8,000 years ago, it has become a major staple crop for the world and has been by far the biggest crop in the country.

But for the last few years, corn has taken the crown for top crop in China. And that’s not because the Chinese have suddenly developed an enormous appetite for corn on the cob—instead, they’re using corn to grow livestock.

Corn production has jumped nearly 125 percent over the past 25 years, while rice has increased only 7 percent, according to the World Bank. A taste for meat is behind the change, since ...

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