According to Lord Stern of
Brentford, what we eat does matter and we should be eating less meat or even
becoming vegetarians to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and, therefore, stop global
warming from increasing and climate change from happening.
In the West, we live in a world of information overload. At our fingertips we have instant access to a wealth of knowledge, and then some…We struggle to keep pace with rapidly developing technology but this is only a problem for the well heeled. In the developing world the story is starkly different.
How we can help bridge the ‘digital divide’, particularly with the use of mobile phones, was discussed in the final session of the CABI Global Summit entitled ‘Information and Communication (ICT’s) in agricultural development’
Dr Stephen Rudgard, Chief, WAICENT Capacity Building & Outreach, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), highlighted AGORA – Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture, which he referred to as the “jewel in the crown” of the FAO’s ICT programmes. AGORA is a partnership between the FAO and over 60 publishers, including CABI, and gives free access to over 1300 journals in agriculture and related fields to 107 eligible countries. There are over 200 institutions registered in 90 countries.
“When it rains, it does not rain on one roof only”
This is a saying from the home village in western Kenya of my friend and colleague Dennis Rangi, CABI’s Executive Director for International Development. He said this in his introduction to the CABI Summit in London which I though was particularly apt as I listened to speakers talk about the impact of climate change on their part of the world. Dennis showed two photographs of Mount Kilimanjaro and described how he remembers growing up looking at the mountain, a powerful symbol of Africa thats snow-cap has receded in a stark reminder of the reality of climate change.
Recently I read in an abstract in the CAB Abstracts Database that “Dog poisoning caused by grape or raisin consumption has been increasing recently. The first cases of poisoning were documented around 1989, several tens cases have been registered yearly in the world since 2003”. The author writing in a Czech veterinary journal is correct in saying that the first report of
raisin poisoning in dogs was fairly recent, and there appears to be no recorded cases before 1989.
Raisin poisoning can be very serious with most affected dogs developing vomiting and/or diarrhoea within 6-12 hr of eating the grapes or raisins. Other signs include lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, weakness, dehydration, polydipsia, and tremors (shivering). Oliguric or anuric renal failure
can develop within 24-72 hr after eating the raisins, and once anuric renal failure develops, most dogs die or are destroyed. Some dogs develop transient elevations in serum glucose, liver enzymes, pancreatic enzymes, serum calcium, or serum phosphorus develop in some dogs.
The Merck veterinary manual recommends that affected dogs should be given an emetic as soon as possible to try and eliminate the fruit, followed by
doses of activated charcoal. With large ingestions or in cases where vomiting and/or
diarrhoea has spontaneously developed within 12 hr of ingestion of grapes or raisins, aggressive fluid diuresis for 48 hr is recommended. Renal function and fluid balance should be monitored during fluid administration. For oliguric dogs, urine production may be stimulated by using dopamine and/or furosemide. Anuric dogs are unlikely to survive unless peritoneal dialysis or haemodialysis is performed, and even then the prognosis is guarded.
The interesting thing about raisin/grape poisoning is why it has only been reported in recent years? Dogs have not suddenly become more greedy and less discerning in what they choose to eat. Also the availability of raisins in
houses would have been greater in the past when more people baked fruit cakes and their own Christmas puddings at home. I far as I know, dogs (some breeds in particular) have always been great opportunists when it comes to raiding the
larder, so its hard to belief that they never had the chance to eat raisins
before 1989. Could it be that raisins have changed in some way? Or is it just that cases
of raisin poisoning did occur in the past and were just not reported? Some authors have suggested that a mycotoxin
contaminating the raisins may be to blame for the poisonings. Would some change
in the processing of raisin and grapes be responsible? If the toxin can cause
kidney failure in dogs does it have an adverse effect in humans? As yet no toxin has been identified, so
suggesting a mycotoxin is just speculation. So, looking at the literature on a particular topic, like raisin poisoning, may not provide all the answers we would like, but it does help to us to ask the right questions.
If humanity is to continue to avert disaster and the Malthusian nightmare as growing populations exert ever increasing pressures on scarce earth resources, then we need some new solutions to old problems in agriculture, and we need to use some of the old solutions a lot better. In particular we need to recognise that we can’t just go on indefinitely hoping to produce more food, we also need to look after what we’ve produced and reduce losses and waste.
The CABI Global Summit, being held in London today brought together some of the world’s experts on the issue of Food Security. In the first open session they directed their discussion to thoughts on how we might hope to achieve the first and potentially the most intractable Millennium Development Goal, to ‘Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger’.
The problem is stark: the current world population is approaching 7 billion, and is set to top 9 billion by 2050. Of these about 1 billion of the poorest people go hungry most days. “Those in poverty want the same as the rest of us, good education for their children, security and hope for the future, but most of all they want to know where their next meal is coming from”, said Dennis Rangi, CABI Executive Director for International Development. In the past year, prices in global food commodities have soared, in part as a result of the global economic crisis, and those that have felt the impacts most have been the global poor. Many producers of food in are often themselves acute sufferers of food shortages; smallholder farmers.
Representatives from more than 40 countries have gathered today to attend a day of presentations and debate. In a highly stimulating first session, a number of global thought leaders gave their views on food security into the future: can this be achieved and if so how?
CABI's Executive Director for International Development, Dr Dennis Rangi, indicated that in many countries close to 50% of crop production is lost to pests and diseases in the fields, or to post-harvest damages. He also described the issue of a retiring agricultural sector - both agricultural scientists and farmers are not followed-up by young recruits or descendents as the younger population associates farming with a non-rewarding livelihood. He closed his presentation with this message: people who live in poverty want a good life for their children, just as rich people, but above all, they want a good next meal. He closed by saying that CABI is committed to contribute to Millenium Development Goal 1 by helping farmers grow more and lose less.
If you walk just for a few minutes up the river from CABI’s headquarters near Wallingford, UK, you come across Jethro Tull Gardens. For people of a certain age this causes some confusion – why should the council have seen fit to commemorate Ian Anderson’s prog rock band with a street name? A little further down the street is a clue – the 17th-century house where the real Jethro Tull lived. It turns out that the band took the name from one of agriculture’s pioneers.
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull - sometime salmon farmer
but limited contribution to agricultural mechanisation
Jethro Tull (1674-1741) was very interested in the application of scientific method to agriculture. He noticed that hand-sown wheat seeds tended to be delivered in clumps rather than spaced at a more ideal even interval. His solution was a horse-drawn machine with a rotating cylinder with grooves cut in that meant an even flow of seeds were added as the machine was moved along. The seeds landed in three channels dug by a plough at the front of the machine, and then were covered up by a harrow at the back of the machine. This meant greatly reduced wastage of seeds.
Jethro Tull - church-organ vandal but major agricultural visionary
Tull’s prototype seed drill was built from the foot pedals of a local church organ. Tull’s was not the first seed drill, in that double-tube seed drills were in existence in China 2000 years earlier, and Italian inventors had patented simpler versions of the concept, but his took the idea to a new level of practicability. It was unpopular with farm workers who feared they would lose their jobs, and it appears that it was sabotaged. He later developed a horse-drawn hoe to remove weeds, which is described along with other ideas in “Horse-Hoeing Husbandry: An Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Nutrition”. Tull is now seen as a major figure in the British Agricultural Revolution, but his ideas took a long time to gain acceptance. Mechanised seed drills were not widely used until the 19th century.
CABI moved to Wallingford in the 1980s with the aim of centralizing its expertise in the appliance of science to agriculture. So it was a good omen that 300 years earlier, a local farmer was doing something very similar.
Fig. 258. Plasmodium ovale. Three typical trophozoites that make species diagnosis very easy Image courtesy of the authors of Atlas of Human Malaria.
From Zeno Bisoffiand Giovanni Swierczynski, of the Centre for Tropical Diseases, S. Cuore Hospital, in Negrar (Verona), Italy.
At the recent ECTMIH 2009 in Verona, Italy, a very well attended parallel session discussed the problem of malaria diagnosis. The keynote lecture by Walter Wernsdorfer had the provocative title: The Use of Rapid Diagnostic Tools – the End of Traditional Microscopic Diagnosis of Malaria?
Not surprisingly, the speaker expressed serious concern about totally abandoning microscopy in favor of the "new" rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), and fears that microscopy would become obsolete, although no real demonstration exists of the superiority of the new tools.
Hunger Index (GHI) Report released for World Food Day today shows that progress
in fighting hunger remains slow. This year the report released
by the International Food Policy Research Institute highlights gender inequality
as a factor in food insecurity.