Innovating across Food Systems
How are U.S.-supported innovations contributing to sustainable food systems in developing countries?
This question was posed in a series of discussions among experts from June 21 to July 15, 2021, in advance of an international summit dedicated to food systems at the United Nations.
The expert-to-expert dialogues (E2Es) were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and hosted by the University of California — Davis World Food Center and Global Food Initiative. They centered on specific innovations developed through the collaboration of the United States and host country technical experts and organizations. Aligned with the five action tracks of the UN Food Systems Summit, the E2Es looked at past, present and future use of U.S. innovations in food production collaborations in developing countries.
Many of the innovations discussed were introduced through activities of USDA or USAID — or both in collaboration — with the host countries. Aflatoxin control was one such technology experts discussed.
During the E2E dialogue on safe food production through aflatoxin control held on July 15, 2021, for instance, USDA’s Deborah Hamilton provided important historical perspective. Hamilton explained, in the 1960s, a flock of 100,000 turkeys in the United Kingdom was killed after consuming aflatoxin contaminated peanut meal. This dramatic incident served as an important catalyst to galvanize policymakers to push for changes in food safety regulations. The USDA’s researchers and other affiliated research scientists would later further the availability and adoption of aflatoxin mitigation technology in the United States and abroad — from Africa to Europe, and now, in Pakistan. This resulted in the development of AF36 to mitigate the aflatoxin contaminants in 1996.
Hillary Mehl, also of USDA, underscored how innovations in aflatoxin mitigation technology have strengthened public health and food safety across a range of areas, thus helping to minimize unnecessary trade barriers that could otherwise be applied by countries looking to stem the disease.
Ranajit Bandyopadhyay of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture explained how Africa’s experience with Aflatoxin control — through the commercial product Aflasafe — has buttressed food systems on that continent. A five-year project was carried out in Nigeria to promote Aflasafe to improve food safety and public health through its adoption. There are now four factories and eight companies involved with the production and sale of Aflasafe across nine African countries. With the growth in the product’s use across Africa, farmer incomes have risen by as much as 16 percent where Aflasafe is used, and there’s potential for much higher adoption rates among farmers in the region.
Consult the entire set of E2E recordings on the website of the University of California — Davis World Food Center.
The UN Food Systems Summit will be held virtually on September 23, 2021, during the UN General Assembly week in New York.