How can the potential of agriculture be unleashed to reduce malnutrition and ill health? This is the question that economists, sociologists, agricultural scientists, policy makers and international development administrators who will gather in New Dehli will explore and develop answers to. People’s nutrition and health are affected by agriculture, as the supplier of food, source of income and the basic engine of growth. Thus agriculture can contribute significantly to improving poor people’s nutrition and health. The Conference “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health”, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) begins in New Dehli, India on 10 February 2011 for 3 days will focus on catalyzing action. Details in http://2020conference.ifpri.info/
A special session entitled “Keeping you healthy and your rice bowls full” organized by Dr Lourdes Adriano, Principal Economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and chaired by Dr Robert Zeigler, Director General of IRRI, will be held on 10 February. The session will address preventing pre and post harvest losses and protecting the health of farmers and consumers. Farmers are exposed to health hazards posed by excessive pesticide use which are also affecting ecosystem health and inducing pest outbreaks, like the planthoppers. Poor post harvest practices result in rice highly contaminated by aflatoxins from fungal infections. Aflatoxins are toxic and among the most carcinogenic substances known.
In intensive rice productions systems, much of the biodiversity is reduced and the risks of getting planthopper outbreaks are high. They lack genetic biodiversity when large areas are planted to just a few varieties. Habitat biodiversity is lacking when rice is grown continuously in large areas and biodiversity of predators and parasitoids are lost because of excessive insecticides from prophylactic spraying routines. The ADB-IRRI Rice Planthopper Project aims to reduce vulnerability of rice crops to pre harvest losses by restoring biodiversity and reducing prophylactic insecticide applications using ecological engineering principles.
When rice is poorly stored after harvest, there is high infection by several species of a fungus, Aspergillus, that produces aflatoxins. Consumers, often unaware of such carcinogenic contaminants in the rice they eat, are at risk in the medium and long terms. The ADB-IRRI Post Harvest project is developing improved storage methods as well as improved systems in the rice supply chain to reduce such contaminations.