Newsletter ALFA #2 - February 2014



Dear Readers,

This month, we could not begin this newsletter without talking about the just passed Farm Bill. Some major changes occurred for farmers over the country, and there is no doubt that they will impact the U.S. agriculture in the months to come. More specifically for this newsletter, this statement of Tom Vilsack/U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, shall retain all our attention: “The new Farm Bill takes an innovative approach to agricultural research, establishing a new foundation that will leverage private sector funding to support groundbreaking research.”

Are we at the beginning of a new era for agriculture research, or is it just the logical continuation of what happened in the past years with the more and more sustained involvement of the private sector in agricultural development (precision agriculture is an interesting example)?

We will keep that in mind to find an answer. In the meantime, two highlights, this month:
-  The Centre d’Immunologie at Marseille-Luminy (CIML), affiliated with our partner, the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), is inviting applications for group leader positions;
-  USDA Announces Investments in Businesses and Rural Economic Development.

Find also the latest news about ALFA sciences, as well as a small selection of websites to see this month.

Enjoy your reading!

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Simon Ritz, Deputy Scientific attaché

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Table of contents


The Centre d’Immunologie at Marseille-Luminy (CIML) is inviting applications for group leader positions

The CIML is located on a pluridisciplinary campus and is affiliated with Aix Marseille University, INSERM, CNRS and Marseille Hospitals. While particular attention will be given to projects addressing adaptive immunity, epigenetics and systems biology, the CIML welcomes applications from outstanding candidates interested in any aspect of human and model organism immunology including pathology, genetics, cell biology, evolution and development. The CIML actively promotes equal opportunities; applications from female scientists are especially welcome. Read more

USDA Announces Investments in Businesses and Rural Economic Development

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing in rural businesses to help create jobs and spur economic development. "These investments will help businesses expand, help rural communities grow their economies and help support the community-based development goals of the Obama administration," Vilsack said. "USDA is providing loans and grants to our local partners who can leverage this money with funds from other sources for projects that will have broad economic impacts. Read more



In the US

Substance in photosynthesis was at work in ancient, methane-producing microbes - Feb. 6

An international team of researchers led by scientists at Virginia Tech and the University of California, Berkeley has discovered that a process that turns on photosynthesis in plants likely developed on Earth in ancient microbes 2.5 billion years ago, long before oxygen became available. Read more

What matters for making milk -Feb. 3

A new study, co-authored by a Harvard scientist, offers the first-ever evidence that fetal sex can affect the amount of milk cows produce, a finding that could have major economic implications for U.S. dairy farmers. The study, which examined 2.4 million lactations by nearly 1.5 million dairy cows in the U.S., found that cows which gestated back-to-back daughters produce as much as 1,000 pounds more milk than those that give birth to sons over the first two lactations. Read more

Common crop pesticides kill honeybee larvae in the hive - Jan. 27

Four pesticides commonly used on crops to kill insects and fungi also kill honeybee larvae within their hives, according to Penn State and University of Florida researchers. The team also found that N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) — an inert, or inactive, chemical commonly used as a pesticide additive — is highly toxic to honeybee larvae. Read more

Landmark egg production study reveals reduction in environmental impact over past 50 years - Jan. 24

A new study published in Poultry Science shows that while U.S. egg production has increased over the past 50 years, the industry has also been able to significantly decrease its environmental footprint. Researchers conducted a lifecycle analysis of U.S. egg production from 1960 to 2010 to evaluate environmental performance measures for the complete lifecycle from crops to hens to the farm gate. Read more

Image or reality? Leaf research needs photos and lab analysis - Jan. 22

Every picture tells a story, but the story digital photos tell about how forests respond to climate change could be incomplete, according to new research. Scientists from Brown University and the Marine Biological Laboratory have shown that the peak in forest greenness as captured by digital pictures does not necessarily correspond to direct measures of peak chlorophyll content in leaves, which is an indicator of photosynthesis. Read more

In France

Assessing and managing the welfare of animals: various approches and objectives - Jan. 30

While the regulation has improved animal protection in animal husbandry and slaughtering in Europe, industry and research include animal welfare in their research initiatives to meet growing societal expectations. Improvement of animal welfare can be achieved at various levels using more or less sophisticated tools to take into account the multidimensional aspects of welfare. Following a summary of the main types of welfare indicators in cattle, two complementary approaches are described and illustrated by describing currently existing tools: evaluation audits for control and certification purposes, and support approaches to control the risks. Read more (in French)


Low-carbon energies

In the US

Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel, researchers report - Feb. 13

Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels – diesel, for example – that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas, naphtha (a solvent), gasoline, waxes and lubricating oils such as engine oil and hydraulic oil also can be obtained from shopping bags. Read more

New technique makes ’biogasoline’ from plant waste - Feb. 3

Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the University of California, Davis. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes. Read more

Young Scientist’s Share Passion for Biodiesel - Jan. 29

Students from across the country took advantage of this year’s National Biodiesel Conference and presented their research to gain feed back and awareness of the biodiesel industry. This opportunity also allowed them to network with fellow researchers and learn more about the biodiesel community. Read more

The energy yo-yo: When will renewables replace oil & gas? - Jan. 30

We may already be over the tipping point where greenhouse gases (GHG) have so altered the delicate balance in nature that climate changes are irreversible. Two worlds have collided and what may result is the painful start along the road to reclaiming what we have already destroyed. Those two worlds are the oil and gas industry with their reluctance to consider sharing what they perceive as their mission to maintain and increase the worldwide availability of petroleum products, and the renewable energy world’s almost fanatical dedication to change the way energy has been used for centuries. Read more

Boeing reveals “the biggest breakthrough in biofuels ever” - Jan. 27

Biofuels are on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform the oil market. Not only that: it will also green the planet. Alarmed by the poor quality of fuel made from shale oil and tar sands and frustrated by the blunt refusal of oil companies to provide fuel of better quality, Boeing and its partners have over the past four years sponsored research into alternative fuels that has led to spectacular results. They found that there is a class of plants that can grow in deserts on salt water and has superb biomass potential. Read more

In France

French Agricultural Exports in 2013 - Feb. 18

With a base price value of €70.4 billion in 2011, French agricultural production is the leader in Europe: its share of the value of EU agricultural production is 18.1%, greater than those of Germany (13.4%), Italy (12.3%) and Spain (10.6%). France thus holds first place in the production of beef, poultry, cereal, sugar beets, oil seeds and potatoes. It is also one of the world’s largest international producers and exporters of food. France’s food and agriculture trade surplus increased during the year 2013 as it expanded on emerging markets. Read more

Rainforests mitigating climate change: their role in replacing fossil fuels and future green economies - Feb. 13

The study conducted by members of the World Bank, the German GIZ and CGAAER shows how new tropical forest policies could lead to a saving of emissions of eight billion tonnes of carbon in 2050. Read more (in French)


Food Sciences

In the US

Military nears holy Grail: pizza that lasts years - Feb. 14

They call it the holy grail of ready-to-eat meals for soldiers: a pizza that can stay on the shelf for as long as three years and still remain good to eat. Soldiers have been asking for pizza since lightweight individual field rations — known as meals ready to eat, or MREs — replaced canned food in 1981 for soldiers in combat zones or areas where field kitchens cannot be set up. Read more

Carrot slicing method impacts E.coli contamination depth - Feb. 6

Slicing with a blunt machine blade enhanced penetration of E.coli O157:H7 and its survival during storage at 8 °C, according to a study. Carrots sliced with a blunt machine blade may have increased surface areas and greater nutrient availability compared to conditions at the surfaces of carrots sliced with a razor blade. Read more

Whole grain consumption may be linked to fiber intake - Feb. 5

A study published in Nutrition Research shows that most American children and adults are getting less than the recommended amounts of whole grains and dietary fiber. In addition, the study shows that those who consume the most whole grains had the highest intake of fiber. Read more

Olive oil component investigated for breast cancer prevention - Jan. 22

A major component of olive oil, hydroxytyrosol, is the subject of a Houston Methodist study of women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. The study focuses on the changes in breast density after one year of treatment and is the first of its kind in the United States. Read more

New test targets salmonella - Jan. 22

An array of tiny diving boards can perform the Olympian feat of identifying many strains of salmonella at once. The novel biosensor developed by scientists at Rice University in collaboration with colleagues in Thailand and Ireland may make the detection of pathogens much faster and easier for food-manufacturing plants. Read more

In France

Seniors: guidelines to healthy daily eating - Feb. 11

GOOD FOOD FOR ALL - Improve nutrition for the elderly is a major challenge to enable them to live longer in good health. From an economic point of view, this represents a decrease in health expenses and disability related to loss of autonomy compensation. This improvement course requires special attention to the content of the meals but also to their environment. Friendliness is part of the pleasure of eating, pleasure that must be maintained and facilitated to develop the prevention of undernutrition, which remains a major cause of loss of autonomy. Read more (in French)

Guest News

National Science Board - Science and Engineering Indicators 2014

The United States holds a preeminent position in science and engineering (S&E) in the world, derived in large part from its long history of public and private investment in S&E research and development and education. Investment
in R&D, science, technology, and education correlate strongly with economic growth and with the development of a safe, healthy, and well-educated society. Read more

Send us your ALFA news for March’s Newsletter here!

Seen on the web

Got Predators? Don’t Shoot. Get a Llama - Feb. 12

In the exhausting business of growing and raising food, when predators come calling for fresh eggs, poultry, lamb or beef, the traditional farmer or rancher response has been — and, in most cases, still is — to “shoot, shovel and shut up”. But, beginning in the ’90s, a new voice arose among North American agricultural producers that suggested shooting might not be the one-size-fits-all solution. Research began to emerge, for instance, that showed coyote populations rebounding intensely after being decimated by gunfire. Read more

Structure of the month

The General Council for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas

The General Council for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas’ (CGAAER) mission is to assist French Ministers in the performance of their duties by participating in the design, monitoring and evaluation of public policies concerning its jurisdiction. Established in 2006, the General Council forFood, Agriculture and Rural Areas is chaired by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Bertrand Hervieu is the Vice-Presidency. The CGAAER part in the modernization of public action, to measure the performance of centralized and decentralized services and public facilities, and ensures the proper use of public resources. Read more (in French)

Get in touch with ALFA science

Website to see this month

For the United States information

JPEG : discover the world’s largest concentrating power plant.

JPEG : discover how does an ag census work.

JPEG : learn how hotels commit themselves into best management practices for water savings.

News articles

JPEG : News from the United States covering advancements in science and technology (French articles).

For France information

JPEG : read about the second call for projects of the SUSFOOD ERA-Net.

JPEG : News from France on advancements in science and technology (French articles).

JPEG : discover the new orientations of common agricultural policy for 2014-2020.

JPEG : learn about the French and European farm income in 2013.

Coming Events

2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel Arlington, Va Feb. 20-21
Gray County Ag Conference Clyde Carruth Livestock Pavilion Pampa, Tx Feb. 26
9th Int’l Taste Nutrition Health Congress Palais des Congrès Dijon, France Apr. 3-4


French Office for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC - website:
Consulate General of France in Chicago - website:


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Last modified on 24/02/2014

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