Close up of food corn on green field, sunny outdoor background

Will designer microbes replace fertilizer? In the spring, Indiana farmer Jake Misch will douse his freshly furrowed corn seeds with a liquid probiotic for plants. As the seedlings grow, these special microbes will colonize their roots, forming hairy nodes and converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use to turn sunlight into sugar. If all goes as planned, those little critters will produce 25 pounds of usable nitrogen for every acre of corn. READ MORE

HUMANITARIAN CRISES

Indonesian death toll surpasses 1,200: At a press conference, Indonesian officials announced Tuesday that the death toll had increased to 1,234 from a devastating earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi, and about 800 others were severely injured. Rescue officials worried that the extent of the disaster could escalate even further with several large coastal towns still isolated because of damaged roads and downed communication lines. READ MORE

And desperation grows: Desperation is growing in parts of Sulawesi as residents faced a fourth day without food and drinking water after the Indonesian island was devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami. Signs propped along roads read “We Need Food” and “We Need Support,” while children beg for cash in the streets. The national police and troops have been deployed to guard petrol stations and food shops. Around 50,000 people have been displaced by the twin disaster, with many still trying to escape the devastated region. READ MORE

Venezuelan exodus continues: Nearly two million people have fled Venezuela’s economic and political crisis since 2015, according to the United Nations which called for a “nonpolitical” response to an exodus that is straining regional resources. Some 5,000 people are now leaving Venezuela daily – the largest population movement in Latin America’s recent history, the head of the UN refugee agency said Monday. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

Chocolate chirp cookies, anyone? Cricket protein powder prices will come down “drastically” over the next five years as production capacity increases and firms add layers of automation to the farming process, predicts Montana-based Cowboy Cricket Farms. There are two key challenges facing the edible industry right now, and neither is insurmountable, says the entrepreneur behind the brand, James Rolin. The company’s products include chocolate chirp cookies, whole roasted crickets and cricket powder. READ MORE

TERRORISM

Envelopes with ricin intercepted at Pentagon: Two envelopes addressed Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson have tested positive for ricin after being intercepted at the Pentagon, according to officials. At around the same time, two people were hospitalized after being exposed to a white powder that was contained in mail sent to Sen. Ted Cruz’s Houston campaign office. It is not known if the two incidents are linked or what the substance sent to Cruz’s office was. READ MORE

TARIFFS

Retaliatory duties remain: The U.S. Meat Export Federation says the new trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada is good news, but notes that retaliatory duties imposed by Mexico on U.S. pork and by Canada on U.S. prepared/cooked beef products remain in place. These duties were imposed in response to tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Mexico and Canada the White House imposed in May. READ MORE

Food processing roiled by global trade wars: Food processing is one of the major business sectors being roiled by global trade wars, on both sides of the Atlantic. The Trump administration’s trade tiffs have caused anxiety in the U.S. Meanwhile, trade wars threaten to have an even greater effect on the United Kingdom. As the UK struggles to work through Brexit, its departure from the European Union that voters mandated in 2016, food is turning out to be a major source of anxiety. READ MORE

Canada will take more U.S. dairy products: The U.S. and Canada have reached an agreement that will bring Canada into a revamped North American free trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico. According to one farm policy analyst, Canada will provide access to up to 3.59 percent of its dairy market, greater than the 3.25 percent the U.S. would have gained through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Canada also agreed to eliminate the Class 7 pricing system, and the milk protein concentrate, skim milk powder and infant formula formerly included within Class 7 will be priced at U.S. prices. READ MORE

CYBER SECURITY

A warning about New Zealand: Security recommendation for businesses – avoid New Zealand. Travelers who refuse to hand over their phone or laptop passwords to New Zealand customs officials can now be slapped with a $5,000 fine. An updated law makes clear that travelers must provide access – whether that be a password, pin-code or fingerprint – but officials would need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Warrantless searches are troubling at best, and potentially disastrous if business-related IP or PII is not adequately protected or, worse still, is exploited by government officials. READ MORE

Several bugs exploited in Facebook hack: Facebook has shared additional details about the hacker attack affecting 50 million accounts, including technical information and what its investigation has uncovered so far. The social media giant announced on Friday that malicious actors exploited a vulnerability related to the “View As” feature to steal access tokens that could have been leveraged to hijack accounts. The tokens of nearly 50 million users have been compromised. READ MORE

GLYPHOSATE CONTROVERSY

Corn and soybeans positive for glyphosate, but not too much: A special testing program shows that more than 60 percent of corn and soybeans sampled by the FDA were positive for glyphosate and glufosinate residues in fiscal 2016, but none of the samples had levels higher than the legal limits. The FDA released the herbicide data from the 2016 federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, along with its annual pesticide residue report. READ MORE