Office worker searching top secret confidential information in the office late at night, data theft and security concept

Intellectual theft continues: The arrest of a Chinese intelligence official in Belgium this week on espionage charges and subsequent extradition to the United States has raised the already fraught tensions between the U.S. and China. The suspect stands accused of stealing intellectual property from U.S. aviation firms. But that is not the only sector that has seen significant intellectual property theft by the Chinese. In late 2013 federal authorities rounded up a ring of Chinese nationals accused of stealing seed that held the trade secrets of American agricultural companies. READ MORE

China’s R&D spending sets record: China’s total spending on research and development rose a robust 12.3 percent last year to a record 1.76 trillion yuan ($254 billion), according to a government report released this week. Already second in the world in R&D spending behind the United States, China has narrowed the gap. READ MORE


Keeping the food system within environmental limits: The food system is a major driver of climate change, changes in land use, depletion of freshwater resources, and pollution of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems through excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs. The authors argue that between 2010 and 2050, as a result of expected changes in population and income levels, the environmental effects of the food system could increase by 50–90 percent in the absence of technological changes and dedicated mitigation measures. READ MORE

The national security dimension of food insecurity: This is part two of a two-part discussion about the national security dimensions of food insecurity with former UT chancellor and former commander of Special Operations Command retired Adm. William McRaven and Congressman Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. READ MORE


Blame typhus on the opossums: Los Angeles is in the midst of a typhus outbreak, but researchers say the usual suspects—cats and rats—aren’t to blame. Instead, they believe the opossum, the nightmarish marsupial becoming a growing nuisance in the city, is the culprit. Scientists have known for three decades that opossums house the fleas that carry the bacteria for murine typhus, Rickettsia typhi. But what they haven’t figured out is exactly how opossums have become hosts. READ MORE


EU members express concern about food safety controls: European Union member states have sent clear signals that staff resources for official food and feed safety controls are increasingly limited, according to a recent report. Any potential further reduction risks negatively affecting the levels and quality of controls and capacity to respond to emergencies. READ MORE 

Food safety chief spot needs filled: Although her appointment is stalled in the U.S. Senate with hundreds of others, the nomination of Mindy Brashears as the next U.S. Under Secretary for Food Safety puts a real face on the long-time vacancy. It’s been four years and 10 months since Elisabeth Hagen stepped down as the Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. READ MORE


U.S. braces for potential African swine fever outbreak: With outbreaks of African swine fever in China and Europe, the U.S. government and pork industry continue efforts to prepare for the potential introduction of the disease in the United States. An update issued by the Swine Health Information Center in Ames, Iowa, notes that the government and industry will conduct an ASF exercise next year to test response and containment functions. READ MORE


Hurricane impacts Southeastern harvest: With the Southeast still reeling from Hurricane Flo, Hurricane Michael unleashed its fury on the Florida Panhandle and south Georgia Wednesday and Thursday, heading into the Carolinas and Virginia to dump more rain on an already drenched region. The timing is especially bad since many north Florida and south Georgia crops were just days away from harvest. That’s also the case for peanuts and cotton, which seemingly have sustained major damage as well. READ MORE