学习啦【英语文摘】 编辑：韦彦 发布时间：2016-08-27
The worst drought for 50 years is inflicting huge damage on the US maize crop, with seriousconsequences for the overall international food supply.
The situation reminds us that even the most advanced agricultural systems are subject to thevagaries of the weather, leading to volatility in supplies and prices not just on domesticmarkets but also internationally. Climate change and extreme weather events will furthercomplicate the picture.
US maize production had been expected to increase to record levels this year. That view willprove optimistic. Much of the reduced crop will be claimed by biofuel production in line with USfederal mandates, leaving even less for food and feed markets. The August US Department ofAgriculture estimates, announced today, will give a more precise idea for just how much themaize crop is reduced. Few people are expecting good news.
Maize prices have already gone higher than their 2008 and 2011 peaks, increasing by 23 percent during July alone. Wheat prices have followed maize prices upwards. Repercussions arealready being felt in the US livestock sector.
Unsurprisingly, the media has started talking about the possibility of a food crisis. Whether thathappens depends not only on how long the drought lasts and how much damage it does tocrops but on how far its impact spreads to other markets, whether there are further supplyshocks and how countries react to the price movements.
In 2007-08 governments tended to react in a disorganised and erratic manner, which oftenaccentuated global price rises, as was the case with the imposition of export restraints. Oftenthe measures were not even effective in meeting the objective of stabilising domestic prices,as they often led to panic buying and hoarding.
Given all this, governments should be cautious, especially considering that high prices are notnecessarily negative. Attractive producer prices will be needed in the coming months to enticeproducers to embark on a much needed increase of crop cultivation, especially in the southernhemisphere.
Some governments will be called to take a number of steps to alleviate the impact of thesituation on the poorest consumers, for example through the targeted distribution of food atsubsidised prices, increased reliance on non-commodities crops such as roots, tubers, andbeans, and assisting small producers to get better seeds and other basic inputs. Over thelonger term, strategies to increase local production and self-sufficiency should be implemented.
Fortunately rice supplies in 2012 are plentiful and rice prices stable, but they could also bedriven higher by increasing prices of other cereals. Rice market stocks were also notproblematic in 2007-08 but prices nevertheless increased dramatically. A lack oftransparency and unco-ordinated unilateral actions by importing and exporting countries andmedia coverage all contributed to creating panic.
With world prices of cereals rising, the competition between the food, feed and fuel sectors forcrops such as maize, sugar and oilseeds is likely to intensify. One way to alleviate some ofthe tension would be to lower or temporarily suspend the mandates on biofuels. At themoment, the renewable energy production in the US is reported to have reached 15.2bn gallonsin 2012, for which it used the equivalent of some 121.9m tonnes or about 40 per cent of USmaize production. An immediate, temporary suspension of that mandate would give somerespite to the market and allow more of the crop to be channelled towards food and feed uses.
The US drought leaves global markets highly vulnerable to any further supply side shocks.While the current situation is precarious and could deteriorate further if unfavourableweather conditions persist, it is not a crisis yet. Countries and the UN are better equipped thanin 2007-08 to face high food prices, with the introduction of its Agricultural Market InformationSystem, which and promote co-ordination of policy responses.
在经受了美国旱情的影响之后，全球市场已无力再承受供应方面任何的进一步冲击。尽管当前形势不确定，而且如果恶劣的天气状况持续的话，形势可能还会恶化，但目前尚未出现危机。与2007-08年相比，目前各国与联合国(UN)更有把握应对高粮价，这是因为联合国启动了能够促进各国政策反应协调水平的农产品市场信息系统(Agricultural Market Information System)。
However, risks are high and the wrong responses to the current situation could create it. It isvitally important that any unilateral policy reactions from countries, whether importers orexporters, do not further destabilise the situation.
The writer is the director-general of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN
本文作者为联合国粮农组织(Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN)总干事
Business Biotech patents Taking it personally
商业 生物技术专利 对人下药
A legal fight over a new generation of medicine
DRUG research is in dark times, as pipelines dry up and development budgets are cut.
But one shaft of light pierces the gloom.
"Personalised medicine" promises to craft drugs for individuals.
Genetic tests will identify those who will benefit from specific medicines.
Treatment will be more effective; waste will drop.
Personalised medicine has sparked excitement among drugmakers, doctors, hospitals andpatients.
It has also sparked a legal brawl.
On December 7th America's Supreme Court heard arguments in Mayo v Prometheus.
The suit, despite a name that suggests an ancient liver sandwich, may be crucial forbiotechnology firms.
America is the world's hub for drug research.
By definition, personalised medicine includes the study of genetic mutations and otherpersonal characteristics.
However, American law bars patents of nature and abstract ideas.
The question is which discoveries in personalised medicine may be patented.
Prometheus is part of a series of suits over biotech patents.
Courts have been active because Congress has not.
A recent patent reform provided little clarity.
Congress merely ordered a study of genetic testing.
Judges have been bolder: in July a federal court ruled that genes could be patented.
On December 7th the suit's losers appealed to the Supreme Court.
But Prometheus may have greater practical import, says Hans Sauer of the BiotechnologyIndustry Organisation (BIO), a trade group.
Firms are studying genetic correlations that might predict a drug's efficacy or determine thecause of a disease.
Prometheus may determine whether methods using such correlations may be patented.
The fight has attracted the heavyweights of health care.
On one side is Prometheus Laboratories, a Californian company that has patented a way tooptimise certain drug treatments for individuals.
On the other is the Mayo Clinic, a health and research centre.
Prometheus's supporters include BIO and several tech firms.
Roche and Abbott, two big drugmakers, gave warning against invalidating patents on diagnostictests.
Mayo's allies include the American Medical Association.
The patents in question do not concern genetic tests, though the suit's outcome will affectthem.
They concern tests for the effectiveness of thiopurines, drugs that have long been used totreat gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease.
Their effect depends on how they are metabolised.
Neither thiopurines nor tests for metabolites (substances produced by metabolism) were newwhen Prometheus's patents were filed in 1998.
But the patents cover the process for determining whether a given dose producesconcentrations of metabolites within a recommended range.
The dose of thiopurines could be adjusted accordingly.
Prometheus sells a test based on its patents to hospitals and clinics.
In 2004 Mayo developed a competing test, with different recommended levels of metabolites.
Mayo's lawyers say Prometheus has patented a mere observation of the body's naturalworkings.
Let the claim stand, Mayo argues, and firms will win broad patents over basic biologicalrelationships, stifling innovation.
Prometheus and its allies warn of an alternative apocalypse.
A judgment in Mayo's favour, they contend, will undermine existing patents and shrivelinvestment in personalised medicine.
The Supreme Court may not make such a broad judgment.
It may instead hand down a narrower ruling that leaves many questions unanswered.
A natural phenomenon may not be patented, but which applications of that phenomenonmight be?
When studying genetic correlations, which so-called discoveries are truly novel?
Eventually personalised medicine may transform patients' care and firms' business models.
In the near future, the greatest beneficiaries may be patent lawyers.