Newsletter ALFA #3 - March 2014

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Dear Readers,

By promoting and facilitating scientific French-American exchanges, the Office for Science and Technology in Chicago aims at building bridges between French and American scientists. Is there a better a way than gathering them in a common science festival ?

Thus, following the great success of the second edition in 2012, it is our great pleasure to present you the third edition of the French-American Science Festival, to be held in Chicago, 13-15 May, 2014. This event is a show case of the FR-US cooperation in sciences through conferences and interactive activities for students.

Two public conferences, hosted at the Alliance Française, are proposed this year with French and American leading scientists :
- Climate Change : the 21st Century’s Challenge, on the 13th of May, 6:30 PM, with David ARCHER (University of Chicago) and Hervé LE TREUT (French Academy of Sciences).
- Discovery of the Higgs Boson (Nobel Price 2013), on the 15th of May, 6:30 PM, with Scott DODELSON (Fermilab) and Michel SPIRO (CERN).

Also, on the 14th of May, a whole day called “Hands-on Science Learning” is dedicated to the discovery of sciences by students and their teachers, through hands-on experiments ! The booths are run by our French and American scientific partners from numerous universities and research institutes. Some of the subjects scheduled are nuclear energy, superconductivity, electric cars, energy storage, nanotechnologies, molecular Biology, 3D imaging, microbiology, etc.

All these events are free and you are cordially invited to attend. More information on the web page :

Also, news from ALFA researches from the last month.

Enjoy your reading !

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Simon Ritz, Deputy Scientific attaché

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  • Seen on the web
  • Structure of the month
  • Get in touch with ALFA science
  • Highlights

    Climate Change : the 21st Century’s Challenge - May. 13
    Is global warming real, after such a cold winter ? Of course it is. Attending this conference will help you understand how the climate is changing, how we can see it and what will be the consequence to our everyday life. Followed by a Q & A and a reception. Read more

    Discovery of the Higgs Boson (Nobel Price 2013) - May. 15
    Peter Higgs and Francois Englert received the Nobel Prize in Physics last year for the discovery of the Higgs Boson, nicknamed the “God Particle” in the mainstream media. Even though most of us do not even know what a boson is, it is certainly one of the most important discoveries in the field of nuclear physics. Why is that ? Come to this broad audience conference to find out what the Higgs Boson is, what made this discovery possible, and how this impact our understanding of the universe. Followed by a Q & A and a reception. Read more

    Hands-On Science Learning - May. 14
    A whole day is scheduled for the discovery of science by the students, in downtown Chicago, through hands-on activities proposed by our French and American scientific partners. This event is designed for both American and French students from 5th to 10th grade and their teachers. As most of the scientists present will be native French speakers, French-speaking audiences are welcome ! Read more


    In the US

    Homogeneity Among Crop Plants Rising - Mar. 10

    National food supplies worldwide have become more similar in composition to each other over time, creating interdependence among countries in their food supplies, plant genetic resources, and nutritional priorities, according to a study published in PNAS that examined global food supplies over the last 50 years. Read more

    Team models photosynthesis and finds room for improvement - Mar. 3

    Teaching crop plants to concentrate carbon dioxide in their leaves could increase photosynthetic efficiency by 60 percent and yields by as much as 40 percent, researchers report in a new study. Read more

    Iowa State University Researchers Use New Way to Measure Nitrate in Soil - Feb. 19

    A research team of Iowa State University scientists have measured nitrate in soil with a unique infrared sensor system opening the possibility of determining the level of this vital nutrient in real time as fertilizer is being applied to fields. “We were actually surprised that we could get in the parts per million range with the soil moving past the analyzer,” said John McClelland, a research scientist with the Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology and Ames Laboratory-U.S. Department of Energy. Read more

    Agricultural technologies could increase global crop yields up to 67% - Feb. 12

    Increased demand for food due to population and income growth, and the impacts of climate change on agriculture will ratchet up the pressure for increased and more sustainable agricultural production to feed the planet. A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) measures the impacts of agricultural innovation on farm productivity, prices, hunger, and trade flows as we approach 2050 and identifies practices that could significantly benefit developing nations. Read more

    Agricultural productivity loss as a result of soil and crop damage from flooding - Feb. 18

    The Cache River Basin, which once drained more than 614,100 acres across six southern Illinois counties, has changed substantively since the ancient Ohio River receded. The basin contains a slow-moving, meandering river ; fertile soils and productive farmlands ; deep sand and gravel deposits ; sloughs and uplands ; and one of the most unique and diverse natural habitats in Illinois and the nation. Read more

    In France

    French priorities for agriculture and food-processing industry over the next ten years - Mar. 17

    Agrifood business is of great importance for the French economic growth and employs almost 6% of the French population. France is the 4th largest exporter of agricultural and agrifood products and has to face new upcoming challenges. At the end of 2013, the Ministry for Agriculture asked for a strategic reflection on the direction that agricultural and agrifood sectors should take for 2025. Read more

    Results of a collective expertise conducted by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) on the toxicity of pesticides - Mar. 17

    The National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) conducted a collective expertise, published in June 2013, based on the scientific literature of the last thirty years, to provide arguments on the health risks associated with occupational exposure to pesticides and the effects of early exposure to the fetus and young children. For this purpose, epidemiologists specialized in environmental health and occupational health as well as biologists cellular and molecular toxicology have been involved. Read more (in French)

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Government Report : Climate Change Threatens Energy Infrastructure - Mar.13

    Oil refineries and drilling platforms in the U.S. are vulnerable to rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges. Fuel pipelines, barges, railways and storage tanks may sustain more damage due to melting permafrost and severe weather. Warming seas and water shortages put nuclear and other electric power plants at risk. Power lines can be blown away by hurricanes and other extreme weather events. Read more

    The Next Generation of Biodiesel Coproduct Research - Mar. 5

    In the early days, the quality of crude glycerin produced at biodiesel plants was of little concern to biodiesel producers. “U.S. biodiesel producers were mainly interested only in the fuel aspect of the business and paid little attention to the byproducts they produced, even though crude glycerin production is 10 percent of the final product,” says Darol Brown, president of Portland, Ore.-based Sego International Inc. Read more

    Almost a third of new U.S. electricity came from solar last year - Mar. 5

    Solar power crashed its way onto the U.S. power grid last year and is now fundamentally changing the makeup of how energy is being produced and consumed. Essentially, it’s becoming a mainstream power source : According to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, solar power had another record year in 2013, with 4.75 gigawatts of solar energy systems installed, including 2 gigawatts in just the fourth quarter alone. Read more

    University researchers optimize biofuel potential of sugarcane, sorghum - Mar. 3

    Sugarcane satisfies your sweet tooth, but thanks to University researchers, it may also appease a government biofuel mandate. The PETROSS, Plants Engineered to Replace Oil with Sugarcane and Sweet Sorghum, research team is working to genetically engineer sugarcane in three main areas. Their goals are to make the plants more cold tolerant, increase rate of photosynthesis by 50 percent and increase the oil in the stem by 20 percent, said Ank Michielsen, PETROSS project manager. Read more

    Documentary : How Ethanol Fuels America - Mar. 3

    Syngenta has released a new documentary video entitled “Ethanol : Fueling Rural America’s Future – One Community at a Time.” According to the company, the video provides a platform for farmers, ethanol producers and industry advocates to share their passion for an industry critical to the future of agriculture and rural America. Read more

    In France

    At the INRA unit of Marseille, the biofuel revolution is prepared with mushrooms - Mar. 17

    At INRA Marseille, it is believed that mushrooms, true "toolbox" of green chemistry, will revolutionize biofuel production. In the middle of the creeks on the campus of Luminy, the BCM (Biotechnology of Filamentous Fungi) unit works on the natural properties of fungi who can "digest" the wood. "We emphasize the production of fungi enzymes to degrade wood : their enzymes are "scissors" that can cut the wood into small molecules", and then be used in chemical processes, says Professor Jean-Claude Sigoillot. Read more


    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Honey offers new approach to fighting antibiotic resistance - Mar. 16

    Honey, that delectable condiment for breads and fruits, could be one sweet solution to the serious, ever-growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers say. In addition, several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms, or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria. Read more

    Gluten-free crackers made with hemp flour and decaffeinated green tea leaves - Mar. 14

    The market for gluten-free foods with functional properties is growing immensely across virtually all food categories on a global level. The need to replace wheat proteins, fibers, and minerals is very important in order to provide a better selection and more nutritious food for consumers that belong to this segment of the population. At the same time, the use of by-products of the food processing industry as a source of functional ingredients such as antioxidants, phenols, fibers and proteins is on the rise, which supports global sustainability. Read more

    Meat and cheese may be as bad for you as smoking - Mar. 4

    A high-protein diet during middle age makes you nearly twice as likely to die and four times more likely to die of cancer, but moderate protein intake is good for you after 65. But how much protein we should eat has long been a controversial topic — muddled by the popularity of protein-heavy diets such as Paleo and Atkins. Before this study, researchers had never shown a definitive correlation between high protein consumption and mortality risk. Read more

    High consumption of fish oil may benefit cardiovascular health, Pitt public health finds - Mar. 4

    Eating fish in amounts comparable to those of people living in Japan seems to impart a protective factor that wards off heart disease, according to an international study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Read more

    Most consumers won’t pay more for non-GMO food - Feb. 19

    The labeling of genetically-modified (GMO) foods is at the center of debate across the United States, but the decision to buy or not buy non-GMO foods often is based on price, according to The NPD Group, a global information company. A recent NPD food market research study on GMO awareness and concern among consumers finds that 67% of all primary grocery shoppers are not willing to pay a higher price for non-GMO foods. Read more

    Pizza herb effective against Norovirus - Feb. 17

    A herb used in pizzas has been shown to breakdown the tough outer coat of Norovirus (NoVs). The antiviral efficacy of oregano oil and its primary active component, carvacrol, would give another antimicrobial the opportunity to enter the internal part of the virus and kill it, said a study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. Read more

    In France

    Is the wine industry killing off French sperm ? - Feb. 28

    The quality of French sperm is on the decline. But a new study released this week has raised the question of whether the one-third drop in French men’s sperm count in recent years is linked to the production of the country’s most famous export : wine. Read more

    Guest news

    Ohio State University’s Breakfast of Science Champions - Fed. 19

    We had a great morning hosting students for The Ohio State University’s Breakfast of Science Champions. The Breakfast of Science Champions offers Columbus City Schools middle school students the opportunity to explore science, math, and engineering at The Ohio State University in a program designed especially for them. Students spend a morning on campus and enjoy breakfast with faculty and graduate students from sciences, mathematics, and engineering to learn about career opportunities and attending college. Students then tour labs and participate in a variety of activities. Read more

    Seen on the web

    My calf’s name is Hashtag

    In France, nearly six out of ten farmers connect to the Internet every day. Half of these "agrinautes" use social networks in particular. Via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, on the tractor or in the barn, they tell their daily operations, share the birth of a calf or the yield performance of a field, just to cultivate a different image of the peasants. Come and meet four of them, who milk, plow or harvest a smartphone in their hand. Read more (in French)

    Structure of the month

    The French Livestock Institute - Institut de l’Elevage (short name Idele) is a non-profit, non-governmental R&D organization appointed by the French ministry of Agriculture as technical center for agriculture (member of ITA network). It is the national reference and normative body in livestock farming systems. Idele aims at improving the competitiveness of herbivore farming and related value chains,while taking into account the diversity of national territories and livestock systems. Its R&D activites generate technical solutions to cattle, sheep, goat and equine livestock farmers, to value chains economic actors, complying with social issues such as animal welfare, traceability, environmental footprint. Read more

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information

    Federal agencies : Discover things you didn’t know about daylight saving. : Learn about the 2014 Farm Bill priorities. : Find out 5 tips for a safer spring break. : Read about the national Nutrition Month - March 2014.

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

    For France information

    Research centers : Learn about the report of ANSES on pesticides exposure for agricultural workers. : Discover the 2014 year of Cristallography. : Find out about the European SUSFOOD ERA-Net : Discover the new committee for beef meat export promotion.

    European informations : Find out the call for European research network fo adress bee losses.

    Coming Events

    2014 Women in Agriculture Educators National Conference Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Indianapolis, IN April 2-3, 2014
    Save the Frogs Day ! Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, Dana Building, Ford Commons Ann Arbor, MI April 4, 2014
    Evapotranspiration : Challenges in Measurement and Modeling from Leaf to the Landscape Scale And Beyond DoubleTree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone-University Raleigh, North Carolina April 7-11, 2014
    Integrated Agricultural Systems for Environmental Sustainability and Production Deauville Beach Resort Miami Beach, FL April 27th – May 1st, 2014
    31st Conference on Agricultural and Forest Meteorology Crowne Plaza Portland Downtown Convention Center Hotel Portland, OR 12 May –15 May 2014


    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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