Newsletter ALFA #8 - September 2014

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Dear Readers,

Building up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be hosted by France in December 2015 (COP 21-Paris Climate 2015), FACTS (French Ameri-Can Climate TalkS) is a public free conference series organized by the Embassies of France in both Canada and the United States, involving renowned scientists, civil society representatives, NGOs, political figures, journalists and entrepreneurs.

In this framework, the Cultural and Scientific Services at the Consulate General of France in Chicago, in partnership with the University of Chicago and Baker & McKenzie, organize a conference in English with the best French and American specialists on the need for urgent and strong climate actions at political and social levels, with a focus on the subsequent economic opportunities we could expect, which are often overlooked.

You are cordially invited to this conference. The program of the two roundtables as well as the presentation of the panelists are in the highlights of this month.

As usual, you will also find the research news from the ALFA fields - 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

    FACTs Chicago: Towards of Positive Agenda in Climate Change

    First roundtable: the need of urgent and strong actions to be taken about climate change at both national and local levels
    The session will be moderated by Brian Quirke, Director of Communications at the U.S. Department of Energy. The panelists will be:

    1. Brice Lalonde, former French Ministry of Environment, Special Advisor on Sustainable Development to the UN Global Compact,
    2. Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago,
    3. Jean Jouzel, Climatologist and glaciologist, researcher at the Atomic Energy Commission, Vice Chair of IPCC working Group I,
    4. Eric Posner, Professor of law at the University of Chicago,
    5. Sandy Carter, University of Chicago graduate active in grassroots organizing around climate change.

    Second roundtable: economic opportunities and emerging new industries of climate actions
    The session will be moderated by Marisa Martin, attorney in Baker & McKenzie’s Climate Change and Environmental Markets Practice Group. The panelists will be:

    1. Emilie Alberola, Associate professor of economics at HEC Paris and Head of Carbon Market and Energy research division at CDC Climate in Paris,
    2. Bart Chilton, former Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,
    3. Amy Francetic, CEO of the Clean Energy Trust,
    4. TBA: panelist from the international private sector doing environmental business in the U.S.

    Full program and registration


    In the US

    Diversified farming practices might preserve evolutionary diversity of wildlife - Sept. 11

    As humans transform the planet to meet our needs, all sorts of wildlife continue to be pushed aside, including many species that play key roles in Earth’s life-support systems. In particular, the transformation of forests into agricultural lands has dramatically reduced biodiversity around the world. A new study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, in this week’s issue of Science shows that evolutionarily distinct species suffer most heavily in intensively farmed areas. They also found, however, that an extraordinary amount of evolutionary history is sustained in diversified farming systems, which outlines a strategy for balancing agricultural activity and conservation efforts. Read more

    Live fast, die young: Soil microbes in a warmer world - Sept. 8

    The mortality of soil microbes in warmer temperatures may affect soil carbon storage, scientists say. Soil microbes consume organic carbon compounds in soil, use some of it to make more microbes and release the rest to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The efficiency with which microbes use their food to make new microbes affects how much carbon remains in soil, and how much is released back to the atmosphere. The accepted idea before this study was that microbes would become less efficient at warmer temperatures. Read more

    Climate-smart agriculture requires three-pronged global research agenda - Sept. 4

    Faced with climate change and diminishing opportunities to expand productive agricultural acreage, the world needs to invest in a global research agenda addressing farm and food systems, landscape and regional issues and institutional and policy matters if it is to meet the growing worldwide demand for food, fiber and fuel, suggests an international team of researchers. In a paper appearing online in the journal Agriculture and Food Security, the authors summarize the findings of the second international Climate Smart Agriculture conference held in March 2013 at UC Davis. Read more

    Researchers find boron facilitates stem cell growth and development in corn - Aug. 25

    Boron deficiency is one of the most widespread causes of reduced crop yield. Missouri and the eastern half of the United States are plagued by boron deficient soil and, often, corn and soybean farmers are required to supplement their soil with boron; however, little is known about the ways in which corn plants utilize the essential nutrient. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that boron plays an integral role in development and reproduction in corn plants. Scientists anticipate that understanding how corn uses the nutrient can help farmers make informed decisions in boron deficient areas and improve crop yields. Read more

    Canola genome sequence reveals evolutionary ’love triangle’ - Aug. 22

    An international team of scientists including researchers from the University of Georgia recently published the genome of Brassica napus-commonly known as canola — in the journal Science. Their discovery paves the way for improved versions of the plant, which is used widely in farming and industry. Read more

    In France

    Cultivating biodiversity: Sorghum example - Sept. 2

    It is difficult to distinguish the human impact on the effects of natural factors on the evolution of crop plants. A Franco-Kenyan research team has managed to do just that for sorghum, one of the main cereals in Africa. The scientists demonstrated how three societies living on the slopes of Mount Kenya have shaped the geographic distribution and structure of the genetic diversity of local varieties. Read more

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Biofuel Research Leads to Human Gut - Sept. 24

    Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Read more

    Identification of redox-sensitive enzymes can enrich biofuel production research - Sept. 19

    Using a chemical biology approach, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified more than 300 proteins in a bacterium adept at converting carbon dioxide into other molecules of interest to energy researchers. These proteins are involved in generating macromolecule synthesis and carbon flux through central metabolic pathways and may also be involved in cell signaling and response mechanisms. Read more

    Scripps Oceanography/UC San Diego News at the Algae Biomass Summit - Sept. 18

    Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will be featured prominently at the upcoming Algae Biomass Summit in San Diego. The eighth annual event, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2014, at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina, will present the latest breakthroughs in algal biology research from around the world, including new advancements at Scripps, UC San Diego, and across the San Diego region. Read more

    Purdue-based startup manufactures fragrance, improves biofuel production - Sept. 12

    Spero leader Mahdi Abu-Omar, a Purdue R.B. Wetherill Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, has created a way to not only help the fragrance industry, but also producing a renewable energy that will make biofuel production more efficient. He said the single-step catalytic process strips high-value fragrance chemicals from lignin in wood at a lower cost for the industry. He said once those chemicals are extracted from the wood, the lignin-free material can then be used to produce biofuel. Read more

    Giant clams inspire Penn duo’s alternative energy research - Sept. 11

    Natural selection in an extreme environment has gradually sculpted the giant clam into an exceedingly efficient farmer; it turns the fierce sunlight in its equatorial ocean home into algae, and those single-celled plants into food. Two Penn researchers are teaming up to unlock the secrets of this living greenhouse and use it as a blueprint for new materials that harvest solar energy or convert it to biofuel. Read more

    In France

    1,500 biogaz plants for the energetic transition

    Ségolène Royal announced at the conference on "actions for green growth" September 4, 2014 a call for projects of 1,500 biogas plants. The Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy explains wanting accelerate the energy transition to renewable energy and "improving the treatment of organic waste" to achieve "the rate of 40 new projects per month (against 10 TODAY ay) ". This call for proposals is also an additional lever to achieve the famous program EMAA: 1,000 biogas farm in 2020. Read more (in French)


    Food Sciences

    In the US

    New study: Emerging research indicates mangos may lower blood sugar in obese adults - Sept. 9

    Research published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolic Insights found that regular consumption of mango by obese adults may lower blood sugar levels and does not negatively impact body weight. These are important findings considering that approximately 34 percent of U.S. adults have been classified as obese and given the health concerns related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and metabolic syndrome. Read more

    Coffee genome sheds light on the evolution of caffeine - Sept. 4

    The newly sequenced genome of the coffee plant reveals secrets about the evolution of man’s best chemical friend: caffeine. The scientists who completed the project say the sequences and positions of genes in the coffee plant show that they evolved independently from genes with similar functions in tea and chocolate, which also make caffeine. In other words, coffee did not inherit caffeine-linked genes from a common ancestor, but instead developed the genes on its own. Read more

    You may have to watch what your fruits and veggies eat - Sept. 3

    People with food allergies always have to watch what they eat. Now, they may have to watch what their fruits and vegetables eat, as it seems it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to antibiotic residues in food. An article published in the September issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), examines the case of a 10 year-old girl who had an anaphylactic (severely allergic) reaction after eating blueberry pie. Read more

    Sugar substitutes not so super sweet after all - Sept. 2

    The taste of common sugar substitutes is often described as being much more intense than sugar, but participants in a recent study indicated that these non-nutritive sugar substitutes are no sweeter than the real thing, according to Penn State food scientists. Read more

    Prions can trigger ’stuck’ wine fermentations, researchers find - Aug. 28

    A chronic problem in winemaking is "stuck fermentation," when yeast that should be busily converting grape sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide prematurely shuts down, leaving the remaining sugar to instead be consumed by bacteria that can spoil the wine. A team of researchers including UC Davis yeast geneticist Linda Bisson has discovered a biochemical communication system behind this problem. Working through a prion — an abnormally shaped protein that can reproduce itself — the system enables bacteria in fermenting wine to switch yeast from sugar to other food sources without altering the yeast’s DNA. Read more

    New gluten-free ingredient may cause allergic reaction, expert warns - Aug. 25

    A popular legume used in other countries is showing up in more U.S. gluten-free products. A food safety specialist explains why people with peanut and soybean allergies need to be cautious: "Lupin is a yellow-colored bean that’s very popular in Europe, Mediterranean countries, Australia and New Zealand. However, it is new to the United States and because of that, many consumers have never heard of it and may not realize that lupin has the same protein that causes allergic reactions to peanuts and soybeans." Read more

    In France

    Flour identified as main cause of occupational asthma in France - Sept. 7

    Flour has been identified as the main cause of occupational asthma in France, closely followed by cleaning products. The research, which is the largest of its kind to be undertaken in France, aimed to understand who was most affected by the condition and what the main causes were. Read more

    Guest News

    Gut bacteria that protect against food allergies identified - Aug. 25

    The presence of Clostridia, a common class of gut bacteria, protects against food allergies, a new study in mice finds. The discovery points toward probiotic therapies for this so-far untreatable condition. Food allergies affect 15 million Americans, including one in 13 children, who live with this potentially life-threatening disease that currently has no cure, researchers note. Read more

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

    Seen on the web

    Together, humans and computers can figure out the plant world - Aug. 28

    As technology advances, science has become increasingly about data—how to gather it, organize it, and analyze it. The creation of key databases to analyze and share data lies at the heart of bioinformatics, or the collection, classification, storage, and analysis of biochemical and biological information using computers and software. The tools and methods used in bioinformatics have been instrumental in the development of fields such as molecular genetics and genomics. But, in the plant sciences, bioinformatics and biometrics are employed in all fields—not just genomics—to enable researchers to grapple with the rich and varied data sources at their disposal. Read more

    Structure of the month

    Founded in 1964, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) is a public scientific and technological institute which operates under the joint authority of the French Ministry of Health and French Ministry of Research. As the only French public research institute to focus entirely on human health, in 2008 Inserm took on the responsibility for the strategic, scientific and operational coordination of biomedical research. This key role as coordinator comes naturally to Inserm thanks to the scientific quality of its teams and its ability to conduct translational research, from the laboratory to the patient’s bed. Learn more

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information

    Federal agencies

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

    For France information

    Research centers :

    Information centers : :

    Coming Events

    Texas Fruit Conference Program October 6-7 Hilton Garden Inn College Station Bryan, TX
    Texas High Tunnel Conference October 8 Hilton Garden Inn College Station Bryan, TX
    AALA Annual Educational Symposium Oct 19-21, 2014 Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town Albuquerque, NM
    Farmland, Food and Liveable Communities October 20-22 Hilton Downtown Lexington Lexington, KY
    Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference UCLA Anderson School of Management October 24 Los Angeles, CA


    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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