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Letter from the Editor | 328

Rice, beans, and ketchup

The vigor of Brazilian agriculture is deservedly hitting the headlines: record harvests, increasing productivity, and global leadership in exports of several commodities. Other data showing a less popular agricultural situation, however, do not receive the same attention. The total area used to grow rice and beans — the foundation of Brazil’s national diet — decreased by more than 30% between 2006 and 2022, according to IBGE data.

The shift to more profitable export-oriented crops is contributing to food insecurity in the country, meaning many people do not have access to the quantity and quality of food that they need. It is estimated that more than half of Brazil’s population — 125 million people — are experiencing some degree of food insecurity at this moment in time.

Nutrition, economics, sociology, agronomy, and geography researchers have been focusing on hunger and how the country can overcome this apparent paradox to ensure adequate food is available for its population. On the issue of food quality, the article on page 60 shows that the ketchup consumed in Brazil is only 25% tomato, on average. The team of scientists from USP’s Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture has already conducted similar studies on other foods and beverages, such as soy sauce, wine, and beer.

Agronomic engineering was the field initially studied by plant geneticist Marcio de Castro, who was named Scientific Director of FAPESP in April. Castro has been dividing his time between research on plant-insect-pathogen interactions and institutional work for several years now. He was a member of CTNBio, director of CAPES, and an associate dean at USP, the institution where he settled after obtaining his doctorate abroad. In an interview, Castro talks about his career and the issues he will need to address in his new role.

Castro’s interview relates to another article that discusses how to increase student interest in scientific careers and research activities, an emerging problem that is not exclusive to Brazil. Before the pandemic, the number of PhDs awarded in the country was growing strongly, but once qualified, these professionals often find it difficult to find a job that takes advantage of and helps develop their potential. In order to better understand the problem, CAPES is planning a national census of graduate studies, with the aim of learning more about the trajectories of new graduates, which vary greatly between different regions and fields of knowledge.

Brazil’s continental scale favors radio as a means of communication. Data for 2022 from Kantar IBOPE Media show that 83% of the Brazilian population listens to the radio, either via terrestrial broadcasting, online, or via digital platforms like podcasts. The same survey found that this means of communication is perceived as reliable, with 56% of listeners stating that they trust radio to keep them informed.

Pesquisa FAPESP has had its own weekly radio program since 2004, called Pesquisa Brasil, in partnership with USP FM radio. In May, the program debuted a new, more dynamic format with even more content, including a summary of recent science and technology news, discussions of a topic by two specialists, and a researcher talking about their work and studies. Pesquisa Brasil is managed and presented by Pesquisa FAPESP’s Science and Technology Policy Editor Fabrício Marques, and produced by Sarah Caravieri. It is available on the magazine’s website every Saturday at 2 p.m. and on all major podcast platforms.