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December 6, 2004


Indian GM Companies Endangered; To Biotech or Not to Biotech; Transforming Policiies


Today in AgBioView, May 6, 2011 - www.agbioworld.org

* Agri and Industrial Biotech Day inaugurated at Bangalore INDIA BIO 2011
* BT to solve food security problems: Scientist
* To biotech or not to biotech?
* Howard G. Buffett Teams with Danforth Center on Sorghum in Africa
* New Initiative For Transforming Food and Ag Policy
* Indian farmers sore over low supply of Bt cotton seeds
* New book on Q&a on Bt-cotton in India Released
* Biotechnology Regulation Immersion Course at the University of Missouri
* Our double standards of GM foods vs science
* The non-organic future
* Hillary Clinton on Food Security
* Prince Charles at the Future for Food Conference
* Taming nature, then man: Reining in fire, plants, and animals

Note- Most articles below are truncated. Click on the titles to read original articles!
Agri and Industrial Biotech Day inaugurated at Bangalore INDIA BIO 2011

- Busienss Standard (India), May 06, 2011

"Tomorrow's drugs are not going to be chemicals, but functional food" - Prof Samir K Brahmachari

Agri-Biotech and Industrial Biotech Day was inaugurated today by Prof. Samir K Brahmachari, DG CSIR, Secretary to the government of India, DSIR and Mr. M.N. Vidyashankar, I.A.S. - Principal Secretary to Govt., Department of IT, Biotechnology and S&t, Govt. of Karnataka as part of Bangalore INDIA BIO 2011 on day-3 of the event. Bangalore INDIA BIO India's premier Biotechnology event organized by the Department of Information Technology, Biotechnology and Science & Technology, Government of Karnataka, Vision Group on Biotechnology, MM Activ Sci-Tech Communications and ABLE. The inauguration was followed by a talk by Prof. Brahmachari.

He began with an anecdote to break the ice, he said that his contribution to agri-biotech (ABT) is "promoting consumption of food and putting on a lot of weight."
Moving on to a serious note, he said that he has a vision for ABT; "tomorrow's drugs are not going to be chemicals, but functional food". India has a serious rodent problem. If we get rid of them, the productivity of food grains will increase several fold. We have a tendency to focus on pesticides, which brings down the quality of the soil. If we are able to evaluate which soil supports which kind of crop (in India), by mapping the entire soil metagenome to productivity, we will be the first nation to do so, and will have tremendous results.

He cited the example of the size of peanuts in Israel (1-inch), which is twice the size of those in India. Prof Brahmachari said that this was not due to the quality of the seed, but that of the soil. Similarly, if we were to ascertain the type of soil most favorable for each kind of crop, it would be a better solution to increasing productivity when compared to pesticides. He said it was time for scientific leadership. India needs to lead, while others follow, and not vice versa.

He wants India to "use agricultural bio waste, rather than exploit natural resources". The focus has to move from mere prosperity to people and the planet. It is time to think of people's prosperity, while protecting the planet. ABT needs to take responsibility for the same.

After this short address, Dr Satish Raina, Director, Global Transgenes Ltd, shared his views on ABT with those present. He mentioned that Indian companies involved with the development of Genetically Modified (GM) crops have become an endangered species, on the brink of disappearing. MNCs may stay on, owing to their large size and glitches in funding.

He stated that the same government that was spending millions of dollars on GM crops earlier has suddenly decided to get stingy with the funding. He thought that this could be because of the concern about long term effects of GM foods and MNCs (what if they take control of the country?). He wondered if it is prudent to stop advancements in this field out of such fears, and offers a solution to both the concerns.

Firstly, we need to get the best toxicologists from all over the world to brainstorm over the issue of toxicity and allergenicity. He stated that even after 15 years of GM foods in the US, nothing alarming has been found. The same is the case in the EU, despite all the "hair splitting". Secondly, he said that it is possible that MNCs may take over major areas in ABT in India. But that is possible only if we remain mere spectators in the field.

He commented on how well India is doing in the BT Pharma sector; even the mighty Chinese are in awe of us. 10-15 years ago we had the same fears in this field as we have now in the case of GM crops; it's time to overcome these fears. "India is not a Banana Republic any more. It is a booming economy."

He maintained that the presence of MNCs ought not to be resented. Their existence in India will only prove to be beneficial, since it will encourage competition, and ensure introduction of newer technologies. He also clearly stated that he is not asking for a blanket approval of GM crops.

The address ended on a high note, when it was announced that CSIR has given the green signal for an Innovation Lab in ABT, to be built in Karnataka.


BT to solve food security problems: Scientist

- Business Standard (India), May 07, 2011

Biotechnology can provide effective solutions to the rising food security problems of the country on the back of rising population and inflation concerns.

"With rising population, depleting land and water resources, and a rapid increase in food prices in India, the application of innovation and crop biotechnologies will be critical in enhancing agricultural yields along with achievement of food security for the nation," G Padmanaban, NASI-Platinum Jubilee Chair of Indian Institute of Science said at the Bangalore India-Bio event here.

He also said that the country should boost its crop productivity through better seeds and technologies, along with other agri-inputs.
According to the latest Census, India's population rose to 1.2 billion people over last 10 years, an increase of 181 million over the 2001 census. Industry experts are of the opinion that the challenges of food security and the need to meet food and nutritional needs amidst the diminishing natural resources and a changing climate along with rising inflation.

"In India, food demand is likely to almost double by 2020 from the present productivity level of 200 million tonnes. Meeting the national food requirement will necessitate an increase in production by 100 per cent in the next few years. We need to integrate the best of conventional crop technology and crop biotechnology applications for increasing national food, feed and fibre productivity," Padmanaban said.

He also said that genetically modified crops would help in increasing productivity of food crops in the country.

Indian government is yet to allow commercialisation of Bt brinjal due to concerns raised by certain sections of society with regard to safety aspects. The only Bt crop allowed in the country is Bt cotton which has witnessed a rapid expansion of the area under the crop in the recent times.

Referring to this matter, Ajay Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, said, "Bt cotton has proven safe and has demonstrable benefits for the farmers and environment since its launch. If India has to increase crop yields sustainably and substantially to feed its ever-growing population, it needs to adopt the latest technologies like agri-biotech in combination with traditional practices for input optimisation and there by bolster productivity."

Presently, various public and private sector institutions are conducting extensive agriculture and plant research to increase food security and provide nutritionally-enhanced food to meet the nation's growing food and nutrition needs, he added.

Industry experts also said that there was need for public awareness about th e benefits and safety of bio tech crops.

"There is a need for increased public awareness about the benefits and safety of biotech crops, noting that plant biotechnology offers tangible benefits to farmers, consumers and the environment," an industry expert said.

M N Vidyashankar, secretary of IT, BT and S&t of Government of Karnataka said that CSIR would collaborate with the state government to set up an innovation centre complex dedicated to agri-biotech.

"These two agencies will invest Rs 100 crore in the centre which shall be built up in 200,000 sq ft area and would be operational in two years," he added.


To biotech or not to biotech?

'Promulgating my views on commercialisation and policy-making in the field of biotechnology. A fresh perspective on changing public perception of GM crops'

So a few weeks ago, a weak proposal to give European countries the right to ban the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops was strengthened by the European Parliament (link). To a student of biotechnology such as myself, this was a huge disappointment as it showed how much the world has yet to learn about the benefits of GM crops!

The GM debate has been going on for decades now and it seems, at least in Europe, the future doesn't look too bright for GM crops. No doubt, there have been many organisations consistently trying to convince the politicians to change their stance on GMO's. However, after almost two decades of lobbying, the regulations are only getting stricter. I'm not saying what they're doing is wrong! These people are experts in the field of policy-making and I am merely a student on the other side of the world. I'm only trying to offer a fresh perspective/strategy so that we can clear the misconceptions that millions of people have regarding the GM crops.

Current steps being taken to change the legislation
From what I've heard, the reformist organisations have only been trying to change legislation by directly talking to the legislators and convince them that GM crops are beneficial. However, legislators rarely drive opinion, but respond to it. Frankly, this is how it is supposed to work in a democratic country - you want the representatives to follow the public, not the other way around! Now let's look at some numbers.

Based on a survey (link), 60% of people in France are against GM crops. According to anothe one (link), 81% of people in Germany, 65% in Britain and 74% in Italy said that "scientifically altered Fruits and Vegetables" are bad. Granted, the surveys are a bit out of date, but I don't think the numbers would have changed significantly recently. Seeing as though how such a large portion of the population opposes GM crops, do you think the legislators would dare try to alter the regulations? Even if they are personally convinced that GM crops are not as bad as people think they are, would they risk their own popularity/political power for such a cause?

Modifying public perception first
In my opinion, as long as the misconceptions that the general public have are not cleared, the legislators will not try and reform the policies. So the biotechnology organisations around the world shoulf focus more on informing the public and trying to change the popular opinion. But it's tricky to modify an entire population's view on a controversial debate. I have also come across many videos on this topic where the viewers are bombarded with facts and figures which praise GM crops. However, research (link) has shown that simply throwing the facts at the viewers is not enough to change their stance.

A classic case here is the United States' efforts to combat AIDS. Public Health officials assumed that if they could increase people's knowledge about the disease, people would make the appropriate modifications to their behaviours. A massive public education campaign was developed to educate people about the disease. In terms of its primary goal, this campaign was a resounding success. By the early 1990s, virtually all US adults knew what AIDS was, had some sense of how the disease is transmitted, and knew what steps could be taken to avoid exposure. But in terms of its broader aims, this public education campaign was largely a failure, yielding virtually no reliable effects on peoples actual behaviors (Mann, Tarantola, & Netter, 1992). Knowledge, in and of itself, was insufficient for changing judgments and behaviors.

Lessons from Cracked.com
Therefore, if a mass campaign educating people about the benefits of GM crops is to be successful, rather than bombarding facts, it needs to make it personal for the viewers by challenging their existing notions and motivating them to discard their---


Howard G. Buffett Foundation Teams with DuPont and The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to Deliver Nutritionally Enhanced Sorghum to Africa

Grant Funds Next Phase in Bringing Healthier Sorghum Closer to Underserved Communities

ST. LOUIS and DES MOINES, Iowa, May 4, 2011 The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and DuPont today announced a $4 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to bring healthier sorghum to underserved communities in Africa.

The grant will help fund the completion of the development of biofortified sorghum, a more nutritious and digestible sorghum for Africans who depend upon sorghum as their staple diet. DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred began working on the project in 2005 in conjunction with the African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Consortium, an Africa-led public-private partnership. The ABS Consortium is a key partner in this project and will work to secure regulatory approvals and pursue production and deployment plans as Pioneer and Danforth complete product development.

Sorghum is a cereal that has many characteristics comparable to corn. However, unlike corn, sorghum is naturally drought tolerant. It provides calories and minimal nutrition in dry areas of Africa such as in the Sahel, the area of Africa just south of the Sahara desert. The sorghum nutritional improvement project will permit greater levels of essential nutrients to be delivered to those who live in arid places where sorghum is relied upon as the staple food source. Additionally, the biofortified sorghum may become important in new geographies as a result of the effects of climate change.

The project focuses on increased zinc and iron bioavailability through phytate reduction, improved protein digestibility and increased pro-vitamin A levels. These key nutrients and micronutrients aid in child development, and reduce rates of diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, lower respiratory tract infections and curb Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of acquired blindness in children in the developing world.

Improving the nutrition of this staple crop has the potential to change the lives of more than 300 million Africans, said Howard G. Buffett, president of the Foundation. I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of malnutrition. I have a personal commitment to see that healthier sorghum gets to the people of Africa.

The introduction of biofortified sorghum is expected to have a major impact on the health and life of targeted communities in Africa not only by offering improved nutrition, but by providing the sorghum at minimal cost to growers. Biofortified sorghum will be distributed to underserved communities in multiple African countries, royalty free.

New Initiative To Provide Path Forward For Transforming Food and Ag Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 3, 2011Today eight of the worlds leading foundations launched AGree, a new initiative that will tackle long-term food and agriculture policy issues confronting the nation and the world as the population continues to grow and resources become ever-more constrained.

AGree is launching at a pivotal moment for food and agriculture policy. Over the next four decades there will be an additional 2.6 billion people on Earth to feeda 38 percent population increase from todayin addition to the 925 million people who currently suffer under-nutrition or hunger. Simultaneously, the world faces a limited amount of easily accessible arable land, increasing pressures on freshwater quality and availability and accelerating environmental degradation.

Solutions to these challenges will require best-in-class research, comprehensive analysis and cross-sector dialogueresources productively brought together for the first time under the AGree initiative. AGree will fill a crucial void in current agriculture research and discussions that frequently do not consider solutions across multiple sectors such as environment, energy, rural economies, and health.

AGrees mission to nurture dialogue among diverse opinions on agriculture issues is embodied by the leaders of the initiative: Dan Glickman, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton and a former congressman from Kansas for 18 years; Gary Hirshberg, chairman, president and CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm; Jim Moseley, former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush and Indiana farmer for more than 40 years; and, Emmy Simmons, former assistant administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade at the U.S. Agency for International Development and a board member for several organizations engaged in international agriculture and global development.


Farmers sore over low supply of Bt cotton seeds

- Business Standard ((India) May 03, 2011

Over 10,000 farmers from villages around Mysore had gathered on the busy Jaganmohan Palace Road and the Ramavilasa Road to get their quota of the much-vaunted Bt cotton seeds. Packets of the seed was being sold to farmers who had been waiting to buy two packets each, today.

The build-up of the crowd of farmers affected the movement of traffic on the two main roads and the police, drawn from reserve and other forces were posted to ensure no untoward incidents occurred because of the huge crowd of possibly disgruntled farmers. The roads were blocked and traffic diverted on to the other roads.

While the farmers wanted Bt seeds of a particular company, Mahyco, they had to be content with just the one or two packets of seeds of other companies like Bollard and Rasi. They complained that the seeds of the latter companies were of poorer quality compared to that of Mahyco, the yields of which were better, both in terms of quality and quantity. Besides, they were prone to pests as the seeds are sweetish, unlike the Mahyco seeds.

Agriculture department authorities maintained they had released 5,000 bags of seeds. However, a large number of farmers went disappointed unable to get the seeds.

Even if we pay Rs 1,500, Mahyco seeds are not available. We have to buy the seeds of the other two companies. They are inferior in quality and hence priced less, complained a farmer Nanjappa hailing from Mysore taluk.

Another farmer of Nanjangud taluk complained: I paid Rs 930 for a packet which is the MRP mentioned on it. Generally, we pay Rs 730 for this. But we are helpless. We have prepared our lands for cultivation as it has rai ned during the last few days. So, we have to b uy whatever is available and pay the price the shopkeepers demand.

Serpentine queues were seen in front of the four agro shops on the Jaganmohan Palace Road. Braving the afternoon sun, farmers, including women, stood in queues.

We never faced such a situation. It is only this time we have to struggle to get the Bt seeds. I have been coming every day for the last four days. Today I could get only one packet, though I need 10 packets, Rache Gowda, a farmer of Induvala village in Nanjangud taluk, complained, cursing the State Government for pushing them to the current predicament.


New book on Q&a on Bt-cotton in India Released

You may think of any question on Bt-cotton, you are most likely to find an answer in this book - this explains how comprehensive is this recent book on Q&a on Bt-cotton in India: Answers to more than 85 questions authored by Dr. T. M. Manjunath who has been closely associated with the Bt-cotton technology in India right from its early days since 1998. This is a fully revised and updated second edition published by the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises - Agriculture Group (ABLE- AG), Bengaluru.

Dr. Manjunath in this publication has lucidly answered most of the frequently asked questions such as what is Bt and how it controls bollworms; advantages and limitations of Bt technology; safety of Bt cotton to humans, animals, environment and biodiversity; field performance and adoption of Bt-cotton; role of refuge crop and insect resistance management strategies; Bt-cotton and farmers right to save seeds; cost vs. benefits of Bt-cotton; controversy surrounding terminator gene; validity of various allegations against the safety of Bt-cotton; impact of illegal seeds; social, economic and environmental impacts of Bt-cotton; Governments role in the regulation of genetically engineered crops, etc. covering the status up to December 2010. For the sake of convenience, the information on diverse aspects of Bt-cotton has been presented in the form of answers to more than 85 questions divided into 13 chapters.

The author says benefits from Bt cotton include a significant increase in cotton yield due to effective control of bollworms, reduction in chemical sprays and attractive profits to farmers with no scientifically proven adverse effects on humans, animals or the environment. However, those opposed to this technology have been making repeated allegations that Bt proteins are a threat to biosafety and biodiversity and the technology is not beneficial. Such claims and counter-claims have resulted in an unending debate, creating a lot of doubts and confusion in the minds of innocent farmers and the general public. Therefore, there is a continued need to clarify such doubts based on scientific facts so that the readers can make an informed decision. I have made an attempt to fill this void.


Biotechnology Regulation Immersion Course at the University of Missouri

We have the pleasure to inform you that the University of Missouri will be hosting again a Biotechnology Regulation Immersion Course. The course will be held from 18 to 26 August 2011, in Columbia, Missouri.

As in 2009, the course will consist of two blocks. The first block will address: plant biotechnology, including hands on transformations in the laboratory by the participants, the role of modern biotechnology in agriculture, national and international biotech regulations commonalities and differences in national regulatory systems, including the approval process and hands on training in risk assessment, and the potential impacts of regulations.

The second block will be a 'fact finding' tour, from biotech laboratory to the farmers' fields, and the grain merchandising system all the way to the processing and sale of final products. The speakers are experts from governments, academia, public sector institutes, and private sector companies. The working language of the course will be English. Participation fee for the course is $3500 USD. A limited number of fellowships is available to help partially or fully cover costs of participants who have no other means of getting their expenses covered. In awarding fellowships, priority will be given to people from developing countries and countries with economies in transition and who are involved in biosafety regulations in their country.

Expressions of interest can be sent to JacksonLa@missouri.edu

- Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, University of Missouri Piet van der Meer, Ghent University


Our double standards of GM foods vs science

- Riel Malan , New Age, South Africa; May 3, 2011

In last weeks column I touched on the impact of the new Consumer Protection Act and the effect on labelling requirements. What I didnt mention was that the act makes specific mention of labelling requirements of genetically modified (GM) foods.

By implication, it insinuates that consumers need to know this fact and it may open the manufacturer to litigation if this fact is not disclosed. The perception exists that a large number of consumers are against the use of GM foods.

I recently had the privilege to attend a closed session at the YPO Global Leadership Conference, with Dr Craig Venter, world-famous genetic researcher, on the work he has done in engineering the worlds first man-made cell.

Dr Venter and his team decided, using a computer, which genes they wanted to include in the cells DNA. They assembled the DNA structure chemically, injected it into a cell and then watched the cell replicate this DNA! It was a fully functional and regenerative cell a man-made one.

Most of our session with Dr Venter focused on the beneficial uses of this technology. The impact on creating tissue for organ transplants, proteins for new vaccines, disease-resistant crops, drought-resistant crops,the list goes on and on. We did, however, also touch on the moral dilemmas posed by this new technology.

And here is where we as a human race come to a crossroads.

We are facing grave challenges as a race. We have reached 7 billion people worldwide and are well on our way to reaching 10 billion. This growth, also courtesy of our own medical technology.

Yet our planet is already increasingly showing that it cannot cope with our needs for food, water and air. We have come to a point where we realise that we cannot continue to pollute the air, water and soil with our pesticides and fertilisers the way we have since the start of the first green revolution. But unfortunately we cannot stop we have a planet to feed and need to grow more and more food and other raw products to feed our insatiable appetites.

We have had no other choice until now. We now have the technology to engineer crops that may need much less or none of these toxic substances.

And this is our quandary. We can now start to engineer custom-made crops but we feel we are crossing the line. A line where we feel we are playing God by creating organisms that suit our needs and not leaving it to nature and our creator to provide these needs. In religious circles the debate is fierce on how to view this technology.

But as humans, we are notoriously prone to living by double standards. And my prediction is that the same will be true in time with genetically engineered foods.

Because essentially the same technology you will need to have a new liver, kidney or heart muscle grown will be used to develop drought-resistant maize able to feed millions.

Will you not use diagnostic tests that may detect early signs of say liver cancer? Will you then deny the artificially grown liver when you have no other option in order to survive? And once you have that artificial liver transplanted, will you then refuse to eat GM foods because you feel its not good for you?

My advice would be to rather find out more about these technologies and as a consumer make your voice be heard for the responsible use of this technology.


The non-organic future

- Adriene HillMarketplace, Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Listen to this Story

Think organic food plays an essential role in feeding the future? Think again.

A ladybug crawls on an organic bean plant growing in the land between tarmacs at the former El Toro Marine base in Orange County, Calif. (Adriene Hill / Marketplace)
TESS VIGELAND: The United Nations says a billion people go hungry on this planet each day. And the overall population is growing. Experts expect we'll top 9 billion by 2045. The looming question: How to feed everyone with limited resources? This week, several major foundations -- including Ford and Gates -- launched a $3 million a year initiative aimed at figuring out how to come up with the food we need.
From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Adriene Hill looks at what the answer might involve -- and what it might not.

ADRIENE HILL: The farmers markets in Los Angeles these days are piled high with organic strawberries and kale. To the contented shoppers, this is what the future should be -- fruits and veggies grown on small farms, nearby the city. But, get over it. This isn't the future -- not if we want to feed everyone.
PEDRO SANCHEZ: If you ask me point blank whether organic-based farming is better than conventional, my answer is no.
That's Columbia University's Pedro Sanchez.
SANCHEZ: There are just too many of us, we just need too many nutrients.
And those nutrients come from plants that need nutrients that organic fertilizers can't always provide.
SANCHEZ: It's like a bank account, you've got to have a positive balance.
And if you deposit only organics he says...
SANCHEZ: You're going to go broke.
One reason experts say organic farming isn't the big-scale answer...
MARK ROSEGRANT: Organic production tends to have somewhat lower yields compared to non-organics.
Mark Rosegrant is with the International Food Policy Research Institute, an organization focused on sustainable ways to end hunger. He says going all organic would require a whole lot more land. Organic farming is, Rosegrant says, a niche market. It's not bad, per se, but...
ROSEGRANT: It's not an important part of the overall process to feed 9 billion people.
The Economist recently had a special issue on global food supplies. One piece ended with the thought that the reaction against commercial farming -- with it's dependence on chemicals -- is "a luxury of the rich."
So what does the future of farming look like? Rosegrant thinks that genetically-modified crops have to play a part -- especially as pollution causes the planet warms up.


Hillary Clinton on Food Security

- Food and Agriculture Organization; Rome, Italy, May 6, 2011

Global food prices are once again on the rise. The FAO Food Price Index reached an all-time high in February. Yesterdays update showed little decrease. The World Bank estimates that 44 million people have been pushed into poverty since just last June because of rising food prices. I know that you have been working very hard around the world as a voice for market-based approaches to managing the impact of rising food prices. And the recent FAO-organized regional meetings have had a very positive effect.

But we know what the consequences are, because during the last major rise in food prices in 2007 and 2008, they were grave. For hundreds of millions of people, the staples of life, like rice, wheat, or corn, were suddenly out of reach. People who were already vulnerable fell into an even greater danger zone. Anger and frustration over food prices sparked riots in dozens of countries.

Now, thankfully, the situation we face today is not yet as serious. But I come before you to reinforce what you are already doing, because we must act now effectively and cooperatively to blunt the negative impact of rising food prices and protect people and communities. We need to respond to the current climb in prices with immediate action while simultaneously deepening our commitment to long-term investments in agriculture and food security worldwide.

So we are intending and achieving the goals of strengthening the entire agricultural chain, from improving the quality of seeds, to connecting farmers to local markets, to connecting local markets to regional and global ones, to encouraging crop diversity and health education so people get the nutrition they need to thrive. Feed The Future, along with the commitments by other countries, reflects a reversal of a decades-long decline in investment.

In the early 1980s, at the height of the Green Revolution, which we know helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of food insecurity and out of poverty, assistance to agriculture was 17 percent of total global development funding. In 2002, it had dropped to just over 3 percent. Today, it is 5 percent. Improvements in agricultural productivity lagged behind population growth. And many of us were somewhat shocked to see the UNs projections of a population growth to 10.5 billion in the future.

Now, there are few easy answers to the problems facing rural farmers, the majority of whom are women around the world, or those problems facing hungry people everywhere. And many of the new investments in agricultural development will not be evident for years. But we cannot let the complexity inhibit us. We cannot let the timeline of change deter us. We cant keep falling back on providing emergency aid just to put the band-aid on to keep moving forward to try to mitigate the damage insofar as possible.

We can adopt a smart, strategic approach. We can increase agricultural productivity, decrease poverty, drive economic growth, and reduce under-nutrition that will enable millions of children to be on a better path toward the future. Through Feed The Future, we aim to lift incomes of 18 million vulnerable men, women, and children. We aim to prevent stunting and child mortality for 7 million children. We aim to generate $2.8 billion in agricultural GDP in the target regions that we have chosen through research and development activities. And we aim to leverage 70 million more dollars in private investments that improve sustainable market opportunities for small-holder farmers.


Prince Charles at the Future for Food Conference

- Georgetown University, Washington DC, 4th May 2011

The world is gradually waking up to the fact that creating sustainable food systems will become paramount in the future because of the enormous challenges now facing food production.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sustainability as keeping something going continuously. And the need to keep things going for future generations in other words, for all of you students and your families, whether here at Georgetown or, through the wonders of modern technology, elsewhere across this vast country is quite frankly the reason I have made the long journey to Washington, and probably losing my voice now through jetlag!

One or two of you may have noticed that over the past thirty years I have been venturing into extremely dangerous territory by speaking about the future of food. I have all the scars to prove it...! Questioning the conventional world view is a risky business. And the only reason I have done so is for the sake of your generation and for the integrity of Nature herself. It is your future that concerns me and that of your grandchildren, and theirs too. That is how far we should be looking ahead. I have no intention of being confronted by my grandchildren, demanding to know why on Earth we didnt do something about the many problems that existed, when we knew what was going wrong. The threat of that question, the responsibility of it, is precisely why I have gone on challenging the assumptions of our day.

And I would urge you to do the same, because we need to face up to asking whether how we produce our food is actually fit for purpose in the very challenging circumstances of the twenty-first century. We simply cannot ignore that question any longer.


Taming nature, then man: Reining in fire, plants, and animals

- Corydon Ireland, Harvard Univ, May 5, 2011

The short version of human history might go something like this: First we were prey, then we were hunter-gatherers, then farmers and from that came civilization.
Not quite, said James Scott, a celebrated Yale political scientist who delivered the first of the seasons Tanner Lectures on Human Values Wednesday (May 4) in Lowell Lecture Hall. In fact, he said, humankind attached to foraging embraced the growing of fixed crops only reluctantly, following millennia of halting and hesitation.

After all, making the transition from nature to civilization required trading a complex system of diverse nutrition and robust health (foraging) for a more regimented style of living that shortened lives and replaced leisure with drudgery (farming). Borrowing a phrase from an earlier scholar, Scott called early hunter-gatherers the original affluent society.

But embrace agriculture we did, eventually. It was a step that also made nation-states possible, which in Scotts view triggered large-scale, authoritarian styles of governance that have and still do misguidedly control human enterprise from a central core of power.

As a result, history is littered with the utopian failures of states that use central planning to manage activities like farming, said Scott often with murderous results.


Compiled by C. S. Prakash
Write to him at prakash(at)mytu.tuskegee.edu

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