CBI attended a panel February 12 at the Newseum in Washington, DC about meeting food needs for the next generation. The panel was sponsored by CropLife International, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST).
The event brought together agriculture and science experts from across the globe, including Dr. Nina Fedoroff, Science and Technology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State; Gale Buchanan, author, CAST report; Calestous Juma, Professor, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Robert Paarlberg, Professor, Wellesley College and Mark Cantley, former head of the European Commission’s “Concertation Unite for Biotechnology in Europe.” The panel was moderated by Frank Sesno, Director, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.
The panel was a fascinating discussion about the factors challenging food production and the solutions that can help us overcome these challenges and feed a growing population. The panel responded to questions from the moderator, who posed questions from audience members and individuals submitted questions through a live Twitter feed, YouTube and email.
The rejection of science-based agriculture by some groups was discussed by the panelists. Dr. Nina Fedoroff lamented the idea that “urban elites turned themselves against modern molecular biology” while overpopulation and a reduction in arable land is making it increasingly difficult for nations to feed themselves. According to Mark Cantley, there is a “murderous hypocrisy” on the part of some who want to save the lives of people in developing
countries, yet deny them access to the technology that would make a real difference and truly save their lives.
In addition to discussing the challenges facing agriculture and the future of food production, the panelists talked about ways to achieve a consensus regarding the widespread implementation of agricultural biotechnology.
Ag biotech was also discussed as a method to mitigate the effects of a changing climate, such as through drought and flood tolerant crops. Gale Buchanan believes that we should invest in flood-tolerant rice and Dr. Nina Fedoroff sees the need for more research into developing crops that can grow in marginal systems so we can better manage water supply issues.
Of course, biotech is only one answer to the challenges of feeding the world. The experts added that increased and improved agricultural educational practices are needed to truly help farmers in the developing world. Education must be coupled with better coordination among governments and investment in financial services and transportation infrastructure for small farmers. Calestous Juma added at that building roads will do more for feeding agriculture than all the technology in the world.
The experts concluded the panel by providing a working definition for sustainable farming: using resources without running short. All experts agreed that there needs to be greater investment in agricultural research among governments in order to provide the tools for farmers to feed a growing world.
You can watch the video of the event here.