Today, the World Food Prize Foundation announced that the 2011 World Food Prize will be awarded to former president of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor and former president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for their contributions to improving food production and alleviating hunger. The World Food Prize is the premier international award recognizing individuals who have increased the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. This is the first time in its 25 years that the World Food Prize has been awarded to heads of state.
The winners were announced at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State that featured USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and World Food Prize Foundation President, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn. The speakers used the opportunity to emphasize the importance of alleviating hunger worldwide, and the role of innovations to help us meet the challenge of food security.
Under Secretary Robert Hormats opened the ceremony by calling for policies and programs that support agricultural technologies such as “new innovative disease resistant crop varieties.” Echoing his sentiments, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah described his vision of sharing ag technology worldwide to help prevent global hunger. Both Mr. Lula da Silva and Mr. Kufuor promoted technologies as tools to alleviate hunger and, as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “made a fundamental difference in their countries.”
President Lula da Silva’s administration spearheaded efforts to make Brazil a world leader in the adoption of biotech crops. He supported a $23 billion investment in a four-year “Plan for Action for Science, Technology and Innovation,” which funded research and innovation in biotechnology, among other science initiatives. Brazil claims 17 percent of the world’s biotech crops—only second to the US in total cropland devoted to biotech crops. During his tenure, Ghana’s former president Kufuor urged West African leaders to embrace biotechnology to help fight hunger in Africa.
Visit here to learn more about the World Food Prize laureates.
Scientist says ag biotech is necessary for food security
According to the science blog Tomorrow’s Table, ag technology is a solution for helping to reduce global poverty and enables farmers, especially in low-income countries, to produce more crops on less land.
Dr. Robert L. Thompson, senior fellow for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, points out, “Tools available today, including plant breeding and biotechnology, can make presently unusable soils productive and increase the genetic potential of individual crops - enhancing drought and stress tolerance, for example - while also producing gains in yields.” Read more.
Field trials of drought-resistant GM corn show yield increases in drier U.S. regions
Scientific American says GM corn with drought resistance could help the crop to thrive in low-water conditions. The article points out that the technology could be a solution for addressing the challenges of increasing global temperatures, which could impact food and fuel prices worldwide.
In field trials in some of the drier regions of the U.S., GM corn produced seven to 10 extra bushels per acre—a significant increase considering USDA estimates showing the average annual global corn crop losses due to “moderate drought” are 15 percent per year. Read more.
Research on GM wheat could improve yields and drought tolerance
The New York Times reports that GM research by private companies could lead to drought-tolerant and high-yield genetically modified wheat. Research focuses on “strengthening the rooting structure of wheat, enhancing the intake of water, increasing the plant’s biomass and facilitating CO2 absorption.” Read more.
Increasing number of African countries conducting GM crop trials
According to Reuters, more African countries are likely to start growing genetically modified crops. Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ghana are conducting research and field trials of GM crops such as rice, wheat and sorghum, which may lead to their adoption. Ephraim Mukisira, a director at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, said, “We should rely on biotechnology to prevent further losses in yields and performance of crops. We need to expedite scientific methods that reduce time needed to develop new crop varieties.” Read more.
Forbes blog: Regulation of GM crops hurts agricultural trade
In a Forbes blog, Dr. Henry Miller, founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA and current fellow at the Hoover Institution, says that “discriminatory” government regulations of genetically modified crops around the world have unintended economic consequences, such as disrupting billions of dollars of agricultural trade in export markets.
“The best and most definitive solution of all would be for the harmonization of regulatory approaches in order to eliminate the existing discrimination against and excessive regulation of innocuous genetically engineered plants.” Read more.
The Federal Register announced that the USDA is accepting nominations for members of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21).
The AC21 meets up to four times per year in Washington, DC, with responsibilities that include examining the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. and global food and agricultural system and providing guidance to the USDA on the application of biotechnology. Members of the AC21 will be selected based on their knowledge of one or more of the following areas: genetic research of plants, farming and agricultural practices, bioethics, biotechnology industry activities, international trade and regulations relevant to biotechnology policy.
The following is basic information for making submissions:
- Guidelines: Nominations for AC21 membership should be in writing and provide the appropriate background documents required by USDA policy;
- Deadline: Written nominations should be received by fax or postmarked by April 18th;
- Submission: All materials should be sent to Michael Schechtman, Designated Federal Official, Office of the Secretary, USDA, 202B Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250. Forms may also be submitted by fax to (202) 690-4265, if they are followed by written copies.
For additional information, please visit the Federal Register website.
Brigham Young University professor says biotech crops have a long history of success
In the The Daily Herald, Professor of Biology at Brigham Young University Duane Jeffrey says that genetic modification has been around for a long time and many of the concerns about biotech crops have not been verified by facts. The article points out, “This process has been going on for millennia. Indeed, the only common crop I can think of that may not have been so modified is the pine nut.” Over the past 15 years since biotech crops were first planted, the number of hectares of biotech crops has expanded 87 times. “By now, the major concerns, both those with some basis in science and some without, have hugely been laid to rest, and it is time to get on with reality.“ Read more.
Forbes blog: nutrition benefits of GM food could help fight obesity
According to a Forbes blog, policy makers committed to fighting obesity should deregulate genetically modified foods because they provide health and economic benefits. Dr. Henry Miller, founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA and current fellow at the Hoover Institution, says, “The adoption of scientifically sound, risk-based regulation of biotechnology by USDA and EPA could transform the current trickle of commercial products into a torrent. The result would be the founding of new companies; new products; and the creation of jobs and new wealth - as well as lower prices and greater availability of healthful fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more.
USDA Sec. Vilsack calls for recognition of farmers on National Ag Day
According to the Morris Sun Tribune, USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack recognized the valuable contributions of farmers and ranchers on National Ag Day. “Agriculture touches everyone’s life in one way or another, yet our farmers and ranchers can often be overlooked for the important work they do, and we should all take time during this day to thank producers for a job well done,” Vilsack said. Read more.