Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School, produced a working paper that discusses the contributions of scientific knowledge to agricultural innovations.
In particular, his paper “Technological Abundance for Global Agriculture: The Role of Biotechnology,” points out that developing countries can use biotech methods to drive agricultural productivity and increase food security.
According to Professor Juma, “Areas of the developing world lagging in the utilization and accumulation of technology have the ability to not only to catch up to industrial leaders in biotechnology, but also to attain their own level of research growth.” Read more.
Engaging with the public on the benefits of plant science is a must, Dyer says
According to the European Crop Protection Association, the UK Crop Protection Association’s chief executive Dominic Dyer said at a gathering of industry leaders that continued innovation in plant science is crucial in addressing food security and climate change challenges. . He warned that restrictive EU legislation on modern crop technologies discouraged investment and would ultimately put Europe’s farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
Mr. Dyer emphasized, “In a world of rapid population increase and ever-growing demands on our land, water and energy resources, we must do more to communicate the values of our industry to policy-makers and the wider public.” Read more.
Secretary Vilsack supports a new generation of farmers
Farm Futures reports that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s address to the participants of the 2012 Commodity Classic was met with enthusiasm as he outlined his priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill, which include support for biofuels, expanding exports, and increasing funding for agricultural research.
Secretary Vilsack called for America to support measures that would provide fresh incentives for farmers, creating “a new generation of farmers.” Read more.
According to Reuters and Bloomberg, China signed agreements in Iowa to purchase biotech soybeans from American suppliers, strengthening the trade relationship between the two countries. The Wall Street Journal noted that Iowa is the nation’s biggest grower of biotech soybeans, while China is the world’s biggest importer and consumer.
The following day, Chinese and U.S. officials, including China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, attended the USDA’s first inaugural “U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium” in Des Moines. The USDA announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu had signed a historic Plan of Strategic Cooperation, designed to guide the two countries’ agricultural relationship over the next 5 years.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained, “This plan builds on the already strong relationship our nations enjoy around agricultural science, trade, and education. It looks to deepen our cooperation through technical exchange and to strengthen coordination in priority areas like animal and plant health and disease, food security, sustainable agriculture, genetic resources, agricultural markets and trade, and biotechnology and other emerging technologies.”
Dr. Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School and author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa (Oxford University Press, 2011), writes a guest blog discussing the implications of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2011 report on major developments impacting biotech crop adoption worldwide.
By Calestous Juma
This year’s announcement by ISAAA that the adoption of transgenic crops continues to expand at 8% per year since 1996-when biotech crops first became available to U.S. farmers- is a signal of the transformational role that biotechnology is already having on agriculture. ISAAA reports that biotech crops contributed to mitigating climate change, alleviating poverty and improving global food security. Most notably, it states that between 1996 and 2010, biotech crops increased “crop production and value by $78 billion.” In 2010 alone, the technology contributed to “conserving biodiversity by saving 91 million hectares of land; and helped alleviate poverty by helping 15.0 million small farmers who are some of the poorest people in the world.”
The evidence is stacking up against critics of biotechnology. Earlier claims that transgenic crops were likely to have dramatic negative impacts on the environment will not continue to enjoy the kind of support they did 15 years ago. What is needed now is a more balanced assessment that looks at all the evidence available to date to determine the role of biotechnology in addressing climate change and global food needs.
During a speech at the New America Foundation, U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) emphasized that meeting the world’s future food needs will require innovative agricultural technologies, Agri-Pulse reports. His comments were in response to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, which pointed out that the addition of three billion new consumers over the next 20 years will create challenges for agricultural production and the environment.
As one of the few farmers currently serving in the U.S. Senate, he referenced his experience working on a family farm in Indiana, “I am convinced that improved seed technology is vital. Given the challenges of altered weather patterns, future water scarcity, new pests and diseases, and the need for more nutritious plants, we must use all the technology in our toolbox, including bioengineered seeds,” he said. Read more.