Seventeen farmers from around the world gathered for the Global Farmer-to-Farmer Roundtable as part of the World Food Prize Symposium events held in Des Moines, Iowa this week. In its fourth year, the purpose of the gathering is to bring together a diverse group of farmers representing both small and large-scale farms to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the world’s food producers.
The Roundtable is organized by Truth About Trade and Technology and, this year, is sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Council for Biotechnology Information. As population grows and demand challenges our ability to meet food needs, what are the longterm strategies and technologies used by global farmers to feed the world? Farmers from as far away as Kenya, South Africa, India, China and Australia are meeting to discuss the agricultural needs in their communities. Farmers and agricultural experts from the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Honduras, Argentina and the U.S. are also part of the group and each bring a unique perspective on their local agricultural needs. Nations struggling with the question of how to feed more people, sustainably and in harmony with the environment, need only to listen to what some of these farmers have to say.
Here’s what these farmers are saying:
KENYA: Small-scale farmers provide approximately 70 percent of the food for the country. We need access to all technologies to enable us to feed people. This includes agricultural biotechnology, irrigation technology, zero-tillage technology.The government needs to support this.
SOUTH AFRICA: We have the technology and the demand for the food produced, but there’s a lack of support and incentives for investing in R & D and training the next generation of farmers. The cost of farming is prohibitive.
INDIA: We are losing the next generation of farmers as people move to the cities for better education and jobs. In addition to technology, we need incentives for our young people to pursue farming and make it profitable. We can have all the technology in the world, but without people to use it, we won’t have food.
MEXICO: We need a level playing field for all farmers. We cannot deny some farmers access to technologies; those who have the technology cannot fairly compete with those who do. Also, the conversation needs to be more scientific. We need to talk about biotechnology with less emotion and more science.
PORTUGAL: In Europe, we are 10 years behind the U.S. because of all the restrictions and the EU trying to make decisions for all countries regarding use of biotech seeds. We need to make our own choices for using the technology.
IRELAND: In addition to new technologies for plants, we must also consider the health of the soil that we grow our food on. We need to understand the soil science better.
CHINA: Investments in agriculture is also an investment in our food security. When we grow enough to feed our people, then we know where our food comes from and we have a secure food supply. We have approved the use of biotech rice but it is not yet commercially available.
Stay tuned for more updates on the Roundtable as we move into Day 2. And coming in the next day or so, don’t miss posts/updates on Bill Gates’ first-ever speech on agriculture and global development as well as presentations by Jeffrey Sachs and U.S Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
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