Sen. Lugar: Biotechnology, wise policies needed to help feed the world

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 - While noting that meeting the world's future food needs is a “complex undertaking,” Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind. said during a speech at the New America Foundation that the task will require technological advances as well as wise government policies.

 Lugar was responding to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute which pointed out that the addition of three billion new middle class consumers over the next 20 years will place enormous challenges on our resource base and on our environment. But the authors also cited new opportunities for countries and companies that can help meet these challenges through innovative technologies.

Globally Positioned Agriculture

 Other countries, particularly Africa, must do much more to grow their own food, Lugar pointed out.

 “This will involve many changes across a broad spectrum. These include vastly expanded infrastructure, innovative water management, an aggressive research agenda, and difficult but vital policy changes in rich and poor countries alike. These range from taxes and investment rules to land tenure arrangements to trade regulations.”

 Lugar said that an “absolutely necessary ingredient to any sustainable increase in food production is raising crop yields.”  As one of the few farmers currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Lugar said he has seen agricultural yields more than triple during my lifetime on his family's farm in Marion County, Indiana, but more work is needed.

 “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.  America is a leader in biotechnology, and American firms can make important contributions to preventing a long-term food shortfall.” He also called on Europeans to drop their opposition to the use of safe genetic modification technology. 

 “Today bioengineered plants are largely banned in Europe and sharply restricted in Africa due to European pressure.   The opposition to biotechnology contributes to African hunger in the short run. In the long run, it will make it virtually impossible to achieve what the McKinsey report calls the productivity response necessary to meet future global demand.”

 The McKinsey report also notes the importance of stretching existing energy supplies through greater efficiency, mirroring some of the concepts embraced in Lugar's Practical Energy Plan that the Senator introduced earlier this year.  Lugar described America's over-dependence on imported oil to run as “the albatross of U.S. national security. 

 “To feed our oil addiction, we send billions of dollars overseas, much of it to regions that are hostile to American interests or subject to instability and terrorism.   And we spend billions more to defend our access to these foreign supplies.  With global oil prices far above historical norms and primary energy demand projected to increase by a third in 20 years, it is imperative that we find more, increase efficiency, and develop alternatives,” he explained.

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