Vilsack endorses G-20 plan for improving food security worldwide

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, May 8, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today endorsed a plan to combat food insecurity developed by the G-20 agriculture ministers, representing the world's major economies.

Together we can feed the Bees"

"After open and frank discussions, I believe we arrived at a communiqué that outlines major goals that must be achieved if we are to increase food security in the world,” Vilsack said in a statement following G-20 negotiations in Istanbul, Turkey. “Together, the leaders underscored that food security and nutrition are a top priority for the G-20 and endorse the G-20 Food Security and Nutrition Framework of 2014.”

The plan recommends governments invest in food supply chains that limit food loss and waste and use incentivized, non-regulatory tools to curtail waste at each step, from producer to consumer. It also calls for improved agricultural market access in developing countries, which Vilsack suggested could be accomplished through more reliable methods of disseminating market information and the availability of microcredit loans.

Greater information and technology sharing between G-20 members was also incorporated into the plan, as was a continued commitment to “open, non-discriminatory, rules-based trade” that reduces non-tariff barriers. This commitment to free trade, Vilsack said, will allow developing countries to grow their economies and remain food secure “in the face of a changing climate.”

“The world must wake up to the fact that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” Vilsack added after he made reference to USDA's climate smart agriculture goals released last month.

One way global agricultural leaders can address climate change, he argued, is to encourage the development of agricultural biotechnology and best management practices “that are integral to food production and management of natural resources.” These innovations help to lower greenhouse gas emissions - which scientists have found to be responsible for global warming - increase carbon storage and generate clean and renewable energy as well, he said.

The G-20 group is comprised of both developed and developing countries, which represent about two-thirds of the world's population, 85 percent of global gross domestic product and over 75 percent of global trade. The international forum's 20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

In a conference call from Istanbul, Vilsack said that during the G-20 ministerial meeting he met with French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll to discuss the European Commission's proposal to allow any of the 28 member states to ban the import of GMO food or feed, even if such imports are allowed at the EU level.

Their discussion “centered on the fact that the French livestock industry is very much dependent on feed, not only (on) what French farmers produce, but feed that is imported into France,” Vilsack said, much of which contains GMO ingredients.

“What the EU is considering would potentially create some serious problems and challenges for the livestock industry in France,” he continued. “I wanted to make sure that he was aware, and he is aware, of that challenge.”

Vilsack also said he met with Turkey's minister to address the rice trade, and India's minister about the possibility of renewing a memorandum of understanding to expand trade opportunities.

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