The prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and have entered the GMO discussion with a new report entitled “Feeding the Planet in a Warming World.” With the 39th G-8 summit to be held in Northern Ireland June 17-18, the LSE report is quite timely and significant. The agenda for the upcoming meeting established by Prime Minister David Cameron will continue the discussion of global food security started by President Obama last year at Camp David.
The LSE report offers insight and possible solutions to mitigating the rapidly growing challenge of global food security. Therefore, allow me to quote from the Executive Summary at some length:
These strong and bold conclusions were reinforced last week in a report issued by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs entitled “Agricultural Innovation: The United States in a Changing Global Reality.” The report states, in short, that through technology and research the agricultural community can meet the challenges of severe weather conditions and nutritionally-insufficient crops, as well as cope with dwindling arable land.
The LSE and the Chicago
Council on Global Affairs hit the nail on the head. The world is headed toward its
biggest global food security crisis in history and that crisis can only be
averted by taking full advantage of scientific innovation. The G-8 must embrace the full range of
scientific advances in agriculture, particularly when it comes to water
conservation. Most of the planet’s fresh
water is used for agriculture. Israel has been the pioneer in water technology,
and the recycling of water. Powered by
Tractors that use GPS can reduce the use of inputs to the minimal amounts required. New seeds produced through green biotechnologies can reduce the use of water and adapt to climate change, improve resistance to pests, restore soil fertility and contribute to the diversification of the rural economy.
However, the use of these
new technologies by developed countries is not enough. We must also share the research
with the rest of the world. After all, global food security, by definition,
affects us all. According to USDA Secretary
Vilsack, “Data is a very powerful tool, and an important asset for innovation…The
U.S. is committed to openness in government, and that includes expanded access
to scientific data. We [the
The G-8’s Open Data Conference coordinated by the United States and USDA earlier this week was an important step forward. The conference encouraged openness and transparency. In order to accomplish those objectives efficiently, two steps are required: 1. The G-8 countries and the other world leaders in agriculture must synchronize their regulatory and data systems to get on the same page; and 2. The full use of new advances in communication technology must be used to bring agriculture information and data to Africa and other developing regions of the world. Africa has jumped over telephone lines and gone straight to satellite communication. In a similar way, Africa can use technology and advanced communication to establish a high-tech extension service. Dr. Aboubacar Diaby represented the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa at the Open Data Conference. As he pointed out: “smallholder farmers who do not have tractors all have cell phones.”
Dr. Diaby discusses technology with Paul Welbig of Raven Industries
In the next fifty years, farmers must produce more food than has been produced in the last 10,000 years combined. In order to achieve that objective the G-8 and Europe, in particular, must make agricultural decisions based on science as recommended by the LSE, the Chicago Council, and the United Nations Report Resilient Planet, Resilient People. If not, we are in deep, deep trouble.
Last year, in the Camp David Declaration, the G-8 said, “We commit…to take to scale new technologies and other innovations that can increase sustainable agriculture productivity.” In the Northern Ireland communiqué, the G-8 should explicitly embrace those technologies and innovations that can actually achieve the objective of sustainable global food security, including: smallholder mechanization; applied communication technology; drip irrigation with the precise use of inputs; and green biotechnologies.
About the Author: Marshall Matz served as Counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee and founded Friends of the World Food Program—USA. He specializes on agriculture policy at OFW Law. To contact Marshall: firstname.lastname@example.org