In the 1960's, Dr. Mary Del Chilton, a biologist, had an interest in a bacterium that would snip the genes of a tobacco plant and allow scientific manipulation or gene splicing. She was not sure it was anything that had commercial viability until CIBA-GEIGY (now Syngenta) came to see her at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was teaching. They convinced her to bring her skills to the fledgling biotechnology industry and switch from tobacco to corn. The rest is history as she was awarded the World Food Prize this year along with two other scientists who laid the groundwork for advancement in crop biotechnology. Agri-Pulse spoke with her during a news conference at the World Food Prize event as she was countering anti-biotechnology claims and discussing the unrecognized potential in this new era of genetic modification
Ray Offenheiser is President of Oxfam America, a Non-Governmental Organization that focuses on food aid to developing countries. Oxfam is a member of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and favors major reform in the food aid system, moving away from shipping grain in more costly American flag vessels to buying food near the area of famine to support the region, citing proposals offered by both Presidents Bush and Obama. Offenheiser also discusses the science, yet the wariness - within some countries - to receive genetically modified grains.
As House and Senate leaders head into a farm bill conference meeting this week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar provides keen insight on the negotiations. She says the challenge is to merge the reductions in spending, contained in the House of Representatives Farm Bill, with the more moderate reductions in the Senate bill and to mediate those provisions in the final bill. She discusses the prospect of rolling the entire farm bill into a larger budget bill and how large a reduction there can be in nutrition spending without risking a presidential veto. Finally, she discusses a provision of the WRDA bill that would permanently close the Upper St. Anthony Lock on the Mississippi River to block Asian Carp from penetrating northern Minnesota rivers and lakes.
Jo Ann Emerson recently became the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives after a distinguished seventeen year career as a U.S. Representative from Missouri. She is only the fifth leader of the NRECA since it's inception. Major concerns of Rural Electric Coop's, and their members, include the need for Congressional assistance to serve low population areas and increased regulation and other mandates placed on both generating and distribution cooperatives. Still, Jo Ann Emerson believes that REC's are leading the way in increasing the mix of renewable and clean energy to make electricity. She also addressed storm damage and how a major principle of cooperatives is to help each other, even if the payment is just an IOU.
Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, joins us for a wide-ranging interview on Open Mic. This week, the WFP event will be held in Des Moines, Iowa with many internationally acclaimed speakers including Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Roman Catholic Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana. The WFP honors three scientists in 2013 who dedicated their careers to commercializing biotechnology in crops and addressing world hunger issues: Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States. The WFP encourages scientists and NGOs to talk about how to address crop production and distribution problems and plan for feeding nine billion people in the future, but activists are expected to protest the recognition of science-based solutions for modern agriculture. In this interview, Quinn addresses the issues head on and provides important context for the event, which was founded by Dr. Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Laureate in 1970 for his work in improved plant breeding.
Right Honorable Ambassador Mike Moore serves the New Zealand government from the embassy in Washington, D.C. He is a former Director General of the World Trade Organization, In that capacity, he initiated the Doha Round of the WTO and saw the assention of China into the trade body. He expresses regret at the inaction of the WTO but has hope it remains a means to negotiate disputes.
Amb. Moore is astute and colorful in his observations of world trade and describes the ups and downs of New Zealand's agriculture. He also speculates on the prospects for the Trans Pacific Partnership talks and further trade agreements with Europe. Moore salutes and credits the U.S. government and farmers for bringing food to the world.