Innovation in Global Food Security – The Intersection of Science, Technology and Policy

Posted by on October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments »

By  Edona Dervisholli and Margaret Zeigler

On Friday, September 24th, 2014, the International Food and Research Institute (IFPRI) hosted a policy seminar on “Innovations in Science and Policy-Transforming the Rural Sector for Improved Global Security.” This seminar highlighted new innovations and practices in food security that have developed since the 2007-2008 food crisis. Productivity (producing more food with less resources) was a central focus of the seminar.

This seminar consisted of three speakers. Dr. Robert S. Zeigler, Director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), discussed on-going scientific advances impacting future global supplies of rice. Dr. Robert Bertram, Chief Scientist at USAID’s Bureau for Food Security then outlined the role of innovation, science and technology within USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative. Finally, Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, offered his input on the role of policy and institutional innovations in feeding the world by transforming the rural sector. All essentially highlighted how the intersection of these areas can add up to a more productive agriculture system.

Innovation in Science

Photo credit: Reuters

Photo credit: Reuters

Science innovation can enable rural producers to be more productive. Robert Zeigler, from IRRI, outlined the importance of rice science as “a powerful weapon in the war against hunger and poverty.” Rice, which is one of the oldest domesticated crops, is primarily grown in wet, monsoon areas. Climate change is impacting Asia’s rice producing regions, and as a result, farmers are facing severe challenges to grow enough to meet demand. Because global rice production needs to increase before 2035, Dr. Zeigler highlighted new genetic revolutions as a way to fill the gap in production and to secure a “second Green Revolution.”  Molecular biology and plant physiology show great promise and when linked with soil biology and chemistry, would greatly advance rice production.

GHI’s forthcoming 2014 Global Agricultural Productivity ® (GAP Report ®) highlights how National Agricultural Research Centers (NARS) utilize IRRI’s work in India. For example, in the 1960s, IRRI’s research in partnership with Indian institutions such as the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR) was pivotal for the introduction of a high-yielding rice variety, i.e. “miracle rice.” This saved India from food shortages, and India continues to utilize this high-yielding rice approach. Today, with the impact of climate change, India continues to work closely in the spirit of IRRI’s research and technologies in order to mitigate the consequences of climate change and increase rice production. GHI’s GAP Report ® outlines other innovators in India, who are trying similar methods to increase food production with minimal impact on soil and water resources.

Innovation in Research and Technology  

The Feed the Future Initiative was established not only to increase agricultural productivity in developing countries but also to create opportunities for producers to engage in partnership. New research and technology can provide sustainable systems of agriculture that can help mitigate the agricultural impact of climate change. Dr. Bertram outlined how research in sustainable intensification is being applied in a number of regions around the world through Feed the Future.  For example, best practices in research, extension and agricultural management are applied in the Indo-gangetic plains in South Asia, Sudano-Sahelian Zone in West Africa, Ethiopian Highlands, as well as maize-based systems in East and South Africa. Productivity can be increased by developing climate resilient cereals and adopting best practices in pest and disease resistance in key crops and animals, and by improving ability of legumes to resist heat and drought.

Photo credit: IFAD

Photo credit: IFAD

Innovation in Policy

Since the food crisis in 2007-2008, food policy research has been crucial for creating an enabling environment for agricultural productivity. Shenggen Fan of IFPRI emphasized the critical importance of getting the policy environment right to create better agricultural systems. New approaches now must include not just producing more food, but ensuring more equitable access to food as well as increasing the availability of more nutritious food for consumers.  According to Fan, policy innovations can be game changers, and can enable a new setting for increased productivity. A call to rethink the global food system cannot be ignored, and we need to work together in order to provide policy innovation, which can create a healthy and sustainable food system for all.

To learn more about sustainable food systems and new revolutions in agriculture, register to watch the live webcast of GHI’s 2014 GAP Report ® on October 15, at 11:00 am Central Time!

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