Harvest 2050 Blog

Archive for MARCH, 2010

We’re helping to answer the question

MARCH 29, 2010

Recently, when agricultural leaders and stakeholders gathered in Paris for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Meeting - the first such assembly since 1998 - a critical question was posed to a roundtable of agriculture ministers, organizations and corporate leaders: “What actions are you prioritizing to prepare the food and agriculture system for the needs of a rapidly changing world?”

Of course, that is the question that all of us, inside and outside of agriculture, must answer sooner rather than later as “the global food and agriculture system will have to provide sustainably for billions more people and meet greater demands on quality, affordability and availability. Farming will be competing with other sectors for land, water and investment, while climate change adds new pressures,” an OECD paper stated in outlining the challenges.

The question posed to ministers from Austria, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and Chile as well as leading representatives such as Samuel R. Allen, Chairman and CEO, Deere & Company (and a founding GHI member), Concern Worldwide and the World Trade Organization, received some insightful responses that asserted there is much being done to address the issue of feeding more people in the future, but also emphasized that there is much more to be done.

Here’s a portion of Allen’s response:

A crucial element in meeting the future needs of a growing, more affluent global population is accelerated innovation across the entire food system-from farm production through distribution, right to the final consumer. This entails closing the critical gap between the historical trend rate of agricultural productivity growth and the far faster pace required to meet future needs. Closing this gap will enable sustainably feeding a growing world while meeting the environmental, resource and other goals of our global society. Achieving such a monumental task involves embracing all types of modern production practices, including conventional and organic agriculture, and producers of all sizes and types, from subsistence to commercial…

You can read the rest of the responses here: OECD-Ministerial-Agriculture (2).pdf.

Many of the same ideas advanced at OECD were reiterated recently at our 2010 Symposium, Closing the Gap: Examining an Alternative Future. As such, we are reminded that our scope is a global one, when it comes to advocating for policies and solutions that will help to sustainably close the productivity gap in agriculture. The Global Harvest Initiative, like the OECD, is but a piece of this worldwide effort to get this very critical discussion on the radar of policymakers everywhere.

Read More

We ‘ignore agriculture at our peril’

MARCH 25, 2010

The importance of agriculture in the scheme of government stability was underscored this week in a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmoud Qureshi. During a joint press conference on CSPAN Secretary Clinton noted that “60 to 70 percent of the people of Pakistan rely on agriculture and therefore “we ignore agriculture at our peril”. While Secretary Clinton’s words that “we ignore agriculture at our peril” may ring a bit ominous and alarmist, she is absolutely right in her assessment.

Indeed, Sen. Richard Lugar and Dr. Norman Borlaug in their paper Solutions to Close the Gap, they make the case for agriculture being the foundation for peace in writing:

World peace will not be built on empty stomachs or human misery. A world in which 40 percent of the total population is marginalized in the global economy is not one where peace or environmental stewardship will prosper. Modern agriculture is not the nemesis of the environment or socio-economic development. Rather it is one of their greatest allies. Famine and chronic food shortages can lead to mass migrations that can destabilize countries and entire regions. Governments that cannot feed their people invite their own downfall.

Secretary Clinton is right. In order for democracy and economies to flourish and prosper, there must be stability. Agriculture is a key to that stability. However, as Lugar and Borlaug wrote:

The need is evident. But achieving food security is complex and challenging. It will involve the insights and contributions of many different disciplines, significant and sustained investments, changes in behavior and in centuries-old agricultural practices, the waging and winning of difficult policy fights, and overcoming powerful political interests, in rich and poor countries alike. Another challenge will be apathy. Until rich-country voters and politicians are motivated, and poor-country leaders really begin to lead in this area, very little can be accomplished.

Read more about Sen. Lugar and Dr. Borlaug’s solutions to closing the gap here: GHIBooklet

Agriculture as a foundation for democracy and stability is not something that many global leaders discuss as a priortiy topic. So, it is refreshing to hear a leader like Secretary Clinton discuss agriculture in the same breath as democracy and economic prosperity. Agriculture is a difference-maker, and all leaders would do well to make it a top priority.

Read More

Symposium continues GHI’s quest for solutions, cooperation

MARCH 09, 2010

Eight days and counting to our 2010 Symposium, Closing the Gap: Examining an Alternative Future. The symposium, which will be held on March 17 in Washington, D.C., continues the Global Harvest Initiative’s quest to explore and develop specific policies with a global perspective, while having the power to change the way agricultural products are produced and secured.

We expect it to be an exciting day of engaging discussions around the topics of agriculture, hunger, conservation and food security.We’ve assembled a wonderful group of presenters who will offer their ideas - both from a policy and philosophical perspective - regarding how we address the challenge of feeding the 9 billion people who are expected to populate the planet in 2050. Here’s an updated program agenda:

GHI 2010 Symposium Agenda.

A highlight of this year’s Symposium will be the unveiling of a five-part study, which was commissioned by GHI to provide a fact-based blueprint for developing the policies and systems necessary to sustainably meet growing demand. This diverse group of experts provide additional perspective on the difficulty of the challenges ahead, as well as the global consequences of not closing the productivity gap.

One chapter of the study entitled - The Business As Usual Scenario - was authored by Dr. Jason Clay, SVP of Markets for the World Wildlife Fund. Clay poignantly concludes that if we are to maintain a living planet for our grandchildren, then we will need to “freeze the footprint of food.” In other words, we need to do more with less impact on land and water resources.

There is still time to register. However, the event will be by invitation only and seating is expected to be limited. To request more information about the Symposium, please contact Christina Altenau at christina.altenau@globalharvestinitiative.org.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Read More