Tuesday, November 3, 2009: 11:30 AM
Convention Center, Room 301-302, Third Floor
The world's food grain stores have been shrinking at 9% each year for the last decade---one among many alarming signs that we are consuming more than we produce. Rising demand, changing climates, and the increasing costs of water, fuel, and fertilizer will continue to make food more expensive; prohibitively so for increasing numbers of the poor. In the developing world, the demand for staples will double by 2050. Yet there is a frightening lack of investment in developing countries in state-of-the-art conventional breeding programs or in genetically-modified (GM) crop varieties, putting farmers at a competitive disadvantage and widening the “food access gap” between wealthier and poorer countries. Developing world farmers need access to varieties with current GM traits, such as insect resistance and herbicide tolerance, to increase yields and implement conservation agriculture practices. They would also benefit from crops with new GM traits, such as drought and heat tolerance and others that reduce the use of scarce inputs (water, fertilizer). Before that can occur, societies must overcome their fears and create regulatory frameworks and market incentives. But they must also invest in high-quality, cost-effective conventional breeding approaches---the chief source of yield gains to date and which will continue to provide high- and stable-yielding varieties, as well as a solid germplasm base for the GM varieties, into the future. The global research community can support this process through public-private alliances that help put advanced technology of all types at the disposal of farmers in committed countries, with studies and advocacy on enabling policies, by work with diverse entities---small- and intermediate-scale seed companies, public agricultural research programs, non-government and community based organizations, and farmer associations---to catalyze the awareness and delivery of useful research products and knowledge, and through capacity building.