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Apr 7, 2010

Vilsack Addresses Global Food Security Symposium

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack was the kenote speaker at the Partners in Agriculture Global Food Security Symposium sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council in Toyko, Japan.

The symposium was organized to address how government, academic, and civil society leaders from the United States and Japan can ensure food security in an era of climate change and a rapidly growing global population and climate change.

Vilsack was also in Japan as part of the Obama Administration's efforts to expand U.S. exports through the National Export Initiative.

In his speech Vilsack addressed issues such as the need for a long term sustainable solution to food security; aid from the G8; climate change; use of an "appropriate toolbox" of technologies; and agricultural trade issues that impair food security.  In his words:

"One thing that the statistics do tell us is that the past approaches to global hunger - which focused efforts on providing food aid - are not enough. In the short term, we must still provide food to those who need it most. But in the longer term, we need a comprehensive approach focused on developing sustainable solutions to eliminate food insecurity. Our goals should be to increase the availability of food by helping people and countries produce what they need, to make food accessible to those who need it, and to teach people to use it properly so that they make the most of it ...

Last year I attended the first ever meeting of G8 agriculture ministers in Italy. We produced a strong declaration of support for the critically important task of promoting food security. And at last year's summit, the G-8 committed to increase international assistance for agricultural development to $20 billion over the next three years. This year's budget, and President Obama's budget request for next year, put the United States on track to provide at least $3.5 billion of that total. ...

Climate change also promises to have an outsized impact on the global food supply. Variations in temperature, increased frequency of extreme weather like drought, floods and storms, and the spread of pests and diseases to new geographic areas will likely impact productivity....These challenges are sobering reminders of why food security must remain at the core of the international agenda. And, they point to a future where investing in agricultural development is the only way to find a permanent solution to hunger. ...

But as I indicated before, we must utilize all of the appropriate tools in our toolbox - and modern agricultural technologies will play a critical role. Developing countries should look at improved seeds for crops that are drought tolerant or disease resistant. Agricultural biotechnology - with and without genetic engineering - is a powerful tool that can be used to boost agricultural productivity and build prosperity among the rural poor. ...

Emerging technologies holds the promise of creating crops that better tolerate drought, toxicity, disease and salinity....Because of its vast potential, it is essential that developing countries around the world develop consistent and science-based regulatory processes governing biotechnology. Regulatory decisions must be based on science and not fear. The biggest costs of not taking advantage of this safe, accessible, productivity-enhancing technology are borne not by the world's affluent consumers, but by the world's poorest farmers ...

In short, a critical step towards global food security will be achieving a more efficient global market that is based on established international rules that reduce barriers, reduce costs, and increase reliability of trading systems. "

Photo credit: Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture courtesy of Partners in Agriculture.

For more see: "Vilsack Addresses Partners in Agriculture Global Food Security Symposium; Agricultural Policy and Production Experts Discuss Strategies for Feeding a Growing Global Population," U.S. Department of Agriculture, Press Release No. 0171.10, Tokyo, Japan, 7 April 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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