& Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology
How Science and
Technology Can Help Raise Agricultural Productivity, Spur Economic
Growth, and Alleviate World Hunger and Poverty
In 1996, more than 180 countries from around
the world gathered in Rome for the World Food Summit and set for
themselves an ambitious goal of reducing global hunger by half by
In June 2002 at the World Food Summit: Five
Years Later, these same countries reviewed their progress and
concluded their efforts fell far short of those needed to achieve
the goal. Only one-third of developing countries had seen a
reduction in the number of hungry. Other countries either showed no
improvement or their situations had actually worsened. Some 800
million people, mostly in rural areas, still suffer from hunger and
malnutrition and the number will grow as the world’s population
GOALS OF THE MINISTERIAL
In Rome, the U.S. Government urged that the
international community focus on three priorities:
- reducing hunger by increasing
- ending famine, and
- improving nutrition
As part of that effort, Secretary Veneman
announced the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural
Science and Technology.
ABOUT THE MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE
The conference includes plenary meetings,
technical breakout sessions, and field tours. Both low- and
high-cost technologies will be addressed, as will state-of-the-art
and more traditional methods. Participants will see the benefits of
technology to both small-scale and large-scale farmers.
Conferees also will examine the relationship
between regulatory practices and innovation, and the policy and
institutional frameworks needed to facilitate technology transfer
and indigenous research and development. In addition, they will
explore the creation of partnerships to help developing countries
obtain new technologies to increase agricultural productivity.
The participants include ministers of
agriculture, science and technology, and environment from developing
countries, economies in transition, and developed countries. More
than 150 ministers will gather, representing more than 100
THE U.S. ROLE AS CONFERENCE HOST
This is one of the largest Ministerial
meetings ever organized. It is co-sponsored by USDA, the U.S. Agency
for International Development, and the Department of State.
Secretary Veneman will be joined by Dr. John
H. Marburger III, Science Adviser to President Bush and Director of
the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dr. Norman
Neureiter, Science and Technology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of
SPEAKERS, PRESENTERS AND INVITED PARTICIPANTS
The Ministerial will feature more than 80
speakers and panelists from around the world, who were selected by
an inter-agency program committee. They include leaders and
technical experts from developing and developed country governments,
international organizations, research institutes and universities,
foundations, and private industry.
The speakers will discuss agriculture and food
technologies that are making a difference, best practices,
technology transfers, communicating with producers and consumers,
and creating a supportive policy, regulatory, and institutional
The keynote luncheon speakers are Dr. Rita
Colwell, Director of the National Science Foundation, and Nobel
Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution.
THE TECHNOLOGY EXPO
Running concurrently with the Ministerial is a
Technology Expo showcasing an array of exhibits and product
demonstrations -- from conventional to cutting-edge technologies --
geared to small-scale and large-scale enterprises, with applications
throughout the food chain.
Field tours will demonstrate how companies,
universities, and organizations in the surrounding area are using
new agricultural technologies, as well as their relevance to
developing countries. The tours will feature dairy production and
processing, rice breeding and processing, vineyard management, food
and nutrition technologies, and food safety.
FAST FACTS ON WORLD HUNGER AND POVERTY –
WHAT IS OUR CHALLENGE?
- More than 800 million people -- nearly one
in seven -- face chronic hunger or malnutrition.
- Among the world’s children, one in three
- Every 5 seconds, a child is lost to hunger.
- Half the world’s population lives on less
than $2 a day.
- The wide and growing gulf between developed
and developing nations is unacceptable.
ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE U.S.
In discussions of efforts to reduce global
poverty, improve economic performance, and raise living standards
around the world, President Bush often stresses that we must lead by
- The U.S. has pledged millions of dollars in
funding for international poverty reduction efforts and economic
- The Millennium Challenge Account provides
for a $5-billion (50%) increase in U.S. development assistance
over 3 years, the largest increase in our foreign assistance in 40
- The new U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
will direct $15 billion over the next 5 years to battle HIV/AIDS,
particularly in Africa and the Caribbean.
- The President has asked Congress for $200
million for a new Famine Fund, and $100 million for a new
Emergency Fund for Complex Foreign Crises.
- With more than a billion people lacking
access to safe drinking water and with an estimated 6,000 children
dying each day from unsafe water, the U.S. has committed to a
nearly $1-billion initiative to provide clean drinking water to 50
million people in the developing world.
ADDITIONAL STEPS THAT CAN BE TAKEN
At both the World Food Summit and World Summit
on Sustainable Development, country representatives discussed the
role of trade as a tool for driving development. An open trading
system can provide greater market access for developing countries,
attract investment, stimulate growth, and improve world food
This includes efforts in capacity building,
working with the developing world not only to increase productivity,
but to build the institutions that will help them participate in
global trade negotiations and to develop the resources that will
allow countries to be more active in the international trade arena.
Trade can – and must – play a central role
in addressing the world’s food security needs.
In today’s global economy, open markets are crucial to increasing
food security. We must work closely together to ensure that all
countries can participate in the world market and that our global
trading system works to facilitate greater food security for all
The growing role and influence of developing
countries in the trade policy agenda is a positive sign. It is no
coincidence that the current WTO trade round is named the Doha
As the United States works with other
countries for ambitious global trade reform in WTO, we are also
negotiating free trade agreements, most of them with developing
countries (FTAA, CAFTA, Morocco, Chile, and the Southern African
Customs Union). The President recently
proposed a future Middle East free trade area and, as a first step,
has announced U.S. intentions to negotiate a free trade agreement
Coupled with liberalized trade, productivity
gains in developing countries bring increased opportunities for
export income and economic growth.
PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
The Ministerial meeting is an opportunity for
participants to work together to understand the benefits and
opportunities that technology presents. Achieving needed gains in
global agricultural productivity, improved nutrition, and better
food distribution can be realized by dissemination and adoption of
existing and new technologies. The biggest cost of not taking
advantage of safe, accessible productivity-enhancing technologies
are borne not by the world’s affluent, but by the world’s
Some important points to consider:
- Current and emerging technologies have the
potential to increase farm yields, improve the nutrient content of
foods, deliver inexpensive and edible vaccines, and improve
- Improving agricultural productivity can
have the most immediate impact on reducing hunger.
- To fight hunger is to fight poverty.
Increased agricultural productivity will drive economic growth,
especially in rural areas.
- Increasing agricultural productivity is a
way to boost both food availability and access in developing
- In the 20th century, science and technology
contributed to substantial gains in global agricultural
productivity. For example:
- During 1960-2000, populations of
developing countries grew 125%, but production of cereal grains
tripled, with only a 25% increase in land for farming.
- During the Green Revolution of the 1960’s,
the spread of high-yielding varieties, combined with the increased
use of fertilizer and irrigation, significantly reduced the
incidence in famine in parts of Asia, helping millions to escape
hunger and malnutrition.
- Science and technology can help increase
crop yields with less water, improve water use efficiency in
agriculture, offer better tools for conservation, and provide
early warnings of drought.
Technology can help address both productivity
and resource issues; partnerships with international organizations,
private partnerships, etc. will leverage resources and encourage
technology-flows. Countries that want
to encourage technology investments and dissemination need to make
sure that they have the appropriate policies and infrastructure to
succeed. Access alone will not fulfill technology’s promise.
Experience shows that when agricultural
- Farm and rural incomes rise.
- More food is available to the
population, improving nutrition and food security.
- More food is available for export,
increasing export earnings.
- Food costs drop, giving consumers more
money to spend on other products and services. In many
developing countries, more than half of household income is
spent on food.
- As productivity continues to increase,
more farm labor and other resources are freed up for productive
uses in other parts of economy, stimulating economic growth and
- An increase of 3-4% per year in African
crop and livestock yields could raise per capita incomes almost
three times, while reducing the number of malnourished children
The answers are not always the latest,
biggest, and most expensive technologies.
Many conventional technologies and systems that have been widely
used for decades can be adapted to bring significant productivity
gains to the world’s poorest countries. This may include a good
system of extension services, better nutrient management, contour
plowing, readily available higher yielding seed varieties, or
efficient irrigation. Less than 5% of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa
is currently irrigated.
The goal is not technologies that make
developing countries more dependent on the developed world, but more
independently able to feed their own people.
Today, many technologies, including new biotech varieties, are
coming from scientists in the developing world for producers in the
Examples of the benefits of agricultural
technology in developing countries:
- Small farmers in Uganda increased maize
yields 46% from 1996-2001 through improved agricultural
- In Tunisia, crop losses to the potato
tuber moth dropped 16% through the use of integrated pest
- Contour terraces in Peru boosted potato
yields 70% compared with traditional planting on sloping
- In Guinea, new techniques are being used
to preserve vitamin-rich mangoes.
- Researchers at the World Fish Center in
Malaysia developed a strain of tilapia that can grow 60% faster
and yield three fish crops a year.
- In Malawi, farmers are benefiting from a
high-yielding, pest-resistant variety of cassava.
MAKING AN IMPACT ON POVERTY & HUNGER
The United States is sharing a wide variety of
agricultural technologies, both cutting edge and traditional, with
In many countries, agriculture accounts for a
large share of employment and export earnings. Increased
agricultural productivity must be part of a growth strategy to reach
the rural poor. For developing countries, a more productive
agriculture can be a springboard not only to greater food security
but also to a more productive economy.