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[genet-news] POLICY & DEVELOPMENT: Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary calls for development czar

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Department of State?s Bureau of International Information Programs, USA

AUTHOR: Matt Herrick


DATE:   24.03.2009

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Glickman says more must be done to address malnutrition in Africa

Washington ? Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has called for appointment of a development czar to oversee U.S. foreign aid and challenged the Obama administration to spend more to alleviate hunger worldwide, especially in Africa.

Glickman, in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 24, said the amount of funding needed to feed the malnourished in Africa is ?a drop in the bucket? compared to government funds devoted to stanching the current economic crisis. He challenged the U.S. government ? the world?s leader in food assistance ? to allocate at least $340 million in 2010 and more thereafter toward infrastructure, agricultural research and education in poor countries.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Democrat and chairman of the committee, said that one in seven people goes hungry every day in the world, a fact that constitutes ?one of the great moral challenges the world faces today.? Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the panel, echoed Kerry?s support for an enhanced foreign assistance budget that tackles global agricultural development, which would improve crop yields.

Although the administration has not announced plans in any detail on agricultural development, Lugar read from a letter to him from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. ?Combating hunger is a top priority for this administration and for me, personally,? Clinton said in her letter. ?During my confirmation testimony, I called for a move away from reacting to food crises in an ad hoc fashion, toward making food security a priority in our development programs.?

Clinton?s letter also states her intention to seek additional funds in the fiscal year 2010 budget to achieve those goals. President Obama has stated he intends to pursue the United Nations? goal to halve global poverty by 2015.

Lugar and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania are co-authors of a bill, the Global Food Security Act, which aims to update the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 by allocating about $10 billion over five years to promote food security and improve responses to food crises.

In their March 24 testimony, Glickman and his associates from the Chicago Initiative on Global Agricultural Development endorsed the Lugar-Casey bill and delivered an unflattering depiction of the U.S. government?s past commitment to agricultural development in Africa.

Official U.S. development assistance to African nations has declined by 85 percent in real dollars (dollars minus the effect of inflation) since 1988, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Robert Paarlberg, a professor at Wellesley College and Harvard University, summed up his view of the U.S. government?s historic commitment this way: In regard to food aid, particularly in the response to the worldwide food price spikes of 2008, the government gets a grade of B+ (superior, plus). But, he said, ?the larger and the longer-term challenge is to address persistent malnutrition that afflicts nearly 1 billion people in the developing world.? In this area, Paarlberg gives the United States a grade of F (failing).

The Reverend David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, called into question the government?s entire model for administering development assistance. Echoing sentiments expressed in a report from Glickman?s Chicago group, Beckmann ? an Episcopal priest ? said, ?We hope Congress will pull several aid agencies together in one accountable agency, focus it clearly on development and poverty reduction, and allow it to be responsive to local needs and priorities.?

?To coordinate this, we need someone in the White House who is in charge,? said Glickman, referring to the idea of one official with focused responsibility on development issues ? a development czar. His group testified that a development czar must have administrative and operational control over one superagency. The agency would combine and focus the development efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the President?s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other government entities working in development.

In terms of agricultural research and educational exchanges, Catherine Bertini, former head of the World Food Programme, said the United States ?has fallen back dramatically? in recent years on its commitments. Once, said Bertini, the United States gave hundreds of scholarships to foreign students wanting to study agriculture and science at U.S. universities, but today, only 42 are available. At its height, agricultural extension workers ? specialists from U.S. universities, government and the private sector ? trained 15,000 individuals from other countries in one year in modern agricultural methods. The number trained today is just 1,000.

Kerry questioned the witnesses on promoting the use of nitrogen fertilizers and biotech seeds during a perceived organic produce movement.

?This is virtually impossible ? to get to the yields we are talking about without taking seriously seed and fertilizer,? said Lugar, also a farmer, who called on leaders in the European Union to act as role models and drop their exclusion of genetically modified seeds. As evidence of the world?s shifting use toward biotechnology, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, in its 2008 annual report, found that 13.3 million farmers in 25 countries planted 125 million hectares of biotech crops in 2008. Egypt, Burkina Faso and South Africa are the only African nations to cultivate biotech crops.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Department of State?s Bureau of International Information Programs, USA

AUTHOR: Kathryn McConnell


DATE:   19.02.2009

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Prospects of future biotech growth encouraging, report says

Washington ? A record 13.3 million farmers in 25 countries are using agricultural biotechnology to help meet the world?s food demands, according to a leading agricultural research group.

In 2008, the 13th year since biotech crops were first commercialized, farmers planted a record 125 million hectares (309 million acres) of genetically improved crops. That was 10.7 million more hectares than in 2007, the International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) reports.

?Biotech provides solutions for today?s farmers in the form of plants that yield more per [hectare], resist diseases and insect pests and reduce farmers? production costs,? said Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president of the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Growth prospects for biotech through 2015 are encouraging, according to Clive James, author of the group?s report, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008.

In Africa, biotech farming began in two additional countries in 2008, the report states. In Egypt, farmers began planting genetically modified maize. In Burkina Faso, farmers started to raise biotech cotton. The continent ?has perhaps the greatest need and most to gain? from the agricultural technology, James said.

Combined with South Africa?s previously established biotech program, genetically modified food projects have established footholds in each of Africa?s three main regions, helping policymakers and farmers in surrounding countries see the value of biotechnology to food security, James said.

In 2008, seven countries in the European Union were planting biotech maize commercially, increasing the numbers of hectares devoted to biotech 21 percent over the previous year, according to the report.

European farmers are coming to realize biotechnology?s potential to increase incomes and reduce pesticide use, the report said. In February, EU members will meet to decide on approval of new biotech crops, according to Marcella Szymanski of the U.S. State Department?s Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.

?Farmers everywhere are waiting and watching,? she told

The report says that in 2008 some countries that had previously adopted a biotech crop added new ones to their soils. In the case of Bolivia, farmers started to grow biotech soy. Brazilian farmers began growing biotech maize and Australian farmers started raising biotech canola.

This farmer in Hawaii grows genetically engineered papaya trees.

Modified soybeans continued to be the principal biotech crop cultivated in 2008, occupying 53 percent of all biotech hectares. It was followed by modified maize, cotton and canola. In addition to those crops, the United States grows biotech papaya, squash, alfalfa and sugar beets.


Since 2003, the State Department has funded programs to increase understanding of agricultural biotechnology and to address consumer and environmental safety concerns.

In 2008, the bureau expanded its biotech outreach efforts to include a focus on food security and biofuels. It sent U.S. experts to Peru, for instance, to explain to government officials the benefits of agricultural biotech in biofuel production, Szymanski said.

U.S.-sponsored specialists met with farmers, university students and politicians in Germany and participated in a biotechnology conference in Vietnam. The United States sent experts to South Africa to talk with legislators about conducting risk assessments for agricultural biotechnology. Experts also visited Egypt to urge passage of legislation that would smooth the way for new biotech approvals.

Officials in some countries lack adequate information to create policies covering biosafety, Szymanski said.

The World Health Organization has emphasized the importance of agricultural biotechnology to health because it produces more nutritious food and food with fewer allergenic characteristics, James reports.

The crops also benefit health because they require fewer pesticides and reduce fuel consumption and harmful carbon emissions, he said.

Leaders of the world?s eight major economies have called for agricultural research to accelerate, James said.

The United States cultivated the most biotech hectares in 2008, followed by Argentina, Brazil, India, Canada, China, Paraguay and South Africa.

Biotech crops have been widely adopted by American farmers since their commercial introduction in 1996, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Soybeans and cotton engineered to tolerate herbicides have been the most widely adopted in the United States, followed by insect-resistant cotton and maize.

The executive summary of the ISAAA report is available on the group?s Web site.

An overview of biotechnology crops in the United States is available on the Department of Agriculture Web site.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation, UK

AUTHOR: Steve Duke


DATE:   31.03.2009

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Current world population - 6.8bn / Net growth per day - 218,030 / Forecast made for 2040 - 9bn

Source: US Census Bureau


China - 1.33bn / India - 1.16bn / USA - 306m / Indonesia - 230m / Brazil - 191m

There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government.

Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth?s ?limits of sustainability?.

Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice.

Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton.

?We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can?t support many more people,? Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing ?wild lands?, and in particular water supplies.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: ?There are probably already too many people on the planet.?

GM Foods ?needed?

A National Medal of Science laureate (America?s highest science award), the professor of molecular biology believes part of that better land management must include the use of genetically modified foods.

?We have six-and-a-half-billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven.

?We?re going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops,? she told the BBC.

?We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century.?

Dr Fedoroff, who wrote a book about GM Foods in 2004, believes critics of genetically modified maize, corn and rice are living in bygone times.

?We wouldn?t think of going to our doctor and saying ?Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century?, and yet that?s what we?re demanding in food production.?

In a wide ranging interview, Dr Fedoroff was asked if the US accepted its responsibility to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be driving human-induced climate change. ?Yes, and going forward, we just have to be more realistic about our contribution and decrease it - and I think you?ll see that happening.?

And asked if America would sign up to legally binding targets on carbon emissions - something the world?s biggest economy has been reluctant to do in the past - the professor was equally clear. ?I think we?ll have to do that eventually - and the sooner the better.?

The full interview with Dr Nina Federoff can be heard on this week?s edition of the new One Planet programme on the BBC World Service



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