CONSULTATIVE GROUP ON INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH (CGIAR) - GROUPE CONSULTATIF POUR LA RECHERCHE AGRICOLE INTERNATIONAL - GRUPO CONSULTIVO SOBRE INVESTIGACIÓN AGRÍCOLA INTERNACIONAL
Mr Geoffrey Hawtin, Director-General, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) on behalf of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the CGIAR, appreciates very much the opportunity to be here and present its views to this forum.
At the last World Food Summit, thanks to FAO's leadership, the international community focused attention on an enduring and compelling dilemma: the continuing presence of hunger at a time of agricultural plenty. Reducing hunger, poverty and degradation of the earth's patrimony of natural resources, the creation of wealth and well-being is the raison d'être of all development. There are many examples which show the country with growth-oriented agricultural sectors have been the most successful in breaking the nexus of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. This evidence is critically important for today's developing countries which have a large proportion of their economies linked to agriculture and agri-business.
Science and technology have been important and strategic elements in responding to these multi-faceted challenges. Global, specialized agricultural knowledge has been mobilized for the generation of new agricultural information, products and technologies specifically adapted to the development needs of poor farmers.
In the next decades we should also see agriculture's interface increasing with human health and in the provision of environmental services. Undoubtedly, there has been, and will continue to be, a special role for the innovators and providers of global public goods freely available to all. Their efforts harness the best of global knowledge for local impact. These efforts must continue.
In past years, global partnerships have achieved major successes with positive local impacts that are congruent with the goals of the World Food Summit. I would like to highlight just three. Quality protein maize, QPM, containing twice the amount of two essential amino acids, is now being planted on more than one million hectares in twenty countries, boosting food, nutrition and income security. Nerica, the new rices for Africa, combine the ruggedness of local African rice species with high productivity traits of Asian rice. This effort is transforming agriculture in the humid West Africa Region where rice imports costs more than US$ 1 billion per year. For example, in Guinea alone, nericas, the new African rices are planted on 90 000 hectares saving US$ 13 million in rice import bills.
It is gratifying that the new International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture recognizes the importance of the collections held in the public trust by the CGIAR, and that these are an essential pillar of the new Multilateral System. The CGIAR genebanks hold over 530 000 accessions, the world's largest collection, and these are held by the Centres for the benefit of all today and tomorrow.
We all know that science and technology are not enough to address the challenges faced by the poor. The work of agricultural science is never complete. New challenges require new innovative approaches. Sustainable food security requires intensification of agriculture, not extensification - intensification that is both socially-acceptable and environmentally-responsible. Agriculture's large ecological footprint must be reduced. Business as usual is not acceptable.
It is clear that cutting-edge science will need to be applied to the problems of arid, semi-arid and tropical agriculture that were not solved before, and we must remember that modern science is an expensive endeavour. New alliances and partnerships anchored in the common good are needed and scientific networking, capitalizing on the communications information revolution, will be the key.
Sustainable agriculture is a central pillar of food security and growth of most developing countries. We are guided by the sound advice contained in the World Food Summit Plan of Action which notes that, "In a world of increasingly interlinked institutions, societies and economies, coordinated efforts and shared responsibilities are essential". International research anchored in a public goods orientation is one of the key driving forces behind sustainable agriculture, creating new knowledge that can help accelerate our fight for a food secure and a prosperous world.