From the podium

From the podium

Mr Per Pinstrup-Andersen (Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute - IFPRI)

Thank you very much Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates. Poverty and hunger are the world's most serious public health problems. Since the great majority of the world's poor and malnourished people depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood, one might say that agriculture is letting them down. It would be much more accurate, however, to say that Governments around the world are letting agriculture down. If we are to achieve the goal set by the World Food Summit, it is essential that small farmers in developing countries become more productive. When agriculture is insufficiently productive, the results are high unit costs for food, poverty, food insecurity, poor nutrition and excessive migration from the farms to the cities. Yet, agriculture, when it is highly productive, has the potential to lift up whole economies.

IFPRI research shows that for every Euro of income earned by farmers in poor developing countries, the income in the economy as a whole may rise by as much as two-and-one-half Euros. As farmers begin to earn more money, they demand more goods and services, thereby generating jobs, income and growth throughout the economy.

Agriculture research is needed to help these farmers reduce their risks, improve their productivity and protect the national resources, so that they have access to the full range of approaches.

To tackle these problems, researchers should combine indigenous knowledge with all appropriate scientific tools and methods - not only conventional research methods, but also agri-ecology and agricultural biotechnology and, yes, including genetic engineering, where that is the most appropriate solution. Yet the kind of agricultural research that would benefit small farmers in developing countries is severely underfunded. Low-Income Developing Countries invest less that one half of one percent of the value of their agricultural output in agriculture research. On comparison, higher-income countries invest in agriculture research.

Besides the technological tools for producing more agricultural goods, farmers also require sound and supportive public policies. Trade policies, macro-economic policies and sectorial policies must not discriminate against agriculture, and must favour a reduction of poverty and food insecurity.

Developed country policies also make a great difference. Developed countries must replace their trade-distorting policies with policies promoting free and fair trade for developing countries. Developed countries can benefit from greater aid to developing country agriculture. According to IFPRI research, every Euro invested in agricultural research for developing countries increases these countries’ imports of goods and services by more than four Euros, with about one Euro of additional import of agricultural commodities. It is clearly a win-win proposition for those who give and those who receive development assistance.

Mr Chairman, looking ahead, the World Food Summit goal dovetails with IFPRI's Twenty-Twenty Vision for Food, Agriculture and the Environment, which is a vision of the world free of hunger and malnutrition by the year 2020. I believe that both the World Food Summit goal and the Twenty-Twenty Vision can be achieved if the necessary political will can be mobilized.

In support of national efforts, continued creation of international public goods for food and agriculture is essential to achieve the World Food Summit goal. Along these lines, Mr Chairman, the future harvest centres supported by the Consolidated Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), in collaboration with national agricultural research systems and other partners, have worked to increase food availability, reduce food insecurity, improve child nutrition and protect the environment and biodiversity over the last 30 years. Building on past successes, the future harvest centres will continue to work with other international and national agricultural research institutions to bring about a world free of hunger and malnutrition, where natural resources are sustainably managed.

With your support and collaboration, together we can achieve the World Food Summit goal and the Twenty-Twenty Vision.

Thank you Mr Chairman.

Complete list of statements by order of delivery


comments? please write to the webmaster

© FAO, 2002