Next Steps to Fighting
Global Hunger and Poverty
Ann M. Veneman
USA Agriculture Secretary
Opening Plenary, Science & Technology Ministerial
Sacramento, California • June 23, 2003
you, Dr. Penn, for that very kind introduction.
Fellow ministers, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen … it is a great
pleasure to welcome you to California and to the Ministerial Conference and Expo
on Agricultural Science and Technology.
you all for coming. It is a special honor and privilege to be hosting such
prominent individuals from around the world. The over 400 delegates
participating in this conference are from 120 countries. They include ministers
of agriculture science and technology health and the environment.
Welcome also to those who are joining us by webcast. This is a historic
conference, one of the largest-ever gatherings of ministers to address the issue
of global hunger.
California is a perfect backdrop. It is agriculturally diverse, and home to
top-caliber research institutions. It is a showcase for the adoption of
innovative agricultural technologies. This state produces more than 350
different and commodities many of those within a short drive from here. If it
were a separate country, California would be the seventh-largest agricultural
economy in the world.
while this gathering takes place on American soil, it is truly an international
conference. It is intended for the benefit of people all around the world
especially those who are most in need. In recent years, reducing hunger and
poverty has truly become a global agenda.
Sacramento is the most recent stop on a road that has taken us through Doha,
where developing countries became a major focus of international trade
negotiations to Monterrey, Mexico, and the International Conference on Financing
for Development to Rome and the 2002 World Food Summit to Johannesburg and the
World Summit on Sustainable Development and later this year in Cancun.
year ago many of us in this room were together in Rome at the World Food Summit
to renew our commitment to reduce global hunger by half by the year 2015.
began by admitting the obvious that progress toward this goal was seriously
lagging and that more effort, a stronger resolve, more resources and new
approaches were needed. There was broad agreement that we must look to
scientific and technological innovations for solutions. That is the focus here
Reducing global hunger and poverty is also a priority of President Bush. In
March of last year, President Bush announced his Millennium Challenge Account a
50 percent increase in our foreign assistance funding over three years and the
largest increase in U.S. foreign assistance in 40 years.
that time, he said: “We cannot leave behind half of humanity as we seek a better
future for ourselves. We cannot accept permanent poverty in a world of progress.
There are no second class citizens in the human race.”
also committed the United States to other important initiatives, including:
new Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which will direct $15 billion over the
next five years to battle HIV/AIDS with the focus on Africa and the Caribbean.
Another initiative totaling nearly $1 billion will provide clean drinking
water to 50 million people in the developing world.
this ministerial, we will look at technology’s role in speeding our progress
toward the goals reiterated in Rome how it can help feed the hungry provide
nutrition to the malnourished and lift those in need out of poverty.
President Bush mentioned the scope of the challenge we continue to face in his
More than 800 million of the world’s people nearly one of every seven face
Among children, one in three is undernourished and every five seconds a child
is lost to hunger.
Half the world’s people live on less than two dollars a day.
poverty and hunger are found in areas where people are trapped in a life of
subsistence. About one billion of the world’s poorest people depend on
agriculture for their livelihoods. In many developing countries, 90 percent of
the food consumed is locally grown. People who are hungry are less able to feed
themselves and to be productive members of society.
recent analysis by the International Food Policy Research Institute suggests
that, for Africa, an annual increase in crop and livestock productivity of just
three to four percent would triple per capita incomes. And it would reduce the
number of malnourished children by 40 percent. When nations increase
agricultural productivity, not only is hunger reduced but incomes are increased,
and economic growth is generated.
agenda here this week covers a broad range of technologies and related policy
issues. It attempts to identify the most pressing needs encourage partnerships
and provide opportunities to exchange ideas and information.
is a forum about a shared vision and finding ways to achieve results ways to
apply science-based solutions to real-world problems how to use available
technologies to raise agricultural productivity and extending the benefits of
technology all around the globe.
success can be judged by the new bonds that are forged, and the new partnerships
that are created by the problems that are identified, the potential solutions
found, and the commitment made to put those solutions into practice. Ninety-four
speakers and panelists from 29 countries will discuss agriculture and food
technologies that are making a real difference in all parts of the world.
program includes leaders and experts from developing and developed countries
from international organizations, research institutes and universities and from
companies and foundations.
will hear how countries are using technology to increase food production and
finding policy incentives to promote technology. The Technology Expo features a
wide array of exhibits from conventional to cutting-edge technologies with
applications throughout the entire food chain. Field tours on Wednesday will
show firsthand how technologies are being used in the real world.
Technology alone is not a solution. It is merely a tool and without supportive
policies and regulations, its benefits will not be fully realized. Policies that
promote free markets and good governance produce economic growth.
open trading system is also vital. It provides greater market access attracts
investment stimulates growth and contributes to food security. The growing role
of developing countries in the trade policy agenda is a positive sign.
no coincidence that the current round of World Trade Organization negotiations
is named the Doha Development Agenda. Taken together, technologies with
supportive policies and regulations can accelerate agricultural productivity and
economic growth to help alleviate hunger and poverty.
Science and technology have contributed to substantial productivity gains in the
last century. The Green Revolution of the 1960s provided high-yielding varieties
along with the increased use of fertilizer and irrigation, which significantly
reduced famine in much of Asia.
are proud to have the father of the Green Revolution and a Nobel laureate, Dr.
Norman Borlaug, as our luncheon speaker tomorrow. His contributions to
agricultural technology by some estimates have saved as many as a billion lives.
all regions benefited equally. Per capita food production in much of sub-Saharan
Africa has declined in the last two decades. More attention is needed on African
staples such as yams, cassava, cowpeas, and rice.
need for productivity gains is increasingly urgent. By the year 2020, the world
will have 1.2 billion more mouths to feed or the equivalent of another country
the size of China. Imagine the strain it will place on limited resources unless
we have greater productivity advances.
is one of those resources. It plays a vital role in human health, economic
growth, the environment, and in some cases, regional stability. Improved water
management is emerging as one of the great issues the world will confront in the
one has a greater stake in water than the world’s farmers. Globally, agriculture
accounts for about 70 percent of total water usage. Science and technology can
help increase crop yields with less water and provide early warnings of drought.
right answers are not always the latest, biggest, and most expensive
technologies. Many conventional technologies already widely used for decades can
be adapted to bring significant productivity gains to the world’s poorest
may include a good system of farmer extension services better nutrient
management contour plowing improved seed varieties or simple irrigation. The
goal is not technologies that make developing countries more dependent on the
developed world. Rather, it is to make them able to better feed themselves.
many technologies are coming from scientists in the developing world for farmers
in the developing world. We need to learn from success stories such as these:
Small-scale farmers in Uganda increased maize yields 46 percent from 1996 to
2001 through improved conservation practices.
Tunisia, crop losses to the potato tuber moth dropped 16 percent with the use
of integrated pest management practices.
Research by the World Fish Center in Malaysia has produced a strain of tilapia
that grow 60 percent faster and yield three harvests per year.
Contour terraces in Peru boosted potato yields 70 percent compared with
traditional planting on sloping fields.
in Malawi, farmers are benefiting from a high-yielding, pest-resistant cassava
Recent breakthroughs in molecular biology and information technology are
creating even more opportunities to improve productivity. Emerging fields such
as nanotechnology, proteomics and bioinformatics may, in some cases, allow
countries left far behind to leapfrog ahead.
luncheon speaker today, Dr. Rita Colwell, will discuss the revolutionary field
of genomics. DNA sequencing holds the key to major agricultural advances and
applications in broader areas of research, such as plant and animal health and
Scientists working around the world have mapped the rice genome and others are
cooperatively working to sequence the genetic map of livestock such as pigs and
chickens. Our ability to unlock the secrets of the double helix has also made
Biotechnology is already helping both small and large-scale farmers around the
world by boosting yields, lowering costs, reducing pesticide use and making
crops more resistant to disease, pests, and drought.
and more countries are now growing biotech crops and research promises new ways
to improve nutrition, prevent disease, conserve water, and produce crops in
But for technology to be useful, especially to those in developing countries and
most in need, it must be accessible. The cost of restricting access to a full
range of technologies is borne by those who can least afford it. Technologies
must be objectively assessed for benefits and risks, based on science not fear,
rumor, or politics.
men and women have done throughout history, we must harness the power of
technology, using it wisely and for the good of all. Many tools are needed to
reduce global inequities improve food security stimulate development encourage
open economies and free societies and facilitate the shared benefits of trade.
the most important tools available to all of us are science and technology. This
conference is about empowering people to unleash their fullest agricultural
potential to better feed themselves. Technology can help farmers around the
globe produce more with less, while protecting the environment for future
can help feed the hungry, improve nutrition, elevate living standards, and
narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. For developing countries, a more
productive agriculture can be a springboard first to greater food security, and
then to a far more productive economy.
are the goals of this conference, the goals we all share. Thank you again for
your attendance and participation. I end this morning as I began, by talking
about the 800 million chronically hungry people around the world. For them, the
stakes are high.
have come to Sacramento out of a moral imperative not to excuse inaction but to
find solutions. Thank you.
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June 28, 2003