The importance of focusing on productivity was highlighted this week in an op-ed by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and an announcement from Pioneer Hi-Bred that it would partner with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others to bring enhanced technology to African corn crops.
On Tuesday, D.C.-based publication Politico published an op-ed from Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, on the “world food gap,” and innovation needed to meet the dramatic increase in food demand anticipated over the coming decades.
Daschle wrote about the stunning statistics that those in agriculture know all too well: the United Nations estimates food needs to grow by 70 percent by 2050, and more than one billion people are currently suffering from hunger.
He also outlined steps he believes are necessary to rise to this challenge, first urging support for “scientific and technological innovation in agriculture” and specifically saying that efforts to foster such innovation should include “incentivizing and encouraging investment in biotech and broader agricultural research and development.” He also emphasized the need for an open marketplace, collaboration and empowering farmers with available agricultural tools.
Innovation and collaboration were on display in a Wednesday announcement from a coalition of international research centers and Pioneer Hi-Bred, saying they would work together to create new corn varieties for use Africa that utilize fertilizer more efficiently and achieve higher yields even in poor soil.
The collaboration, to be known as the Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) project, will be led by international wheat and corn research body CIMMYT and funded with $19.5 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. It will also incorporate work from Pioneer Hi-Bred, a part of DuPont, and two African research agencies.
The Pioneer announcement said the research work will utilize conventional breeding, molecular markers and transgenics approaches, with improvements projected to be available in four years or less, seven to nine years and a decade, respectively. The announcement said varieties developed will be made available royalty-free to seed companies that sell to the region’s smallholder farmers.
Monsanto is also working with the Gates Foundation and international research bodies to improve African corn varieties, making them more resistant to drought, which will also be offered to small-holder farmers royalty free.
Daschle’s full piece is available online at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32980.html.
The Pioneer announcement is outlined at http://www.pioneer.com while more on the Monsanto project is available at http://www.monsanto.com/droughttolerantcorn/WEMA.asp.