NAWG Weekly Update: October 16, 2014

Celebrate #WorldFoodDay
Did you know that one farmer now provides enough food to feed 155 people worldwide? In 1960 that number was just 25.8! I think that’s reason enough to #ToastAFarmer. Today is World Food Day! Join the global conversation on food today on Facebook and Twitter by following #WFD2014 and #WorldFoodDay.

NAWG Vice President Blankenship Calls for More Biotech Wheat Research
In an op-ed to the Des Moines Register on Tuesday, NAWG first vice president Brett Blankenship issued a call to action to expand the current level of wheat biotech research to match that of similar staple crops.  “While wheat maintains its lead as the most planted commodity crop worldwide, corn and rice have surpassed wheat in production (tonnage) in the last 20 years. Since 1994, corn yields have increased approximately 67 percent in the United States alone, while spring and winter wheat yields have increased half that amount, approximately 35 percent, in the same time frame. For the world’s largest crop that is a staple nutrient resource for 30 percent of the world’s population, the production lag is astounding.”

He also mentioned the potential far-reaching repercussions that could result from a continued slowdown, saying, “A decline in wheat production has obvious concerns down the food chain, too. Wheat farmers are not the only ones who will feel the effects of wheat getting pushed to marginal acres to make room for other crop commodities with greater investment returns. The milling, baking and food industries, for which wheat is an important ingredient, are well aware of the long-term implications of continued reduction in wheat production.”  Invoking the name of the founder of the World Food Prize, held in Des Moines this week, Blankenship called on “wheat farmers, public researchers and private sector investors to strive to meet a 70-year-old dream that spans back to Norman Borlaug’s work in the wheat fields of Mexico: to solve production challenges through innovation and collaboration. In order to overcome this technological divide between wheat and other crops, it is critical to establish an international environment in which wheat innovation can thrive.” To read Blankenship’s full op-ed, click here.

Borlaug Dialogue 2014: How to Feed 9 Billion People
The 2014 Borlaug Dialogue was held this week in Des Moines, Iowa, and featured an insightful discussion concerning the future of wheat, biotechnology, and sought solutions to the problem of feeding 9 billion people, a quest that Dr. Borlaug described as the greatest challenge in human history. The World Food Prize for 2014 was presented to Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, on Thurs., October 16, for his scientific research that led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production – by more than 200 million tons – building upon the successes of the Green Revolution. His breakthrough breeding technologies have had a far-reaching and significant impact in providing more nutritious food around the globe and alleviating world hunger. He is the former colleague of the Prize’s founder Dr. Norman Borlaug, and worked closely with Dr. Borlaug throughout his career in genetics and agricultural science. As a winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Borlaug understood the value that a sustainable and flexible food supply played in ensuring peace for an increasingly populous world. Thanks to the work of Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues, wheat now accounts for 20 percent of the world’s caloric intake. To honor future agricultural visionaries and heroes, Dr. Borlaug created the World Food Prize, recognition that the work of feeding the whole world is never done. Details and history of the award and the 2014 Laureate can be found here.

National Wheat Foundation Launches Official Social Media Presence
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) launched its official social media presence this week on Twitter and Facebook. Designed to appeal to both farmers and consumers, the NWF social media seeks to educate consumers about the nutritional benefits of wheat and to dispel common myths about wheat.  Follow them on Twitter here and their Facebook page can be found here.

Chinese GMO Policy Leads Farmers to Sue Syngenta Over Lost Profits
Farmers from the largest corn producing states have become the most recent group to sue Syngenta AG for lost profits following China’s rejection of a new genetically modified corn seed. In coordinated lawsuits filed on Friday in federal courts in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, farmers accused Syngenta of being reckless when it launched U.S. sales of Agrisure Viptera corn seed in 2011 without obtaining import approval from China, a major buyer. The farmers, who did not plant seed containing the unapproved trait, claimed they suffered losses because the price of U.S. corn dropped when China began rejecting boatloads of crops containing Viptera corn last year. Last month, agribusiness company Cargill Inc and another exporter separately sued Syngenta for selling Viptera corn seed before Beijing approved imports. The companies said they suffered combined damages of more than $131 million linked to China’s rejections of U.S. crops containing the trait.  Syngenta has yet to respond to the farmers’ claims.  Click here to see the full story.