1701260004 A new scientific revolution to transform food systems

A new scientific revolution to transform food systems

A new scientific revolution to transform food systems

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The run-up to COP28, which begins shortly in Dubai, is a good time to reflect on how climate change is affecting a key element in humanity’s life: its ability to produce life-sustaining food.

I will focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, although the situation in the region has profound global implications. Although Latin America and the Caribbean make up just over 8% of the world’s population, it produces 14% of the world’s exported food. In addition, it is home to a very large amount of natural resources (the largest arable land in the world and 30% of the world’s biodiversity are just two examples).

All this wealth is at risk. According to a recent report by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 22% of fertile land in the region was degraded in 2019 (more than 70% in Mexico). According to the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), at current trends, corn yields will have declined by 25% in 2050.

These events pose a serious problem for regional and global food security. Let us remember that humanity will need to increase its food production by 50-70% (compared to 2020) if it is to meet the needs of a continuously growing population in 2050, which will be well over 9 billion people at this point. People.

Solving the dilemma of producing more food with fewer resources is not easy. There are many forces and factors at play. But one thing is clear: science and innovation must play a crucial role in finding a way out of the labyrinth.

That’s how it used to be.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, collaboration between national and international agricultural research institutions made the green revolution possible. Investments in research to improve the seeds of important crops such as wheat, corn and rice increased agricultural productivity, contributed significantly to the fight against poverty and hunger, and saved the lives of millions of people.

We have to find a way to make this successful collaboration work again.

The situation in the region is not ideal. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Latin American and Caribbean countries “continue to lag behind in providing sufficient resources” for agricultural research. However, the IDB itself estimates that the region is “well prepared to increase its trade volume and agricultural production.”

It is therefore a time of challenges, but also of opportunities that can only be exploited with foresight and boldness.

At CGIAR we believe that this vision and courage must take the form of a regional agricultural research and innovation agenda aimed at multiplying regional agricultural production, but taking into account the factors of ecosystem sustainability, conservation and promotion of biodiversity and socio-economic Rural resilience includes populations.

And unlike the days of the Green Revolution, today we are aware of the threat of climate change, which is largely responsible for the loss of progress made over the last century in reducing food insecurity and poverty and is beginning to turn into setbacks.

This regional agenda must be able to unite the capacities and resources of the private and public sectors (agriculture and environment ministries) of the region, national research centers (like EMBRAPA in Brazil) and international research centers (like CIMMYT, CIP or…) the Bioveristy -CIAT Alliance, the CGIAR), regional (such as IICA) and global coordination organizations (such as FAOc), international financiers (such as the IDB, the World Bank, IFAD or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and civil society.

The real paradigm shift that this agenda would bring would not only make it possible to solve the problems of hunger and food insecurity in a region where, according to the latest data from the United Nations, more than 43 million people are hungry, almost 248 million suffer from moderate or severe food insecurity.

It would also allow us to maximize Latin America and the Caribbean’s already critical contribution to global food production and global biodiversity conservation.

Some organizations in the region are already actively working on developing this agenda. Undoubtedly, given the latest data, we need to deepen and accelerate the conversation.

Joaquin Lozano He is regional director of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) for Latin America and the Caribbean