Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Conference on Scientific Support for Food Security and Global Governance

28 September 2011. Brussels. The JRC-organised conference 'Scientific Support for Food Security and Global Governance', held on Wednesday 28 September in Brussels attracted 380 participants for a high-level discussion on the need to reconcile the necessity to increase production and competitiveness while respecting sustainable development in the framework of global governance. The conference focused on the links between food security and science, the interdependence between agriculture and environment, and the need for new global governance for improved food availability.

The daylong programme featured 21 speakers with attendees coming from national governments and international organisations EU Institutions, industry and NGOs, and research institutes and universities. Senior officials from the United Nations, the World Bank, the ACP Group of States and the EU presented ongoing initiatives ranging from crops monitoring and forecasting to concrete projects in the food system. Others analysed the sustainability of food production, food price volatility and food supply governance.

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre and the UK Government Office for Science (Foresight) co-organised on 30 March 2011 in Brussels a High Level Seminar on "Future of Global Food and Farming: How can Science Support Food Security?". European policy makers, scientists and practitioners debated the impediments and choices for global food security driven by the expanding world population and the need to develop sustainable agriculture minimizing the over-exploitation of natural resources and the impact of climate change. The conclusions of this conference have underlined the needs for developing and using a new common data and modelling system. The European Union and other international partners have insufficient or sets of data that are not up to date on many topics, such as farming systems.

The conference fostered a debate on following issues and highlighted the contribution of science in policy making at EU and global level on food security aspects:
  • Improving agricultural production and productivity both in the short and long term in order to respond to a growing demand for agricultural commodities;
  • Increasing market information and transparency in order to better anchor expectations from governments and economic operators;
  • Strengthening international policy coordination in order to enhance confidence in international markets and to prevent and respond to food market crises more efficiently;
  • Improving and developing risk management tools for governments, firms and farmers in order to build capacity to manage and mitigate the risks associated with food price volatility, in particularly in the poorest countries;
  • Improving the functioning of agricultural commodities' derivatives markets.

Dominique Ristori is the general director of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. In this interview, he speaks about the food security conference organised by the JRC and about the value of research and science in food security.

 In the closing remarks, JRC Director General Dominique Ristori said the conference offered strong evidence for the urgent necessity to invest in science and innovation for global food availability. Shared infrastructures and exchange of science-based knowledge are needed to turn capacities and knowledge into new products and new markets. He called for an interdisciplinary approach and a strong partnership between agriculture, environment, energy and development together with innovation and science. To achieve a sustainable intensification of the farming sector – he said - farmers should be placed inside the innovation chain with a capacity to invest and to reduce direct pressure on land and sea. According to Mr Ristori, a new global governance is necessary, which will strengthen the links between producers, traders, governments and all other stakeholders. He pointed to G20 initiatives as a good start and emphasised the importance of the co-operation between the FAO and the World Bank.

Prof. Monty Jones, Executive Director of FARA talks about the input that science can bring to agriculture, and the responsibility of African governments in food security

Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientist at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) talks about the untapped potential of fisheries and the possibilities of achieving food security and environmental protection.

Paulo Gouveia is the director of the General Affairs Department at Copa-Cogeca, the European farmers' representation in Brussels. In this interview, Gouveia speaks about the role of GMOs for food security and the European farmers' responsibility for global food security.

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