The world’s need for food is growing faster than the projected supply, says a group of crop scientists in proposing the formation of a broad-based research network to develop new varieties and mitigate the impact of climate change on world hunger. Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say that the fruitful international collaboration on wheat, which began with the Green Revolution of the 1960s, can be a template for work on many crops.
At the 50th-anniversary meeting of the main body that launched the Green Revolution, a range of researchers and policymakers made clear that the focus of their efforts is no longer just raising crop yields to “feed the world,” as their mantra had been for decades. Production is now just a starting point for a range of food issues faced by developing countries.
Credited with saving hundreds of millions of people from hunger, international ag research organizations will need to change their focus, funding base and partnerships to survive in coming years, says economist Derek Byerlee in a paper prepared for the 50th anniversary of one of the groups.
The $250,000 World Food Prize, sometimes called the Nobel of agriculture, was awarded to four scientists for development and promotion of biofortified crops, bred to include vitamins and micronutrients. An estimated 10 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America already have better diets due to the improved staple crops, "with a potential of several hundred million more in the coming decades," said the prize foundation.
Nearly half of the world's wheat-growing land is sown with varieties developed by an international network of plant scientists, or their national partners, says a report by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Adoption of the new varieties has been particularly brisk since 2010, "which may be due to the introduction of rust-resistance varieties in recent years," says the study.
The World Bank has reduced by $20 million its annual funding for a global agricultural research network that it helped found 35 years ago, says the Hagstrom Report.