* 2009 World Food Prize Symposium
* Oct. 14-16, Des Moines, Iowa
* Food security threats eyed in wake of price spikes
* Bill Gates, CEOs of Pepsi, ADM to speak
* Can world act quickly on plans to reduce hunger?
By Roberta Rampton and Christine Stebbins
DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct 13 Researchers and others
who seek to alleviate hunger by boosting farmers' productivity
will gather this week in the heart of the U.S Corn Belt to
focus on the political risks when people don't have enough to
Last year, fears of food shortages gripped grain markets,
sending wheat and rice prices soaring to record highs and
sparking hoarding and riots.
The unrest was a powerful reminder of the risks of food
insecurity and helped spur the world's richest nations to
promise to spend $20 billion over three years to help small,
subsistence farmers improve their productivity. [ID:nLA547470]
"This is one of the key, crucial questions of the coming
decades that has to do with whether the world is going to live
at peace or not," said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World
Food Prize Foundation, which hosts the symposium this week in
Des Moines, Iowa.
"Whether it's terrorism, or internal conflict, or relations
between states over the trade of food and water ... what do we
do to address it?" said Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to
The World Food Prize was founded by Norman Borlaug, the
father of the "Green Revolution" that lifted crop yields in
Latin America and Asia, who died last month from cancer at age
95 while still grappling with the problem of how to end
The number of chronically hungry has now ballooned past 1
billion people -- a crisis felt most acutely in Africa, the
UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has said.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization
estimates the world will need to boost production by 70 percent
by 2050 to feed growing numbers -- a challenge given scarce
land and water and the changing climate. [ID:nLN517136]
Critics of the first "Green Revolution" have warned about
the overuse of chemicals, corporate control of seeds, and the
displacement of small farmers as the world moves again to
increase crop output.
The forum links scientists with philanthropists, executives
and others staking ground in the issue: Bill Gates, PepsiCo
(PEP.N) CEO Indra Nooyi, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM.N) CEO
Patricia Woertz, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
This year's World Food Prize will go to Gebisa Ejeta, a
Purdue University scientist who developed drought- and
weed-tolerant crops and worked to get the seed into the hands
of small farmers in his native Africa. [ID:nN11502970]
It will take more than a jump in yields to achieve food
security, said past laureates interviewed by Reuters, noting
investment needed in education, health and infrastructure.
Plans for how best to spend money pledged to agricultural
development continue to be deliberated in the United States and
around the world. Some worry that dithering could stall
momentum either for donors or within developing countries.
"We've got so many plans developed for almost every country
in the world. We now need to pick them up and put them into
action," said Per Pinstrup-Andersen, an economist at Cornell
University and a Food Prize laureate.
For more from that interview, please see:
In Africa, it took a long time to lay the foundation to
address agriculture's role in hunger, said Monty Jones, head of
the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, who won the
World Food Prize in 2004 for his work on rice.
But nations are beginning to take ownership of the issue
and move forward on plans, Jones said.
"We've done this in good faith. We've taken our time. We've
got a good plan. We are now implementing that plan," he said.
"I am very confident in the short term to the medium term,
we'll begin to see the impacts of this very good plan on work
on the ground," Jones said.
Where African countries have invested in fertilizer and
seed for farmers -- like Malawi -- yields have shot up, said
Pedro Sanchez of Columbia University's Earth Institute, a World
Food Prize laureate who works extensively in Africa on hunger.
"The African Green Revolution is possible, and it's a way
that hunger can eventually be eliminated on that continent,"
Previous World Food Prize winners [ID:nN13143823]
(Editing by Jim Marshall)