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Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2002
Ensuring sustainable livelihoods:

challenges for governments, corporates, and civil society at Rio+10
8 - 11 February 2002, New Delhi

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DSDS 2002: Plenary session 7, 10 February 2002

Food security and basic human needs
Paul S Teng
Asia-Pacific Director for Science and Technology, Monsanto Company, USA

Food Security and Basic Human Needs: The need for partnerships to impact poverty

The United Nations Population Division has projected that in 35 years, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban centers, while the ratio of people in developing: developed countries will be close to 6:1, with most living in Asia. At the same time, most countries will have to deal with an ageing population supported by agriculture on less arable land, with less water. These demographics hit at the core issues of satisfying the food needs of those who live in the cities, and those who produce in the countryside. Startling differences in actual and potential food productivity exist; projections for the period 1995 to 2020 are, in kg per capita, 264 to 264 for Asia, 1533 to 2694 for North America, and 252 to 268 for Africa.

While images of starvation in marginal lands capture the attention of the world’s media, urban poverty is often a chronic, less visible syndrome with major implications for social peace and sustainable development. In urban areas much more than rural, food security is inextricably linked to economic security. A strong argument has to be made to increase agricultural productivity per unit of arable land, using the best science and technology, to ensure the needs of the majority urban population of the future. Several countries in Asia have embarked on innovative land use systems such as "Estate farming" or "community farming", in which modern practices are uniformly applied to best tap the land’s natural productivity. Success stories demonstrate the potential of complementary partnerships in technology transfer between the private, public and non-formal sectors, to concurrently meet the food and economic needs of the producing rural population, AND the food security needs of the urban. These complementary partnerships in technology transfer are premised on clearly establishing the comparative advantage of each sector in generating different forms of scientific knowledge and technology for improvements in crop genetics, nutrient use, water use, and land management.

The private sector stands ready to complement the efforts of the public and non-formal sectors in grassroots programs aimed at ensuring food security for ALL people. Individual companies, and industry coalitions have launched new programs in recent years to share their knowledge and technologies for common good. Monsanto, through its Technology Cooperation Program, has shared its proprietary biotechnologies with governments in Africa and Asia to solve disease and insect problems of papaya, sweet potato and potato. In India, Monsanto has partnered with TERI to produce a "Golden Mustard" to help in the alleviation of Vitamin A deficiency. Several companies have joined to provide the technologies for "Golden Rice". CropLife International, the global industry coalition, is an active player in the Rio+10 process, and has supported a multi-pronged global program that addresses many facets of sustainable agriculture. Companies like Monsanto have created "beach-heads" of sustainable development in Asian countries, in which conservation tillage practices coupled with modern hybrid seed and micro-credit have resulted in significant improvements in the livelihood of rural poor and increased land productivity. These "beach-heads" show that it is possible for companies to work with government agencies and non-government organizations in a synergistic manner.

Ultimately, a regular supply of affordable and safe food is key to sustainable development. All sectors have roles to play to ensure this, especially through complementary partnerships.