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World Bank calls for feedback on biotech concept paper

(Thursday, Sept. 12, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- The World Bank and its partners are undertaking a consultative process to develop an appropriate authorizing environment for an international assessment to address how food security, hunger, and rural livelihood issues can be helped by agricultural science and technology in the next 50 years.

Starting this fall, they will be convening stakeholder meetings throughout the world to determine the scope of any assessment, what questions it would answer and how it would be organized.

To start the process of informing stakeholders and to begin obtaining feedback, the World Bank has established a website (http://www.agassessment.org) which includes a concept paper about the consultative process and the potential assessment. The website also has a feedback form to comments.

The following comes from the World Bank's International Assessment of AgricultureScience and Technology Agriculture: The fount of life, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the books we read. Little in our lives would be the same without the agricultural products that nourish and enrich us. And for the world's poorest people, "75% of whom live in rural areas, agriculture is nothing less than their livelihoods.

Today, access to food, enough food, nutritious food, and affordable food is the primary problem for nearly 800 million chronically undernourished people. Yet, unless we act now, the next few decades will almost certainly find us unable to produce agricultural products (vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, forest products and commodities) sufficient to meet the demands of growing populations and changing diets. And we may lose opportunities to harvest critically needed pharmaceutical products and develop new delivery systems. Meeting these demands will require productivity increases and product diversification to improve the livelihoods of the poor, protect the environment and ensure broad-based economic growth.

We will need to produce more with less less water in many areas, and less labor where HIV/AIDS and endemic disease abound. And we will need to do so in the context of increased climate variability.

Policy. We will need a policy environment in both developed and developing countries that is grounded in equity, that addresses key issues such as trade, IPR and land tenure, and that enhances agricultural productivity while encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources. This means finding answers to questions such as:

  • What research should be conducted, where and by whom, to aid the rural poor in adopting technologies that improve nutritional security and raise incomes?
  • What technologies can increase land and labor productivity, especially where AIDS has devastated the work force?
  • What part can biotechnology safely play in increasing productivity and improving crop traits? What can traditional plant breeding techniques offer?
  • What is the relevance of organic agriculture to food safety and nutritional security?
  • How can we accelerate the diffusion of methodologies that maximize efficient use of biophysical resources and minimize harvest and post-harvest loss?

Assessment. An international assessment on agricultural science and technology would bring together representatives from governments, industry, the scientific community and NGOs from around the world to work together to give decision makers the tools and information they need to answer these questions in a larger policy context and to shape the future of agriculture. International assessments have proven invaluable for guiding policy makers on the key questions of our time, in a way that brings the singular insights of scientists, advocacy groups and industry specialists to bear on complex scientific, economic and political concerns.

Process. The World Bank and its partners are undertaking a consultative process to develop an appropriate authorizing environment for an assessment, and to determine the scope, objectives and value of an international assessment, the key questions to be addressed, and the principles and procedures to be followed.

During this process, stakeholders throughout the world "farmers and producers, NGOs, researchers, the private sector, governments, consumers and others"will exchange ideas on how agricultural S&T can contribute to reducing hunger and improving rural livelihoods.

The World Bank, convener of the consultative process, asks that you add your voice to this unprecedented discussion by downloading the concept paper in Portable Document Format (PDF) "An International Assessment on the Role of Agricultural Science and Technology in Reducing Hunger and Improving Rural Livelihoods" (10 pages, 3K). You will need Acrobat Reader to view or read this document. Get it for free at http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html

Once you have read the paper, please provide feedback at http://www.agassessment.org/feedback/index.html. Thank you.

If you have questions, please send them to: bmcintyre@worldbank.org