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Boosting agricultural research in the developing world is the key to ensuring food security for the world's poorest, says Adel el-Beltagy, Chair of the Global Form on Agricultural Research (GFAR), writing in the latest issue of the TWAS Newsletter, published last week.
With nearly a billion people suffering from chronic hunger, global food security remains a major concern, despite being a key goal of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Extreme weather events due to climate change and the recent trend to convert croplands to biofuels both threaten to put even more people at risk.
The solution, says el-Beltagy - a member of TWAS, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World - must involve a renewed concentration on agricultural research in the South.
Writing in the spring issue of the TWAS Newsletter, el-Beltagy outlines the steps that will be needed to ensure that developing countries can take advantage of cutting-edge agricultural technologies, such as genomics and nanotechnology, that have the potential to increase crop yields without unduly stressing the environment.
Building such capacity will depend upon overcoming two obstacles: The North-South gap, which delays the transfer of technologies to the developing world, and the gap between developing world research communities and farmers working in the field.
Agricultural research institutions in the South, el-Beltagy says, must work more closely with their counterparts in the North, to develop technology transfer initiatives, and with policy-makers in their own countries, to convince them of the value of what they do and to advocate for policies that help farmers make use of the best available technologies and management strategies to increase crop yields.
TWAS is an autonomous international organization, based in Trieste, Italy, that promotes scientific excellence for sustainable development in the South. Originally named "Third World Academy of Sciences", it was founded in 1983 by a distinguished group of scientists from the South under the leadership of the late Nobel laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan. The Academy's strength resides in the quality and diversity of its membership – internationally renowned scientists elected by their peers.
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