Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gates Foundation Donates $ 120 M Dollars To Change Paradigm for Allelviating World Hunger

I covered Keynote speaker Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today at the World Food Prize Symposium announcing his foundation will be donating $ 120 Million to support the worlds poorest farmers with new agricultural grants. He said. 'How do you help those people who live on less then $1 / day. Helping the world's poorest farmers grow more crops and get those crops to market will be the biggest thing we can do to eliviate hunger.'

'The Green Revolution did amazing things but it didn't do enough. It did not get to Africa, specificly Sub-Saharan Africa.'

'There is also trouble' 'The Global effort to help small farmersis endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two........One side is a technological approach that increases productivity (Big Ag, many of the attendees at the World Food Prize cinf.) ...the other is an environmental approach that promotes sustainability. (the Community Food Security Coalition, their conf. preceded the World Food prize Conf.)' I posted a blog two days ago highlighting this contrast.

He goes on to say this is a false choice, that blocks important advances. 'We need productivity and sustainability, and I feel we can do both..........The next green revolution must do both and must be guided by small-holder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and the envirnment.'

'We have to develop crops that can grow in a drought; that can grow in flood; that can resist pest and disease.'

'We need rigorous science to accomplish this.'

'It is essential for Africa to get a hardiar Maze that can grow in a draught and be a complete food source.' 'In some grants, we include transgenic approaches.....because it can address challenges faster.....Of course these technologies must be subject to rigorous scientific review to ensure they are safe and effective.'

We are developing this maze and it will be released royalty free to all of Africa.

Swarna sub-1 rice species was tested in India. when floods came 90% of normal crops dies. 95% of new variety survived.

Wheat rust is fast-moving and threatening the world wheat supply. 'We are partnering with 15 research stations..using a number of approaches to bread wheat varieties that will offer farmers some lasting protection.'

'We focus on small farmers and make investments across the value chain.....and look at the expertise of woman farmers who do most of the farming in Africa.'

African countries must lead. Most countries have pledged 10% of their National Budget. Ghana is the first country to do this and they have turned around their poverty and are almost at the Millennium Goal.

Here is the Video to his talk and the following discussion.

'Poor farmers are not a problem to be solved: they are the solution.'

A book will come out soon called 'Millions Fed" to follow up on 'Millions Saved' The vacine and health story.

He finished with a standing ovation and then went into a Q&A with Dr. Ejeta this years Food Prize laureate.

This was an amazing speach which clearly showed that an over riding philosophy that is rational and that doesn't try to impose a specific solution and which take into account the needs of stake holders from all levels may have a chance to change the world for the better. However this speech was followed by Dr Jeffery Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. In this speech he laid out an analysis that was sobering and scary. My next blog will be on that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food Security: Two world Outlooks, A World Apart

This week I attended two main conferences: The World Food Prize (WFP), and 'From Commodity to Community', the 13th Annual Community Food Security Conference (CFSC), with a buffer conference between them the Third Iowa Hunger Summit (IHS). (#foodprize, #csfc) I saw two movements unfortunately a WORLD APART. The first, the CFSC, was attended by 800 passionate activists. Seventy percent of them in their 20's, dungaree and tee shirt wearing, with a passion and energy level that was exhilarating. The second, the WFP, was attended by 950 gray haired, three piece suited, corporate or governmental officials. The sessions were educational, stimulating with a call to action clearly stated. What was missing was the passion of the CFSC. What was missing from both was the missed opportunity for cross pollination between the two. When I had heard the CFSC was being held immediately before the WFP I expected this was done to foster this. However, I was severely disappointed.

There were many areas of common goals between the conferences and their attendees. They both agreed that within 40 years the world population will increase 50% and the need for food will therefore double ( to take into account those living in Hunger now). That this increase needs to be done in a sustainable manner. That women were the key to success (give women: 1-Educational access {the most important}, 2-Economic equality with men, 3-health access, and 4-Political equality with men). That agricultural improvements need to be done in a sustainable manner. Climate change will significantly hinder the ability to meet the world food demand.

There were some serious areas of conflict. Simply put those attending the CFSC felt all solutions needed to be bottom up, while the WFP attendees felt the solutions need to mostly be top down (however they felt bottom-up needs to be incorporated). The CFSC attendees were violently opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMO), while the WFP attendees were it's prophets. They each have their own research the one that shows GMO's are nothing but pure evil while the other has their research that GMO's are manna from heaven. If only there could be more dialogue and sharing of those studies. There was more talking past each other then to each other. However, I did feel that the WFP attendees were more open to bringing in the CSFC people then the other way around.

Those attending CSFC complained of lack of access to the discission makers both in the US and abroad. Yet hardly any of them stayed on (actually in talking to over one hundred of them, most didn't even know anything about the WFP meeting - A failure of the CSFC to inform their members), to interact at the WFP conference. There were many world discission makers at the WFP. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak, eight Ministers of Agriculture, several former heads of state and multiple CEO's of the most important corporations in Big-AG-Biz.

The big shining light was Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, the WFP winner, in his talk at Iowa State on Monday to kick off the WFP meeting. He talked about the importance of Ag. extension type programs to get small farmers into the 21st century through education while also needing the large Ag-Biz to be the structure over this agricultural revolution.

So I hope that there is more dialogue between the dungarees and the three piece suits. We need both to move this forward and to have any chance of solving the loaming food and climate crisis.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sustainable Food Conference, An Eye Opening: Hope for the Future.

I was at first shocked and surprised then encouraged by the distribution of attendees at the Food Security Conference. This week in Des Moines is a series of three international food conferences. The first one 'From Commodity to Community' the 13th Annual Community Food Security Conference, began Saturday 10/10 and will run through Tuesday 10/13. The first day was taken up with field trips to see the state of agriculture in Iowa. Today began with everyone at a breakfast plenary session setting the tone for the conference. But that is not what this first blog is about.

What I noticed, and as I interviewed many people, I found I wasn't the only one to notice, was that there was a bi-modal distribution of ages. Almost everyone fell into two age groups, either 20-32 or over 50. This made me wonder both about why and then what it means for the sustainable food movement. I talking to several attendees, the consensus seemed to be that those over fifty were motivated by the various movements of the sixties and early seventies. These participants felt that they had maintained their drive to improve and save the world. One women expressed despair that here 28 year old daughter was working for a defense contractor and felt having a nicer car and clothes was all she wished for. The older group was after almost four years seeing a new younger generation get enthusiastic about their causes.

The missing group, the doughnut hole, of those between 32 and 50 that were glaringly absent. To a person the attendees felt they were products of the me generation. The generation that went through high school and college and then entered the work force during the late seventies through the ME eighties and into the corporate boom of the nineties. They never got that spark of as the jewish religion says 'Tachun-o-lum', Repair the World. Fortunately, the generation to follow got the bug.

So what does this mean for the sustainable food movement. Well, the movement will survive and thrive. The young blood was both excited and enthusiastic. I saw a movement that has a new strong base that will work hard to move the movement forward. However it will be another ten to fifteen years till this momentum will cause a major shift in public opinion. That fifteen years will though have lots of small victories. Those who have been fighting this battle for four decades can be encouraged that there is a new generation who will take their fight to it succesful conclusion.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I didn't write this. It is from However, I post it as follow-up on my previous posts on this. This is the only rational move.

I was at the first of the Boards public hearing and testified. The patients (none of whom I would label as Pot heads were so compelling there were times I saw tears in the eyes of the Bo9ard members.

Below is the news story.

Iowa is moving a step closer to legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana.

The chairman of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy told that if public hearings on the issue this week in Iowa City and Nov. 4 in Council Bluffs are similar to ones held Sept. 2 in Mason City and Aug. 19 in Des Moines, the board will likely recommend that the Iowa Legislature allow medicinal use of the drug.

“I would say that if all the other three had a similar kind of content that we had, the board would probably be looking at having to digest that information and make a decision that there is probably a legitimate medical use for some people,” said Vernon Benjamin, a pharmacist from Argyle.

But even if the board does eventually make that recommendation – they are expected to vote on the matter before the end of the year - there is no guarantee legislators will heed the advice of the board.

“This one is a pretty political issue, so I can’t say if they’re going to follow it or not,” said Lloyd Jessen, director of the board.

Jessen said in the past, recommendations haven’t been political and have generally been changes to bring Iowa law into line with federal law. “It's anybody’s guess if they put any weight in the recommendation or not,” Jessen said. “You have to remember Iowa is a pretty conservative state.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal was noncommittal on the topic, saying he will wait and see what the board’s recommendation is, whether a bill comes out of committee and what other stakeholders have to say.

“I think it’s very much up in the air,” the Council Bluffs Democrat said. “I’m certain there’s a law enforcement side to be heard on this issue.”

Thirteen states currently allow the medicinal use of marijuana, Jessen said, while another dozen are considering the issue. Michigan is the only Midwestern state that currently allows its use, while much of the western part of the country has moved toward that policy.

“It seems to be a pretty common topic right now,” Jessen said.

Ann Diehl, a public member of the board from Osceola, said she’s glad the board decided to hold the hearings. Diehl used to be a detoxification nurse at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.

“It’s been a really interesting experience for me because I just had a totally one-sided view of it, and that was not good,” Diehl said. “I have learned a lot, and I have learned a lot about the medical benefits just from one hearing I've gone to.”

Diehl said she has heard scientific evidence and a lot of compelling stories from people who do have serious medical problems that they feel it helps. “I can say I have a much more open mind on it as far as medical use goes, but I haven’t come to any conclusion yet,” Diehl said.

Peggy Whitworth, a public board member from Cedar Rapids, attended the Iowa City meeting and said she’s been contacted by individuals eager to speak and get their thoughts on the record.

“I think those that have participated have found them interesting and helpful, and I think there are many rank-and-file citizens who are appreciative of an opportunity to express their views,” Whitworth said.

Whitworth said she encouraged the board to gather some solid information through public hearings and base any decision on science. “The reason for the hearings is to gather information from the citizens of Iowa, basically so any action by the Board of Pharmacy is grounded in reality, not simply in vague stories,” Whitworth said.

Benjamin agreed, saying board members are learning about switching the schedule of marijuana just like everybody else is. "You can’t do things like that lightly when federal law says it’s schedule one,” Benjamin said. “We wanted to make sure we had a case to argue if we do support the legalization of it.”