Thursday, June 23, 2011

The House Agriculture Committee and the New Harvest

The House Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing today "to review the opportunities and benefits of agricultural biotechnology." The testimony of Harvard professor Calestous Juma likens biotechnology opponents to Robert Louis Stevenson, the 19th Century children's book writer, who disliked electric lights.  Carrying the analogy further, he writes:
The United States has been a leading light in agricultural biotechnology....  Failure on the part of the United States to champion agricultural biotechnology will undermine confidence in the ability of the global community to confront the challenges of food security.
I was surprised that the Juma testimony (.pdf) on the House Agriculture Committee website included the entire manuscript of his recent 2011 book for Oxford University Press, the New Harvest.  Was that a posting error?  The book can also be purchased on Amazon.

On the same topics, I found the balanced presentation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO's) new website and book, Save and Grow, more interesting.  See the terrific interview with Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division.  Perhaps this is a more persuasive way to make the case for agricultural technology as part of a vision of agricultural development that would make a difference for the world's poorest.


Stephanie said...

So, we're seeing some pretty divergent approaches to agriculture for development. The Gates/USAID biotech approach is pretty different from the FAO approach. I wonder how this will play out in terms of real effects in the field.

usfoodpolicy said...

Thanks for your recent comments!

Yes, divergent in important ways. At the same time, FAO is far from techno-skeptical.

Stephanie said...

Right...but it seems like the USAID approach sees technology (and markets) as THE solution, i.e. the starring role, while FAO is more willing to see technology as one tool that gets used in different ways and according to circumstance, i.e. a supporting role.

Thank you too for your frequent posts!