World Food Prize takes on biotech, global warming
By awarding this year's prize to three biotechnology pioneers, the nonprofit foundation infuriated environmental groups and others opposed to large-scale farming.
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#1 Oct 15, 2013
The World Food Prize Foundation relies on corporate, private and government contributions. Among its donors are Monsanto and Syngenta Foundation, and the news that scientists working for those companies drew immediate criticism.
"Rather than encouraging sustainable farming and self-sufficiency in impoverished communities as a way to alleviate poverty and malnutrition, the World Food Prize has been 'won' by a profiteering, biotech, seed-and-chemical monopolist that's the freakish opposite of sustainability," former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower wrote on his website Monday. He's been invited to speak at Wednesday at an event organized by the local Occupy World Food Prize organization.
The Occupy group also has planned protests designed to discredit the prize and disrupt the foundation's activities, which attracts about 1,000 scientists, policy experts, political leaders and business executives each year. Last year, protesters were arrested.
This year, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, are scheduled to attend the three-day symposium. Thursday's award ceremony is at the Iowa Capitol.
"GMOs and factory farms are destroying Iowa, independent family farmers, and the planet, but the Occupy World Food Prize week of action shows everyday people are standing up and fighting back," said Larry Ginter, a farmer and a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a citizen action group that aligns with the Occupy organization.
But Quinn said that to provide enough food at a time when drought, floods, and other natural disasters are more frequent, the world's farmers should have a range of practices, seeds and other tools at their disposal.
"Are we really prepared to not have the tools of biotechnology and genetic enhancement available to produce those seeds and other technologies that will allow farmers particularly the small holder, poor farmers deal with these volatile situations?" he said. "To me, they link together."
In addition to biotechnology issues, the foundation has invited experts to take on global warming.
Rattan Lal, a professor of soil science at Ohio State University, said agriculture has been a major contributor to climate change through the release of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere and expanding crop lands through deforestation.
"Agriculture has to be on any agenda for climate change mitigation in addition to improving water quality and of course food security," said Lal, who'll speak Friday.
He advocates moving farm subsidies away from encouraging production through the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer to a system that pays farmers to improve water quality and promote conservation measures.
Juergen Voegele, the director of agriculture and environmental services for The World Bank, said the idea of incentives for climate-smart techniques is vital. For example, he said, better crop rotation naturally restores nitrogen to the soil without heavy fertilizer and manure use.
The World Bank works to alleviate extreme poverty through loans and grants to developing countries in addition to providing policy advice, research and analysis and technical assistance.
Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2013/10/15/5032987/w...
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