G7 can tackle five priorities with one investment: agricultural research

Digital-farming
Recent research from USDA shows public funding for agricultural R&D in high-income countries has fallen six per cent between 2009-2013. [Shutterstock.com]
This week the representatives of the world’s most advanced economies grapple with complex challenges at the G7 summit in Canada. Smart investments need to be made to solve the five key issues addressed at the summit and the smartest investment is in agricultural research, writes Marco Ferroni.

The G7 summit tops European leaders’ agendas this week. They set off for Canada to grapple with five complex challenges: promoting economic growth and gender equality, fostering peace and decent jobs, all while tackling climate change. No small feat.

As representatives of the world’s most advanced economies, Angela Merkel, Theresa May and colleagues have the opportunity to show the rest of the world how to make smart investments to address all five of these issues in one fell swoop.

After more than 35 years of working in the sector, I am convinced one of the smartest investments is agricultural research.

Food is our most basic human right and the foundation of a stable society. Yet even the UK is feeling the pressure of satisfying growing consumer demand from domestic production. Last year Britain became a net importer of wheat, despite being the EU’s third-largest producer of this key food crop.

Globally, the wheat for our daily bread is being threatened by climate change and an onslaught of pests and disease. In the American Midwest, 10% of yields are being lost to the Hessian fly. Investments in agricultural research can help our food beat the heat, and the pests it brings.

In fact, wild wheat varieties that were protected by scientists in a Syrian seed bank are now thought to hold heat and pest resistant traits that could safeguard our wheat supply for future generations.

Yet recent research from USDA shows public funding for agricultural R&D in high-income countries has fallen 6% between 2009-2013, the first sustained drop in over 50 years. If we know that investing in scientific research can cure cancers, why won’t we do the same to improve our food system?

To read the full op-ed, visit the Euractiv website.

Marco Ferroni is the chair of the CGIAR System management board and former executive director of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future.


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