ARC welcomes Bill Gates food comments
Cape Town - The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in South Africa has welcomed comments made by Bill Gates on the state of research into agriculture.
"Given the central role that food plays in human welfare and national stability, it is shocking - not to mention short-sighted and potentially dangerous - how little money is spent on agricultural research," Gates wrote in his 2012 annual letter.
The ARC welcomed Gates' comments and said that it was committed to facilitating advances in food security.
"The ARC has for 20 years helped the agricultural community to be competitive, to ensure food security at national level and make a massive contribution to social and economic wellbeing," the organisation said.
Gates is known for his philanthropic work and has donated a large percentage of the fortune he made as Microsoft CEO to projects around the world.
In his letter, he emphasised that poverty was still pervasive and that innovation was required to ensure food security for vulnerable populations.
"Innovation in agriculture is essential, and investment in world-class agricultural research delivers benefits to the economy, to food security, household nutrition and South African competitiveness in international markets," said ARC chief executive and president, Dr Shadrack Moephuli.
Food security is reaching critical proportions as production declines and populations increase.
"By the year 2050, if nothing is done to correct the situation, rice production [South East Asia and sub Saharan Africa] will decrease by 14%, a decline in wheat production by 44% - 49%, and a decline in maize production by 9% -19%," senior researcher Danielle Nierenberg, at the World Watch Institute, told News24 recently.
Activists and scientists agree that water shortages and food security will have the most immediate impact on poor people in susceptible areas as climate change takes hold.
According to the UN millennium development goal monitor, countries in West Africa particularly struggle with extreme poverty with up to 70% of the population in Nigeria living on less than $1 per day.
The answer though, is not in genetically modified organisms, Nierenberg said.
"I think there's been too much of a focus on silver bullets and simply increasing yields. It's not the quantity of food grown that needs to be increased, but necessary investments, especially in agricultural research, infrastructure, marketing and storage, need to be made, to 'feed the world'."
The South African population is on the increase and the ARC said that science was critical help develop ways to feed the country, particularly as the number of commercial farmers decreased.
"Agricultural science has enabled South Africa to keep feeding its people even while the number of commercial farmers has declined dramatically, but funding remains under pressure," Moephuli said.
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