"Sustainable Food Production" - Thematic Session (Brazil)       19.11.2011

In the face of the Earth’s overpopulation, this thematic session was trying to strike a balance between mankind’s growing need for sufficient food and the preservation of the Earth’s biodiversity.

Chaired by President of Brazil’s Academy of Sciences Mr Jacob Palis, the participants of the session had the opportunity to listen to reports prepared by top international scientists and experts on food production.

Wolf Prize Laureate and former director of the US National Institute of Food and Agriculture Mr Roger N. Beachy outlined the discrepancy between our growing concern for the health issues of food safety, and the pressing need for sufficient food of acceptable quality to feed steeply increasing populations. Global warming is to slim the area of available arable land and also cut water supplies, developments that will surely work for an intensification of production. Only with genetically modified plants can we hope to meet growing demands; a fact making the dialogue between science and society even more desirable.

In his presentation, Spanish bio-technologist Mr Paul Christou introduced the audience to his new corn species rich in Vitamin A that could be eminently useful in fighting famines, under-nutrition, diseases and poverty in the worst-hit regions of the world.  Only bio-technological remedies can overcome poverty and disease in those regions by making the environment healthier in a sustainable way.

Head of the potato projects at BASF's Plant Science Company, Mr Thorsten Storck first held up a potato with WSF's badge stuck into it to demonstrate the importance of WSF in discussing the merits and demerits of plant genetic modification. Potato today is already the fourth most important produce, but it could well become the most important in the future, he said. It can be grown across a wide scale of climate and soil conditions and it offers more calories than any other major crop while containing a lot of carbon hydrates and nutrients. If only we can produce a species resistant enough to pests and fungi, we can immediately raise our production by 20 per cent.

Ms Dionne Shepherd, a professor at the University of Cape Town. She is an expert in developing transgenic kinds of corn, and she is trying to alleviate the lot of much of Africa’s population relying upon corn in 50 per cent of their intake of food.

Food should be not only healthy, nutritious, and tasty, but it should also be safe, maintained Vice-President of the Japan Science Council Ms Fumiko Kasuga. Epidemics can pose serious health hazards. In his presentation on global food safety and fair trading he argued for new food standards and best practices to be applied at every stage of the food production process.

Mr Elibio Rech of EMBRAPA, a research facility exploring genetic resources and biotechnology in Brazil, first addressed the issue of why we need genetically modified organisms while also maintaining biodiversity? He introduced the audience to genetically modified kind of soy beans, and also artificially produced cobweb threads. His special kind of soy not only tolerates all known kinds of weed-killers while boasting a high capacity for absorbing carbon-dioxide, but it also contains a substance  that curbs the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. Thus, by providing the basis for a protective shield for women against their contracting AIDS, soy may well become a crucial resource in the fight against one of the most vicious global diseases.

In his lecture on food safety set in a regional perspective, Mr John Ingram of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute blamed the combined effect of social, economic and political factors for over a billion people on Earth going hungry daily. He insisted that problems of food safety and the ways of addressing them must be surveyed not only on a global, but also on a regional level.


You can find more details on this session here.