ST. LOUIS, MO (ots)
- The World Agricultural Forum (WAF), a
non-profit organization that provides the only neutral and inclusive
forum for global dialogue on critical issues involving food, fuel,
health and fiber, attracted nearly 300 leading authorities from
around the world for its 2003 World Congress meeting in St. Louis, to
discuss hot issues with other key decision makers in agriculture.
Opening remarks by the Rt. Honorable James B. Bolger ONZ, chairman
of the WAF, kicked off the meeting, "A New Age in Agriculture:
Working Together to Create the Future and Dismantle Barriers." In his
comments, Bolger challenged participants to maintain an open- mind
and work together to develop solutions for feeding the world's 800
million hungry. Speakers addressing the role of agriculture in the
global economy included Lennart Bäge, president of the International
Fund for Agricultural Development, Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace
Prize laureate and president of the Sasakawa African Association,
David Raisbeck, vice chairmen of Cargill, Inc., Charles
Riemenschneider, representative for Jacques Diouf, director general
of the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, and Dr.
Pedro Sanchez, World Food Prize laureate and co-chair of the United
Nations Task Force on Hunger.
Dr. Borlaug emphasized the correlation between hunger levels and
civil unrest, pointing out that only eight percent of countries with
low levels of hunger are mired in conflict. Dr. Sanchez reaffirmed
this point, highlighting the importance of empowering the poor
through democratic participation in government as a means of
Throughout the keynote speeches a definite framework of issues
emerged: trade, technology and sustainability are the primary forces
at work in the global agricultural economy.
Building upon this framework, trends, and specifically barriers,
relative to trade, technology and sustainability provided the content
for subsequent discussions in both general session and roundtable
Once the barriers to trade, technology and sustainability were
identified, all attendees were called to participate in a number of
interactive workshops, each led by a moderator with one selected
"expert presenter." These workshops offered attendees the opportunity
to express personal insights and key learnings, resulting in
meaningful debate and the creation of solutions.
General Sessions and Roundtable Discussions
George Mallinckrodt, K.B.E., chairman of Schroders, plc, discussed
the economic outlook of the global economy, emphasizing the need for
countries such as China, Russia and India to emerge as "global
drivers" with the potential to stimulate the sluggish world economy.
Mallinckrodt pointed out the need for the U.S., Europe and Japan to
willingly accept imports from these countries if they are to truly
reach their potential as large agricultural producers.
Jorge H. Casenave, former undersecretary of agriculture for
Argentina, moderated a roundtable discussion, entitled -- "Impact of
Free Trade Agreements in Agriculture: the NAFTA Example."
Participants discussed outcomes of NAFTA including the lowering of
barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
WAF advisory board chairman, the Rt. Hon. James B. Bolger, ONZ,
former prime minister of New Zealand, led roundtable participants in
a discussion addressing the greatest barriers to free trade and trade
as an economic development tool. High tariffs, access to markets and
subsidies were noted as major barriers to trade. Participants felt
that, while most countries have the will to modify these barriers,
political and social influence prevent them from doing so.
Workshops Trade workshops included, "Trade Rules, Agriculture
and Development," "Competition for Future Markets -- Role of the
Small Farmer" and "Agricultural Markets."
Key themes drawn upon from these workshops included a need for
transparency in trade, greater involvement and empowerment of women
as the major producers and innovators in agriculture, and the
importance of developing local and regional markets before exploring
General Session & Roundtable Discussion
Fons Schmid, chairman of the Global Food Safety Task Force and
vice president Food Safety, Royal Ahold, briefly spoke to the
European Union's position on GMOs -- noting that clear labeling and
consumer education has proven successful in allowing GMO and non-GMO
products to coexist.
The technology roundtable brought participants together to discuss
barriers to technology transfer, acceptance, development and natural
resource management. A primary barrier identified for technology is
in the education of policy makers, legislators and the media. Because
these groups are inherently urban, they are often ignorant to the
information needs of the rural community. This, coupled with the fact
that developing countries' media is largely centralized, inhibits
even educated media from reaching the communities that can
agriculturally benefit from their coverage. It also hinders the
spread of information on new agricultural technologies to relevant
audiences, specifically the women in agriculture who readily absorb
and utilize these new technologies.
Representatives from developing countries also discussed the need
to assess the technological requirements of specific communities, as
some advances may benefit certain cultures, and, for political,
social or cultural reasons, may not benefit others.
The need for a more direct link between the developers of new
technology and the farmers, who will use it, was also expressed.
Technology workshops included, "Impact of Technology on
Agriculture," "Intellectual Property Rights" and "Small Farmers."
Creative solutions for the aforementioned technology barriers
included the involvement of small farmers in the innovation process,
drawing them in as part of the development of the technology, and
ensuring it fulfills their needs.
General Session & Roundtable Discussion
Bart-Jan Krouwel, head directorate of sustainability for Rabobank,
and Jeroen Bordewijk, president of the Sustainable Agricultural
Initiative (SAI) and vice president for Unilever, spoke of key issues
facing sustainable agriculture. Bordewijk defined sustainable
agriculture as, "...a productive, competitive and efficient way to
produce agricultural raw materials, while at the same time protecting
and improving the natural environment as well as the socio-economic
conditions of local communities." Examples were cited of recent SAI
initiatives including the introduction of work groups on cereals and
The sustainability roundtable addressed the barriers to
sustainability advances and management of global resources including
water. Andrew Bennett, president of the Syngenta Foundation for
Sustainable Agriculture of Switzerland, identified the greatest
long-term barrier to sustainability as the lack of unity in purpose -
"for whom are we sustaining the land and how?"
Under-investment in publicly funded research and development and
standards for sustainability assessment were also barriers discussed.
Sustainability workshops included, "Millennium Goals and
Agriculture/Hunger" and "Management of the World's Resources (from an
In order to rehabilitate degraded agricultural lands, participants
suggested on-the-ground demonstrations of new technologies to show
farmers the environmental and economic benefits of sustaining the
Other solutions included linking local, national and global
conservation strategies in order to coordinate at a grass-roots
level. This includes better cooperation between the organic and
biotech communities, as farmers are currently caught in the middle of
Convergence of the Issues
Trade, technology and sustainability were all addressed in the
policy roundtable led by Gary Blumenthal, president and CEO, World
Perspectives. India, Indonesia, Kenya, Korea, Peru, South Africa,
China, New Zealand and Japan were all represented in the discussion.
Blumenthal focused on the correlation between crisis and politics,
politics and policy, and policy's effect on markets. He emphasized
the need for conditions conducive to promoting economic growth such
as stable, low inflation, lower taxes and openness to trade. David
Walker, deputy chief of mission from New Zealand, the Honorable
Kipruto Arap Kirwa, Kenya's minister of agriculture, and the
Honorable Alvaro Enrique Quijandria Salmon, minister of agriculture
from Peru, also identified trade as the major issue affecting their
countries. Dr. Memed Gunawan, secretary general for Indonesia's
minister of agriculture, and Siphiwe Mkhize, PhD, minister of
agriculture from South America's Washington D.C. embassy, felt that
technology was of greater concern for their countries. The Honorable
V. Sobhanadreeswara Rao, minister of agriculture for Andhra Pradesh,
India, felt his country's struggle related more to issues of
Following the policy roundtable, U.S. senator from Missouri,
Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, addressed the Congress focusing on
biotechnology and its role in feeding the world's hungry.
Looking to the future, roundtable discussions -- emphasizing the
role of public-private partnerships and the needs of the consumer --
brought corporate, NGO, academic and governmental leaders together to
continue to address the ways in which trade, technology and
sustainability concerns overlap.
Ernest S. Micek, chairman and CEO of Cargill, Inc., led
participants in a discussion on how to enable developing countries to
take advantage of trade systems, technology and other tools to
develop sustainable agriculture and food systems through public and
private partnerships. Micek outlined the elements of success one sees
in successful partnerships of this nature: commitment of both
parties, the expertise of private sector participants, a champion for
the cause, and appropriate funding.
Dr. Thomas Haggai, chairman and CEO, IGA, Inc., convened with
grocery manufactures and others in the food value chain, including
consumer groups, to discuss consumers' needs, rights and concerns,
and how they impact agricultural policies. Haggai emphasized the need
to develop long-term solutions for issues of starvation and
malnutrition, while addressing the short-term needs of those
Missouri Governor Bob Holden served as moderator for the closing
roundtable discussion on agriculture at the local level. Holden and
fellow participants addressed production agriculture and the
interrelationship of policies affecting it.
Bolger delivered the closing remarks reminding attendees of the
value of open debate initiated throughout the course of the Congress.
He encourage participants to let the dialogue continue, so collective
action can be taken on all agricultural issues, especially those
related to trade, technology and sustainability.
A complete report summarizing all discussions and outcomes of the
Congress will be available this summer.
ots Original Text Service: World Agricultural Forum (WAF)
Melissa Lackey or Lauren Gretz