Applying science and technology to build a Pluto-bound spacecraft that travels more than 10 times faster -- 47,000 miles per hour -- than a speeding bullet is a great achievement. But can we apply technology to feed the 800 million hungry people in the world whose plight isn't improving in a modern world?
"Science is bypassing poor people," says Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University's Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy, at a panel discussion, "Putting Science to Work for the Poor and the Environment: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals," on Feb. 18 at the 2006 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Pinstrup-Andersen also is chair of the Science Council for CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the world's largest publicly funded international agricultural research organization.
"The common thinking is that science is too complicated to solve poverty problems, yet applying science in new ways to support national efforts in developing countries to reduce hunger and poverty is the only way we are ever going to alleviate some of the misery in this world," Pinstrup-Andersen says. "Yet, it's simply not being done."
He explains that new research priorities, recently established by CGIAR's Science Council, will give direction to institutions that invest in ways to reduce worldwide poverty. The goal is to help in developing research to improve agriculture, technology and food-policy initiatives to stimulate economic growth, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and western Asia.
The new Science Council priorities are to:
- help developing-world farmers, efficiently produce high-value foods, such as fruits, vegetables, animals and fish -- instead of staple crops, making their small farms more viable.
- sustain biodiversity through better conservation of the genetic resources of crops, cattle and aquatic resources.
- promote sustainable and integrated land, water and forest management practices through a holistic, systems approach.
- produce more and better food at lower cost through genetic improvements.
- improve institutions, such as farm organizations and nongovernmental organizations; infrastructures, such as phones, roads, education and health care; and markets for the poor.