A new report from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs seeks U.S. government urgency in focusing the nation's global food security strategies on prioritizing scientific research initiatives like those already under way at Mississippi State University.
President Mark E. Keenum, who holds an MSU doctoral degree in agricultural economics and who served as Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to assuming the leadership of MSU in 2009, is a member of the Chicago Council's Global Agriculture Development Initiative (GADI), a bipartisan group of agriculture, development and U.S. foreign policy experts who collaborated to produce a report entitled "Advancing Global Food Security: The Power of Science, Trade and Business."
"The problem of food security is one that will be solved by research universities like Mississippi State," said Keenum. "This report reflects the scope of the problem and the challenges that exist in truly addressing the threat of global food security. I believe this report provides a bright line example of why maintaining adequate, competitive public and private research funding is so imperative."
The GADI group report called for the U.S. government to improve global food security by "prioritizing science, increasing trade flows for agriculture and food, and incentivizing greater business activity in low-income countries." The report was released this week as part of the Chicago Council's annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah took part in the symposium during which the report was unveiled.
Keenum has made global food security a university research priority during his tenure at MSU. In speeches to diverse groups, Keenum reminds audiences that by the year 2050, the world's population will increase from 7 billion to 9 billion.
"If food production does not increase significantly, the number of people living in poverty will increase greatly," he said. "We are compelled to help feed the world and alleviate suffering, first, because it's the right thing to do, but also because it is important to our national security."
Keenum explained that Mississippi State has expertise pertinent to every aspect of the food chain, including crop production, post-harvest processing, livestock, aquaculture, food policy, water resources, geospatial technologies and biofuels. That expertise includes the contributions of both MSU faculty and the university's students involved in research as well.
Along with research, Keenum said the university has formed strategic partnerships, including a memorandum of understanding for research with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO), as well as a formal agreement with Nigeria to educate poultry science students, among other alliances.
Keenum said the United States and the nation's land-grant universities have the resources to help make feeding the world an entirely achievable goal, although not an easy one.
Along with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, Keenum led MSU in hosting an international global food safety and security conference last year. Organized by the MSU International Institute and titled "Technology Implementation at the Local Level: Food Security for the Future," the conference explored new opportunities for Mississippi agriculture, building capacity through technology and investment, global challenges and university engagement, and other issues related to the world's growing food needs.
USAID Administrator Shah led a group of MSU conference speakers that included Millennium Challenge Corp. CEO Daniel Yohannes, Daniel Gustafson of UNFAO, Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Cochran and Keenum.
In 2010, Keenum traveled to the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to outline MSU's capabilities in addressing food security and hunger. While there, Keenum also visited with the executive director of the World Food Program and the ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture.
In addition to hosting the food security conferences, MSU professors Sam Chang in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Hart Bailey in the College of Veterinary Medicine were in the inaugural class of scientists earning the Institute of Food Technologists' Certified Food Scientist credential.
MSU's Extension Service also is invested in the effort, with agricultural specialists training an elite group of military personnel preparing to assist the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture. After deployment, these men and women will maintain their contact with MSU specialists for ongoing assistance as they work with Afghan agricultural agents on demonstration food plots and similar projects.
As host to the Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory -- a state agency -- MSU also plays a strong role in advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. State Chemist and MSU faculty member Kevin L. Armbrust is serving a three-year term on the FDA's Food Advisory Committee. In that role, Armbrust advises the FDA commissioner on emerging food safety and science developments, nutrition, and other food-related health issues that the agency considers for its food and cosmetics programs.
View the full report at: http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/UserFiles/File/GlobalAgDevelopment/Report/2013_Advancing_Global_Food_Security.pdf.
For more information about Mississippi State University, visit www.msstate.edu.