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‘It’s All About Food,’ Global Policy Expert Will Explain

  • By:
    Stu Hutson – (352) 273-3569

Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At January’s World Economic Forum, Bill Gates stood before a collection of the world’s foremost business and political leaders – all buzzing with concerns of global recession, energy shortages and terrorism – and told them that the world’s most dire economic priority is, simply put, food.

Two billion of the world’s poorest people are undernourished, and the only way to feed them, he said, is by better steering the world’s economic forces.

The idea is hardly new, but it’s one that governments and business are finally starting to pick up – thanks, in part, to the work of Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen.

On February 26, Pinstrup-Andersen will present a lecture entitled “Research and Policy Priorities for the Global Food System” on the University of Florida campus. As part of the York Distinguished Lecturer series, the presentation is free and open to the public.

“Globalization is a powerful and potentially positive force,” Pinstrup-Andersen said. “But right now, it’s making the rich richer while the poor still struggle to live…Those are the seeds for a world that doesn’t work.”

For a decade, he served as director general and CEO of the International Food Policy Research Institute, where he led an effort devoted to finding a pathway to end hunger by 2020.

The documents and other information produced from this ongoing “2020 Vision Initiative” are widely used by policymakers in impoverished nations. In 2001, Pinstrup-Andersen was named the World Food Prize Laureate, the highest recognition one in the food and agricultural arena can receive.

“These issues are anything but straightforward,” said Pinstrup-Andersen, now the H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy at Cornell University.

For example, as countries implement new forms of renewable energy using crops as fuel – such as in ethanol production – they must strike a delicate balance that doesn’t take food crops out of the mouths of the poor.

“The solutions to these issues are even more complicated,” he added.

One of the most daunting challenges is that businesses now carry more power than government in such areas as international trade and food safety, and so the international agreements guiding government action may be of little use.

“If you’re talking about ethanol production from sugar in Brazil, it makes economic sense, but it could devastate the local environment,” he said. “Then there is Indonesia’s growing reliance on oil palms and the large subsidies on ethanol production from corn in this country. The list goes on and on.”

In his lecture, which will be held in the President’s Room of Emerson Alumni Hall at 2:00pm, Pinstrup-Andersen will also address issues such as the effects of global climate change on food supplies and sustainability in world agriculture.

The York Distinguished Lecturer Series is made possible through a gift to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences from E.T. and Vam York.

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