Answering the Challenge of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”

Over the past six months, the world has been focused on a very important conversation: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”  This is the theme of Expo Milano 2015 (also known as the “World’s Fair”), which has taken place in Milan, Italy since May and closes on Oct. 31, 2015. This is the world’s largest, most historical gathering on food, with 20 million visitors and 145 countries participating, and millions more engaged virtually.

The IFIC Foundation joined in this conversation during the opening month of Expo by hosting the Expo 2015 Communications Summit: “Emerging Market Leaders Workshop on Effective Messaging on Global Food Production Issues" at the U.S. Embassy in Rome with food and agriculture leaders from emerging markets around the world.  Many more participated via webcast and social media (#ExpoSummit2015), and we did not stop there.

On Oct. 14, we brought this conversation to Des Moines, Iowa.  Nearly 2,000 influential stakeholders from more than 50 countries gathered to celebrate the World Food Prize and engage in the Borlaug Dialogue, which is recognized as the premier conference in the world on global agriculture.  As part of a Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) side event, the IFIC Foundation hosted an enlightening panel discussion: “Answering the Challenge of Expo Milano 2015: ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.’”

As he did at the IFIC Foundation Summit in Rome, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, shared his thoughts on how “the road to the market is paved with technology.”  Quinn’s candid observations on agricultural success were based on what he witnessed in Vietnam more than 30 years ago, and how those lessons can apply today and in the future in order to meet our ever-growing population’s demand for food.

I then had the honor of moderating a panel that included William Craft, Jr., U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy and Programs; Dr. Channapatna S. Prakash, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Tuskegee University; and Doyle Karr, Director, Biotechnology Public Policy, DuPont.  Each of the panelists was involved in Expo in a unique way. 

The USA Pavilion is a signature project of the U.S. State Department, and the theme American Food 2.0  highlights the United States as an innovator when it comes to food.  Given his trade responsibilities at the State Department, Deputy Assistant Secretary Craft also commented on the historic Oct. 5 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, in which the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations agreed to lower trade barriers, set commercial rules of the road, and open new markets for products. (Click here for a USDA summary of agriculture provisions in the TPP and other resources.)

Dean Prakash participated in an Expo workshop in Venice focused on rice.  If you follow him on Twitter (@AgBioWorld), you will see why he was selected as the 2015 Borlaug CAST Communication Award recipient.  Prakash is passionate about science, farming, food security, innovation, and agricultural biotechnology issues.  He shared details on the great work he is doing to inspire the next generation of food leaders by hosting an annual workshop for high school students and teachers on crop genomics at Tuskegee University.

Doyle Karr played a video that highlighted his organization’s involvement in Expo, including global food security content within the USA Pavilion and a Milan symposium that included Shenggen Fan, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute.  Shenggen noted that “[t]hrough the dialogue, we can always come up with some common solutions where everybody can contribute to the greater goal to end hunger and malnutrition.”

To cap off the event, Julie Tesch, Executive Director of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, and I announced the global launch of “Bringing Biotechnology to Life.”  See more details in this issue at “News Bite: Bringing Biotechnology to Life.”)

One of my favorite comments of the day was by Norman Borlaug’s granddaughter Julie.  She noted that while Dr. Borlaug’s last words were “take it to the farmer,” she believes we now need to “take it to the public.”

This is exactly what the IFIC Foundation and our stakeholders are committed to doing as we engage in many food conversations, be it through Expo Milano, the World Food Prize, or Food Insight.  Join us in answering the challenge of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” by taking it to the public.

Kimberly Reed is president of the IFIC Foundation.