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ITIF report: Innovation needed for feeding the planet

A new report argues that nations must focus on advancing research new agricultural practices to address the effects of climate change and global population growth.

The widening effects of climate change on the planet requires the development of comprehensive adaptation strategies that can transform socio-economic systems to meet this reality. Nowhere is this more true than in agriculture. The world requires game-changing innovation and next-generation technologies to address the effects of climate change and exploding population on global food production.

"Feeding the Planet in a Warming World," a new report by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the London School of Economics, argues that nations must focus on advancing the research and development of plant and animal genetics and new agricultural practices to address this challenge. The authors recommend policy reforms designed to dramatically increase government investment in agricultural research, development and deployment, while also transforming the regulatory framework for and increasing the use of genetically modified (GM) foods.

The full report is available at http://www2.itif.org/2013-feeding-planet-warming-world.pdf.

"Our international agricultural innovation infrastructure is grossly underfunded and too focused on near-term challenges and current technologies," ITIF senior fellow Val Giddings said. "The system as it is today will not deliver the agricultural technologies necessary to address the severe climate impacts we will face."

The report calls for a tripling of global investment in agricultural research and advocates for increased use of genetic research to develop new crop varieties with improved yields and resilience. In addition, governments must strengthen international institutions to serve as renewed hubs for agricultural innovation and dissemination.

"The world requires more productive crops that have built-in means for withstanding extreme heat, cold, rain and drought, as well as better mechanisms to quickly disseminate these technologies across the globe," Mark Caine, research fellow with the London School of Economics, noted. "Our policy recommendations will assist in creating the robust, well-funded global innovation infrastructure that is central to achieving this goal."

The authors also argue the global regulatory framework for agriculture, particularly for GM foods, must be reformed. Many countries ban all uses of GM foods and many more, such as the U.S., require unjustified testing and oversight of GM products that increases production costs and delays market access. The authors call for the creation of regulatory standards that focus on the safety and nutritional value of the product — not how it was produced.

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