Public sector leadership key to tackling the human welfare problem

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Challenges and Responsibilities for Public Sector Scientists

– Marc Van Montagu, New Biotechnology, August 2010  (Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Ghent University, Belgium). Full paper at Http://www.sciencedirect.com/

Current agriculture faces the challenge of doubling food production to meet the food needs of a population expected to reach 9 billion by mid-century whilst maintaining soil and water quality and conserving biodiversity. These challenges are more overwhelming for the rural poor, who are the custodians of environmental resources and at the same time particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation. Solutions have to come from concerted actions by different segments of society in which public sector science plays a fundamental role.


Public sector scientists are at the root of all the present generation of GM crop traits under cultivation and more will come with the new knowledge that is being generated by systems biology. To speed up innovation, molecular biologists must interact with scientists from the different fields as well as with stakeholders outside the academic world in order to create an environment capable of capturing value from public sector knowledge. I highlight here the measures that have to be taken urgently to guarantee that science and technology can tackle the problems of subsistence farmers.

Food insecurity, Hunger And Malnutrition: Necessary Policy and Technology Changes

– Joachim von Brauna, New Biotechnology, August 2010. Full paper at

Ending food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition is a pressing global ethical priority. Despite differences in food production systems, cultural values and economic conditions, hunger is not acceptable under any ethical principles. Yet, progress in combating hunger and malnutrition in developing countries has been discouraging, even as overall global prosperity has increased in past decades. A growing number of people are deprived of the fundamental right to food, which is essential for all other rights as well as for human existence itself. The food and nutrition crisis has deepened in recent years, as increased food price volatility and global recession affected the poor. In a strategic agenda, it will be necessary to promote pro-poor agricultural growth, reduce extreme market volatility and expand social protection and child nutrition action.

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.