Pushing for Better Agriculture Research and Policy

From foodtank.com, by Sarah Small
Pushing for Better Agriculture Research and Policy

The keynote address for the “Pushing for Better Agriculture Research and Policy” panel came from Jerry Glover, Senior Sustainable Agricultural Systems Advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Glover quoted Bob Marley: “A hungry man is an angry man.” Glover’s thesis is simple: respecting, restoring, and conserving soils is the foundation for global justice and global peace.

This session was moderated by Allison Aubrey, correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR). Aubrey asked panelists about the future of food in terms of public policy.

Janet Larsen, Director of Research for the Earth Policy Institute, described the Earth Policy Institute’s Plan B as an approach for cutting global carbon emissions by increasing energy efficiency, taking care of our soils, electrifying our transportation systems, and transitioning to renewable energy so that we can move away from oil and other liquid fuels.

Jahi Chappell, Agroecology and Agricultural Policy Director for The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), asked, “What are we doing this for, what are we producing food for? For people.” Chappell cited research data from an IFPRI study, which found that 80 percent of hunger reduction in the past 40 years has been achieved through non-production factors, primarily women’s education and gender equity in political policy.

Nabeeha Kazi, President and CEO of Humanitas Global, observed that political policy is public policy and needs to be shaped by the people who are producing the majority of the world’s food: women. “We cannot talk about sustainable food systems if we don’t invest in women farmers.”

Pamela Hess, executive director at Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, argued for increasing access to fresh food as a public health investment strategy, stating that we spend US$190 billion per year in treating food-related illnesses such as diabetes. “Another US$20 in SNAP can avoid a US$1100 hospital visit for those who run out of food at the end of the month,” Hess says.

Emily Broad Leib, Deputy Director of Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, made the case for interdisciplinary approaches for healthier food systems and food system law. “What we’re trying to do is build a network of educated and trained lawyers. We need laws that incentivize and promote innovation and change.”

Barbara Ekwall, a senior policy leader at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), observed that food is a political problem, women’s empowerment is a political problem, and said that we need political means complimenting the scientific means to solve these problems. Ekwall concludes that it is not about charity when we focus on family farms. “We cannot solve problems using the same tools that we used when we created them – we need to be innovative.”

Written by Melissa Terry, Food Tank Volunteer

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