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For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)

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Volume II - Chapter Eight

(Updated, Aug. 14, 2008)


The new era calls for food carrying-capacity assessments on a country-by-country basis. -- Lester Brown  Note: e-granaryL  <http://www.widernet.org/digitalLibrary/index.htm>.

Emphasis must be placed upon more holistic research that explores the linkages between crops. . . human health, equity, gender and the wise use of natural resources, including water and soil. -- FAO World Food Summit:  <http://www.normanborlaug.org/education.htm

You have to look at the whole system. --Anatole Krattiger 

Africa is hungry and getting hungrier--as are parts of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. At a time of heightened international tensions, hunger is especially insidious because the societies it afflicts are markedly more vulnerable to disease, political instability, economic paralysis and environmental degradation.  --Jeffrey Sachs 

No sociey has moved a large proportion of its population out of poverty without a sustained effort to impove its agriculture. --John Gertner on foundation efforts.

"The Soul Beat" <soulbeat@comminit.com>
 Issue 83: Communication for Food Security and Agricultural Development in Africa

It was clear in 2008 that humanity faces a global food crisis because of rising prices (oil shortages and global warming and it is likely to get much worse, food riots and perhaps violence. Global education is needed, but may not initially help those who are too hungry to do well in school and those whose brain capacity was not well developed in infancy because of malnutrition. Humanity needs a comprehensive, inter-disciplinary planning and coordination system to help the world's poorest deal locally with  food and clean water crises. Sachs (2005, 2008) shows how the emerging food crisis is a complex issue involving  nutrition, climate and environment, pathogens, war, natural resources, disease, government services, good communications and transportation, food storage and  a holistic global strategy that takes into account all of the related problems, including the need for political awareness and action. Knowledge is crucial: <http://www.isoc.org/oti/articles/0401/balaji.html>  Can new programs like the digital universe capture the attention of the world? <http://www.digitaluniverse.net>. All private and government programs need to coordinate their food projects.

THINK BIG! The idea of researching all major crises concurrently to examine their interrelationships can boggle the mind, as did the "ridiculous" idea that humanity could put a man on the moon. Mega-research projects could differ widely from one another, with many different approaches, some that would have failure written into the design. Others might produce very helpful results. Researchers adventuring into uncharted territory---such as major research projects in cyberspace--face problems that are much larger than humanity has ever before encountered. A planetary management food system--part of a bottom-up management system for the entire planet--will require global-scale research and demonstration in order to be persuasive. However, we have a few first experimental maps and charts. .

The `Green Revolution' that enabled agriculture to feed the last exploding generation required  petroleum-based  fertilize. Now that oil is getting too expensive and in short supply what new will be required to feed two billion more in the next two decades? The view of agricultural economists, Stoll (2002) said, is that farmers must `get big or get out' is "not a prescription for good food,  a diversified landscape, or the reign of community values over the countryside." Meanwhile in 2008 there have been food riots becausean increasingly large population cannot afford the food that exists. A  "billion people a year could be dead" if one or another aspect of this industrial agricultural system should fail? Indeed must there not be much more variety in agricultural production if everyone in the world is going to have adequate food that is tasty and healthy? Also the time has come to transcend the controversy between organic agriculturalists and those who support genetic/chemical  crops and big scale agriculture, recognizing that there is going to be a need for both. See, for example: <http://www.normanborlaug.org/links.htm>. Fresh and nutritious food for the poor of the world is, for a long time at least,  going to require for urban and rooftop gardening. It is also going to require a lot of local water recycling  because humanity is soon going to face a water crisis. (See world water assessment: <www.unesco.org/water/wwap>..

A  billion hungry people--and six million children under five who die each year and a couple of billion more to be born in the next decade or so--present a moral and ethical issue because "for the first time in history" humanity  has the know-how an resources to feed them all The crisis is daunting because of failed states--including government graft--mass unemployment, lack of education, climate change and much more. However, the World Health Organization's Commission on Macroeconomics and Health--chaired by Sachs--could  be affordable; also the united Nations Millennium Project that Professor Sachs (2008) of Columbia University has found that science and technology have come to the point that poverty and hunger can be ended. The cost for the developed nations would at this time be  only one-thousandth of annual income, in part through a new scientific green revolution and the empowerment of women. Yields on south of Sahara African fields have not increased their yield in 50 years. Rather than `food aid," Sachs points out, Aid agencies are seeing that farmers need credit to buy better seeds, develop better water management, secure better roads and storage facilities are also badly needed.


One approach to a planetary food design might  perhaps begin with what satellite photos reveal about agricultural potential for each neighborhood in the world, and would add there layers of available information about there how to improve food production, storage, processing and any other initiatives that might be taken locally.  Cardozo (2002), for example, proposes that there is a middle way between organic and chemical fertilizers, that will be a different mix of technologies from field to field; and that proposes other new kinds of future research, essential to feed three billion more people in coming decades. 

However, instead of a global village, human society has now become a global metropolis with a great diversity of economic and agricultural systems. In this chapter on research to end world hunger we are discussing a style of mega-research which at least would:

(a) Locate and coordinate all pertinent validated research, whether done by individuals, teams, government agencies, universities, business corporations, research institutes or whomever...including the victims of the food and water crises. On water, see United Nations:
<http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/agenda21/english/agenda21chapter18.htm>, Middle East:.

(b) Seek to link all of such researchers--via the Internet but not only in that way--so that all can be well informed about what others are doing; who is evaluating, who is attempting to coordinate research efforts and how their findings can be applied to help solve specific problems in particular regions.

(c) Get agreement on what agencies (the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) plus a consortium of universities and research institutes) would undertake the task of linking, cross-indexing and coordinating the data bases that report the research procedures, plans and findings of all these research efforts worldwide. Building models of food production are helpful but more comprehensive data is required. With remote sensing via satellites it is now possible to begin a data base of all kinds of information in every neighborhood of the world, just as farmers can now use satellite data to determine which part of a field needs fertilizer   

(d) Authorize and find funds for the creation of a holistic global research design for providing an adequate diet for every person in the world. Coordination and joint planning might begin as an online comprehensive agricultural electronic encyclopedia (2.1) with hyperlinks to every researcher and research project, placing each in the outline where it belongs. Such an encyclopedia might begin by placing online and linking the best textbooks on each phase of food production. Each paragraph might be linked to web pages that would direct the user to the latest research in that area, designed to take care of the problem of changing web page addresses and the disappearance of web pages.

(e) Mega-research may generally be done by small teams that are interlinked--sometimes dividing research tasks--within the context of an experimental design of total research needed. Some time in this century that continually growing design could encompass all pertinent research in every discipline and country. A specialist might be linked to more than one team.

(f) Could we anticipate, ultimately, a global research system in which food management would be linked to all other crises;  political, social and economic questions, energy and weather and much more. All might be coordinated in an electronic `cosmopedia' that would ultimately link all verifiable human knowledge about food production, storage, marketing, distribution to all other relevant information; along with thoughts about what humanity does not know but needs to know. Individual researchers, even students, could use the information and guidance found there for their own research projects.

(g) Who is to fund all this coordination and sharing and produce the motivation and political support? Perhaps this question and the next two are important research topics. Stokes (1997) found strong public and congressional support for research--such as at NIH--that deal with specific human problems and crises.

(h) Would coordination to save money require an administrative bureaucracy? Perhaps some of the most basic, essential and necessary administration could be done online, without great expense, much as the Internet itself is administered.

(i) Is such global-scale research planning feasible and desirable, at least on some issues? For example there is some controversy--with environmentalists--over the use of the chemical fertilizers which have enabled the `green revolution' which has improved the food supply for a billion people. A member of the Parliament of India has called for a major scientific effort--in light of fact that affordable food is not available to such a large share of the planet's population--to undertake research on new and complex and environmentally safer kinds of fertilizing, more adjustable to the wide variety of needs, even on two sides of a farmer's field.  We discuss a design for research coordination--in this and the next chapters--not to make proposals but to ask questions for consideration and review. In many areas of the world hunger is caused by a lack of transportation. (See Allen under Borlaug 1974)

(j) As discussed here in 2.17 the solution to feeding the poor requires the transformation of agricultural neighborhoods to provide better production, marketing and profitable jobs in agriculture in the developing world.

The production and distribution of enough food are inseparable from what to do about the rapid increase in population, ecological changes, poverty and other issues. Hunger is not caused merely by a food shortage. "Many hungry people are in food surplus areas which are torn, for example, with civil wars." (FAO) `Food for all' needs to be researched as a poverty, educational, political and moral problem. Many citizens seem not to care that children are dying of hunger. Most citizens who care do not know what to do.

So what kind of research can challenge the callous, ignorant and disinterested? Can the charity-shared food be replaced by a village-centered food management system to feed everyone? That would require more comprehensive, holistic research on population and environmental issues, climate changes, land mismanagement, pest control, better food storage and transportation and more. Are political and other actions to solve the hunger crises, in many cases, handicapped by fundamental disagreements about `the facts?' Can more comprehensive research help resolve those disagreements? To what extent is more research needed on the following seven areas? Existing research has already established that:

(a) A fourth of the world's children are now malnourished at least some of the time and several hundred million have such a poor diet that their minds are stunted and their health is endangered. (Campbell 2002 summarizes nutrition issues.) The world's hungry will therefore be an increasingly heavy burden on the rest of us. (Riches 1997). Millions do not have safe water to drink and current global warming is likely to create much greater shortages and pollution of water. With modern communications and the spread of dangerous weapons in poverty areas, the desperate poor and hungry are likely to become more violent and terrorist, as warned by a hundred Nobel prize winning scientists (See Editorial 2002) 

(b) The world's population is likely to increase to eight billion by 2020 (Haub 1997, Lutz 1996) while arable crop land continues to decrease and fish stocks decline in the seas. The poor of the developing world will increasingly be in cities where they cannot fish, or be able to grow much of their own food without urban agriculture programs.

(c) To provide an adequate diet for everyone in the world requires family incomes sufficient to purchase the food and to provide farmers with necessary resources for more scientific and intensive forms of food production, storage, transportation and marketing (Oyen 1996). Can market forces and agribusiness corporations accomplish this--for a billion people with incomes of less than a dollar a day--without active collaboration among government, education and research institutions? No, an emerging global society must build a democratic world from the bottom up, and part of  the renewing and revitalizing local community should include ways for more people to produce their own fresh food in their own community.

(d) Agricultural scientists know how to produce enough food for everyone but not yet that everyone can afford. Yet, while new types of food production and technology will help, the intractable problems are political in the setting of priorities; for example, on land and water use. This effort is complicated by the limited vision and motivation of the influential public, including political leaders (Mitchell 1997). Genetic manipulation of food crops becomes a political issue.

(e) Most of the world's hungry are among the billion people who cannot read or write. (11.2.) The highest percentage of illiterates are women who do essential agricultural work. (The 1988 World Food Day had the theme: "Women feed the world." <http://www.rural-womens-day.org>) Education--in agriculture, environmental issues and more--is crucial and could now be extended to all (11.7).

(f) Solutions to the hunger problem must be interdisciplinary and global, (Bakkes 1997) dealing also with agricultural crises caused by war, desertification, abuse of forests, water resources, land, ocean, etc. <http://www.fao.org>. The next great increase in food may come from better rural education and programs to reduce improve efficiency of developing-world farmers who, for example, often do not use fertilizer properly, who need better storage facilities (Kennedy 1993) and marketing.

(g) Political leaders--and most people--have not yet caught up with the changes caused by globalization, the emergence of cyberspace and a new political and economic era. Their old era values, unexamined priorities and their outmoded worldviews limit their ability to deal with food scarcity and that may become a major threat to security. Brown (1996) proposed a country-by-country assessment. What next is needed if researchers are to develop the models, the maps, the charts, the architecture for a research strategy that would develop politically-possible action proposals?


The phrase `master plan' lost some of its usefulness during the era of top-down, regimented "five year plans" in some   Eastern European countries. Now information-age technology makes possible `bottom up' procedures to replace top-down regimentation, as well as providing a better basis for much more comprehensive long-term research. Research on the scale of the outer space program may be needed to deal with world hunger and all the other crises related to it. A massive "global satellite food, soil erosion and climate warning system" has been proposed. Would that be just one beginning phase of a global food research strategy? More pessimistic projections of food supply give more weight to environmental issues.

The United Nations FAO has been at work on strategic plans--without needed political support--and Brown (1996) sketched out some details. In Who Will Feed China? he illustrated the kind of precise, detailed country-by-country assessment required for establishing a sound foundation of fact. (Why not in time district-by-district? See <http://www.cares.missouri.edu>). Researchers need accurate data on the use and abuse of land and water, about the use of technology available and about population growth. (11.1) They need to know what is being done to protect the resources base, for example soil, water, energy supplies. They need facts--and satellites can help--about the impact of climate and pollution on food production; about what crops are now being grown; about the amount of agricultural land devoted to the production of nonfood products such as tobacco, cotton and methanol. Researchers need to find out if more and better food could be produced if different crops were grown on existing land. They need to know more about irrigation, fertilizer use, fish farming and recycling of water and waste. Brown (1996) suggested that feeding everyone adequately will require a "massive mobilization of forces, both financial and political," on the scale of resources needed for a major war. This requires "a worldwide effort to stabilize our life-support systems," such as aquifers, climate, soil and fisheries. Like `five year plans' the term war, as applied to social problems, has also been discredited by the failure of the `war against poverty' and the `war against drugs.' World War II, however, showed that almost impossible things can be done, but war tasks could not be undertaken one at a time. They all had to be coordinated. Universities had to shift their research priorities to give major attention to the crisis. One must not press this analogy too far, but it can open some questions about more a more holistic research. The overarching question is this: Since humanity's major crises are increasingly inseparable can they all be researched together? Truly global `food-for-all research' would need to deal with population planning, urban and rural development, the legal and economic status of rural women, alternatives for education and training, legal issues of ownership of indigenous knowledge and what else! Researchers must consider global food management within a much larger research strategy.(2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1)

Today's fragmented research is not making fast enough progress toward giving everyone in the world an adequate diet. Major international agencies are basing their projections, and therefore their food programs, on inadequate data which often is totally inadequate on the poorest countries.. It may be that food production will continue to increase as it has in the 20th century, but the catch of ocean fish continues to decline and the production of grain has lagged far behind the increase in world population. And "four out of every five hungry people live in a country that is explorting food." (Bessieres 2001)

Realistic projections of future food supply, and research to determine their accuracy (Brown 1996) require interdisciplinary teams including hydrologists (on water shortages and pollution), land use experts, scholars on the physical limits of plants, meteorologists (on weather effects), agronomists (on effect on soil of erosion), marine biologists (on the capacity of ocean fisheries) and more. Adequate research teams need to be located in many countries and in many kinds of agricultural areas.

"In today's world," according to a UNESCO World Science Report, "hope of avoiding catastrophe" is possible through "international cooperation in mega-research projects." These can combine resources, share risks, tasks, information and data in a way that "could bring solutions much closer." The FAO's Web page was linked in 1998 to many research institutes, universities and networks to coordinated research with the world's farmers and food processors as partners. There are indications of a more holistic coordination with political science and other social scientists to develop strategies to change priorities and motivate essential social action. FAO, for example, prepared a world "Action Plan for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture." This was the result of "the largest intergovernmental conference in history." It was on "food security through conserving and sustainably using plant genetic resources." FAO's 1996 "Leipzig Declaration" was based on "a ground-breaking survey" of data from one hundred and fifty countries. Cleveland (1993) said that such efforts began to put in place "a world network of agricultural research stations" and of research and planning to include all countries, interconnecting with commercial researchers, with universities and action/research centers such as a Denmark-initiated school of Tropical Agriculture in Africa.  But many other kinds of research need to be included in the linkage. Some of the pro and con debate on the `genetic green revolution" can be found at <http://www.foodfirst.org/>. 

Satellites can help to create maps of forests, water systems and so forth that are crucial in food production and ecology research. A holistic world food research map would also need to take account of cities and urban agriculture. Food production is not merely rural. People in some large urban areas raise 30 percent of their own food. In some cities it is 80 percent . Research is needed on how this can increase among people who cannot afford the food produced by industry (Nelson 1996). The Urban Agricultural Network listed eight interdisciplinary urban agriculture research needs as multitudes of displaced rural people move into developing world slum/cities. Sharing research findings and research partnerships must especially focus on women.(3.11) They raise a high percentage of urban food, an emphasis now increasingly important in plans for education on global food production via television, satellite, Internet and CD-ROM.

These illustrations of information and research can be linked (3.5) in larger research strategies. Holistic research is needed to deal with agricultural policy and planning, the economics of sustainable agriculture and the environment, food security, meteorology, early warning systems, data on health care, peace, adequate governance, and many other related issues (Brown 1996). An illustration of future holistic mega-research for agriculture is illustrated by Guterman (2005) who reports how little is actually known about soil systems and the huge varieties of organisms in soil  that profoundly influence the plants and animals above them, and vice versa. There are more than 20,000 different kinds of soils and all the DNA of all the organisms needs to be studied in relation to above soil systems. 


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's vision of how to provide adequate food for everyone in the world was expressed in its Food for All report (FAO 1996). It asked if there could be a new, more participatory `green revolution.' The previous `green revolution' prevented perhaps a billion deaths. It also had unfortunate consequences such as ecological damage that research might have better anticipated. `Agro ecology' may be the next possibility. (Altieri 1998). And ":what the `green revolution' did for grain, biotechnology may do for protein." (Manning 2001)

Rice Institute research in the Philippines made it possible for many countries to double and triple their rice production and thus have more money for education. For a time, before unexpected bad consequences set in,  this ended famine and contributed greatly to prosperity in many poverty areas, as did the Potato Research Institute in Peru. The International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico developed the high-yield and low-pesticide dwarf wheat that helped make possible dry agriculture so that Saudi Arabia could export wheat for a time. A substantial portion of the world's population ate better because of such international research projects. Yet research budgets were cut back at  at a time when they should have been enlarged. Current political plans would only reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by the year 2015! Staff members at the FAO know, however, that world hunger could be ended sooner than that.

Many agricultural scientists are skeptical about large-scale research producing another green revolution, but some new kinds of major research would be worth a try for another hundred million hungry children. Greater investment in agricultural research, Brown (1996) suggested, is justified by what is really possible, research on better food storage, marketing and transportation for example. Every ecologically sustainable advance that increases food production, however small, is important in a world where hunger increases.

The A*DEC satellite consortium of agricultural departments of fifty American universities adopted a policy statement which affirmed that `virtual' universities were becoming a reality. The statement pointed out that A*DEC had the technical skills, researched subject matter and the technological reach and commitment to provide high quality and economical distance education and research opportunities internationally in food and agriculture, nutrition, community economic development, environment and natural resources. The consortium planned to be locally adaptive and research oriented (A*DEC 1996). Agricultural researchers from land grant universities have shown that the highly successful agricultural extension program in the USA can be a partial model for what can happen all over the developing world as theoretical research from the laboratory is moved into practical use through collaboration on the Internet. <http://www.worldbank.org/>.

Research successes and needs were described in the 1996 UNESCO Science Report. They included the NOAA locust warning project, researched especially to help African countries; coordinated forestry projects, essential to prevent flooding and other disasters for agriculture; new biotechnologies; pest control; microbial products for nutrient cycling; pathogen diagnostics for crops; genetic mapping of tropical crops; improved protein quality in some foods. Researchers continue to seek by-products that can be manufactured from plant refuse such as corn husks and stalks. Methods for storing, shipping and packaging crops are being sought that do not harm the environment. There seek biofertilizers and crops that can be used to manufacture medical drugs and products.

Also, "the oceans represent a last great frontier for the discovery of new medicines and foods," the UNESCO report reported. Yet marine biotechnology and aquaculture, essential parts of a global-scale food plan, have not been given adequate attention. Sixteen thousand scientists warned late in 1997 that the oceans are a disaster area. A plan to monitor the oceans and shoreline pollution--the regular use of satellite sensors--can make a major contribution. New technology can attach to a tuna an electronic tag that has a microprocessor for sending data to a study center where it can be coordinated and mapped. Fish can thus provide data on ecology, biology, ocean currents, numbers of fish, success of fishing management schemes and more. Combined with data gathered from satellites, such research can create comprehensive ocean problem maps, an essential part of more comprehensive global digital maps. Such tools as mapping, computer models and simulations provide better ways for such information to be clearly presented to end-users, consumers, ocean fish farmers and the food industry. (8.6).

2.8.4  LINKED DATA BASES <http://www.widernet.org/digitalLibrary/index.htm>.

A first component of a mega-research food strategy would be comprehensive linked databases. FAO's "ground-breaking survey" of data from one hundred and fifty countries showed the crucial need of international cooperation top create data banks and to share technology on a "grand scale." Food research, scattered in universities and research centers all over the world, is now moving into digital form. It can thus be cross-indexed, organized and made available where needed. The database of the United States electronic Agricultural Library (AGRICOLA), established in part by the Partnership for Productivity and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International, helps enable cooperative agriculture research in various countries. Many FAO documents on $2 CD: <http://www.sadl.uleth.ca/nz/cgi-bin/library?a=p&p=about&c=hdl>.. 

The FAO established a computerized World Agriculture Information Center (WAICENT), designed to "provide fast economical access to a vast library of information," both statistical and textual. It was designed to include (a) constantly updated "time-series data from 210 countries; (b) "data on trade flows, food aid, development assistance and the results of the global agricultural census;." (c ) a regularly updated accessible, comprehensive data base of information on food plants, animals, food microorganisms, forestry, fisheries, nutrition, rural development, household budget and food consumption surveys and the nutrient, toxicant and allergic content of foods; (d) "monthly reports on global food production; (e)  a comprehensive collection of internationally accepted food standards; (f) information on food pests and land use, (g) data from farm surveys, (h) and "an analysis of scientific fishing data."

WAICENT plans included "hypermedia services to develop tools to capture, manage and integrate textual, graphic and audiovisual material for the creation of mixed-media information." Visualized data, decision support systems and statistical analysis tools will increasingly be made available on the World Wide Web, or  on what replaces it, see for instance: <http://www.mpassociates.gr/software/environment/vam2d.html>    <. The data system included "a Digitalized Soil Map of the World." Can that soil map become part of a more comprehensive digitalized map of climate, water systems, ocean fishing, population, energy, and all other issues related to food production? Can researchers integrate comprehensive multimedia data systems for every field of related research? Data and statistical errors can mislead and result in serious errors in research and planning. Brown (1996) illustrated with mistakes made, for example, in studying rice yields in Japan and California when data failed to take account of a much greater solar intensity in California.

A needed planetary `food warning system' requires accurate data on the amount of food reserves available in storage in a time of potential disaster. A long-term warning system must have accurate data on the rise or fall of production per person of grain, fish and other foods. It also should have accurate data on water reserves, crop land, the effects of climate change, irrigation, fertilizer use, political disruptions and population growth.


The need for political commitment to a larger strategy' is  seen in the complexity and variety of needed research. We briefly report a few examples here. The FAO's 1997 World Forestry Conference pointed out the lack of adequate data on forestry inventory and management, especially in developing countries. The conference asked for better knowledge about and monitoring of world forestry resources and the international harmonization of the concepts and classifications used in the surveys. Regional networks are needed to deal with complex issues in fire control and management, insect biology and disease cycles. Again, helpful data can be gathered by "long-distance surveying via low and high-resolution satellites and global geographic and positioning systems." Data gathering alone, however, does not help researchers find what to do about the human factors in the destruction and mismanagement of forests and the rest of the planet.

In 1996 the FAO reported that biotechnology was providing new and powerful tools for research that might accelerate "the development of new and better foods" and increase the amount of food that can be grown on small plots of land. Research, it was said,  might speed up its progress in developing crops that would be safer and more pest-resistant without using chemicals and unfortunate complications in the human body. The use of chemical fertilizers in developing countries now meets grass-roots resistance. So one research need--if the developing world is to be adequately fed--is to find ecologically sustainable methods for home-produced fertilizers made from garbage and animal waste, as well as other fertilizers that can triple the earth's food production. Sewage water can be reprocessed for irrigation and fertilizer. Better and more limited use of fertilizers and the use of less water for irrigation are possible through computer-managed crop moisture sensors. Information from satellites--for one square meter section of a field--can make it possible to apply the bare minimum of fertilizer (Brown 1996) for precision farming .

Research on what to do about water shortages, pollution and management are also crucial in a food production research strategy. The complexity of water research is seen in the pollution of aquifers and streams by industry, by fertilizers, by water-logging and damage to aquifers by too much irrigation.

FAO's information system on water in agriculture and rural development produces regional and country profiles on water resources development, conservation, prudent use and drainage. Included within this FAO data system are instructions for simple dry agriculture drip systems that can be created by any farmer from local materials. The potential of research on water recycling was seen in a successful experiment in Fiji. An "integrated farming" project (Kane 1997) took tons of brewery waste--which was previously dumped into a bay where it polluted and destroyed coral reefs--and has used it as fertilizer for mushroom production. The residue from growing mushrooms was then used to feed animals. The animal waste was used to produce fish food and methane for energy production. Nutrients in self-sustaining fish ponds were used to grow vegetables. All this created a sustainable cyclical food-producing industry that could use many kinds of what had been discarded waste. A global-scale research project could explore the value of research to restore such a ecological sustainable food management system for the entire planet.

An often-proposed way to increase food production is through high-tech fish-farming, but but until there is better planning and research it poses complex problems  and considerable cost to the environment and social stability (McGinn 1988). A third of the ocean fish catch is required as food for cultivated fish, thus further depleting the seas. It requires huge amounts of fresh water and energy. Unless done with scientific expertise its waste pollutes drinking water, farmland and the ecology of a region leading to increased disease in human beings and the fish. McGinn reports research to make possible a "blueprint for a blue revolution" for a responsible fish industry. To make fish farming truly sustainable, McGinn says, will probably require a "carrot-and-stick combination of policies."

That, of course, should be part of a large research strategy on how to accomplish a sustaining worldwide food producing system. Energy research is also crucial, especially the production of sustainable energy--as for irrigation pumping--which would do minimal damage to the ozone layer and environment. Also research is needed for the development of agricultural tools that do less damage than fossil-fuel operated tractors. (Ivanhoe 1997) The World Energy Council, which has operated in over a hundred countries, has been examining practical strategic options for reducing `energy poverty' through sustainable methods. To continue cutting down forests is not an energy-efficient option. Many imaginative energy developments are underway worldwide without being integrated into a global research strategy. Lesson (1993) calls for the development of an energy strategy based on varied sources, including wind, solar, upper level currents in tropical oceans (see Avery 1994).

The complexities of a food research strategy are illustrated by the needs for small loans to extend solar energy to farms and for education in the developing world. Credit has never been available to rural Africans as to Americans who are accustomed to making affordable monthly payments. (18.3) The United States Department of Energy has been looking at ways to link farmers, energy producers, ecologists, foresters and others to test `energy crops' that can be continually renewing sources of power for energy. Such crops can reduce soil erosion and build up soil and reduce atmospheric pollution. Can researchers find ways to produce affordable energy from ethanol that is produced from unused farm growth? Brazil in 2005 anticipated that local energy production from agricultural products would mean that no more outside oil would be imported. Ethanol is not itself a solution to atmospheric pollution, but research may find ways for farmers to "grow all the food needed, with enough capacity left over to satisfy up to 30 percent of global energy requirements" (Li Chun 1993). Wind-produced and solar energy are more available in many poverty areas than that produced by oil and coal. (McGowan 1993.)

The complexity that may require mega-research is seen in economic and agricultural ecology issues. They point to the need and potential of relating a planetary food management system to an environment management system. (2.10.7). That might save developing countries billions of dollars for health and education. It would aim in Africa, for example, to nourish that continent's ecology and "preserve Africa's wild habitats which are now being depleted by slash-and-burn agriculture." (Easterbrook 1997). That must be accomplished by the local people themselves in cooperation with global agencies and programs. Although air pollution is not yet as serious a problem for agriculture as soil pollution and erosion caused by wind and heat, (Brown 1996) "it is nevertheless taking a toll on the world's harvests." Researchers can deal with such complexity through computer simulations and modeling. Later we will suggest that a nation, perhaps even a continent can be modeled and serve as a co-lab.


A global networking consortium of agricultural schools and developing world farm programs--and a global strategy for agricultural research tied to education--is made feasible by the Internet. Agricultural researchers see, however, that their research alone cannot end world hunger. So worldwide projects are emerging like the African Network of Microbiological Resources center centers such as RUPRI. that was formed to create an electronic network "to build an effective and lasting bridge between science and policy" in areas such as rural education, health and development. Connectivity to such resources as the electronic bulletin board of the National Agricultural Library will also be provided.

Computer networking can link local agricultural bureaus, clubs and agencies worldwide into a Global Research/Partnership System. The Internet can be used not only by scientists and scholars but also, RUPRI suggests, for education and public debate--for and with rural people themselves--on such issues as tax policy; how to keep educated young adults in rural communities; quality rural education, especially vocational, technical and entrepreneurial; more adequate rural health services; the role of cooperatives and rural economic development and more effective rural political organization.

A  FAO World Food Summit pointed out that `food for all' requires comprehensive research. Also the results of research must "be communicated fruitfully to the farmer." Comprehensive food research therefore needs new strategies for education and exchange. Agricultural extension agents, where they exist, can also be continually educated, research oriented, related to research institutes and empowered by the Internet. A larger research strategy might involve global electronic "university extension centers" to provide instruction and information anywhere on the planet at the time and place where it is needed. The current transformation of Rural Agricultural Extension Centers into Tele-centers (18.2) can link local farm organizations to the world. In any case--and in the long run probably not just in the developing world--food security  must involve close collaboration with all who live close to fertile land.

Some years ago the Centre Informatique in Paris was working on a simple receiver/box for illiterate farmers in West Africa to use in downloading instructional films on how to improve their crops. In April 1998 VITA and SatelLife were creating a consortium to use their satellites for development projects in the developing world, including research on an inexpensive ground receiving station. Communications technology can make international electronic agricultural distance education and research partnerships possible. It may be crises and emergencies that make it inevitable. The vision of A*Dec (Bretz 1993), the agricultural satellite organization, pointed to what the shape of global partnership in agriculture may be. Some defined goals were: (a) to share expertise and research through teamwork among universities and to do so via satellite; (b) to make it possible--as in recent times of severe flooding--to develop and share emergency programs and resources. The FAO 1996 "Leipzig Declaration" pointed out that "there must be a new and more productive partnership between scientists and farmers" in a "global action plan." The FAO electronic conference on tropical feeds and feeding systems, for instance, was basically an e-mail conference during 1995 but it also used the Internet and World Wide Web. It operated from Oxford University's Forestry Institute. The conference's crucially important report was made available on diskette for researchers who could not participate online. It included the e-mail addresses of many participating agricultural scientists. The FAO Review (Mar.-Apr. 1996) discussed the urgency of "wiring the developing world" to provide for interdisciplinary, international and more comprehensive research "on realities such as water shortages and the declining amount of usable land."

Needed research includes experimentation illustrated by the Farm Radio Network, based in Canada (dcfrn@web.net). It has sent `packages' of information about tropical agriculture, health and social issues to local radio stations in the developing world. The plan included barter when an African radio network sends back information on techniques used in their part of the world. In this way farmers in Peru, for example, can share agricultural tips with farmers in India.

A research strategy should adopt the perspective of the voluntary Hunger Project, that hungry people must not be treated as the problem but as an essential part of the solution. An adequate research strategy involves education and other means of empowering people to solve their own problems with the help of a supportive partnership environment. (18.5) More comprehensive research, in cooperation with developing world villagers, is needed on ecological agricultural design, regional regenerative agriculture and on rural village systems (Dahlberg 1991). Hundreds or thousands of consortia might be interconnected to enable a three-way research partnership among an information providing consortium of agriculture schools, national agricultural policy makers and local farm groups.

 Much is underway to use information technologies to improve  agriculture in developing countries. For example (<drumbeat@comminit.com, May 24, 2008, on Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods) reports on the Warana "Wired Village" project:: 54 village information kiosks facilitate sugar cane production. Each kiosk has a computer and printer, and most have email and internet access and wireless connectivity.. Farmers regularly visited the kiosks, where  information is coodinated, farmer make deposits to banks and withdraw cast. Also farmers and fishers in the Niger Delta "are using a combination of participatory video, mobile-to-web messaging, and online video sharing to take on the oil companies that are polluting their lands and waters. An article on food security and market pricing in Burkina Faso features Chévrina, a puppet goat who has captured an audience in the hopes of boosting public awareness of key agricultural issues. "Ghanaian Cocoa Farmer Videos Tackle Pod Pest" covers a project in Ghana where cocoa growers are producing videos that teach improved cocoa cultivation principles to their fellow farmers. http://www.comminit.com/en/node/188894/307>"


When the U.N. World Food Summit was held to discuss how to feed everyone in the world, very few heads of state attended. Also, one of the major political issues was whether food is a human right. The United States delegation "opposed including the right to food in the official Summit declaration, fearing that it would subject the USA to human rights violation scrutiny," (Ritchie (1997). Powerful political forces proposed that the solution to hunger is an increase in industrial farming and faster deregulation of the food trade to give greater freedom to transnational food corporations. That, however, can do little for a billion people who, having little income, must grow their own food or starve (Backes 1997). "The commercial biotechnology sector has shown only limited interest in applying modern biotechnology to the  problems of food security and poverty in developing-world rural  communities." (Persley 1999)

The Developing World. Many agricultural researchers are not content with the pure science and conventional research that discovers, for example, how to increase the food supply but not how to get into the hands of all hungry children. Many academics and other researchers now want to get on with the political and social action necessary to get everyone in the world adequately fed. On Africa, for example, see: <http://www.saa-tokyo.org/english/newsletter/index.html> So perhaps a larger research strategy would seek: (Ruse 2003).

(a) To link researchers and political leaders online for deeper thinking about a planetary food management system. See the multidisciplinary "2020 Vision for food, Agriculture and the Environment" of the International Food Policy Research Institute to bring many minds together. <http://www.ifpri.cgiar.org/

(b) To enable "Computer Assisted Action" electronic planning networks worldwide. Such political work was not traditionally thought of as a job for universities. Since the 1960's, however, political activism to get something done about racism, ecology, war, or hunger often begins in universities. Also, partnerships between university research and government planning may now be even more important. A demonstration at the United Nations showed how the head of the government of India--when facing a food shortage--could via the Internet draw upon an increasingly large United Nations data base and solution scenarios. She could explore the probable consequences of each alternative for India and for other nations. She could ask a modeling system what the result would be if she borrowed money to buy food or new technology to increase food production; or whether the overpopulation that caused the crisis could be ameliorated by better education of women. A trial run of the system found, however, that better educated women would buy more food for families.

(c) Treaties and laws that give priority to family gardens and to farming in the developing world. More healthful and tasty fresh fruits and vegetables can be produced locally in many neighborhoods (and perhaps everywhere in greenhouses in the future. Cardiso (2002) also reportf on experiments in meat production that are nearby and tailored to local needs. . Local democratic cooperation should be guaranteed in establishing regulations in such areas as labor laws and ecology. Barlow (2001), for example, tells how and experiment in privatization of the national water supply in Bolivia almost ended in disaster until people took back their water system.. This and M'Gonigle (2001) pointed to the need to "reinvent...from the bottom up" as illustrated by Regional Aquatic Management Systems which in British Columbia involve the banding together of loggers, indigenous hunters and fishers, town governments, environmentalists and others. Many such groups are appearing in various parts of the world to "devise new comprehensive approaches to using the land and sea, for decision making in cooperation with business and governments" He mentions also the creation of "community ecosystem trusts." See the Sasakawa Africa Foundation: <http://www.saa-tokyo.org/english/aboutsaa/index.html> .

(d) Global modeling for research (5.1, Mesarovic 1988) could be used to examine the consequences of alternative management systems such as a global food rationing scheme. Water rationing may need to be considered. The European Community's EUREKA project an international research plan--on environmentally sound management of water resources--aimed to bring academic researchers into partnership with industrial users of water. (McLeod 1993). It integrated geographic information systems, large data bases, simulation models, expert systems and tools for visualization and sophisticated graphic displays. In a holistic context a well-fed world may even be an inter-related system of self-sufficient neighborhoods and communities (Weissman 1998). Could a research strategy for planetary food management--taking account of all the complexities discussed in the next chapters--seize the public imagination--and political will--as did the project to put a man on the moon?

The alternative to global-scale research for a global food system? Political instability and even terrorist activity will multiply as "food insecurity and child malnutrition remain widespread" and many young minds are thereby seriously stunted. The International Food Policy Research Institute's 2020  Report (Pinstrup-Anderson  1999)  concludes a call "to mobilize the revolutionary developments in information technology and biotechnology for the benefit of the poor and insecure." A food secure world  can be realized in the 21st century, the report says, if present efforts at agricultural research, human resource development and the political will are enlarged. New ideas and possibilities are appearing on many continents as, for example, for drought recovery programs. (EC-ACP 1999 See: <http://www.normanborlaug.org/links.htm> )

It is amazing "what has been accomplished  in efficient agricultural production in the past," says Campbell (2002). Indeed, it has "changed human destiny in remarkably commendable ways. What will be accomplished in the future," he says, "could be even more phenomenal. And it will need to be if the increasing world population is to be fed properly." (Note the hermetically sealed experimental land with constant June temperature the year around "that may be the most productive farm in the world." (Reiss 2002) However, as observers at the 2002 UN World Food Summit noted,  it is not either/or: research must proceed both on genetically modified crops and on an improvement of subsistence agriculture which is essential to the huge community of the world's poorest. (See Allen 2002 under Bickel  1974) Perhaps "the greatest potential of bioengineered crops is for small farmers in the developing world." Less chemicals can be used with a great gain for the environment, human beings and animals. With the help of molecular mapping of soybeans, for example (Smith 2002) "geneticists can streamline breeding by looking into individual plants." 

Agricultural biotechnology is controversial so new interdisciplinary research is important to examine the ethical, legal, environmental and socio-economic issues.  A genuinely interdisciplinary examination of such issues with aid both the researchers and their critics. In 2002 at the University of Missouri, for example, a class in "Social and Legal Implications of Genetically Modified Food" was being taught by faulty from law, philosophy, agricultural economics, biochemistry, rural sociology, journalism and political science. Larger-scale transdisciplinary research is critical for all people around the world. For the developing world much of the solution must be local. <http://www.sustainableICTs.org/DIGVILL.htm>. Medeley (2002) says that  genetic modification is not the best route to food for all. More attention must be given to women who raise food for their families, and more help to small-scale farmers in areas where food must be produced locally.

Brown (2005) warned of global political instability since too little is being done about encroaching deserts, falling watger tables, inadequate and declining grain reserves and rising global temperatures.

Return to Chapter 2.7  |  Go to Chapter 2.9

Bibliographical Notes

A*DEC. 1996. Summary from Quick Bytes, Nov.

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Barlow, Maude. 2001. "Thirst for Justice." Yes magazine, summer/

Bessieres, Michel. 2001. "GMO's: the Wrong Answer to the Wrong Problem." UNESCO Courier, Jan.

Bickel, Lennard. 1974, Norman Borlaug and the Fight Against Hunger. New York: Reader's Digest Press. And update: Allen John L. 2002. "Far From A Turning Point In Hunger." National Catholic Reporter, June 21.

Brown, Lester. 2005. "The Global Food Gap." World Ark. February.

Campbell, John R. et al. 2002. Animal Sciences. New York: McGraw Hill.

Cardozo, Sylvia et al. 2002. "Beyond Organic." New Scientist, May 18.

Clay, Jason. 2004. World Agriculture and the Environment. Washington: Island Press.

Cleveland, H. 1993. Birth of a New World. Jossey Bass, Publishers.

Easterbrook, Gregg. 1997."Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity." Atlantic Monthly. Nov. <http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97jan/borlaug/borlaug.htm

Editorial 2002. "A Warning From 100 Nobel Prize Winners." World Watch, May/June.

EC-ACP. 1999. "Liquid Assets." The ACP-EU Courier. July

FAO. 1996. "Food For All." Rome, UN Food and Agricultural Organization.

Foreman, Joel.  2004. "Game-Based Learning." Educause, Sept./Oct.

Guterman, Lila.  2005. "The Secret Powers of Soil." Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 12.

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Kennedy, Paul. 1993. Prospects for the 21st Century. New York, Random House.

Krattiger, Anatole F. 1999. "Two Perspectives on Agricultural Biotechnology." News and Views, September.

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Li Chen, H. et al. 1993. "The Great Energy Harvest."  Futurist. May.

Madeley, John. 2002. Food For All: The Need for a New Agriculture. London: Zed Books.

Manning, Richard. 2001. "Eating the Genes." Technology Review, July-Aug.

McGinn, Anne. 1998. "The (Aqua) Cultural Revolution. World Watch. Mar.-Apr.

McLeod, John.  1993. "Clean Water." Simulation. Aug.

M'Gonigle, Michael. 2001. "Where There's a Way." Yes magazine.

Mitchell, D. 1997. World Food Atlas. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Nelson, T. 1996."Closing the Nutrient Gap." World Watch, Nov.-Dec.

Nestle, Marion.  2007. Food Politics. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press..

Palmberg, Elisabeth. 2008. "World Food Crisis. A Human-Made Disaster." Sojourners. July 2008.

Persley, Gabrielle. 1999, "Biotechnology for Developing-Country Agriculture." 2020Vision paper, International Food Policy Institute.

Pearce, Fred. 2001. "Desert Harvest." New Scientist, Oct. 27.

Pinstrup-Anderson, Per et al. 1999. "World Food Prospects." Washington DC, International Food Policy Research Institute.

Reiss, Spencer. 2002. "The High Growth Farmer of the Future." Wired, July.

Ruse, Michael et al. 2003. Genetically Modified Foods. NY: Prometheus Books.

Sachs, Jeffrey. 2004. "We Can End World Hunger." World Ark, December.

Sachs, J. 2005. See: <http://www.sachs.collumbia/poverty>. and The End of Poverty. Penguin Books 2005.

Sachs, J. 2008. Common Wealth. New York: Penguin.

Sachs, J. 2008. "The African Green Revolution."  Scientific American. May.

Schuh, C. Edward. 2001. "Agriculture as an Engine of Development." In The Globalization of Science. ISNAR, The Netherlands. 

Simon, Lou Anna. 2000. "Touching the Future." Interview in New Educators, spring.

Smith, Dal. 2002. "Boon to Beans." Mizzou  (University of Missouri), fall.

Stokes, D. E. 1997. Pasteur's Quadrant." Wash. D.C., Brookings Inst. Press.

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Thomson, Jennifer. 2007. Seeds for the Future. Ithaca: Cornell University Prwess.

Weissman, A.  1998. "Nothing Wasted Nothing Gained." Mother Jones. Apr.

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