By International Rice Research Institute
14 April 2008
Mr. Robert Zoellick
President of the World Bank Group
1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20433
Dear Mr. Zoellick:
As the Directors General of the two international organizations that ignited the Green Revolution, we appreciate your speech "A Challenge of Economic Statecraft " given on 2 April at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. We are also pleased by the recent statements you made in other fora and to the press worldwide regarding the food crisis prompted by food shortages ensuing from natural disasters, water scarcity, and changes in crop use (e.g. feedstock for bioenergy). Your concerns regarding high food prices and the need for a New Deal for Global Food Policy are very close to our hearts and to the mission of our international agricultural research centers, which brought science-based transformation of rice, wheat, and maize production to the world and assisted in the development of today's emerging economies, particularly in Asia and Latin America.
The Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations , Mr. Jacques Diouf, when addressing the first Global Agro-Industries Forum in New Delhi last week, clearly stated: "World food prices have risen 45% in the last nine months and there are serious shortage of rice, wheat, and maize." Not surprisingly, we have witnessed riots in several urban areas of the developing world in recent weeks since their poor populations cannot afford their most important staples, bringing both anger to their minds and hunger to their stomachs.
We fully agree with your call for a New Deal for Global Food Policy. However, as pointed out last week in Johannesburg by United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Mr. Achim Steiner, during his opening address at the iintergovernmental plenary meeting of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development , "Agriculture is not just about putting things in the ground and then harvesting them... it is increasingly about the social and environmental variables that will in large part determine the future capacity of agriculture to provide for eight or nine billion people in a manner that is sustainable." Such views are complemented by the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development , Mr. Lennart Bage, who told participants of the first Global Agro-Industries Forum, "With greater investment in agriculture and rural development, the world's 400 million smallholders could mobilize their under-utilized potential, not only to improve their own nutrition and incomes but to enhance national food security and overall economic growth."
Although the leaders of the most important development agencies are clearly creating awareness of the importance of re-directing resources to food and agriculture, ironically, we face funding cuts for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). As you are aware, the United States Agency for International Development recently informed our centers that their usual funding amount may be significantly reduced, it not fully cut, for this year and it remains uncertain thereafter. At this time of global challenges such as climate change, high food prices, and malnutrition, just to cite a few, we lack the resources needed both to continue with our research-for-development undertakings in agriculture and to ensure that our cereal germplasm and crop technologies reach end-users in the developing world, who are the main target of our work.
Professors R.E. Evenson and D. Gollin (Yale University), in their assessment of the Green Revolution (Science 300 : 758-762), clearly showed that crop yields in developing countries would have been 19.5% to 23.5% lower without the CGIAR. Furthermore, their model indicates that equilibrium prices for all crops combined would have been from 18% to 21% higher than they were in 2000 without CGIAR research. It follows that, without CGIAR-bred germplasm of main staples, there would have been a drop of 4.5% to 5% in calorie consumption and 2% to 2.2% more malnourished children in the developing world.
In this context, we would like to express our disappointment over the significant erosion of support for agricultural research over the past 15 years, as demonstrated by the recent World Development Report . Not only has support for productivity-oriented research in the CGIAR declined from more than 70 % to around 35% of CGIAR funding, this has taken place within a shrinking CGIAR budget that has decreased by about 50% in real terms over the same time period. There is little wonder that productivity growth rates of the world's staple food have been steadily falling in recent years, especially in developing countries.
We are therefore confident that, if development investors provide significant resources (i.e., substantially above current amounts) to international and national agricultural research, we can achieve remarkable results, and further expand the gains of the Green Revolution in this 21st century. Our centers are genetically enhancing new strains of rice, wheat, and maize that could allow developing-world farmers to meet the challenges brought by climate change such as drought, flood, heat, and stronger endemic pests. Our improved cereal germplasm and production technologies will also contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals , especially by providign more and affordable food, by improving poor farmers' income through the sale of crop surpluses, and by combating malnutrition with new micronutrient-dense cultivars.
We look forward to your continued efforts to increase support from both within the Bank and outside for the productivity-enhancing research efforts of our centers and our partners.
Thomas A. Lumpkin
El Batan, Mexico
Robert S. Zeigler
Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines
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