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New Land Grant Commission Gets Busy on Food Security

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Food security commission

Jay Akridge-16This week a new commission to address world food security began its work. The commission called The Challenge of Change: Engaging Public Universities to Feed the World was appointed by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture is one of three appointments from Purdue. He told HAT the commission has the important task of identifying efforts public universities should develop to bring us to a point of global food security by 2050.

“I think the idea is to really frame up and understand where universities should and can contribute on the issue of food security, both at home and abroad,” he said. “And we’ll frame up an agenda that can put this in front of administration as they evaluate their priorities and how they’re going to approach some of these grand challenge problems.”

Early next year the commission is expected to report its recommendations on how the three pillars of food security, access, availability and utilization, can be met on a global scale.

The commission is chaired by Randy Woodson, chancellor of North Carolina State University who was also a former Purdue provost and the Purdue College of Agriculture dean. Dean Akridge said it is a very diverse commission of 31 members.

“This is not just an ag college and ag school issue, so the group that’s being convened is much broader than that. It includes people from colleges outside of agriculture. We had a group of industry and other advisors that were here as part of this opening session and they talk about a whole university approach in terms of the expertise that will be brought to bear on this. More broadly it’s land grants as well as other public universities, so certainly an issue like food security is not just the domain of ag colleges and land grants. The issue is much larger than that.”

Joining Akridge from Purdue are Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and the 2009 World Food Prize laureate, and Vic Lechtenberg, special assistant to the Purdue president and dean emeritus of the College of Agriculture.

The commission is composed of leading scholars in the agricultural, biological, physical and social sciences, as well as development experts, public university administrators and former senior government officials. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided financial support for the commission’s work.

“Public universities are uniquely positioned to bring together the brightest minds from across academia and industry to solve the world’s grandest challenges, and there are few if any issues that will be more challenging over the next several decades than worldwide food security,” Woodson the chair said in announcing the formation of the commission Wednesday. “The world’s population is expected to pass 9 billion by 2050, and food productivity is already running behind the need. This important commission will strive to help build a sustainable food security model that can benefit communities across the globe for generations to come.”

The commission will offer a comprehensive agenda through the work of interdisciplinary working groups focusing on the entire food system, from production to consumption, with the goal of identifying the key breakthroughs required in both domestic and global production and non-production issues to achieve future food security. These working groups cover sustainable production systems, plant and animal performance, soil health, food loss and waste, inclusive economic growth, human nutrition, food safety and sanitation, and knowledge and education.

The working groups will address these areas with consideration of crosscutting issues, including environmental effects of agriculture, climate change, policy and governance and institutional and system changes needed to address the key challenges identified.

Increasing global food security is a key area of focus for Purdue University, with Ejeta being a global leader in this effort. He is a member of the presidentially appointed national Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, known as BIFAD, which met at Purdue in 2015 to bring greater awareness of the need to reduce hunger in developing countries.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced in 2013 that the College of Agriculture would receive more than $20 million in university funding for plant sciences research and education to strengthen Purdue’s leadership in developing new and novel ways to help feed a rapidly growing world population. The plant sciences initiative is among several Purdue initiatives designed to enhance research and educational opportunities for students and broaden Purdue’s global impact.

A component of the plant sciences effort is an automated plant phenotyping facility that will open this summer on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. The facility will identify and measure plant characteristics to help farmers be more efficient in growing crops.

The university also has begun construction of two animal sciences buildings that will equip faculty, staff and students with the latest technology to support research, teaching and Extension to help meet global demand for animal protein.

Source: Purdue News