Under the impact of widespread famine in the Horn of Africa and fluctuating food commodity prices, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission invited 300 researchers and European officials to a conference called “Scientific support for food security and global governance”. With about 9 billion people sharing the earth in 2050, speakers estimated that the world has to double its food production while minimising environmental degradation. “Right now,” said Ann Tutweiler from FAO, setting the stage, “farmers’ yields are far below their potential. We can produce much more, and we can stop wasting 30% of our food and 40% of our water.” To do so, coherent policies are as important as sound scientific input. “Europe in particular is a catalyst for scientific research,” said Marion Guillou from the research institute INRA, stressing that the Europe 2020 strategy foresees a target of 3% of national budgets devoted to research by 2020.
Speakers emphasised that research findings should be accessible to a wide range of people, and that they should be translated into a language understood by practitioners. They also agreed that speculation on food commodities had to be better regulated to prevent massive food price fluctuation. Joachim von Braun, Director of the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn, even suggested to introduce a new “International Grain Reserves Bank”, a sort of International Monetary Fund for food commodities. This bank could unleash food reserves in the event of a price spike, and thereby keep global food prices constant.