The Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium continued with another panel discussion on “The Agriculture and Health Nexus,” moderated by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian,
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology and associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School; and associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The participants included:
Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, chief agricultural officer, Mars, Inc.; senior fellow, plant sciences, University of California, Davis; distinguished fellow, World Agroforestry Centre
Dr. Subbanna Ayyappan, secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education, Government of India; director general, The Indian Council of Agricultural Research
Hon. Prof. Ruth K. Oniang’o, founder and editor-in-chief, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development; founder and CEO, Rural Outreach Africa
“How many enemies can I make on this answer?” Dr. Shapiro boldly called for large agribusinesses like Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont to make all their information public and readily available. Dr. Shapiro criticized these companies for not being entirely honest about their goals and motivations.
The open sourcing of agricultural and nutrition research by agribusinesses would be a “gift from industry and the private sector to the public,” says Dr. Shapiro. This would allow for greater innovation and research. Dr. Ayyappan also noted the need for an increase in sharing resources in agriculture.
Professor Oniang’o reflected on the shift back towards traditional eating practices in her native Kenya, and the rejection of the Western-style of diet. She said that many Kenyans attribute a rise in cancer due to these dietary changes. Dr. Ayyappan similarly noted the dramatic increase in diabetes in the Indian subcontinent, also associated with dietary changes.
Dr. Mozaffarian was critical of the focus on just increasing caloric production, and not the quality or production of the food. There is a risk of agricultural science disengaging from nutritional science. These two fields are interdependent, and a global view of health “from in utero to elderly” is needed.
This interdependence is also seen on a global scale. Professor Oniang’o noted that “Africa may look like the forgotten orphan child, but Africa will be feeding the rest of you.” Better coordination and clearer long-term goals are critical, argues Professor Oniang’o, in order to achieve measurable success in reducing hunger and malnutrition.