GIFS conference: global food security in developing countries

Posted on March 23, 2016

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An exciting new conference is being launched in Saskatoon this year, hosted by the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS). Emerging Technologies for Global Food Security: Mobilizing to the Developing World is set to run from June 14-16 at the Delta Bessborough Hotel. GIFS, Ag-West Bio and the ABIC Foundation are partnering on this endeavour, with Ag-West Bio managing the event. Maurice Moloney, executive director of GIFS, says the theme of the conference reflects one of GIFS’ goals: empowering developing countries to help them become food secure. 

Wilf Keller, president and CEO of Ag-West Bio says looking into the future, there’s no question that global food security will be a challenging issue. “We will have 9 billion people living here 30 years from now and we are going to have to address their needs for food and nutrition. This means at least a 70 per cent increase in production of food products.”

Moloney says there are two major things to consider: in the industrialized world, there will be a growing middle class and there will be increased demand for high quality proteins. In the developing world, such as countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, many people are living a subsistence lifestyle. They need immediate help to increase food production.

Much of the research done here focuses on improving agriculture in the developed world, says Moloney, but it would be easy to repackage these high-tech discoveries and ‘mobilize’ them directly into the developing world. “We have the possibility, on a relatively short time scale, to increase yields and improve the situation for people who live in such poverty.”   

A mix of international, national and local speakers will fill the conference program, with 30 session lectures and 10 plenary talks. Heavy hitters in the areas of crop research, crop protection, nutrition, soil health and sustainability have been confirmed as presenters during the two-and-a-half day event. The attendance will be limited to fewer than 300 for this inaugural conference. 

An IQ2 Debate on the first day will explore the question “Is biotech necessary to deliver food security to 9 billion people?” Canadian media icon Rex Murphy will moderate the debate, with Mark Lynas, Jennifer Thomson, and Barbara Burlingame serving as panel members.

Tim Sharbel, GIFS Research Chair in Seed Biology says there is a gap between food production methods and projected future need. He believes if we don’t come up with a solution in time, consequences could include global conflict. 

Sharbel says Saskatoon is one of the best places in the world to talk about this topic. “Saskatoon has a long history of research in crop development, there’s a lot of industry and a lot of space to grow crops.” 

For more information, please visit the event website: conference.gifs.ca