Jeffrey Bennetzen 0

USAID cuts to CGIAR support

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To Interested Congressional Partners and USAID Administrators: The undersigned are all US scientists and their international colleagues who are deeply concerned about the fate of an exceptionally important component of the world agriculture research infrastructure, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). As you are aware, the CGIAR centers were leading players in the first green revolution that increased worldwide food production dramatically in the second half of the last century. The CGIAR centers continue to provide the translational research, improved crop and livestock varieties, and training for developing world agricultural scientists that have been critical to the maintenance and improvement of food production in the poorest nations on earth. These gains have been accomplished despite dramatic losses of land to desertification, lowered soil fertility, political turmoil, and global climactic change. As a group, we are convinced that the CGIAR centers are absolutely essential to continued advances in world food production and we are concerned with ongoing and proposed cuts to USAID funding for the CGIAR 2009 budget. The proposed 2008 budget for the CGIAR centers contains no USAID funding for biotechnology, and the 2009 budget proposal indicates plans for a severe system-wide cut in unrestricted funding to the CGIAR centers. The undersigned consider these two aspects of the 2008 and 2009 budgets to be unacceptable mistakes that will damage worldwide food production for many years to come. No other organization has developed the links to and focus on developing world agriculture as has the CGIAR system, and no other organization has such an impressive and uninterrupted history of accomplishments for increasing food production in the developing world. Although funding by the USAID for many targeted and important proposals through the CGIAR would be continued in 2008 and 2009 under the current scenario, the loss of unrestricted funds would dramatically impact the CGIAR system, allowing no CGIAR center to remain fully functional. Given the great importance of the CGIAR system, it would be more appropriate for the USAID to increase its overall funding commitment, with a special emphasis on the unrestricted funds that are so essential to the core missions of CGIAR. Advances in agricultural productivity, facilitated by the work carried out by the CGIAR in the developing world, have been the only consistent foundation for escape from continuing cycles of poverty and dependence in many of the developing countries, as evidenced by the recent examples of India and the People\'s Republic of China. Increasing food demand by the developing and developed worlds, conversion of biomass to liquid fuels, plus increased human and climactic stresses on agricultural lands, has led to significant price increases for food all over the world. Global food stocks are at their lowest levels in many years, positioning the world for a reduced ability to respond to emergency food needs in any region struck by drought or other disaster. Only increased food production in both the developing and developed worlds can overcome these looming threats. The CGIAR centers, particularly the outreach, translational research, and crop/livestock development that are provided through unrestricted funds, are necessary to meet these needs. As a group, we request that you help us to reverse the planned cuts to the USAID agriculture program, including funding of the CGIAR centers, by insisting that the Administrator of USAID make funding commitments to agriculture and to the CGIAR system an Agency priority both in the current fiscal year and in the years to come. We can assure you that the CGIAR system continues to demonstrate its unique and essential value around the world. Decreased support to the system will lead to dramatic and far-reaching decreases in worldwide food production, thereby contributing to a destabilization of geopolitical relationships and a general decline in human well-being. None of this can be in the best interests of the United States nor our friends around the world. Sincerely, The Undersigned


Jeff Bennetzen Giles Professor Member, US National Academy of Sciences University of Georgia
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