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World Food Prize Laureates Send Open Letter to President Biden

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24 World Food Prize Laureates came together to send President Biden an open letter asking for continued U.S. leadership in ending world hunger. Read the full letter below.

World Food Prize Laureates Open Letter: U.S. Leadership Needed to Help End World Hunger

Dear Mr. President,

As World Food Prize Laureates from across the globe, we have dedicated decades to driving change in food systems, continuing the legacy of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Norman Borlaug. Some of us are American, some not, but we all recognize that at this time, leadership from the United States (U.S.) is pivotal to achieving the global goals on food.

Even pre-COVID-19, hunger was on the rise, climate emissions—in part driven by the food system—were not on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets, and the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization reported in 2020 that an estimated 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2017. While the world reduced absolute poverty from 2 billion people in 1990 to 800 million people before the pandemic, the UN Development Programme approximates “COVID-19 could push the number of people living in extreme poverty to over 1 billion by 2030.”

In a world rattled by COVID-19, now is the time for audacious ambition as we envision what the world could look like in 2030, the year the Sustainable Development Goals should be met. Let us imagine a world in which everyone is well-nourished and no one goes to bed hungry. How do we get there?

First, cast a wide-angle lens on our food systems that produce, distribute, process, market, and prepare food. Food systems intertwine hunger, nutrition, food safety, biodiversity, resource use, climate emissions, jobs and livelihoods, as well as the resilience of families, communities, and economies. We know that improvements in food systems create huge benefits in all of these critical areas.

Second, strengthen and leverage our alliances to raise ambitions and find game changers for food. The COVID era is teaching us that the unimaginable is attainable, the unthinkable is in fact doable: vaccines in under a year; unprecedented economic relief packages; doing global business from home; digitized commerce even in the most fragile settings; unprecedented community solidarity; and increasing the number of people in food safety net programs from 0.6 billion to 2 billion. The returns for imagination and boldness have never been greater.

The COVID era is teaching us that the unimaginable is attainable, the unthinkable is in fact doable…

Third, provide leadership for high impact. In September 2021, the UN Secretary-General will lead a Food Systems Summit to mobilize global action on hunger. The Summit involves civil society, business, and development agencies—everyone—to work with governments. It is the People’s Summit, and its aim is action, not declaration. In addition, the UN named 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables to catalyze action on nutrition and health. The Nutrition for Growth Summit will be hosted in Tokyo in December this year to address deepening food insecurity and malnutrition globally and the impacts of COVID-19 on donor aid and nutrition targets.

Ongoing research shows what we all know—namely, that improving all of the elements of food systems simultaneously tackles the great challenges of our time: economic instability, climate change, overwhelmed health systems, strained environmental systems, and inequalities that leave families vulnerable.

We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to seize this moment and invest in development and cooperation to achieve zero hunger by 2030.

The opportunity for renewed U.S. leadership to transform food systems has never been greater. The appetite of partners around the world to work with the U.S. in both the public and private sectors is strong. We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to seize this moment and invest in development and cooperation to achieve zero hunger by 2030. American leadership on getting food systems right will inspire and embolden others to join forces to end hunger, counter climate change, generate jobs, and promote responsible stewardship of the environment.

Evidence suggests that increased investment in food security is in the U.S.’s interest. Supporting economic growth globally leads to increased trade for American entities, increases stability in conflict areas, builds bonds of solidarity and trust that are the bedrock of diplomacy, and alleviates the suffering of the most vulnerable. These outcomes reflect long-held, treasured American values and offer opportunities to realize global aspirations.

In 2009, post-financial crisis and as a result of the L’Aquila Declaration, the U.S. announced the $3.5 billion Feed the Future Initiative with bipartisan support, helping to reverse decades-long declines in funding for food and agriculture around the world. This American investment prompted collective global investments of $22 billion and triggered progress for hundreds of millions.

According to the recent Ceres2030 report, we could end global hunger by 2030 with an extra annual investment of $33 billion, a small fraction of the world’s COVID mitigation investment.

In all humility, we call on the Administration of U.S. President Biden to:

1. re-establish American global leadership to end hunger,
2. play a leadership role in the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit and other global initiatives,
3. refresh U.S. evidence-based policy and investment to achieve the goal of ending hunger,
4. and expand the highly-successful USAID Feed the Future Initiative and Innovation Labs to reach more countries.

Such an agenda will help the U.S.—and the rest of the world—achieve the four-way win so desperately needed on climate, health, jobs and hunger.

As the world staggers out of COVID and into the light of 2021, we seek to illuminate our collective path towards 2030. We urge the Biden-Harris Administration to focus on the promise to Build Back Better in transforming our food systems.

U.S. leadership in ending global hunger is imperative and must be backed by bold actions and your personal commitment for the U.S. to engage on major global initiatives. Nothing is more important than ending global hunger and malnutrition. In the words of U.S. Vice President Harris: be “bold, fearless and ambitious.

Signed in Partnership,

Rattan Lal, Director, OSU Carbon Management & Sequestration Center, 2020 Laureate
Simon Groot, Founder, East-West Seed, 2019 Laureate
Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, 2018 Laureate
David Nabarro, Strategic Director, 4SD, 2018 Laureate
Akinwumi A. Adesina, President, African Development Bank, 2017 Laureate
Maria Andrade, Principal Scientist, Sweetpotato Breeder, CIP, 2016 Laureate
Howarth Bouis, Founding Director, HarvestPlus, 2016 Laureate
Jan Low, Principal Scientist, International Potato Center (CIP), 2016 Laureate
Robert Mwanga, Sweetpotato Breeder, International Potato Center (CIP), 2016 Laureate
Mary-Dell Chilton, Distinguished Science Fellow, Syngenta, 2013 Laureate
Robert T. Fraley, Former Executive VP & CTO, Monsanto, 2013 Laureate
David Beckmann, President Emeritus, Bread for the World, 2010 Laureate
Jo Luck, Former President, Heifer International, 2010 Laureate
Gebisa Ejeta, Director, Purdue Center for Global Food Security, 2009 Laureate
Robert J. Dole, Former United States Senator, 2008 Laureate
Philip Nelson, Professor Emeritus, Purdue University, 2007 Laureate
Edson Lobato, Former Technical Director, Embrapa Cerrados, 2006 Laureate
Alysson Paolinelli, President, Instituto Fórum do Futuro, 2006 Laureate
Modadugu V. Gupta, Senior Research Fellow, WorldFish, 2005 Laureate
Pedro Sanchez, Professor, Tropical Soils, University of Florida, 2002 Laureate
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, 2001 Laureate
Gurdev Khush, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis, 1996 Laureate
Hans R. Herren, President, Millennium Institute & Biovision Foundation, 1995 Laureate
Muhammad Yunus, Chairman, Yunus Centre, 1994 Laureate

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