Today's opening plenary session featured comments by Per Pinstrup-Andersen from Cornell University, Francesco Branca of WHO and David Nabarro of the UN. Each speaker underscored the negative impacts of recent food price increases and overall volatility in agricultural markets on food security and nutrition, particularly among the poorest citizens in developing countries. According to Dr. Pinstrup-Andersen, this problem has been exacerbated by extreme weather events related to global climate change as well as by poorly informed expectations by speculators, traders and farmers and inadequate policy responses by governments. Effective policy interventions, meanwhile, will entail a clear understanding of the problem we are seeking to address- namely, that we must understand that the world is not running out of food yet citizens of developing countries continue face problems of access to adequate amounts of nutritious foods.
Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization, mentioned that the world's population is simultaneously facing increased levels of undernutrition and micronutrient malnutrition as well as as increasing numbers of overweight and obese citizens. Under such a scenario, he states, understanding the linkages between agriculture, nutrition and health is more important than ever. Once we have an evidence base that establishes such linkages, Dr. Branca believes that we must involve the whole agricultural value chain in working toward meeting food security and nutrition goals for all. David Nabarro, Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition to the United Nations, echoed these sentiments, adding that that "people in developing countries don't live in departments; it is a golden moment for development professionals to break their silos (and begin) working across departments."