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Agricultural innovation critical to increasing productivity

Greater international collaboration and investment in research is needed (© Simone D McCourtie/World Bank)
Greater international collaboration and investment in research is needed
© Simone D McCourtie/World Bank

Greater international collaboration and investment in research is needed to safeguard productivity gains made over the last 50 years and meet future food demand, a report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has concluded. The report examines investment trends in agricultural research and development worldwide and highlights the increasingly influential roles of Brazil, China and India in global agricultural R&D, changing private-public sector roles, and the limited national research capacity of many developing countries.

The report highlights the wealth of agricultural knowledge that exist 'internationally' and states that most countries are not taking full advantage of this knowledge that could be adapted to local environments elsewhere. Analysis reveals that most sub-Saharan countries could gain from research carried out elsewhere, potentially adding to at least 15 times - and on average nearly 600 times - their locally produced agricultural knowledge by adapting and adopting innovations produced in other countries.

"The changing international interconnectedness of agricultural innovations - and the R&D systems supporting these innovation processes - should be part of a new way of thinking about global economic development prospects for the 21st century," the report states. "It typically takes decades for R&D to do its magic, principally by way of improved productivity and sustainable economic growth. Decisions taken and especially R&D investments made now will have profound domestic and global consequences through the middle of this century and beyond."

The report argues that if the world is going to feed 2 billion more people by 2050, without increasing land used in agriculture, those making decisions that affect agricultural R&D must be better informed about the changing nature of agricultural innovation processes worldwide and how best to leverage R&D investments for every country.

Date published: May 2013

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