July 16, 2012

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Speakers see past and future at
institute on global food security

By Tom Campbell

Purdue Center for Global Food Security, Julie Borlaug, Tim Sands, Gebesa Ejeta

Julie Borlaug (left), granddaughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug and assistant director of partnerships for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture; Tim Sands, acting Purdue University president (center); and Gebisa Ejeta, director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, spoke during the opening sessions of the first Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security on the Purdue campus. 
(Purdue Agricultural Communication photos/Tom Campbell)

When 2009 World Food Prize laureate Gebisa Ejeta prepared to address 31 graduate students gathered on the Purdue University campus the morning of July 9, he saw something more than the diverse collection of bright, eager, young students from around the globe. He saw the future.

“When I look out, I see the next generation of great scientists who will advance the cause and the legacy Norman Borlaug created and sustained,” Ejeta said.

Borlaug, an agronomist and humanitarian who died in 2009, is called the father of the “green revolution,” credited with saving millions of lives worldwide by developing high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties of wheat.
For his work, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He is the namesake of the first Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security underway at the Purdue Center for Global Food Security. The center was founded in 2011 as part of an initiative to advance global food security and develop leaders with the skills to help solve the world's hunger problems amid a fast-growing population.

The summer institute is the first step in a five-year program to develop the next generation of scientists to do just that. The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program is funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

While Ejeta was gazing at the future, keynote speaker Julie Borlaug could not help but make a connection to the past, to her grandfather who also founded the World Food Prize.

“If my grandfather were here, he would praise your dedication to science and technology,” said Borlaug, assistant director of partnerships for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. “I know he would wish you the best of luck as the future hunger fighters.”

Gabriela Morello at the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security

Gabriela Morello is one of five Purdue graduate students participating in the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security. Morello’s PhD program focuses on animal welfare issues.
(Purdue Agricultural Communication photos/Tom Campbell)

Using her grandfather as an example, she challenged the participants with the idea that “one person can change the world, and we need this generation to rise to the occasion. Just have the courage to do it.”

Among the students who come from places such as Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, the Philippines and the Ukraine are five Purdue students, including Gabriela Morello, a Brazilian working on her PhD in animal sciences, with a focus on animal welfare issues.

“In the field of animal science, we have different groups of people with different opinions and perspectives of animal welfare and animal production,” said Morello. “There are the consumers, the activists, the researchers and the industry. There are economic pressures for change in agriculture. And these will seriously impact the production efficiency of livestock producers. I’d like to learn more about the perspective of food security and the impact of those changes from a worldwide perspective.”

Morello was selected to participate in the program on the strength of her résumé and the letter of intent she submitted.

“I really think this program, because of all of the different topics we will be exploring, will be really great,” Morello said.

The students have been engaged in discussions with experts from a range of disciplines to brainstorm innovative ideas for resolving food security problems in developing countries, said Gary Burniske, who was appointed managing director of the Purdue center in February.

“The practicums are providing hands-on exercises in modeling different scenarios on how climate change, water availability and energy affect the future of agriculture,” Burniske said. “The summer institute will contribute knowledge and tools to help participants with their research and position them for leadership roles after they graduate.”

Before the institute concludes on Friday (July 20), participants will have toured four farm operations in Hancock County, visited the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and heard a variety of guest speakers, including acting Purdue President Tim Sands; Rob Bertram, director of the Office of Agricultural Research and Policy in the USAID Bureau for Food Security; Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture; and several university faculty members.


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