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Davos debates

Posted 02/02/2012 by sevans

In the Swiss winter resort of Davos last week, there appeared to be two groups of delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Europe and the rest of world with two distinct outlooks: optimism in most of the world and pessimism from European attendees.  The picture might have been different if the delegates had known that the next news about the world economy was likely to be less than optimistic, but again much of this week’s bad news has been from Europe.

Despite the hand wringing about the economic outlook, there was some ‘good news’ in terms of health initiatives, from the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amongst others, and there was still room for optimism regarding the outlook for feeding the world's ever-growing population.

Bill Gates reconfirmed the foundation’s commitment to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, announcing that the foundation would donate $750m to the fund. ‘By supporting the Global Fund, we can change the fortunes of the poorest countries in the world, ‘he said. ‘I can’t think of more important work.’

But Gates was also encouraged that the issue of food security is back on the G20 agenda. He also believes that the challenge of feeding the world can be met through innovations in crop science, access to information for farmers and new models of cooperation between governments and provate enterprises. ‘I believe the opportunity to double or even triple [food] productivity is there,’ he said.

A co-leader of discussions on agricultural development, Sandra Peterson, ceo of Bayer CropScience, said that the private sector is committed to playing a strong role in transforming agriculture to address urgent global needs. ‘Through our work with stakeholders across the food chain, we are uniquely positioned to understand evolving trends and challenges, to connect the dots and drive new solutions....We need to connect the dots ... from seed to shelf.’

The discussions were held as part of the WEF initiative New Vision for Agriculture, which was launched in 2011 and aims to foster the sustainable intensification of agriculture through a novel partnership model involving public and private collaborations. Six countries have already initiated action plans for such collaborations: Tanzania, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and India.

It has been said many times before that chemical and their related industry companies are the key to solving the major challenges that we all face, whether it be alternative energy or new ways of growing food. But just because it has been said before doesn’t mean that the industry and chemists themselves shouldn’t keep reminding everyone they meet that chemistry is the enabling science that can address these challenges.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    04/06/2012 07:00

    The one drawback to alnartetive energies like solar and wind is that they are not constant. There needs to be a way to store up excess energy for those times when the wind isn't blowing and/or the sun isn't shining.The biggest task facing chemical engineers is creating large scale batteries to store the energy. Chemical engineers, as opposed to chemists, are specialists at taking chemical reactions and processes and scaling them up for industrial usage.