G20 leaders agree to New Wheat Initiative to coordinate research


As part of a broad agreement to work to improve global food security, G20 agriculture ministers meeting in Paris last week agreed to launch a new International Research Initiative for Wheat Improvement (IRIWI) to coordinate research efforts.

Primary objectives of the new Initiative would be to provide a forum to encourage collaborations among major wheat programs, public and private; to facilitate open communication and exchange of germplasm and data under existing agreements; to support data sharing through publicly-available databases and data standards; and to press the financial needs of the wheat research community to key funding sources.

The ministers’ action plan from the summit noted that the new Initiative should avoid duplication of projects already ongoing and add value to existing efforts.

Initially, the project will be coordinated by public research organizations in the United Kingdom and France and CIMMYT, an international research organization that focuses on wheat and maize.

The ag ministers’ statement said the IRIWI would be a first step toward creating similar organizations to focus on other major food crops.

In the coming months, details of the proposal will be fleshed out by participating countries, with a plan slated to be introduced to the scientific community in September.

The new Initiative is yet another indication that the world’s political and business leaders are increasingly willing to tackle the challenge of dramatically growing demand for food.

By 2050, demand for wheat is expected to increase by 70 percent, but annual wheat yield increases are less than 1 percent. Much of this deficit is due to relatively small investments in wheat research compared to other crops; for instance, global investments in maize research are estimated to be about four times that in wheat research.

The Global Harvest Initiative released a report this week estimating an annual $90 billion “agricultural investment gap” in developing countries, which will be critical to overcome in the coming decades to feed an expanding global population.

NAWG, U.S. Wheat Associates and other wheat industry organizations work to show the vital importance of increased investments from the public and private sectors into wheat research. Both organizations and allied state organizations signed onto a March letter supporting the G20 discussion that led to the new project.

Much more about this work is at www.wheatworld.org/research.

The full G20 action plan as released is at http://agriculture.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/2011-06-23_-_Action_Plan_-_VFinale.pdf.

Source: National Wheat Growers Association