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Unveiling of statue Thursday at CIMMYT Unveiling of statue Thursday at CIMMYT. cimmyt

With research, Mexico can feed its people

Food production will nearly double by 2050, says Agriculture Secretary

Research will be one of the keys to increasing food production by 2050 in order to feed Mexico’s growing population, the Agriculture Secretary said this week.

But it’s a race that can be won, said Enrique Martínez y Martínez, even though that population is projected to grow 22% to 150 million people by then. And there will be more food, as well.

“Those eating once a day will eat three times a day,” he said, adding that food production will increase by 70-80% by 2050.

One of the challenges is that many of the country’s farmers have small plots of hilly land, difficult terrain where tractors are often too big to function well, said the Secretary. Eighty per cent of the country’s farmers have fewer than five hectares, which reduces the potential for profit and productivity.

Martínez was speaking at an event in honor of scientist Norman Borlaug, who led efforts that began in Mexico to develop high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties that are estimated to have helped save more than 1 billion people in the developing world.

An American, Borlaug became director of the International Wheat Improvement Program at the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in 1964, and subsequently won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

Those efforts are carried on today at CIMMYT, where the Agriculture Secretary was speaking this week, and its researchers continue to win prizes. Sanjaya Rajaram, Indian by birth but a Mexican citizen, was one of those last year, winning the World Food Prize for his work in developing wheat varieties with higher yields by cross-breeding.

Borlaug himself has also been memorialized through an annual prize bearing his name. Presented to agricultural leaders under 40, the Norman Borlaug award went last year to another of CIMMYT’s researchers, Bram Govaerts, who is in charge of a federal government project called MasAgro, Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture.

It focuses on technological innovation with minimal harmful environmental effects for the benefit of small-scale maize and wheat farming.

At CIMMYT headquarters, located in El Batán, Querétaro, Martínez unveiled a statue of Norman Borlaug, who died in 2009, and renewed the agreement governing MasAgro.

Efforts to improve the lives and productivity of small farmers, and feed a growing population through research, will continue for at least another year.

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