Water management and nutrition top the agenda at food security conference

New McGill institute to be launched at opening lecture will provide training, research

By Julie Fortier

From last summer’s floods in Pakistan that left millions homeless to Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake earlier this year, the food security of the world’s population is being increasingly challenged. Africa’s Sahel region faces famine again this year as severe drought followed by floods have devastated crops and livestock.

“The food crisis has not gone away. In fact, the recent financial crisis has resulted in more people being poor and hungry,” said Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

To discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the billion people who go hungry every day in the world, representatives from international organizations, research centres and government will gather at McGill on Oct. 19-21 for the Third McGill Conference on Global Food Security.

Wanting to address suggestions from participants at last year’s conference, organizers decided to focus this year’s discussions on nutrition and water management.

“There are about 600 million people living in semi-arid regions in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia where restricted access to water limits food production potential. We need to have a dialogue to see the magnitude of the problem and come up with potential solutions,” said Madramootoo. “Similarly, we put a lot of emphasis on grain and cereal production in previous years. We need to have a better look at the crops that give people the nutritional diversity that will satisfy their nutrient needs.”

As in previous years, the conference will include presentations by experts with diverse backgrounds and expertise. The conference will open on Oct. 19 at Centre Mont-Royal with an address by David Nabarro, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition.

The opening event will also include the official launch of the McGill Institute on Global Food Security. By creating a permanent forum to discuss and research food security issues, the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences hopes to continue to raise awareness about this global development challenge. Part of the institute’s activities will include overseeing a new BSc program on food security.

“Research centres around the world are telling us there is a shortage of people who can tackle food security problems. McGill has a role to play in training the new generation of scientists who are going to tackle these challenges. If we can get students interested in these global issues at the undergraduate level, they will be even more encouraged to try to find solutions at the graduate level,” added Madramootoo.

For more information on the program and guest speakers of the Third McGill Conference on Global Food Security, please visit: http://www.mcgill.ca/globalfoodsecurity/