World Food Prize delegates: Private sector seed distribution vital

Delegates at a World Food Prize forum this week in Des Moines, Iowa discussed the impact of public-private collaborations on getting better quality seeds to smallholder farmers faster with the ultimate goal of meeting food security targets.

By 2050, the world population is estimated to rise to 9 billion while 800 million people currently go hungry every day. The biggest hurdle to feeding those hungry individuals worldwide is getting enough crop varieties that are nutritionally enhanced and drought tolerant into the hands of smallholder farmers in developing countries.

“We’re hamstrung when it comes to getting improved seeds into the hands of farmers due to a lack of affordable production capabilities,” Arturo Silva, leader of the International Maize Improvement Consortium in Latin America (IMIC-LA) at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City, said. “That’s where private sector seed companies come in and we need collaborations to ensure the seed gets to farmers.”

The MasAgro project brings together CIMMYT scientists and the Mexican government to promote sustainable expansion of maize and wheat production. Private seed companies distribute seeds through IMIC-LA to sub-tropical, tropical and highland environments. Yet there is still a lot more work to do, the experts said.

“We still have 2.5 million hectares to convert from old products to new hybrids, but we are convinced we can make Mexico self-sufficient in maize,” Silva said. “We must democratize seed through public-private partnerships to help farmers who still lack access to technology.”

Organizations in this story

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Carretera México-Veracruz El Batán, Texcoco CP 56237

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