Science for global food security | Inquirer Opinion

Science for global food security

From Oct. 16 to 19, the Philippines hosted the sixth International Rice Congress (IRC) organized by the Los Baños-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA). The IRC brought together international scientists, experts, and decision-makers from the public and private sectors to share science-based solutions to some of the biggest challenges to global rice supply.

The IRC provided a scientific platform for rice-based food system innovators toward shaping a food- and nutrition-secure future. Organized through various scientific themes, the IRC featured events and activities from international, regional, and national research organizations. Private sector groups from global corporations also had a platform to showcase their science innovations, build their networks, and secure partnerships and investments.

In his keynote speech, President Marcos expressed his appreciation for the conduct of the sixth IRC, which he believed would promote the development and use of more science-based rice technologies to promote global food security. In this event, he was handed a sample of the ultra-low glycemic index or GI rice from IRRI. Consuming GI rice leads to improved glycemic control which maintains blood glucose levels within a healthy range—a breakthrough for people with diabetes. The President said he looks forward to seeing more cutting edge innovations come to life through research.

Indeed, science has played a crucial role in ensuring global food security. World population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with demand for food expected to increase by 70 percent. Science can help surmount this challenge by increasing agricultural productivity, reducing post-harvest losses, and improving food safety.


The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was a prime example of how science can help increase agricultural productivity. The Green Revolution introduced new crop varieties that were more resistant to pests and diseases and environmental stresses. These new varieties helped increase crop yield and reduce hunger in many parts of the world.

Science also helped reduce post-harvest losses which occur when crops are damaged or lost during harvesting, transport, storage, or processing. There are, for example, hermetic storage bags that can help prevent insect infestations and fungal growth in stored grains. Food safety is another area where science has made a significant contribution. Foodborne illnesses affect millions of people every year and can be fatal in some cases. Science has helped develop new technologies and practices that can improve food safety. For example, irradiation can be used to kill harmful bacteria in food products.

In the Philippines, the DA is pursuing a Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MRIDP) to address present challenges in food security. The program mobilizes technological, policy, and social innovations in improving agricultural productivity to achieve the government’s target of 97 percent rice self-sufficiency by 2028. The MRIDP involves several science-based strategies such as climate change adaptation, balanced soil nutrient management, smart water management, and digital transformation. Pursuing a holistic “triple A” (agricultural productivity, agribusiness, and agro-industrialization) approach, the program also aims to attain economies of scale through farm clustering and consolidation.

On the whole, science has played a pivotal role in ensuring global food security. However, there is still much work to be done given that world population continues to grow, and climate change is expected to pose serious challenges to agriculture. To help address these challenges, there is an urgent need to deploy and scale up science-based innovations through a robust agricultural extension system powered by public-private-people partnership. Therefore, it is quite essential to increase investments and initiate institutional innovations in agriculture research, development, and extension to ensure sustainable food security for all.



Dr. Rex L. Navarro was director for strategic marketing and communication at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, headquartered in Hyderabad, India. He is member of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines.

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TAGS: Commentary, global food security

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