Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, is among members of a new commission, created
by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, to help ensure universal food security by 2050. Ejeta, shown surrounded by a crop of sorghum,
earned the 2009 World Food Prize for his work in developing sorghum varieties resistant to drought and the parasitic weed Striga. (Purdue Agricultural
Communication photo/Tom Campbell)
By Keith Robinson
May 11, 2016
Three agricultural experts from Purdue University have been appointed to a newly created Association of Public and Land-grant Universities commission to help ensure universal food security by 2050.
The commission, called The Challenge of Change: Engaging Public Universities to Feed the World, includes Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and the 2009 World Food Prize laureate; Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture; and Vic Lechtenberg,
special assistant to the Purdue president and dean emeritus of the College of Agriculture.
The commission is tasked with identifying research, education and engagement efforts public universities should develop to ensure that the three pillars of
food security - access, availability and utilization - are met throughout the world. It is expected to issue a report in early 2017, with final
recommendations on how to align the agenda to meet this challenge.
The 31-member commission is composed of leading scholars in the agricultural, biological, physical and social sciences, as well as development experts,
public university administrators and former senior government officials. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided financial support for the commission's work.
Purdue also has a strong connection to the commission chair, Randy Woodson, chancellor of North Carolina State University. Woodson is a former Purdue
provost and College of Agriculture dean.
"Public universities are uniquely positioned to bring together the brightest minds from across academia and industry to solve the world's grandest
challenges, and there are few if any issues that will be more challenging over the next several decades than worldwide food security," Woodson said in
announcing the formation of the commission Wednesday (May 11). "The world's population is expected to pass 9 billion by 2050, and food productivity is
already running behind the need. This important commission will strive to help build a sustainable food security model that can benefit communities across
the globe for generations to come."
The commission will offer a comprehensive agenda through the work of interdisciplinary working groups focusing on the entire food system, from production
to consumption, with the goal of identifying the key breakthroughs required in both domestic and global production and non-production issues to achieve
future food security. These working groups cover sustainable production systems, plant and animal performance, soil health, food loss and waste, inclusive
economic growth, human nutrition, food safety and sanitation, and knowledge and education.
The working groups will address these areas with consideration of crosscutting issues, including environmental effects of agriculture, climate change,
policy and governance and institutional and system changes needed to address the key challenges identified.
Increasing global food security is a key area of focus for Purdue University, with Ejeta being a global leader in this effort. He is a member of the
presidentially appointed national Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, known as BIFAD,
which met at Purdue in 2015 to bring greater awareness of the need to reduce hunger in developing countries.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced in 2013 that the College of Agriculture would receive more
than $20 million in university funding for plant sciences research and education to strengthen Purdue's leadership in developing new and novel ways to help
feed a rapidly growing world population. The plant sciences initiative is among
several Purdue initiatives designed to enhance research and educational opportunities for students and
broaden Purdue's global impact.
A component of the plant sciences effort is an automated plant phenotyping facility that will open this summer on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The
facility will identify and measure plant characteristics to help farmers be more efficient in growing crops.
The university also has begun construction of two animal sciences buildings that will equip faculty, staff and students with the latest technology to
support research, teaching and Extension to help meet global demand for animal protein.