May 24, 2013

Live Blog - Chicago Council: Trade and Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities, Final Symposium Panel

By Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank 

The final panel discussion of the Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium discussed the relationship between trade and agriculture. Chaired by the former Executive Director of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, the panel addressed the potentials and challenges of trade and agriculture.

Veneman noted near the beginning of the discussion that agriculture is often a make-or-break issue in trade agreements, which was also emphasized by the other panelists. Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam, President of New England Complex Systems Institute, joked, “You don’t need me here to tell you it’s a complex world,” and highlighted research done showing the relationship between food prices and political and social unrest. The two critical factors in this relationship are the conversion of corn to ethanol in the U.S. and the impact of speculation on commodity markets.

Agriculture and free trade agreements also, however, provide an important platform for increased engagement and cooperation across borders, said Dr. Shadrack Ralekeno Moephuli, President and CEO of the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa. Dr. Moephuli noted, as have many other speakers and panelists at the symposium, that the unprecedented levels of exchange of information are having dramatic impacts on local and global trade. David C. Nelson, global strategist at Rabobank International
, noted that social media is a new playing field for the exchange of information, and a means to recognize broader implications of actions.

Vice President of Rock Creek Global Advisors LLC, Michael Smart, highlighted the negative impacts of protectionist trade policies, especially those concerning agriculture. Smart said that developing countries are hurt the most by tariffs and trade barriers because they lose export opportunities. While Smart sees the benefits of regional and bilateral free trade agreements, they must “lead us back to Geneva and multilateral agreements.”

Dr. Bar-Yam voiced concern: “Decisions are mostly being made locally despite the global context in which we live." Nelson raised the question, “What is in the best interest of the world?” Dr. Moephuli noted the need to invest in agro-processing and post-harvest systems as “more than 20 percent of agricultural produce is lost in post-harvest handling.” He continued on to state that long-term and consistent investment for innovation and technology development is critical in the developing world.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

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International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


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