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Science for Development: Mobilizing Global Linkages

Science Forum 2009, was held on 16-17 June, in Wageningen, the Netherlands. It brought together more than 300 scientists from 55 countries, from advanced research centres, NARS, NGOs and from every CGIAR Centre to explore recent scientific advances in six domains and to identify where there is real potential to deliver an impact on development goals, and also to explore new modalities for research collaboration between the CGIAR and partners.

The Science Forum was organised by the CGIAR Science Council in partnership with the CGIAR Secretariat, the Alliance of the CGIAR Centres, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and Wageningen University and Research Centre. The CGIAR Secretariat co-sponsored with Wageningen UR the participation of young scientists from CGIAR Centres and Challenge Programs.

Six parallel workshops, each focussing on one of six domains (Resilient natural resource systems; The future of food: developing more nutritious diets and safer food; ICTs transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation; Beyond the yield curve: exerting the power of genetics, genomics and synthetic biology; Eco-efficiencies in agro-ecosystems; and Agriculture beyond food: science for a bio-based economy) were at the core of the Science Forum. The scene was set by a series of background papers, which focussed attention on the key issues and the potential within each domain. A lively and challenging debate ensued, which examined where real potential for development impact exists, what the most pressing research needs are, and what kinds of partnerships and linkages should be nurtured for these to come to fruition.

The Forum was opened by Annemie Burger, Director of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, who encouraged participants to focus on science as a basis for developing more sustainable food-production systems and consequently a more equitable world.

A unique and entertaining evening program offered participants the opportunity to sample ‘food of the future,’ high-protein insect snacks and novel foods, to illustrate their potential as food resources.

The contribution of the lifelong work of 2009 World Food Prize laureate and Science Council member, Gebisa Ejeta, in enhancing the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, was highlighted by Sir Gordon Conway.

The Forum finished on an inspiring note, with Rudy Rabbinge, the SC Chair, encapsulating the main messages that were presented by the workshop rapporteurs, and encouraging those assembled to take these points forward into future participatory discussions on the evolution of the CGIAR, and in future discussions on the global agricultural research agenda.