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In remarks during the United States’ presidency of the United Nations Security Council, Secretary Blinken highlighted the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) to address the long-term challenge of producing sustainable agricultural production capacity. Later, Secretary Blinken spoke with reporters prior to leading a roundtable discussion on climate-resilient Indigenous crops and healthy fertile soils (VACS) with private sector and labor leaders.

Excerpt of Secretary Blinken’s Intervention at a UNSC Open Debate on Famine and Conflict-Induced Global Food Insecurity

(full remarks here)

…We must also increase agricultural productivity.  We’ve got to invest in adaptation.  We have to build greater resilience to future shocks, especially in regions that are affected by conflict.

Around the world, farmers confront soaring temperatures, eroding soil, disappearing ground water.  That reduces yields.  It makes crops less nutritious.  By 2050, climate change could cut output by as much as 30 percent even as global food demand increases by over 50 percent.  So, we have a planet that’s heading in the current – in the coming decades to a population of as much as 10 billion people with demand going up in accordance, and yet supply is actually declining, not increasing.

So as challenging, as urgent as the situation is now, we can also see what’s coming if we don’t take the necessary steps to address it.  Mitigating climate impacts is central to the United States Feed the Future Initiative, a public-private partnership to strengthen food systems, to expand social safety nets, to enhance nutrition in 40 countries around the world.

We’ve devoted over a billion dollars every year to this effort.  Last year, we expanded the program to eight more target countries in Africa.  To build on this work, we’ve now launched what we call the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils in February alongside the African Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization.  The shorthand, VACS – through this program, we’re identifying the most nutritious indigenous African crops, assessing how climate change will likely affect them, and investing in breeding the most climate resilient and most resilient varieties, as well as improving the soil that they’ll grow in.

This focus on the quality of the seeds and the quality of the soil can have a powerful impact on sustainable agricultural productivity throughout Africa.  Today, I’m also announcing $362 million more to tackle the drivers of food insecurity and to enhance resilience in Haiti and 11 African countries, like getting nutritious food to pregnant women, and helping farmers grow heartier and more diverse crops.

The United States will continue to do our part, but this is by definition a global challenge.  It demands global resources.  And we’ll be looking to governments, to companies, to philanthropies, to help us continue to improve nutrition and invest in sustainable and resilient food systems.

Excerpt of Secretary Blinken’s Remarks After the UNSC Open Debate on Famine and Conflict-Induced Global Food Security

(full remarks here)

Finally, as important as these urgent appeals are and as important as the work that we’re doing to address immediate needs are, we also have to take a long-term perspective, and make sure that we are acting on that as well.  By 2050, it is estimated that the population of this planet could be as many as 10 billion people.  Demand for food is likely to increase by 50 percent over what it is today, and yet yields – what’s actually being produced – are going down, not up.  We have to – and we are – addressing this challenge.

I spoke today at the council about one of the initiatives the United States is advancing that is a Vision for Adapted Crops and Soil.  And simply put, what that means is this:  We know that we have the ability to produce seeds for planting that are resilient, certainly more resilient to climate change, in all of its various manifestations – and are much more nutritious than some of the things being planted today.  We also know that the quality of soil makes all the difference in the world.  And we now have the ability to map pretty much any terrain anywhere in the world to determine the quality of its soil – where it’s good, where it’s bad, where we can improve it, and how we can improve it.

You put those two things together – seeds and soil – and you can powerfully address the challenge of producing sustainable agricultural production capacity with better yields, more nutritious crops, in a sustainable way.

We are putting $100 million to that effort.  Other countries are joining in, and we expect to see significantly more come forward in the weeks and months ahead.  This is a powerful new way to really make a difference over the long term in making sure that we have strong agricultural capacity and production around the world, and notably in Africa.

Excerpt of Secretary Blinken’s Remarks at a Roundtable on Food Security and the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils

(full remarks here)

But what I also and mostly wanted to focus on with all of you is this:  We also know that even as we have urgent challenges in so many parts of the world that we have to respond to – and we are – we also have the medium- and long-term challenge.  If the world’s population is going to hit 10 billion people by 2050 and demand for food is going to go up by 50 percent but yields are actually going down, we have a fundamental problem, a fundamental challenge.  We have been working to try to address that.

One of the things that I’m most excited about – and Cary Fowler, one of the leading experts in the world, known to all of you, happily has been with us now at the State Department for the last couple of years – we have an initiative that I hope can make a real difference that really focuses on crops and soil.  And there, I think as you all know better than anyone, we have the capacity to produce seeds that are both more resilient to all of the different aspects of climate change – whether it’s extreme heat, whether it’s droughts, whether it’s floods – and that could also be more nutritious and respond to what people like to cultivate on a traditional basis.

And at the same time, we now have a greater ability than ever before to map the quality of soil around the world, figure out where it’s productive and where it’s not and then to do something about it.  If you put these things together, if you really put together the seeds and the soil, you can have a dramatic impact, we think, on long-term productive capacity and sustainability that would really address the needs of people around the world.

I say all that speaking to folks who are really among the vanguard of dealing with innovation, who are on the frontlines of food every single day, and we’re really here to listen and learn from them.  So I’m grateful to each and every one of you for being here, and not only to look at what the opportunities may be for building greater food security, building greater resilience, but also how we can partner more effectively with the private sector and what the U.S. Government and other governments can do to have a greater impact going forward.

I’d just conclude by saying about 80 percent of what we consume is plant-based.  So, if we can get that right, we can make a huge, huge difference, and part of the reason that we’re engaged in this and I’m engaged in this in this job, which may seem a little unusual to some, is of course because it’s profoundly a question of doing right for humanity.  As President Biden has said, if parents can’t put food on the table for their kids, nothing else really matters.  But it’s also a matter of national security and economic security, because we know the knock-on effects of profound food insecurity.

So all of that said, thank you, each and every one of you, for being here, and I’m really eager to hear from you.  Thanks.

U.S. Department of State

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