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AGRICULTURE REPORT — International Conference Looks at Agricultural Science and Technology - 2003-06-30

Broadcast: July 1, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Last week, an international meeting in Sacramento, California, brought together agricultural, science and environmental officials. They attended the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Agency for International Development organized the event.

During the conference, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman presented a report written by her department. The report advises countries to support scientific discoveries in agriculture. It says greater productivity would improve economic growth and reduce hunger.

The report identifies several technologies that researchers think will be important in twenty-first century agriculture. Genetic research is one area. Tools that work with single molecules -- nanotechnology -- may also help research on plants and animals. Another area is bioremediation. This is a process in which organisms could be used to remove pollution from the environment, like oil spills. And better ways to use and spread information through databases can help researchers around the world.

The administrator of the Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, also spoke at the conference. He said agricultural productivity in many developing countries is not increasing, as it should. He said these countries should invest more in agricultural technology.

Experts say developing nations invest less than one percent of their economic resources into agricultural research and development. Developed nations invest five percent.

One-hundred-eleven nations took part in the ministerial conference. European Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler was not present. European Union agriculture ministers were meeting in Luxembourg.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the conference in California. Large numbers of police enforced heavy security. No major violence was reported. By the end of the four days, police had arrested about seventy people.

Some activists opposed the conference as an event to support big agriculture businesses. They demanded that more be done to feed the hungry. Others opposed bio-engineered food.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.