An increase in food production and the use of bio-technologies in other countries are two steps that need to occur in order to improve food security abroad.
That was the message from former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who spoke Saturday during the 25th anniversary of the William Laws Peacemaking Lecture at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus before an audience of more than 100.
Global food security remains an important issue as developing countries continue to struggle, said Lugar, who represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate from 1976 to 2013.
Lugar currently serves as president of the Lugar Center, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on global security, weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation, foreign aid effectiveness and bipartisan governance.
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“Too many countries have rejected the bio-technologies of food security,” Lugar said. “More than 10 percent of the world population suffers from chronic hunger.”
Lugar championed efforts for global food security while chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he said.
“If we fail to accelerate food production, many people will die,” he said.
That is particularly important as the world population is expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, Lugar said.
About 21,000 people die each day from starvation, and continued population growth will put a greater demand on the overall food supply, he said.
The United States needs to promote GMO, or genetically modified organisms, technologies to help farmers in other countries meet their needs, Lugar said.
Some farmers are concerned that GMO technologies could affect land or forests nearby, while others feel seeds or fertilizers don’t make a difference, Lugar said.
“We should be focusing on what global agriculture should look like in 10 to 20 years from now and how to get there,” Lugar said.
Nancy Franke, a Lutheran school teacher in Columbus who lives in Seymour, said she found Lugar’s lecture educational.
“It gave me a greater understanding of global issues we’re facing and how the agricultural dynamic pieces play an important part of this,” said Franke, who has announced her Republican candidacy for Indiana House District 69 in next year’s election.
Natasha Lingford, also of Seymour, agreed with Lugar that the global food shortage needs to be a focus, and feels education is one way to tackle it.
“There needs to be a better understanding from the public perspective,” she said.
Columbus resident Bruce Thomason said Lugar’s work as a public servant drew him to the lecture.
While Thomason said he agrees that food security is a global issue, he feels it needs to be addressed in United States.
“Everyone has a role,” Thomason said.
Another issue that needs to be a focus in Congress is climate change, which suffered a setback when the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord earlier this year, Lugar said.
“We need to get back together on the Paris agreement and every other country recognizes the dilemma we’re facing,” he said. “We have a great leadership responsibility.”
Lugar, who took questions from the audience after his 40-minute speech, was asked about foreign affairs tied to North Korea and its nuclear weapons. He called the matter a potentially dangerous one not only for citizens of North Korea, but the rest of the world.
Lugar said he hopes it can be dealt with through diplomacy.
“It’s a situation that must come to an end,” he said. “This is a political horror on the horizon.”
Individuals in attendance got an opportunity to talk and take photos with the longtime senator during a reception.
“If we fail to accelerate food production, many people will die.”
– Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana