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Robert Paarlberg

Robert Paarlberg

Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

 

Experience

Robert Paarlberg is the Betty Freyhof Johnson Class of 1944 Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He received his B.A. in government from Carleton College in Minnesota and his Ph.D. in government from Harvard. He has served as visiting professor of government at Harvard, as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate, and as an officer in the U.S. Naval Intelligence Command.

Paarlberg's principal research interests are international agricultural and environmental policy. His book, Starved for Science: How Biotechnology Is Being Kept Out of Africa (Harvard University Press, March 2008), explains why poor African farmers are denied access to productive technologies, particularly genetically engineered seeds with improved resistance to insects and drought.

He also has published books on the use of food as a weapon (Food Trade and Foreign Policy, Cornell University Press), on international agricultural trade negotiations (Fixing Farm Trade, Council on Foreign Relations), on environmentally sustainable farming in developing countries (Countrysides at Risk, Overseas Development Council), on U.S. foreign economic policy (Leadership Abroad Begins at Home, Brookings), on the reform of U.S. agricultural policy (Policy Reform in American Agriculture, Chicago University Press, with David Orden and Terry Roe), and on the regulation of biotechnology in developing countries (The Politics of Precaution, Johns Hopkins).

 

 

By Date

 

2012

AP Photo

July 20, 2012

"No Need to Panic about Corn"

Op-Ed, China Daily

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

"US officials have long scolded China for not letting markets work, and for trying to run too much of their modern economy through state targets and inflexible mandates. The damage done by the US' ethanol mandate in the context of today's Midwest drought gives Chinese officials a chance to tell their counterparts from the US, 'Practice what you preach'."

 

 

AP Photo

March 8, 2012

"Precision Farming Yields Many Gains"

Op-Ed, China Daily

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

"Greater precision in modern farming raises a farm's income, brings down food prices, and is good for the environment. China will want to move toward precision farming using its own unique mix of solutions, based on both high-tech and low-tech methods, including both conventional and biotech seeds. The new Chinese farming model that emerges can lead agriculture in all of Asia toward a more prosperous, environmentally sustainable future."

 

2011

AP Photo

August 2, 2011

"Famine in Somalia: What Can the World Do About It?"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

"The international community can also do things beyond Somalia, and indeed beyond the exigencies of emergency food aid. Rich nations, including the United States, can start by delivering the support they have promised to build Africa's own food-production capabilities. Small farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa need help to boost their productivity....What these farming communities need, above all else, is increased public investment in rural roads, electrical power, irrigation, clinics, schools, and agricultural research."

 

2008

June 2008

"The Truth about Food"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, Prospect, issue 147

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

"...it is a mistake to see high prices as a proxy for actual hunger. Most of the world's hungry citizens do not get their food from the world market, and most who rely on the world market are not poor or vulnerable to hunger."

 

 

April 22, 2008

"It's Not the Price That Causes Hunger"

Op-Ed, International Herald Tribune

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

"Africa's food crisis grows primarily out of the low productivity, year in and year out, of the 60 percent of all Africans who plant crops and graze animals for a living. The average African smallholder farmer is a woman who has no improved seeds, no nitrogen fertilizers, no irrigation and no veterinary medicine for her animals. Her crop yields are only one third as high as in the developing countries of Asia, and her average income is only $1 a day."

 

 

March 2008

Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa

Book

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

Heading upcountry in Africa to visit small farms is absolutely exhilarating given the dramatic beauty of big skies, red soil, and arid vistas, but eventually the two-lane tarmac narrows to rutted dirt, and the journey must continue on foot. The farmers you eventually meet are mostly women, hardworking but visibly poor. They have no improved seeds, no chemical fertilizers, no irrigation, and with their meager crops they earn less than a dollar a day. Many are malnourished.

Nearly two-thirds of Africans are employed in agriculture, yet on a per-capita basis they produce roughly 20 percent less than they did in 1970. Although modern agricultural science was the key to reducing rural poverty in Asia, modern farm science—including biotechnology—has recently been kept out of Africa.

 

 

February 29, 2008

"Africa's Organic Farms"

Op-Ed, International Herald Tribune

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008

"In Europe, meanwhile, some official donors and nongovernmental agencies are working to block farm modernization in Africa. Despite Africa's worsening soil nutrient deficits, European donors like to promote costly organic farming techniques as the alternative to chemical fertilizer use. This is not how European farmers escaped poverty....European governments and NGOs also promote regulatory systems that block the use of genetically engineered crops, including crops capable of resisting insects without pesticide sprays. Europe's own science academies have found no new risks to human health or the environment from any of the genetically engineered crops placed on the market so far, but since overfed Europe can do without this technology, underfed Africa is told to do the same."

 

2007

2007

"Patterns of Political Support and Pathways to Final Impact"

Journal Article, AgBioForum: The Journal of AgroBiotechnology Management & Economics, Special Issue: Biofortified Food Crops: Progress and Prospects in Developing Countries, issue 3, volume 10

By Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008, Carl Pray and Laurian Unnevehr

"To summarize and conclude this special issue of AgBioForum it will be useful first to present the lessons learned so far in the form of a scheme for predicting which biofortified food technologies will enjoy the greatest political support or opposition, and from which actors on the political landscape. The approach here is necessarily hypothetical, given that most of the biofortified food technologies currently under scientific development have yet to be released into any commercial marketplace. After offering this summary projection of likely political responses, this final section then examines the likely consequences in terms of actual nutritional impact."

 

 

2007

"Political Actors on the Landscape"

Journal Article, AgBioForum: The Journal of AgroBiotechnology Management & Economics, Special Issue: Biofortified Food Crops: Progress and Prospects in Developing Countries, issue 3, volume 10

By Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008 and Carl Pray

"Efforts to introduce novel agricultural crops or foods are welcomed and supported by some politically important groups in the developing world, ignored by others, and at times opposed by a significant few. When considering the political actors on the landscape most likely to take active positions either for or against novel foods, there is little or no evidence of political resistance to any of the biofortified foods developed thus far using conventional crop-breeding techniques, yet resistance to GMO crops has been widespread for much of the past decade. Which actors on the landscape are opposing GMOs, how powerful are they, and will their opposition weaken if the current generation of GMO crops carrying improved agronomic traits is followed by a second generation of GMOs carrying improved nutrient traits?"

 

 

2007

"Patterns of Political Response to Biofortified Varieties of Crops Produced with Different Breeding Techniques and Agronomic Traits"

Journal Article, AgBioForum: The Journal of AgroBiotechnology Management & Economics, Special Issue: Biofortified Food Crops: Progress and Prospects in Developing Countries, issue 3, volume 10

By Carl Pray, Robert Paarlberg, Advisory Board Member, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Former Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project/Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, 2007–2008 and Laurian Unnevehr

"Political responses to novel foods and crops can be specific to the new traits of those crops (agronomic versus enhanced nutrients), to the intended uses of those crops (food for people versus feed for animals), and also to the methods used to introduced those traits (conventional breeding versus genetic engineering). This article describes variations in observed political responses to three different categories of novel foods and crops: conventionally bred crops with enhanced nutrient traits; genetically engineered/modified organisms (GMOs), in this case, plant varieties with enhanced agronomic traits; and GMOs with enhanced nutrient traits."

 

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