Remarks Following Tour of Indian Agricultural Research Institute Research Field
Secretary of State
Here at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, some of India's top scientists are working to solve one of the most difficult challenges we face as a global community: the problem of chronic hunger and malnutrition, which affect nearly a billion people in the world.
You know, hunger affects the entire human condition. It weakens immune systems, it facilitates the spread of disease, it saps energy levels, it makes it harder for both children and adults to learn and work. It undermines peace, as we saw with food riots last year. When food is either scarce or prohibitively expensive, instability can follow. And hunger challenges our ingenuity and our common resolve.
I believe that the world has the resources to give all people the tools they need to feed themselves and their families. Nonetheless, hunger persists. That is why the G-8 and other countries committed $20 billion to end global hunger, in part by adding value to agriculture and extending the reach of valuable agricultural techniques. And the United States has committed $3.5 billion to this effort.
I was very pleased when President Obama and I agreed that it would be a signature issue of the Obama administration to do what we can to fight hunger and extend food security. And India is well positioned to help us lead this fight. The work has already begun.
Clearly here, where I just saw, the scientists are developing seeds that produce higher yield crops that require less water, farm equipment that conserves energy. All of this is part of meeting the challenge that we face with global hunger.
Now, research is a critical component of what must be a comprehensive approach to improving agriculture. We have to connect the labs where new technologies are developed and the research is done to the fields where the farmers labor to plant and harvest crops to feed their families, to the markets where crops are bought and sold, and finally, to the homes and schools of all of us who are not farmers, but who rely on the labors of those who are.
And for decades, as the minister said, the United States and India have been partners in agriculture. We have collaborated over more than 50 years. And today we are called to collaborate once again. We have to work together, because it's imperative that we invest in the science that will increase crop yields, that we do more to link farms and markets so that farmers can sell their products, that we expand the export of technology and training to bring more assistance to farmers in vulnerable communities, worldwide, and we strengthen our response to climate change, which threatens the waterways that sustain agriculture in many parts of the world, including South Asia.
This is not a job just for government alone. The private sector has an essential role to play. So do universities and research laboratories and institutions and NGOs of all sorts. Indeed, some of our most effective agricultural partnerships bring together people across this spectrum.
One such collaboration is based at this institute. It's called the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia. It is a partnership that involves: the government of India; USAID, our agency for international development; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Centers; NGOs and private companies. This initiative aims to help six million farmers across South Asia boost grain production to feed more people and strengthen the income of rural families.
In many respects, India's experience with agriculture is unsurpassed. Indians have practiced farming for thousands of years. The green revolution here in India saved countless lives and transformed how the world grows its food. Today, with only 3 percent of the world's crop land, India feeds 17 percent of the world's people.
So, as we look to strengthen agriculture and fight hunger -- particularly in South Asia, but also in Africa and elsewhere -- India's leadership is absolutely crucial. And the United States is today just as proud to work with and support India's efforts as we were 50 years ago, Minister.
I personally am very committed to this effort. I am looking for ways we can be effective in accelerating developments in a short period of time. I think that the bioenergy, biosecurity, biodiversity challenge that we confront is one that we can meet. So, as the minister said, we will be announcing the five pillars of our cooperation. And one of the strongest and most important will be agriculture.
So, thank you, Minister, for your commitment to working together to make sure that we do better to end hunger wherever it exists.
MODERATOR: We will take a few questions. First question, (inaudible).
QUESTION: My question to you would be (inaudible). What can India expect from (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are going to explore our partnership, so that we can be very helpful to India. As I said, there are a number of partnerships that the United States participates in right here, at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. Those partnerships are working to produce better seeds, better grains, hybrids that can grow with less water, new farming techniques, new technology. We have no limits on what we are going to be exploring together.
But our goal is the same. We want to improve agricultural productivity. We want to get more of the agricultural dollar into the hands of the farmer. We want India to do more food processing and value-added agriculture. And we are going to be working with India very closely. And I am excited about the potential that that holds.
MODERATOR: Next question, Lachlan Carmichael, AFP.
MR. CARMICHAEL: Yes, Madam Secretary. I have to go with developments from the Middle East (inaudible).
We hear that the Israelis are rejecting a U.S. demand to stop a building project in East Jerusalem. Now, I know the Obama administration has a very firm position on settlement. So your reaction to that, and is that the reason that Envoy Mitchell has postponed his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Lachlan, I am not going to comment on any specific point within the negotiations. The negotiations are intense, they are ongoing, they are extremely focused. And when we have something to announce, we will do so.
But as you know, this is a very high priority for the Obama administration. We are working on it every single day. And we look forward to making progress.
QUESTION: If you could just clarify, do you mean that the building project is part of the negotiations, or --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have nothing to add to what I just said.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, three quick things, if I may.
One, is there any new money associated with your coming here, or do you have plans for the U.S. government to provide additional funds to try to support these kinds of -- this kind of collaboration?
Second, can you elaborate on what you said? Earlier, you sounded quite upbeat about the possibility of resolving some of your differences with the Indian government on the issue of carbon emissions and climate change. But at least in public, what the minister said seemed to me to stick very closely to their position of not wishing to accept legally binding targets.
Where does the optimism come from? I will leave it at that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. With respect to the first question, yes, there is new money. The United States led the effort. It was announced in Italy during the G-8 to make a very significant commitment to ending hunger. And a lot of that will go into agricultural research, new techniques, adapting farmers to different ways to irrigate crops using less water, and so much else.
The $3.5 billion that the United States has committed is partly new money, and partly a reorganizing of money we've spent that we, frankly, don't think is delivering the result we want. If you look at what the United States did 25 years ago, and certainly 50 years ago, our aid money focused on helping farmers in countries like India produce a better result. Our money now predominantly goes to feeding programs.
So, we want to start looking at how we solve the problem. I mean, obviously, when people are starving it's a tragedy, and the world wants to help. But let's begin to use some of that money on the front end to produce locally grown crops, and create markets so that people will have a better chance to escape hunger. So we are working very hard. We have a big initiative. We will be talking more about it in the weeks to come.
I will just add this, especially for my American friends. When we started this initiative, I asked me chief of staff and counselor, Cheryl Mills, to head it up, because I feel so personally committed to it. She held the first meeting ever in the United States government where all the parties who are working on hunger and agriculture came together in one room: our aid programs, our agriculture department, other -- our trade and other agencies who have a role to play. And so, we are determined to focus our efforts and get results.
With respect to climate change and clean energy, I am upbeat, because I believe, based on my discussions not only today but previously, with representatives of the Indian government, that there are paths forward that can get us on a sustainable approach, globally, to mitigate and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and can begin to transform the way all of us produce, consume, and conserve energy. And I think that the Indian government today and previously have come up with some very innovative suggestions.
Again, this is part of a negotiation. It is part of a give-and-take. And it is multi-lateral, which makes it even more complex. But until proven otherwise, I am going to continue to speak out in favor of every country doing its part to deal with the challenge of global climate change. But what each country does in order for us to achieve our global goals will very likely differ. And that's what we are going to be working out in the months leading up to Copenhagen.
MODERATOR: Okay, last question to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Two things. First, several American firms are very keen that the (inaudible) is taken forward. And (inaudible) laws in India have changed so that (inaudible) on genes and other things can be done. How does the American government look at that?
Also, the fact that two Indian states -- three, rather -- have kept aside land for nuclear reactors that are American, are of American origin. What is going to happen after your meetings tomorrow? Can you tell us a little?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the second question, we will report on our meetings after they happen. So I don't want to prejudge what our meetings are going to produce. But stay tuned, come tomorrow. We will have a full read-out of them.
As to your earlier question, I think that an international patent regime is in everyone's interest, especially India becomes a leader in innovation and new technologies in agriculture, like you are in so many other areas: pharmaceuticals and software and the like.
So, what we're looking for is a way to protect the intellectual property that comes from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, just as we want it to be protected when it comes from the United States. So we are looking for ways that we can expand and create such an international regimen. And I think it is, as I said, in everyone's interest that we do so.
Thank you all.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sure. Yes, no woman got to ask a question. Go ahead.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am a little partial.
QUESTION: The thing I wanted to ask is that in our country, for instance, farmers who grow the food that we eat are often the ones who fight hunger. And we have 230 million (inaudible) but (inaudible) persons are malnourished.
So, when you -- I feel that when you push very expensive seeds and put into our market, that the cost for our farmers will rise, and it will not be matched by the amount of (inaudible) produced for. Is that a good idea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that this is, as you rightly suggest, a complicated problem.
But what is happening at this institute, just as 50 years ago with the green revolution, has the potential for transforming the opportunities for farmers to enhance their incomes. We just, for example, saw a form of rice that uses 30 percent less water. That will be a benefit for farmers in India, as well as elsewhere.
So, I don't think you can look at where we are today and extrapolate where we will be tomorrow. I think what we have to say is, "What are the problems farmers face today?" There are other problems. Lots of farmers can't get their goods to market. You know? They are subsistence farmers, because there is no market. So, farmers need to be organized. They need better farm-to-market roads. They need transportation. They need storage facilities, refrigeration. There is a lot that can be done right now that will enhance the incomes of farmers today.
And then, when you add new technology and new ways of farming, I think it's got tremendous potential. And given the very large numbers of people in India who are farmers, and who feed themselves, their families, and maybe beyond, in their villages and perhaps in larger markets, anything we can do to get more of the food dollar that you spend when you buy the food for yourself back to the farmer who produces it will be a big benefit.
So, I think we are looking at this in a very holistic way. Again, I don't want to undermine the complexity of it. And sometimes there are unintended consequences. But we're going to try to be very vigilant and very careful about how we do this.
And the other final thing I would say, you know, I met with a group of leading Indian business executives yesterday morning, and I was very impressed with how many of them are concerned about agriculture and productivity and nutrition. And we talked about a range of issues, including micronutrients, which a lot of the scientists here are trying to figure out how do we get into the food supply so that we can fight malnutrition from, literally, birth.
So, I think people are looking at this in a very creative way, and I am going to do everything I can on behalf of the United States government to be a good partner with India. Thank you.