U.S. SCIENCE AND THE THIRD WORLD (Kettering paper)   March 1982

a.  Population

      We have been treated to some good news recently about population growth. In the Third World, the rate of population growth was expected to rise to about 2.5 percent by the early l970s from 2.3 percent in 1960. Instead, the rate appears to have declined to 2.2 percent in the early 1970s. (Agenda 1980, p. 74) How good is this news? Does it mean we can stop worrying about population growth, or is it an irrelevant aberration?

      The decline of 0.1 percent in the growth rate means the Third World’s doubling time will extend to thirty—one years instead of thirty, not a significant difference. Yet the decline may be of great significance if it indicates that the world has turned the corner on rates of increase and is beginning the trend toward a stable population. This change would not affect the size of the world’s population in the year 2000 by very much, but it would make a large difference in the number of persons at which it levels off. The decline is also significant evidence that the family planning efforts of past years are beginning to pay off.

      Before discussing the effects of science and technology on the population problem, let us review some of the projections of world population for the year 2000 and projections for the leveling off point, which probably will occur sometime in the twenty—first century.

      The world’s population now stands at approximately 4.5 billion; it was only 2 billion in 1930. By year 2000, most estimates indicate that the population will exceed 6 billion. (Facing the Future, the OECD Interfutures study, contains high and low estimates of 5.84 and 6.64 billion (p. 12); North—South, 6 and 6.5 billion (p. 105); the Global 2000 Report, Vol. 2, 5.922 and 6.798 billion from Census Bureau figures (p. 26—28); and 5.752 and 5.973 from University of Chicago projections.) All concur that over 90 percent of the population growth will be in developing countries. The proportion of the world’s population living in the OECD countries will fall from 20 percent in 1975 to 15 percent in 2000.

      Of more significance is the divergence in estimates of the maximum world population. North-South finds the range of possibilities to spread from eight to fifteen billion. Interfutures guesses twelve billion. The Overseas Development Council estimates eleven billion if the replacement fertility rate is reached by 2020, but notes Robert McNamara’s calculations that if the replacement rate could be reached by 2000, the population would eventually level off at eight billion, a difference in outcomes equal to the total population of the earth around 1950!

      The vast differences in these estimates result from differing assumptions about human fertility behavior over the next twenty to forty years. The rate of population growth is, rather obviously, the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. Rising birth rates did not cause the rapid increase in the world’s population. Falling death rates did, particularly rapidly-falling rates of infant mortality. The lag time between the drop in mortality rates and the subsequent drop in fertility rates makes our era a transition period, from high birth/high death to low birth/low death rates.

      After mortality rates have declined, people begin to reduce their fertility rates when it is actually in their interest to do so, when they perceive it to be in their interest, and when they have the knowledge and the means for contraception. How rapidly this will happen in particular societies is uncertain; couples make their own decisions, and they alone can carry them out. They make them in the context of traditions and religious beliefs as well as in the context of economic, social, and political factors.

      Various measures can be taken to influence the decisions of couples of childbearing age to decrease the gap between lower mortality and lower fertility. Examples below are grouped under policy, organization, and technology to conform to our paradigm:


·         Change individual norms regarding childbearing and sexual behavior through education, exhortation, propaganda, raising the legal age of marriage.

·         Increase the direct and indirect cost of children by charging school fees, taxation measures, improving women’s education and employment opportunities, and enacting child labor laws.

·         Decrease the social utility of large families by providing for old-age security and by lowering infant mortality to reduce the number of births needed to reach a desired number of children.

·         Reduce the costs of practicing birth planning by subsidizing contraceptives and offering easier and more dignified access to services. (4)


·         Encourage voluntary planning associations, maternal and child health clinics, commercial delivery systems for contraceptives, information and education programs, sterilization and abortion facilities, and training programs for paramedical personnel.


·         Research and develop more effective, convenient, and safe contraceptive techniques.

      Viewed from a global perspective, it would be difficult to argue that highest priority should be assigned to the development of improved contraceptive technology, although technology development may be what we can do best. National policies that induce lower fertility rates and the spread of family planning services may be more effective, at least in the short run, in slowing the rate of growth of the world’ s population.

      Policy and organizational measures are taken in a national context; the diversity of problems and the social and cultural circumstances of each country require homemade solutions. Besides, the intrusion of an outsider, particularly another nation, in such intimate national affairs is often viewed with suspicion or hostility. The role of international participation in the policymaking process should properly be limited to the promotion of a better understanding of alternative choices that are available.(5) Even that limited function may best be performed by international agencies such as the UN Fund for Population Activities, or private bodies such as the Population Council of New York.

      However, the role of the U.S. Government in technology development is not only welcome, it is very nearly indispensable.

Contraceptive Technology

      Twenty years ago the discoveries of the oral contraceptive and of the intrauterine devices (IUDs) led many people to believe that the technological dimension of the population problem was solved. Few would hold that view now. The pill, the IUD, and sterilization are the main methods used in service delivery programs around the world, but none is ideal.

      The pill is considered unsafe for older women who smoke, are obese, or have high blood pressure; IUDs can lead in some cases to infections; and sterilizations are generally irreversible. The defects of each method are often exaggerated, particularly in developing countries, causing women to go back to less effective methods or none at all. The World Fertility Survey found that in most developing countries more than half the women of reproductive age want no more children, but two—thirds of them are not using any means to prevent childbirth.(6) Many of these women may be without financial or physical access to services. The development of reversible, less intrusive and simpler means of contraception or sterilization could improve both the acceptability of birth control and access to services.

      The World Bank’s WDR, 1980 estimates that of the people who use some form of birth control, two—thirds of whom are in developed and one—third in developing countries, roughly a third are sterilized, about 20 percent use the pill, 15 percent the IUD, and 13 percent the condom. Most of the remaining 19 percent use rhythm, abstinence, the diaphragm, contraceptive injections, various types of spermicide, and such traditional methods as withdrawal, postcoital douching, and prolonged breastfeeding.

      An excellent review of the state of the art of contraceptive technology, entitled “Prospects for Improved Contraception,” by Linda Atkinson, S. Bruce Schearer, Oscar Harkavy, and Richard Lincoln, appeared in the July/August 1980 edition of Family Planning Perspectives. The article states that some important new birth control methods have been discovered since the pill and the IUD, but efforts to use current knowledge to make major advances have been frustrated by shrinking budgets for research, inadequate planning and coordination by donors, and costly and complex regulatory requirements governing the introduction of new processes.

      Less than 2 percent of total government spending on medical research in the mid—1970s was devoted to research in the reproductive sciences and on contraception. Since then, public funds for applied contraceptive research have fallen by about 50 percent.(7) Data on pharmaceutical company spending is less easily obtained, but “Prospects for Improved Contraception” states that not a single new contraceptive chemical entity has reached the marketplace since the introduction of the synthetic steroid, norgestrel, in 1968.

      Public funding for biomedical research on reproduction began slowly in the United States due to traditional taboos and political timidity. Until 1959, the National Institute of Health was prohibited from supporting research explicitly tied to birth control. The private foundations, mainly and Rockefeller, funded most of the research in the 1950s.

      Rising concern over rapid population growth broke the public funding barrier in the l960s. In 1967, an Office of Population was established in AID, although only 3.5 percent of its budget has gone for research related to contraceptive development since then. At NIH, the Center for Population Research was set up as part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in 1968. The center has become the major source of funds worldwide for reproductive and contraceptive research.

      In 1974, an extensive Ford Foundation study of ongoing and needed contraceptive research estimated that funds for applied contraceptive research and development would have to be tripled to take advantage of leads developed through basic research.(8) Ironically, funding for reproductive biology and contraceptive development already peaked, in constant dollars, in 1973, and the drop in expenditures for contraceptive development has been sharper since then than for research as a whole.

      Of the more than two dozen potential new contraceptive methods currently receiving attention by research and development organizations internationally, five were chosen by Atkinson and her co—authors to illustrate both the problems and potentials of such research: nonsurgical female sterilization, a reversible sterilization for men, an antipregnancy vaccine, a self—administered menses inducer, and a postpartum IUD. The authors concluded that under favorable conditions some of these methods could be available for public use within a decade, but funding limitations in particular make it likely that none will in use before the end of the century.

      The U.S. government, despite the decrease in expenditures since 1973, remains the source of 60 percent of worldwide funding for reproductive research. Foundation funding peaked in 1971 and has declined by four-fifths since then. The Ford Foundation is considering abandoning the field entirely.

      For institutional reasons, U.S. expenditures are less effective than they might be. The NIH, the world’s largest funder, devotes under 2 percent of its research budget to contraceptive development. The NIH program must emphasize the health of Americans rather than the needy abroad, and its priorities are thus often in conflict with those of international research and development organizations in the contraception field.

      AID, although dedicated to the needs of the poor in developing countries, finds it difficult to invest significant funds in scientific research in any field, and for many years its population program was headed by a person who accorded such research a low priority.

       This pattern recurs in virtually every problem area we are concerned with here. The major research capacity of the U.S. government is targeted too narrowly on domestic problems, while our international agencies, mainly AID, have limited research possibilities. We have yet to find a way to bring our scientific strengths to bear fully on many international problems of major importance to the United States, such as the growth of world population.

b.  Food Production

      Predictions of world food shortages have moderated in recent years. One no longer hears dire warnings of imminent famine or mass starvation looming in the near future. Interfutures, the study by the OECD, even concludes that there should be no physical limitation to the world’s capacity to feed twelve billion persons -— the projected population a century from now.

      The new optimism is in part a cheerful reflection of a number of good crop years in a row. Since 1974, world cereals production has enjoyed a healthy rate of growth, rebuilding reserves to tolerable levels. Reserves have fallen in the past year, however, from 231 million metric tons in 1978—79 to an estimated 162 million in 1980-81. Despite dangerous annual fluctuations, and the recommendations of the World Food Conference of 1974, no world food reserve system has emerged.(9)

      Hunger remains a serious world problem, although there is some dispute over how much of one it is. The World Bank estimates that the number of malnourished people in the world could rise from between 400 to 600 million in the mid—1970s to 1.3 billion in 2000.(10) Those who believe that human food needs vary widely challenge these figures; many people can live quite well on much less than the bank’s standard.(11) The facts are difficult to establish because data are unreliable and standards controversial, and conditions are subject to different interpretations. On the one hand, the severely malnourished may be the lowest percent of the world’s population in recorded history; on the other hand, even at 2 percent the level is inexcusably high.

      The Brandt Commission states that while no one can be sure of the numbers of those who experience hunger and malnutrition, all estimates are in the hundreds of millions. The study concludes that there are about 800 million destitute people today, most of whom cannot afford an adequate diet.(North—South, p. 90)

      Policy and distribution problems create much of the current suffering. Developing countries (like the U.S., Japan and others before them) have sought to industrialize at the expense of agriculture and to pacify urban dwellers by keeping food prices low. A lack of investment in rural infrastructure and fixed low prices for output has retarded food production. In other cases, people are simply too poor to compete with animals for grain surpluses on the world market.

      World food production rose by 2.5 percent annually in the quarter century 1950—75, an unprecedented achievement. During this period, a considerable share of the increase was achieved by expanding acreage. In the future, acreage expansion will be both more expensive and technically more difficult to achieve. Estimates of potential expansion vary: the Global 2000 Report projects an increase in land under cultivation by 2000 of only 4 percent; the World Food and Nutrition Study of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that increases in crop area will not exceed 1 percent per year over the next twenty—five years, and could be appreciably less; Interfutures concludes that arable acreage could be expanded by 50 percent in developed countries and nearly 100 percent in developing countries in the aggregate, but this could be accomplished only partially by the year 2000. The World Bank estimates that no more than a quarter of incremental food production in the 1980s can be expected from acreage expansion (WDR, 1980, p. 23).

      The demand for food rises with income as well as population growth in developing countries, and this has led to a precipitous rise in their imports of cereals in the past thirty years, from relatively low levels in the 1950s to twenty million tons in 1960, over fifty million tons in the early 1970s, and nearly eighty million tons by 1978-79 (North—South, p. 90). Historically, a 10 percent rise in average incomes has led to a 7 percent rise in grain imports in developing countries (WDR, 1980, p. 23). Most of the imports have come from North America, where 20 percent of the world’s grain is grown, but where 80 percent of the world’s grain trade originates.

      Agriculture exports contributed $40.5 billion in foreign exchange to the United States in 1980, a figure likely to rise by 20 percent in 1981. Howard Hjort, USDA director of economics, policy analysis, and budget, estimates world demand for agricultural products will rise at 2.5—2.7 percent annually, and US exports are likely to take a larger share of the market, rising by 6 to 8 percent per year.(12) Congress and successive administrations have been enthusiastic about this trend, but the USDA agricultural research administrator and groups opposed to giant farms have warned that continued reliance on conventional agriculture for massive production increases could exhaust our soils and deplete our water resources.(13)

      The largest rise in net imports since the early 1960s has taken place in the middle—income developing countries, which now import 23 percent of their consumption of grains, up from 13 percent in 1960-63 (WDR, 1980, p. 23). Poor countries are also importing more, and their demand would rise more sharply if they could afford it. Africa is the region with the most serious problems. Per capita food production has declined in fourteen sub—Saharan countries since 1960 (North—South, p. 92), and The Global 2000 Report estimates the decline will accelerate in the next twenty years, despite the large land reserves not now under cultivation.

      The complexity of the world food situation defies so brief a summary as that above, but the perspective which emerges from the reports cited is that increases in food production in the past quarter century have been impressive; that these increases must be matched in the next quarter century; and that they can be matched, but with increasing difficulty.

      How much should this concern the United States? Since Herbert Hoover organized U.S. food support for our allies during the First World War and famine relief after the war, the United States has been responsive to hunger abroad. Freedom from hunger, one of FDR’s four fundamental freedoms, has long had pride of place among humanitarian concerns. Even if the United States were to abandon development assistance, some means would surely be found to continue our efforts to alleviate hunger, if only through emergency relief.

      Malnutrition kills prematurely and it contributes to many diseases around the world. In societies where as many as 40 percent of the children die before age five, most would live if they were adequately nourished.(14) Paradoxically, hunger contributes to high fertility rates, because no population reduces its fertility while infant mortality remains high.

      Malnutrition saps energies, reduces work output, and handicaps learning. Hunger causes unrest and threatens political stability in many parts of the Third World. But perhaps the greater threat to stability is fear of hunger, which prompts strong political reactions to increasing food prices from Cairo to Warsaw. Food is of course an international commodity with high inelasticity of demand; consequently world food prices affect American consumers directly.

      The United States can help solve food problems in many ways, but it is uniquely equipped to contribute to the creation of the new knowledge and techniques essential to enlarging global food production on a sustainable basis. American farm productivity owes much to our research system, by far the largest in the world. An estimated one-third of the world’s agricultural research capacity is in the United States.

      Research, as we know from our own experience, pays off, and the payoff is even greater in the developing countries. Studies indicate that research on wheat and rice returned thirty-one dollars for every dollar invested in high-income countries after eight to ten years, and eighty dollars for every dollar invested in developing countries. These are not firm figures, but a National Academy of Sciences study concluded that research on food production might yield annual returns as high as 60 to 89 percent in developing countries (WFNS, p. 46). No single set of activities or pattern of investments will solve the problem for future generations, but more research will be vital to the tasks of increasing acreage, slowing the loss of soils, and raising yields. Research has the unique capacity to push back resource limits. Virtually every analysis calls for greater research efforts:

      “Technical breakthroughs in ‘dry’ farming would —- perhaps more than any other feasible technical advance —— transform the prospects of a large proportion of the world’s poor.”   —-WDR, 1980, p. 37.

       Most of the land reserves of Latin America and Africa “are subject to significant ecological constraints and technologies have yet to be developed to exploit them on a sustainable basis.”—Interfutures, p. 21.                     

       “The continuing development and adaptation of new plant varieties depends on a sustained effort of research at international, regional, and national centers. Plant development has made great progress, but there have been signs recently of flagging international support. Much more effort should be put into both development and research, where relatively modest sums can have a large and well—demonstrated impact on production.” --North-South: A Program for Survival, p. 94.                     

·          “Recommendation: A new federal/state research program to increase fertilizer—use efficiency should be initiated. Techniques of special interest in LDCs and the tropics international research programs should be stressed.

·          “Recommendation: An expanded federal/state research program on biological nitrogen fixation should be initiated, with mechanisms developed to enhance international cooperation in this area of research.

·          “Recommendation: In cooperation with such international institutions as CGIAR and FAO, AID, the Department of Agriculture, and other interested U.S. agencies should help develop an international program of on—site research into farming techniques that are ecologically and economically sound, [including] projects in the humid tropics, the tropical mountain areas, savannahs.” --Global Futures: A Time to Act, pp. 85—86.                     

       Research needs were thoroughly and systematically studied by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences from 1974-77. The World Food and Nutrition Study: The Potential Contributions of Research, or WFNS, which emerged from that effort in 1977, contained contributions from 1500 people, obtained by fourteen study teams, and winnowed by a steering committee of fourteen leading agricultural strategists and scientists. In addition to attempting to identify twenty-two top priority research areas in the fields of nutrition, food production, food marketing, and policies and organization, the study’s authors analyzed the ways in which the work could best be done. They concluded that three foci of effort should concern the United States:

·          “a large part of the research needed will have to be carried out in the developing countries, where shortages are most acute; consequently the capacity of developing countries for research and its application must be substantially enlarged;

·          “the international food and nutrition research centers require continued strengthening; and,

·         “a large part of the research needed will have to be carried out in countries like the U.S. where most of the relevant scientific resources are found; the United States should enlarge and reshape its research on food and nutrition.”  --WFNS, p. 16

      The authors addressed their detailed recommendations primarily to the Department of Agriculture, AID, the National Institute of Health, and the National Science Foundation: all agencies substantially engaged in research bearing on food and nutrition questions. The study recognized that many other agencies play important roles affecting food and nutrition issues, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, and even the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Defense.

      To bring coherence to the array of government programs in existence or proposed, the study recommended that the executive office of the president design a U.S. strategy for dealing with world food and nutrition problems, and facilitate coordination of U.S. and international research activities on related issues. This recommendation was ignored, and consequently the study had no systematic follow—up. No agency alone was responsible for the broad range of issues dealt with in the study, so none felt required to ensure a coherent response.

      Organizational issues are not the stuff of which novels are made. They are less challenging than policy, less exciting than technology. People interested in the substance of a problem are generally content to point the way in policy terms and explain how to get there in technological terms without dwelling too long on the organizational means for accomplishing the job. Authors of WFNS deserve credit for patiently working out the organizational implications of their recommendations.

      It is no surprise that this call for planning and coordination from the executive office of the president went unheeded. It is a very unpopular suggestion. All departments and agencies resist losing autonomy to the executive office. Congress fears greater centralization of power in the president’s hands, especially in the field of agriculture, where the USDA often seems more responsible to Congress than to the administration. Constituency groups who have learned how to make their influence felt in the departments suspect they will lose sway if matters are decided at a higher level. Even the president is unlikely to welcome an enlargement of his executive staff, which he has usually promised voters he would curtail.

      Yet, lacking a central strategy to which government agencies are compelled to adhere, each agency interprets a problem in terms of its interests, constituents, history, and congressional mandate. As a result, our national effort on international problems is often inconsistent, characterized by gaps and distortions, even, or especially, when substantial national interests are at stake.

      Such incoherent effort is well illustrated in the case of research on food production. Here we have a vast agricultural research system funded at over $1 billion per year by federal and state governments. A Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1980 recommended that overcoming hunger be placed at the top of our priorities in dealing with developing countries, and that a far higher share of America’s research capabilities and research budgets be devoted to the task.

      In practice, none of USDA’s $414 million will be earmarked for research on food production in developing countries, although some domestic results may be found applicable abroad. The USDA research budget is divided in three ways. The largest share goes to in—house research chiefly at six national USDA laboratories. Next in importance is funding for fifty—six state agricultural experiment stations (SAES), most of which are in land grant colleges and universities. A miniscule remainder will go into a competitive grants program open to all public and private researchers.

      WFNS recommended that the competitive grants program, then little more than an experiment, be allocated $60 million per year for five years in order to attract scientists outside the agricultural research establishment to work on food—related problems. This recommendation was resisted by the USDA, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), and by Congressman Jaimie Whitten, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. They preferred increases in formula funding for SAES, which has no system of quality control or focus on problems of national, as compared with local, interest.

      In 1978, the first year after the recommendations of the study were made, USDA proposed $30 million for competitive grants, half what was recommended, and when the 0MB and Congress completed their work, $15 million was authorized, of which $5 million was earmarked for nutrition research. The unfortunate competition that has grown since then between Hatch Act funding (SAES formula funds) and competitive grants is one in which the latter are at a distinct disadvantage. SAES institutions are well organized and politically powerful, while competitive grant applicants are individual scientists.

      Research conducted by USDA’s own laboratories can be directed more readily toward national priorities, but no attempt has been made to place the problems of food production in developing countries among these priorities. In addition, the quality of these laboratories is suspect. A committee of the National Research Council reporting in 1972 found not one of the nation’s leaders in photosynthesis at work in a USDA laboratory, and none of the major advances in the past twenty years in biological nitrogen fixation to have been made or funded by USDA.

      Research for the benefit of foreign growers is considered the province of AID. That may sound like a logical division of responsibility, but it has drawbacks. First, it divorces research funded for developing countries from the mainstream of the nation’s food research. Second, in an operating agency charged with serving the basic needs of the poor, research budgets are under constant pressures from the regional bureaus, who see more immediate uses for funds. Centrally funded research must be defended in terms of support for development programs run by the agency in the field, and this produces a different agenda from one shaped to meet the world food problem.

      In FY 1980, centrally funded research on food and nutrition totaled $49 million, of which nearly two—thirds consisted of the U.S. contribution to the international agricultural research system of the consultative group. This is an excellent use of funds, but it does not involve a commitment of our national research capacity.

      In all, one cannot escape the conclusion that a very small proportion of the world’s largest agricultural research system is engaged in improving production in the food—deficient areas of the world where the problem is greatest and where anticipated returns to research investments may be highest.

      The wonder is that the world food situation isn’t worse than it is, with so large a share of its scientific resources devoted solely to the agriculture of the temperate zone. Massive imports from the temperate zone have alleviated in part the food shortages of developing countries, but also internationally organized research has resulted in impressive gains in output in some countries.

      The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is by now a world—famous enterprise, recipient of the King Baudoin Prize for Development; it is the Establishment in the struggle against hunger. Its creation ten years ago was a radical innovation in the rather drab landscape of international cooperation.

      The group is an informal association of funding organizations --thirty—five governments, international agencies, and private foundations -- which establishes and funds international research centers on agricultural problems. There are now thirteen centers, with a combined senior staff of more than 600 scientists from forty countries. They work on improving the crops and livestock that comprise about three—quarters of the developing world’s food, and on farming systems, food policy and national research system development. The budgets of the centers totaled $120 million in 1980 and are expected to double in the next five years. The centers and CGIAR are more fully described in two publications which can be obtained without charge: Consultative Group on Agricultural Research, a 62-page book available from CGIAR, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20433; and “The Consultative Group,” an article by Anthony Wolff which appeared in the May, 1981, RF Illustrated.

      CGIAR’s story is too well known to bear repeating here at length, but several aspects of the achievement deserve mention.

      The first is the role of the private foundations in the origins of the system. The Rockefeller Foundation began in 1943 to seek ways to improve the yields of food crops in Mexico. They began with maize and soon added wheat, investigating all aspects of crop production: soil management, agronomy, the use of fertilizers and other chemicals, irrigation, mechanization, and plant varieties. Their greatest success came through plant breeding, with the development of a dwarf variety of rust-resistant wheat that could use large applications of nutrients without toppling over, or lodging.

      This remarkable success, achieved in about twenty years, prompted the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations to join forces in establishing the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at Los Banos, the Philippines. Success was almost instantaneous; within two years, in 1966, IR—8 was released, heralding the possibility of doubling or tripling yields of irrigated rice throughout Asia.

      The two foundations established two other centers, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and set up international boards to govern them; but it was already clear that the potential contribution of international research centers justified far greater investments than they alone could make. A series of meetings of heads of major international assistance agencies, sponsored by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations but stimulated and led by Robert McNamara, culminated in the formation of the CGIAR in 1971. The World Bank houses the small CGIAR secretariat and the UNDP and FAQ share in its governance.

      The financial contributions of the two founding foundations declined sharply over the ensuing decade, but their influence continues to be felt. They have provided a level of professional continuity to CGIAR and to the centers which is unmatched by the larger donors, and they have been prepared to finance the early stages of development innovations within the system. These innovations included initiating research in water management, planning and launching the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and grafting social scientists to the core staffs of the crop—oriented centers. The foundations also took the lead in designing evaluation procedures and in examining the needs and possibilities for new centers.

      The era of foundation participation in the work of CGIAR, however, is probably near its end, since key figures have left their positions in both institutions in the past year.

      The second point is the role, or lack of role, of the world’s two largest agricultural bureaucracies: FAO and USDA. In the decade before the CGIAR was formed, FAO was indifferent, if not hostile, to the international centers, constantly concerned about status and credit for achievements. USDA has not been hostile, simply uninvolved. In 1980, for the first time, a USDA official participated in the U.S. delegation to the annual CGIAR meeting. The United States has contributed 25 percent of the annual budgets of the international centers since the CGIAR was formed, but these contributions came through AID, not USDA. Undoubtedly, USDA would have liked to be a part of the exciting evolution of the network, but under the antiquated system of allocating responsibility in the federal government, the assignment went to AID without the involvement of our major national research resources.

      This division of responsibility has a real cost. The international centers do adaptive, not basic, research. They need strong links to the sources of new knowledge in the laboratories of the United States, just as they need close ties with the national research organizations in the regions they serve. Had these links been forged through USDA involvement with the CGIAR, it is possible that more federally funded research would now be attuned to the needs of the international research community.

      Finally, the CGIAR system is not a finished product, a smoothly rounded achievement needing only to be maintained by budgetary infusions. It is an evolving system, particularly in its relationships with national research organizations in developing countries. Originally, the centers saw themselves as sources of knowledge and technology from which the national systems would draw and adapt. This gave rise to resentment on the part of local scientists, who saw the international centers as foreign enclaves, working in privileged conditions and reaping unwarranted credit for technical advances.

      Many centers have yet to resolve this problem, but IRRI has moved far toward becoming an organizer and leader of research collaboration among the national organizations in Asia. For example, IRRI sponsors an international rice-testing program in which new lines developed in the national systems as well as at IRRI are offered for testing in all the participating countries. Leading rice scientists gather at IRRI for a week each year to assess their results and plan collaborative activities for the next year. IRRI has a similar network for soils and fertilizer testing and sponsors an annual two—week meeting on cropping systems research. IRRI has also pioneered a network of social scientists from universities in the region, interested in the economic and social constraints on production and the consequences of new technologies.

      The list of research challenges to centers such as IRRI is extensive. Initially, heaviest emphasis was given to finding ways to raise food production yields per acre. This remains a high priority, but increasingly the centers are focusing on the production problems of smaller farmers operating with poor resources. This attention affects the choice of crops on which research is to be done. The list has been broadened to include a series of crops that are particularly important to resource—poor farmers: cassava, beans, maize, sorghum, millets, pulses, and others. More work is also being done on farming in more difficult environments; for example, 60 percent of IRRI’s research is now directed to rainfed rice cultivation. The centers also concentrate on finding the means to reduce the need for costly pesticides and fertilizers, to breed for resistance to insects and disease, to devise biological methods of insect control, and to maximize the biological fixation of nitrogen(15).

      The viability and continued success of the centers is likely to depend upon their ability to service national systems as organizers and catalysts of work on key scientific questions, and as transmission lines for knowledge gained from basic research in other parts of the world. Building the capacities of national research systems is a long—term task that will require both international and bilateral involvement. At the present time, more than 110 scientists from the international centers are working directly with national and regional programs in forty developing countries. In the long run, the international centers cannot take on the burden of providing scientific and management skills for national systems, although a new center, the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) was established in 1980 to assist the process.

      In the 1960s and early 1970s, USAID contributed substantially to building the capacity of institutions in developing countries for agricultural policymaking, research education, and extension. USDA and American universities played major roles in these activities. Since Congress legislated New Directions for AID in 1973, however, these institution—building efforts have gradually subsided in favor of programs more directly affecting the poor. The wisdom of that shift in foreign assistance policy is currently open to doubt. In Global Future: Time to Act, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of State recommended that AID and USDA should seek new ways to support and improve institutional capacities in developing countries, in cooperation with international institutions and the U.S. private sector.

      In 1980, AID allocated $100 million for science and technology related to food and nutrition by regional bureaus, of which $45 million was devoted to research. The World Food and Nutrition Study recommended that the United States should do more to train researchers from developing countries; to aid developing countries in the establishment of research facilities; and to encourage and support communication and collaboration among researchers in developing countries, in international and regional institutions, and in the United States, on problems of common interest (WFNS pp. 30—31). It specifically recommended tripling AID expenditures to enhance research capabilities in developing countries from the $30 million 1975 base. It also recommended that AID support the involvement of U.S. scientific groups in research concerned with food and nutrition in developing countries (WFNS, p. 140).

      The legislative basis for expanding AID’s efforts in food production research was and remains Title XII of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1975. This provision calls for strengthening the capacities of land-grant and other eligible universities to engage in programs of institutional development and research in developing countries. It is a long—term authorization for a greater university involvement in all phases of agricultural development, particularly the application of agricultural sciences to increasing food production.

      Title XII has yet to realize its potential. It has suffered from cumbersome procedures set up by AID to implement it, and from the suspicion by some people in AID and Congress that the land—grant institutions sought to use Title XII more for their own purposes than for those of the developing countries. The World Food and Nutrition Study acknowledges this problem by calling upon the universities “to recognize that, while they will benefit by gaining experience for their own research and teaching functions, the aim of Title XII is to help the developing countries primarily by supporting work there” (WFNS, p. 145).

      Title XII is likely to experience a resurgence in this administration, if funding permits. Peter McPherson, AID administrator, was himself a member of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), which oversees and promotes Title XII activities. In May 1981, a joint resolution of AID and BIFAD reaffirmed AID commitment to Title XII. One idea under study would permit dual careers for agriculturalists: a specialist would spend two years out of eight in AID and the rest in a university. This plan could give AID badly needed expertise.

      In addition to funding and staffing limitations, and the New Directions policy, AID is hampered geographically by its focus on low—income countries. Our national interest in lessening the world food problem is not confined to low—income producers. Many middle—income countries have a high potential for increasing food production, and many also have large pockets of poor and malnourished people. In addition, the middle—income countries can often provide both scientists and relatively sophisticated facilities for research on tropical problems, neither of which can readily be found in developed countries. Some better means should be found to encourage cooperation between U.S. research institutions and researchers in countries where AID is not active.

      In 1980 Congress, while declining to fund the Institute for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, approved a special science program (AID/SCI) that gave AID the authority to work with middle-income countries. This program is separate from the Science and Technology Bureau (AID/S&T) in AID, and transfers of research projects to AID/SCI from AID/S&T are barred by legislation; it is unclear as yet how much cooperative effort will result.

      For several years, the USDA also had authorization to work abroad, but FY 1980 was the first year in which funds for the purpose were appropriated: $1.1 million for scientific exchanges. In FY 1981, USDA expected to receive $1.4 million for exchanges and $2.5 million for international cooperative research. These modest funds will be especially valuable in reestablishing links between universities in the U.S. and those in developing countries where relationships were severed by the departure of the AID program.

      USDA will use its international appropriations only in non-AID countries, to avoid duplication of effort, but it does cooperate with AID through Participating Agency Service Agreements (PASA), under which AID reimburses USDA for services rendered. In 1980, AID funds for USDA services amounted to $25 million, supporting 850 technicians abroad for varying periods and training 1700 foreign agriculturalists. Under this arrangement, USDA supplies the talent but not the management or design of the activity. USDA’s main scientific and technical strength, and the attentions of its senior management, are not really engaged.


      Scientific and technological advances are essential if the world is to continue to feed itself during the next century, when the number of new mouths to feed will be at historically unprecedented levels. Priority should go to increasing output in developing countries. Because most of the malnourished reside in those countries, the largest potential gains can be made there. Science and technology are especially important in these regions because most of the world’s scientific knowledge of agriculture is based on experience in the temperate zone.

       To increase output in these regions, research is needed in laboratories in three settings: in advanced countries, in the international research system, and in the developing countries themselves. The United States, with a third of the world’s agricultural research capacity, does very little research for the benefit of developing countries and has cut back sharply on its efforts to help developing countries build their own research capacities. The international agricultural research system, initiated by the U.S. private sector, is a remarkably successful example of international scientific cooperation and provides a basis for further advances.

c.  Energy

      The problem of expanding energy supplies to meet the needs of a growing world population is complicated by the simultaneous need to make a transition from fossil fuels renewable resources. The energy transition, like the fertility transition, is likely to take another century to complete, according to the best estimates available today. The transition to a sustainable energy system capable of meeting the needs of ten or even twelve billion people by 2080 appears to be technically and environmentally feasible. But such an achievement will require more prudent use of remaining fossil fuels, and more systematic planning and development of solar and nuclear energy sources, than we have proved capable of so far.(17) In addition, relative stability in the flow of supplies and investment is assumed (EFW, p. 178).

      Time is a critical constraint. Historically, for West Europe, it has taken roughly thirty years for a new energy source such as coal or hydropower to capture 50 percent of the market; for the United States, the figure is seventy eighty years; and for the rest of the world, about one hundred years (EFW, pp. 100—101). These figures reflect rate of adoption of proven technologies. The rates have been relatively insensitive to major events such as wars or depressions.

      The rate of adoption of a new technology has thus been a function of the market rather than government action, but new technologies can be made marketable much faster by government and private investments in research and development.

      The OPEC price shocks of 1973 and 1979 served to remind us that a shift from primary dependence on oil is essential. In 1974, the world relied on oil for 49 percent of its commercial energy, and projections of demand for energy by the year 2000 were nearly three times the 1974 level. Oil production by that year, or perhaps before, is likely to decline in favor of other, dirtier fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas. Nonfossil-fuel energy sources, which we will eventually need to sustain the world’s population, will not be significant contributors to our needs by 2000, except possibly for nuclear energy.

      No subject has been studied more intensively since 1973 than energy, and probably the most exhaustive effort was the seven-year energy project at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna. The findings of the 140 scientists headed by Professor Wolf Hafele were published in 1981 as Energy in a Finite World. This study considered energy needs for the next fifty years, until 2030, but found it would take longer for the world to reach a sustainable energy system not reliant on fossil fuels. While recognizing that most energy policies are set by national governments that consider only relatively short—term options, the study group found that the most appropriate perspective for choosing energy strategies emerges only if one looks far into the future and considers the energy situation in all parts of the world. Energy is a global problem not just because of the uneven distribution of fossil fuels, but because the options selected by any major region will have widespread environmental effects and entail risks that affect the entire planet.

      There is no known way to meet projected world energy requirements for the next century that does not entail serious risks to the environment. Deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, for example, are increasing the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has been systematically measured only since 1958, but a seven—point rise has occurred in that period. Scientists fear that continued burning of fossil fuels will produce a virtually irreversible shift in the earth’s climate sometime within the next 100 years.(18) The shift may have some beneficial effects, but it could cause widespread disruption. For example, the most favorable weather patterns for food production may shift from the Great Plains and Russian steppes to the less fertile lands to the north. But no one knows for sure. The World Meteorological Office meeting in February, 1979, called the increased levels of carbon dioxide a problem of great concern, but present evidence was deemed too inconclusive to justify taking it into account in energy policy.(19)

      The increased burning of coal and wood has other serious side effects, such as increasing air pollution, expanding massive mining excavations, and accelerating soil erosion and loss of fertility. Nuclear energy has its own set of hazards, perhaps the more frightening because of possible genetic implications. The environmental dangers of radioactivity and nuclear waste disposal are compounded by the fear of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

      Energy demand forecasts may be too high. The largest users of energy have the greatest potential for conservation. The annual per capita consumption of commercial energy in 1979 was 8.1 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) in the United States, more than double the usage in eastern Europe and Japan, and far beyond the 0.23 TOE in developing countries (Interfutures, p. 33). Estimates that consumption will double in the industrial countries by 2000 are likely to be high, and their lowering would not necessarily lessen living standards. Estimates of a five—to—seven—fold increase in consumption in developing countries may also turn out to be high (Interfutures, p. 35), but if so, the cause (or effect) is likely to be a slow—down in their economic growth.

Developing Countries

      Oil-importing developing countries generally do not figure prominently in discussions of the global energy problem. They account for only about 13 percent of the total (WRR 1980, p. 15), a share likely to rise to 17 or 18 percent by 1990. The impact of the l970s’ price rises was much more severe in these nations than in the industrial world and has more ominous implications for their future.

      In the short run, oil price hikes have had a devastating impact on the balance of payments. Developing countries obtain a higher proportion of their commercial fuel requirements from oil (2/3) than do the OECD countries (1/2) or Eastern Europe (1/3) (North-South, p. 162). Their oil bills in 1980 were approximately double the total amount of development assistance received from all sources (Global Future, p. 92). The $50 to $60 billion annual cost of imported oil for these countries approximately equaled their net foreign trade deficit. To take a specific example, the total value of Kenya’s major export crop, coffee, is equal to the cost of that nation’s imported oil.

      These figures reveal a financial emergency in the short run, but their implications for economic development are even more worrisome. About half of all the energy produced by low—income, oil—importing countries is noncommercial, obtained from such sources as firewood, dung, and crop residues (WDR 1980, p. 15). The continued exploitation of these sources damages the environment and hinders food production. If deforestation continues at the present rate, forests will be reduced almost by half by 2000 in the Third World’s commercial energy consumption (WDR 80). This can affect rainfall and soil erosion as well as making it more difficult for the poor to obtain fuel. In Nepal, it already requires the full—time effort of one person to find firewood for a family of four.

      Another direct impact on human welfare in the Third World from higher petroleum prices is their declining ability to pay for petroleum—based pesticides, needed for farm productivity and human health.

      Interfutures concludes that only three policies can influence the global energy situation between 1990 and 2000: to implement energy savings, to develop nuclear energy, and to increase coal production. The Third World is not well placed to make any of these choices. Most of the commercial fuels consumed in the poor countries are used for the production and distribution of goods. Economic development depends upon increased commercial energy use. For every 1 percent increase in the GNP in developing countries, 1.3 to 1.5 percent more energy is now required (Interfutures, p. 33).

      In the United States, it might be possible to reduce energy consumption by up to 40 percent with a small decline in national income (Interfutures, p. 33). In Kenya, where it costs fifty—five dollars to fill the tank of a medium-sized car, curtailing Sunday driving is unlikely to save much. Savings in the long run may be possible through the design of less—energy—intensive methods of food production and manufacturing, but henceforth industrialization and development clearly will be more difficult, and more costly, processes.

      Nuclear energy is not the answer. Most of the energy requirements in developing countries are for liquid fuels, and in any case the cost of nuclear power is prohibitive. Coal may be part of the answer, but 90 percent of the known reserves of coal are found in the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

      The most probable outcome is that no answer will be found; that is, energy costs and availability will be a real constraint on the rate of development of the poor countries for at least the next two decades. The measures needed to alleviate the problem simply aren’t being taken. Such measures include accelerated exploration for oil, gas, and coal deposits in poor countries; extensive reforestation and the development of more efficient wood-usage technologies; expanded research and development of renewable sources of energy; and the exploitation of hydropower. These measures all require a heavy commitment of capital and of science and technology.

      The World Bank proposes a five-year program of energy investments in oil, gas, coal, hydropower, and renewable energy generation and wished to create a special affiliate to handle these investments. At the Venice Summit, the United States joined other countries in urging the World Bank to launch this facility. The proposal was endorsed in Global Future and supported by IDCA, the umbrella agency over AID. However, the United States recently announced would not participate in a new facility.(20) Ordinarily, nonparticipation by the United States is enough to kill a new World Bank initiative; this time, the idea may survive, but at a level lower than proposed.

      The World Bank has also concluded that to stabilize the firewood situation, reforestation will need to increase five—fold by 1990, from 1.25 to 6.25 million acres per year. The World Bank plans a five-year, $2 billion program for fuelwood forestry that will double current replantings and set the stage for further expansion in the last half of decade. Funding at this level remains in doubt because of uncertainty over the level of U.S. participation.

      In 1980, IDCA proposed a special program to regain American leadership in the development field by mobilizing additional world resources to tackle problems of food production, population, health, and energy. IDCA recommended an 80 percent supplement to the $1 billion AID expects to spend from FY 1982 to FY 1986 on energy, the increase to be concentrated on reforestation and the development of fossil fuel resources. This proposal was denied by 0MB, and it now appears doubtful that even the base figure itself will be allocated.

      The United States has indicated to the Third World that it can’t be counted upon for capital in the energy field, but can it be counted on to provide research and new technology development? According to the World Bank, for technical as well as financial reasons, it will fall to the industrialized countries to develop the supplies of new energy that many countries will need (WDR 1980, p. 16). In addition, geological and geographical surveys, and feasibility studies for fossil resource exploitation, require technical and managerial skills which many developing countries lack (WDR 1980, p. 18). Reforestation will require research: in Latin America alone there are some 12,000 to 15,000 plants almost totally unknown to science, some of which could have important uses as food, drugs, or fuel.(21) And, finally, energy—saving production technologies could be developed more quickly in the advanced countries.

      Unfortunately, we are doing little along these lines, despite the obvious benefits to the United States of developing new supplies or conserving energy in the develop­ing countries. A barrel of oil produced, replaced with more abundant sources, or not used because of efficiency gains gives the world a little longer to make its transition away from oil; speeds the transition itself; and by diversifying oil sources and increasing supplies, makes the oil trading system more reliable for all nations. Helping Third World countries stabilize the world’s remaining forests reduces the damage to the world’s air, climate, water, soil, and vital ecosystems. And finally, helping developing nations develop alternative energy sources and more efficient productive processes may be the most effective means to reduce the incentives of other countries to rely prematurely on nuclear power.

      The U.S. government understands this; the above arguments can all be found in official documents. Why, then, is so little being done? As a senior executive of the Depart­ment of Energy recently back from Africa explained, the United States wants to alleviate worldwide pressures on oil, but the amounts used in Africa and other poor countries in the world aren’t very significant. DOE spends $7 billion per year on research and development, employing 50,000 scientists in contractor—managed laboratories, but none are assigned to the energy problems of developing countries. Some of their work may be beneficial to low—income coun­tries, but the needs of these countries are not part of the motivation.

      The pressures on DOE to deal with our own energy problems are just too great to give developing countries much attention. DOE executives were summoned to Capitol Hill 300 times in FY 1980, nearly twice the appearances of the next most demanded department. They simply haven’t the time to think about small users abroad.

      Here again, the energy problems of developing countries are considered to be the province of AID. AID has increased its budget for energy substantially in recent years, and the agency does useful work. However, it lacks the technical competence to take on much of the job. Through PASAs, AID could have access to the DOE scientists working on topics of possible relevance to developing countries, but this is seldom done. This year, DOE’s Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) was ordered to disband its international department and deny AID requests for assistance through PASAs. As an indication of government priorities, the SERI budget was cut by $300 million while a like amount was added to funds for nuclear research.

      AID has other disabilities in this field, as was acknowledged in Global Future. AID concentrates its limited funds on rural poverty problems of the low-income countries. It is not involved on a large scale in modern-sector energy problems of developing countries and does not generally work at all in the middle-income countries.

      The U.S. position at the New and Renewable Energy Conference held in Nairobi, 1981, emphasized the role of the private sector in meeting the world’s energy demands. Government should focus its support on longer-term high-risk research and development, which private industry cannot reasonable be expected to undertake. Industry will be expected to support the demonstration of promising near—term technologies and to be responsible for their ultimate market or commercial deployment. In a summary statement made on April 1, 1981, James Stromayer, U.S. coordinator for the UN Conference, said that the United States opposed the creation of new UN funds for renewable energy financing and found no need for new institutions at the global level.

      The World Bank, in WDR 1981, implicitly takes issue with the U.S. opposition to special international efforts on the energy front. It argues that the institutional and informational barriers to finding and developing new resources in developing countries are often not fully appreciated. Private sector efforts are important, but foreign oil companies are sometimes reluctant to explore potential resources in countries where the rules may change if significant finds are made. The fact that most future discoveries are expected to be relatively small, primarily usable for import substitution rather than for export, also holds them back. Increasingly, exploration must take place in difficult geological or remote off-shore areas, where rates of return may be low. In addition, some projects of particular importance to the poor may not be of interest to private capital at all (WDR 1981, p. 48).

      The Christian Science Monitor reported from Nairobi that the United States was in an isolated position at the conference. The New York Times found this so unsurprising that it did not even mention such isolation. The conference was not considered a success.

      A pattern is beginning to emerge which is replicated in the fields so far discussed. The elements of the pattern are as follows:

·         Global problems require new knowledge and new methods;

·         The United States has the lion’s share of the world’s scientific resources and technological competence that might be applied to the problems;

·         The U.S. government agencies responsible for funding research and development in the fields are required by law to justify all activities in domestic terms; and

·         AID is expected to deal with the international dimensions of the problem.

       The defects in this pattern stem from the perception that it is increasingly difficult to deal with a major problem solely in a national context. In addition, our relations with the countries of the Third World are increasing in importance economically, politically, strategically, and environmentally. AID is too fragile a vessel to carry the burden of our scientific and technological relationships with these countries. As a result, important potential scientific and technical advances are delayed or foregone because of inadequate attention, and our relationships abroad are poorer than they should be. 

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