Science and Technology for Agribusiness: US-Brazil Cooperation
Summary of a meeting with Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Morais, Brazil's Minister of Agriculture; Rubens Antonio Barbosa, Brazilian Ambassador to the United States; Michael Ruff, USDA/ARS/Office of Technology Transfer; Mariza Barbosa, Embrapa/SEA; Airdem Gonçalves de Assis, Embrapa Coordinator for Labex; Alberto Duque Portugal, President, Embrapa; Dwayne Buxton, Dep Adm, National Program Staff, USDA/ARS; Bill Geiten, Vice President of Coco Research, Chocolate Manufacturers Association; Dr.José Fernando Peres, Pierce's Disease Expert; Dr. Alan Stoner, ARS/BARC - Germplasm Exchange; Dr. Terezinha Padilha, Embrapa/Labex - Food Safety.
This seminar introduced a creative agenda for the bilateral relations of Brazil and the United States based on cooperation in science and technology for agribusiness. Given the essential importance of agriculture for the growing world population, and the need to improve environmentally sustainable techniques, the seminar presented information on the latest developments in agribusiness initiatives in the U.S. and Brazil
Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Marcos Pratini de Moraes, emphasized the extraordinary importance of current U.S.-Brazil scientific and technological cooperation in agriculture in the context of the FTAA. He stressed that for the first time in history, agriculture and rural development will be considered as key variables in regional integration initiatives. He discussed the Labex Program, which was launched in 1998 to promote a scientific partnership between the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and its Brazilian counterpart, the Empresa Brasileira de Agropecuaria (EMBRAPA). Bringing a U.S. perspective to this issue, Dr. J. B. Penn, from the USDA, underlined the importance of this initiative for the development of technologies capable of assuring environmentally sustainable production. He also renewed the U.S. commitment to free trade and justified recent policies supporting American farms by comparing them with similar programs in Japan and Europe. According to Dr. Penn, the U.S. pledges $19.1 billion in the farm bill whereas Japan and Europe offer $31billion and $62 billion respectively.
The panels brought rich information regarding the Brazilian and American organizational postures towards agriculture research, partnerships between public and private organizations, and prospects for international scientific collaboration. Particularly interesting, was the emphasis placed on technological research by Bill Guyton, representative of the U.S. Chocolate Industry. Heavily dependent on coco produced abroad, this industry loses one third worldwide production destroyed to disease and pests. As a result, this industry has been very active in promoting and disseminating research, basically under the auspices of the American Cocoa Research Institute, which acts extensively in domestic and international partnerships.
Panelists then discussed prospects for more specific collaboration on important challenges including Pierce's disease, germplasm exchange, and food safety. All speakers emphasized the importance of bilateral cooperation to improve the containment of disease and the effectiveness of research, and to promote the mutual enrichment of germplasm banks.
The United States and Brazil are clearly at the forefront in the advancement of agricultural technology and are destined to play decisive roles in the future of agricultural production and agribusiness. Their ability to design cooperative strategies aimed at research and development will profoundly affect the future of this vital sector.
by Alex Parlini