International food summit on campus next week

Global food safety and security issues will be in focus Sept. 10 at Mississippi State when leading international authorities on the subjects join researchers and government policymakers for a daylong conference.

University President Mark E. Keenum, a former senior U.S. Department of Agriculture official with wide experience in these issues, and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will be among those on the program.

Formally titled "Technology Implementation at the Local Level: Food Security for the Future," the free-to-all campus event is being organized by the MSU International Institute.

Cochran will open the morning session in the Colvard Student Union's Foster Ballroom with a look at America's commitment to global food security.

"The goal of the conference is to enhance the understanding of the importance that globalization plays in all aspects of our lives," said Benjy Mikel, associate vice president for international programs at the land-grant institution.

"From clean water and nutritious food to sound economic growth and stability around the globe, everyone has basic needs and desires to enhance their quality of life," he explained.

In addition to exploring new opportunities for Mississippi agriculture, the program will cover such topics as building capacity through technology and investment, global challenges and university engagement, and other issues related to the world's growing food needs.

"Mississippi agribusiness has long been a mainstay of our economy here at home, and plays an increasing role in helping feed the world as well," said Keenum, a former USDA under secretary.

"With advances in research and the deployment of new technology, processes and products, our state's farmers are able to reach more markets and provide safe, nutritious, and affordable food to a hungry world," Keenum added.

Among others on the program will be Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Daniel Gustafson of the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations; and Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes. The luncheon keynote speaker is Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

In 2010, MSU established formal ties with the U.N.'s FAO when Keenum signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on issues related to food safety and nutrition.

"One focus of Mississippi State's land-grant mission is to apply knowledge that can improve lives," MSU's chief executive said at the time. "I am pleased that we are playing a leadership role in these initiatives."

The signing followed a visit to the Rome, Italy-based offices of the FAO, where he outlined the university's capabilities for addressing these needs. MSU has also formed partnerships with World Food Program and other agencies to address similar issues.

Mikel, also the International Institute's executive director, said, "Today, we live in a global economy that is affected by numerous events and issues around the world. We must understand what is going on across the globe and be prepared to be on the cutting edge so that we can be proactive and not reactive for our state to remain competitive."

No-cost registration for the conference, as well as an agenda and list of participants, may be accessed online at

Jim Laird | University Relations

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