THE DIRECTOR of the National Science Foundation said that international cooperation in emerging genomics research will play a central role in ending hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture in the years ahead.

Rita Colwell was the keynote speaker for the opening session of the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, which has drawn more than 200 representatives from 120 nations to Sacramento, Calif., amid tight security.

“If we are serious about making hunger and famine a thing of the past, we must use every tool we can develop,” said Colwell. “Plant genomics is a tool that holds fantastic potential to contribute to the well-being of humanity and to the planet we call home. This international conference is both a testament to the urgency of hunger and to the shared commitment to promote a new sustainable agriculture.”

Genomics research into plant genetics has enabled scientists to engineer crops that are salt-tolerant or drought-resistant, while current research is examining how to develop foods that are nutritionally advanced.

While these scientific advances are significant, Colwell stressed that international cooperation will be imperative to effectively address hunger and other global environmental issues.

“The importance of working together in collaborative teams and establishing partnerships to bring the latest scientific knowledge to the developing world is witnessed by the millions who die of hunger each year,” she noted.

“Our common pursuit of new knowledge is a powerful tool for bringing people together toward the common goal of solving problems and building a world of peace and prosperity,” she said.