The Responsibility of Privileged Nations

Educated citizens in wealthy and democratic nations have valuable resources to help ensure a better life for all. A major resource consists of the large and respected publicly funded research organizations and universities (e.g., Ohio State University). Their teaching, research, extension and public service functions can help address and overcome the problems of poverty, hunger, poor health, and ignorance.

Vastly improved systems of animal health and management, particularly available to smallholders and pastoralists in developing countries, are needed. These target groups need to lower animal health-related losses and increase off-take so that herds and flocks provide dependable income generation and not just serve as ambulatory savings accounts.

Improved and more dependable systems of staple food production are also needed to provide better food security for the poor. Greater attention needs to be given to enhance broad-spectrum insect and disease resistance and control, and heat and drought tolerance.

Less expensive systems of irrigation are also required to produce off-season high-value crops for urban consumers, as are the programs and extension projects to deliver these systems to the rural areas.

As citizens privileged to speak our hearts and minds, we must become advocates for access of all people, both at home and abroad, to adequate health care and improved educational systems. We must also become more active environmentalists. It is truly a shame that by and large those of us highly trained in the biological and natural sciences have left the field of environmental advocacy to those who are much less well trained and frequently highly biased in their approach. Our silence has often contributed to unfortunate policies based on ignorance.

Finally, we can and must become spokespersons for "science in the service of humankind." The recent debates surrounding GMOs is but one of many contemporary issues, but it illustrates dramatically how ill-informed policymakers can directly harm the lives of poor people. We must defend good and useful science whenever and wherever it is challenged.

The responsibility of wealthy nations to help meet the Millennium Development Goals in poverty reduction, environment, health, and gender equality is a matter of enlightened self-interest. World peace and environmental protection will not be achieved with billions of people living at the edge of survival and marginalized in the world economy. If we shrink from our duty or fail to succeed, in the longer run, democracy, peace, and prosperity for all of us will be jeopardized.

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