May 21, 2010
Purdue Day at China Agricultural University
The celebration of the decade-long partnership between Purdue University and China Agricultural University began with the Presidential Symposium on Global Food Security before 400 people in CAU's main auditorium.
Event co-chairs Sun Qixin, CAU vice president of research, and Jay Akridge, Purdue Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, opened the symposium, welcoming a mix of government officials and CAU and Purdue students, faculty and administrators. Speakers included the presidents of CAU and Purdue, representatives of the ministries of education and agriculture, academic deans, and two World Food Prize laureates.
In his opening remarks, CAU President Ke Bingsheng reminded the audience of a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization summit in 1996 that pledged to reduce by half the number of people suffering food insecurity by 2015.
"They were criticized at the time for being too short-sighted," Ke said. "Reality has proven the challenges and difficulties were understated. In 1996 there were 800 million people without enough food. Now there are 1 billion people without enough food. Taking the world as a whole we are not better off, we are worse.
"In China, everyone my age or older knows what food insecurity tastes like and how important it is to address a situation that affects 1.3 billion people."
Purdue President France Córdova spoke of the complexity of the issue and the need for cooperative efforts to find solutions.
"Food security also means water security and improved quality of soils," Córdova said. "The presence of our two World Food Prize winners elevates the importance of the subject and reminds us at the university that we have a special role to play."
The government officials and CAU deans spoke on China's efforts to increase agricultural production to become self-sufficient in food in a country that has the world's largest population but only 7 percent arable land.
"China's ability to feed itself is a significant contribution to global food security," said Wei Zhenglin, director of the Ministry of Agriculture's Division of American and Oceania Affairs.
He Kang, China's 1993 World Food Prize winner, spoke of the increase in China's agricultural production and the reasons behind it. China went from producing 113 million tons of grain in 1949 to 530 million tons in 2009. He credited the dramatic rise in food production to better science, crops with improved yields, mechanization, a move from state monopoly for purchase and marketing to a market regulation of grain prices, and improved irrigation. China's former minister of agriculture, He won the World Food Prize for making the country self-sufficient in food production.
Phil Nelson, Purdue professor of food science and 2007 World Food Prize winner, spoke to the after-harvest tragedy in which much food is lost to spoilage, insects and the inability to move food to where people need it. Nelson helped develop food safety and storage techniques that make fruits and vegetables available year-round and easier to transport around the globe. Better food preservation techniques in developing nations would help farmers feed more people and allow them to make money through increased sales.
Nelson told the audience he wants to add a line to the proverb "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach him how to fish, he eats every day." Nelson said he would add "Teach a man to preserve his fish, and he can make money, build buildings, raise his standard of living."
Purdue Day at CAU continued with a meeting of the Purdue delegation with principals and students from Beijing area high schools. The students, much like those in America, wanted to know what were popular majors at Purdue, what should they take in high school to gain admission, what did service mean in Purdue's mission and what character traits should Purdue students have.
"They should be hard-working, good students and motivated," Michael Brzezinski answered. Brzezinski, Purdue interim vice provost and dean of international programs, speaks fluent Mandarin, which earned him applause from the principals and students.
Córdova told the group, "Purdue looks for leaders. We believe every student can lead, and we like to see examples of leadership in the student's background."
The high school students then joined college students at a Purdue Day exhibition that featured faculty and administrators from Purdue Agriculture's academic disciplines who answered questions about careers and educational opportunities.
An alumni dinner for 200, sponsored by Purdue’s College of Agriculture, and a cultural gala put on by CAU and Purdue students ended the day. The finale was an audience-wide chorus of "Hail Purdue." The collaborative entertainment efforts were a fitting end to the Purdue Day celebration and the Purdue delegation's time in China.