On Wednesday May 6th, 2015, Dr. Morven McLean, the Executive Director of the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation (ILSI Research Foundation), and Dr. David Gustafson, the Director of the ILSI Research Foundation’s Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security (CIMSANS) introduced the ILSI Research Foundation and the work it does regarding risk management, agriculture, and food security.
They emphasized the role of food systems, explaining how the nutritional content of food consumed contributes to the ‘nutrient’ security aspects of sustainable nutrition security. They further detailed the ILSI Research Foundation efforts to better quantify food system contributions to sustainable agriculture and nutrition security.
Dr. Morven McLean received her B.Sc. (Agr.) from McGill University, M.Sc. in environmental biology from the University of Guelph, and Ph.D. in molecular plant virology from the University of British Columbia. She has held the position of Chief of Canada’s Plant Biotechnology Office, the federal regulatory authority for the assessment and release of genetically modified plants, and was President of AGBIOS, a consultancy that works internationally with governments, non-governmental organizations, and the public and private sectors on issues of policy and regulation pertaining to genetically modified foods, crops, and forest tree species.
Morven has also served as a technical expert on biosafety risk assessment, regulation and policy for a number of organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development, the United National Environmental Program and the Secretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as many national governments. In 2009, Morven joined the ILSI Research Foundation in Washington D.C. as Director of the Center for Environmental Risk Assessment, and in 2013 was additionally appointed Director of the Research Foundation’s Center for Safety Assessment of Food and Feed as well as ILSI co-lead for sustainable agriculture and nutrition security across the organization internationally. Morven assumed her current position as Executive Director, ILSI Research Foundation, on 1 January 2015.
Dr. David Gustafson serves as Director of the ILSI Research Foundation’s Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security (CIMSANS). Dave’s academic training was at Stanford University and the University of Washington in Seattle, where he earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in chemical engineering. His research on the environmental challenges surrounding agriculture has now spanned more than 30 years (primarily at Monsanto, from which he recently retired). The initial focus of his work was the development of new computer models for predicting the environmental behavior of crop chemicals, especially their potential impacts on water quality.
In subsequent years, Dave developed new modeling approaches to pollen-mediated gene flow and the population genetics of insect and weed resistance. In 2007, Dave served as an inaugural member and theme lead for the Monsanto Fellows Climate Change Panel, which reported back to the company on the degree of scientific certainty in climate modeling, and how climate change is already impacting agriculture around the world. He has served on various national and international teams looking at these issues, including the Executive Secretariat of the US Government’s National Climate Assessment Development & Advisory Committee.
The International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation (ILSI Research Foundation) is a non-profit, public charitable organization with a mission to improve environmental sustainability and human health by advancing science to address real-world problems. Established in 1984, the ILSI Research Foundation has long been an international leader in building effective public-private partnerships by ensuring that its programs are collaboratively developed and implemented with scientists from the private, academic, government and non-governmental sectors. Adherence to this approach means that the ILSI Research Foundation’s programs in nutrition, toxicology, risk assessment, and agriculture are informed and strengthened by the deliberate inclusion of international, multi-sectoral expertise and perspectives.
ILSI is a non-profit, worldwide federation of entities comprised of the ILSI Research Foundation, the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI), and 16 countries or regional branches (see www.ilsi.org). The ILSI Research Foundation differs from the other entities in that it is financially supported through grants it receives from public and private sector organizations, while HESI and the ILSI branches are membership-based organizations that receive funding primarily through member fees. All of the ILSI entities are collaborative science organizations that convene scientists from government, academy, industry and civil society organizations to generate scientific information and encourage scientific dialogue. ILSI’s work must be for public benefit.
Diminishing availability of natural resources, growing populations, and increasing financial constraints put pressure on society to achieve more with less in ensuring human safety and well-being. We must recognize these mounting limitations when developing and using decision-support methods critical to effective risk management. New approaches, created with the understanding that resources are likely to remain scarce, must be considered in order to reduce environmental impacts from agriculture and improve food and nutrition security.
There is a growing need for a global assessment of sustainable nutrition security, given the constraints of growing global demand, climate change, dwindling resources, nutrition needs, and other factors. The establishment of new Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 presents the agriculture and nutrition communities with a critical opportunity to raise awareness of multiple, interrelated variables that require research and investment. In order to avoid simplifying nutrition security efforts to one metric or another, the ILSI Research Foundation has coordinated with scientists across the public and private sectors to develop a novel combination of metrics intended to quantify the role of food systems in providing for “sustainable nutrition security” (SNS). We also see a convergence of many new advances in information technology that can be brought to bear on these challenges: including data science (so-called “Big Data”), mobile phone applications (“apps”), open data, and improved computer model simulation capabilities. Through our extensive network of collaborating scientists, we are exploring innovative uses of the metrics in consumer- and smallholder-farmer apps that will result in improved sustainability and nutrition outcomes.
Representatives from government, civil society organizations, industry, academia, health and professional groups, and international organizations need to come together to collectively identify and address nutrition security so that the quality of the scientific output related to this complex issue is informed by a multiplicity of expertise and experience. At the ILSI Research Foundation, we have established and continue to grow a network of experts who provide a range of perspectives on the issues we address, which fosters productive and rewarding scientific dialogue. Projects are designed, vetted, and steered by independent and highly respected experts in a process that is transparent to all stakeholders from beginning to end. The outputs from our work are shared using a combination of traditional and new media to continually raise awareness, solicit feedback and ultimately improve the work that we are doing.