OUR OPINION: Mississippi State deepens role in UN food research

Mississippi State University enhanced its already-high profile as an agricultural research institution this week in formalizing its links to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, a key food production and sustainability agency with worldwide ties.

Mississippi State’s executive leadership, headed by President Mark Keenum, traveled to Rome this week for meetings of the FAO and signed an extension and expansion of previous agreements related to MSU’s role.

The documents formalized this week describe the university’s role as “ … a memorandum of understanding that expands the 2010 foundation for collaborations focusing most immediately on aquatic animal health, disease prevention and emergency diagnostics, and FAO recognition of MSU as a Center for Knowledge for Aquatic Health.”

Keenum is a former under secretary of agriculture for international trade and experienced in working with the international agriculture sector.

The memorandum of understanding, a university news release explained, “makes MSU a member of the Global Aquaculture Advancement Partnership and will engage MSU’s existing facilities and expertise in aquatic animal disease diagnostics and management to expand the work of FAO’s Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES). It is a component of FAO’s Food Chain Crisis Management Framework to prevent food chain emergencies, and to promote effective containment and management of the most serious epidemic pests and diseases and food safety threats through international cooperation.”

In plainer language, MSU operates in high cotton in agricultural research, and in many places MSU’s research presence is all that people know about Mississippi.

Mississippi State’s standing among its research peers is one of Mississippi’s strongest international economic assets. People in other nations who are well-fed have a better chance of prospering and their countries a better opportunity to engage in international trade that is mutually beneficial to their needs and, on occasion, Mississippi.

MSU involvement with FAO links it to the World Food Program and its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, reduce child mortality, ensure environmental sustainability, and enhance development activities, a collaboration that includes MSU research to develop a nutritional food source based on cashews.

Mississippi State’s high-visibility presence in Mississippi is just a tip of a deep and complex network of alliances, collaboratives, partnerships and participation in places and through groups too numerous to cite. Its intellectual capacity is one of our state’s major exports to create mutual benefit and prosperity.