The 2011 Harcourt Lecture

Harcourt Lecture

A Retrospective and Prospective Look at Global Agricultural Productivity Performance

Recent turbulence in food commodity markets reminded commentators and policymakers that ever-declining food prices are not guaranteed, that food prices matter, and that their causes deserve attention. Will the next 50 years mirror the pattern of the past 50 years, or is the era of ever-increasing agricultural abundance coming to an end? The answer turns largely on the future path of agricultural productivity. This address will present and discuss new evidence on the evolving pattern of agricultural productivity growth worldwide. Technological change is a main driver of productivity growth, but these changes play out over comparatively long periods of time demanding a long-run look at productivity. The prospects for continued agricultural productivity growth will also be broached, especially in light of recent trends in the amount and nature of investments in agricultural research.

The Speaker

Philip G. Pardey is Professor of Science and Technology Policy in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota where he also directs the University’s International Science and Technology Practice and Policy (InSTePP) center. Previously he was a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington D.C., and prior to 1994 at the International Service for National Agricultural Research in The Hague, Netherlands. He is a Fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and a Distinguished Fellow and Past President of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. His research deals with the finance and conduct of R&D globally, methods for assessing the economic impacts of research, and the economic and policy (especially intellectual property) aspects of genetic resources and the biosciences. He currently co-directs a Gates Foundation project, HarvestChoice (, designed to inform and guide investments intended to stimulate productivity growth in African agriculture. Pardey is author of more than 290 books, articles, and papers, including, Ending Hunger in Our Lifetime: Food Security and Globalization (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), Saving Seeds: The Economics of Conserving Crop Genetic Resources Ex Situ in the Future Harvest Centers of the CGIAR (CAB International 2004), Agricultural R&D in the Developing World: Too Little, Too Late? (International Food Policy Research Institute, 2006), and Persistence Pays: U.S. Agricultural Productivity Growth and the Benefits from Public R&D Spending(Springer 2010)

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