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212. Memorandum From the President’s Science Adviser and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (Press) to President Carter 1


  • World Hunger Problem

In December 1974, President Ford commissioned a major study by the National Academy of Sciences on World Food and Nutrition, which will be issued on June 20.2

In view of its Presidential origins and in light of your comments yesterday at the Cabinet meeting about world food needs,3 I am bringing it to your attention. This Study describes the potential for new research initiatives to increase world food production, especially in the less developed countries. Examples of the research initiatives are:

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• New genetic strains and other manipulations of breeding and farming practices to enhance resistance to pests, weather aberrations, and chemical variations in soils

• Increasing biological nitrogen fixation associated with leguminous plants and devising similar biological nitrogen fixation for cereal grains, to reduce dependence on chemical fertilizer

• Land management, e.g., use of ruminant livestock as foragers on uncultivable range land and on crop residues to capture one of the world’s largest wastes in food production

• Soil management practices to permit production on acidic tropical soils

• Reduction in post-harvest losses, which reach 50% in some countries due to lack of food preservation, storage, or protection from pests and rodents

The Chinese have used some of these and other methods to progress from famine to self-sufficiency in food production in 25 years.

This kind of research and technology transfer could form the basis of a new thrust in our aid to developing countries.4

Do you wish a group from the NAS to present their findings to you prior to briefing Congress?

I will arrange for briefing EOP staff and Cabinet officers.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, Staff Office Files, Domestic Policy Staff, Eizenstat Files, Box 324, World Hunger [2]. No classification marking. A notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it; another notation in Carter’s handwriting reads: “Frank—Join Zbig, Stu, Chip, Bourne & work together. J.” In a June 4 note to Chip Carter, Brzezinski, Bourne, and Eizenstat, the President wrote: “Get together & let me know what we can do about world hunger—J.C.” (Ibid.) In his diary entry for February 9, the President noted that he had asked Press to be his scientific adviser: “In the past most of them have been physicists—in fact, the first six recommendations that I got were for physics majors—but I wanted to get an earth science professor to help me in a more general way to assess some of the questions raised by the first report of the Club of Rome [regarding the fragility of the environment]. I believe Dr. Press will be a good man.” (Carter, White House Diary, p. 18)
  2. In late 1974 President Ford enlisted the National Academy of Sciences in a “major effort to lessen the grim prospect that future generations of peoples around the world will be confronted with chronic shortages of food and with debilitating effects of malnutrition.” The NAS, in 1975, established a World Food and Nutrition Study Steering Committee—within its National Research Council’s Commission on International Relations—responsible for preparing the study. NAS President Philip Handler submitted two study reports to Ford in November 1975. (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, National Research Council Annual Report Fiscal Year 1975–76 Senate Document 94–258, 94th Cong., 2d sess., pp. 15–17) The final report, entitled World Food and Nutrition Study: The Potential Contributions of Research (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1977) called for additional spending on nutrition and food production research yet cautioned that poverty served as a catalyst for the hunger problem. (Dan Morgan, “Social Change Seen Key to Hunger Issue,” The Washington Post, June 26, 1977, p. A–10)
  3. According to the minutes of the June 6 Cabinet meeting, the President indicated that he planned “personally to do more work on the issue [of world hunger] and noted the natural connection between dealing with world hunger and espousing human rights.” Carter “said that AID Director Jack Gilligan and Mr. Vance are eager to help with this work and noted that P.L. 480 is very popular on the Hill and might be used effectively toward these ends. He added that the U.S. entertainment industry has adopted eradication of world hunger as its humanitarian goal.” (Carter Library, Vertical File, Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 6/6/77–9/16/77)
  4. In a June 15 memorandum to Bourne, Brzezinski, Eizenstat, and Chip Carter, Press explained how transferring technological “know-how” to the developing world fit into the President’s larger human needs strategy. Press suggested that universities, government agencies, and, to a lesser extent, U.S. industry collaborate in this effort. (Carter Library, Staff Office Files, Domestic Policy Staff, Eizenstat Files, Box 324, World Hunger [2])
  5. According to a June 9 memorandum from Press to Mondale, Bourne, Brzezinski, Chip Carter, Eizenstat, Lance, and Warren, Press arranged for a briefing on June 20 in the New Executive Office Building. (Ibid.) In a separate June 9 memorandum to Mondale, Press drew the Vice President’s attention to the NAS report, extended an invitation to the briefing, and commented that he would work with Mondale or his staff if the Vice President desired additional information about world hunger. (Minnesota Historical Society, Mondale Papers, Vice Presidential Papers, Central Files, AG 8, World Food Problem) In the NSC Global Issues Cluster’s June 20 evening report to Brzezinski, Tuchman indicated that she had attended the briefing, which lasted for 2 hours. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Oplinger/Bloomfield Subject File, Box 36, Evening Reports: 5–7/77) No record of the briefing was found.