U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday addressed the need for continued innovation, research and sustainable food production to meet the food needs of the booming global population. The secretary's comments were made at a National Press Club luncheon held in advance of the first meeting of the G-20 agriculture ministers, June 22-23 in Paris.

Calling international food insecurity "unacceptably high," Vilsack urged the global community to work toward innovations that can produce more food, while limiting natural resources depletion. He also acknowledged the importance of growers, commenting that "research alone will not feed the world, people will."

The secretary said bioengineering would be an important component of food security, citing the development of fungus-resistant wheat and flood-tolerant rice as positive advances. He also called for increased transparency in data collection, information and regulation in agriculture systems.

Vilsack told luncheon participants that agriculture's role goes beyond providing food and clothing, but also encompasses energy, which he called key to decreasing the nation's dependence on foreign oil. He added that without the ethanol industry, gasoline would cost about 90 cents more per gallon.