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Hon-Ming Lam

Blood, Soybeans, and Change

My Second Trip to South Africa

Tim Johnson/Unsplash


English Translation of Professor Hon-Ming Lam’s Articles During 6-20 January 2017.


Prelude: Science Without Borders

In February 2013, I participated in the World Soybean Research Conference in Durban, South Africa. A South African representative discussed agriculture's importance in achieving post-colonial economic equality: he thought that soybeans would play a vital role as a cash crop. I put those words in my heart.

Later, I got to know some South African soybean researchers by chance, and we gradually ramped up our collaborative efforts. TF and I set off for an academic presentation at the South African Association of Botanists Conference; we would also visit universities and go into the fields to renew our bonds with South African science. (Editors' note: Professor Ting-Fung "TF" Chan is an Associate Professor of the School of Life Sciences of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Co-director of Hong Kong Bioinformatics Centre.)

When I take Hong Kong's scientific innovation to the world, technologically advanced countries in Europe and America shouldn't be the only options. Developing regions such as Africa are equally important, and they present even more opportunities.

Science knows no borders; next stop: South Africa.


Cape Town

Before setting off to South Africa, I had a discussion on soybean research with an acquaintance in academia. I told my friend that the global trade value of soybeans reached dozens of billions of dollars. My friend said that the profit margin of a successful drug would be far more than that number.

When a person dies from hunger every few seconds in our world, and hundreds of millions of people suffer from malnutrition, we can't neglect food shortage.

Although food and medicine are both safeguards to the survival of humanity, different people have different reactions towards the two. Poor people worry the most about not having money to purchase food, while rich people worry the most when their money cannot be used to buy effective drugs. Developed countries with resources invest way, way more funds into drug research than agricultural research; as a result, they could attract qualified scientific research personnel to join their ranks.

When a person dies from hunger every few seconds in our world, and hundreds of millions of people suffer from malnutrition, we can't neglect food shortage.

For many developed countries, multinational corporations play a key role in agricultural research. If mishandled, it would become multinational dominance, potentially suffocating the agricultural development of developing countries. Hence, developing countries need to have their independent agricultural research as a safeguard towards long-term food security.

Coming to South Africa for the Conference, I hope to deepen my understanding of the agricultural development outlook of African countries; I am more than eager to begin collaborative research.

In the “food security”-themed conference on 9 January, TF and Hon-Ming delivered an academic report; they also made many new friends. (Courtesy of Hong-Ming Lam)