Last week the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) released the first of five policy issue briefs bringing a global focus to meeting the agricultural needs of a rapidly growing global population by increasing the rate of agricultural productivity; a recent GHI report suggests that the rate of agricultural productivity must increase at a minimum of 25% per year to meet future demand and double output over the next 40 years.
The policy issue brief, "Improving Agricultural Research Funding, Structure and Collaboration," describes the notable returns on agricultural research and the role of research as a primary source of the innovation and productivity gains necessary to sustainably grow more and better food, help alleviate global poverty and hunger, and address food security issues.
"If we are to feed the nine billion people that will share this planet by 2050, we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000, and research will be critical," said Dr. Jason Clay, World Wildlife Fund Senior Vice President of Market Transformation. "Research is a first step in acquiring data to measure our real impact and identify alternatives. Half of the world's farmers are producing below average results and cannot even feed their own families. Learning how to leverage research and data is critical to stimulate innovation, identify new ideas and improve productivity." World Wildlife Fund is one of several consultative partners that share GHI's goal of sustainably closing the global agricultural productivity gap.
"With a surging global population and new demands on food crops, the inadequate and declining support for basic food and agricultural research must be addressed quickly, as the research process takes a minimum of 10 years from laboratory to field. We must also find the means to enhance research and fund the organizations that facilitate research. By focusing on agricultural research and other key policies we can begin to address hunger and food security issues by sustainably increasing the rate of agricultural productivity without the use of more land, water or other inputs," said Dr. William G. Lesher, Global Harvest Initiative Executive Director.
An article last month in Dairy Herd Management featured Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health, who discussed how technology in agriculture will be vital to producing the amount of food required (read his white paper here). “To make safe, affordable and abundant food a reality, we must focus on the three fundamental rights that come from access to technology,” Simmons said. Those fundamental rights, as outlined by Simmons, include:
1. Food — a basic human right. Withholding safe, proven innovations that make food production more efficient is inhumane and should be considered morally unacceptable.
2. Choice — a consumer right. All consumers should have the right to spend their food budget as they see fit. Those who need affordable food choices should find them readily available. Affluent consumers should have lifestyle options.
3. Sustainability — environmentally right. Continuing to safeguard our natural resources while endeavoring to feed 9-plus billion people by 2050 will require levels of efficient food production heretofore unachieved. Technology has helped us extend human life expectancy, virtually eliminate smallpox from the planet and send men to the moon. Likewise, safe, proven agri-food technologies can help the world’s farmers produce more with less.