In 2000, scientists determined that we would need to double food production by the year 2050 in order to feed a hungry world.
The current world population is close to 7 billion; by 2050, it is expected to exceed 9 billion. And, the world’s appetite for food will grow at an even faster rate because of higher living standards in developing countries. That’s why it is essential to double world food production by the year 2050 to head off mass hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Adding more acres to food production may not be enough, nor will it be environmentally sustainable in many cases. The real solution is technology, according to Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health, who spoke Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Dairy Farmers of America in Kansas City.
Technology can allow farmers to get more food out of limited crop acres and livestock production systems.
“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:
- Food — a basic human right. Withholding safe, proven innovations that make food production more efficient is inhumane and should be considered morally unacceptable.
- 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.
- 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.
Simmons has presented these observations in the form of a white paper. Read the white paper in its entirety.
The research for Simmons’ white paper included 28 independent surveys representing more than 97,000 people from 26 nations. “Taken together, these data show that about 95 percent of people are either neutral or fully supportive of using technology to produce their food,” Simmons said.
Yet, a small vocal minority wants to take some of that technology away. For example, activists have fought against genetically modified crops and the use of bovine somatotropin in dairy cattle.
Data have shown that a vast majority of people buy their food on the basis of nutrition, affordability, taste and choice, Simmons said. Only about 1 percent — the so-called "fringe" — bases its food-purchase decisions on policy issues, such as a "green" environmental agenda or wanting to see other people become vegan.
Yet, that 1 percent has influenced the agenda for the other 99 percent.
Simmons says it is time to end the debate.
“Every minute we delay is another minute during which 12 children will die from hunger. This is morally wrong, given that solutions exist,” he says.
“Facts support a more hopeful future where the consumer’s right to choose and the farmer’s right to use safe and efficient technologies is protected, and the moral imperative of feeding the world is at last achieved,” he adds.
He encouraged the farmers in attendance Tuesday to be as passionate and vocal for efficient production methods — and choice — as the opponents are for their agenda.