3 fundamental rights in an increasingly hungry world

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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:

  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.

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.

More information.

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Eran Raizman    
West Lafayette IN  |  March, 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM

The problem as the article is trying to say is not increasing production. In the US increase production will contribute only marginally to fight hunger around the world. The problem is the distribution of the production. Production must increase in a sustainable way in countries where hunger is, such as Africa. Promoting US to sell food or to compete with these countries on food production only make the problem worse. US (and th rest of developing countries!) best contribution to fight hunger is to reduce its sells to poor countries , and assisting ONLY with experts who really understand what us sustainable development is about. Once again, increasing milk production here in the US for the sake of fighting hunger will not produce the appropriate butterfly effect to fight hunger worldwide.

Kirt Sloan    
Idaho  |  March, 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Maybe we ought to be concerned more about increasing the food supply and a little less concerned about global warming (by the way I am one of the cold people in favor of global warming!). Cap and Trade is a lot like Fool and Screw when it comes to feeding a hungry world. If you get out of the farmers way he will bury you in food. For the past 40 years mindless regulation has driven a large segment of farmers out of business. If you want a strong economy and a healthy agricultural industry have government quit subsidizing the conversion of 35% of the corn crop to fuel and let the markets work to allocate capital to its best use. The survivors adapt to the environment and evolve, the futile try to change the weather and Hope for Change!

March, 23, 2011 at 11:15 AM

How disgusting to use tragic loss of children's lives to try and sway arguments for Elanco's financial gain. PETA uses a similar argument to try and sway folks from eating meat. We know that starvation is due primarily to political manipulation by third world despots, not a lack of world food production. And I wonder if Simmons is concerned about consumer choice and rights when it comes to rBST free labels? I support the idea of technologies like rBST for many of the reasons stated in this article, but when we try to manipulate emotions based on starving children we eliminate all of agriculture's credibility.

Tunis Sweetman, Jr.    
Warwick, N.Y. 10990  |  March, 23, 2011 at 11:21 AM

I agree with everything Kirt is saying; more often than not, government is part of the problem, certainly not the solution. It has been said, that we continue to farm IN SPITE of government, not BECAUSE of government....and when are farmers going to be valued, in this quest to feed 9 billion people, in the not too distant future?

MN  |  March, 23, 2011 at 11:56 AM

rBST is not 'technology', it is an artificial hormone intended to make money for whoever owns the patent right now. I chose to believe the science that shows there are negative health consequences associated with it's use, therefore I don't use it on my cows. Those who wish to use it are free to do so, too bad those of us who don't aren't free to label our milk as such.

Idaho  |  March, 23, 2011 at 12:16 PM

While I agree with the underlying message of this article, I strongly disagree with Mr. Simmons use of the word “rights” to describe things that are merely desirable. Actual rights are God given and inalienable. Unfortunately, too many of us blur the lines between an actual right and something we think is good. This confusion only serves to deteriorate the protection of actual rights, such as the right of private property, which all farmers everywhere must constantly guard against. Food is not a basic human right. We have the right to use our intelligence and labor to do what we wish including to grow our own food or to purchase food others have grown, but we have no right that food be provided for us. Choice is a right that cannot be taken away. Each of us has the inherent ability to choose between the alternatives that are before us. However, we have no right to require that certain alternatives be provided. Depending on whose definition of sustainability you use, it may or may not be the right thing to do, but sustainability certainly is not a right. I agree that artificial barriers to the use of food growing technologies that have been proven to be safe and effective are morally wrong. We should do all we can to persuade decision makers to reduce or eliminate those barriers. However, the article would have been more effective if Mr. Simmons would have simply made his points rather than referring to a list of faux “rights”.

Nate Wilson    
Sinclairville, N.Y.  |  March, 23, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Don't you just have to wonder how much of Jeff Simmons ample salary package is contributed to "world hunger"? What a sanctimonious bit of propaganda is this! I don't know who Jeff's "survey" was directed to but it sure wasn't the folks I'm talking to. Out of all the conversations I've had with non-farmers, I've yet to hear one of them say they wanted the milk their kids are drinking made with BST! The world can have all the food it wants just as soon as it starts to pay the people who produce it their costs and a fair profit. A good fix for this problem is supporting the farmers of the third world . The closer the food is to its consumer the better it is for all. I've been told the reason we have such a problem with illegal immigration on our southern border is because our "free trade" policies flooded Mexico with cheap corn and drove Mexican small farmers off their farms. They could either watch their kids starve or go into the U.S. to provide cheap labor. Simmon's argument ignores the fact that food exports chase the highest price. Otherwise all this M.P.C. coming in from the S. Pacific would be going where people are star instead of coming here to create the fiction that the U.S. has a milk surplus!

new york  |  March, 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Mr simmons seems to be living in lala land. untill people understand that the govenment is the problem. Endless regulation with no end in site is all we get from government. The global economy and free trade stand in the way of feeding the world. every country should be allowed to protect their ability to produce food for their people be it the US or China. if that means tariffs and taxes on imported food than so be it. Mr simmons seems to think that food is a right, does that also mean that housing, a good job, car/truck/ x-box, plasma TV etc are also rights........... good comments people:)

Phil Lewis    
Salem, NY  |  March, 23, 2011 at 01:25 PM

Simmons and Elanco have good reason to encourage agricultural technology ... it's their path to prosperity. I'm not a Luddite and I certainly appreciate many technological innovations. However, when we mix government regulation, government support for research, government management of water resources, government management of subsidies (the list is endless) what do you get? A declining farm population, supply imbalances, a population with little knowledge of food production (again, the list is endless) what do you get? A corrupt production system that picks winners, punishes the disconnected and has transformed USA agriculture into an unruly, risky and potentially dangerous source of food for 310,000,000 dependent souls. USA agriculture should be encouraged to feed the world, profitably, and employ many of the young people who now see bleak 21st century career choices staring them in the face. Agriculture needs to be reinforced and grown as a positive career path and we need to insist that farmers be allowed and encouraged to earn a fair return for their investments, time, labor and intelligence. The DC elitists are, and will continue to be, the dismissive enemy of production agriculture.

March, 28, 2011 at 10:52 AM

This is excessively over-simplified. The FAO actually reports that food is and will be abundant. The real cause of hunger is economics. The FAO also endorses low-input and sustainable agriculture as the best way to help feed developing countries. Remember, the problem isn't the amount of food produced. It is okay to take the time to use the safest and best practices. Children are not dying because American yields are low.

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