Efficient food production for a hungry planet

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Global food prices have reached record highs in the past months. Hunger afflicts more than 1 billion people around the world. Emerging nations seeking to diversify their citizens’ diets are driving demand for more food, while we’re learning more about how fragile our environment is.

Amidst all of these challenges, a just-published white paper, “Making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality,” authored by Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco, proposes a rational approach to addressing a problem that has plagued mankind throughout history —hunger. Simmons’ paper outlines how highly efficient food production can help alleviate world hunger, lower food costs, protect consumer rights and safeguard the world’s natural resources.

At the crux of Simmons’ argument is the assertion that highly efficient food production achieved via modern agricultural technologies enables three rights:

Right #1: Food is a basic human right deserved by every man, woman and child. Yet despite rising levels of chronic hunger and food insecurity, some fringe groups want to restrict farmers’ access to technologies that make safe, affordable food more abundant.

Right #2: Choice is a consumer right. Elanco commissioned the International Consumer Attitudes Survey (ICAS), which evaluated 27 reports on consumer attitudes and behaviors along with a validation study by The Nielsen Company. Collectively, the survey represented the opinions of more than 97,000 consumers in 26 countries. The findings reveal that 95 percent of consumers purchase food based on three key factors: taste, cost and nutrition. These consumers are supportive or neutral about technology use in food production.

Right #3: Sustainability is environmentally right. Modern technology is allowing today’s farmers to produce more food while consuming fewer environmental resources and generating less waste. An acre of wheat globally today feeds nearly six people, compared to feeding just two people half a century ago. As emerging nations help drive demand for more food, technology provides a resource-efficient means of meeting rising demand.

Despite the Green Revolution’s legacy of employing agricultural technologies to improve yields and eradicate famines, some fringe groups seek to restrict farmers’ access to efficiency-enhancing technologies. They push for laws and regulations that make food production less efficient.

“The world already has a proven and powerful weapon to fight an affliction that killed more than 18 million people between 2008 and 2010. Denying people access to technology that can make safe, affordable food more abundant is wrong and a violation of basic rights all people deserve,” said Simmons. 

Simmons authored a 2009 white paper titled “Food Economics and Consumer Choice,” which expanded upon the assertion that by 2050, the world will need to produce 100 percent more food and according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 70 percent of that food must be produced with efficiency-enhancing agricultural technologies. Both papers are posted at www.plentytothinkabout.org. Simmons encourages food producers, manufacturers and consumers to visit the blog and submit their comments on what it will take to feed 9 billion people by 2050.



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