As the world grapples with the challenge of producing enough food, Elanco President Jeff Simmons says that we cannot lose sight of the solution—technology. Simmons, a featured speaker at the 2009 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, addressed the role that technology can play in making food safe, affordable, abundant and sustainable. His remarks echo the United Nations'
2008 call to double world food production, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's assertion that 70 percent of the increase must come from efficiency-improving technologies.
"As we approach the mid-century mark, it is well known that the world must double food production. Technology has a proven track record of dramatically increasing food production, which is why I agree with the U.N. that it must be the most significant part of the solution," Simmons said. However, he cautioned that the world cannot take the availability of agricultural technologies for granted.
He cited examples of scientists such as the late Norman Borlaug who used technology to largely eradicate famine in many parts of Asia and Latin America during the 20th century. "It is distressing to see that even though technology has a lengthy and proven track record in reducing hunger, some small but vocal minorities want to restrict access to the methods that can free millions from chronic hunger," Simmons noted.
He stated that in the United Kingdom, efforts to restrict consumers' access to foods produced with technologies resulted in food price surges and an economy dependent upon imports to meet food demand. "Denying the world's population access to technologies that bring forth an abundant, affordable and sustainable supply of food presents a dangerous situation for a world where more than 900 million people do not get enough to eat," he said.
Simmons cautioned against legislative restrictions that ultimately take away choice and restrict the supply of affordable foods. "As we move toward feeding 9 billion people in less than 50 years, mankind is counting on these safe, life-giving technologies. They cannot and must not be withheld from humanity," Simmons stated.
Emphasizing his message, Simmons referenced a quote by Norman Borlaug, recognized by many as the "Father of the Green Revolution," and widely credited with saving more than a billion lives through his efforts to advance the use of agricultural technologies. During the 30th Anniversary Lecture at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo on Sept. 8, 2000, Borlaug made remarks stressing the responsibility the world has to engage technology in its efforts to fight hunger:
"I now say that the world has the technology—either available or well advanced in the research pipeline—to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology. While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions and pay more for food produced by the so-called 'organic' methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot."
Simmons' advocacy for technology was echoed by business and humanitarian leader Bill Gates. "I'm an optimist about technology," noted Gates in his keynote World Food Prize address on Oct. 15. Gates also addressed the role that corporations can play in meeting the needs of farmers and how good animal health plays a key role in helping to meet the world's food demand.
Earlier this year, Simmons authored "Food Economics & Consumer Choice," a paper that delves extensively into technology's role in addressing world hunger.