A panel of experts at the Alltech International Symposium that was to debate questions such as “How will we feed a world of 9 billion people?” didn’t have much debate: All four panelists said the key is technology, including GMOs.
The topic was introduced by noting that decades after the so-called Green Revolution, hunger is still a world issue and one can only assume it will continue to be as we add another 2 billion people.
But things have changed, says Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern, based in Ireland. “In 1969, there were 3 billion people on earth and 25% of them were hungry. Most recently we had 6.7 billion and 13% of them were hungry." He also notes that the same numbers now are hungry and obese: About 1 billion each. So we don’t just need food, we need the right food.
“Population doubled and we tapped the power of science,” says Sean Rickard, senior lecturer in business economics at Cranfield University in the UK and an agriculture consultant. This is echoed by Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Moraes, former minister of agriculture and food supply in Brazil, who notes that Brazil has increased its cropland by 27% but its production by 150%.
The theme was a repetitive one at this symposium, which drew 2,800 people from 72 countries to consider what the future holds for people and for agriculture. Little wonder, given that Alltech is a science-based company, marketing natural feed and soil additives.
Over time, smallholders in food-scarce countries need to get big enough to adopt technology, adds Rickard. “Larger scale and efficiency will become essential,” he says. “Higher incomes will enable producers to buy modern technology.” “Agriculture is here to stay and demand continues to grow,” says Rickard. “We see a new image of a scientific, technologic and well-rewarded industry emerging.”
Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.