To Feed And Sustain The World, We Need Common Ground
Dr. Robert T. Farley
The Huffington Post
The basic facts concerning the world’s growing population and the food supply are so daunting that they demand wider appreciation:
But we already know what many of those solutions are, and if we can align and work on them together – instead of wasting energy in fruitless disputes over issues such as organic versus conventional farming and genetic modification (GMO) versus non-GMO – we can make the 21st century a success for food production.
We know we need to grow more food. We know we can’t keep converting our forests and grasslands to create more farm land, because if we do so it is at the long term environmental peril of the earth. We know we need to reduce food waste, in our farming operations, during food production, transportation, storage…and at the dinner table. And we know we need continued innovation along with more investment and rational, science-based public policies.
The good news is we are making progress.
Crop losses in the developing world are being addressed through advances in harvesting, logistics and refrigeration. In the developed world we’re getting smarter about food waste in our homes and restaurants, so less is wasted, landfills are avoided and more food is getting to people who need it. And all over the world, we’re growing more food on the same amount of land due to a wide array of advances in biological research and data science.
Today we can breed seeds precisely, literally gene by gene, and make genetic improvements that would have been impossible only a decade ago. We can farm fields, meter by meter, using GPS navigation systems and detailed knowledge of soil type, land elevation and water movement. Farms of all sizes–in all areas of the world–will benefit from these advances.
These phenomenal advances fit within a strategy called sustainable intensification – growing more food on each acre of land using fewer resources or more sustainable inputs. It’s a strategy in which nearly all of us in the polarized debate over food and agricultural issues – agriculturalists, food companies, environmental groups, policymakers and consumers – can find common ground. This strategy was best articulated in a white paper published last spring, “An Ecomodernist Manifesto,” by prominent environmental scholars from around the world as well as officials of the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank based in Oakland, Cal.
To be successful, we must accelerate our progress now. The rate of global agricultural productivity growth has fallen below the level needed to meet global food demands in 2050, according to calculations by the Global Harvest Initiative, a Washington, D.C.-based private sector collaborative. This is one of the key reasons why an increased emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is an imperative–we need the best minds across the globe to solve these challenges. We need more students with the training and tools, and we need to excite and encourage them to bring their talents to help solve food production issues.
We are a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food supply chain – from farm to fork. We are committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and advocating for science-based policies that keep food affordable for every American.