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Technology key to feeding world

Global acceptance and wise use of current and future technologies are critical factors in whether farmers will be able to meet the daunting challenge of feeding an expected 8.5 billion people by the year 2030.

Roy Roberson 2

October 6, 2010

4 Min Read

By 2030 Planet Earth will have to produce 50 percent more food than we currently produce in order to feed the projected world population at that time.

That level of food production, which will have to come on less land and with less people farming is sobering, if not daunting. The assessment didn’t come from anyone in the farming or food business, it came from Ralf Sudoff, head of the United Nations World Food Program.

Speaking at Bayer CropScience’s annual press conference, the outgoing CEO of the company said technology, how we adopt it and use it in agriculture, is a critical factor in our ability to meet the future global demand for food.

“In the future, hunger will not only be a question of equitable distribution (as it is today). It will increasingly be the case that there isn’t enough food to distribute,” Friedrich Berschauer says.

Global acceptance and wise use of current and future technologies are critical factors in whether farmers will be able to meet the daunting challenge of feeding an expected 8.5 billion people by the year 2030.

By 2030, India will replace China as the world’s most populous country. Both countries are not only growing rapidly, but the middle class is growing quickly, providing greater demand for better food and fiber. So, not only will the total number of people to feed increase, but so will their demands for food, fiber and energy.

“I firmly believe world population will continue to increase and continue to pressure farmers to produce more and more food on less land. When you factor in climate change and other naturally occurring factors, it is clear meeting the food challenges of the future will require the global agriculture community to embrace all modern and safe technologies in a responsible way,” the German leader says.

Biotechnology is important tool

“Biotechnology is an important tool — it’s not the only tool, but is an important one — and I believe it should be available to all farmers. I believe the attitude in Europe toward GMO products is the wrong one. I think the European community should be more open minded, and I think this technology will eventually be embraced here,” Berschauer says.

Embracing technology on a global basis may create some positive changes that will help farmers meet the future demand for food. Technological advances may create some changes in cropping patterns globally that will make farming more efficient and more profitable.

For example, Berschauer says, “I studied from 1970-1974 the production of corn in Germany. At that time, corn production here was virtually non-existent. We didn’t have the proper varieties to grow here.

“Today, thanks to technological advances, primarily crop breeding programs, corn is a common crop in Germany. No doubt, crops in Germany, and other parts of the world have changed a great deal in a relatively short span of time.

“Currently, soybean production in Germany is difficult and virtually as non-existent as was corn 30-40 years ago. Climate change and new technologies may make it possible to grow soybeans on a large scale in Germany and other parts of Europe,” the outgoing Bayer CropScience CEO says.

“Not only is new technology critical to the success, if not survival, of farmers on a worldwide basis, it is likewise critical to the success of agricultural chemical companies charged with providing farmers with the tools they need to be successful.

“From today’s perspective, Bayer CropScience should have gotten into the seed and trait business earlier. This would have allowed the company to compete better in developing genetic traits incorporated into seed.

 “From 1993 until 1998, I was a member of the management team of the old Bayer Crop Protection organization. At that time, I was not convinced we should enter seeds and traits — my opinion. Today, I have a different opinion,” Berschauer says.

“The business of agriculture needs to be competitive. Hopefully, we will operate with free trade in a global market, and I firmly believe that we have to work together to meet future demands for food. Surely, the amount of land available for growing crops is limited and probably decreasing significantly, and we need to consider these factors on a global basis.

“The challenge of increased food production will pressure politicians and other world leaders to re-evaluate policies that are adversarial. The opportunity is there globally for agriculture to be elevated to a new level, and I believe farmers in the future will be more positively regarded for their contributions to feeding the world,” Berschauer says.

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