Opinion: Delivering innovation today will help meet tomorrow's food and nutrition needs

By Guest Author

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By: Paul Schickler, President DuPont Pioneer

It's hard to look at the global food situation and not feel overwhelmed. World population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, requiring us to boost food production by a whopping 50 percent over the next several decades. On top of that, we expect more than 3 billion additional people in the middle class by 2030 - resulting in more diversified, protein-rich diets and an escalation in urbanization. And … we must meet these demands with limited land and natural resources.

Is there hope we can fully meet tomorrow's food and nutrition needs?

I believe the answer is yes, with the right commitment, policies and blueprints for collaborative action on the part of governments, international organizations, research institutes and the private sector and many others. I also believe that science-based innovation - in agricultural technologies, processes and approaches - will play a central role in ensuring that the solutions we find will be up to the enormity of the task we face.

What the Data Tells Us
The findings of two recently published reports highlight the complexity of the situation we face. On the positive side, the 2015 Global Food Security Index - released today by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by DuPont - found that food security has modestly improved in almost every region of the world. Food security only exists when people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for a healthy and active life.

Lets Talk Food

In relation to global food security figures, the EIU cites several contributing factors such as slow gains in food system infrastructure improvements, sustained economic expansion in most regions - particularly in developing countries - and lower food prices. Sub-Saharan Africa saw impressive gains in food quality and safety, with higher consumption of proteins and greater diet diversification.

However, malnutrition - from undernourishment to obesity - is a growing worldwide problem. Just last month I participated in the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Food Security Symposium, where leaders from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C., to consider how we could better leverage agriculture and food to improve nutrition. In the report, “Healthy Food for a Healthy World,” the Council called upon the United States to use the enormous power of its agriculture and food sector to reduce the reality and risks of malnutrition globally.

The reason for this call to action is starkly clear: more than 800 million people in the world are chronically undernourished, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, and this has enormous implications for health systems, economic development and of course human lives. It's critical for us to make nutrition a priority now in developing our global food systems for the future.

The right policies and actions can go a long way in addressing malnutrition and food security, particularly when they help unleash the power of private sector-led innovation to drive step-change improvements in the way we produce, store and transport food.

Farmers Need Access to Technology
According to the EIU's Global Food Security Index Special Report on Innovation, we're seeing agricultural technology advance quickly with great potential to help farmers feed their families and the world. New software is contributing to more efficient water usage, more accurate digital soil maps and better testing kits. Biotechnology also is playing a vital role in protecting crops from pests, weeds and disease. Improved fertilizers and other inputs are boosting crop yields. New seed varietals are resulting in crops that are higher yielding, more stress and drought tolerant, fungal resistant and less reliant on nitrogen fertilizers. Crop biofortification is demonstrating strong potential to help reduce micronutrient deficiencies and public health over time.

But for promising innovations such as these to generate the greatest potential impact, we have to work harder to ensure that farmers have access to them. That's where partnerships can make a huge difference. At DuPont Pioneer, we are collaborating at unprecedented levels and leveraging our strengths in seed technology, agronomy, agricultural systems and scientific research to help bring sustainable solutions to farmers based on their unique needs.

Innovation alone can't eradicate the plague of malnutrition and food insecurity, but if we work together - governments, the private sector, NGOs, universities and others - we can bring our strengths to bear on this pressing challenge and improve outcomes. I would urge companies involved in the global food chain to collaborate to find multi-sector solutions, localize approaches to applying innovative technologies and methods, and keep advancing scientific and technological research, particularly in the areas of crop production and nutrition.

The task ahead of us is formidable but so are the resources we can call on: ingenuity, commitment and belief in a better world for all.

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