WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012- DuPont Executive Vice President James Borel encouraged industry leaders and students to join efforts for food security this week during his address at Johns Hopkins University.
Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies is hosting a “Year of Agriculture” symposium, identifying food as among the greatest challenges of the 21st century.
With food security at the top of this month’s G8 summit, Borel emphasized that private research investment alone is not enough to meet the challenge of food security.
“Private companies can’t do it all, we need public research,” he said. “There’s things that public investment can do that private companies can’t do as efficiently, they also need partners.”
Borel also addressed the need to recruit the next generation of thinkers to become involved in agricultural science that will help resolve food security issues.
“Food is the challenge of the 21st Century,” he said. “We need to recognize that we face an unprecedented global challenge and make sure the best minds of the next generation are fully engaged.”
Solving hunger challenges begins at the local level, he noted. This includes brining the technology and knowledge to producers to utilize in developing countries.
For example, he said 30 to 50 percent of milk produced in Kenya goes to waste, but contamination can be slowed or prevented through enzyme technology.
“Science is universal, but solutions are local” he said. “Here’s an opportunity where the right science can make a huge opportunity for famers across the world.”
Borel noted that even in the United States, statistics indicate that in 2011 about one in seven Americans experienced some degree of food insecurity.
“Overcoming hunger within the United States and around the world will require a lasting commitment to collaboration all along the food value chain.”
Borel outlined the following three themes to make advances in food security:
Leverage the best science: “Science can help provide the answers we need to ensure a viable, sustainable food supply despite increased pressure from climates, pests and land and water challenges,” said Borel.
Promote sustainability of food: “We need to improve the overall sustainability of food, including how it is produced, how it gets on our plates and how much of it is wasted,” he said. “Efforts cannot be sustainable – economically, socially or environmentally – if we do not reduce waste, for example. More than a third of food is lost to waste in developing countries and developed countries.”
Cultivate the next generation of leaders: “We must assure that the best minds and brightest thinkers of the next generation are fully engaged in addressing food security locally — from science and technology, transportation and logistics, and government and regulatory policy,” said Borel.
He emphasized that food security is not only a humanitarian crisis, but will become a geo-political crisis if people are allowed to go hungry.
“People will be hungry, ungovernable and angry,” said Borel. “Severe hunger can easily lead to civil unrest or worse. Starving families are only focused on survival. Clearly, it is in our own best interests to prevent this.”
However, Borel maintained that agriculture is an optimistic science, and “this is a challenge all of us can rise to meet, but not by doing business as usual, not by looking the other way or waiting for someone else to lead the way and not by working alone. We must face this together.”
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