DES MOINES, Oct. 16, 2013 – Agribusiness leaders participated in the World Food Prize festivities in Des Moines today, lending their perspectives on food security to the conference's Borlaug Dialogue program. And officials from DuPont and Monsanto agreed: It’s time to open up dialogue with a wider array of stakeholders.
“The discussions around food security for the past five years, whether they are in the boardroom or the classroom or the Roosevelt Room, have increased tremendously,” said Jim Borel, executive vice president of DuPont. But he stressed that the dialogue needs to move “beyond a single country or industry or sector.”
Monsanto President Brett Begemann asked agriculture and food interests for a “little less conversation, a little more action.” “If we only had a gallon or a liter of water for every hour we’ve spent talking about how we’re going to…pump that water out of the ground.”
Begemann also touched upon a point echoed earlier in the day by Monsanto Executive Vice President and 2013 World Food Prize Laureate Rob Fraley: The seed company, both said, needs to do a better job communicating with the consumer.
It’s a touchy point for Monsanto, which has received special criticism during this round of the World Food Prize for its involvement in biotechnology. Anti-biotechnology protestors are expected to descend upon Des Moines tomorrow as Dr. Fraley and his fellow recipients – Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Marc Van Montagu – receive honors for their groundbreaking work with genetically modified (GM) crops.
Begemann, whose company has also been criticized for fostering so-called “corporate,” large-scale agriculture, also used his remarks to focus in on the use of new Monsanto technology on smallholder farms.
“Innovation is important at both levels,” he said. Monsanto’s work, particularly with new kinds of data, is “not about how you make a smallholder farmer and turn them into a large commercial grower.”
This month, Monsanto acquired the San Francisco-based Climate Corporation, which uses extensive weather data to provide appropriate insurance to farmers.
Alluding to the purchase, Begemann says improved data will help “the smallest of the small (farmers) in India or Africa” and huge producers alike to “make better decisions to raise a better crop.”
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