Right now, one in eight people go to bed hungry and our population is projected to grow to more than 9 billion by 2050. The big question is: How are we going to feed our growing planet?
The George Washington University’s Planet Forward sparked a wide-ranging and thoughtful discussion on the topic at the Feeding the Planet Summit on October 30. Participants from agriculture, the private sector, academia, civil society, government, and media examined the challenges and opportunities to achieve this goal.
David Hollinrake from Bayer CropScience underscored the importance of food security, quoting the “father of the Green Revolution” Norman Borlaug, who said: “There is no more essential commodity than food. Without food, people perish, social and political organizations disintegrate, and civilizations collapse.”
While food security is a daunting challenge, each of us can be a part of a new “Green Revolution” to feed the world. Here are five key takeaways from the summit to help get us there:
1. Food security is a complex challenge, but we have to tackle it.
Feeding the planet isn’t just a matter of growing more food; it involves issues of poverty, income, technology, policy, water, and climate to name a few.
While food security is a complex challenge, it has enormous implications for the lives of billions and for the future of the planet. The good news, as Margaret Walsh of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, is that the complexity of the issue gives us lots of inroads to address it.
2. You can’t talk about food security without talking about climate change.
You may not think about climate change when you eat dinner, but they are closely linked. For example, we use fossil fuels to produce fertilizer, to power irrigation pumps and equipment, and to transport crops. On the flip side, climate events like extreme drought and flooding can drastically reduce crop yields.
To sustainably feed the planet, we’ve got to tackle both food security and climate change. As Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund pointed out, “We need to do more with less.”
3. We need to know more about our food.
It’s time to get informed about our food. Not many Americans know the whole story about how our food gets from the farm to the table. We need to up our knowledge level so we can make informed decisions at both a policy level and a personal level. As renowned chef and GW professor José Andrés said, “We have to think in 360 degrees.”
4. Innovation can and will be transformational.
The innovation happening in the food and agriculture sector is saving lives, saving food, and solving problems. Here are a few highlights we learned about:
- Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, showcased climate-resilient crops and sweet potatoes enhanced with Vitamin A to help prevent child illness related to Vitamin A deficiency.
- Rick Leach, head of World Food Program USA, discussed how WFP is using debit cards to help refugees purchase food from local markets.
- A panel of entrepreneurs opened our eyes to the future, discussing innovations from insect-based foods to 3-D printing of healthier steaks to charcoal briquettes that reduce harmful smoke from cooking.
5. Engage young people.
“Guess what we need? Talent.” – Chris Policinski, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes, Inc.
“We need young, brave minds.” – Julie Borlaug, Assistant Director of Partnerships for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture
“It’s important to engage the next generation.” – Dennis Dimick, Executive Editor for the Environment, National Geographic Magazine
One message came through loud and clear: We need young people to get involved and bring fresh thinking and fresh blood to our food and agriculture challenges. As Phil Miller from Monsanto said, “I can’t imagine a career that could be more rewarding than to say, ‘I spent time figuring out how to feed the world.’”
Visit food.planetforward.org to get learn more, and join the conversation on social media using hashtag #foodfwd.
Now, who wants to try some bugs?