REUTERS

Monsanto's John Purcell: Three Ways We Can Work Together to Help Ensure Food Security

Monsanto is No. 39 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list


(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

John Purcell

I had the privilege last week to speak at the Farm & Table event in New Orleans on modern ag’s role in addressing food security. Every time I speak on this topic it’s always a sobering reminder of the paradoxical challenges of food availability in some parts of our world people are chronically undernourished and food production faces immense challenges, while in other places we are addressing rising rates of obesity and mounting amounts of food waste.

While there’s no single solution to the growing food security and availability challenges, there are multiple actions we can take, both individually and societally, that can go a long way toward ensuring that more people have access to a healthy, balanced diet.

A large portion of the discussion at the event centered around three key areas that can make the most difference to increase food security, both for today and for the years ahead.

1. Continued Advancement and Adoption of Modern Agriculture

Today’s farmers are facing many challenges beyond food demand. A growing population, water availability and climate change are all increasingly challenging conditions farmers must deal with as they work to sustainably grow their crops. Farmers will need to a feed a population of nearly 10 billion people by 2050, which will require a 60-100 percent increase in global food production, and they’ll need to do it on less land, using less water and less energy.

We’ll need a full array of modern agricultural tools to help farmers grow more food using fewer natural resources. This is an even greater concern when you consider that in the United States less than 2 percent of the population is providing food for the remaining 98 percent. Years ago it wasn’t uncommon to grow up on a farm, but today our country depends on that small number of farmers to supply us with our food.

Good news is, we continue to make great progress increasing farming efficiency with innovative ag tools, like plant breeding and biotechnology, crop protection and the rapidly emerging discipline of digital agriculture. When combined, these tools provide farmers with the best possible seeds in the best possible growing environments, along with the data-driven insights that help them make the best possible decisions at every step from planting to harvest.

Biotechnology is one critical tool that has made a huge impact on food security. In addition to increasing crop yields, genetically modified crops make farming more productive by controlling damage and losses from insects and weeds which are two of the major causes of crop loss and food waste. Genetic modification has also been used to save some crops, like the Hawaiian papaya, from being completely destroyed by disease.

2. Better Infrastructure to Reduce Food Spoilage

Recent studies estimate that one-third of the food approximately 1.3 billion tons that is produced in the world is wasted rather than consumed. In the developing world, much of that loss is attributed to lack of improper storage and transportation that leads to food spoilage. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 42 percent of the fruits and vegetables produced in the Asia-Pacific region spoil before they are consumed. While countries like India are taking action to improve the infrastructure behind food storage and transportation, this is clearly an area that requires our attention as we work to maximize food security for current and future generations.

At a time when nearly 800 million people are suffering from malnourishment, we have to prioritize education and access to modern ag tools to those especially in need in developing parts of our world.

3. Reduced Waste at the Dinner Table

Food waste is the number one source of landfill material today, with about 95 percent of the food we throw away ending up in them. While inadequate infrastructure is often to blame for food waste in underdeveloped nations, consumer waste is the primary culprit in developed areas of the world.

This waste creates a vicious cycle: uneaten food sits in landfills, where it often produces methane gas that contributes to climate change, which in turn makes it more difficult for farmers to grow more food. It’s clearly an area where all of us who live in developed countries can focus to do our part to increase food security.

Advanced plant breeding techniques are also helping solve food loss and waste challenges. I’m proud of the products we’ve developed at Monsanto, like mini bell peppers, which are one-third the size of standard bell peppers yet equally affordable. They not only taste great and help reduce food waste, but also provide a good burst of Vitamin C!

Our food security challenges are daunting, but if we’re able to continue to make strides in each of these three key areas more efficient farming, better infrastructure and reduced waste we will position ourselves to better feed our growing global population.

Importantly, we also need to facilitate public discourse, policies and regulations that support the research and adoption of new ag technologies to help address our food security challenges. A huge issue facing us is the divide between those who produce food and the whole population who consumes it. Everyone is talking about food, but very few people have deeper knowledge of where food comes from. That’s an area I’m personally committed to trying to connect with the 98 percent of the U.S. population not in agriculture. Personally, having a brother who is a rancher in Montana I see the challenges farmers and ranchers face to put food on our table and the value of innovation. As a scientist, I constantly remind myself that science is not enough! We need to explain modern ag’s role in providing farmers with tools that allow them to produce more crops, more sustainably.

John Purcell is Vice President and Global R&D Lead at Monsanto.

Latest News

thanksgiving, truth

The Truth You May Not Know About Thanksgiving

On Thursday, Nov. 26, many Native Americans and their allies across the country will observe the 51st National Day of Mourning. While most Americans will sit down to Thanksgiving dinners — albeit (hopefully) smaller ones than in years past due to COVID-19 — this counter-observance is designed as an ongoing…

President-elect Joe Biden

President-Elect Joe Biden’s Potential New Cabinet Filled With Historic Firsts; New Report Details the Top 10 Careers Most Impacted by COVID-19; and More

President-elect Biden continues his push for an administration that “looks like America.” With more than a month to go until he is even sworn in as the 46th president of the United States and his transition to the office finally underway after weeks of delay, President-elect Joe Biden is already…

Pascal Desroches

AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens to Retire in March 2021. WarnerMedia’s Pascal Desroches to Succeed Stephens

Originally published on att.com. AT&T [DiversityInc Hall of Fame company] Chief Financial Officer John Stephens has announced his plans to retire next March after 28 years with the company. WarnerMedia CFO Pascal Desroches has been named to succeed Stephens, effective April 1, 2021. During the transition period, Desroches will serve as…

Atatiana Jefferson

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Police Shooting of Atatiana Jefferson; Drug Industry Announces Diversity Guidelines in Development of New Medications; and More

Wrongful death lawsuit filed in the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson by police. Family members of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police through a window in her own home, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth, Texas and the…

Southern Company: Georgia Natural Gas Opens 10th Annual TrueBlue Community Awards Call for Entries

Originally published on southerncompany.com. Honor recognizes nonprofits supporting Georgia during COVID-19 and distributes grants to sustain continued efforts Georgia Natural Gas (GNG), Georgia’s leading natural gas provider, announces the call for entries for the 10th Annual TrueBlue Community Awards. This year, the awards will recognize hardworking Georgia nonprofits for their service providing COVID-19 relief…

Cori Bush

Multiple Congressmen ‘Accidentally’ Called Cori Bush, Missouri’s New Representative, ‘Breonna’; American Medical Association Classifies Racism as a Threat to Public Health; and More

Multiple congressmen “accidentally” called Missouri’s new representative Cori Bush  “Breonna” during Capitol event. Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush said she was stunned and hurt on the evening of Nov. 16, after a number of different Republicans called her “Breonna” during a new member orientation at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Bush, who…

transgender, election

Meet 6 Transgender and Gender-Nonbinary Politicians Who Broke Ground in 2020

Despite the fraught nature of the 2020 presidential election results, victories at state levels put at least six transgender and nonbinary individuals in legislative positions. These small but significant gains for transgender visibility in politics came just before Transgender Awareness Week, which celebrates transgender people from Nov. 13–19 before Transgender…