Innovative science and collaboration are at the cornerstone to addressing global food security, DuPont Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman told international leaders today at the 2011 World Food Prize. This year's symposium theme was The Next Generation: Confronting the Hunger Challenges of Tomorrow.
The annual World Food Prize brings together more than 1,000 global leaders, including former presidents, CEOs from Fortune 500 food and ag companies, World Food Prize laureates and policy experts to discuss how to address the current food crises and food security needs for people around the globe.
The three-day symposium is held each year in October, as part of World Food Prize week in Des Moines, Iowa. This year the World Food Prize symposium celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Kullman shared with the WFP audience her personal experiences with farmers and communities that have scarce access to food. "I've walked through fields with farmers on four continents. I now understand many of the concerns they have and their hopes for the future for their families and communities," Kullman said. During her presentation, she shared a brief video that showcased how something as small as a seed – can make such a significant difference in the lives of farmers, their families and communities.
No company has all the answers, but key steps can help turn the tide
DuPont is the parent company of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, headquartered in Des Moines. Pioneer is one of the world's largest producers and marketers of corn and soybean seed, and a leader in agricultural biotechnology development and related crop research. While Kullman said no single company has all the answers, she outlined a few key steps she deems are integral to turning the tide on low food production, lack of access to food and hunger.
* Make sure science is local: Though science provides universal answers, Kullman acknowledges that solutions must be localized due to variations in climate, soils, cultural traditions and transportation infrastructure. "At DuPont, we believe that the challenge of feeding the world will require a continuous stream of science-based innovations. And those innovations will have to be precisely tailored to solutions that are local in character." Capacity building, knowledge sharing and agricultural innovations must be shared with people and places that need it most."
* Don't underestimate the power of collaboration: Kullman asserted that global food security is not just an agricultural issue. She encouraged attendees to invite the entire supply chain to join this discussion because it will take innovative thinkers from finance and technology to regulatory, health and development to tackle this complex issue. "Together, we can accomplish what no one can do alone." For more information, she urges people to visit the Global Collaboratory (www.dupont.com/collaboratory), which promotes public-private collaborations to ensure farmers and consumers benefit from new technologies.
* Invest in science and sustainable solutions: Kullman urged leaders to invest in agriculture and contribute to sustainable global food security solutions. She emphasized DuPont's focus on fostering inclusive innovation to address the world's urgent needs: sustainably feeding the world, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and safeguarding people and the environment. DuPont invests more than 60% of its annual research and development budget (approximately $1.7 billion) to ensuring that the world's population has enough food.
Kullman also commended organizations, such as the World Food Prize, who are investing in the promotion of science and agriculture among youth, the next generation of leaders who will be pivotal in continuing the fight for food security.
Dupont announces $2 million gift to global 4-H network, investing in youth
To support this commitment, DuPont also is investing $2 million in the global 4-H network, the nation's largest youth development organization, to provide the next generation of farmers in developing countries with access to agriculture education, tools and training. "At the end of the day, no one country, company, government or foundation can meet the global food security challenge alone," Kullman said. "We have to work together through public-private collaborations and through a harmonized, science-based regulatory system to ensure farmers and consumers can benefit from new technologies."
Boosting production will require continual stream of science-based innovations
"At DuPont we are under no illusion that laboratory science can drive food security on it's own," she said. However, she added that increasing food production will "require a continual stream of science-based innovations" that are "precisely tailored to the solutions that are local."
Her remarks came one day after philanthropist and farmer Howard Buffett warned the World Food Prize audience that soil fertility was the biggest issue facing farmers in Africa, and that pushing biotech seeds and other U.S.-style farming methods on farmers in Africa could actually worsen their problems. Others have warned that U.S.-style farming methods have led to environmental problems and have given large-scale farms an edge over smaller-scale farmers who can't afford expensive seed and other inputs.
Pioneer's genetically engineered corn varieties are widely planted in South Africa but are not yet permitted on much of the rest of the continent, although several African countries are moving toward permitting the use of biotech food crops. Pioneer has contributed to a project funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in Africa to develop corn that can be grown with less fertilizer and Pioneer has collaborated with Howard Buffett in developing a more nutritious variety of sorghum, a food grain in Africa.Pioneer's workforce is spread broadly in key corn producing areas of the globe and that will assure the seeds the company sells will be appropriate to the places they are sold, said Kullman. "Because we have employees who live and work in 90 countries around the world, we're able to listen to farmers' concerns and produce the products that best meet their needs."