Starving, famished and ravenous: All three adjectives are commonly used to express the magnitude of a grumbling stomach. I appreciate animated speech just as much as the next person, but sometimes the literal meanings of popular, “first world” expressions go unappreciated.
While food deserts remain a problem in pockets of the United States and developed nations, the abundance of relatively cheap food makes it difficult for many to imagine true hunger – the average supermarket contains 38,000 products and most citizens spend only 10 percent of disposable income on food. Yet in poorer, developing nations where widespread hunger exists, the cost of food skyrockets: On average, citizens dedicate a staggering 80 percent of their income to purchasing food. The disparity is even harder to swallow knowing that one third of all food produced in developing nations goes to waste.
Food security, or access to safe, nutritious and affordable food, is a global issue that will only intensify as our burgeoning population grows and farmers continue to battle unpredictable weather episodes around the world. Feeding an additional 2 billion people by 2050 is going to be a big problem if the status quo remains. Right now, the majority of the world’s excess commodity supply comes from just two countries, the United States and Brazil (the Latin American nation has emerged as an agricultural powerhouse through progressive R&D). Over the next 10 years, Brazil is expected to increase their productivity by 40 percent while European yields are expected to grow only 4 percent – the same rate as sub-Saharan Africa. Greater self-sufficiency is essential to meet growing food demands.
Despite the daunting task, science is on our side. Industrialized nations have become incredibly efficient at producing food since my childhood on an Iowa farm. Advanced technology has allowed us to create drought-tolerant seeds; special packaging that allows us to keep food longer, and we can now use the same GPS technology in our mobile device to farm with greater precision, acre by acre.
While much progress has been made, at DuPont, we recognize the urgent need to bring market-driven innovation to deliver sustainable solutions across the food value chain. Today in Iowa, we opened a DuPont Innovation Center with a specific focus on food. This Innovation Center will build on a network of idea hubs for innovators located around the world to work with DuPont’s 10,000 scientists and engineers. By sharing concepts or proven discoveries, we can promote what we call inclusive innovation across the food value chain that can bring forth science-driven innovations to help feed our growing planet. By working hand-in-hand with leading scientists, tech startups, food companies, and partners like the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we can help drive critical research and implement local, culturally sensitive solutions to ensure that everyone, regardless of location, has access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. If we do this, together we can address one of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century.
James C. Borel is Executive Vice President at DuPont
[Flickr image by fmsc]