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Big players aim to end global hunger

Agriculture.com Staff 10/14/2009 @ 3:58pm

The CEOs of two of the world's largest agriculture-related businesses, ADM and DuPont, called Wednesday for a public-private partnership to meet global demand for food by 2050.

Both companies, along with Monsanto and John Deere, have started Global Harvest Initiative to find ways to meet the need for food 40 years from now, when the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the demand for food will double from the current level.

Speaking at the World Food Prize opening event in Des Moines, Iowa, Ellen Kullman, chief executive officer, DuPont, and Patricia Woertz, chairman, CEO and president, Archer Daniels Midland Company, urged more than 900 listeners to come together to meet the world's agricultural needs.

"We agree that we must double our agricultural output if we are to meet the needs of the world population in 2050," said Kullman. "We believe this must be done in a sustainable way to reduce agriculture's environmental footprint and conserve the precious resources available to us. We know it's going to require cooperative efforts across industries and geographies, and between private and public entities."

Added Woertz, "Innovation on the farm -- and improved yields alone -- won't be sufficient to meet future global demands. They must be accompanied by increased post-harvest investment. We in the private sector can play an important role by making infrastructure investments that help build global markets and create economic opportunity."

Afterwards, the executive director of Global Harvest Initiative, William Lesher, told reporters that his group is already meeting with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who are already working on hunger and conservation issues. He acknowledged that members of some NGOs mistrust large agribusinesses.

But the four companies alone can't solve all of the food-related problems facing the world, he said, and his group welcomes the chance to "work with NGOs of all stripes and colors."

Woertz agreed. "When you think about the size of the problem, no matter how you come at it, different views are very helpful."

When asked about the competing demands for food and energy and how ethanol fits, Woertz, whose company is one of the largest U.S. producers of ethanol, said that in the future, the demand for food and energy will both grow. And agriculture will be needed to meet both.

The CEOs of two of the world's largest agriculture-related businesses, ADM and DuPont, called Wednesday for a public-private partnership to meet global demand for food by 2050.

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