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Global poll seeks solutions to feeding the world

As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss a sustainable future for the planet the timing could not be better for a coordinated effort to ask the world's farmers -- the very people who are tasked with providing the solution -- a very important question.

How are we going to feed the world? It's the most important question of the 21st century. It concerns everyone from the wealthiest business tycoons to the wide-eyed hungry of the poorest shanty towns.

The question is being posed by the UK farm publication Farmers Weekly as it launches an international poll in association with Successful Farming magazine and a number of other key farming titles around the world.

Click here to take part. Everyone who enters will get a chance to win a trip for two to South Africa, including 2 tickets to a World Cup finals match. The trip is supported by Bayer CropScience.

In adding your thoughts, you'll address 5 key factors that will be instrumental in how we nourish a growing population. Just indicate which one you think is the most important. They are:

  1. Removal of trade barriers
  2. Government intervention in food production
  3. Investment in research and development
  4. Uptake of new technologies and genetic modification
  5. Broader expertise, through education and training.

Farmers Weekly is also running a forum where you can contribute further to the debate. It's a unique opportunity to share your views and glean those of a truly worldwide audience. History will be made during this global gathering of agricultural minds -- make sure you're a part of it!

"It's as analogous as the fourth of July or flying the stars and stripes for a U.S. farmer," says Dan Looker, Business Editor for Successful Farming, the nation's largest circulation farming publication. "But we're close to a negative trade balance and the Obama administration is being urged not to ignore trade issues."

The U.S. is the bread basket of the world. Its relatively consistent supply of wheat, soybeans and corn largely set the pace of world markets. There are 100 million head of cattle and GM technology is mainstream.

But $5 billion per year in direct farm subsidies are proving unpopular to some farmers. These support the commodity producers, largely in the Midwest, and the more entrepreneurial, unsubsidised fruit growers in California, for example, resent the subsidies. "The Senate doesn't like them, but they survive and additional subsidies have been introduced," Looker says. "Farmers profess to be ambivalent to them, but most commodity groups fight to retain them."

Meanwhile initial enthusiasm for biofuels has decidedly waned. "There's a backlash from various interests against the biodiesel and bioethanol speculative bubble. Questions are now being asked about its carbon footprint -- farmers are still very supportive, but the industry is struggling in the public eye," Looker adds.

The nation's cattle farmers are under pressure from the Carbon Cap-and-Trade Bill. This sets limits on carbon emissions, something that could have indirect effects on farmers' costs of production. "No one is excited about the prospect of a carbon tax," he says. "A lot of farmers don't even believe that global warming exists."

As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss a sustainable future for the planet the timing could not be better for a coordinated effort to ask the world's farmers -- the very people who are tasked with providing the solution -- a very important question.

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