DECATUR, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Through innovation, investment and partnership, agriculture can sustainably serve the world’s growing needs for food and energy.
This is the central message that Patricia Woertz, chairman, CEO and president of Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM), shared with leaders in academia, agriculture and the food industry today during her remarks at the opening session of the 2009 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa. Attendees gathered to listen, learn and promote meaningful, ongoing discussion among those with a stake in the future of food and agriculture.
“World food demand will as much as double by mid-century, and by the same time, energy from traditional sources will be insufficient to meet global demand,” said Woertz. “The world is looking to agriculture to serve these needs – against a backdrop of constrained natural resources and growing environmental challenges.”
Efforts to meet the agricultural challenges of this century will begin with innovation to continue the advances in seed technology and in farming practices that have dramatically increased the productivity of global farmlands, she said.
Between 1981 and 2007, world corn production grew 56 percent, while acreage dedicated to corn production grew less than 10 percent – the equivalent of creating 153 million “virtual acres” of arable land. In the past 10 years, farmers were able to meet sharp increases in demand for corn, meat and soybeans with just four percent growth in crop area. These gains came despite the fact that most of the developing world has not yet begun to approach the yields seen in developed countries.
ADM conducted a survey of all land currently used for production, taking into account growing conditions. “We asked: what if, last year, all 15 of the top producing nations or regions had been able to achieve somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the best yields on record? What if we could get that level of productivity out of currently farmed land?” said Woertz.
“Without bringing a single additional acre of land into production, there would be an increase of up to 50 percent in global maize production; growth of up to 52 percent in world wheat production; and an increase of as much as 41 percent in rapeseed production,” she said.
“These yields alone would dramatically enhance the availability of key crops for food, feed, fiber and fuel uses,” said Woertz. “And when you combine them with new efficiencies in crop processing, feed utilization and biofuel production, the prospects for achieving benefits that would extend to all humankind are even more pronounced.”
“Innovation on the farm – and improved yields alone – won’t be sufficient to meet our future global demands. They must be accompanied by increased investment,” Woertz noted.
The United Nations FAO has estimated that 10 percent of the world’s grain production – or about 220 million tons – is lost to mishandling and post-harvest operations. The FAO also estimated that the world wasted 48 million tons of rice in 2008 – enough to feed 184 million people, or approximately one-fifth of those who are undernourished. “Clearly, protecting the crops we already harvest, through investment in research and infrastructure, is critical to reaching those who need them most,” said Woertz.
The International Food Policy Research Institute noted last year that reducing the number of people worldwide living in poverty by 50 percent would require an annual investment of between $14 and $28 billion in agricultural research and infrastructure – specifically, in irrigation and rural roads. “While investment in basic infrastructure is the responsibility of government, we in the private sector can play an important role as well by making infrastructure investments that help build global markets and create economic opportunity,” said Woertz, noting that ADM is investing to expand its global sourcing, storage, transportation and processing capabilities.
ADM is also partnering with companies and organizations to develop new methods to increase production and help protect the environment. ADM has partnered with organizations in Africa, Asia and South America to help farmers implement environmentally and socially responsible growing practices and improve yields. “Such positive, productive collaborations as these represent the kind of multi-stakeholder partnerships that are critical to agriculture’s continued development in the 21st century,” Woertz said.
“As we pursue the advances that will help ensure agriculture can meet the world’s growing need for food, fiber and energy in a sustainable way, we will need to address the concerns that can arise with visions as ambitious as these,” she said. “We will need to listen to many diverse stakeholders as we work to implement workable ideas and solutions. And we will need to continue to respond when temporary natural, political or market disruptions pose threats to the wellbeing of individuals.”
“With continued innovation, investment and partnership, we are confident that agriculture can create viable, sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing needs,” Woertz said.
Every day, the 28,000 people of Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) turn crops into renewable products that meet the demands of a growing world. At more than 230 processing plants, we convert corn, oilseeds, wheat and cocoa into products for food, animal feed, chemical and energy uses. We operate the world’s premier crop origination and transportation network, connecting crops and markets in more than 60 countries. Our global headquarters is in Decatur, Illinois, and our net sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009, were $69 billion. For more information about our Company and our products, visit www.adm.com.
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