High-tech seeds and innovations in chemicals and farming will not be enough to solve looming food shortages for the world, according to a report issued Tuesday by a committee formed by food and chemicals conglomerate DuPont.
Billions of dollars in private investment, government incentives and charitable work must be funneled into collaborative projects if global food production is to match growing demand, the report urged.
Both biotech and organic farming will play a role, said the report by the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agricultural Innovation & Productivity for the 21st Century.
"People are starting to recognize that food demand is outstripping supply," said DuPont executive vice president Jim Borel, who oversees DuPont's agriculture and nutrition business.
"If the world doesn't figure out how to effectively deal with this challenge, then the results are ugly," he said. "It is becoming clear... that society has to figure out ways to work together differently than we ever have."
World economic and agricultural leaders have projected the world's population will surpass 9 billion by 2050, and 10 billion by the turn of the century. And they have forecast that global food production must jump 70 percent or more to meet demand.
Indeed, global grain stocks are currently at historically low levels, sparking high prices for corn, wheat, soy and other crops.
Such dire warnings have prompted a rush by investors and public and private groups to buy up agricultural land, and have agriculture seed and chemical companies like DuPont and its competitors rushing to roll out higher-yielding seeds and more potent fertilizers and herbicides.
The report stated that lagging public policy support for increased food production, outdated and ineffective infrastructure, and a lack of cohesive efforts by public and private players were among the many hurdles to increasing food production.
Africa and south and southeast Asia were pegged as key areas in need of cohesive development efforts.
"There is nothing easy about what we have to do," said former Sen. Tom Daschle, who chaired the committee. "This is one of the greatest challenges facing the human race."
He said billions of dollars will have to be spent to achieve nutritious and adequate food supplies for the world's population.
"It is going to take tremendous financing if this is going to happen. If we don't do this collectively and in a collaborative way, then we are going to fail," Daschle said.
The recommendations issued by the five-member committee included a call for increased long-term corporate investments in emerging markets to create jobs and raise incomes and to improve education and youth development; government incentives for those private-sector investments; and stronger intellectual property rights and land rights provisions.
The committee also said that governments need to adopt harmonized regulations for plant biotechnology, such as the genetically altered corn seed developed by DuPont and rival seed companies.
Investments are also needed for roads and bridges, as well as storage and processing facilities, according to the report.
And the report cited subsidies and trade distortions as problems that have distorted the international food and agricultural system.
In addition to Daschle, the other committee members are Charlotte Hebebrand, chief executive of the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council; J.B. Penn, chief economist for Deere & Co.; Pedro Sanchez, co-chair of the Hunger Task Force of the Millennium Project, an advisory body to the United Nations; and Jo Luck, president of nonprofit Heifer International and co-winner of the 2010 World Food Prize.