Forty years from now there will be 9 billion people walking this planet. To provide proper nutrition for them, farmers will need to double the current rate of production.

Anticipation of such a burgeoning world population – along with the need to find solutions to ensure an adequate food supply -- drove the 2009 founding of the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) by Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere, Dupont/Pioneer, and Monsanto. “Consultative partners” of the initiative include Conservation International, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, TransFarm Africa Corridors Network, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and the Congressional Hunger Center.

GHI has released five policy papers on how various segments of agriculture can address the increasing food needs. Those segments include research, science-based technologies, private sector involvement, development assistance programs and trade.

Recently, Farm Press spoke with Bill Lesher, GHI executive director, about the effort. Among his comments:

An overview of GHI…

“Our focus is on sustainably increasing the rate of global agricultural productivity growth to address food security.

“In simple terms, we look at the world and the challenges facing growing enough agricultural output over the next 40 years and have great concerns. That’s because we must double output in a way that is sustainable. In other words, there isn’t that much more land and water and other inputs that can be used. So, we must increase the rate of agricultural productivity growth.

“That’s what we’re about. We’re saying ‘the world faces a serious challenge of meeting (food) needs so people don’t starve.’ But there are a number of ways to help avoid this and improve food security worldwide.”

On specific measures…

“We must increase the rate of productivity growth – what we call ‘the productivity gap.’ (Towards that goal), we have outlined some measures in (five) white papers that we think will help achieve the necessary increases in productivity growth.    

“One of those is research. We feel agricultural research is really underfunded. North American farmers, and those elsewhere, can meet the challenges but they must have some love and attention -- research (provides a good part of that).

“Another (main goal involves) trade. The United States produces enough food, and produces it more efficiently than most other places in the world. We have a competitive advantage. But to solve the world’s problems, we need freer trade.   

“Another (goal involves) new technologies. We can’t meet these demands without embracing new technologies. That means you must have regulatory systems that are certainly based on science. But they must have enough resources to approve new technologies in a timely manner.

“Also, if we’re to help folks around the globe who aren’t nearly as productive as they can be – for example, in Africa – we must streamline, and make more effective, our agriculture development programs to help small stakeholders produce more.

“Lastly, we must have more private sector involvement in this global food security space. The simple fact is that there is not enough money combined in the treasuries of develop and developing countries to meet global food security challenges in a sustainable way.

“Bottom line: we feel that modern production agriculture, such as we have in the United States, can have a big part to play in meeting the challenges of food security and meet them in a sustainable way.”