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Van Camp: More technology=more food=less hunger

Although the challenge of world hunger is complex, Jeff Simmons believes food security issues can be solved by global adaptation of technology and open trade

“We can feed 10 billion people, it’s access and policy that hinders that ability,” the president of Elanco Animal Health said in a recent phone interview with Country Guide.

Since writing a 2009 paper widely touted as a counterpoint to environmental and animal rights activists, Simmons has shared his broadstroke message with anyone that will listen — and it seems more people are listening.

Simmons now has a blog and a Twitter following (@JeffSimmons2050) and is a sought-out speaker and member on panels discussing food security, including at the G-8 meeting in Washington and Chicago last year and a Nobel Peace Prize forum on food security.

In February, Simmons also shared his views at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference in Banff.

Through these efforts he’s trying to fundamentally change the mindset that using technology to produce food is bad and in fact, he says we need to embrace it to feed the world.

“We’re living between the global population growing from seven to nine billion between now and 2050,” he says. “Three billion people will be moving to the middle class in the next 20 years, and they will be looking to eat more meat, milk and eggs.”

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the world will need to produce 100 per cent more food by 2050 and 70 per cent of the increased production must come from efficiency-enhancing agricultural technologies.

“The challenge is that innovation has to keep progressing,” says Simmons. “Candidly, we don’t need the next iPod touch as much as we need an innovation that helps us raise the next gallon of milk per cow in Canada.”

Simmons is adamant that gains in production cannot come at the price of decreasing environmental sustainability or consumer choice. However, technology will be key in solving global food security and we cannot let fringe groups harness public policy to shackle this effort.

If someone wants to buy certain foods at four times the cost, that’s fine, but policies should not limit food for everyone else, he says.

— Maggie Van Camp is an associate editor with Country Guide at Blackstock, Ont.

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