There’s a Science to feeding the world


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One in seven people on earth goes to bed hungry each night. Ensuring that enough healthy, nutritious food is available for people everywhere is one of the most critical challenges we face.

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There’s a Science to feeding the world

  1. 1. There’s a Science to feeding the world There is no question that we face daunting challenges in feeding the world today—challenges that will get only more daunting in the decades to come. But DuPont—and its collaborators across the food chain—are optimistic, as scientific innovations have already significantly enhanced the quality and quantity of food production. These contributions include: • Maximizing the yield potential of seeds – even in harsh conditions; • Keeping crops pest-free and disease-free; • Enhancing the nutritional value of staple foods; • Detecting contamination before it causes sickness; and • Reducing waste by packaging food to protect it from contaminants and decay. Through the scientific method–research, application of prior knowledge and innovation– mankind has the capacity to address the food crisis, if only the global community can also find the will to address the political, economic, trade, infrastructure and regulatory issues that will also play a critical role in achieving food security. DuPont sees the achievement of global food security and safety by 2050 as a mission built upon four pillars: • Science is universal, but solutions are local: Although science provides universal answers, solutions must be local, due to wide variations in a number of environmental factors, including climate, soils and pests, as well as cultural traditions and issues surrounding transportation/distribution infrastructures. • Collaboration unlocks answers: Solutions must be collaborative—reached in concert with farmers, communities, local businesses, governments and NGOs who know the “facts on the ground,” and with global corporations with specialized expertise to help solve specific problems. • Science must become local wisdom: Know-how must be brought to the people and places that need it most. Working side-by-side with the population in education and outreach efforts transfers knowledge to the communities who need it to secure their futures. • Solutions must be sustainable in the broadest sense of the word: The food supply must continually expand, while also considering social, economic and ecological factors such as infrastructure, storage and waste and improving and preserving water quality. DuPont collaborations in agriculture, nutrition, food protection, packaging and biosciences provide guidance for future efforts to increase food security and safety all over the world. Looking forward to 2050 The Advisory Committee on Agricultural Innovation and Productivity for the 21st Century, convened by DuPont and chaired by former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, has reported that the food security challenge facing mankind is three-fold. We must: • Produce more food and increase the nutritional value of food; • Make food accessible and affordable for people; and
  2. 2. • Address the challenge in a continuously more sustainable and comprehensive way. The applied science of DuPont and its collaborators has already made great strides in meeting the challenge by: • Developing soy supplements to make protein available and affordable; • Producing higher yield varieties of corn and rice; • Helping producers meet environmental standards; • Protecting the integrity of the food supply through pathogen detection and packaging; and • Working directly with farmers to improve agricultural practices. This application of science—done in very specific ways, tailored to each location and practiced from the research lab to the rice paddy—is the key to meeting the challenges articulated by the DuPont Advisory Committee. That is why 60% of the total research and development budget at DuPont is devoted to unlocking innovations in food, agriculture and biotechnology. The successful application of science to achieving food security and safety will above all require a complete commitment to collaboration all along the food chain—from field to table—and must include those individuals and organizations with the power to make the world more secure politically and socially, including national and regional governments, NGOs, manufacturers, high technology firms and others. Because, quite simply, feeding the world is everyone’s business. 1 The Resource Outlook to 2050, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 2 Coping with Water Scarcity, 3 South Asian Media Net, “India Environmental Issues,” September 3, 2010 id=0id=4912folder_id=333Page_Title=India%20Environmental%20Issues 4 How to Feed the World in 2050, Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., How_to_Feed_the_World_in_2050.pdf 5 International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, 6 In 1975, the world held 4 billion people. In 2011, that number has grown to 7 billion. It will reach 9 billion by 2050. According to the U.N., global food production must be 70% greater than today’s level to feed that population. To meet future demand, arable land in developing countries would have to expand by about 120 million hectares. However, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. projects arable land in those nations will decline by 11% due to climate change.1 Added to this, the United Nations Environment Program estimates water scarcity may reduce crop yields by 12%.2 In fact, India, which reached a population of 1.2 billion early in 2011, already saw per capita water availability drop by 70% between 1947 and 2002.3 By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities and large towns,4 reducing access to fresh foods. Accelerating development means the volume of arable land will continue declining. Between 1988 and 1995, well before its current economic boom, China lost an estimated 980,000 hectares of farmland to construction.5 According to the World Bank, billions of people in the developing world already spend half to three quarters of their income on food, with food prices having jumped 36% between March 2010 and March 2011.6
  3. 3. Science is universal but solutions are local Although science provides answers that can be applied universally, DuPont’s experience shows that solutions must be found at the local level. This is mandated by wide variations in environmental factors, including climate, soils and pests, as well as by cultural traditions and issues surrounding transportation and distribution infrastructures. Malawi in southeast Africa is one of the world’s least developed countries. Its economy is primarily agricultural, its population largely rural. Peanuts and sorghum are staple foods for the majority of the population, but neither delivers sufficient protein. Raising livestock for protein is impractical due to cost and lack of grazing land. Solae LLC, a DuPont joint venture with Bunge, has worked with local farmers and leaders in Malawi to develop a protein-rich soy supplement that can be provided directly to the people. The BAX system, created by DuPont Qualicon, is used around the world to identify bacterial contamination in food at the genetic level. Because standards and regulations for pathogen detection can vary from country to country, DuPont Qualicon may develop customized solutions for local needs. For example, U.S. regulations mandate the food products must be free of Listeria, so the BAX system tests for its presence or absence. In the European Union, however, a threshold for Listeria has been established in certain foods that do not offer a medium for growth. So DuPont Qualicon developed an alternative protocol to detect listeria above or below the allowable thresholds. Protecting crops from indigenous pests in ways that accord with local practices, traditions and conditions is critical. In China, where plots of farmland are often less than a hectare (2.7 acres) in size, DuPont Crop Protection packages products in sachets of only five milliliters to meet local needs. In India, where farmers prefer granulated crop protection formulas, products were developed to meet that agronomic practice. DuPont Crop Protection has more than 20 core research centers worldwide, working in partnership with local farmers and government groups. Experts from Pioneer Hi-Bred – a DuPont business – were working with local Filipino rice farmers to increase crop yields with hybrid rice varieties when they recognized that the traditional method of seed bed planting resulted in major loss of yield to rodents, birds and insects prior to transplanting. DuPont consulted with Inca Plastics and local farmers to develop and distribute a rice drum seeder so farmers could plant pre- germinated hybrid seeds, increasing yield while reducing labor. The introduction of low cost mechanization makes farming more productive while delivering a potential yield advantage of 600 kilograms compared with seed bed planting.
  4. 4. Collaboration unlocks the answers science provides Around the globe, DuPont scientists work in concert with farmers, local businesses, governments, NGOs and others who know the “facts on the ground” in order to find the answers that will increase production, reduce waste, fight disease and deliver nutrition to those most in need. Tuta Absoluta, a moth originating in South America, entered the Mediterranean basin and was threatening tomatoes, Spain’s largest export crop. DuPont Crop Protection brought its scientists, along with agricultural experts from Brazil, where the moth had been successfully confronted, together with Spanish officials to find ways to combat the pest. Severe malnutrition remains an endemic concern in much of the developing world. Danisco, the Danish food ingredients company that became part of the DuPont Nutrition Health business in 2011, worked with the Indian branch of the Norwegian emergency and therapeutic food manufacturer Compact to develop EeZeePaste, a shelf-stable, low moisture product that delivers high energy and vital nutrients to treat severely malnourished children and adults. DuPont Qualicon and the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture are collaborating on a new test for detecting hard-to-identify strains of toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) that are not currently regulated but are a growing concern for foodborne illness in the United States, Europe, Japan and food safety agencies worldwide. Serious epidemics of rust, a disease of corn caused by the common fungus Puccinia sorghi, deplete both crop yield and quality. Pioneer Hi-Bred joined with Argentina’s Institute of Genetics to study genetic variability in the fungus. By taking rust samples from 10 to 25 locations each growing season, Pioneer and its Argentine colleagues will identify genes that resist infection and develop hybrid corn with innate resistance, maximizing yield and quality. Once food is produced, its containers are the first line of defense against damage and spoilage resulting in costly waste. DuPont Packaging works with local packaging technologists around the world —including India, Africa, China and the U.S. — to develop custom resin applications that meet specific market needs, maximize freshness and stability and reduce waste.
  5. 5. Science must become local wisdom The conviction that know-how must be brought to the people and places that need it most is central to the DuPont approach. Working side-by-side with the population in education and outreach efforts transfers knowledge to the communities who will use it to secure their futures. Palm oil trees are a crucial cash crop in Malaysia, but major food processors require plantations to be certified as meeting a host of environmental and safety standards. Tapping the expertise within other DuPont businesses, DuPont Crop Protection helped plantations receive certification by conducting hazard risk assessments, establishing package recycling programs and providing safety training and protective equipment. This was all in addition to on-site product stewardship efforts that showed workers how to properly apply crop protection products. Rural schools in Indonesia are hard pressed to provide basic facilities and equipment. As most parents in rural Indonesia are farmers, Pioneer Hi-Bred introduced a program to help those parents learn about hybrid corn technology, sustainable farming techniques, agribusiness and grain marketing. Nine schools provided 15 hectares of land (about 40 acres) for corn production, agreeing to share in proceeds of the corn crop. In the first year of the program, the schools realized nearly $6,000. In Kenya, small dairy farmers were losing a significant percentage of raw milk to spoilage due to a lack of refrigeration prior to transport to processing facilities. Danisco worked with the Food Science Technology Department of Kenya’s Egerton University to provide a solution. Studies showed that adding the enzyme hoxose oxidase (HOX) to raw milk extended its freshness for 12 to 15 hours without refrigeration, allowing enough time for transporting. Plans call for this effort to be extended to small dairy farmers in other developing nations. By closely collaborating with regulatory agencies around the world, DuPont Qualicon helps many countries improve their food safety readiness awareness. Advanced diagnostic technology allows government services to identify local strands of specific bacteria and build domestic databases that help epidemiologists trace the source of an outbreak more quickly.
  6. 6. Solutions must become broadly sustainable For DuPont, “sustainability” means more than expanding the food supply. It also encompasses social, economic and ecological considerations, such as infrastructure, storage, waste reduction and improving and preserving water quality—all of which are critical to achieving global food security. Soy can play a significant role in ensuring food security into 2050 and beyond, as it yields approximately 356 pounds of usable protein and 500 pounds of oil per acre of farmland, compared to 82 pounds of protein for milk and 78 for eggs. Raising a ton of soybeans requires about 2,500 gallons of water, versus 4,500 for chicken and 5,900 for pork. Clearly, maximizing soy as a food source worldwide can boost nutrition while preserving natural resources. Solae™ soy proteins and Plenish™ high oleic soy oil are at the forefront of delivering the nutritional benefits of one of the globe’s most sustainable crops. It’s a given that agriculture consumes huge quantities of water, but mechanized methods – especially in commercial farming operations - also consume vast amounts of fuel. Cultivation, planting, harvesting, plowing under and disking can require 8 to 10 tractor trips over the land. Pioneer Hi-Bred has developed corn that can be planted through the stalks and is resistant to weeds and insects, dramatically reducing the total number of tractor trips, saving fuel and diminishing creation of greenhouse gasses. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of global crop yield would be lost to insects or weeds without crop protection products. But pesticides must be created and applied in a manner that protects farmers and the greater environment. DuPont Crop Protection develops products on a parallel track—environmental considerations are part of the RD process as well as efficacy. For example, methods are in development to treat seed stock before planting, reducing exposure of agricultural workers to crop protection products.