Can the farmers of the world feed 9 billion people by 2050?
That is the big question that people on the cutting edge of agricultural research have been asking for a number of years, ever since they realized that it was a real question.
Now, says Robert Fraley, CEO of Monsanto and one of the speakers at this year's Borlaug Dialogues in Des Moines, Iowa, this week, we know how to proceed.
He says there is a path forward. We need to freeze the ag footprint on the environment, create sustainable intensification of agriculture, efficiently use inputs, reduce waste and modify the human diet to include more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fraley, who in 2013 was a World Food Prize Laureate, suggested that technology can prevent fragile lands from being put into production by increasing gains on lands already farmed.
Appearing on the same panel, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said that there is a huge step to be taken in getting the public to accept sound science.
He said that the left challenges the science of biotechnology at the same time the right challenges to the science of climate change – and that both hurt the ability of the current decision makers to deal with reality.
"Research should be devoted to things that we don't yet know, not to things that are already established," Glickman said.
At the same time, he said, he is encouraged by the fact that food supply and agricultural production are part of the discussion at major policy summits.
"It used to be that at an international summit, food and agriculture weren't even part of the conversation," he said. "Now they are and that is a gain."
To learn more about the discussion of how we reach the goal of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, look for stories in the November Kansas Farmer.