Biotechnology Feeds Sustainability, Feeds the World

Laura McNamara

Thirty-three percent of the land’s surface is used for food production. That’s the figure that John Hoffman, Iowa farmer and President of the American Soybean Association puts out there. He says that 33 percent makes up 55 percent of the land that’s arable. So, we’re already using more than half the arable land out there to feed the world. Much of the rest, John points out, is mountainous, desert or protected forests and parks. In short, John is basically saying, ‘what we’re already using, is all we’ve got.’ Plus, he adds, we have to produce more… ‘with what we’ve got.’

“We’ve got to grow to feed double the amount of people on the same amount of arable land.,” John said. “We don’t want to encroach on fragile rainforests as Michael said or encroach on grasslands. So we need to find a way to do that. I think from my experience, my travels, my knowledge on my own farm, that the way we’re going to do that is unequivocally with biotechnology.”

Biotechnology, Hoffman says, is the answer for feeding the future and protecting our environment.

“We’ve got to feed that growing world,” John said. “We’ve got to step up to the plate and provide fuel, food, fiber, feed and I think American agriculture world agriculture will be able to do that and its through biotechnology.”

As far as the recent trend for organically grown goods. Well, John says there’s a reality to growing organically that we can’t ignore if we’re going to successfully respond to a growing global food crisis.

“There’s been a movement towards maybe having organic as a standard out there some of the standards organizations are tying to make that the standard,” John said. “But I think every one of us in this room understands and realizes that if we’re going to feed that developing world we’ve got to do it through biotech.”

Everyone has to do their part, John says. He points out that each year we lose about 1.5 million acres in the United States to developments, roads, shoping malls and housing developments. A reality that he says will make feeding the world tougher. His philosophy for a solution though, is a seemingly simple one:

“Turning to my farm, you know, the old saying, think global and act local applies here,” John said.

John says he uses no-till farming practices on his farm and he buffer strips 30 acres of his land along creeks and borders. He’s committed, he says, to being a good conservationist.

“I say farmers are the first line of environmentalists,” John said. “We live on the land. We breathe the air. Our families drink the water. So certainly we do our utmost to protect the natural resources.”

With the right approach, John says he believes we can meet the world’s demands in a sustainable and environmentally-conscious way.

“I think we can make an impact on the national landscape and ultimately we’re going to move globally,” John said. “We’re in this together and we’re going to perform well on a global basis so we can step up to the plate and feed this growing world.”

You can download and listen to John Hoffman’s entire speech at the 2008 Farm Progress Show in Boone, IA here: fp-08-hoffman.mp3

You can also download the speech with this link.

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AgWired coverage of the 2008 Farm Progress Show
is sponsored by: BASF and New Holland

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