Agribusiness Exec Says Hunger Is Multi-Faceted Issue

Elanco CEO proposes new solutions to improving food security and addressing 'six faces of hunger'

Published on: Oct 17, 2013

Placing a different perspective on worldwide hunger will be necessary to keep a growing population away from the food insecurity tipping point, according to Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons.

Simmons, who was named the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 2013 Borlaug CAST Communication Award winner earlier this year, presented on his view of changing picture of food security in a webcast discussion coinciding with the 2013 Borlaug Dialogues in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday.

The award is given each year to a specialist who is able to communicate the importance of food and agricultural science and technology to various audiences.

Simmons studied marketing and agricultural economics at Cornell, and has developed presentations based on two white papers directly relating to hunger solutions. He spoke Wednesday on his latest white paper, "Enough is Enough – The Fight for a Food Secure Tomorrow."

Elanco CEO proposes new solutions to improving food security and addressing six faces of hunger
Elanco CEO proposes new solutions to improving food security and addressing 'six faces of hunger'

In his presentation, Simmons suggested there are six faces of food security – the collapse, the deficiency, the hunt, the edge, the quality and the tradition.

The categories ranged from complete food insecurity – having little to no food – to having food that does not meet appropriate quality standards. Simmons cited short stories from each category, including anecdotes from students in third-world countries that rely on rice and beans to mothers in Indianapolis that have no access to fresh produce.

"We've spent maybe too much time talking about the extremeness of hunger. And doing a lot of communicating in the last three years I'm finding there's a lot of numbness to that," Simmons said, explaining that hunger should be put into terms that everybody can relate to, much like the six categories he previously mentioned.

Simmons explained that hunger can appear in many different forms and levels, but the reality is that agriculture has the tools to improve production to account for the growing population and possibly more importantly, the growing middle class.

He noted that the increasing demand for meat, milk and eggs will go unmet unless farmers and food producers worldwide support innovations in agriculture. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, producers will need to make 70% more food by 2050, and 70% of that increased production will need to come from innovative solutions to optimize the efficiency of how animals are raised and food is grown.

Simmons offered three interworking solutions to ensure food production increases – supporting innovation, protecting choice and empowering trade.

According to Simmons, innovations like rbST, ractopamine and antibiotics in food animals are all examples of technology that will be necessary to improve the amount of protein produced without requiring more land and water.

To increase awareness and understanding of the solutions, Simmons proposed a year-long effort to generate a commitment from 10,000 people to make food security their cause, generate 1 million positive impressions each week about food security, and determine how agriculture can feed 1 billion people in the next 5-7 years using fewer resources.

"We've got enough innovation, let's take our pipelines and find out how we can feed a billion more people," he said, calling on public and private commitments for food security.

Simmons' discussion coincided with World Food Day, an event also punctuated by the kickoff of the 2013 Borlaug Dialogues, hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation. Borlaug, a lifelong advocate for food security and innovation, is the namesake of the CAST award which Simmons collected.

The event, which runs for three days, aims to take a deeper look at the challenges facing agriculture in the future, and how public and private partnerships can advance agricultural technology and production to meet the needs of a growing population.