Conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival

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Conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival

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Big goals from @MonsantoCo at @AspenIdeas creating enough #food to feed our growing global population and more
Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 1:15pm


On Tuesday, three Monsanto executives spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival, in an effort to engage in conversation with people of diverse perspectives about agriculture, climate change, sustainability, and other issues.

Agriculture Innovation and the Promise of Biotechnology

President and COO Brett Begemann spoke about agriculture innovation. Advancements in biotechnology are transforming agriculture.  With the global population expected to grow to nine billion people by 2050, and people seeking more and better food, we must invest in innovation now.

To date, biotechnology in agriculture has contributed to economic growth around the world. Scientists in both the public and private sector have developed products like seeds better able to cope with drought, crops that can better withstand weather extremes and changing climate, and crops that are insect-protected and herbicide-tolerant. But more is needed.

New developments in plant breeding, biotechnology, and information sciences are expected to grow threefold in the next 5 to10 years. Continuing to give our time and energy to innovations and improving output of existing farmland while also encouraging the use our natural resources in a more sustainable manner will allow us to benefit the most from the promise of biotechnology.

Feeding the Next Two Billion People

How many people do you think live India, all countries in the European Union, and the United States? Two billion, to be exact.

By 2050, two billion more people will be living on our planet. To farmers, that means two billion more mouths to feed. To meet this challenge, the world must double the food supply to keep pace with the growth. Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about some solutions to the problem.

We can achieve food security through thoughtful planning, investment, and policy making. However, all food production practices – biotechnology, conventional, and organic – have to come together. If we find common ground, set our differences aside, and continue talking with each other and working together, we can feed those two billion people, and even make plans to feed the next billion that is to come. Doubling the food supply will require every tool we have, and working together to do it sustainably.

Confronting Climate Change

While  we may not be able to pinpoint all of the causes, we know climate change is upon us. Farmers have already experienced the impacts, and without concerted action, the future could be bleak.

Climate change affects agriculture in a number of detrimental ways. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns have added pest pressure and created heat stress. Climate change has also impacted our water supply, reducing it where it’s needed most and increasing its presence in regions that dread it altogether. These challenges and more require a collaborative effort to address climate change and find ways to mitigate it.

Information sciences are already playing a role. We are using data to develop and implement not only plans on individual farms but more broadly for agricultural strategy and climate policy. David Friedberg, CEO of Monsanto’s Climate Corporation, spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival on this very concept.

Access to information has already provided farmers with innovative ways to produce more crops on their land, in turn providing them with more profit per acre.  CTO Robb Fraley says it’s important to make this data real for individuals, something they can talk about and use.

Broadly, we must continue to create greater access to this kind of information and create partnerships that address climate change with sustainable solutions.

The Importance of Honey Bees to our Plates

Nearly 30 percent of all food we have available is brought to us with the help of honey bees and other pollinators. Many of the fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, and seeds we eat every day depend upon pollination. The relationship between bees and flowering plants helps provides the world with nutritious food, but also maintains a healthy ecosystem. Today, honey bees are faced with health challenges like colony collapse disorder, pests, diseases, and other issues that threaten their ability to pollinate. That, in turn, threatens our food supply.

We can’t take for granted just how much of the food on our plates is because of bees. We’ve already seen the impact this has made on the planet, and are starting to take action. Monsanto’s Bee Health Team Lead, Jerry Hayes, is speaking on bee health issues today at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

We are searching for new ways to control the Varroa mite, a parasite that harms bees.  Monsanto has also worked to create a coalition of beekeepers, farmers, researchers, and NGOs to come together to address honey bee health, and is working with Project Apis on a bee nutrition project for almond production in California. More information on Monsanto’s bee health efforts can be found at Honey Bee Health on our corporate web site.

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Aspen Ideas Festival | Biotechnology | Ethical Production & Consumption | Monsanto | Sustainable Food | agriculture | agriculture innovation | climate change | sustainability