The Food Effect At South By Southwest

From the archives: The 10-billion person question

Science can save the world (but only if we let it)

Editor's note: This story was orginally published on Dec. 11, 2018. 

More mouths to feed.

More food to be grown.

Less land in production.

Less room for error.


How do you do more (and more), with less (and less)?

As a farmer-owned cooperative with a farm-to-fork view of the entire agricultural system, this is a question we at Land O’Lakes ask and answer every day. It’s the 10-billion-person question that must be addressed -- not in 2050, when we’re expected to reach a global population of 10 billion people, but today.

Farmers continuously rise to the challenge of feeding more people using less land and water. With more mouths to feed and lives on the line, farmers have always had science by their side, a powerful tool in helping them to achieve their mission of increasing food stability on a global scale.

But the challenges we face today are like nothing we have ever experienced before: scarce additional arable land, limited freshwater and 815 million people around the world currently facing food insecurity.

A Scientist Working Inside A WinField United Lab

Science can save the world...

Fueled by optimistic minds and inspired leaders, the solutions to these challenges -- looming ever-larger and -closer -- are possible only through science.

Take Dr. Beth Dunford, who helps to lead Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Dr. Dunford’s work focuses on how science can help mitigate the many challenges agriculture faces due to an increasing global population -- including surprising crops, like eggplant. A nutrient-rich food, eggplant falls prey to many pests, such as the fall armyworm. In Africa, for example, this insect can damage up to half of farmers’ crops. Dr. Dunford and her team have scientifically created a new eggplant seed that is resistant to fall armyworm. This innovation has helped farmers maintain food security.

Or take Dr. Lisa Dyson, chief executive officer of Kiverdi. Dr. Dyson, a physicist by training, helped to develop her company’s system, originated from practices performed by NASA, to recycle carbon dioxide into high-value oils and proteins. Those oils and proteins can be used to produce goods we use and consume every day, from lotions to paint to packaging.

And Dr. Pamela Ronald, a professor at University of California, Davis, focuses on strategies to help counteract climate change around the world. Her studies involve the creation of a genetically crafted flood-tolerant rice seed. This seed allows farmers in flood zones to grow their rice crops year after year, regardless of changing weather patterns. With this seed, poor farmers in areas such as Bangladesh and India are able to grow enough rice to not only feed their families but also to sell it to make a sustainable living.

...But only if we let it

These are just a few examples of how science can be at the forefront of solving world hunger and addressing resources constraints, but only if we continue to let it. It is up to us as a society to prioritize scientific education, provide accurate examples of success and vote our conscience. Only by empowering innovators and believing in their science today can we find a way to continue feeding human progress for the future.