By Robert Saik posted November 202 | Posted in The Future of Food Production Speakers Corner.
Can we feed ˜10 billion people by 2050? Robert Saik says we can – but not if the voices of fear and paranoia continue to drown out the voices of science
“I have a lot of passion for agriculture and lots of ideas in my head,” says Robert Saik, CEO of AGvisorPRO, author of Food 5.0: How We Feed the Future, and keynote speaker at The Future of Food Production Summit, taking place on November 15/16/17, 2022.
Having traveled the world, working with farmers on the ground on almost every continent, does Saik believe agriculture can feed ~10 billion by 2050? “That’s not the real question,” he insists. “The real question is, will agriculture be allowed to feed ~10 billion people?”
In his opinion, many innovations, including (but not limited to) genetically modified and genetically engineered technologies, are being withheld from those who need them most.
“You have people, children, going blind because they don’t have enough Vitamin A – they have a deficiency because they can’t get enough of it in their diet, which is primarily white rice. Yet there is a product called golden rice, available for free to the poorest farmers on the planet, but for many has been sitting on a shelf since 2002 while organizations such as Greenpeace campaigned against its release.” In many countries, golden rice is not being grown commercially over fears associated with genetically modified crops.
As well as addressing nutritional needs, GE solutions can address all kinds of crop diseases, too, by creating breeds resistant to insect attack or crops that are herbicide resistant, in doing so increasing yields.
“My concern is that fanaticism is causing suffering around the globe,” Saik continues. “And make no mistake, fanaticism has a lot to do with causes, and causes have a lot to do with money. There’s a lot of static out there and most people only hear the static from one side – the ‘No, no, no, no’, while the other side is silent. We seem to have poor priorities.”
Saik cites an article from The Economist in his TEDx talk that claimed 3.1 million children under the age of five died from malnutrition in 2013. The number of children who died from GMO? “Zero,” confirms Saik.
“In the USA and Canada, we spend 7-9% of our disposable income on food whereas in Kenya they spend 45% of their disposable income on food. It seems the less we spend on food, the more time we spend complaining about it. I believe we are suffering from a first- world problem called ‘food paranoia’. The anti-science movement is the biggest threat to global food security today. The voices of science are being drowned out by the voices of fear and paranoia. We are going to need science, including GMOs, if we are to feed the future. We should be celebrating agricultural successes, not vilifying them. We should celebrate fertilizers, pesticides and genetic engineering, but we need to get over the rhetoric. We should be celebrating today’s farmers – they are producing 262% more food than in 1950 with 2% fewer inputs than 1950.”
In his book, Food 5.0, Saik addresses many of the challenges that you will find addressed in the pages of this magazine. We must grow 10,000 years’ worth of food in the next 30 years, by 2050, if we are to succeed. We must increase food production by 60-70%. We must ensure that agriculture is infinitely sustainable, but in the process it will be tested like never before. Can we do it? “Yes, if we leverage technology,” confirms Saik.
“The anti-science movement is the biggest threat to global food security today”
Food 5.0, published in 2019, focuses on the small percentage of what he refers to as the “farmers of consequence” being called upon to grow the vast majority of the world’s staple food supply. “Although mighty in their ability, they need support from a general public that increasingly has no idea how they operate,” Saik adds.
In Food 5.0, Saik takes readers on a journey from the ‘muscle era’ of farming to a future where the convergence of new technologies such as sensors, robotics and machine learning make infinite sustainability achievable, topics that you can read about in these pages.
Speaker and author, Saik also runs AGvisorPRO, a technology platform that connects those seeking agriculture advice with trusted experts who can provide answers now. “The goal is to leverage knowledge to increase agriculture sustainability using AGvisorPRO to shrink time and space,” Saik reveals.
Saik is incredibly well placed to set the scene at The Future of Food Production Summit and we look forward to hearing him open up proceedings.