Davos Notebook

Let’s end world hunger

By Hugh Grant
January 24, 2012

Last year was a milestone year for raising awareness and advancing a global dialogue about the challenge of doubling food production by 2050 to combat hunger and malnutrition and meet the needs of a fast-growing population. Recent attention paid to the birth of the 7 billionth human on earth did much to help drive this global conversation. But looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, our challenge – in fact our imperative – must be to translate this momentum into action.

In 2000, the United Nations member states, together with international organizations, challenged the world to come together to address the Millennium Development Goals, first among them being the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. We now have but three short years remaining to meet these goals. While much has been debated about the analytics and measurements driving the goals themselves, the simple, incontestable fact is that to thrive — and in many cases to survive — we as a global society must address poverty and hunger.

The two problems are inextricably linked. And we must come together – CEOs and NGOs, those focused on increasing productivity and those focused on environmental sustainability – if we are to have any hope of being successful.

According to the World Food Program, hunger is the number one health risk in the world, killing more people than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined. By 2050 there will be 9.5 billion people living on earth. Today, nearly 1 billion people are already suffering from hunger and malnutrition in some of the fastest growing regions of the world. The challenge of doubling food production by 2050 will become more difficult as key resources become increasingly scarce and a changing climate creates unforeseen obstacles.

There is broad-based support for tackling hunger, which has been a key point of discussion in leadership meetings including the G20 and the World Economic Forum as well as the United Nations General Assembly meetings. While we can point to significant strides in areas like combating malaria and access to education, the most recent Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that our progress in addressing hunger has plateaued, and may have worsened in some regions.

One of the biggest challenges we must overcome in addressing hunger is blending a technical approach to farming that increases productivity with an environmental approach that promotes sustainability. I am excited by recent advances by the private and public sectors in creating solutions for farmers that increase yields per acre while at the same time requiring fewer environmental resources — notably water, which is often so precious in developing countries. It is this type of innovation that will enable us to produce more from the same, if not a smaller, footprint on the planet. I am confident that with the right set of diverse partners around the table, we will continue to bring solutions to the farmers who feed us and provide the materials used to clothe us.

At Davos I will meet with leaders from other companies and representatives of governments and civil society groups as part of the initiative focused on sustainable agriculture called the New Vision for Agriculture Initiative. Monsanto is one of the 26 global partner companies of the World Economic Forum providing strategic leadership and championship of the initiative. This will be a great opportunity to work with our peers to build on the ideas put forward in 2011 at the World Economic Forum.

But it’s what happens after Davos that will make the difference: how we put our words and ideas into action. Throughout 2012 and beyond, governments, NGOs and my fellow corporate CEOs must pledge to keep the momentum going in combating the challenges that come with poverty.

International collaboration is critical because agriculture provides not only food but also essential commodities, services and social goods that facilitate economic growth. Bottom line: We can’t defeat poverty and hunger without all the stakeholders coming to the table and focusing on actions and compromise that result in change.

At the G20 Summit, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation presented a report titled “Innovation with Impact: Financing 21st Century Development,” which is essentially a road map for what countries must do to build on the progress already made in the developing world. The Gates report argues that lessening financial commitments now would irreparably damage the developing world and keeping aid commitments to it would essentially accelerate progress so developing nations will eventually no longer require outside aid. The report says that the private sector has an important role to play here too – creating the tools and opportunities for economic empowerment through the course of our work in developing nations. We couldn’t agree more, and know that many other companies that are making corporate responsibility a part of their everyday business operations agree with this as well.

Real solutions to global hunger challenges are needed now. The challenges are not getting smaller. Our company is proud to participate in this dialogue and will continue to encourage others to engage in this debate to create real change in 2012 and beyond. Let’s make a global promise to mitigate hunger once and for all.

Comments
10 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“The simple, incontestable fact is that to thrive — and in many cases to survive — we as a global society must address poverty and hunger.”

No, we don’t. And we shouldn’t. You advocate treating the symptom and ignoring the cause, which is unrestrained reproduction worldwide by people who have no land to grow crops, decreasing water per capita, poor or no education, poor or no skills, poor or no prospects in a world that does not need and should not welcome more open mouths already doomed by their circumstances to produce nothing but urine and feces.

Forty years ago the people were starving in Somalia. Twenty years ago the people were starving in Somalia. Today the people are starving in Somalia. The world “celebrated” the tragedy of SEVEN MILLION PEOPLE on a planet that cannot provide a decent life in the distant future for half that number.

“By 2050 there will be 9.5 billion people living on earth.” WHY? For governments the world over to permit this to come to pass is the ultimate irresponsibility.

Don’t make a “global promise” you can’t keep. If by some miracle you “keep it” this year, there will be ever more people year after year until you don’t. You can’t keep doing the same thing year after year and expect different results!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Wow. Bonus. We thought we were going to get to mock that Notting Hill actor guy when we clicked on this page but instead we get to have a little fun with Adolf Malthus here, aka, “oneofthesheep” who wants to clear out about 3.5 billion people to make things a bit better for the rest of us (well, we hope it’s “us” anyway).

We can guess he’d start with the 10 million people in Somalia, but we’re wondering if we might get some granularity on where he’d go next, or which government might run on a platform of ridding half their population.

Also, some details, but maybe worth looking at. When a place like Japan does its own downsizing, does that take a little heat off somewhere else? If yes, can we have a global straw-drawing rather than let the Japanese pick who gets off the hook, or firing line, or whatever?

We love the concept, just want to flesh it out a bit.

If it doesn’t get much traction though, maybe it’s worth hearing out the CEO of Monsanto.

Posted by WeWereWallSt | Report as abusive
 

Haven’t read the main article yet but…

@OneOfTheSheep: “unrestrained reproduction”… What do you propose to do about this? Interfere in some way with the lives of people with the potential to reproduce?

Proven fact: high poverty and low educational oppotunities/ attainment are positively correlated with high reproductive rate. Low poverty, high income equality and high educational opportunities/ attainment tend to lead naturally to slower population growth, and more harmonious societies for everyone.

Other proven fact: there are already plenty of resources in the world for 7 billion people to live comfortably.

This supports my theory that people are biologically & psychologically programmed to put their hopes into the next generation, when they cannot find hope in anything else. When people cannot find happiness and comfort in their own lives, they give everything to their children and grandchildren and wish happiness for them – hoping to receive happiness by proxy through their children’s lives. In terms of political & social psychology, people may even be genetically programmed to fight their kinsmen’s corner in class warfare by multiplying more when the system pushes them to the edge of survival. End results? The Arab Spring should give us some idea…

Educate the poor. Share the opportunities. Share the fresh air, the sunshine, the nature and park-land: don’t just fence off massive tracts of land to make huge gardens for billionaires, while everyone else lives in shanty-towns and cramped apartments. And then, “problematic” and uneven population growth will even itself out. The ship will right itself, when the cargo is redistributed…

I might read the main article later – though I’m very sceptical of the ethics and value of what Monsanto does, from what I’ve read previously… Ever heard of “biodiversity”, Mr. Monsanto? How are we going to resist the pandemics of the future or reduce our carbon footprint, without the reintroduction of local crop varieties and localised distribution of goods? What should the response be, to crop disease? Ever deepening dependency on uniform genetic engineering???

I do hope your article answers these questions, or it will leave me even more disenchanted with Monsanto’s propaganda…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive
 

I have read your article now, Mr. Grant!

> “…environmental sustainability…”
> “…corporate responsibility…”

I appreciate your acknowledgement of these vital topics (which generally represent well-known concerns about Monsanto’s business-practices). But where do you mention biodiversity?

How can poverty and inequality be eradicated, if part of the people on this planet are becoming ever more dependent on an ever smaller oligarchy of ever more economically dominant biotech companies?

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive
 

@WeWereWallSt,

Identifying an arbitrary and non-specific 3.5 billion people as a non-contributing and unnecessary burden on planetary resources is quite different to advocating their deliberate destruction. Humanity has a unique PROBLEM in that it’s very success may well eventually destroy it.

This isn’t about “making things a bit better for the rest of us”, but, rather, trying to halt the current rush to a Soylent Green society. That’s the rather obvious destination of the present course of humanity.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

@matthewslyman,

You frequently don’t acknowledge that you live in England, probably because you wish your socialist ideas to appear less the failure that they are. Given the recent youth riots in your country, why don’t you try to rectify things there before purporting to share your “wisdom” here in the U.S.?

Obvious fact: Neither you nor respective governments are going to take the ever-increasing number of unproductive, unskilled, unintelligent economic basket case individuals and make them productive by building more school buildings or employing more teachers in the present hopelessly failing “educational establishments”.

These failed generations will be a drag on their respective economies as long as they exist. All they do is produce ever more of themselves to suck at the public teat. They are already a generation economically without hope of recovery.
You suggest as “proven fact” that “…there are already plenty of resources in the world for 7 billion people to live comfortably.” How do you define “comfortably”? Certainly not in American terms.

The reality is that if all existing wealth were collected and redistributed absolutely equally among all humans present that the result would be (1) universal poverty and (2) with no “surplus” anywhere or incentive to work mass starvation, sickness and warfare would quickly reduce world population by approximately half in the collective rust to occupy and secure tillable land and reliable water supplies.

It is MY “…theory that people are biologically & psychologically programmed to…” war, rape and pillage. In modern times we lay the thin veneer of civilization over that, but in times of civil disorder we revert. We can only survive as a species in other than mean circumstances when we agree to overcome our baser instincts and work together for the common good. Pakistan is an excellent example of a nation unable to do that.

In America, the poor look out the windows in our fine schools while class is in session, and disrupt order in the halls and on the grounds with drugs, gangs and intimidation. They intentionally nullify and detract from the effectiveness of an academic environment.

We ALREADY “share opportunities”. They reject the idea that they have to “do the math”, learn to speak and write proper English, and learn and support the culture of the country in which they reside. You offer only failed ideas for an ever grimmer future ahead if we do not change what is currently done and not done.

Should WE, the elite, by definition those with computers and literate here reading and commenting, “Interfere in some way with the lives of people with the potential to reproduce?” YES!

In those locales of ever-prevalent and increasing hunger and starvation put something in the food distributed by humanitarian relief efforts that inhibits fertility. Condoms don’t work if not used, and in many cases local custom and practice is what must be “defeated” to achieve a lower birth rate.

Those irresponsible enough to keep breeding that cannot support themselves and the existing family should not have the option of passing on the expense to those better off with more sense. We’ll feed you, but NO MORE! If you don’t like those “conditions”, STARVE! Their choice, as the increasing problem is theirs and theirs alone to solve in the longer term.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

Ending world hunger is a tall task and will not be met by the blustery boasts of biotech CEO, Hugh Grant. The Monsanto head honcho touts that by virtue of higher yielding GMO crops they can produce enough food to feed the earth’s growing population.

It’s still not yet been resolved how the world’s population will digest all the dent corn, soy, sugar, cotton seed and canola oil considering the processing, chemicals, water and equipment involved with producing it. What Huge also failed to mention is that part about Monsanto requiring farmers to buy new seed every year, they can’t save seed because it’s in their technology licensing agreement, which introduces a bit a snag for those poor countries, farmers and starving types who are looking for self-sufficiency and a REAL sustainable way to grow their own food.

The only feeding going on, or even remotely associated with Grant’s propaganda, is feeding the fat-cat Monsanto investor class. It’s they who possess the insatiable appetite for ever-increasing profits on the backs of farmers and poor 3rd world countries. Quarter on quarter profits are promoted by quasi-governmental BIOTECH shills USAID and our foreign ambassadors foisting subsidized GMO crops onto foreign nations under the threat of trade sanctions. Wikileaks confirmed this fact. Sure, they’re feeding the world: a huge freaking stick of GMO baloney.

Producing more GMO food cannot overcome or thwart government corruption. Warlords also don’t care about more food. More food won’t solve distribution problems. It’s abuse of power, corruption and food distribution that are the cause of famine and starvation. The glory and promise of bountiful harvests don’t mean crapola when it’s dependent on bank loans, chemical inputs, heavy equipment and annual seed purchase agreements. This isn’t feeding the poor. It’s holding them hostage.

Stay in Davos, Mr. Grant. I understand they don’t force-feed the animals GMOs like they do here in the US.

Posted by GMKnow | Report as abusive
 

There is a hugely obvious reason for poverty and hunger.
People with no resources to care for children have them anyway. It doesn’t mean we have to kill people. But we could provide birth control to people who want it. And we could stop telling unbelievably poor people (like Haitians) that birth control is a sin. Somehow that seems evil.

Posted by skyraider | Report as abusive
 

The truth about Monsanto and its motivation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnD-DiDRI JA

It’s NOT their mission; to end world hunger…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive
 

Telling people that birth control is a sin is wrong, but telling people not to reproduce is wrong too. Sometimes it is not the persons fault they can’t take care of themselves and feed thier children. Like in third world countries these people work really, really hard to survive but its not thier faults. If they had the chance to have a job feed thier children and live comfortably don’t you think they would. There are people in the U.S that could have a nice home and live happily that don’t deserve people to give them whatever they want all theyhad to do to live happily is apply themselves.

Posted by Krispin | Report as abusive
 

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