Cargill executive chairman talks global food security

Outlines four principles to improve access to food and enhance diets and health.

Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Global Food Security Symposium held April 16 in Washington, D.C., Cargill executive chairman Greg Page urged attendees to be mindful of four principles that can help ensure all people have access to safe, affordable and nutritious food.

Noting the symposium’s focus on leveraging the global food system to fight malnutrition and improve health, Page said Cargill has a role to play in ensuring access to enough food for the undernourished and in bringing healthier foods to the market to help improve diets and health.

“There are four things we ought to be mindful of when we think about creating a more food-secure world,” Page said. His “ought to's” included:

  • Appreciating the importance of price
  • Honoring the principle of comparative advantage
  • Embracing the power of emulation
  • Ensuring society’s comfort with the science of producing food

On the importance of price, Page said it is necessary to appreciate the value of prices to signal the world’s farmers what to produce. “We saw this in 2012 when, in the face of a severe drought in the U.S. Midwest, prices motivated farmers from South America and Central Europe to increase production, ultimately mitigating the drought’s impact on global food production and ensuring people’s access to safe, affordable, nutritious food,” he said.

Additionally, it will be increasingly important to honor the principle of comparative advantage in food production, he said. “To produce the food the world will need in the most economically and environmentally sustainable way, we need agriculture and trade policies that encourage farmers to cultivate the crops best suited for their growing conditions and then trade the surpluses with others,” Page explained.

He also said that the cumulative effects of individual behaviors can be a powerful force for improving food security and fighting malnutrition. “The Chicago Council’s Healthy Food for a Healthy World report acknowledges the power of emulation in its findings that women – in part because of their influence over their families’ diets – will be critically important to combatting malnutrition,” Page said.

Expanding on this point, Page said food industry leaders need to enlist and engage consumers in understanding the role of science in the food system, both nutritionally and environmentally. “Science and technology are important not only to producing more food in a more sustainable way, but also to our ability to improve food safety, reduce food waste and make food more nutritious and healthful,” he said.

“Finding solutions to end hunger and reverse the consequences of poor nutrition requires trust, transparency and collaboration,” Page said. “We look forward to being part of this important work.”

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