Cargill's response to 'Food Inc.'

  • Updated: June 20, 2009 - 7:30 PM

Cargill CEO Greg Page spoke last summer at the Chautuaqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, giving the audience his and Cargill's view on the future of food. Asked this week if that speech remains the best answer to films like "Food Inc.," a spokesman for Cargill sent this response:

 

We understand the interest a movie like ''Food Inc.'' has generated, given the growing passion among all stakeholders about the future of agriculture and food. We welcome differing viewpoints on how global agriculture can affordably nourish the world while minimizing environmental impact, ensuring food safety, guaranteeing food accessibility and providing meaningful work in agricultural communities.

We would raise a note of caution about "one-size-fits-all" answers to a task as complex as nourishing 6 billion people who are so disparately situated across the world. Generally, open markets, which provide access to both locally and globally sourced food, are the most efficient means for people around the world to meet their food requirements with nutritious diets.

One of the positives of organic food, for example, is that, for the first time in the state of Minnesota, we have not seen a decline in the number of farms. There is a burgeoning industry of small and modest-sized, high-value-added farms being built around the Twin Cities to provide vine-ripened and organic foods to metro residents. As a result of that, the total number of farms in Minnesota the last couple of years has stabilized. As our CEO, Greg Page, pointed out in the Chautauqua speech you cited, this is a great blessing for those communities and for those school districts that have suffered population losses.

But he went on to say that to do organic farming on a large scale would require us to triple the amount of land we farm to feed our population, with all the attendant environmental consequences. Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug, the father of the "Green Revolution" of the 1960s and 70s -- once said that broad practice of what he termed "medieval farming" could feed at most 4 billion people, much less than what the world population is today, to say nothing of what it will be by 2050.

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