Do we save the world or starve the planet?

I’m not a visionary, far from it, my eyesight is typically more hind than revolutionary. That said, I have become more and more concerned recently about the direction in which the current administration is heading on the environment.

A recent presentation by Vern Hawkins, a vice-president for Syngenta, set off this latest wave of paranoia. Hawkins sites population trends and notes that to meet the food demands of our world by the year 2050 farmers must double their output.

Least we all get paranoid — farmers did this very same thing in the past 50 years, so it is doable. The constant companion of doable in this case is if.

I laud the Obama administration for trying to make our world a cleaner, safer, greener planet. We simply cannot continue to destroy our planet at the same rate we’ve done in the past 50 years. I don’t have the statistics to back up this claim, but I am convinced agriculture actually played a very small, if not insignificant roll, in damaging our atmosphere, soil and water.

Farmers, most of them, are environmentalists of the highest order. They have to be — the soil, water and air are their livelihood. Common sense should tell anyone there is no point to destroying your golden goose.

It is distressing — to put it mildly — to think our children and grandchildren sometime in the next half century will have to decide: Do we risk starving the planet to save it or do we risk destroying the planet to save it.

Clearly, saving the planet and feeding it would be the only rational option. Are we headed in that rational direction?

There seems to be a consensus opinion among both farmers and other environmentalists that to accomplish the doubling of agricultural output over the next 50 years will require rapid and extensive application of modern technology.

The European Economic Community doesn’t seem to agree — at least their policies don’t. Their refusal to accept GMO products seems to be thawing, but having one of the most progressive and affluent parts of the world dragging the collective feet on this issue is certainly not speeding up the increase in use of modern technology nor the doubling of agricultural yields over the next 50 years.

Large crop protection companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and others are not only sitting on G waiting for O, they are working together to speed along the development of crop yield enhancing technologies.

Crops grown from seed containing multiple-stacked genes for better drought and cold or heat tolerance, pest control, resistance to disease, growth-enhancing hormones are truly remarkable. Technology for doubling agricultural production is clearly ahead of society’s readiness to accept these changes.

What is the missing link in getting self-proclaimed environmentalists in harmony with the true environmentalists who have been growing our food since the onset of civilization? Information is the missing link. Not just the information of how to grow 200 bushel per acre corn, but how to get this information and thousands of bits of other evidence on all the major crops grown our planet and the value of this technology to future of the world to the people who make regulatory guidelines.

The Farm Press and other agricultural publications, Web sites, blogs, and such; do a good job of spreading the information about technology critical to agricultural productivity. The “Internetization” of farm magazines has helped spread the word to the world, but we are the classic example of preaching to the choir.

We live in a global village — no doubt what happens in the United States affects most of the other 260 countries in the world and vice-versa. Solving the dilemma of saving the planet versus starving the planet isn’t just a U.S. problem and the answer won’t be a U.S. solution.

Collectively, we must figure out how we are going to double farm output over the next 50 years and do it in a cost-effective, environmental effective way that will allow future generations to enjoy a standard of living and quality of life comparable to ours.

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