DuPont to increase investment in food, nutrition

Chemical and bioscience giant DuPont will spend $10 billion and release thousands of new products over the next nine years aimed at improving food production and nutrition, company officials said Thursday.

DuPont said it was setting three primary goals for "stimulating and guiding" internal efforts around its commitments to helping address global concerns about food security in light of a rapidly growing world population.

The move is one of many being made by corporations around the world and by government and non-government entities in light of forecasts for global population to rise from about seven billion now to nine billion by 2040, a number that would far exceed current food production capabilities.

"We really need action by a lot of people right away," said DuPont executive vice-president James Borel in an interview with Reuters. Borel oversees DuPont’s agriculture and nutrition businesses.

DuPont said it will increase annual spending on research and development to a rate that will hit $10 billion by the end of 2020, or roughly $1.1 billion a year for the next nine years. That represents an increase over the roughly $800 million DuPont spent last year on research and development in these areas, said Borel (all figures US$).

The company is adding more than 400 people to expand its seed research work in Johnston, Iowa, the home of its Pioneer Hi-Bred International agricultural unit, and adding staff and expanded research facilities in targeted areas around the world, he said.

The company aims to release 4,000 new products centered on producing more food; enhancing nutrition, food and agriculture sustainability and safety; boosting food availability and shelf life; and reducing waste by 2020.

"It will be people, it will be facilities, it will be new programs, but all aimed at continuing to increase the rate of new products that make a difference," said Borel.

One such new product is a dairy additive in Kenya designed to be added to raw milk to preserve its freshness an additional eight to 12 hours, which should benefit small farmers in remote areas of Africa who have long distances to transport their milk to market.

The company also is developing crops that yield better in dry areas and using nitrogen more efficiently. DuPont last year launched a new generation of corn hybrids developed for "water-limited environments," that Borel said were performing well.

The company said it also was putting together educational programs for two million young people related to food security concerns, and said it was setting a goal to engage in collaborations and investments that "strengthen agricultural systems and make food more available, nutritious and culturally appropriate."

The United Nations has said that by 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water. If the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks condemning up to three billion people into poverty, according a UN report issued Monday.

DuPont had 2011 sales of $38 billion and is seen as a global leader in products used in a range of consumer goods, from toys and toothbrushes to smartphones and solar panels. Its role in global food production has been heightened as the company accelerates research into seed technology and crop protection products.

The DuPont food security goals were developed following a report issued last year by the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agriculture Innovation and Productivity for the 21st Century, chaired by former U.S. senator Thomas Daschle of South Dakota.

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