The chief executive officers of two of the nation’s largest agricultural companies say the world’s farmers must double their production of food between now and 2050 if the world’s population is to avoid widespread famine.

Ellen Kullman, chief executive officer of DuPont, and Patricia Woertz, chairman, CEO and president, Archer Daniels Midland Co., were the opening speakers for the World Food Prize 2009 Norman Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa. Borlaug, known as the father of the “Green Revolution,” died in September at the age of 95.

“We agree that we must double out agricultural output if we are to meet the needs of the world population in 2050,” said Kullman. “We believe this must be done in a sustainable way to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint and conserve the precious resources available to us.

“We know it’s going to require cooperative efforts across industries and geographies and between private and public entities. With all of us working toward a common goal, we can leverage many opportunities throughout the agriculture value chains to feed our growing, global population.”

“Innovation on the farm — and improved yields alone — won’t be sufficient to meet future global demands. They must be accompanied by increased post-harvest investment,” said Woertz, noting that, in some parts of the world, 50 percent of the harvest can be lost before it is consumed.

“We in the private sector can play an important role by making infrastructure investments that help build global markets and create economic opportunity,” said Woertz.

“The World Food Prize, bolstered by the passion of Kenneth Quinn, has inspired a generation of researchers and continues to inspire leaders outside of traditional agriculture,” said Bill Lesher, Global Harvest Initiative executive director and a former undersecretary of agriculture.

“We are in a prime position to make the difference that Norman Borlaug envisioned. At no time have we encountered such a positive environment for change, such a diverse group of leaders primed to work together.”

Lesher urged public and private sector leaders to join the Global Harvest Initiative in developing a blueprint for change that promotes growth in developing and developed countries to close the global agricultural productivity gap — the difference between the current pace of output expansion and the pace required to meet future agricultural needs.

The Global Harvest Initiative was founded by the chief executives of four major companies. It is dedicated to fostering new partnerships between agriculture, food security and conservation leaders to sustainably double agricultural output by 2050.

For more information, go to Global Harvest Initiative.

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com