“World Bank loans are declining because there are too many rules, too much attitude of ‘You to be like us.’ One African research leader said of these loans, ‘We’ve wasted 30 years by playing it your way — we’ve got to use this technology to feed our people.’

“In the U.S., we have so many organizations and NGOs that watch how USAID and the World Bank spend money, and if there’s even a single dollar for research with these technologies, the NCGOs are complaining to their administrators and to Congress — and the administrators of these programs are worried about their budgets being cut.

“We have the example of ‘golden rice,’ a GMO variety that could reduce blindness in thousands of kids in tropical areas, but activist groups are opposed to its use because they’re opposed to the technology. And they’ve been very successful with their campaigns. It’s unconscionable.”

With the costs involved for entry into agriculture — a big farm in the Delta recently sold for $60 million, and sprayers can run $400,000 and cotton pickers $500,000 or more — how do we convince young kids in the U.S. to consider agricultural careers?

“We’re going to have to change our views of how farming fits in society, if we’re going to keep bright kids in agriculture. They’re leaving agriculture now,” Gianessi says.

“We need to make agriculture interesting to them, whether it’s in FFA, 4-H, or on YouTube. There’s an agricultural high school in Chicago (http://www.chicagoagr.org), inside the city limits, with about 1,000 kids attending. They have 185 openings for the freshmen class each year, and over 3,000 applications from kids wanting to learn bout agriculture.

“Agriculture is exciting; there are a lot of great job opportunities for ag students — as we meet the challenges of feeding the world, agriculture is going to be the place to be. I think FFA and 4-H are great organizations, and we need to capitalize on them to bring more young people into agriculture.”

What about the current unrest in Ukraine, a major crop-producing region? What impact will that have on world food production?

“Ukraine has great potential for crop production, if they can get their yields up,” Gianessi says. “The Chinese went into Ukraine and said, ‘We want to import your maize, but your yields are terrible, so we’ll give you millions of dollars each year to increase yields and send that corn to us.’

“With the unrest there now, that may not happen. But the Chinese will do whatever they need to in order to feed 1.3 billion people. They’re securing vast plots of land in Africa to grow crops; they’re in there building roads and opening up areas for crop production.

“Don’t underestimate Africa in terms of crop production — it has lots of water, lots of very fertile land that’s never been in agriculture. But there are problems of political strife, and not much infrastructure — so you’ve got to solve those problems somehow in order to realize that potential.

“And they’ve got to overcome the political bias against herbicides, pesticides, and GMOs. Fewer hungry people, and improved lives for women, who’re now the major source of weed control, are pretty good arguments in favor of these technologies.”