When we think of Iowa agriculture we don’t often think about Iowa’s impact on the world stage. Iowa corn, soybeans, pork, eggs, and other products are shipped across the country and around the world. In fact, only three other countries in the world produce more corn that Iowa does. Iowa is second in the nation with gross farm cash receipts and that means that Iowa is a big player not only nationally, but internationally.
From May 1 to October 31, 2015, more than 140 countries will take part in the World Expo in Milan, Italy. More than 20 million people are expected to visit the Expo. The World’s Fair has always left a lasting architectural legacy (think Eiffel Tower, Seattle Space Needle, etc.). It has also long been a stalwart part of educating the public and this year will try to answer the question: “Is it possible to ensure sufficient, good, healthy and sustainable food for all mankind?”
We know Iowa is a major player in producing agriculture commodities. It is somewhat comforting to know that 145 other countries around the globe are considering many of the same issues we are.
- How do we produce enough food for 7 billion people, a population that will grow to 9.6 billion by 2050?
- How do we reduce food waste?
- How do we improve access to food?
- How can we ensure fair prices for food?
- Can we redesign cities to ensure access to food?
- How do we best promote healthy lifestyles?
- How can we produce food in more efficient ways?
- How do we reconnect production with consumption?
- Can we understand the dynamic food production system and manage constantly changing relationships?
None of these are easy questions to answer. But, with a 145 countries around the world working on finding solutions I am energized by the possibility of group think. More than 200 conferences will be held during the expo relating to food policy and food science. They will address food safety, food waste, sustainable rural development and much more.
As I walked around the Expo in May, I saw exhibits that showcased a wide range of techniques for producing food. Other exhibits focused on the merits of small-scale farming, conventional farming, and genetic modification. The United States exhibit focused on technology and featured massive vertical gardens that doubled as ventilation for the building as the panels moved with the wind. Some countries focused on the issue of water scarcity and climate change. Other countries focused on top export commodities like rice, coffee, cocoa, cereals, fruits, or spices.
After spending a day at the World Expo I could only wonder… How will Iowa help lead agriculture production? And how will Iowa continue to be a leader in food and agriculture policy?