On the future of food

May 20, 2016
David MacLennan speaks at the University of Minnesota.

When Cargill chairman and CEO David W. MacLennan spoke at the University in early May, he was quick to point out his company’s history of collaboration with the University of Minnesota.

He wore a gold tie to accentuate that partnership, and suggested that the two entities—one a private company, the other a public land-grant university—share very common, pressing goals.

“As a sector, we have a very unique challenge, and that is, how do we sustain and nourish a world which is estimated to be 9 billion inhabitants by the year 2050? This is one of the huge challenges for us, as a company, but I would also say for everybody in this room, for our generation,” MacLennan said.

“Land-grant research institutions, like right here at the University of Minnesota, can and must play a critical role in addressing this challenge. And as private sector partners based here in the Twin Cities, we’re very proud to be working with you and others to advance lasting solutions in the world of food.”

Indeed, one of the U’s new Grand Challenge research areas is “Feeding the World Sustainably.” For Cargill, that means addressing issues at the intersection of science and values, including topics like the use of cage-free eggs and GMO-free or aided agriculture.

One of MacLennan’s suggested takeaways from the talk—part of the Carlson School’s 1st Tuesday Speaker Series—was for audience members to spread the word about the complexity of the food system, making sure it’s “not just the incendiary voices” being heard.

“The future of food is complicated. It requires a more informed and a more balanced discussion,” he said. “Together, we can address the intersections of food security, sustainability, and nutrition, but it’s going to require a new approach. We need to deploy the kind of innovation that has exemplified this university, this state, and Cargill for more than a century.”

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