Planting the seeds of progress

Robert Fraley, Monsando Executive Vice President, talks to a crowd of students and faculty at the first ever Henry C. Gardner Global Foods Systems Lecture in McCain Auditorium on Jan. 26, 2015. Touching subjects such as global food crisis, Fraley spoke to audience members leaving memorable information to think more about. (Evert Nelson | Collegian)

Hundreds of students, professors and civilians gathered at the McCain Auditorium Monday night to listen to Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer of the Monsanto Company. Fraley served as the inaugural speaker of the Henry C. Gardiner Global Food Systems Lecture Series.

His speech, entitled “2050: Agriculture’s Role in Mitigating Global Challenges,” addressed the global challenges agriculturists and those in the biotechnology industry will be facing in the future, and what students can do to prepare themselves as the next generation of agricultural leaders.

As the recipient of the 2013 World Food Prize, Fraley has been at the center of pioneering groundbreaking agriculture technology, such as Round Up Ready Soybeans, and Bollgard insect-protected cotton in the U.S.

Fraley emphasized technology as simple as giving cell phones to farmers in India and parts of Africa. These techniques allow farmers to gain up-to-date weather and pest reports. More advanced technology included genetic modification that allows for a gene that combats root worm in corn plants.

Even with all these technology changes, Fraley still made it clear that the challenges facing modern agriculture were large, and required a lot of work and dedication in the future.

“No one can do this by themselves,” Fraley said. “There will be approximately 9.5 billion people to feed by 2050, and agriculture will need to produce more food than it ever has in the history of the world.”

However, Fraley said he is willing to “put all his eggs in agriculture’s basket,” due to the advancements in the biotechnology and information-technology industries.

Amongst the sea of agriculture students, there were also students who were not in the College of Agriculture at K-State, who gained knowledge from Dr. Fraley’s speech.

“I found it very interesting, I didn’t realize that agriculture was progressing at that fast of a rate,” Ashlyn Evans, a sophomore in dietetics, said. “I do feel comfortable with our food system, and although I have some questions now, Dr. Fraley’s speech gave me confidence in what I am eating.”

It is questions like Evans’ that the Henry C. Gardiner Global Food Systems Committee wanted to generate, in addition to educating students about how modern agriculture works.

“The more everybody understands the challenges and science of modern agriculture, the more social media information that is not scientifically based can be replaced, allowing everyone to make their own decisions and understand what the future of agriculture is,” Don Boggs, associate dean for academic programs in the College of Agriculture, said.

Committee members ranging from students to professors in the college helped to prepare this event, and hope to continue having these educational lectures as early as next fall.