Mae Carol Jemison, Ph.D., former NASA astronaut and spokesperson for the Making Science Make Sense program sponsored by Bayer CropScience, spoke to attendees of the 2015 Ag Issues Forum.
Mae Carol Jemison, Ph.D., former NASA astronaut and spokesperson for the Making Science Make Sense program sponsored by Bayer CropScience, spoke to attendees of the 2015 Ag Issues Forum.

Nourishing the world tomorrow requires innovation today. Bayer CropScience is bringing together innovators from across farming and the food supply chain with consumer advocates to share insights and new thinking about the technology and sustainable practices necessary to ensure a future of safe, adequate and nutritious food. The setting is Bayer’s 10th annual Ag Issues Forum in Phoenix.
Discussions at the 2015 Ag Issues Forum “Feeding Imagination Today, Nourishing Tomorrow.” center on trends driving the agriculture and food industries including consumers’ concern about the health and nutrition values of their food; the impact of government policy decisions; the impact of food production on the environment; and the use of technology to produce and process food.

 “Bayer CropScience believes frank and open dialogue about agriculture and food is critical to addressing the needs of a rapidly growing and hungry world,” said Bayer CropScience President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Blome, head of Crop Protection for North America. “Conversations about agriculture have been happening without key contributors from our industry for far too long. Events like Ag Issues Forum foster the kinds of conversations so needed between those who work across agriculture and the people who consume the food they help produce. We can learn a lot from each other.”

Presenters and topics at the two-day event include Michael Rogers, futurist and author; former U.S. Rep. Thomas Latham; Jason Brown, former NFL player-turned-farmer; Bill Hohenstein, director of the Climate Change Program Office, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Robert Colangelo, founder of Green Sense, a large-scale vertical farm; Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a nonprofit dedicated to building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters; and Mae Carol Jemison, Ph.D., former NASA astronaut and spokesperson for the Making Science Make Sense program sponsored by Bayer CropScience.

Additionally, a panel of millennials comprising Greg Peterson, Peterson Farm Brothers; Emily Best, apprentice organic farmer and market manager, New Morning Farm; and Ashley Reaver, R.D., lead nutrition scientist at InsideTracker, will discuss their generation’s perspective on food and farming. Bayer CropScience also will introduce its first-ever Produce Innovation Award winner and the winner of the Young Farmer Sustainability Award.

“Ensuring adequate, nutritious food for the fast-growing population of tomorrow is a complex task made even more challenging by scarce resources, changing global dietary needs and ever-shifting political influences,” Blome said. “Farmers and the agriculture industry are critical to the solution, but we cannot do this alone. We need consumer support and understanding to allow the innovation required to produce food now and tomorrow.”

Bayer CropScience is reaching out to consumers in a number of ways, from highlighting their stories on its unique Bayer Connect online social hub, to sponsoring bloggers at the 2014 BlogHer conference and its new Farming’s Future Dialogues platform. It also conducted research in 2014 to better understand U.S. consumers’ knowledge of and concerns about agriculture, particularly the use of technology in food production. Nearly all the respondents, 86 percent, indicated they are at least “somewhat concerned” with modern farming and agricultural food production practices.

“Our research underscored the need for agriculture and farmers—the group consumers identified as ‘most trusted’—to find common ground with consumers about technology in agriculture. We believe Ag Issues Forum is a key part of that effort,” Blome said.

The 2015 Forum is moderated by former CNN journalist Frank Sesno. “As I moderate this event for the third time, I’m struck by the passionate commitment of everyone attending,” said Sesno, founder of Planet Forward at The George Washington University. “Whether they represent agriculture or another part of the food supply chain, they are dedicated to understanding and exploring solutions—and preparing to take the critical actions—that will be needed to produce food and protect our world in the future.”

In its ten years, Ag Issues Forum has offered thought-provoking speakers and honest dialogue about critical issues in farming and the food system. Past speakers have included representatives from National Geographic; Walmart; Miller Coors; the Environmental Defense Fund; the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture; Business for Social Responsibility (BSR); Oxfam; the National Corn Growers Association; the Illinois Soybean Association; and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Video from the 2014 sessions is available here.