Bloomberg News

Monsanto, Dupont Seeds Won’t Solve Hunger, Howard Buffett Says

October 13, 2011

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Howard Buffett said seeds made by Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co. shouldn’t be over-emphasized as a way to end hunger and develop farming in Africa, arguing that poor countries have needs that improved crop inputs won’t fix.

Small farmers in Africa and elsewhere often lack the income and training to buy and use biotech seeds and may become skeptical of technology if new products are used improperly, the 56-year-old son of billionaire Warren Buffett said. Howard Buffett, a board member of his father’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., was interviewed today at the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Stop thinking that what we know how to do is going to work for somebody else,” Buffett said. “We need to be intelligent enough and humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything and that we certainly don’t know some things in other parts of the world that need to happen.”

World food prices reached a record in February and are up 16 percent in the past year, driving unrest from Tunisia and Egypt to Uganda. Twenty-six countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, have levels of hunger that are “extremely alarming” or “alarming,” down from 29 last year, the International Food Policy Research Institute said in a report released yesterday.

Ambassador Against Hunger

Buffett, a Berkshire director since 1993, is an ambassador against hunger for the United Nations World Food Program and runs the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which aids subsistence farming. His father once said that Howard, who farms land in Nebraska and South Africa, “would rather spend an evening on a tractor in the field than on a date with Angelina Jolie.”

His foundation today released a report that said hunger has persisted in Africa partly because of inadequate farmer training and lack of research into the best crops to grow.

Howard is the second of Warren Buffett’s three children and the only one with a position on the Berkshire board.

The World Food Prize conference is held annually in Des Moines to honor individuals “who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food.” This year’s recipients, former presidents John Kufuor of Ghana and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, were announced in June.

Conference sponsors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the John Deere Foundation, Monsanto, DuPont, Archer Daniels Midland Co., PepsiCo Inc., General Mills Co. and Cargill Inc.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is the world’s biggest seed producer, followed by DuPont’s Pioneer unit. DuPont is based in Wilmington, Delaware.

--Editors: Daniel Enoch, Steve Stroth.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net.


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