K-State poised to be leader in global food issues, Glasscock says

By Brady Bauman

The world faces three undeniable problems.

Global population continues to grow at an exponential rate, food supply is flat-lining and the amount of arable land is decreasing.

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to connect the dots and find that those three issues reveal an ominous problem.

Kent Glasscock, president of Kansas State University’s Institute for Commercialization, however, sees opportunity for KSU and Manhattan.

In a presentation dubbed “Creating Prosperity: The Global Leader in Global Food Systems,” Glasscock told a room full of Kansas county commissioners K-State is up to the task during the 38th annual Kansas County Commissioners Association Conference Wednesday afternoon at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“There’s great interest in this mission,” Glasscock said. “Kansas State University will be the global leader in global food systems. Other universities like Iowa State have significant initiatives, but ours is very private-sector focused, and focused on real-world solutions directly taken into the marketplace.

“And note this doesn’t say ‘a global leader in global food systems.’ It says ‘the global leader in global food systems.’ We truly believe K-State has a better set of skills to impact on a global basis than any other university on the planet.”

Glasscock cited Manhattan landing the $1.2 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and the relocation of the Kansas Department of Agriculture to the Little Apple as big reasons for KSU to take this leadership role.

Manhattan also features the Biosecurity Research Institute, the International Grain Complex and the USDA-ARS Center for Grain and Animal Research.

In 2013, KSU’s College of Agriculture was the recipient of three highly competitive grants totaling more than $27 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The grants establish and fund three of the federal agency’s Feed the Future Innovation Labs for the university.

K-State also receives millions of dollars in grants for post-harvest loss research, according to a report from the university.

Still, Glasscock said the challenge isn’t one to take lightly, especially considering the changing climate.

“Whatever you think about the cause, the truth is the climate of the world is altering and is having a huge impact,” he said. “Population is growing and in some places in the world exponentially — the ramification of those things are profound.

“The challenges this world faces are very real. It’s one of concern, but also of opportunity. We take, at Kansas State University, the humanity part of our mission as seriously as we take the prosperity part of our mission.

“Global food systems, in a sense, in the 21st century, takes us home, doesn’t it? Kansas State of 1863 was about global food systems. It was about building prosperity and enhancing a new-born state. The global food system intiative of today at Kansas State University not only takes us home but leads us on.”

Glasscock also pointed out the middle class is expected to double worldwide by 2030, and that demand for healthful food will be high.

With the aforementioned problems of decreasing crop lands and a food supply that is currently stagnant, someone will have to find a solution.

“The first thing people do when they go from lower classes to the middle class is they change their diet,” he said.

“First thing they find is protein. They also do such things as get a pet. Pet ownership and the middle class is absolutely tied. This world is going to see, over the course of the next 10 years, an explosion of buying power from the middle class, and that’s going to have major implications.

“Because you look at the trend lines of the food systems, the buying power of the world along with (growing) population, and you get a gap that grows. And that gap gets filled by inflation, shortages, and in some countries, destabilizing societies and education.

“Our conclusion was that Kansas State University has, in the global food systems, truly global strengths and expertise, and we have that expertise at a time when there’s going to be tremendous amount of money made around the world.”

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