THE GREENEST GENERATION Mr. N. Smit – Alltech (Pty) Ltd Picture a child with their teacher. The teacher asks the child, "What is the weather like outside?" The child says, "The sun is shining in my garden." It is a happy child, a contented child. Now picture Nigeria. Is the sun shining in Nigeria's garden where we have converted them from maize meal (which they grow) to wheat (which they do not grow)? So now they have to import wheat. Guess what? In one day, wheat prices go up by 25%. They talk about their daily bread; the fact is that they cannot get it. While there is no sunshine in parts of the world, there is too much sunshine in other places with skyrocketing carbon dioxide levels. It is a pretty grim situation. For six years in a row, Australia has had a drought. Six years means that 20 million people are now scrambling for rice that they used to get from Australia. Six years, no rice. The sun is shining. Yes, the sun is shining and the ice caps are melting. What a legacy to leave behind. What a legacy when our corn prices triple in two years. What a legacy when our farmers decide they are going to plant less corn. Last year we said to get ready for $100 barrels of oil. Did we really know what we were talking about? Not really. We broke through the $150 mark. In Dubai, the skyscrapers and incredible hotels are going up, and the amount of money is unbelievable. Oil hits $160 a barrel and will probably continue to go up. Meanwhile, there is an incredible breakthrough in India. There is a car for less than $2000 just when we don't need any more cars. Imagine if they have the same number of cars as the US. Why not? They are getting rich. Imagine if the Chinese have the same number of cars as we do. Why not? They are getting rich. There would be 1 billion more cars on the road. It is an incredible situation. Incidentally, India said the number one problem is food shortages not cars. India needs food not cars. US president George Bush has demanded 32 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. Incidentally, that means all the US grain, every single grain and every kernel, could go into biofuels. What is going on? Surely this is the worst time in history to demand biofuels …or is it? Mankind has a history of responding to challenge. So is this the best time for us to respond to challenge with innovation? The WWII generation is called the Greatest Generation. Our backs were to the wall. Civilization was under challenge, and we came through. Is this the best time? The sun is shining in China and India. The prosperity sun could be for good or for bad. Prosperity's sun is driving a food and meat crisis. The more money people have, the more meat they eat; it is a fact. With this increasing demand for meat, there is an incredible contradiction when a pig loses $40 at market. At a time when the world wants more meat, we lose more money. Who is in control here? Meanwhile, there is certainly not sunshine when Pilgrim's in North Carolina closes down their poultry production just at a time when we need more meat. Escalating corn prices. Sunshine. Milk called the “New Oil”, the white oil. How come we are deficient in milk by a vast quantity in areas of the United States? Kentucky - a rural state based on agriculture – cannot produce enough milk for its citizens, much less milk for export. Yet California literally dumps milk. The right hand doesn't ever seem to know what the left hand is doing. It is a misguided world. If there is one extraordinary statement I am going to make, it is this: At a time of skyrocketing corn prices, all time low stocks, and a contradicting increase in the demand for meat, are our leaders misguided? We have these trendsetting investors, Richard Branson and George Soros, who flew a plane partially on biofuels. Are they misguided if they are focusing on corn? I believe they are. They are getting on this biofuels bandwagon. There is a chain reaction, and we must be careful. US farmers have one-fifth of their land devoted to biofuels. This drives farmers to switch from soybeans to corn. No problem. We have land…maybe. Now what happens? We go to Brazil. The Brazilians say, "We'll grow more soya. We'll switch our pastures to soybeans." Now the pastures go to soya, and the Amazon is moved back a little bit. We switch from rainforest to pastures. We have to get together. We have to be on the same page. We have to be on the same line of the same page. The fact is that when soybeans go up, trees come down. Who is right? Who is getting rich? Sunshine or hunger - is that the choice? Is there a choice? Did you know that the US government, in their wisdom, pays $0.51 per gallon for every gallon of corn that is turned into ethanol? Did you know that this means there is a subsidy of $1.48 per bushel for every bushel we take from our hungry world and convert into biofuels? Is anybody watching the shop? Are we driving corn prices up through biofuels to starve the world? Is that leadership? So, is it a clean energy myth or a clean energy scam? Whichever one it is, let's be honest. The time has come for reckoning. The time has come for the big question marks. The time has come because we celebrate Earth Day. Maybe the day sells a few more cars or cards that burn down a few more trees. Yes, and we will call it Earth Day, Scorched Earth Day perhaps. What can we do about raw materials? What can we do about sustainability? What can we do about the impact on the environment as we begin to think green? Is it a problem or an opportunity? The Nobel Prize winner, Seamus Heaney said there are times when hope and history rhyme, when hope and history come together. I suggest that this is one such time. I suggest that hope and history rhyme loudly in the mind of a child, a young mind with new opportunities, a young mind that sees different things. They see the same landscape, but their eyes see it differently. I am not privileged to have a grandchild, but picture a grandfather with his granddaughter. The granddaughter looks at the granddad and asks, "Why is there a cord on your phone?" He scratches his head looking for a solution as to why he has this cord on his phone. She says, "Granddad, are you always losing your phone the way I lose my gloves?" A child looks at things differently and we have to look at things differently. They look at carbon dioxide, and they think green. They think green algae. They think, "We know from our high school…" And they do. Have a look at some high school textbooks, and they will tell you 80% of the world's oxygen comes from algae. It doesn't come from rainforests. Algae could remove a lot of these carbon dioxides. Algae could also help us create biodiesel and protein, but only the mind of a child sees that because only the mind of a child has been educated in that area. We certainly weren't. We need to try to focus those young minds on what we could maybe call the "Agricultural Experience". Their minds and bodies need milk. So why don't we encourage them back into agriculture starting, perhaps, with dairy farming? We need to get them excited. Young minds see opportunities not problems. We have a phrase, and some may not like it. Our phrase is "Don't ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness." You will always get negative, negative, negative. You don't need that negativity. What you need is the positivity, and young minds always see that. Young minds see that $1 billion in fish is imported into the United States every month and say, "Why don't we do something about it?" They think of freshwater salmon, tilapia, and other salt water opportunities. Why not build an Aquaculture Center or something to be really proud of just at a time when California is saying they want to ban salmon fishing. A business is created. There is a problem, and we convert it into a business. Young minds look and say that if the grain crop is going into biofuels and there is a hungry world out there, why not think of fiber and cellulose? Since 1999, we have been working on this and we call it 'solid state fermentation'. The US government, and the state government award $38 million. Do you know what it's about? It is about building a pilot plant. In the future, they want a plant ten times that size or ten more plants like it across the United States. Why not in South Africa? Can it happen? Of course, it can happen! Without encouragement, it wouldn't happen. Young minds realize that our experience can be applied around the world. Young minds think of the future. They think of the gene chip. Young minds take this gene chip and get excited. They think about what they can do with it to exploit those genetic mistakes. That's what makes me different to you. Young minds want to exploit that and increase our productivity. Young minds want to say, "How can we improve animal health and lower costs? How can we improve human health?" How do we get these young minds to study algae, dairy farms, tilapia, and crops? We have to make the projects fun. James Dewey Watson, codiscoverer of the structure of DNA, said it best, "Don't bog them down with the periodic table. Give them the end of the story first, and they will get excited.” Young minds also need a cause. We all need a cause. Could our cause be to improve human health through nutrition and a value added food chain? So, how do we turn these kids on? Start early. It is an emotional overload to go into a school where you have put in a laboratory. You see these little people, the experiments they are doing, and the letters they write to you. One school, every year. Why don't you join us? Why don't you commit to one school in your community? One school, every year. The kids in the first school we helped got three out of the top five prizes in the state science competition. We didn't select the smartest and brightest kids to fund. We selected the kids and gave them the technology. How about you? How do you keep them in science? What about a “Young Scientist” Award? How do we avoid becoming more and more broke with every degree? PhD - Poor, Hungry, and Driven. Why should it be so? Why don't we make sure the PhD is the right PhD program? Did you know that only 50% of today's PhD students are actually involved in research. Is that not staggering? Did you know that only 30% of PhD programs actually end up in refereed articles? Did you know it takes 5.97 years to get a PhD? Your life is truly on hold. Many of our professors say that is the way they had to do it, so you will to have to do it the same way! Yet these PhDs are the stewards of discovery. These PhD and Master's students are our future. Why not pay our students a decent wage while they study? Could we not give them a bonus for every refereed paper. Furthermore, we want them to stay in South Africa. Could we give them a further bonus if they are still with us three years later? We want to unleash and inspire. We want to follow the Nobel Prize winners and listen to what they have told us. What have they told us? Much of the wealth of a country, if not all of it, comes from research. What have they told us? Energetic scientists are the seed-corn of development. How poetic and appropriate! The seed-corn of development. That is our business. That seed will move us to the next generation. That seed will enable our kids to use 30 years of life - only 30 years after our education - to do something. The challenges are there: hunger, low supplies, fiber, profitability, and costs. The time surely has come for us in the agricultural community to feed the world. The tools are there. With young people, energy and enthusiasm are there. We have the single biggest opportunity ever in my lifetime to take this thing to a whole new level. Join in a global experience as we try to create solutions. Remember that in everyone's lifetime there comes one occasion when hope and history rhyme. My invitation to you is to come on in where hope and history rhyme in our garden. Thank you.
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