Britain's Prince Charles warned Wednesday at a US conference debating the future of food that unsustainable farming methods are overtaxing nature and pushing the global food system into crisis.
"In some cases, we are pushing Nature's life-support systems so far they are struggling to cope with what we ask of them," the heir to the British throne, who is a long-time advocate for sustainable food production, told some 700 people packed into a meeting hall at Georgetown University.
"Soils are being depleted, demand for water is growing ever more voracious and the entire system is at the mercy of an increasingly fluctuating price of oil," the prince said in the keynote speech at the "Future of Food" conference.
Charles was joined by the son of a peasant farmer from Mexico who now advocates for farmworkers' rights, a professional basketball player turned organic farmer, a pediatrician working to promote healthy diets for low-income families and others in calling for a change to the way Americans produce and consume food.
But the prince was the only speaker to be given a standing ovation that set the wooden Flemish-Romanesque meeting hall rumbling.
The world's food producers must urgently "create a more sustainable approach to agriculture... that is capable of feeding the world with a global population rapidly heading for nine billion," the prince said.
"Can we do so amid so many competing demands on land, in an increasingly volatile climate and when levels of the planet's biodiversity are under such threat or in serious decline?" he said, urging Americans to lead the way in fixing the global food system, which has already reached crisis stage.
"The way we have done things up to now is no longer as viable as they once appeared to be," the prince said, urging the world's food growers to take "some very brave steps," including developing "more sustainable, or durable forms of food production."
"I have no intention of being confronted by my grandchildren, demanding to know why on earth we didn't do something about the many problems that existed when we knew what was going wrong," Charles said on the second day of a whirlwind visit to the United States.
The Prince of Wales kicked off his official visit to the United States Tuesday - just days after the pomp and ceremony of his son Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton - with a visit to an urban farm in a gritty, deprived Washington neighborhood.
He also visited the US Supreme Court and met US service members who were wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Reuse content