The time is now for a Greener Revolution in Agriculture, to increase the productivity of farming in a more sustainable and environmentally compatible way, said Bayer CropScience’s new CEO Liam Condon in his keynote address at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin Monday.
"We need to recognize that we are reaching the ecological limits that our planet can bear. We must cultivate new ideas and answers to freeze our environmental footprint and farm better the land we have available," Condon urged.
Condon emphasized the importance of forging closer collaborations between the various stakeholders. "If we want to make sustainable progress towards our goal of enhancing food security and nutrition, driving growth, and protecting the environment, it is critical that we forge closer collaborations between the private and public sectors," he said.
Five-point plan to a Greener Revolution
Condon outlined a holistic five-point plan to propel a Greener Revolution, which encompasses strategic innovation investments, the long-term empowerment of farmers and particularly smallholders, a stronger focus on climate-smart solutions, enhanced nutrition and improved partnerships.
Speaking on the first step to ramp up investment in innovation, Condon said investing into agricultural R&D was the most productive way to support agriculture long-term.
"At Bayer CropScience, we recognize the ongoing need for innovative solutions to help feed and protect the planet," Condon said, reiterating the company’s commitment to invest EUR 5 billion in R&D from 2011-16. While investing significantly in cutting-edge chemistry, the company is increasingly channeling its R&D investment into new areas of innovation, including plant-breeding techniques that focus on stress-tolerance, and biological crop protection. "It is crucial that we pursue all available technologies to make a sustainable difference in helping to ensure food security," added Condon.
In the second step, Condon discussed the need to enable farmers to become "agripreneurs", armed with the knowledge and technology needed to sustainably pilot their own farming success. "My favourite example of empowering farmers in a developing country is our Model Village concept in India," he revealed. The program - planned to be rolled out across 400 villages across the country - offers farmers a host of benefits including training and tools to boost their agricultural productivity and access to markets.
The third element was an increased focus on climate-smart solutions. One example is how Bayer CropScience is working to reduce methane gas emissions from rice cultivation, said Condon. "Standard rice growing methods rely on much water, and - due to favourable conditions for anaerobic bacteria in waterlogged soil - this generates around four times the amount of methane emissions as wheat and maize," he noted. "We have developed a range of rice solutions; these include hybrid seeds,new crop protection products, technology and training, and also climate-smart features requiring less water and emitting less methane."
Another way forward for a Greener Revolution is to enhance health through better nutrition, Condon said. "With one-third of the world’s children not growing to their full potential due to insufficient nutrition, biofortification is one important way to boost a crop’s nutrient uptake of zinc, iron and iodine," Condon said. Bayer CropScience is already working with organizations including Harvest Plus to enhance the nutritional value of crops.
The last step of the five-point plan outlined by Condon focusses on expanding collaborations with a stronger focus on execution. "While the private sector continues to invest in science, products and services to help enhance food security and rural development, wider challenges - such as insufficient education and training; political and economic instability; poor infrastructure; as well as loose legal frameworks - call for the collective efforts of all multi-stakeholders," he said.
The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture is an international political forum focusing on central issues regarding the future of the global agri-food industry. It is among the key highlights of the International Green Week - the leading public exhibition for food, agriculture and horticulture which attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually.