By Aimee Christian, Ph.D. Head, Corporate Affairs Vegetables and Specialty Crops, Syngenta
We all know that, globally, our population is growing. To put it into perspective, we are adding over 200,000 people to our planet every day. The good news is that infant mortality is down to the lowest rate in history in many countries, and many people are living longer, fuller lives. However, in order for that to be truly good news, we need to ensure that everyone, old and young alike, receives the right balance of nutrients so they can grow and thrive. This is getting harder and harder to achieve, as we are trying to produce this balanced nutrition with an already overused resource - our planet. To date, we are consuming about 50% more resources than Earth is producing, which is not a sustainable equation.
Furthermore, did you know that in 1950, a hectare only needed to feed two people but, by 2030, it will need to feed five? How is this going to work? In order to explore a core aspect of this challenge, we need to look at crop efficiency. As part of our Good Growth Plan, we commit to helping farmers grow crops more efficiently, using fewer resources, but maintain high quality yield.
As a tangible and interesting example of how improving crop efficiency can help, let’s talk pasta. We all love it and as a society, we all consume a lot of it. In fact, according to the International Pasta Organization, about 13.5 million tons of pasta was produced worldwide in 2013. That’s alotta pasta! And producing high-quality pasta begins with growing high-quality durum wheat. Which is why Syngenta has partnered on a project called "Grano Armando" that uses 100% Italian wheat.
Growers in the partnership are guaranteed higher than market price for their wheat due to its high and consistent protein content. The partnership combines three key elements - seed quality, crop protection standards and Syngenta farmer support. As a result, growers achieve yields 15% higher than average.
That sounds like a really effective partnership to help tackle one of our greatest world challenges, but don’t take my word for it, watch what the growers have said about the partnership here. This is only one example, but it actually should be possible to grow more of all food without using more inputs like crop protection products and water, and without clearing more land for farming. With the right innovation and mindset, we should be able to increase the average productivity of the world’s major crops without detrimentally affecting our planet at the same time.
At Syngenta, we are working to achieve just that, but we definitely can’t do it alone. We all have to work together to achieve the future we want.
Public-private partnerships will be essential to realize our goals for society and future generations. One example is better water management: On some farms, up to 40% of the water used is due to inefficient practices such as field flooding in rice growing. But conserving and protecting water at farm level requires a good understanding of conservation technology, and growers need access to financial support and infrastructure. Incentives like access to affordable credit, and financial risk-management mechanisms such as insurance for weather-related crop losses are critical.
The Water Resources Group is an innovative and neutral public-private-expert-civil society platform that helps governments and their partners accelerate reforms to make water resource management more sustainable. Members include McKinsey & Company and the World Bank Group with a consortium of business partners: Barilla, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, New Holland, SABMiller, Standard Chartered and Syngenta.
These are not challenges that will disappear overnight. Nor is there a ‘magic bullet’ solution that can be employed by a single entity. In order for the world to manage our food security now and in the future, the world will need to work together to solve its challenges.
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