Javier Valdés
Director General
Syngenta Latin America
/
Expert Contributor

Profitability, Sustainability: Better Food Production Approach

By Javier Valdés | Mon, 08/17/2020 - 09:14

Time to act. 

According to UN, world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion in the next 30 years, from current 7.7 billion to 9.7 by 2050. By that same year, it is expected that 4 billion people will be living in countries facing water scarcity. Every minute, agriculture land is lost due to erosion and we have got to a point where agricultural frontier cannot expand any more. Climate change is a fact that affects us in several ways and that affects directly food production. The challenge is real and is huge: growers around the world must produce more food, in the same land, with the same or less resources, while taking care of the environment and preserving natural resources. 
This would have been the scenario I would be sharing with you a few months ago, but today, over all these, I need to add to the scene the most complicated crisis in the last century. COVID-19 came to our world to test our collective capacity to respond to the greatest economic, financial and social shock in the last several years. This pandemic has further highlighted the fragility of the agriculture ecosystem, putting even more strain on those earning a living from farming than before.

The time to act is now, and I firmly believe that we can find lots of answers in science and technology to address this difficult scenario and overcome not only this crisis, but to the ones to come. 

What can we do? 

Syngenta is a global firm dedicated to research and development of new technology and science-based solutions for growers around the world to better address the enormous challenges they face every day while producing the food that reaches our tables. 
The best plant scientists, chemists, biologists toxicologists and agronomists around the world work tirelessly in our facilities to develop new seeds, seed treatments and crop protection products, to produce more food per hectare of land and to assure that this food is safer for the consumer, the environment and the grower that produces it. 

We are experts in agronomy and in all what is related to assuring that when a seed is sown it will turn into a healthy and profitable crop. And as such experts we have been addressing and incorporating the concept of sustainability in agriculture for the past several years. Sustainability is a complex issue and it requires multidisciplinary approaches to really improve the way food is produced. And as in every other field, sustainability must be built in an economic axis that promotes social and environmental pillars. 

Back in 2013, Syngenta presented The Good Growth Plan, a global program that addressed sustainability and food production in a clear and transparent way by committing to help smallholders around the world to increase by 20% their production yields, while taking care of the soils and biodiversity in the agricultural landscape and empowering them to access to technologies in a safe way. We delivered these commitments one year earlier than promised, and we are extremely happy and proud of what we have achieved and the way we impacted growers around the world. 

I truly believe that what is good must carry on, so during this June and in the middle of the pandemic crisis, we decided to launch the second chapter of The Good Growth Plan, a new set of bold commitments that intend to help growers around the world fight the climate change effects on food production. 

We are accelerating our innovation to provide solutions to help farmers overcome these challenges, from extreme weather events to society’s changing dietary tastes, all this while benefiting our environment. In practical terms, we have set 3 targets: Invest $2 billion in sustainable agriculture breakthroughs, launch 2 new sustainable technology breakthroughs per year and strive for the lowest residues in crops and the environment.

We are also striving for carbon neutral agriculture, as leaders in agriculture, we are committed to providing technologies, services and training to help farming become carbon neutral as well as reducing the climate footprint of our operations in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. This will be achieved by empowering farmers to store carbon in their lands, improving biodiversity and soil health and making our own operations less carbon intensive. 

And finally, we are maintaining our commitment to help people stay safe and healthy, by training 8 million farm workers on safe use of our products every year and striving for fair labor across our entire supply chain. 

But as I said before, the challenge is enormous, and we are conscious that all these cannot be achieved by us only. For the past years we have partnered with stakeholders that aim for the same than we do. Building these trustable alliances, help us achieve our commitments and will continue to do it. Globally we hold an alliance with The Nature Conservancy, Solidaridad Network, Wageningen University and locally we are working with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)  and the Interamerican Institute for Cooperation for Agriculture (IICA).This is why we generate diverse dialogues and partnerships with NGOs, academics, industry, governments and so on, because we are conscious that this diverse points of view will help us to build a stronger approach to a real way to face a better and more sustainable agriculture. 

As a pandemic, climate change and food production are not easy topics, and both require strong expertise and bold commitments to address in the best possible way how we deal with the challenges that we currently have and with the ones that we have ahead. I am convinced that responsibly used technology holds the answer to so many questions and as Syngenta leader for Latin-America North, I am fully committed to help our farmers have the best toolkit to face these challenges. 

Photo by:   Javier Valdés

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