Javier Valdés
Director General
Syngenta Latin America North
Expert Contributor

Sustainability in 2021: A Major Challenge in the Global Context

By Javier Valdés | Tue, 12/22/2020 - 09:00

We know that 2020 has been a complex year in every way for almost everybody due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the challenges we will face in 2021 also involve a degree of difficulty for which we hope to be as well-prepared as possible. In terms of sustainability for the agricultural sector, the are several points to consider, but with what has been learned this year, it is possible to maintain the productivity of the countryside, protect farmers and take care of nature and the environment. 

The new decade begins with the year ahead, so 2021 represents a great opportunity to replicate everything that has been done well and innovate to find new ways to have better food from good soil with the latest in environmentally friendly solutions.

When we hear the term sustainability, the first idea that comes to our minds is related to ecological issues; however, the definition goes further and also applies to economic or social issues. Making agriculture friendly for biodiversity and for farmers necessarily requires the intervention of technology.

About 80 years ago, for every 100 people, 80 lived in the countryside and 20 in the cities. Everything has now been reversed. This is how the world has changed and how the mindset needs to be changed to face consumer needs by using all the means available to achieve the best crops, farmer’s progress and the least possible impact on the environment. 

Understanding that agricultural technology does not go against traditional methods and crops is the first step to expand the supply of food products and promote techniques and products that reduce resource consumption, while at the same time dealing with planting and protecting the land, as well as the effort being made to eliminate herbicides and pests. 

But how do we relate all this to the fact that there are fewer and fewer people working in the countryside or that this influences more people to engage in agriculture? The answer lies in profitability. In the past, people left the countryside because in the cities they had better-paid work and life in the countryside was more complicated. 

From an ecological point of view, accelerating the development of new technologies will help to make climate change less destructive to crops and to maintain food production in the face of a growing global population and the impossibility of increasing the area under cultivation in countries such as Mexico, where the only solution is to produce more on the same surface. 

Having the right solution for each type of land, crop and climate, has positive consequences for farmers and their families; that is to say that not only environmental but also economic sustainability is achieved. That is just one example of what technology applied to agriculture can accomplish. 

If it is also combined with other programs, products or crops, the possibilities for success and growth of a primary productive activity increase exponentially. As I pointed out, the use of technology does not seek to eliminate traditional methods or crops, but to complement them for the benefit for the producer and the consumer. 

Over the next five years, Syngenta will invest US$2 billion in innovation for sustainable agriculture, as well as committing to launching two new sustainable technologies per year and actively contributing to addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this investment, Syngenta acquired the biological solutions company Valagro, which will expand its offer of solutions for the field. 

2021 is the first step toward sustainability that allows economic growth for farmers, for the production of healthy, nutritious and safe food, and for the protection of nature and all living things that depend on it.

Photo by:   Javier Valdés