Igor Teslenko, President of Corteva Agriscience, Europe
6 December 2019
At the Financial Times Global Food Systems Summit on November 19, Corteva Agriscience VP of Global Responsibility Henri Moore presented the results of our Sustainable Food Systems study with the Financial Times Group company Longitude. The study shows both consumers and farmers in Europe ready to invest in sustainable food, and crucially, also ready to embrace plant-breeding innovations like gene editing that would make it possible to produce more food with less resources. The summit dialogues between farmers, food companies, NGOs and policymakers echoed this shift in the public attitude towards science and technology in food production. Panelists acknowledged the growing urgency to move beyond debates between science and technology and organic farming, and to work together to create a new, inclusive definition of sustainable food production which will truly address the welfare of consumers, stewardship of the environment, and economic viability for consumers, farmers and the entire food system.
2019 was a year of revelations, compelling consumers, policymakers, NGOs and food companies to recognize the urgent need to agree and act on a more inclusive definition of sustainable food production.
Devastating Climate-Change Impact for Farmers Gives Rise to a New Commitment to Climate-Positive Agriculture
Farmers around the world have reported devastating crop losses this year due to the record droughts and floods symptomatic of climate change. At the NA EU Agricultural Conference in Copenhagen this year, farmers from associations across Europe (under the umbrella of Copa Cogeca), as well as from the American Farm Bureau, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Mexican Farmer’s Association, cited climate change as the single biggest challenge facing agriculture today. Farmers expressed their commitment to meeting national agricultural emissions targets, as well as the need for policies that would enable them to employ the tools necessary to meet those targets, including seeds from new plant-breeding techniques like gene editing/CRISPR.
At the same time, the 2019 UN Emissions Gap Report revealed that the national emissions targets set by the Paris Agreement will not suffice to restrict the global temperature rise to 2°C. So, at the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, all nations may expect to be called on to raise those targets substantially. That means that national policymakers and farmers across Europe are urgently looking for new ways not only to reduce the carbon footprint of farms, but to reverse the climate impact of agriculture.
We know that our annual USD 1.2 billion investment in R&D, and our collaborations with researchers around the world, will be vital to supplying the innovations in green crop protection, new plant breeding, and digital technologies that will fuel a climate-positive agricultural transformation. At the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue in October, our CEO Jim Collins also announced USD 500,000 in challenge grants for farmers who are using innovative climate-positive practices, to help them to scale up their efforts through collaborations with universities, environmental groups, and other growers. Working together, we will make agriculture part of the solution to climate change.
Consumer Demand for Sustainable Food Causes a Positive Shift in Attitudes to Science, Technology and Food Prices
On September 4, 2019, we published our Sustainable Food Systems report with the Financial Times Group company Longitude. This study of 2,500 consumers and 600 farmers in eight countries across Europe recorded a positive shift in consumer attitudes toward agricultural science and technology, driven by a growing desire for sustainable food production. 75% of consumers studied believe sustainable food contributes to their well-being, and 53% of consumers said that they would buy sustainable food produced using scientific innovations like gene editing, which can improve the nutritional quality of food and also reduce the resources and inputs needed produce it.