Red tape chokes food chain

01 Dec, 2015 01:00 AM
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Outreach manager at Syngenta's Jealott's Hill research centre in Berkshire, UK Jim Morton discusses glasshouse plant research trials with Western Australian consultant Dave Stead, Anasazi Agronomy York.
We are regulated by a whole bunch of different people who don't have much reality about agriculture
Outreach manager at Syngenta's Jealott's Hill research centre in Berkshire, UK Jim Morton discusses glasshouse plant research trials with Western Australian consultant Dave Stead, Anasazi Agronomy York.

THE need for more food might be blindingly obvious in vast areas of the planet, but in Europe where many big decisions influencing global food security are made by government and business, less than one per cent of the population is involved in agriculture.

"In reality we are regulated by a whole bunch of different people who don't have much reality about agriculture," Spanish-born head of Syngenta's public policy and partnerships Dr Juan Gonzalez-Valero told Growth Awards winners from Australia and New Zealand while they were at Syngenta's headquarters in Switzerland.

With food available in abundance in Europe and most western countries, Dr Gonzales-Valero said most consumable products attractively showcased in supermarkets, or food advertising images on television, had little relationship with the challenges farmers and related agribusinesses now confronted producing food crops.

"It's very hard to justify spending $1.4 billion annually over 10 or 15 years to develop new products to help produce more food more efficiently if there's an environment of uncertainty about the community's commitment to agriculture," he said.

That frustration had prompted Syngenta to think smarter about telling the wider community about its business and agriculture's goals, initially with its "grow more from less" campaign, a theme widely copied by others in the sector.

That evolved into the integrated Good Growth Plan which includes measuring farm productivity and pest control gains from Syngenta technology and its advisory campaigns.

"We're not just showing how we deliver resource efficiency and add value to rural amenities with safer technology, our good agricultural protection and agronomy advice can provide safe solutions for environmental security," he said.

The Good Growth Plan was a "ground up information strategy" which started helping farm productivity, but had now struck a chord with influential commercial networks and community groups including global conservation body, The Nature Conservancy, USAID (US Agency for International Development), and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It had also attracted recognition from the food value chain as retailers noted potential consumer appeal in its focus on recovering lost farmland fertility and biodiversity, cropping efficiency, farm safety, and making developing nation farmers more successfully.

Western Australian consultant David Stead, from Anasazi Agronomy in York said the Growth Awards study tour confirmed to him the size of the challenge farmers faced to win consumer respect for productivity initiatives, particularly in Europe where farming was "hampered at every turn by regulatory controls on pest and land use management".

"Syngenta seems to lead the pack in trying to break down misconceptions by actually measuring what is being achieved at a farm, environmental and community level," he said

NSW farmer Andrew Pursehouse, "Breeza Station", gained "great appreciation of Syngenta's culture" and what was involved in developing new crop protection products in an environment with so many conflicting expectations.

"I was a very reluctant when nominated for last year's awards, but it was a fantastic experience and I've also learnt lots from the other winners and their network of contacts."

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FarmOnline
Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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