In another new episode of the second season of the Asia’s Farm to Fork: 5 Good Questions Podcast, we speak to Dr. Neoh Soon-Bin, Managing Director, Soon Soon Group, about food security and price inflations. We also learn about the benefits of governmental partnerships in the agricultural sector. Dr. Neoh brings an insightful perspective from the food and feed ingredients industry in Malaysia. Listen ’til the end for a quick introduction on how his favorite dish is prepared, the Peranakan dish – Assam Laksa.
A joint project of CropLife Asia & the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)
Well into his senior years, Vietnamese farmer, Hoang Trong Ngai, 69, reflects on how adopting genetically modified (GM) maize has benefited not just him but his community as well.
Ngai first heard about GM maize in 2015, when he attended a farmer’s conference organized by the provincial government. Back then, Vietnamese farmers were still hesitant to adopt GM crops since they knew little about it.
However, among the technologies presented during the event, it was GM maize that caught Ngai’s attention. So much so that he quickly began testing several varieties and finally settled on a GM hybrid which is one of the widely adaptable varieties in Vietnam. According to Ngai, the crop produced higher yield and had better resistance to pests and diseases compared with the conventional variety. It was also suitable for local soil conditions.
Starting with merely a hectare of farmland in 2015, Ngai now plants GM maize on nearly three hectares. The average yield of the GM variety is 15% higher (55 quintals/ha) than that of traditional varieties (47.9 quintals/ha), which makes him and his family one of the highest corn producers in the Vinh Phuc province. “With GM maize, we can harvest as much as 60 quintals/ha when the weather is good. It also requires minimum care and reduced pesticide use,” Ngai shares.
The GM maize also generates higher profits. With 2.6 ha of farm area and two production seasons per year, Ngai earns 41% more (3,914 USD/crop) than the average annual income of farmers planting conventional maize (2,759.5 USD/crop).
While farmers can apply the same planting technique used for conventional varieties, GM maize comes with added savings since it does not require any pesticides. It also reduces the cost of labor for land preparation. Ngai recalls, “we had to employ 25 laborers to till the land but now, it only takes three family members to prepare the land for cultivation.” “With these savings, I can say that the total production cost of GM maize is significantly lower compared to traditional varieties,” he adds.
IMPROVED FARMING METHODS
Ngai also saw huge improvements in his farming practices. “We used to till the land manually, which led to low sowing density. Only two crops per season (corn crop and cash crop) were planted on the family farmland. But since the GM maize variety has better tolerance and shorter growing period (115 days), I was able to re-arrange the planting schedule to accommodate three crops in the farm.” More importantly, Ngai does not use insecticides anymore. This, he notes, is one of the biggest benefits of planting GM maize.
“…since the GM maize variety has better tolerance and shorter growing period, I was able to re-arrange the planting schedule to accommodate three crops in the farm.” – Hoang Trong Ngai
With his increased income, Ngai was able to support the needs of his family and actively take part in community events. “I bought motorbikes and repaired our house. I was also able to send my children to college and buy them computers and phones that they need for online schooling,” he happily shares. Since they spend less time tending to their field now, their family has also been able to actively participate in other community activities.
Inspired by Ngai’s success, other farmers wanted to plant GM crops, too. To consolidate their efforts, Ngai established a farmer group in his community. The farmers have planted GM maize on 120 hectares in their district to date. “Since introducing GM maize to the community, the farmers have been working more closely together. We regularly exchange information and experiences with farmers within and outside the group,” he continues. The farmer group has also allowed members to share expenses for land preparation and harvesting.
Ngai admits that the progress of GM crops in Vietnam still face some challenges. Although “GM maize is still mainly consumed within the province and the local corn industry lacks linkages with animal feed processing enterprises to create a large raw material production area,” he explains.
The Vietnamese government has also officially banned the use of the herbicide Glyphosate in 2021, which is seen as an inconvenience for GM maize farmers. He adds, “The GM maize variety we are planting is insect-resistant, but we also used Glyphosate to control the weeds. Because of the ban, farmers must manually remove the weeds.”
Another challenge is land availability. Ngai shares that since more households in the Vinh Phuc province have converted their lands for growing other crops, flowers, and fruit trees, it has been difficult to expand the area for GM maize.
With all its benefits, Ngai considers GM maize a personal success story. “Planting GM maize is efficient and low-cost. I can attest that it’s a safe investment for farmers.” He also advised fellow farmers to consult experts and test varieties to ensure that it’s suitable for local conditions.
Ngai further highlights the safety of GM crops. “The public should not be afraid of GM products. Other countries using it have proven its safety. My family and community have been cultivating GM maize for a long time without experiencing any health problems. This is even better than the traditional varieties since we don’t use insecticides,” he states.
A joint project of CropLife Asia & the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)
A man out of his mind! Leaving a stable job overseas to start farming back home might be seen as a move only an unstable person would do. Not for Emerson Agno, though, it was just the beginning of something worth the cliff jump.
Now at the helm of a successful business and an active farmer’s organization, Emerson and his business partner, Lualhati Alfonso Kimura, share how Bt corn opened opportunities for them to support his fellow farmers and made it their mission to transform them into ‘agripreneurs.’
“There’s no money in farming,” Emerson recalls the comments of his Filipino coworkers when he decided to resign from his job at a multi-national construction company in Qatar and come home to help supervise his family’s agricultural commodities business in 2018.
Four years later, he has proven them wrong.
Sparked by the desire to help fellow corn farmers in the province of Quezon, Emerson later founded the Gintong Butil (Golden Grain) Agricultural Commodities and Services Company together with Lualhati when he returned from working overseas. To further assist the farmers in their area, they formed a farmer’s organization in their barangay, the Samahan ng Masisipag na Magmamais ng Mangilag Norte, in which Emerson and Lualhati are the current president and vice president, respectively. Emerson is also the current president of the Quezon Corn Growers Federation.
From four hectares, Emerson and Lualhati now manage around 20 hectares of personal farmland dedicated to Bt corn. They are also involved in managing more than 200 hectares of land by financing farmer-partners within Quezon and neighboring provinces through Gintong Butil.
CHOOSING BT CORN
“When I was able to save enough money from working in Qatar, my father retired, and we decided to go back to farming and plant corn. We chose to plant Bt corn because there was a market for it,” says Emerson. Based on their estimates, Region 4-A, comprised of five provinces namely Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (CALABARZON), can only produce five to eight percent of its total corn requirement. Most of the corn supply comes from the northern parts of the country. This presented an opportunity for them to fill up the market gap in the region.
Planting conventional varieties demands more labor and inputs compared to Bt corn, according to Emerson and Lualhati. Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt corn is a genetically modified (GM) corn variety that is resistant to the Asiatic corn borer. “The conventional corn is prone to pests and diseases, so it constantly needs pesticides, which adds to the production cost. With Bt corn, we mostly spray herbicides, and we only use Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA)-approved insecticides when needed for insects such as the fall armyworm. Using chemicals are necessary at times but we need to use it properly,” Lualhati further clarifies.
They also saw the Bt corn produced better yield than the conventional variety, averaging around six to eight tons per hectare on their best crop season (the average yield for the conventional variety is 2-3 tons per hectare). “Since we are going to pour effort and resources into it, we might as well use high-yielding GM corn seeds. Though it costs more compared to non-GM seeds, the benefits and returns of a higher yield can cover those costs and more,” he notes. “We also promote Bt corn to the farmer-partners of Gintong Butil,” Lualhati adds.
BEING A FARMER-LEADER
At its core, Gintong Butil’s goal is to increase the income of corn growers in Quezon and nearby provinces and to help them address farming concerns from land preparation, harvesting, pricing, to selling their crops. “We assist them through financing and post- harvest equipment rental. Our farmer-partners often have no capital, so they loan from us with low interest rates. They usually pay us back after harvest. Members of the Samahan (farmer’s organization) can also rent farm equipment from Gintong Butil at a lower price,” Emerson explains. Additionally, the Samahan receives assistance (i.e., seeds, fertilizers, and equipment) from the Department of Agriculture (DA). The Samahan currently has 25 members within the barangay, but Gintong Butil supports around 50-70 farmer-partners throughout Quezon. They plan to expand the services of the company to the farthest towns in the province.
Aside from financial assistance, another concern that they are particularly keen to resolve through Gintong Butil is the presence of middlemen. “They normally buy the corn at a significantly lower price that they earn more than the farmers. We inform the farmers that they can process their own harvest, so they can keep their full income,” Lualhati continues.
Emerson and Lualhati happily share that their partner corn farmers now avail of Gintong Butil’s services instead of dealing with middlemen. After drying, they look for purchase orders from their partner feed mills and poultry farms so farmers can directly sell their harvests. “Our partner-farmers can now have a better life because they earn more,” she adds.
Gintong Butil also leads capacity-building activities for its farmer- partners. They coordinate with technicians from their suppliers as well as feed and fertilizer companies to train the farmers. They also encourage them to join trainings organized by the DA.
FROM FARMERS TO ‘AGRIPRENEURS’
From working abroad, managing Gintong Butil has become Emerson’s primary source of income. They only had a small truck, one tractor and a corn sheller when they started. They now have two tractors, dryers, and trucks. They were also able to build a warehouse with their earnings. Gintong Butil regularly supplies feed mills in Quezon, Laguna, and Batangas. Along with the yield of their farmer-partners, they also supply around 20-25 tons of Bt corn monthly to one of the major food manufacturers in the Philippines.
“As for business expansion, we are exploring if we can meet the demand of other companies. One challenge is having farmer-partners who know how to market new products,” Emerson admits. However, he observed that a lot of farmers still practice traditional farming methods that don’t increase their yield and harvest.
This, he says, is why farmers should be encouraged to be ‘agripreneurs.’ “They think that just because they are farmers, they can’t be entrepreneurs. We need to change their mindset that they, too, can earn more if they know the business side of farming,” he points out. Lualhati shares this sentiment and adds that the youth should have a similar outlook to motivate them to venture into agriculture. “We have to advocate that farming can be a main source of income.”
From conversations with their partners, Emerson and Lualhati believe that farmers need to be updated with modern technologies and farming practices. Machineries and post-harvest facilities in the area should also be available. One of the goals of the federation is to establish a post-harvest facility in the province with the assistance of DA and in partnership with Gintong Butil. They also encourage small-scale farmers to form organizations and consolidate their efforts since it is easier to negotiate or demand prices as a group.
“We feel that we have a social responsibility to lend a hand to our fellow farmers. As our income increase and our quality of life improves, so should theirs. At the end of the day, we are all in this together,” Emerson states.
A joint project of CropLife Asia & the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)
FROM OVERSEAS WORKER TO FARMER AND BIOTECH CHAMPION
Known in the Philippine agri-biotech community as the “Queen of Bt Corn,” Rosalie Ellasus shares her journey from working overseas to being a successful genetically modified (GM) corn farmer, and using her influence as a biotech advocate to inspire other farmers to plant GM crops.
Seated against a background of her lush corn fields, near a brand-new farm tractor, Rosalie fondly recalls how she initially had no background or interest in farming. Things changed when her husband died in 1995 and she decided to come home from working overseas to be with her three children. She invested her savings in a small farm, but the results were far from rosy. Her corn farm was riddled with pests and weeds; mere farm income was not enough to send her children to college. Selling the farm was not a lucrative option either.
In 2002, Rosalie attended a 16-week Integrated Pest Management-Farmer Field School (IPMFFS) for corn in her municipality. She notes that this was a defining moment since she learned about Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, a GM corn variety that is resistant to the Asiatic corn borer. “We had a field trial and I volunteered to have a demo trial of Bt and non-Bt corn on my farm. We saw that Bt corn produced better yield than the conventional variety,” she adds. When the Philippine government approved the commercialization of Bt corn in 2003, Rosalie became one of the pioneer adaptors of the GM crop in the country. From just over one hectare of land in 2011, she now harvests corn from more than 10 hectares of farmland. Apart from Rosalie, other farmers in San Jacinto, Pangasinan have also found success in planting Bt corn.
Rosalie has enjoyed a multifaceted career over the years. On top of being a farmer, she also became a municipal councilor for nine years. She’s currently the Municipal Risk Reduction and Management Officer of her town. “I did not give up farming because I still wanted to provide livelihood to the farm workers that tend to my field,” she says.
She has also become one of the champions of biotech crops in the country. “Because of the positive outcome of the demo trial, I got invited to different gatherings in other towns to share my experience with the crop. That’s where my advocacy started. I want other farmers, big or small, to know that they, too, can have a better life with Bt corn,” Rosalie states. She admits that it’s rare for a farmer like her to be given the opportunity to travel, so it was a pleasure sharing her biotech experience with farmers in other countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Bangladesh.
In 2016, the Department of Agriculture- Biotechnology Program Office named her as one of the “Filipino Faces of Biotechnology” for her contributions to the country’s agribiotech sector.
SHIFTING TO BT FOR GOOD
It has been 15 years since Zosimo Gonzales started planting Bt corn and he has no plans of turning back. Now 70 years old, he first knew of Bt corn when Rosalie introduced it in their area during the demo trial. “When we tried planting it ourselves, we were convinced that Bt corn was better since it was high yielding. The corn borers were also gone so we did not have to spend much on insecticides, unlike the conventional varieties where we had to apply large amounts of insecticides but still had less yield compared to Bt corn,” he explains.
With this additional income from Bt corn and a small rice field, he was able to build a house and buy farm equipment such as a tractor and water pump. Both his children were also able to finish their studies. “Recently, we harvested 15 tons of corn on my 1.7-hectare farm,” he adds.
Husband and wife Trinidad and Saturnino Velasco, Sr., are also long-time Bt corn farmers from the area. Similar to Zosimo, the couple shifted to Bt corn after seeing its benefits. “We noticed an improvement in our farming methods. We used to spend a lot on insecticides, but now, we only spray it when needed.” Trinidad further clarifies, “there is no corn borer infestation anymore but sometimes, we still need to apply insecticides to eliminate other insects such as armyworms, fruit flies, and leafhoppers.”
“There are times that we are able to harvest 9.6 tons of corn per hectare. We will never get tired of planting Bt corn,” she happily shares. Saturnino continues, “we were able to send our five children to school and now, they all have good careers. We bought land and farm equipment. We were also able to buy a car with our income.”
Now in their sixties, the couple is still actively involved in managing their farm and they’ve hired other farmers to tend to their corn field. “We are glad to see fellow farmers such as Rosalie succeed because we are also encouraged to produce better crops. It’s like a friendly competition,” says Trinidad.
Another farmer in the area, Romeo Velasco, echoes similar sentiments. “Aside from higher income and improved farming practices, I can confidently say that Bt corn is safe for humans. I’ve been planting it for almost 10 years, and I haven’t experienced any negative side effects. It’s also safer than the conventional varieties since we use fewer insecticides,” he shares. With 25 hectares of land dedicated to Bt corn, Romeo shares that he has been able to help a lot of his fellow farmers in the area. “They have regular jobs because of farming, and they use this to pay for their children’s schooling and to support the other needs of their families.” His farm income also goes into the expansion of his agriculture supplies business.
“Corn farming used to be labor-intensive,” Rosalie recalls. Before, there were many activities involved during the planting season (i.e., plowing, fertilization, weeding, de-tasseling, watering, insecticide spraying, etc.) which were also costly. With Bt corn, this tedious process has been simplified. “The farmer just needs to focus on fertilization, watering, and manpower. We spray Glyphosate to get rid of the weeds, but the overall production cost has been reduced. Now, we can easily sell our corn to feed millers and traders since it’s not infested by corn borers,” she elaborates. Rosalie also attests to the safety of Bt corn. “We have been feeding Bt corn to our livestock for years and there have been no adverse effects.”
“More importantly, my children were able to finish university, which was my main concern when I became a single parent. I am now helping with the education of my grandchildren. I was also able to establish other businesses and buy farm equipment. Our life has certainly improved because of Bt corn,” she beams.
AGTECH IS THE FUTURE
Zosimo recalls that he was not frightened to try the technology when it was first introduced. “I have no regrets with planting Bt corn. Why would I be afraid of it? Farmers need to open their minds to modern technologies. These won’t be introduced to us if it will just cause more damage to our crops.” He also hopes that their experience will help convince farmers to plant Bt corn.
Meanwhile, Trinidad and Saturnino feel fortunate that they discovered Bt corn and enjoy its benefits. “If given the chance, we will still choose to plant Bt corn. It’s more profitable than the conventional ones,” they add.
Romeo shared his aspirations and hopes that the GM corn variety in the country will be further improved so that more farmers will be encouraged to plant it. “I also plan to expand my farm so I can employ more corn farmers in my area. That way, I can help them provide for their families,” he says.
Similarly, Rosalie expressed the need to advance technologies and biotech products in the country. She mentioned that farmers also need climate-resilient crops to cope with agricultural challenges. She expounds, “we need to invest in smart agriculture and biotechnology, otherwise, the Philippines will be left behind. Agriculture and technology should go hand in hand.”
For such an accomplished farming career, Rosalie plans to carry on with her biotech advocacy. “I still want to inspire other farmers especially the younger ones, to venture into agriculture, particularly GM crops. I can also explore other opportunities so that I can continue being of service to the people of San Jacinto and perhaps even beyond!”
Last April 2022, for the World Day for Safety and Health for Workers, we spoke to Delisa Jiang, Director of Sustainability and Advocacy with CropLife Asia. In the interview, Delisa shares her thoughts on the critical importance of health and safety on the farm, the growing role innovation and new technologies like drones are playing in Asian agriculture, and progress with industry stewardship programs that she’s helping lead. Delisa also offers interesting insights with a project CropLife is undertaking to utilize behavioral science learnings to promote crop protection responsible use and better ensure regional farmers’ health and safety.
Play and listen to the full podcast episode below:
New ASEAN-CropLife Asia Survey of Region’s Policymakers Sheds Light on Climate Change Impact
Singapore, 29 April 2022– More than half of ASEAN policymakers (51%) agree that climate change is the biggest obstacle currently facing ASEAN food systems. A majority also believe that climate change has a widespread negative impact on agricultural issues in ASEAN such as maintaining soil quality (92%), managing plant disease (88%), ensuring sufficient crop yields (88%), and managing pests/infestations (85%).
These findings and others are part of the research white paper released today titled Policymaker Survey: Climate Change Impact on ASEAN Agriculture. Conducted by market research company PSB Insights and made possible through cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and CropLife Asia, this initiative is designed to better understand the impact of climate change on agriculture, food production and smallholder farmers in the ASEAN region. Both quantitative and qualitative interviews were conducted for this research.
The research further revealed that ASEAN policymakers are acutely aware of the devastating impact of climate change on smallholder farmers, with over 60% of them strongly agreeing that farmers will be negatively affected the most by climate change impact to food productivity/security. Additionally, over four-in-five (86%) policymakers said that providing better education about the use of agricultural tech and sciences, and innovation in the areas of agricultural tech and science would be ‘very important’ in mitigating the impact of climate change on farmers in the region.
The full report can be accessed on CropLife Asia’s website here.
About CropLife Asia
CropLife Asia is a non-profit society and the regional organization of CropLife International, the voice of the global plant science industry. We advocate a safe, secure food supply, and our vision is food security enabled by innovative agriculture. CropLife Asia supports the work of 15 member associations across the continent and is led by eight member companies at the forefront of crop protection, seeds and/or biotechnology research and development. For more information, visit us at www.croplifeasia.org.
For more information please contact:
Director, Public Affairs
Tel: (65) 6221 1615
Over 65% of region’s female farmers cite gender disparity as a key issue in new research
By: CropLife Asia
SINGAPORE, March 8, 2022 — This International Women’s Day, CropLife Asia is calling on fellow food and agriculture stakeholders across Asia to #BreakTheBias in addressing gender disparity issues that persist in the region. The continuing inequalities between women and men are an obstacle not only to agriculture and rural development but also to achieving sustainable and equitable food systems.
In 2021 research commissioned by CropLife Asia and conducted by leading agricultural and animal health market research company Kynetec, over 65% of female farmers surveyed from Southeast Asia’s biggest agricultural-producing countries revealed that they have experienced gender inequality in farming. The highest number of farmers sharing this perspective came from Thailand (87%) and Indonesia (73%). Thai and Indonesian female farmers noted the lack of access to capital, financing and resources as key areas where they faced inequality. Additionally, those in Indonesia also cited lack of access and training opportunities as another area of gender disparity.
These findings and others came to light through the 2021 ASEAN Farmer Sustainability & Resilience Study, a research initiative to learn more about how regional farmers are coping in the face of growing food production challenges. Through the initiative, Kynetec surveyed 525 corn, rice, fruit and vegetable farmers across Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“The safe, secure and sustainable supply of food we depend on in Asia would not be possible without female farmers,” said Dr. Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of CropLife Asia. “While these women play an essential role in regional food systems, they are often at a disadvantage compared to their male counterparts with access to resources, services and opportunities. Ensuring our region’s female farmers are enabled and empowered to realize their full potential is a responsibility shared by all of Asia’s food and agriculture stakeholders.
The Southeast Asia region has more than 100 million smallholder farmers, and the agriculture sector employs 26.7% of all working women on average in ASEAN[i]. However, these percentages likely underestimate women’s full contribution to agriculture as their work is not always captured fully in official statistics. Although women are seen as the backbone of the rural economy, they only receive a fraction of the land, credit, inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizers, agricultural training, and information as compared to men. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a need to ensure that no woman is left behind, including rural women working in agriculture.
Empowering and investing in rural women has shown to significantly increase productivity, reduce hunger and malnutrition, and improve rural livelihoods – not just for women but for everyone. Because of cultural attitudes, discrimination and a lack of recognition for their role in food production, women often do not enjoy benefits of extension services and training in new crop varieties and technologies. The vast majority of studies have found that differences in yields between men and women exist not because women are less skilled but because they have less access to inputs such as improved seeds, fertilizers and equipment. The yield gap between men and women farmers averages around 20-30%[ii]. The outcome of that yield gap would be monumental, boasting a 2.5–4% increase in total agricultural production in developing nations and reducing hunger by 100–150 million people.[iii]
More findings from the 2021 ASEAN Farmer Sustainability & Resilience Study are scheduled to be released this year.
About CropLife Asia
CropLife Asia is a non-profit society and the regional organization of CropLife International, the voice of the global plant science industry. We advocate a safe, secure food supply, and our vision is food security enabled by innovative agriculture. CropLife Asia supports the work of 15 member associations across the continent and is led by six member companies at the forefront of crop protection, seeds and/or biotechnology research and development. For more information, visit us at www.croplifeasia.org.
For more information please contact:
Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Partnerships
Tel: (65) 6221 1615
[i] Strengthening Women’s Entrepreneurship in Agriculture in ASEAN countries © OECD 2021
[ii] Farmingfirst.org/gender-gap video, source:FAO
By: CropLife International
When disaster strikes, there’s a way for everyone to help, even those not directly affected. CropLife India modeled that humanitarian response when it mobilized its long-cultivated partnerships in an outreach campaign to stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in local farming communities.
The initiative was the brainchild of Sony Mamgai, CropLife India’s Senior Manager – Stewardship & Anti-Counterfeiting, who was determined to help farmers and their families. “It suddenly clicked, and I thought to develop a poster on safety points in farming during the pandemic.”
The poster was a hit and widely adopted. Mamgai then came up with ideas for animated videos and social media campaigns, crafting rhyming jingles and catchy lines that quickly caught on. CropLife India also leveraged its relationships with industry groups, farmers associations, and government agencies to disseminate information, conduct virtual trainings, and directly engage with rural populations with poor internet service.
“It was good to see people were active even during these difficult times and wanted to collaborate with us,” she says.
The outreach ranged from sharing COVID prevention protocol with farmers to training health care workers in how to discern pesticide exposure from the novel coronavirus, as well as good agricultural stewardship practices and vaccine advocacy. CropLife India also launched campaigns expressing gratitude to farmers “for putting food on our plates and appreciating the contributions of rural women and children,” Mamgai says.
Ultimately, CropLife India reached more than 2 million people, an accomplishment that won accolades and awards from government, industries, and various associations. Farmer testimonials were similarly positive, describing the outreach as both helpful and reassuring that the situation was improving.
The suffering caused by the pandemic was exacerbated by the arrival of pests. When locusts swarmed through western India, CropLife India came into action with a two-pronged strategy. CropLife advocated the use of drones for pesticide application, a policy that needed to be considered carefully during a rapidly unfolding situation. India ultimately became the first country to permit the emergency use of drones by government agencies for insecticide applications during locust attacks. As the government deployed helicopters and drones to control the insects, CropLife issued advisories to help farmers ward off the locusts with the responsible use of pesticides.
In reflecting on the successes of the past 18 months, Mamgai credited strong teamwork and good guidance received from the stewardship committees of CropLife India, CropLife International and CropLife Asia. She also interacted with stewardship teams in Latin America to gain their ideas for making the initiative robust.
“It’s kind of an emotional thing for me,” says Mamgai, noting that the effort both humanized and elevated CropLife during the pandemic. “During these dubious times, maintaining an emotional yet informative relationship with our farm heroes is foremost for creating mechanisms to reach out to them effectively via various platforms. We emerged as a key partner in the entire agricultural community of India.”
She also shared a few helpful tips for a successful outreach campaign.
“First, whether it is a challenging time or not, we should react in a timely way. It will help us and the end user. Second, always try to forge new partnerships. You can’t do it alone. You need help from others. Third, don’t forget the influencers, like the women and children. They are the future of agriculture. And finally, we should think out of the box like the pandemic taught us…digitalization can help us amplify messages, but you have to maintain an emotional and intellectual connection with stakeholders, especially in rural areas where the internet isn’t strong.”
By: CropLife International
A perspective from Robert Hunter, Chief Operating Officer, CropLife International
The spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and partnership is a core value for CropLife International and our industry. Throughout the year, we continued to challenge ourselves to advance innovation in agriculture for a sustainable future and find new opportunities to work with stakeholders in a more integrated way. This is not only with our members and our global CropLife network, but also by forging new partnerships to foster innovative solutions to the pressing challenges of food security, biodiversity, and climate change.
Over the years, our commitment to collaboration has provided us with great opportunities to work with stakeholders such as FAO, USAID, GlobalG.A.P., the Rainforest Alliance, the World Bank, and GIZ. CropLife International and our global network are well-known for building more than 300 partnerships with international organizations and local NGOs to build capacity and train farmers on integrated pest management (IPM) and responsible use of plant science technologies.
This year presented new opportunities for us to establish partnerships and gain momentum in bringing our vision for sustainable food systems to the forefront of the discussion. Key activities are summarized below.
- To kick off 2021, CropLife International served on the advisory committee of a new Global Agriculture Innovation Forum, a joint undertaking between the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS) and Purdue University’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture. The Forum consisted of a series of virtual events held throughout the year that brought together innovators and stakeholders within the public and private sectors to discuss innovations that enable sustainable agriculture globally, ranging from reducing postharvest losses to making improved animal genotypes available to smallholder farmers.
- With support from CropLife International, the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) and Africa Harvest developed a coalition of African academic scientists who are interested in promoting the benefits of genome editing as an essential element of plant breeding in Africa. The nascent and loose coalition is in the early stages of formalizing its mandate under NASAC, and should be able to expand the number of scientific advocates based in Africa beyond those who have been active in the genetically modified crops discussion.
- Planning for the UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) in September and Pre-Summit in July heightened the global conversation around systems-based approaches to sustainable food systems. By engaging with a diverse group of stakeholders, ranging from academia and civil society to finance and government, we elevated the imperative of continuing or accelerating agricultural innovation. It was also an opportunity to highlight the important role our technologies play in delivering sustainable food systems. We also helped galvanize our industry and global network to mobilize in the Food Systems Summit Action Track working groups and engage with member state delegations in the lead-up to and during the Summit events.
- As a result of conversations and coalitions emerging from the Summit, we recognized that soil health – and its importance in achieving the SDGs – was an opportunity to catalyze real action and demonstrate the value our industry can play in improving soil health and mitigating and adapting to climate change; therefore, we’re proud to support the Private Sector Call to Action for Soil Health, which includes agricultural input companies, food companies, financial institutions, and other organizations. The Private Sector Call to Action for Soil Health evolved to support the goals and objectives outlined by the Coalition of Action 4 Soil Health (CA4SH), a multi-stakeholder coalition built to facilitate the implementation, adoption, and global coordination of soil restoration practices, and to recognize the need for private sector participation and engagement of farmers, acknowledge tangible outcome-related goals and solutions, highlight the work that is being accomplished through existing initiatives and alliances, and emphasize the need for science-based approaches and measurements.
- Launched at the UN Food Systems Summit in September, we joined with like-minded countries and organizations in supporting the formation of the Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation, recognizing that a Coalition of Action focused on sustainable productivity growth could help break silos and deliver on agricultural productivity growth’s potential to accelerate progress in meeting the world’s growing nutrition needs without bankrupting farmers, consumers, and nature. The Coalition includes a wide range of partners, ranging from governments and NGOs to industry and academia.
- Originally announced at the UN Food Systems Summit, the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) coalition was officially launched alongside 31 countries and 48 non-government partners at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). The initiative aims to accelerate investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems innovation and has already raised more than $4 billion in innovation investments.As an Innovation Sprint Partner, CropLife International will work with AIM4C to make agriculture more climate-friendly through our Sustainable Pesticide Management Framework (SPMF). This $13-million plan will improve access to and uptake of climate-smart crop protection innovations to smallholder farmers in nine different markets in Asia, Africa, and Central America over the next six years by:
- Increasing access to newer crop protection chemistries (including biological pesticides).
- Training extension officers and farmers on the effective and safe use of crop protection products and the importance of integrated pest management solutions.
- Supporting policy and regulatory reform that enables access to these innovations.
Implementation of the framework is already underway in Kenya, and additional projects will be launched in Thailand, Morocco, and Vietnam in 2022.
- Also at COP26, we collaborated with groups as diverse as the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Farmers’ Organization, USAID, and World Business Council for Sustainable Development to continue to elevate the importance of agricultural innovation in delivering nature-positive, carbon-neutral food systems.
We will carry this momentum forward into 2022 as we continue to develop and drive a thought leadership program by engaging in open dialogue with various stakeholders around innovative, sustainable food systems. We recognize our work is not without its challenges, but we are committed to listening and working in partnership with all key stakeholders to achieve our shared ambitions.
By: CropLife International
As the global federation representing the plant science industry, our purpose at CropLife International is to advance innovation in agriculture for a sustainable future and to play a leading role in enabling sustainable food systems.
We are guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and our global ambitions for zero hunger, carbon neutrality, and nature positive agriculture and continue to be an industry that is grounded in science. We are committed to keeping abreast of, and contributing to, the latest science- and evidence-based information that supports our global ambitions. Below are 10 reports and studies published in 2021 that offer valuable insights and updates on our industry’s progress against these ambitions.
The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Improving Global Food Security
Global Food Security
Decades after the Green Revolution helped improve food security across the world, climate change, a lack of access to technology, and trade issues are causing food insecurity to rise again. In response, NGOs, academia, governments, foundations, and the private sector are urging renewed collaboration and partnerships to recover and return to accelerate food production and improve food distribution. An October article in the journal Global Food Security, The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Improving Global Food Security, discusses the rationale for public-private partnerships and explores the range of these collaborations and their impacts on global food systems. The authors recommend the use of both strategic and tactical partnerships should be accelerated to improve global food security.
State of Food and Agriculture 2021: Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-Related SDG Indicators 2021
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
According to a November FAO report, COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of food systems and led to increased global food insecurity and malnutrition. The report, State of Food and Agriculture 2021, examines the challenges of building more resilient food systems and provides recommendations on ways to transform food systems to be more responsive to shocks and stresses. FAO also released its 2021 Statistical Yearbook in November, outlining the economic dimensions of agriculture, the production, trade and prices of commodities, food security and nutrition, and sustainability and environmental aspects of agriculture.
A related FAO report, Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-Related SDG Indicators, assesses the progress being made on eight of the key food and agriculture-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from Zero Hunger to Responsible Consumption and Production. The report also includes a section on how the private sector can better monitor and report progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Cancer incidence in agricultural workers: Findings from an international consortium of agricultural cohort studies (AGRICOH)
Cancer Incidence in Agricultural Workers: Findings from an International Consortium of Agricultural Cohort Studies (AGRICOH), published on 27 August in Environment International, evaluated cancer incidence in male and female agricultural workers relative to their respective general populations. The researchers analyzed cancer incidence in almost 250,000 agricultural workers across six countries and determined that the overall cancer rate occurred less in agricultural workers than in the general population.
Letter to the editor regarding the article “The global distribution of acute unintentional pesticide poisoning: estimations based on a systematic review”
BMC Public Health
CropLife International, with feedback from its Regulatory and Stewardship Steering Committees, responded to an article on claims of pesticide poisoning originally published in BMC Public Health on 7 December 2020. In our letter to the editor, published 27 October, we agreed on the need to understand the extent of possible pesticide poisonings, but questioned the methodology and findings from the original article. The letter concluded by noting that a constructive and informed discussion on the role of crop protection and the use of pesticides in sustainable food production is important and pesticide safety should be addressed in partnership with governments, farmers, NGOs, and other stakeholders.
Correlating Genetically Modified Crops, Glyphosate Use and Increased Carbon Sequestration
As the world gathered in Glasgow for COP26 in November to discuss climate change and commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a newly published study in the journal Sustainability highlighted the role that plant science innovations such as biotech crops and crop protection can play in promoting climate-smart agriculture. The original research study, Correlating Genetically Modified Crops, Glyphosate Use and Increased Carbon Sequestration, concludes that herbicide-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops and glyphosate can increase soil carbon sequestration, thereby keeping carbon dioxide in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.
Adaption Gap Report 2021: The Gathering Storm
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
While the world looks to mitigate climate change by stepping up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the existing impacts of climate change is just as relevant. The sixth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm looks at how the world is progressing in adapting to these intensifying impacts. The report finds there is an urgent need to step up climate adaptation finance, with the estimated adaptation costs in developing countries five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows and the finance gap widening, in part due to COVID-19 impacts.
Impact Assessment Study on EU 2030
Wageningen University & Research
An October study from Wageningen University & Research predicts that the effects of the European Commission Green Deal, including the proposed Farm2Fork (F2F) strategy, will result in a loss in productivity through lower agricultural yields, leading to price hikes and an increase in agricultural imports to Europe. The study, commissioned by CropLife Europe and CropLife International, looked at potential impacts from four different scenarios and case studies involving reduction targets of various inputs and available resources. The executive summary is available now, with a full report expected in 2022.
The Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) 2020 Annual Report
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
The 2020 Annual Report – Plant Production and Protection, spearheaded by Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of FAO provides in-depth information and key facts and figures from the newly re-named FAO Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP). This is the first Divisional Annual Report of its kind and is expected to be published annually. NSP works with countries and a broad range of partners in developing and promoting approaches to sustainable crop production that build on existing ecosystems while enhancing and protecting biodiversity and natural resources.
A Special Issue on of the Journal of Regulatory Science on Genetically Modified Organisms
Journal of Regulatory Science
Regulatory modernization could create a more predictable, effective, safe, transparent, and timely path to market for agriculture innovations. These innovations are critical to contributing to the achievement of sustainable food systems as they provide solutions for farmers to address a changing climate while meeting growing food demand within the limitations of our planet. A special issue of the open-access Journal of Regulatory Science on Genetically Modified Organisms, published in January in conjunction with CropLife International, provides peer-reviewed recommendations to modernize the regulation of genetically modified crops.
UN Food Systems Summit Synthesis Reports
UN Food Systems Summit
The United Nations Food Systems Summit, held virtually in September, held a series of Food Systems Summit Dialogues in the year-long lead-up to the event. The Dialogues were meant to provide a powerful opportunity to engage meaningfully, explore collectively, and emerge resiliently for sustainable food systems. To date, more than 1,600 Food Systems Summit Dialogues have been announced with more than 100,000 participants, 148 National Convenors, and 109 National Pathways. Synthesis reports, with conclusions, recommendations, and implications for transforming food systems, have been published that include a majority of the Independent, Member State, and Global Summit Dialogues. CropLife International held an Independent Dialogue in May, Unleashing Innovation to Transform Local Food Systems, and published a feedback report and a takeaways blog.
In conjunction with the UN Food Systems Summit, a Scientific Group was formed to deliver the latest evidence-based and scientific approaches to food systems transformation. The resulting report, Science and Innovations for Food Systems Transformations and Summit Actions, provides summarized recommendations on action for hunger and healthy diets; equity and assistance; sustainable resource management; food production systems; and finance, investment, and trade.