‘Sustainably producing more with less’
Eric Dereudre explored the challenges to sustainable crop production at Farmers’ Conference.
On June 9th Eric Dereudre, Executive Committee Member of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) and Business Leader at Dow AgroSciences provided the keynote speech at an event organised by the Confederation of Portuguese Farmers in Santarem, Portugal. Eric Dereudre spoke about the need to support sustainable crop production through constructive policymaking. Highlighting the twin pressures of global population growth and climate change, Mr Dereudre began by clarifying the role of the industry in the global imperative to ‘sustainably produce more with less’.
‘It costs more than $300M to develop a new active substance and no less than 11 years, from discovery to commercialization’, he observed. ‘This extended period of time is due in the main to the high regulatory standards in Europe’.
‘In Europe it’s the role of political leaders and policy-makers to define the mission and the path-forward of agriculture in Europe and to provide comprehensive guidelines and regulation. But we believe that the crop protection industry has the know-how, the innovative spirit and appropriate geographical understanding to address the food production challenges.’
Despite this optimism, Eric Dereudre sounded a note of warning. ‘In the past 20 years, 750 substances out of 1000 have been removed from the market. This at a time when only 200 new substances have been introduced – so this net reduction of 550 means that the amount of crop protection solutions available for farmers has dropped by more than 50%.’ This situation has been exacerbated by the EU’s implementation of Regulation 1107/2009 which is the arbiter by which an Active substance is approved or not. ‘Since it’s implementation only one, yes one (Arylex™ active) new active substance has been brought to market.’
He issued a stark warning for the future of farming in the EU if this restrictive practice continues. ‘Not only could European farmers lose significant amounts of their yields and their incomes, the EU itself, could go from an agricultural leader, to an entity that will no longer be self-sufficient in key crops and will have to import from other parts of the world.’
Whilst innovation is being heralded in the EU, we continually see innovative technologies being either prevented from entering the market, or being withdrawn from the current farmer toolbox – decisions that are increasingly being made not by science-driven decision making, but by politics’, Eric Dereudre said.
Before concluding, Eric Dereudre suggested that supporting farmers in their objective to produce food more sustainably should mean that they have access to ‘all the tools available’. He referred specifically to pesticides and pointed out that around 40% of crops are lost every year to pests and diseases. He suggested that this figure could double to 80% without pesticides and went on to reference a campaign launched by the ECPA to both explain the role of pesticides in agriculture and more importantly to start a real and genuine debate about the benefits of pesticides in food production.
He finished by reminding the audience of a statement made by Member of the European Parliament Jim Nicholson “Pesticides are a necessity for Farmers, not a luxury.”