2015-02-16   facebook twitter rss

EU Needs to Foster Innovation in Food Production and Security

At the Economist 'Feeding the World Summit' in Amsterdam, Nick von Westenholz, CEO of the Crop Protection Association has called for Europe to embrace the solutions that technology and innovation can provide in response to the global food security challenge.

The event examined whether technological developments in agriculture are likely to enable us to feed nine billion people and Mr von Westenholz expressed his serious concerns at Europe's approach to productive agriculture during a panel debate discussing the risks and rewards of technology.

Nick von Westenholz, CEO of the Crop Protection Association

Nick von Westenholz, CEO of the Crop Protection Association

Speaking after the session, Mr von Westenholz commented:
"There is no doubt we have the technological potential to feed a planet of nine billion by the end of the Century. However, the real question is whether we have the right regulatory framework in place to put this technology to work and encourage innovation. Unfortunately, this is something that we are sorely missing in Europe, where we seem preoccupied with risk avoidance rather than risk management, stifling innovation in the process. The evidence shows, for instance, investment in crop protection R&D dwindling in Europe, leaving our agricultural sector unable to fully participate in a global economy.

"We are rightly concerned about how developing countries will feed themselves as the century progresses, faced with ballooning populations and changes in climate that will make agricultural production even more challenging. So it is shocking that Europe, despite having one of the most benign climates and geographies for agriculture in the world, appears to believe those developing nations should expend their resources on feeding not only their own people, but Europeans too. But this is exactly the implication of current policies that deter innovation and lead to lower levels of agricultural productivity in Europe.

"We need to take a close look at modern society's attitude to precaution and risk. There appears to be an aversion amongst the European public towards the role of technology and innovation in food production. The debate around the use of crop protection products by farmers is a good example, as despite an extremely rigorous regulatory system, underpinned by strong scientific data, there is still a poor level of understanding amaaongst the public about the safety of these products and how they are used. While it is a complex and sometimes technical subject, much of the public debate around the use of pesticides is conducted in misleadingly simple terms, and rarely with reference to their usefulness to farmers and food production."

Von Westenholz continued, "This perception of technology and innovation in food production has left us with a policy and regulatory environment that prevents proper assessment and uptake of those technologies, ultimately deterring investments in R&D in Europe and putting both domestic and global food security at risk.

"It's time our policy-makers recognised the challenge and rose to it. All of us - industry, the public and policy makers - need to embrace the solutions technology and innovation can provide in response to the food security challenge."

Crop Protection

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