How Dutch hybrid potato and vegetable seeds can contribute to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger)
Sep. 28, 2018
Hybrid seeds are key to improving the productivity of smallholder farmers and necessary to meet projected food demands by 2050. FMO, the Dutch development bank, is involved in financing seed research and cultivation.
FMO’s Agribusiness, Food and Water department therefore invited four experts to share their insights and views on the latest developments during the Knowledge Sharing Event: how Dutch hybrid potato and vegetable seeds can contribute to SDG 2.
Pim Lindhout: ‘Seed innovation makes potatoes resistant to disease and high temperatures’
Dutch agricultural supply producers have a long history in seed innovation. Solynta, a leading potato seed breeding company based in Wageningen, for example, has developed a 'hybrid true potato,' which is resistant to disease and the higher temperatures stemming from global climate change.
Yields for these hybrid potatoes are also significantly higher than for standard tubers. This represents a major breakthrough, as the potato is one the world's most important food crops and disease is a major threat to productivity. Late blight, which caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century, still racks up an estimated USD 6.0 billion in additional costs for farmers globally a year through yield loss, the purchase of pesticides and extra labour and machinery.
Solynta research director Pim Lindhout said that compared with hybrid seed cultivation, traditional techniques are unpredictable and less scalable in the production process.
Dirk Stemerding: ‘Smallholders should have access to modern seed technologies’
The FMO meeting also discussed genetic modification as part of a general debate on the future of farming. Biologist Dirk Stemerding, an independent researcher biotechnology & society formerly linked to the Dutch Rathenau Instituut said these techniques should not be discarded because without significant increases in investment in agriculture, and in small-scale farming in particular, the Millennium Development Goals for poverty and hunger reduction cannot be reached.
According to Stemerding a balance should be struck between protecting the interests of agricultural suppliers and their proprietary processes, while allowing smallholders access to modern seed technologies though informal local market sources that these farmers depend on for seed supplies and other staples of production.
Rutger Groot: 'Increasing income and productivity through effective field trials'
Rutger Groot, a member of the supervisory board of East-West Seed (EWS) and chair of the East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation, told the gathering a 70% increase in global agricultural production is needed to meet projected food demand by 2050. Seed technology is crucial, but farmers also need to know how to use them effectively.
Field trials in real life conditions in developing countries are an essential part of EWS' strategy in its mission to increase the incomes of smallholder vegetable farmers in the tropics and much higher productivity is required to achieve this.
A long-term perspective is required for quality seed cultivation. EWS worked for 15 years on a new papaya seed strain to secure optimal results. But the rewards are clear. A quote from EWS-founder Simon Groot says it all: "A good seed can change the lives of millions."
Johan Trouw: 'Quality breeding takes dedication and trust between stakeholders'
In Guatemala FMO supports HFT Seeds Services, a company active in the production of hybrid vegetable seeds. HFT director and co-owner Johan Trouw told the gathering that the company has completed its investments plans, despite several setbacks.
Clients believe in the HFT concept and stayed with them through ups and downs, demonstrating that trust between stakeholders is critical to long-term successful collaboration in the seed industry.
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