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An Interview with Paul Mullins, Vice President, European Biostimulant Industry Council and Managing Director Brandon Bioscienceqrcode

Jan. 17, 2019

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Jan. 17, 2019

An Interview with Paul Mullins, Vice President, European Biostimulant Industry Council and Managing Director Brandon Bioscience

Please kindly introduce EBIC, your mission and vision.

The European Biostimulant Industry Council (EBIC) aims to raise awareness of and promote the contribution of plant biostimulants to a more sustainable and resilient vision of food production and in doing so promote the growth and development of the European Biostimulant Industry. As co-founder and managing director of Brandon Bioscience Ltd., a biostimulant producing company based in Ireland, I have over 20 years’ experience of working with marine bioactives. I have always believed in a science-based approach to policy and business, and I continue to passionately advocate this via EBIC today. I have been on the EBIC Board for the last five years and am currently serving as Vice-President.

While some biostimulants products have been on the market for many years, the research-based biostimulants sector has emerged more recently. Farmers, investors, regulators, consumers, scientists and other industries are still learning about biostimulants and their role in sustainable agriculture. EBIC provides a platform for the biostimulants industry to engage with these key stakeholder groups and to address the issues they raise. This is particularly the case in the context of the current EU regulatory framework for biostimulants. Today, biostimulant producers active on the European market are faced with 28 different EU rules and regulations when attempting to place biostimulant products on the market. For that reason, EBIC plays an important part in educating regulators, decision-makers and stakeholders about what biostimulants are, how they work and what benefits they can offer to farmers and consumers alike.
 
EBIC is already seen as the global authority on issues relating to biostimulants, but we need to continue to build up EBIC’s network, resources, communications and educational material in order to ensure that consumers and farmers are also part of the discussion. EBIC’s mission is to continue to support the growth and development of a European biostimulant industry, and to help develop regulatory frameworks which are fit-for-purpose and able to continue fostering innovation in this area.
 
This year EBIC welcomed some new experts to the board as well as elected a new president – can you provide some background relating to the EBIC board?
 
Yes, this year has seen some big changes to the EBIC Board, with our founding President Giuseppe Natale (since 2011) stepping down. Giuseppe dedicated huge amounts of his time and energy to EBIC and will certainly be missed. However, I think our newly-elected President Luca Bonini is equally dedicated. The CEO and owner of Italpollina, Luca was already on the EBIC Board as Director-at-Large.
 
His company Italpollina is involved in the production and sale of different kind of biostimulants, giving Luca a broad view of the sector. Italpollina is active well beyond its native Italy, with an export rate well over 50%, giving Luca personal knowledge of different markets in Europe. In 2014-2015, Luca Bonini was the elected President of ECOFI (European Consortium of Organic-based Fertilizers Industry), where he followed the evolution of the new fertilising products regulation closely and further developed his leadership skills as the head of a European association.
 
He is passionate about the industry and growing EBIC’s role as an industry pioneer, and is committed to steering the association and its members through the years to come, particularly when it comes to refining the newly-agreed EU Fertilising Products regulation and implementing it once it has been adopted, as well as continuing to improve it where possible, even once it is operational. Additionally, Luca has identified technology and education as two points of focus for his Presidential term. He stresses the importance of regulation that is able to foster technological innovation and keep abreast of scientific progress, but also the importance of staying up-to-date with other technological developments in the food and agriculture sector and elsewhere. He also wants to focus on improved information, communication and education around plant biostimulants, ensuring agricultural students, agronomists and farmers have the tools available to them to learn about and make use of biostimulants effectively.
 
Francisco Miguel Sastre, the CEO of at Atlántica Agrícola, S.A., was re-elected as EBIC’s Treasurer. Atlántica Agrícola, a manufacturer of agronutrients, operates in Spain and in more than 60 other countries, on four continents, from 1982.
 
Among our Directors-at-Large, Jean-Marc Sanchez, Managing Director of Lallemand Plant Care, was re-elected. His company develops micro-organisms and derivatives to fertilize, stimulate or protect agricultural crops. He is editor of the blog “agriculture-nouvelle” dealing with new inputs and other agricultural innovations.
 
Massimo Toni (Agronutrition) was elected to the Board for the first time, but already has a number of years’ experience in the industry and the association. Agronutrition produces amino acids, plant extracts, micro-organisms and seaweed extracts. Massimo Toni has been involved in ‘biologics’ for the past 16 years at a global level. He has followed EBIC’s activities since the beginning in 2011 and for the past two years has served as Chair of its Public Affairs Steering Group. He is therefore well up-to-date with developments relating to the EU Fertilising Products regulation and the EBIC activities which have been feeding into the negotiation and adoption process of the regulation at EU-level.
 
Two other Directors-at-large joined the board last year. Martin Brown is Managing Director in Verdesian Life Sciences. Having spent the past 35 years within the agricultural industry involved initially within ICI, Zeneca and Syngenta, he has gained a broad experience and understanding of the channels to market, the key drivers and blocks to developing the business within Europe.
 
Claudia Michel is Head of Agricultural Policy & Stakeholder Affairs Europe in Bayer AG Division Crop Science, which is specialised in the production of micro-organisms. With more than 25 years of experience in the agricultural and food sector, she has the vision to foster understanding of plant biostimulants in sustainable agriculture and place it firmer on the regulatory and policy map as an agenda setter and game changer.

Together our board brings a wide range of skills and perspectives from across different product technologies, geographies and company size.
 
Regulating biostimulants in Europe- it has been a busy couple of months for EBIC – can you share any insight into latest developments regarding biostimulant regulation in Europe?
 
‘Busy’ is an understatement! EBIC has now been deeply engaged in the policy-making process at EU-level for several years, particularly in terms of the newly-agreed EU Fertilising Products Regulation. In March 2016 the European Commission published its proposal for a revision of the EU Fertilizer Regulation which included a product category for and definition of biostimulants, as well as safety criteria for a number of component materials for plant biostimulants including micro-organisms. This regulation will prove crucial to the biostimulant industry because it helps overcome the main challenge of having to meet 28 different regulatory requirements in order to sell our products across Europe. Once this regulation comes into force, it will provide access to the Single Market for biostimulant products including one set of rules and regulations applicable to all the component materials covered by the regulation.
 
It has not always been plain sailing, considering the sheer complexity of the very technical Fertilising Products dossier, coupled with the fast-paced innovative nature of the biostimulant industry. EBIC put substantial effort into informing and educating regulators, policy-makers, civil servants, interest groups, farmer representatives and others about biostimulants, how they improve yield and how they fit into a sustainable and circular vision of the future of the agricultural sector. In parallel, EBIC has been engaged in the development of relevant European (CEN) standards that are crucial for the implementation of the regulation. This work has only just begun, and will require close monitoring, engagement and resources from the industry, especially over the next three years, to prepare a comprehensive set of European standards.
 
Late last year, after months of political negotiation, the EU institutions finally agreed on a compromise text for the new regulation. After adoption and publication of the finally agreed text (expected around April), EBIC will continue to work with institutional stakeholders to improve the regulation for plant biostimulant products through revisions. In addition, EBIC will start helping its members prepare to use the new rules; the conformity assessment process outlined in the regulation is new to most of us. As you can see, the work is never finished!

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