President of Syngenta Group China: Gathering global innovation capability to promote Chinese seed development
Mar. 25, 2021
Qin Hengde, President of Syngenta Group China, attended the China Development Forum 2021 held at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing from March 20 to 22, where he delivered a keynote speech titled “Promoting Seed Industry Innovation and Improving Food Security” at the panel of Seed and Food Security Perspective.
Qin Hengde said that in July 2020 the United Nations warned that 690 million people worldwide were facing severe hunger and the world was on the verge of the most serious food crisis in 50 years. China's situation was relatively good since grain production was increasing step by step over the recent years, whilst self-sufficiency in staple food had been achieved. However, the consumption of meat, egg and milk continued to increase, resulting in a gap between the domestic supply and demand for feed grain represented by corn. At this same time, more than 60% of China's feed protein came from soybean meal. The import dependence of soybean exceeded 80% for five consecutive years and there was indeed a hidden worry about China’s food security.
Qin Hengde believed that seed is globally the key to solving the problem existing with food security. China's agricultural seeds are quite safe, especially the annual yield of grain seeds, which exceeded annual demand. The three main grains except corn are mostly domestic self-bred varieties. But in an international comparison, the per unit area yield of corn and soybean in China was 60% less than that in the United States, revealing that the backup of improved varieties to grain production was not sufficient. From the quality perspective, China had to narrow the gap with the international advanced level as soon as possible, especially the yield gap of corn and soybean varieties, as well as the quality gap of cash crops, particularly the high-end vegetable varieties.
Qin Hengde held the view that if the Chinese seed industry was required to enhance the safeguards of food security, two main problems needed to be resolved. One was the problem of breeding technology which was falling behind, especially the insufficient biotechnology which resulted in a lack of high-quality germplasm resources. The other was the lack of intellectual property protection, which suppressed the enthusiasm of innovation and may further widen the gap of seed industry between China and developed countries.
To this end, Qin Hengde suggested that, first of all, China needed to accelerate the development of excellent germplasm resources and advanced technology and vigorously enhance the ability of technological innovation in close association with China's talent and market advantages. Secondly, the practical experience of the global biological breeding industry should be utilized to promote the sustainable development of biotechnology industrialization in China. Thirdly, as a precondition, innovation needed to be encouraged, China ought to strengthen the legislation of seed intellectual property protection to establish a substantial derivative protection system and create a new ecosystem of seed intellectual property protection. This would promote substantial industry innovation and high-quality development in favor of enterprises that are the main players on the market.
The agricultural businesses of Sinochem and ChemChina have been restructured, based on which Syngenta Group was established, being one of the top three agrotechnical enterprises in the world, in parallel with Bayer and Corteva. At present, Syngenta owned leading germplasm resources and technological advantages worldwide and is striving to build a world-class R&D facility in China.
Firstly, Syngenta Group China had set up high-level R&D centers in Beijing, Wuhan and Yangling, having landed in Sanya Nanfan Science and Technology City to build a national corn seed innovation center, based on which an effort will be made to shape a seed industry innovation consortium to ensure breeding and promotion of the three main grains, particularly corn.
Secondly, Syngenta Group China will build a germplasm resource bank in Wuhan to carry out targeted identification, development and utilization of germplasm resources toward the Chinese market.
Thirdly, Syngenta China also planned to launch a “seed prosperity plan” to promote the integration of the seed business via providing small and medium-sized seed enterprises with the leading technological innovation ability and access to the plentiful independent intellectual property achievements, thus establishing an intellectual property protection alliance to stimulate the vigor of innovation of enterprises.
Qin Hengde stated that to eliminate the hidden danger of food security, in the long run, it was not enough to just make an effort for the seed industry. Instead, strenuous efforts needed to be exerted to “store grain both in technology and in the land.” The modern agricultural platform (MAP) had become a leading agricultural service platform since its launch in 2017, in China. So far, 363 MAP centers and more than 900 MAP farms have been built offline and are running in 499 counties across 28 provinces, having developed 3,036 MAP rural service stations and directly served 11.62 million mu (1 hectare equal to 15 mu) of cultivated land. The online digital agriculture system provided digital agricultural service to 660,000 registered farmer households and 630,000 farms covering 99.73 million mu of cultivated land. The utilization efficiency of land, fertilizer and pesticide covered by MAP had increased by 2.77%, 3.19% and 9.04% respectively, which reduced the carbon emission by 13%. Meanwhile, the high-quality rate of agricultural products had increased by 2.06 times, which enabled a farmer to increase his income by an average of 15-20%.
During the “14th Five-Year Plan” period, Syngenta Group China was expected to build and operate more than 1,000 MAP centers and more than 10,000 MAP service stations throughout the country to serve more than 60 million mu of cultivated land involving more than eight million farmer households. Syngenta Group China was committed to making contributions to China’s grain security, food supplies and food quality objectives.
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