At the COP27 international climate conference, where the United Nations announced that the global population has just surpassed 8 billion people, Syngenta Group was among the participants committed to the challenge of feeding the world while respecting the earth.
Farming, farmers and food were central themes for the first time at a COP conference, as the world focuses on the climate impact of agriculture — which is currently responsible for an estimated 22 percent of greenhouse gases. Reducing those emissions, even while making farming more productive to nourish the world’s expanding population, is the shared challenge of the global community.
″Average global agricultural productivity needs to increase by 28 percent over the next decade,’’ Syngenta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Daniel Vennard, told a COP27 audience. ″This is more than triple the increase recorded in the last decade, and by 2050 we expect the demand for food to increase by 50 percent. Achieving this level of ambition, in a way that is also supportive of nature, will only be done through cooperation.″
As Vennard explained, Syngenta Group is ready to work with its peers and wider stakeholders to turn the vision of a rapid but sustainable increase in crop yields into a reality. As part of that commitment, Syngenta Group has already dedicated $20 billion over five years to innovations in agricultural sustainability.
Many of those innovations, Vennard said, seek to scale the adoption of regenerative agriculture in ways suited to each region of the world. Regenerative agriculture is a method of sustainable farming that emphasizes minimal soil disturbance, planting year-round, diversifying crops, precisely applying crop protection products and fertilizers, and integrating livestock where possible.
In representing Syngenta Group at the conference, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Vennard was joined by others including Petra Laux, Global Head of Business Sustainability for Crop Protection, and Simon Winter, Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation.
An expanded FAO presence
The focus on food and farming at COP27 included the first Food and Agriculture Pavilion, hosted by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Pavilion brought together community leaders, government officials, philanthropists and academicians to exchange ideas and innovative solutions.
Syngenta’s Laux was among the Pavilion’s speakers. She discussed how farmers can increase productivity while addressing climate change and preserving natural habitats. Laux shared an update on the Reverte project in Brazil — a joint effort by Syngenta, The Nature Conservancy and other partners to restore soil fertility in more than a million hectares (2.47 million acres) of pasture.
″There is no single solution to move to more sustainable food systems,’’ Laux said. ″Regenerative agriculture practices like this are one way forward. We will only meet the challenges of climate change and food security by thinking and doing differently.″
Winter, of the Syngenta Foundation, led a discussion about how to help smallholders address climate challenges. Panelists representing various sectors stressed the urgent need for innovative solutions that enable these farmers to raise yields while improving their soils.
Daniel Vennard, at far right, spoke at a panel joined virtually by Naoufal Mahdar, of the OCP Group, a fertilizer company. Other panelists, left to right: Alzbeta Klein, of the International Fertilizer Association; Marion Jansen, of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development; Lori Kerr, CEO of FinDev Canada; and Mahani Taylor, of the Australian Department of Agriculture.
Given the conference’s presence near the African continent, where the twin pressures of population growth and climate change are combining to create a food crisis, there was considerable attention given to supporting that region’s farmers.
More broadly, the COP27 conference, with its focus on agriculture, was an important global signal of the world’s commitment to ensuring that a sustainable food supply remains a key goal of the battle against climate change.
″We believe that feeding the world’s growing population, whilst dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, will require a transformation of modern agriculture as we know it,″ said Syngenta’s Vennard. ″We’re committed to being part of that solution.″