Decreasing environmental footprint of agriculture without decreasing yield


On March 29nd, the European Technology Platform ‘Plants for the Future’ (Plant ETP), in collaboration with MEP Jasenko Selimović and MEP Julie Girling, organised the workshop “Decreasing environmental footprint of agriculture without decreasing yield” at the European Parliament. The main aim was to discuss how plant research and plant breeding could address meeting the food security and sustainable production in the coming decades.

The event gathered representatives of various DGs, Committees, Ministries and Councils of the European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States as well as experts of the European Technology Platform ‘Plants for the Future’ from academia, industry and farming. This was the third event of a series of workshops “Sustainable growth: Unlocking the potential of plants”, which follows a report by former MEP Marit Paulsen on “Plant breeding: what options to increase quality and yields” published in 2014.

In the opening speech, MEP Julie Girling acknowledged that: “In the EU, but also the wider world, moving towards a more sustainable agricultural model fit to meet our future food and environmental needs will be a top priority.” Ms Girling expressed her strong belief in the potential of plant research and plant breeding: “I am pleased to be hosting this event today, as I believe that part of the solution lies in scientific research and technological innovation. Having heard about some of the exciting work being carried out by our stakeholder experts, I am confident that the scientific community will play a critical role in providing farmers and policy-makers alike with new tools to meet our future challenges.”

Max Schulman, an active farmer from the Finish Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) explained how rapid technological advancement is influencing agriculture “farming is, as we all know, a very old profession but not an old-fashioned one. We use and grasp new technology as any other business, to stay profitable and competitive in today’s business environment, taking in account the societal pressure on sustainability.” He also pointed out the role of the entire agriculture value chain in delivering consumers their final products: “As we all know It starts from the seed and ends…, wherever it is needed.”

Dr. Chuanxin Sun, a plant biologist from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), stressed that: “modern plant breeding with new concepts can contribute to high crop yield with less greenhouse gas emissions and an adaptation of agriculture to foreseen climate change.” “Resource use efficiency is a key focus, which needs in depth understanding of plant biology from both basic science and applied research” he continued.

Juan Gonzalez Valero from Syngenta discussed a new model for creating a systemic value in agriculture. He stressed the need of understanding technology in service of people and land beyond the traditional measures of productivity and pest control, in service of better solutions and resource efficiency and value creation in rural communities: “innovation and technology are there to help people manage the land”, "we must invest more into public research, make information publicly owned and then we'll develop on this!”.

In his concluding speech, MEP Jasenko Selimović stressed that “Meeting the objectives of food security and sustainable production in the coming decades is technically possible, but it will require a common vision and an integrated approach by academia, industry, farmers and policy makers, also supported by civil society. Mr Selimović expressed his fully political support to “promote this dialogue between all actors involved in this challenge”.

Watch the video with interviews from the 3 speakers:

For further information:

Aleksandra Malyska, Executive Manager ETP ‘Plants for the Future’: