By David Carpintero
Last month, the European Crop Protection Agency (ECPA) organized its second “Hungry for Change” conference in Brussels, bringing together nearly 250 people to discuss progress since the first Hungry for Change conference in late 2011. Representatives of key public, private, academic and non-governmental organizations engaged in discussions to drive forward development and understanding of sustainable practices.
A short plenary session was followed by four break-out discussions focusing on Biodiversity, Food, Health and Water. David Carpintero, Monsanto Corporate Affairs lead for Crop Protection in Europe and also co-lead of the biodiversity stream at ECPA, opened the break-out session on biodiversity where a panel moderated by Hans Friedrich, former director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), included Paul Speight from DG Environment, Patrick ten Brink from the Institute of European Environmental Policy (IEEP), soil scientist Donald Reicosky formerly from the US Department of Agriculture, and UK farmer Patrick Wrixam, who is also the president of the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture (EISA).
Don Reicosky presented his perspective as a US scientist on the importance of conserving soils and their contribution to producing more. The panel agreed that sustainable soil management is fundamental to productive agriculture, rich biodiversity and climate change mitigation. This was seen as a win-win-win situation; however, there are currently no financial incentives in Europe to encourage soil protection. The EU does not (yet) have a soil framework policy or a soil directive, and it is left to the member states to decide how to deal with soil management.
The panel also noted the need to educate political, social and industry leaders, and use success stories and good news instead of negative messages. Taking people out on the farm, in the field, is the best way to make them understand what farming is about, the panel said.
The other break-out sessions covered water quality, residues in food, and protective equipment for farmers.
“Together with an impressive complement of stakeholders, including those from the agri-food-chain, conservationists, academics, politicians and members of the European Commission we have discussed new avenues of cooperation, innovative solutions and identified gaps that have to be filled,” said Friedhelm Schmider, Director General of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA). “We are very much looking forward to continued dialogue and cooperation as we make change to earn our place as a valued partner within the agriculture food chain.”
Janez Potočnik, the European Commissioner for Environment, closed the conference. He announced that the works to develop a legislative framework for the conservation of European soils will be restarting again soon – good news for soil conservation in Europe.
An important piece of this process is building the understanding and knowledge of employees. Monsanto has important teams from different part of the world working on the business and ecosystems interface.