The obstacles New Zealand farmers and growers navigate pale in comparison to the challenges of their Asian counterparts. The region remains home to the highest number of hungry and undernourished people, with farmers facing increasing pressure from pests, weeds, disease, and the impacts of climate change. The far-reaching effects of the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbate the strain on food production and distribution.
A troubling lack of food security among children and the most vulnerable is highlighted in a United Nations report - Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition. The report, released in January 2021, says that nearly two billion Asians cannot afford a healthy diet, and two-thirds of children are suffering from the physical effects of malnutrition.
Sustainability, especially climate change, are topics that are gaining traction around the region and the world. Producing crops generates between 10-13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation.
The innovative technologies of plant science enable farmers and growers to produce more nutritious food, with fewer environmental impacts. Farmers rely on crop protection products (or pesticides) to grow more food on less land - lifting productivity rates per hectare.
Without pesticides, 40 percent of global rice and maize harvests could be lost every year. For fruits and vegetables, losses could be as high as 50-90 percent. These losses would likely lead to more land being cleared for agriculture – leading to increases in carbon emissions.
Biotech crops can help increase yields, improve resistance to pests, improve nutrition, and allow for sequestration of carbon in the soil through practices such as no-till farming. These tools help farmers to tackle the global challenges of food insecurity and climate change together.
Ending hunger and achieving food security requires a joint approach according to speakers at the recently-held CropLife Asia 2021 annual conference.
Plant science is vital for a more resilient food supply chain. To stimulate food production and economic growth, it needs to be backed up by partnerships between industry, non-government organisations, and government. To this end, CropLife and the Food and Agriculture Organization are working together on minimising the risks of using pesticides, minimising yield losses, and enhancing the use of science in managing risks.
In New Zealand, opportunities to partner with the crop protection and animal medicine industries, as the leaders in a sustainable food system, are significant. This will in turn ensure that our farming practices are safe, environmentally friendly, and sustainable.
As a leading industry association, Agcarm is aligned with the need to respect the natural world when it comes to growing food and embraces the Maori concept of Te Taiao. Even more so, when it comes to providing our global markets with outstanding, ethically-produced food, natural fibres, drinks, co-and bioproducts, all sourced from our land and oceans. Our commitment is towards providing safe food while embracing our environmental challenges.