Consumers’ perception of agriculture is changing right now. In every place around the world, people have a newfound respect and appreciation for the food they eat, the farmers who grow it, and the companies who supply the necessary inputs for production, writes David Frabotta at AgriBusiness Global.
Consumers are more educated than ever about food production, and although sentiment isn’t always grounded in science, there are signs that is changing.
The World Economic Forum published a story by Syngenta CEO J. Eric Fyrwald on World Food Safety Day June 10 that discussed how a safe food supply begins on the farm by keeping crops safe from disease, toxins, and pests. Here’s an excerpt:
“In recent decades, thanks to successful research and development in the field of agronomy, a wide variety of crop protection products have provided farmers with a set of carefully tailored tools for the production of safe and healthy crops … In the past, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides have themselves sometimes been viewed as threats to the safety of food and water. But innovation in crop protection products has come a long way since Rachel Carson pointed out the risk they posed in her seminal 1962 book Silent Spring. Today’s crop protection agents are developed with both human health and the environment firmly in view. Over the course of the last 60 years, these agents have become more targeted and more effective and they are applied much more sparingly. Since the 1950s, the agronomy sector has achieved a remarkable 95% decrease in the average application rate of active ingredients per hectare. At the same time, multiple innovations have led to crop yields from farmland more than tripling.”
This is writing is on-point because it acknowledges the drivers of consumer sentiment and empathizes with their concerns. Then it clearly articulates that the crop protection industry has been listening to those concerns since the 1960s in a process of continuous improvement to provide safer production systems for people and the environment. This science-based continuous improvement is starting to resonate with consumers, media, and even NGOs that criticize modern agriculture.
Case in point: Fyrwald’s WEC story was picked up by EcoWatch.com, an outlet that has been critical of the pesticide industry. I applaud the inclusion of this story on their website. Part of science-based decision making requires constant re-evaluation of the data that often leads to changing your mind. Evolution of thought is not a weakness, it’s a strength that we all benefit from. The agriculture industry has been doing this since before Rachel Carson’s wake-up call almost 60 years ago. The Silent Spring never happened because crop protection companies were already working on next-generation technologies based on an evolving understanding of chemistry, human health, food safety, and environmental stewardship.