The coronavirus has turned our lives upside down. Pictures of people standing in line in front of supermarkets and headlines raising hope for medication or a vaccine are dominating the news every day. Everything becomes less important during a crisis, everything but our most fundamental needs: health and nutrition.
This is why – even during these difficult times – we at Bayer are doing everything we can to ensure that patients, consumers and farmers have access to our products: Products that enable people to live healthier lives and help to provide them with safe food. As a research company, we also want to contribute our experience: We are working with governments and communities to supply urgently needed medication, equipment and financial support.
At the same time, we have to make sure that this health crisis does not turn into a food crisis. Before I took charge of Bayer’s agricultural business, I worked in the pharmaceutical division for many years. I am convinced that health and nutrition are closely connected. After all, high-quality food is a prerequisite for health.
In many parts of the world, however, the situation is very serious: According to the United Nations, almost one fifth of the global population only had irregular access to a sufficient amount of healthy food even before corona. By 2050, 10 billion people will live on our planet. In order to feed them, we have to sustainably produce 50 percent more food on the same acreage. Climate change intensifies the challenge. During the past year alone, farmers had to face another dry summer in Europe, unprecedented rain in the USA and locust infestations in East Africa.
All stakeholders in agriculture have to learn from these extreme situations and strengthen and develop the agricultural system so that it can withstand crises – and also threats we might not even know about today. In future, we have to focus on making our food system not only more sustainable but also safer and more resilient. But how?
The most sustainable solution for the challenges in agriculture is – just like in health – based on research and innovation.
Just like people rely on scientific innovations to treat and prevent diseases, farmers rely on science and innovation to grow and protect their plants in the best possible way – and also to preserve their soil and natural resources as the foundation of their livelihood.
But the global challenges regarding the environment, health and nutrition are complex and closely interconnected. No country, no institution and no industry can tackle them alone.
In my opinion, apart from more openness for science, we first and foremost need more partnerships to better secure the world population’s access to food. In addition, we need transparency and an open dialog – also and in particular with scientists, farmers, politicians, consumers and organizations representing different perspectives and opinions.
Only together will we be able to use the power of science and innovation to create a more resilient and sustainable food system – a system which is able to feed the world during crisis and for generations to come without starving the planet.
English translation of “Focus” article from May 2, 2020, which can be found here.