Suzanne Barratt, Communication Seeds

Every Food Chain Starts with the Seed

One topic that interests and sometimes divides people across Europe is definitely food. A fascinating subject and one that touches everyone emotionally and culturally in different ways. A wonderful opportunity for ESA - the European Seed Association - to be at the start of the EU Commission “brainstorming” session to remind participants that every food chain starts with the Seed. As we know in Bayer, Seed can be a powerful catalyst for growers to kick start the search for yield and to provide nutritious and healthy food to the consumer.

Adjacent to the conference, panel discussions and workshops, a Food village exhibition was provided for the members of the DG Research & Innovation and DG Agriculture to showcase EU funded projects, start ups and regional initiatives such as Gent and Milan. As ESA we showcased Seeds for Food and Nutrition Security, inviting many visitors to taste the healthy snack and convenience vegetables available and learn more about the Seed sector, plant breeding and the benefits brought to society >> EU plant breeding study.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation opened the conference and directly underlined the importance of linking the two Directorate Generals of Research & Innovation and Agriculture together – music to our ears! He also mentioned future opportunities in human health by using the new gene editing methods and linking to personalised nutrition. When he visited the ESA stand in the Food village later that morning we took the opportunity of underlining all the advantages for agriculture in the latest plant breeding methods - we are now able to edit a plant as simply as using a word processor; adding and deleting genes just as we do with words in a document... let’s say we gave him food for thought!

Food 2030
Food 2030

The day continued with panel discussions about nutrition, sustainability and how to improve the circular food systems. Several issues in Europe became crystal clear to the participants:

  • We need to create a pull culture from consumers for a more sustainable food chain – Consumption drives Production.
  • There is great distrust and a disconnect along the food chain for consumers; we need to open the doors from each stage of the food chain from the Producers to the Consumers. We know that this will be painful, not accepted at the beginning but if we want an efficient secure food chain one day with enough food for everyone globally we need to communicate proactively and not reactively.
  • The loss and waste of food needs to be addressed. Products that are created from waste produce in the food chain will be given attention from the EU in order to improve the circular food system
  • Science communication efforts need to be turbo charged and not only to consumers. There is sometimes a disconnect between research and business. How to get more innovation into research was addressed. The answer? Applied scientists could spend 20% of their time in the food industry. It was underlined that scientists think twice about working for industry as they feel that they could be “tainted” by such an association. With more daring simple scientific outreach to the general public this can be addressed. Make Science Make Sense… Bayer contributes already to this type of outreach and I am sure we will turbo charge our communication outreach as we go forward.
  • A call was made to produce an EU sustaintainable policy for food. This does not currently exist and could help clarify what “sustainability” is for the EU and enhance sustainable agriculture in the minds of consumers.
  • Bayer could be a household name one day alongside others such as Amazon, Google, and Apple. We definitely have a role to play in the movement Food2030 within the EU and elsewhere in the world, so let’s all look for opportunities to spread the word of how Seeds and Agriculture can contribute to Nutrition, Sustainability, Innovation and the Circular Economy.

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