Yvonne Colomer

Business-As-Usual Is Not an Option

The balance between food availability and preservation of the environment has become harder to achieve in recent decades. In the end, we could ask: Shall we save the planet or shall we save humanity? In my opinion, the challenge is to have a balance. But what can we do to achieve this balance? As the FAO nailed it in their 2017 report, one thing is certain: “Business-as-usual is not an option.”

Triptolemos Foundation has committed itself to facilitating the understanding and coordination between all stakeholders in the food system by bringing academic studies closer to the value chain. Our strategy is based on three pillars. We want to strengthen science and trust, develop an interdisciplinary vision, and build up partnerships.

In my opinion, science will play a strong role in solving many problems of the food value chain. Sadly, science is under much scrutiny today. I have the feeling that more people want to return to the past and refuse any high-tech products or solutions used in agriculture. I also often hear that “growing everything organic” is the one and only solution to all problems in agriculture. To me, this is short-term thinking. The complexity is not fully captured. For example, it is contradictory to encourage the consumption of organic produce on the one hand and on the other hand not to consider the cost of transportation, the carbon footprint, and the impact on the local economy.

Yvonne Colomer
Yvonne Colomer
Yvonne Colomer,
Director Agricultural Development, Triptolemos Foundation

Thus, we want to educate, spread as much knowledge as possible, and transmit a message of trust in the system. We have a network of 26 universities and 16 international Campuses of Excellence with ag-food activity. What’s more, we are currently conducting a series of predictive studies on our model of the global food system, and we have published several articles and books.

There must be a common approach to the environment, sustainability, and food availability.
There must be a common approach to the environment, sustainability, and food availability.
There must be a common approach to the environment, sustainability, and food availability.

An absolute highlight for the Foundation is the agreement with UNESCO and UNED on the development of the Chair. The Chair’s objective is to develop and promote the concept of a global food system. It facilitates collaboration between high-level, internationally recognized researchers and teaching staff of the university and other institutions in Spain, as well as elsewhere in Europe, in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in other regions of the world.

The second pillar of our strategy is to develop a global vision. This approach is necessary as our food is produced and processed around the world and as I see a strong need for the entire chain to come closer together and work jointly. Our business model considers the “food world” as a global system whose effectiveness grows with the amount of knowledge, coordination, and teamwork that exists among its different actors – from philosophers to engineers, companies, auxiliaries, and restoration services. There must be a common approach to the environment, sustainability, and food availability.

Science will play a strong role in solving many problems of the food value chain.
Science will play a strong role in solving many problems of the food value chain.
Science will play a strong role in solving many problems of the food value chain.

The 21st century is the century of networks. Collaborations are key for us and that’s why I cooperation is the third pillar of our strategy. The Triptolemos Foundation has representatives of the entire food system among its members, including companies, universities, and various institutions. And it has signed collaboration agreements with publishers, financial institutions, associations, etc. Now we have the great honor that Bayer has joined us and shares our vision of the food system. This vision coincides with the emergent scientific and philosophical tendencies of the concept and with our belief that they help generate better global solutions.

So in the end the question remains whether mankind will manage to find the balance between food availability and preservation of the environment. My organization and I are very confident that our planet can feed its people in a social and sustainable way. But every single person needs to make a contribution. I want to close with a quote by the physician Fritjof Capra: “Overcoming the environmental crisis will depend on the human capacity to understand the essential processes of life."

About the author:

Yvonne Colomer has been directing the Triptolemos Foundation for agricultural development since 2002. Furthermore, she is Secretary of the UNESCO Chair "Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development: Global Food Production and Safety" and the Campus Network Excellence board of management for the food sector.

The Triptolemos Foundation is located in Barcelona and is a private and independent institution. It is constituted to create a space for dialogue and activities among all the groups involved in the global food system. They have a network of 26 universities and 16 International Campuses of Excellence.

More information: http://www.triptolemos.org/en

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