John Atkin, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Syngenta, met with Rose O’Donovan – editor of Agra Facts / Agra Focus – at the 5th Forum for the Future of Agriculture, jointly organized by Syngenta and the European Landowners Organization (ELO), to discuss the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The Syngenta COO believes that research and development are the driving powers behind the European Union’s agriculture & food sectors, especially at a time when farmers are expected to produce more food with fewer resources. For the first time in history we have the full “potential to improve productivity in a sustainable way”, he says. By integrating existing technologies, we are now able to produce “astonishing results” such as helping crops grow in dryer conditions, one of the biggest challenges faced by farmers around the world. This is done not only by means of Genetically Modified (GM) crops, but also through traditional crop breeding and biological or chemical pesticides. When it comes to seeking cooperation, Atkin points out that collaborating with EMBRAPA – the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation – proves to be easier than within Europe.
Atkin emphasizes that small farmers represent almost half of Syngenta’s business. The COO believes that both smallholder agriculture and sustainable large-scale farming share a number of values – such as economic benefits for the local community and good environmental practices. As an increasing proportion of the world’s population lives in cities, Atkin points out that “you can have small farmers to serve communities, but there are also major cities, with millions of inhabitants, who need sophisticated supply chains and a more intensive agricultural production model”.