Syngenta has launched a new project to tackle global food security, which challenges farmers to increase crop productivity while reducing the use of fertiliser and pesticides.

The Good Growth Plan reflects Syngenta’s belief that agricultural productivity must increase to feed a global population, which is growing by 200,000 people every day.

At the same time, farmland is being depleted through urbanisation and soil erosion while water resources are under mounting pressure. Meanwhile, rural communities – those responsible for growing food – are often trapped in poverty.

The seven-year plan, launched on Thursday (19 September), includes six targets for 2020 to address food security:

  • Make crops more efficient – increase average productivity of the world’s major crops by 20% without using more land, water or inputs
  • Rescue more farmland – improve the fertility of 10m hectares of farmland on the brink of degradation
  • Help biodiversity flourish – enhance biodiversity on 5m hectares of farmland
  • Empower smallholders – reach 20 million smallholders and enable them to increase productivity by 50%
  • Help people stay safe – train 20 million farmworkers on labour safety, especially in developing countries
  • Look after every worker – strive for fair labour conditions throughout our entire supply chain network

Syngenta has carried out research which has revealed society thinks farming needs to become more responsible.

However, its report – The Agricultural Disconnect – shows a number of contradictions exist in people’s expectations for agriculture.

There is a recognition that increased production will lead to greater water scarcity, but a belief that more water and land will be needed in agriculture.

Respondents said large-scale farming has the greatest potential to meet demand, but there is a belief that organic, local and urban farming should take priority. Food imports are considered acceptable, but each country has the capability to be self-sufficient.

The study shows there is openness to the use of technology but dislike of pesticides, fertilisers and GMs. There is also a belief that ensuring an adequate food supply is the responsibility of government rather than farmers or business.

Syngenta’s chief executive Mike Mack said: “Delivering on these commitments won’t be easy given the conflicting views of society on agriculture and food production.

“The Good Growth Plan represents our collective commitment as a company to do things differently and better.

“We know we can’t solve the challenges alone, which is why we are bringing together stakeholders from across the world to share our intent and to benefit from their input.”

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