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Faced with the threat of a global food crisis, Syngenta boss Erik Fyrwald calls for the abandonment of organic farming. Rich countries have an obligation to increase their agricultural production to avoid a global catastrophe, he said.
Yields from organic farming can be up to 50% lower depending on the product, says the managing director of Syngenta, the Basel-based plant protection product manufacturer and seed producer in an interview broadcast on Sunday by NZZ am Sonntag.
Need for larger areas
“The indirect consequence is that people are starving in Africa, because we eat more and more organic products,” he says.
Organic agriculture promotes the consumption of land, because it requires larger areas, says Erik Fyrwald. It also harms the climate, since fields are often plowed, which increases CO2 emissions, he adds.
a third way
Although Syngenta produces pesticides and genetically modified seeds, it disputes the accusation of opposing organic agriculture for the interests of the Basel agrochemical company, controlled by the Chinese state group Chemchina since 2017.
“The whole industry makes huge profits from organic, because consumers are willing to pay a lot for it.”
Erik Fyrwald advocates a third way in agriculture, that is, neither just conventional nor just organic.
Impact of the pandemic
His concept of so-called regenerative agriculture takes crop rotation from organic farming and at the same time relies on the targeted use of pesticides and GMOs to increase yields.
Due to covid-19 and extreme weather conditions, the prices of corn, soybeans and cereals had already increased before the war in Ukraine, he notes. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which feeds 400 million people, the global food crisis poses a great danger, she believes.
Small farmers rise up
The Bernese organic farmer and president of the Association of Small Farmers Kilian Baumann described as “grotesque” the argument of the head of Syngenta on Twitter: he defends his billing, because farmers use fewer pesticides. It is not organic production that promotes the consumption of the land, but the hunger for meat, writes the farmer.
Fodder production occupies 43% of the arable land in Switzerland, to which is added 1.2 million tons imported. The production of animal calories requires much more land than the production of vegetable calories, specifies Kilian Baumann.