Faced with the threat of a global food crisis, Syngenta boss Erik Fyrwald is calling for the abandonment of organic farming. Rich countries have an obligation to increase their agricultural production in order 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 manufacturer of phytosanitary products and seed producer in an interview broadcast on Sunday by the NZZ am Sonntag.
Need for larger areas
“The indirect consequence is that people are starving in Africa, because we are eating more and more organic products,” he says.
Organic farming promotes the consumption of land, because it requires larger areas, assures Erik Fyrwald. It also harms the climate, as fields are usually plowed, which increases CO2 emissions, he adds.
A third way
Although Syngenta produces pesticides and genetically modified seeds, he disputes the accusation of opposing organic farming for the interests of the Basel agrochemist, controlled by the Chinese state group Chemchina since 2017.
“The whole industry makes high profits with organic, because consumers are willing to pay a lot for it.”
Erik Fyrwald pleads for a third way in agriculture, that is to say neither only conventional nor only organic.
Impact of the pandemic
Its 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 represents a great danger, he believes.
Small farmers rise up
The Bernese organic farmer and president of the Association of Small Farmers Kilian Baumann called the argument of the Syngenta boss “grotesque” on Twitter: he defends his turnover, because the farmers use less pesticides. It is not organic production that promotes the consumption of land, but the hunger for meat, writes the farmer.
Fodder production occupies 43% of arable land in Switzerland, to which are added 1.2 million tonnes imported. The production of animal calories requires much more land than that of vegetable calories, specifies Kilian Baumann.
In the Matinale de la RTS on Monday, Cédric Guillod, member of the Bio Suisse committee, also disputes the extent of the drop in productivity of organic compared to the traditional method of cultivation, estimated at 50% by Erik Fyrwald. The winegrower-encaveur in Praz-Vully (FR), speaks of a “little 20% when you switch to organic farming”.
>> Listen to the reaction of Cédric Guillod, winegrower and winemaker in Praz-Vully (FR), member of the Bio Suisse committee
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