Stop organic farming to help future food crisis, says Syngenta boss


According to the CEO of Syngenta, yields from organic farming can be up to 50% lower than from non-organic farming, depending on the product. © Keystone / Peter Schneider

Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Swiss agrochemical group Syngenta, has called for an end to organic farming to avoid a worsening food crisis. The president of the Swiss Association of Small Farmers described his arguments as “grotesque”.

This content was published on May 8, 2022 – 14:18

NZZ am Sonntag/Keystone-SDA/sb

Rich countries should increase agricultural production to prevent a global food crisis, Fyrwald told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper in an interview on Sunday. Depending on the product, yields from organic farming can be up to 50% lower than from non-organic farming, depending on the product.

“The indirect consequence is that people are starving in Africa because we are eating more and more organic products,” he told NZZ.

Organic farming requires more land and is bad for the climate because fields are usually plowed which increases CO2 emissions, he added.

Fyrwald said his opposition to organic farming was in no way related to Syngenta’s business goals. The Chinese group produces pesticides and genetically modified (GM) seeds.

“The whole industry makes high profits with organic products because consumers are willing to pay dearly for it,” he said. Fyrwald advocates a third way: so-called regenerative agriculture, which uses crop rotation techniques from organic farming and the targeted use of pesticides and GMOs to increase yields.

‘Grotesque’

Reacting to the interview, Kilian Baumann, a Bernese organic farmer and president of the Swiss Association of Small Farmers, called Fyrwald’s arguments “grotesque”.

He said the Syngenta CEO was “fighting for sales” as farmers are using “less and less pesticides”.

“It is not organic farming but our thirst for meat that promotes greater land use. Animal feed is grown on 43% of Swiss arable land and we still import 1.2 million tons per year,” he wrote on Twitter.

Producing “animal calories” requires a lot more land than producing “vegetable calories,” Baumann said.

Food insecurity

Nearly 193 million people in 53 countries suffered from acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the United Nations has called a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, extreme weather and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. .

The war in Ukraine presents additional risks for many countries, particularly in Africa, which depend on Ukraine and Russia for wheat, fertilizers and other food supplies.

Even before the war, people were coping with the consequences of the pandemic and declining incomes, and food prices were at a 10-year high and fuel prices were at a seven-year high.

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