Amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, Europe must invest in innovation to enhance food security, as the ongoing crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities of our seemingly strong system, writes Igor Teslenko.
Igor Teslenko is the president of Corteva Agriscience in Europe.
The images of rows and rows of empty shelves across Europe’s supermarkets paint a worrying picture – that there is not enough food to sustain our citizens amid the Coronavirus outbreak. Fortunately, thanks to robust supply chains and committed farmers, we will not be running out of food anytime soon.
Indeed, according to the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) 2019, high levels of income, low poverty rates, stable food prices and robust agricultural finance systems make Europe the second-highest scoring region for food security after North America.
Social safety nets also ensure food security for vulnerable populations, with nationally-funded support present in almost every country in the region.
But the current COVID19 health crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities of our seemingly strong system and it is more important than ever that we address our weak points by focusing on education and promoting the innovation that enables farmers to keep improving.
The GFSI, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, examines the state of food systems in 26 European countries and presents an in-depth analysis into how the core pillars of affordability, availability, quality, natural resources and resilience impact the level of food security.
Despite Europe performing strongly overall, the 2019 index highlights significant gaps between Western and Eastern Europe, with countries including Ukraine and Serbia lagging behind in areas such as food availability, quality and safety. There were also sharp price rises in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine of up to 8%. We must guarantee Eastern European farmers and consumers the same stability, support and infrastructure that is currently available in western countries.
As the current situation shows, external factors such as disease should be taken into account when assessing our ability to feed our people. Data also reveals high social expectations towards agriculture and food production.
With this in mind, embracing innovation remains key and Europe must strongly commit to introducing adaptation measures and innovative agricultural management ideas to balance social demand, climate change and mitigate risks.
Europe does a great job of managing natural resource risks and promoting agricultural management ideas, but food security also requires education and innovation. This is why Corteva Agriscience in Europe promotes collaborative events and programs that bring together experts and empower farmers to mitigate the impact of climate change on agricultural production.
It also clear, that consumers in Europe want a more sustainable food production system: Corteva is well positioned to support a two-way conversation regarding sustainable agriculture – bringing not only the consumer perspective to the farmer, but also the farmer voice to the consumer.
And by offering integrated solutions that have a favorable environmental profile, we are also enabling our customers to be more productive while still producing sufficient, healthy food for a growing population.
So, thanks to the GFSI, we have clear evidence that we can be proud of our region but that we also need to continue investing in innovation to address our gaps and the risks presented by social expectations, natural resource shortages and climate change.
And, most importantly, we need to show society that farmers and scientists are working tirelessly to provide an affordable, nutritious food supply, now – in a time of crisis – and for generations to come. Everyone has a role to play in this and we will be there to support farmers and consumers every step of the way.