By Jay Vroom, President & CEO, CropLife America
Most U.S. consumers benefit from an array of options and choices in their food supply. Stop at any neighborhood grocery store and you will be inundated with decisions. You can choose to purchase locally-grown food, fresh food, conventionally-produced food, organic food and everything in between. Yet the sad reality is that many people do not have the ability to make a decision about their food at all. In fact, even in the United States, 1 out of every 6 people face hunger and 17.2 million households were food insecure (that is, they were uncertain of having or unable to access enough food to meet the needs of all their members due to insufficient money or other resources) in 2010. Around the world, nearly 1 billion people do not have enough to eat, and hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
This places a challenge on America’s farmers, who must work to safely and sustainably provide food for the world. What is the best method to grow the world’s food? The truth is there is no one specific solution, but a variety of possible methods to yield the best results. CropLife America (CLA), the national association representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of crop protection products, supports the utilization of all methods of food production. While consumers expect choice in the grocery store, farmers should expect choice in how they grow and protect their crops.
Crop plants must compete with 30,000 species of weeds and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects. Without crop protection tools, farmers can lose some or even their entire crop. So how exactly do U.S. farmers consistently provide the wide selection of food found every day in grocery stores?
Modern agricultural methods, ranging from Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to precision agriculture, have led the charge in providing a wide assortment of options to sustainably grow the world’s food. IPM combines the strategic use of crop protection with other practices to keep pest populations low and minimize effects on natural resources. Precision agriculture is another technique that helps farmers nurture their crops in a technologically advanced and economical way. Based on "site-specific" methods, precision agriculture involves studying and managing variations within fields that can affect crop yield, and applying crop protection products only to areas that need it. Whether they use herbicides, certified organic pesticides or seed treatments, farmers need access to all available tools in order to keep our food abundant and affordable.
As shoppers should have the ability of choice, so should farmers, and this depends upon collaboration and open communication between industry, scientists, farmers and policymakers alike. Initiatives such as the Alliance to Feed the Future help strengthen those relationships and communicate the important role that technology plays in food production. We all expect choice in our food, and this begins on the field and with the farmer.