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High Level Panel of Experts open e-consultations

Re: HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the Report: Agroecological approaches and other innovations for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition

Regina Ammann
Regina AmmannSyngentaSwitzerland

Dear all

Pls. find below some comments to the HLPE report on Agro-ecological approaches and other innovations for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition by Syngenta:

  1. The V0 draft is wide-ranging in analyzing the contribution of agro-ecological and other innovative approaches to ensuring food security and nutrition (FSN). Is the draft useful in clarifying the main concepts? Do you think that the draft appropriately covers agroecology as one of the possible innovative approaches? Does the draft strike the right balance between agroecology and other innovative approaches?
  • The overall shaping seems slightly ‘technical and scientific’; please consider emphasizing on environmental and societal aspects for a sustainable and responsible agricultural and food Systems.
  • Some commonalities across approaches could be more evidently linked with an overall strategic frame encompassing more evidently how all this fit together for more sustainable models, technologies, practise disseminations, product portfolio (today & future), policies/framework directives.


  • OECD, 2001, “Adoption of Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems Wageningen Workshop Proceedings”


  1. Have an appropriate range of innovative approaches been identified and documented in the draft? If there are key gaps in coverage of approaches, what are these and how would they be appropriately incorporated in the draft? Does the draft illustrates correctly the contributions of these approaches to FSN and sustainable development? The HLPE acknowledges that these approaches could be better articulated in the draft, and their main points of convergence or divergence among these approaches could be better illustrated. Could the following set of “salient dimensions” help to characterize and compare these different approaches: human-rights base, farm size, local or global markets and food systems (short or long supply chain), labor or capital intensity (including mechanization), specialization or diversification, dependence to external (chemical) inputs or circular economy, ownership and use of modern knowledge and technology or use of local and traditional knowledge and practices?
  • Soil compaction management is crucial. We encourage to include controlled farm machinery traffic on cultivated fields - reducing the area of the field that is used for driving farm machinery on by sticking to certain travelling “lines” or “paths” (i.e. controlling exactly when and where traffic moves in-field). Controlled farm traffic helps in preventing soil being compacted on a larger area of the field and as such improves the water holding capacity of the soil.
  • We support including the correct use of pesticides as an element of sustainable, productive agriculture, to bring industry and external partners together to develop a common approach to protecting our water supplies by mitigating the detrimental effects of agricultural working practices and best ways of eliminating or minimizing the impact. This helps us to speak to farmers and advisors with a clear, unified voice and communicate commonly agreed and supported recommendations.
  • Furthermore, pesticide contamination has generally come from spills, or point sources, during the handling and use of products. Eliminating these point sources therefore important. Such spills are not part of the intended use of products in the environment, however, and can be well managed by carefully chosen Best Management Practices (BMPs). These BMPs, in turn, also contribute to safe handling, protect farmer health, and ensure that agricultural products are used in a sustainable way that helps protect water resources and promote productive farming.
  • We should also look at ways of reducing the pollution that results from diffuse sources by the processes such as run-off and erosion, as well as the next most significant causes of contamination.


  • Alberta Ag-Info Centre, October 2010, “Agricultural Soil Compaction: Causes and Management”$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex13331/$file/510-1.pdf?OpenElement

  • Croplife International product stewardship

  • WHO Guidance on the Safe use of pesticides

  • TOPPS – prowadis website

  1. The V0 draft outlines 17 key agro-ecological principles and organizes them in four overarching and interlinked operational principles for more sustainable food systems (SFS): resource efficiency, resilience, social equity / responsibility and ecological footprint. Are there any key aspects of agroecology that are not reflected in this set of 17 principles? Could the set of principles be more concise, and if so, which principles could be combined or reformulated to achieve this?
  • Principles are comprehensives. But, we would like to propose addressing pest resistance management in it, to strengthen the adoption of resistance management practices with different modes of actions, integrated programs and innovative practices (such as monitoring, biologicals, precision agriculture, digital and satellite sensors…). This will significantly help to prevent biological adaptation of targeted species, therefore the usage of more harmful pesticides. For instance, we can develop new technologies and strengthen the selectiveness of pesticides, from the formulation, application technology or any other alternative practice (i.e. IPM). Also, in this regard risk assessment can be an effective tool.
  • Develop and implement incentives, consistent and in harmony with international obligations, for farmers and food suppliers to encourage the adoption of biodiversity friendly practices (e.g. carbon sequestration measures that increase pollinator habitats; conservation of uncultivated areas for pollinator forage) and remove or reduce perverse incentives that are harmful to pollinators and their habitats (e.g. pesticides subsidies; incentives for pesticide use as credit requirements from banks), taking into consideration the needs of farmers, urban and rural beekeepers, land managers, indigenous people and local communities and other stakeholders;


  • David W. Onstad, 2007, “Insect Resistance Management”, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. ISBN: 978-0-12-373858-5
  • Syngenta, April, 2018, “Multifunctional Field Margins” Assessing the benefits for nature, society and business.

  • The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Syngenta, April, 2017 “Landscape Connectivity: A call to action”


  1. The V0 draft is structured around a conceptual framework that links innovative approaches to FSN outcomes via their contribution to the four abovementioned overarching operational principles of SFS and, thus, to the different dimensions of FSN. Along with the four agreed dimensions of FSN (availability, access, stability, utilization), the V0 draft also discusses a fifth dimension: agency. Do you think that this framework addresses the key issues? Is it applied appropriately and consistently across the different chapters of the draft to structure its overall narrative and main findings?
  • No comments
  1. The V0 draft provides an opportunity to identify knowledge gaps, where more evidence is required to assess the contribution that agroecology and other innovative approaches can make progressing towards more sustainable food systems for enhanced FSN. Do you think that the key knowledge gaps are appropriately identified, that their underlying causes are sufficiently articulated in the draft? Is the draft missing any important knowledge gap? Is this assessment of the state of knowledge in the draft based on the best up-to-date available scientific evidence or does the draft miss critical references? How could the draft better integrate and consider local, traditional and empirical knowledge?

In our view following are a few strategic imperatives that food and agriculture businesses could pursue

  • Food diversification – to what extent and how companies, countries and projects contributes to ensure food diversity in production, marketing and consumption for healthy and sustainable diets. For instance, what efforts we are taking to: diversify crops we produce and genetic resource management and conservation for current and future options.
  • Enabling farmers, especially smallholders - to adopt agricultural technologies and practices that improve their productivity, improve ecosystem health, nutrition and well-being. For instance, food companies could incentivize farmers for adopting sustainable farm management practices. This approach aims to label products which have been produced using crops grown using sustainable production methods giving consumer certification status, a price premium and consumer loyalty to growers.
  • Connect consumers with farmers – to communicate openly and collaborate widely to support and accelerate information flow between consumers and farmers. For instance, leveraging conservation dimensions as an instrument to support growers for their efforts taken and consumers for enlightened decision making. Furthermore, improvements in transportation, distribution and storage, and communication infrastructure would facilitate the growth of supply chain with more free flow of information that is accurate, accessible and easily understandable by consumers and farmers. In this regard block-chain technology could be very effective.



  • Fanzo, J.; Hunter, D.; Borelli, T.; Mattei, F., 2013 “Diversifying food and diets” Bioversity International, Rome (Italy), ISBN 13: 978-1-84971-457-0
  • SAI, “Partnering with farmers towards sustainable agriculture: overcoming the hurdles and leveraging the drivers Partnering with farmers towards sustainable agriculture” Practitioners’ guide 2.0

  • Tripoli, M. & Schmidhuber, J. 2018. Emerging Opportunities for the Application of Blockchain in the Agri-food Industry. FAO and ICTSD: Rome and Geneva. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO

  1. Chapter 2 suggests a typology of innovations. Do you think this typology is useful in structuring the exploration of what innovations are required to support FSN, identifying key drivers of, and barriers to, innovation (in Chapter 3) and the enabling conditions required to foster innovation (in Chapter 4)? Are there significant drivers, barriers or enabling conditions that are not adequately considered in the draft?
  • We propose for innovation with a purpose. Agriculture and food systems are dynamic, regional and complex and businesses are only one part of the system. For us to move in the right direction we need to better understand our role - and the role of others - within it. There’s a wide range of people and organizations, with opinions and expertise, all working to making food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient. As such, for agriculture to respond to future challenges, innovation will not only need to improve the efficiency with which inputs are turned into outputs, but also conserve scarce natural resources, reduce waste and build resilience to climate change. For instance, improved seeds and crop protection can help increase yields, resist pests and diseases, and cope with other stresses like drought.
  • We propose for an agricultural system that is productive, resilient, adaptable, contributes to social equity, local economic prosperity, public health, rural development, and minimizes disruption to ecological and local cultural systems. At a larger level, these systems should work to contribute to a global system that is sustainable, socially just, and food secure.
  • Multi-stakeholder engagement - Overcoming our collective challenges means harnessing the energy of different groups to generate new ways to produce and deliver safe and nutritious food, more consistent policy for safer products, better stewardship, improved trade, greater transparency, better technology and improved farm economics and resilience. But most of all, these complementary skills and knowledge need to be brought together.



  • FAO Capacity Development, “Facilitating Effective Multi-stakeholder Processes”

  • Winter., S, Bijker., M, Carson., M, 2017, “Multi-stakeholder Initiatives: Lessons from agriculture” Harvard Kennedy School


  1. A series of divergent narratives are documented in Chapter 3 to help tease out key barriers and constraints to innovation for FSN. Is this presentation of these divergent narratives comprehensive, appropriate and correctly articulated? How could the presentation of the main controversies at stake and the related available evidence be improved?
  • The narrative should show how it will fit into the broader societal narrative. A contribution to and shaping the broader societal narrative should be one of the objectives.
  • For agribusiness companies, like us, agroecology should support how we can shift overtime from characterizing our work as risk mitigation to restoration. Ensuring more and more companies adopt it in their commercial decision making.


  • WBCSD, 2018, “Envisioning the future of food”


  • WBCSD FReSH project


  1. This preliminary version of the report presents tentative priorities for action in Chapter 4, as well as recommendations to enable innovative approaches to contribute to the radical transformations of current food systems needed to enhance FSN and sustainability. Do you think these preliminary findings can form an appropriate basis for further elaboration, in particular to design innovation policies? Do you think that key recommendations or priorities for action are missing or inadequately covered in the draft?
  • Consider the benefits of making Climate Smart Agriculture and its three principles more prominent.
  • We don’t have the Paris agreement “2 degrees” type of target for food sector yet – it is hard to mobilize without clear boundary conditions. Food and agricultural sector needs a reliable and respected scientific platform or body to guide science based actions, something similar to the IPCC on climate change science. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, is producing a report that supposed to help address this gap. The report will be launched on 16th January, 2019.
  • Get more sectors involved – food value chain as a whole, tech, digital, finance. Explore opportunities to work together to create the right platforms to advance and showcase our work. For instance, involve both the agriculture and health communities.


  • FAO Climate-Smart Agriculture

  • The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health

  1. Throughout the V0 draft there has been an attempt to indicate, sometimes with placeholders, specific case studies that would illustrate the main narrative with concrete examples and experience. Are the set of case studies appropriate in terms of subject and regional balance? Can you suggest further case studies that could help to enrich and strengthen the report?


  • Please consider WBCSD Discussion Paper: True Cost of Food


  • WEF, 2017, Two Degrees of Transformation Businesses are coming together to lead on climate change. Will you join them?

  1. Are there any major omissions or gaps in the V0 draft? Are topics under-or over-represented in relation to their importance? Are any facts or conclusions refuted, questionable or assertions with no evidence-base? If any of these are an issue, please share supporting evidence.
  • No comments

Best regards

Regina Ammann