In the Crop Protection Area:
Helped Lift Thousands of Farmers Out of Poverty
CropLife International is committed to promoting effective stewardship practices to farmers around the world, and in 2015, the global CropLife network trained more than 300,000 farmers in the responsible use of crop protection products.
One flagship program has been in Honduras where CropLife Latin America partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on a project called ACCESO. The four-year project looked to lift more than 100,000 Hondurans out of poverty by training over 30,000 farmers how to identify pests and diseases in their crops and combat them through integrated pest management. The project has been essential in a country where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. For these farmers and their families growing a healthy crop can make the difference between living a life of prosperity or poverty.
Similarly, CropLife International concluded its crop protection training program in Adoni, India, in 2015. There, CropLife International, CropLife Asia and CropLife India partnered with two local organisations to train farmers, their families and their communities on the responsible use of crop protection products. The program successfully trained over 128,000 farmers in 169 villages.
Continued Commitment to Pollinator Health
The crop protection industry recognizes the vital role pollinators play in global food production and the need to protect their health. As such, CropLife International commissioned a number of research projects on pollinator health in 2015 and continues to promote farming practices that support the good health of pollinators.
CropLife International also worked to bring science and balance into the policy debate on pollinators, successfully nominating two industry experts to take part in the global assessment of pollinators conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). IPBES recently published a reasonably balanced report, noting that pollinator health issues cannot be attributed to any single cause and asserting that there is no clear evidence that pesticides have directly contributed to the longer-term pollinator colony losses in the European Union or the United States.
Supported EU Law Enforcement, Regulators on Operation to Remove Illegal Pesticides
Even though pesticides are subject to some of the strongest regulations in the world, criminals still find ways to manufacture and trade counterfeit products, putting farmers, their crops and the environment at risk. In 2015, CropLife International’s members, along with other industry partners, such as the European Crop Protection Association, participated in one of the largest seizure operations in the European Union to date.
In November 2015, Europol, the EU’s law enforcement, and private industry groups joined together in a 12-day exercise to detect illegal and counterfeit pesticides entering major ports and airports in seven countries. Through “Operation Silver Axe,” EU authorities seized 190 tons of counterfeit pesticides and exposed 100 cases of intellectual property right infringements. Europol praised CropLife International and industry for its role in providing technical expertise, saying it was key to the operation’s success.
In 2015, the European Commission also published a report that found nearly 10 percent of all pesticides used in the EU are counterfeit or illegal. Though that statistic is startling, Operation Silver Axe shows promise for future industry and law enforcement collaboration on working to ensure that the pesticides on the market are authentic and safe for farmers to use on their crops.
Removed, Safeguarded Obsolete Crop Protection Products in Africa
For more than 20 years, CropLife International and its members have been collaborating with other stakeholders to safely remove obsolete stocks of crop protection products from developing countries. Recently, the focus has been on Africa, where CropLife International, along with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank, have been working together to identify, safeguard, remove and destroy obsolete crop protection products, mainly locust control insecticides. By the end of 2015, over 4,500 tonnes of obsolete products had been removed and destroyed in an environmentally sound manner, and over 1,000 tonnes were safeguarded since the African program began roughly 10 years ago.
With a goal of destroying an estimated total of 7,000 tonnes of obsolete stocks by the end of 2017, CropLife International will continue working with major stakeholders, such as the FAO, national and regional locust control organisations, and private companies, to avoid future accumulations of unused crop protection products. This is achieved by encouraging proper storage practices and stock management options for the owners of the stocks (e.g. governments and locust control organisations). In 2015, the FAO initiated a process to adopt procurement practices that ensure the adequate and timely supply of products, while avoiding their stockpiling in locust-affected countries.
In the Plant Biotechnology Area:
Applauded Decision on European Patent Case
In 2015, CropLife International welcomed a decision by the European Patent Office’s Enlarged Board of Appeals that found that plants derived from essentially biological processes could be patented.
At issue in the Tomato II/Broccoli II case was the question about whether plant products created by using biological processes, such as crossing breeds or selecting certain traits, should or should not be eligible for patent protection in Europe. Some argued that since these processes in and of themselves are not patentable, then the products created through them should also be ineligible. After a long deliberation, including consideration of CropLife International’s amicus brief that explained the important role that intellectual property plays in bringing new innovations to the agricultural community and pointed out that all products are assessed on their patentability independent from the process in which they were created, the Board of Appeals ruled that these plant products are eligible for patent protection.
The decision provides the necessary legal certainty to ensure valuable biotechnology innovations are adequately protected and supports a stable and predictable patent framework that fosters biotech innovation in Europe. CropLife International and its network continue to advocate for effective and balanced patent protection on plant related inventions.
Communicated Value of Intellectual Property to Key Stakeholders
After closely examining the economic model related to oilseed rape hybrids, developed through an agricultural technology called Ogura, CropLife International and EuropaBio released a report in late 2014, setting the stage for many policy discussions throughout 2015 on the value that intellectual property (IP) has on agricultural innovation.
The “Ogura report” found that biotechnology companies that invest millions of dollars in research and development do not typically break even on those costs for roughly 15 years, during which 75 percent of the economic benefits resulting from IP have actually accrued downstream to the farmers who have adopted the technology and the consumers who have benefited from cheaper food. Without strong IP protections, these innovators would be operating in a volatile market where they would be unable to recoup their investment, making it less likely for them to pursue new agricultural innovations.
In 2015, CropLife International and EuropaBio released an updated report, providing a more precise quantification of the direct consumer benefits resulting from strong IP protection, and also explained to policymakers and stakeholders at several international conferences why having an effective IP system supports the growth of the global economy and society, and ensures that new technologies can be brought to market.
Focused on Advocating for Better Global Trade Policies
The Global Alliance for Ag Biotech Trade (GAABT), a farm-to-fork coalition led by CropLife International, encourages the development of trade policies that facilitate the movement of food, feed, grain and processing ingredients and reduce potential trade disruptions. In 2015, the Alliance developed new advocacy materials that will help policymakers and regulators create more predictable, efficient and achievable trade policies relating to the low level presence (LLP) of agricultural biotech products in imports.
Among these are a national policy model for LLP as well as a list of principles and criteria GAABT recommends countries follow when developing their national LLP policies. GAABT presented these policies and principles at the Global LLP Initiative meeting in May 2015 and at the APEC Private Sector Day in September 2015, where they were well-received by the international community. The Alliance also launched a new website in 2015, which provides resources to policymakers and regulators on policies that support biotech trade.
GAABT will continue to work within the grain trade and industry coalition to collaboratively address trade issues in the future.