On the Farm and in the Checkout Line
What if you—yes, you—could do something every day to actively fight climate change? What if it were as simple and familiar as going to the grocery store? Here’s how the Bayer Carbon Initiative could put the power to rewrite the carbon story directly into your hands.
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Believe it or not, the majority of products you buy at the grocery store could play a special role in the global effort to combat climate change. Why? Because behind everything we eat is a farmer who grew it. And behind an increasing number of farmers is Bayer’s Carbon Initiative, which provides the resources and incentives farms need to help repair our planet.
Unfortunately, many human activities release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and agriculture is certainly responsible for a large percentage of those emissions. The good news? Agriculture can also have a positive effect of actually pulling carbon back into the ground, where it can benefit crops and the environment.
That’s because plants have a superpower. They absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store it in the soil through their roots. While humanity is working diligently to develop new carbon removal technologies, plants are doing it naturally all the time. This means that farmers around the world, and the billions of acres of cropland they manage, are in a great position to reverse the present climate trend.
They can do this through carbon-smart agricultural practices. Methods like cover crops and conservation tillage keep the soil covered and undisturbed so that carbon can’t escape. In fact, through using sustainable practices, some farms are already storing roughly one ton of carbon, per acre, every year. Of course, not all soils are the same, and not all crops pull the same amount of carbon out of the atmosphere, but these methods also happen to be great for soil, making it richer and more fertile for growing crops.
While some farmers are already using these practices, this new approach is no small adjustment. It wasn’t that long ago that the picture of a healthy farm was neatly tilled, uniform rows. A blank canvas, so to speak, assumed to yield a consistent crop.
What early adopter farmers have learned, however, is that their clean, brown fields actually weren't that consistent beneath the surface. When they stopped tilling and started planting a variety of cover crops, it appeared more diverse and even haphazard above ground. But underground, there were more nutrients and a more consistent soil bed, leading to healthier, more reliable crops. It may be counterintuitive, but a carbon-rich field looks more like a prairie or a native field than what we think of as a farm.
Additionally, these big changes may come with some new financial investments. Right now, farmers are rewarded primarily for the food, feed and fiber they produce. But for a solution to be sustainable, it has to benefit everyone involved: farmers, consumers and the planet. And currently, the emerging carbon market isn't developed enough to incentivize farmers.
Here’s where Bayer comes in. In July 2020 we launched the Bayer Carbon Initiative to help farmers get a jump on incorporating these practices into their business model. Bayer provides assistance in adopting the new techniques, and farmers are receiving transparently-priced rewards for the adoption of the climate-smart practices. More than 2,600 growers from 10 different countries in the Americas and Europe have already joined Bayer’s Carbon Initiative.
But helping farmers balance the carbon cycle is only one half of the story. The other half is you.
Programs to address climate change on the farm are innovative in their own right, and initiate a landmark moment in the fight against climate change. But they may just be the first step towards a not-so-distant future when climate-smart farming is part of our daily lives—like being able to quantify the carbon footprint of the meat, dairy or produce we eat.
You most likely take several factors into account when you’re grocery shopping. Cost, shelf life, what brand your mom used to buy, what your kids like to eat for breakfast—all these and more sway our purchasing decisions.
Imagine being able to stroll the aisles and choose products based on their precise carbon footprint. This information would integrate the combined carbon history of a specific item. Additionally, maybe this data could even indicate how much carbon emission has been reduced along the way—not only in the field, but during transportation, processing, and distribution. In this future, consumers will be able to reduce their own climate impact directly while checking things off their grocery list. By enabling everyone to prioritize climate-smart purchases, we can all make informed and impactful choices that complement the increasingly sustainable techniques farmers are using to grow their crops.
Another major benefit of a system like this is increased transparency between consumers and farmers. With this flow of information, you can help ensure that farmers benefit through the care they took to grow their crops responsibly.
Bayer envisions a food system where consumer-driven carbon accountability is the norm. The incredible potential of a fully-realized carbon market is a future in which everyone is working on climate change in tandem. Where farmers are rewarded for their invaluable work to balance the carbon cycle, and consumers participate directly in the restoration of the atmosphere.
If transforming the way we buy food is the key to transforming our planet in the long run, now is the time to start.