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- Reducing Crop Protection’s Environmental Impact
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In the last few decades, the impact of crop protection on the environment has decreased while yields have steadily increased. We help growers produce more with less. However, with innovative inputs, new ways to farm and more precise application we have the opportunity — and responsibility — to continue reducing this impact.
At Bayer we have seen the impact that innovation can bring. Despite our market leadership, Bayer’s environmental impact of crop protection is already exceptionally low and we will reduce it further.
Agricultural activities always have an impact on the environment. Each tool that a farmer applies has benefits and can often also have drawbacks, and this is generally true for crop protection. Farmers must strike a balance between the need for tools like crop protection – which enables them to keep meeting the world’s growing agricultural demands while using less land and resources – and potential trade-offs posed by increasing the use of such tools.
The prerequisite for placing crop protection products on the market is clear proof of efficacy, while ensuring no effects on human health and only minimal, acceptable im-pact on the environment. Crop protection products are highly regulated by governmental authorities. Bayer consistently seeks to develop and offer crop protection products that have the same or better benefits for farmers, while having less impact on the environment.
To this end, Bayer adopted a methodology for Crop Protection Environmental Impact Reduction (CP EIR) and made the commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our crop protection products. In detail, we will reduce Bayer’s global treated area weighted crop protection environmental impact per hectare by 30% by 2030 against a 2014-2018 average baseline.
A data-driven approach to reducing environmental impact of crop protection
There is no one-size-fits-all solution in agriculture, and what works for one grower may not work for another. We will partner with growers in the countries and crops where we can have the greatest impact to optimize their entire integrated crop management approach. With our ever-expanding set of tools driven by our innovation pipeline, we partner with growers to select crop protection solutions tailored to their farms that both add value and reduce the environmental impact of their operations. To achieve our commitment, we are:
Optimizing pesticide volumes required per hectare through tools like:
Precision application: data-driven tools that ensure that the right amount of crop protection is applied in the right place and at the right time.
Seed treatment: seed-applied crop protection tools can dramatically reduce the volume of chemicals used and potential exposure to wildlife and the environment.
Seeds and traits: crops bred and designed to better fight the pests and diseases that attack them, ensuring that less chemical crop protection is needed.
Discovering new and better crop protection solutions that can significantly reduce environmental impact such as:
New chemistry: new modes of action with better environmental profiles that deliver the same level of efficacy while reducing potential environmental risk and exposure. We can now screen new substances at the early stages of the pipeline for their environmental impact and include this assessment in pipeline advancement decisions.
Biologics: We offer a number of products derived from microbes or based on natural defense mechanisms of organisms that complement and enhance integrated management practices and reduce pest resistance.
Recommending best practices to growers that can improve their sustainability and reduce their environmental impact including:
Stewardship measures: good agricultural practices such as buffer strips, tillage practices, cover crops or drift and run-off reducing measures that aim to keep crop protection where it is intended: on the field. See this in practice on the Bayer ForwardFarming network.
Integrated Pest Management: a holistic and systemic approach to pest management on a seasonal or multi-year timescale.
Measuring our Impact
The commitment to reduce the environmental impact of crop protection is a promise we’re making, simply yet ambitiously, to everyone. Measuring it is just as ambitious and not nearly as simple. But this is how we’ll all know that we’re keeping that promise and making progress.
By using state of the art Crop Protection Environmental Impact Reduction (CP EIR) methodology we add the dimension of a robust science-based tool to help compare the relative environmental impacts of different crop protection tools on a farm. Moreover, it enables us to choose and develop products that have less impact while maintaining grower benefits.
We’re using the two leading externally developed scientific models—and we’re making how we use them public.
For the first time in the agriculture industry, we are using externally developed consensus models to evaluate the potential global environmental impact of our crop protection portfolio. Developed by a consortium led by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and endorsed by the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, PestLCI 2.0 and USEtox(R) are the most advanced life-cycle assessment models that can be used to characterize potential environmental impact of crop protection across different countries and different crops. These models work together to give us a clear idea of our impact. Here’s how:
PestLCI has been developed and established by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in cooperation with other institutes and organizations since 2006. Pes-tLCI estimates the quantity of an active ingredient emit-ted into the surrounding environment with the applica-tion of a crop protection product in the field, taking into account all contributing processes.
USEtox® has been developed under the auspices of UNEP-SETAC in cooperation with various universities and institutions since 2008. USEtox® determines con-centrations in the surrounding environment and the po-tential impact the crop protection products could have on the aquatic ecosystems. USEtox® is also recom-mended by the European Commission as a model for the analysis of product’s life cycles and environmental footprint.
As the science of impact assessment evolves, we’ll work with the DTU and other experts in the field to expand the capabilities of the current models. Currently we are focusing on the potential impact on aquatic ecosystems and we plan to enhance the model on soil and pollinators in the future. And because these models and the underlying methodology are publicly available, we invite the scientific community to check our progress and verify where we stand on our commitments.
Scope of the sustainability target
All Bayer crop protection product applications in the field globally, as reported by third party market data providers, are in the scope of our commitment to reduce the environmental impact of crop protection. The baseline for our commitment is built on an average of all Bayer crop protection products applied in the field globally between 2014-2018 and their respective environmental impact. Using an average as the baseline accounts for the specifics of agriculture such as seasonality or dependence on climatic conditions. To ensure the transparency and credibility of the baseline, performance tracking and calculation of CP EIR, all required data are third party data – including crop protection application data or substance characteristic data.
We’re looking to independent third-parties to verify our work.
Any credible science is peer-reviewed and vetted—and working to reduce crop protection’s environmental impact is no different. In fact, with an issue that’s so important to us all, it should be possible for anyone to measure the progress. Bayer is constantly working towards its commitment to help farmers all over the world reduce the environmental impact of crop protection. That’s why...
The Technical University of Denmark will independently assess environmental impact.
Third parties are welcomed to independently perform verification of their own, using these publicly-available models.
We plan to start progressing tracking of our commitment in the Bayer Sustainability report in 2023. This report and all data reported in it is audited.
Actions to Date
Bayer and SVG Ventures | THRIVE partner to tackle agriculture’s grand challenge (Bayer AG, 2021) – press release
Impacts of Crop Protection Product Applications on the Environment - Currently limited to to aquatic organisms (Bayer Crop Science Division) - Version 1.3-Report for 2nd review cycle, November 2021