The World is Growing Hungrier for Solutions
On a connected planet, food security concerns everyone
Not long ago, hunger was on the decline. Between 2003 and 2013, the global population grew by almost a billion, while the number of undernourished people fell by 200 million. Development and innovation helped feed more people, even though we were overstretching the planetary boundaries. In recent years, the impact of climate change through weather extremes, as well as shocks caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have exposed vulnerabilities in the global food system. In fact, the world today is getting hungrier. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, up to 828 million people in the world faced hunger in 2021.
Food insecurity is a global problem that unfolds differently in different parts of the world. However, no matter what the challenge is, fighting hunger always starts where the journey of our food begins: on the farm. Scroll or click on the hotspots to explore some of the challenges impacting agriculture and the food system in different parts of the world. And keep reading further below to find out how some of our solutions can support global stability.
Rising temperatures and weather extremes threaten our food system where it begins — on the farm. While agriculture suffers as a result of climate change, farmers could help fight it. In Brazil, for example, we’re incentivizing farmers to pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
Thirty-six million people in the European Union cannot afford a quality meal seven days a week. At the same time, millions of tonnes of food are wasted after being harvested. But sturdier, more resilient fruits and vegetables could keep food from wasting away. Our scientists have developed tomatoes with exactly those qualities.
From extreme weather to pests, crop diseases, and uncertain markets, farming as a smallholder is as risky as it is vital. Small farms produce more than half the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia. That’s why we’re empowering smallholders through education and access to innovation and markets to improve food security in developing nations.
Way too much, or not nearly enough. Changing rainfall patterns threaten rice production and food security in Asia. But it’s a challenge modern agriculture is addressing. We’re developing hybrid rice varieties to withstand flooding and drought.
The pandemic threw global supply chains into turmoil. Now, the supply of nitrogen fertilizer has been severely impacted by the current war against Ukraine. Could breakthrough innovations reduce the world’s dependency on nitrogen fertilizer? We think so. That’s why we’re partnering to develop synthetic fertilizer alternatives.
Today’s corn and soybean farmers could be tomorrow’s climate heroes.
All plants pull carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into sugars and oxygen through photosynthesis. By not tilling fields which avoids carbon getting released from the soil into the atmosphere and by planting cover crops during the winter months, farmers can pull carbon out of the atmosphere when their fields would usually lie dormant. Using cover crops has always been good for the environment, but now farmers can get paid to do it.
The Bayer Carbon Initiative is helping growers start their carbon farming businesses in 10 countries in the Americas and Europe.
Climate change could reduce global food yields by 30% by 2030
Source: UN Foundation
Wasted food comes at a high price.
For the most vulnerable, food waste leads to hunger. For farmers, it means diminished returns on their time and investment. For the planet, it means a waste of natural resources like energy and water.
But biologists are now able to prolong the life of produce after harvest. One example of this remarkable innovation is the Strabena variety of tomatoes being developed by our scientists in the Netherlands. These tomatoes cling to the vine longer, reducing spoilage and food waste during transport and lessening the need for plastic packaging. And in India, Bayer scientists tackled the problem by developing four new tomato hybrids which have a 12- to-14-day shelf life compared to the typical five- to seven-day time frame.
Food waste costs the average European family 500 euros a year.
Smallholders’ success is vital.
While farmers worldwide face challenges such as extreme weather, pests, or uncertain markets, many smallholder farmers lack access to the solutions they need to overcome these challenges and grow enough food to support their livelihoods and the communities that depend on them. We need to help these farmers access the latest technology and know-how to improve harvests using fewer resources so local food systems become more stable.
In Kenya, for example, Bayer has an ongoing partnership with the Cereal Growers Association (CGA), a national non-profit farmer organization that addresses staple food challenges. This work will help farmers access quality drought and disease-tolerant maize seeds among other solutions in an effort to foster food security. This is just a part of our commitment to empowering 100 million farmers in low- and middle-income countries by 2030.
Smallholders grow up to 80 percent of the food in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Water is vital, but it’s also a threat.
If climate change continues unchecked, the years to come will bring even more unstable weather conditions with changing rainfall patterns to farmers around the world.
Drought- or flood-resistant crops will be one of the solutions farmers can use to protect their harvests and the world’s food supply. Take rice for example. By 2050, 40 percent of the global cropland area will be exposed to severe drought for multiple months each year. We’re developing drought-resistant rice varieties for countries like Afghanistan, India, and Burkina Faso which could help farms cope with the droughts. But other regions will get wetter with climate change, so our scientists are working on rice varieties that can survive flooding, too.
More than half of the global population relies on rice as a staple food.
The war against Ukraine has shown us the ramifications of food import dependency in many countries.
It has also triggered protectionist measures, which constrict the free trade of agricultural commodities and farming inputs like fertilizer, creating pressure on food supplies and consequently on food prices. Since Russia accounts for 15 percent of the global nitrogen output, export restrictions have impacted 22 percent of the global trade of nitrogen, an ingredient in fertilizer.
While farmers still rely on fertilizers to nurture their crops and boost yields, the future of plant fertility must look different than today’s energy-intensive options. Since 2015, Bayer has invested more than $1.5 billion in disruptive innovations through its impact investment arm, Leaps by Bayer, to support biotech companies like Andes and Sound Agriculture, which are working on alternatives to synthetic fertilizers.