The ability of farmers to maintain social licence around innovations such as crop protection and genetic modification will be an important theme of a keynote address at next week’s National Farmers’ Federation National Congress.
As the global head of R&D at Bayer Crop Science, Bob Reiter has been closely following developments in the glyphosate and gene editing debates across the globe.
He said the ability of farmers to use and benefit from these R&D developments was vitally important.
“Australia is no different than all the other developed parts of the world - very few people have an appreciation of agriculture,” he said.
“We have to break through that if we are going to be able to sustain bringing innovation to the market and having growers benefit from that.”
Dr Reiter will join a long lineup of speakers at next week’s NFF National Congress, to be held in Canberra on October 17 and 18.
He said Bayer had not yet “figured out a way” to best communicate the benefits of the big ticket research developments driving agricultural progress over coming years.
But he believes the solution must involve the entire food chain.
“We have a responsibility and farmers have a responsibility,” he said.
“The food industry also has a really important role to play. We are trying to engage as much as we can in the dialogue.”
Based at Bayer’s German headquarters in Monheim, Dr Reiter was previously the global vice president of R&D integration strategy at Monsanto and has been heavily involved in the merger with Bayer.
He said bringing the two companies together would create some big opportunities – a topic he is also expected to expand upon in his NFF address.
When asked what farming in Australia might look like in thirty years, Dr Reiter said he expected there would be many developments he hadn’t even imagined yet.
He is optimistic that gene editing will help unlock vital progress in areas such as breeding for drought tolerance and said the rate of progress was expected to be accelerated with scientists designing and developing seed and crop products down to a localised level.
“The breeding process is about sorting through things that nature provides us randomly,” he said.
“Today we breed and test crops and our products in many environments but it is, for the most part, sorted out on the back end.
“We find a hybrid or a variety in this region and we say, ok this is the variety you should grow. But it is not a process were we have actually bred for that farmer or location and I think that is going to change.”
Following the theme of Diversify, the NFF National Congress will be presided over by Master of Ceremonies, Catherine Marriott and include an opening address from the Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud.
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