Industry research for large-scale sustainability
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Looking back for a look ahead

Dear reader,

The German word for power shortage (Strommangellage) was recently selected as the word of the year for German-speaking Switzerland in 2022, but the issue of supply security is gaining significance not only when it comes to electricity, but agriculture as well. This is shown by a survey conducted as part of the latest agricultural report. The Russian invasion of Ukraine following the COVID-19 pandemic showed how quickly supply chains that were thought to be secure can be disrupted. The war and the blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea led to a shortage of wheat on world markets and a sharp increase in prices. This is very bad news, especially for people living in poorer countries.

Another threat posed to supply security is climate change. The exceptionally dry summer of 2022 affected agricultural production across Europe, and Switzerland was no exception. Yet just one year earlier, continuous rain and hail destroyed the yields of many farmers. Unpredictability is on the rise. Farmers need all the tools they can get to keep production going in Switzerland. A realistic approach is what is needed, including openness to new technologies. Supply security was also a matter of concern for the readers of, as evidenced by our collection of the most popular articles in 2022.

Climate change and drought

The summer of 2022 will go down in the history books as one of the driest ever. All of Europe suffered from exceptionally long periods of heat. In northern Italy, some parts of the Po River ran lower than ever before. Many farmers abandoned their fields. The low water level caused seawater to move inland, which increased the salt content of large areas of arable land in the Po Valley. There is a glimmer of hope coming from Asia, where researchers have cultivated rice varieties that can withstand a salty soil. And good news is coming out of Argentina as well. Since last year, a wheat variety has been approved there that provides 20 percent higher yields in drought conditions than conventional varieties.

Enabling revolutions on the farm

These examples show that openness to new varieties and technologies is crucial for enabling agriculture to feed the world’s growing population, while also defying climate change and protecting both biodiversity and farmlands. New cultivation technologies will lead to a revolution on the farm. These technologies will enable more precise and faster cultivation of new varieties adapted to climate change. In many European countries, the debate about approving new cultivation technologies, such as the CRISPR/Cas gene editing method, is gaining momentum. The United Kingdom plans to allow farmers to grow genome-edited plants in the future. In the fall, EU agriculture ministers also spoke out in favor of the use of “gene scissors.” And things are shifting in Switzerland, too. By mid-2024, the Swiss Federal Council must propose a bill for the risk-based regulation of plant varieties cultivated using new breeding methods.

Strengthening Swiss production through innovation

New technologies also include new plant protection products. These products are indispensable, because there is no such thing as a crop that can permanently withstand all fungi and pests. The extent to which all types of agriculture—whether organic, integrated production (IP), or products subject to proof of ecological performance (PEP)—are dependent on plant protection was recently demonstrated in the latest sales statistics from the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG). The wet summer of 2021 led to an increase in sales of crop protection products, especially legacy products such as copper, sulfur, and paraffinic oil. New, much more targeted crop protection products, by contrast, are having a hard time. They have been in a holding pattern with the authorities for years, and approval is being withdrawn from more and more products without available alternatives. This has an impact on Swiss production. For example, fewer and fewer Brussels sprouts are being grown in Switzerland due to a lack of pesticides, and imports are increasing as a result. This is bad news for supply security. FOAG Director Christian Hofer warns: "Every second meal is imported.”

To satisfy public desire for greater supply security, the productivity of Swiss agriculture will have to increase. But this will only happen if the necessary tools are made available to farmers. This will require approval procedures that do not rely on the harmful “Swiss finish” as well as regulation that addresses risks and does not simply prohibit solutions or deny approval out of an excess of caution. After all, without the ability to weigh opportunities and risks, human beings would still be living in caves today. For Switzerland, it is also important to recognize that patents are a key driver of our country’s top rankings in the global race for innovation; they make it possible for innovative start-ups get the capital they need to help solve our resource problems.

We need objective debates and a common language. Our aim with the glossary is to provide guidance, while the articles marked as “blind spot” shed light on contexts and facts that, because they are unpleasant, are often suppressed in the public debate.

Take a step back and get an overview to be able to make better decisions and take action. With this brief “look back for a look ahead,” we thank you for your interest, wish you a good start in the new year, and look forward to engaging conversations in 2023!

The swiss-food editorial team

The swiss-food platform provides information relating to agriculture and nutrition. It is committed to providing factual information and promoting large-scale sustainability.
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