Slides  /  June 4, 2019

What is the role of the seed industry in transforming the global food system?

On 3-5 June 2019, around 1500 seed industry professionals gathered for the World Seed Congress of the ISF (International Seed Federation) in Nice, France. Each year the flagship event brings together the principal architects and decision makers of the global seed industry, namely the seed companies themselves, to gather and discuss global issues facing the industry.

During the opening ceremony Michael Keller, Secretary General of ISF, took the stage to highlight and call for the seed sectors commitment to meet the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. It was the first year that issues of sustainability came so central to the agenda, and subsequently the first time the Access to Seeds Index had been invited to attend.

The Access to Seeds Index, in conjunction with Bayer, ISF and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) hosted a panel discussion, asking ‘What is the role of leading seed companies in transforming the global food system?’ Ido Verhagen, Executive Director of the Access to Seeds Index, presented the work and relevance of the Access to Seeds Index, translating findings into the broader food system context. The message was clear; with the UN Biodiversity Conference (Beijing) and the Nutrition Summit (Tokyo) next year, 2020 is going to be critical for food system transformation and we need to work together to build a framework defining and tracking business contribution towards achieving these targets.

The 1.5 hour session consisted of a lively discussion amongst the panel and was opened up to around 30 representatives of companies, associations and academics in the audience. Whilst important topics of governance, policy, market forces and investor relations were central to debate, the experience of seed companies, and in particular, the experiences of farmers, kept the discussion grounded to reality and close to the mission of the Access to Seeds Index. There was consensus that the private sector had a responsibility, with Tomas Zaborowski, Head of Sustainability Excellence at Bayer, stating “We have to be transparent in what we do, what we stand for, and what we aim for. We have to disclose what we are doing to build trust in seed companies.”

The Access to Seeds Index and the WBA would like to thank Bayer and ISF for the opportunity to be part of the event which demonstrated good practices and leadership among seed companies. The occasion highlighted the importance of building successful partnerships to achieve transformative change.

The panel:

  • Bayer, Mr Tomas Zaborowski
  • World Farmers Organization, Mr Theo de Jager
  • Access to Seeds Index/World Benchmarking Alliance, Mr Ido Verhagen
  • East-West Seed, Mrs Mary Ann Sayoc
  • Seednews Brazil, Mr Silmar Peske
  • Moderator: Ms Hélène Guillot (ISF)

Further reading:

Supporting Material