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Mistrust hampers food industry's climate ambitions

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Mistrust hampers food industry's climate ambitions
FILE PHOTO: A labourer sprays pesticides on genetically modified cotton crops in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mayank Bhardwaj   -   Copyright  Mayank Bhardwaj(Reuters)
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LONDON (Reuters) – Mistrust of scientists and farmers is slowing adoption of technologies needed to fight climate change while feeding a growing world population, senior food industry figures said on Tuesday.

Agriculture is the second-largest sector for greenhouse gas emissions, trailing only energy, but it needs both the public and policymakers to buy into advances in technology, said Philip Miller, senior vice president at Bayer Crop Science USA.

“We are going to have to work hard on speed in policy formation. Innovations always outpace policy and we need these technologies now, not in 2050,” Miller said at the International Grains Council’s annual conference.

“I think it is going to require us, as an entire agri-food chain, to do a much better job at helping them (the public) understand the benefit of what we do; helping them understand the sustainability of what we do.”

Caroline Rhodes, chief executive at Australia’s Grain Producers S.A., said the lack of trust was reflected in a South Australian ban on the use of genetically modified crops that had been approved for use in other parts of the country.

“If you look at the concerns of the Australian public and the way it translated into the reaction of the political class, it really stems from a lack of confidence in the science-based regulatory system.”

Jonathan Horrell, Global Director for Sustainability at snack company Mondelez International, said the issue of consumer trust of science was fundamental.

“You cannot afford a situation where science is seen to be acting against the consumer interest,” he said.

Horrell said an effective science-based regulatory system is vital but users of science have an onus on them to show they are using it in the interest of consumers and the world in general.

More data and the adoption of technologies such as blockchain can help to boost transparency in supply chains, Horrell said, thereby increasing consumers’ confidence in their food.

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by David Goodman)

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