With a massive U.S. corn crop making its way to the bin, it's nice to be reminded global food demand continues to grow. Liam Condon, Bayer CropScience CEO, did just that at Bayer's annual press conference in Monheim, Germany.
As is common with ag company CEOs, Condon led off by reminding folks the world population is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050. Since the industry is dependent on weather and land is a finite resource, he says increased productivity is an absolute must to feed the world.
Speaking of productivity, Condon notes the European Union experienced a wheat shortfall from 2004 to 2012.
Interestingly, Bayer revealed plans for a new wheat portfolio of products, from which they expect a new variety to launch sometime next year. Adrian Percy, Bayer CropScience's head of research and development, says the strategy is a three-pronged approach.
First, growers will see advancements in Bayer's portfolio of wheat crop protection products. Next, Percy says breeders are working on a hybrid wheat variety. Finally, the team hopes to bring GMO wheat to the market sometime in the future. Percy notes inserting traits into wheat is a long-term goal.
With all of this investment, Condon says Bayer hopes to see significant wheat yield improvements by 2020.
Condon, and virtually every other member of the senior leadership, spoke at length on product registration. "In Europe, the regulatory climate is becoming less scientific," Condon says.
Most assume a crop giant like Bayer is a proponent of a more relaxed regulatory environment. Not the case, Condon says. Instead, Bayer would much prefer a reliable, predictable path for regulatory approvals. Condon says it's frustrating when arbitrary regulation changes are made at the influence of politics as often happens in Europe.
Despite fears of the EPA, Bayer leadership holds the agency in high regard. The agency is scientific and typically predictable in their process. Plus, an EPA approval usually paves the way for acceptance in other countries.
Lastly, Condon reaffirmed Bayer's commitment to the agricultural industry. The company has been around for more than 150 years. That doesn't happen, Condon says, with short-term thinking. In 2015, Bayer will invest $1.3 billion in research and development.
As part of the portfolio presentation, Condon notes they are working toward finding the next herbicide mode of action - a process that will take a minimum of 10 years after discovery and cost $250 million.
Speaking of a new mode of action, Percy says it's massively important that the entire industry is on board with stewardship this time around.