On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of the Global Harvest Initiative, talks about the private sector’s energy to address sustainability and food productivity across the globe. “The large companies are responding more and more [to consumer pressure]. They actually have a lot of resources that once they do start to pivot, they really make a huge difference. They also acknowledge that there’s a lot of work to be done, but they are also willing to tackle it and partner over this issue. They’re way more open than I’ve ever seen before,” says Zeigler.
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“You want to prod them where you can, and then you also want to say ‘hey, you’re doing a good job, keep it up!’” says Zeigler. The Global Harvest Initiative—a private sector partnership between companies like DuPont, John Deere, Monsanto Company, the Mosaic Company, and Smithfield Foods—releases its Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) report, marking evidence of progress toward greater productivity—and how actors like large companies can spearhead efforts to improve it. “There’s a business case for climate and sustainability leadership,” says Zeigler. “Our companies are really trying to make commitments to reduce their value chain—their whole supply chain, from where they start to where they end.”
Productivity, however, is more than simply yield for Zeigler. “Productivity, in agricultural-economics lingo, is when you take a ratio measure of everything you are producing (outputs) and you compare that with all the inputs that were required to produce that agriculture product,” says Zeigler. “Productivity tells us whether people are adopting best practices.” According to the GAP report, food producers around the world are improving productivity and sustainability, even as they grapple with the effects of climate change. “It’s going to be really challenging for people who work in [changing] climates. Agriculture now is becoming the largest contributor to greenhouse gases moving forward. It has to become more sustainable, we have to reduce the impact,” says Zeigler.
Large companies and the agriculture sector can’t bridge the productivity gap alone, according to the report. “Governments need to make a long-term commitment to investing in public agricultural research and development. That’s our number one policy priority: keep up the investments in public agricultural research, development, and extension,” says Zeigler.