b'THE RISK CORNER BY: DAVID ZARUKTOWARDS AN INTEGRATED FOOD CHAINH ave you ever noticed how mostfood chain, NGO activists and organicCoordinate seamlessly along the food decisions are made in iso- food industry lobbyists can freely imposechain. Consumers perceive that lation? Retailers make productfear campaigns on consumers and retail- their food comes directly from the commitments based on marketing advice;ers, pressure policymakers and createfarmer so any disruption in the farmers develop cover crop approachesstructural impediments on the rest of themessage will undermine trust.with old technologies; scientists proposechain. Farmers dont understand why pol- Stress how innovation at every link solutions the brands are not interested in;iticians, activists and consumers are soin the chain is essential for sustain-and the European Commission launchedworked up about a relatively benign herbi- able agriculture. Seed breeders, for a Farm2Fork strategy aiming to phasecide. Scientists are baffled over the rejec- example, should work with farmers out most crop protection toolswithouttion of certain seed-breeding techniques. to develop better cover crop spe-consulting farmers. As consumers grow more isolatedcies.The final part of this European Seedfrom farmers (thinking a harvest is likeLimit how marketing managers trilogy reassesses how our food and agri- clicking on Farmville) and policymakerscan influence food production culture systems need to evolve. It startedcontinue to randomly remove agricul- and research solutions. The food by examining how the term organictural technologies, something is going tochain starts with the seed (not the seemed to mean anything to anyone.give. Without proper communication andbrand).Given the environmental stresses ofcoordination among the actors through-I mprove the integration process organic food production, the second arti- out the food chain, without an integratedby bringing together the various cle looked at an alternative called betterrisk management approach and withoutresearch communities. Universities farming (based on the Better Cottonshared commitments towards scientificneedtodevelophorizontal, Initiative). Better Cotton was successfulbest practices, we are risking significantinter-faculty study programmes.in part because the cotton productioncrop losses, environmental decline, poten- A Better Farming Initiative will chain is fairly integrated and able to coor- tial famines and global food insecurity. only come about if there is better coor-dinate such an initiative. This column willCan we have a Better Farmingdination and dialogue across the value look at the need for similar integrationInitiative if brands and retailers solelychain. Retailers will not be able to feed throughout the conventional food chain. seek opportunities in lucrative, nichetheir communities with niche, luxury The European Commissions 2000markets? How will new plant breedingproducts. Farmers will not be able to White Paper on Food Safety required antechniques help farmers grow more sus- grow abundant yields without agricul-integrated approach to risk management.tainably when environmental activiststural technologies. Researchers will not Our food chain should be an integratedand social justice agroecologists demandbe able to develop innovative solutions web of communication and coordina- only traditional agricultural practices?without consumer buy-in. We need to tion, from seed researchers to farmersHow will trust in food safety strengthenabandon our silos, bust the bubbles and to agronomists to processing, packagingwhen so many opportunists are makingpresent a clear, shared message.and branding actors to logistics, distribu- false claims at different, isolated links inThere is one fully integrated food tion and retail to consumers. In a perfectthe food chain (largely left unanswered)? chain, where each link coordinates with world, scientists would coordinate withIt is time for the food chain (fromthe others, where messages are clearly farmers, processors and brands, retailersscientists to farmers to brands to retail- communicated and where consumers would consult up the chain before makingers) to tighten the links, communicatetrust the product. This is the organic food decisions and consumers and policy- together, coordinate strategies and pro- chain and as much as their policies are a makers would be aware of the complexmote best practices. Each stakeholder inthreat to sustainable agriculture and food process that allowed them to enjoy safe,the chain needs to be aware of how theirsecurity, they are the fastest growing seg-abundant food. interests are integrated. ment in the market. But these messages are not inte- Some tips to integrate the food andWhen the Better Cotton Initiative grated. There is no holistic approach toagriculture chain: coordinated their entire value chain, food chain management. Every actorStop allowing food issues to bemarket demand for organic cotton fell represents their interest and coordinatesconsidered in isolation. Retailerssubstantially. What would happen if the only when it is in their interest. and brands, for example, need toconventional food chain took a similar With little coordination or commu- speak up if farmers are denied anintegrated approach? nication among the various actors in theimportant technology.20IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'