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Juergen Voegele: "Climate change requires the adoption of smart technologies”

January 17, 2017

  • Published by La Nación on Jan 7th, written by Cristian Mira
  • The senior director of the World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice believes that the carbon footprint of production needs to be reduced

He lives in Washington, but his job requires him to have a global vision.  Juergen Voegele, senior director of the World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice visited Argentina recently, where his work agenda sought to link topics such as climate change, poverty, technology and agricultural production. There he met with officials of the Ministry of Agribusiness and private-sector representatives. In an interview with La Nación, Voegele said that climate change was an “opportunity” for Argentina given the agricultural technology it uses and global food consumption trends.

Why is the World Bank interested in agriculture and climate change?

As an organization, the World Bank has two goals: to reduce poverty and to improve incomes of the population living in developing countries. The latter should occur in conditions of equality, equity and sustainability. We know that 70% of the poor live in rural areas and most of them depend on agriculture. So, if we want to reach the poor, we must work with agriculture.

What do you mean when you say sustainable?

We are talking about sustainability of the land, the soil and biodiversity. It is crucial for humanity to reduce the carbon footprint. Agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change. Globally, it is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. But just as it is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution because it allows for reabsorption of carbon dioxide.

What role does technology have in this process?

It plays a key role because some technologies are climate-smart while others are not. We believe that farmers should adopt smart technologies. This involves three dimensions. First, high yields are needed to increase production. In 2050, we will need to feed 9 billion people, but in a sustainable way. Second, resilience and adaption to climate change must increase. And third, we should use technology that helps to reduce the carbon footprint. No-till farming, which has a long tradition in Argentina, is a good technology. Planting trees and producing biogas are other examples.

" For Argentina, climate change agreements represent a great opportunity because the country produces food with less carbon footprint than other countries. "

Juergen Voegele

Senior Director, Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank

Do you have a position on genetically modified food?

As an organization, no. Each country must make its own decision. Some countries support it while others choose not to use it. We are not a technical or scientific agency, but we support countries to ensure that they have accurate information.

There is a current of thought that rejects technology in food production. Do you agree?

There is an interesting global trend: people want to connect with their food. They want to know how it is produced, whether it is safe, healthy and sustainable. In the past, farmers and consumers were very disconnected. We do not believe that this is anti-technology. Some people have problems with technology because they do not understand it, but there are many others who embrace it when they see it as something safe and productive. The nutritional results of the food system are going in the wrong direction. Vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, hidden hunger and obesity exist. Two billion people in the world are obese. That brings me back to the fact that farmers and consumers became disconnected, which is why it is good to reconnect them.

Speaking of climate change, is there a risk it will be used for trade protectionism?

There are always risks. We see a trend in which trade will have to double in the coming years. Within 25 years, there will be 3 billion more people on the planet. Almost all will be born in places with food insecurity. Trade literally needs to double. We cannot predict if there will be more protectionism, but at the World Bank, we are working to reduce it and to facilitate trade. These global trends represent an opportunity. For Argentina, climate change agreements represent a great opportunity because the country produces food with less carbon footprint than other countries. We do not see it as a risk.