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Episode 29 of 31

From chemicals to soil microbes: Bayer's former CEO joins AgBiome

Duration: 48:14
Crop protection is a serious business; each year a farmer battles a range of different pests, weeds and diseases trying to kill their harvest.  It's complicated too, with timing and weather other forces to contend with. Since the Second World War and the Green Revolution of the 1960s, the playbook f
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Crop protection is a serious business; each year a farmer battles a range of different pests, weeds and diseases trying to kill their harvest.  It's complicated too, with timing and weather other forces to contend with. Since the Second World War and the Green Revolution of the 1960s, the playbook for managing pests, by and large, has revolved around a combination of chemical applications at various point during the year together with synthetic fertilizers, and in the US, genetically modified seeds. Leaving the negative connotations of using chemicals on farmland aside -- and there are many -- weeds and pests are becoming resistant to these chemicals and farmers' options are starting run out. The pressure from consumers and lawmakers to use fewer chemicals and move away from GM crops is also growing. Agrichemicals companies can't ignore the cancer lawsuits, health and environmental concerns and hefty settlements they've faced either."At some point, most of the compounds have been made, have been tested and it becomes harder and harder to really introduce new products that are significantly better than what's already there," says Dr. Marijn Dekkers, the former CEO of the world's biggest ag chemicals and seeds business Bayer."New ways of controlling diseases and insects have dropped off a cliff over the last 20 years," adds Eric Ward, the CEO of AgBiome, a startup working on creating crop protection products using naturally-occurring microbes.Microbes, they say, are the next frontier for crop protection.Listen to this podcast (or read the transcript) to find out why Dekkers joined the board of AgBiome, his views on the agchemicals industry today, and how AgBiome is approaching this challenging space with backing from high profile investors like the BIll & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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