The Plant Science Industry and COVID-19

“In the face of the global COVID-19 crisis, we have seen the world come together to protect and sustain its global population. We greatly appreciate the tireless efforts of first responders and public health workers. The Coronavirus pandemic is disrupting the world as we knew it – taking a heavy toll on human lives and economic activities. Its rapid spread is threatening to affect millions more people already made vulnerable by food insecurity, malnutrition and the effects of conflict and other disasters.

Only by working together in multi-stakeholder systems with common humility can we address global problems and minimize the impact of this epidemic. Like many other industries, ours stands ready to help through this unprecedented crisis by ensuring health workers, communities, and farmers continue to receive the supplies they need.”

– Giulia Di Tommaso, President & CEO of CropLife International

CropLife International and its members are committed to helping farmers maintain a short- and long-term stable food supply. As food security is a priority for governments around the world, our industry is working with our partners to maintain a safe and abundant food supply. We recognize that in many parts of the world, COVID-19 is an additional challenge for farmers to manage as they deal with extreme weather conditions and severe pest pressures. At this time more than ever, we are committed to providing farmers with the valuable tools they need to protect and grow their crops.

The plant science industry is prioritizing the health and wellbeing of workers, both in the field and in the healthcare system by providing and introducing physical and digital tools like personal protective equipment (PPE) or satellite imagery for virtual field inspections. These measures support farmers while respecting physical distancing and represent just a few of the important steps CropLife International members are taking to ensure that healthy and abundant crops are grown and can support other parts of the food supply chain.

Click below to learn more about how CropLife International and its members are working to keep employees and farmers safe while supporting global public health and food security efforts in communities around the world:

Contributing to Public Health Efforts

We have responded to the call for help from public health officials by donating PPE, hand sanitizer and disinfectant to hospitals and first responders worldwide. Production facilities have been converted to produce hand sanitizer, and materials labs are printing protective masks and face shields.

Supporting Communities Around the World

The plant science industry remains committed to the communities we work in — from donating to local food relief programs, to providing grocery and food to employees to share with less fortunate. We have partnered with other organizations to provide meals to local laborers who are temporarily unemployed and are continuing to work to ensure the well-being of different communities. In addition, we believe that fostering a passion for science remains important and are providing educational resources for children now learning at home.

Helping Farmers Grow

In some countries, the plant science industry is making complimentary field manager tools available to farmers. Smallholders are receiving assistance with getting their crops to market and digital tools are being leveraged to help farmers grow during these difficult times.

Contributing to Public Health Efforts

As healthcare workers put their lives on the line to care for COVID-19 patients, their health, safety and wellbeing are put at risk. We are humbled by their dedication and wish to support them as they care for sick people around the world and in their own communities.

CropLife International and its member companies are doing what we can to donate, produce and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals on the front lines. As of early April, FMC has donated more than 233,000 personal protective equipment supplies, including N95 masks, protective cover suits, safety glasses and face shields to hospitals and first responders in Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Korea, Puerto Rico, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and to the Red Cross in Italy. BASF has donated more than 100 million masks to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Across the industry, companies are coming together to fight in unity and develop creative solutions to problems brought about by the virus. On their St. Louis campus, Bayer employees have partnered with Stratsys, one of the leading manufacturers of 3D printers to print 400,000 protective masks which should help doctors, nurses, and first aiders protect themselves. Sumitomo Chemical is doing their part in Japan where the organization has donated 20,000 N95 surgical masks to the Japan Business Federation, which will distribute the masks to medical facilities in Japan. Sumitomo is also supplying polyethylene films, which are generally used for greenhouses, to manufacturers of medical gowns.

Ambulances, ventilators, and close to 140,000 liters of disinfectant have been given to medical facilities in need along with hand sanitizer which, through BASF’s Helping Hands campaign, has been produced and donated to hospitals in Germany and Spain. The company is expanding production from the isopropanol-based hand sanitizer manufactured to date, to production of hand sanitizer based on bioethanol. With the additional quantities of up to 100,000 liters of hand sanitizer per week, BASF will support the new nationwide Emergency Provision of Sanitizer online platform of the German Chemical Industry Association free of charge. Syngenta’s production site in Monthey, Switzerland has joined forces with Huntsman to produce and donate 50 tons of hand sanitizer to local hospitals and pharmacies. Hundreds of canisters have also been donated to now be used to store hand sanitizer and disinfectants. Additionally, Syngenta Canada's Formulations and Application Technology team stepped up to develop hand sanitizer for R&D teams in Ontario.

Bayer has mobilized every resource available to provide what they can. They have established a new testing laboratory in Berlin which supports the fight against COVID-19 resulting in an additional 1,000 SARS-CoV-2 tests per day. They are also making diagnostic devices available at its research facilities in Germany, which will increase the nationwide COVID-19 analysis capacity by several thousand tests per day. And not just focusing on response but on potential treatment, the organization has donated 8 million tablets of chloroquine (as a potential treatment) and an additional 600,000 tablets of Resochin, an anti-malarial drug discovered by Bayer in 1934, as new data from initial preclinical and evolving clinical research conducted in China, while limited, shows potential for the use of Resochin in treating patients with COVID-19 infection.

A Syngenta genotyping team in Argentina donated thermocyclers for the detection of COVID-19 to the Malbrán Institute which is studying coronavirus.

The whole industry, across the whole world has raised and donated close to $4 million for healthcare alone. This money is going to help the doctors, nurses, and others fighting for the lives affected by COVID-19.

Supporting Communities Around the World

Without a strong community, we can’t mount a strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring food security and resources for all of us in these times of uncertainty is immensely important and an area where the plant science industry has stepped up to lend a helping hand by donating or volunteering.

Employees of Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division with a medical background can register to volunteer in the fight against the coronavirus. Bayer is supporting the local healthcare system by giving these employees paid leave for a period of up to 4 weeks so that they can volunteer during this time. Syngenta is supporting its employees and customers in the US through a newly launched online portal with links to videos, websites and podcasts on topics ranging from managing fear and anxiety to exercise, recipes and parenting tips.

Corteva will donate more than $1 million USD to global food security organizations around the world that are responding to help those that are good insecure during these challenging times. In the US, BASF and FMC have mobilized funding and volunteer support for the communities where they are located. BASF sponsored a virtual food drive in North Carolina and matched donations up to $100,000 while FMC launched a US employee donation campaign (with company match) to hunger relief organizations at US company sites and provide financial assistance to Philabundance, a non-profit organization focused on hunger relief in the greater Philadelphia region.

Syngenta is especially focused supporting the supply chain. In China, the company worked with a local vegetable cooperative to organize emergency transport of 13 tons of vegetables to local hospitals and police departments. In Bangladesh, Syngenta has been supporting a local organization to help connect farm goods with distributors and arrange deliveries to families in need. In a move that truly aims to bring people together, Syngenta has launched the “Flowers Feed the Soul” campaign in the Netherlands. This initiative sends flowers to customers and growers to show support. They have also joined the “Together Against Loneliness” Initiative where the floriculture sector delivered flowers to over 150,000 elderly people in Dutch nursing homes on Good Friday to help combat loneliness in the elderly. These efforts have limited the loss of food and agricultural products.

Syngenta US made a donation to the United Way of the Greater Triangle's Rapid Response Fund, allowing them to support even more local nonprofits providing residents with critical resources during the COVID19 crisis. A donation was also made to Foodbank Australia. Additionally, close to 100,000 meals have been provided by partnering with food banks across the US to help during this difficult time. Those meals include free lunches going to truck drivers as a small “thank you” for their essential work in ensuring products that still need to be shipped arrive safely and punctually to farmers around the US.

Education and creative expression are important all of the time, but especially now, while large portions of the population is at home. The plant science industry has launched several distance learning platforms including Science at Home, a weekly series to feature STEM educational resources, BASF Science Club  which provides at-home science education activities, and a virtual lab. In addition, Bayer Arts & Culture is providing financial and mental support to creative individuals through the "stART Festival Special." These initiatives are geared at encouraging interest in the sciences for the next generation.

Helping Farmers Grow

The plant science industry has a long history of developing tools that make farmers' lives better as they grow the food we all need in the best of times. Now, as times get more difficult, farmers need more support which is why the CropLife International member companies have moved many tools online to cater to changing circumstances while still helping farmers grow.

For example, ‘Bayer WeGrow’, a WeChat-based farmer engagement tool, held 30 sessions of national knowledge sharing webcasts and around 1,000 sessions of local webcasts as of the end of March with the goal of increasing agronomic skills. These sessions had more than 400,000 views. In Austria, Germany, India and Switzerland, Syngenta now offers farmers virtual field inspections and advice, just in time for the start of the growing season with weekly videos available to keep customers up to date with crop protection and crop management recommendations. In China, FMC teams are streaming “FMC Talk” thrice daily for growers in 28 provinces, reaching nearly 320,000 views. Content includes discussions about sustainable crop protection practices, product support and information about COVID-19 protection measures.

BASF has made its xarvioTM Field Manager digital tool available without charge in select countries to help farmers optimize crop production and through Farmshots, a cutting-edge satellite imagery service provider, Syngenta has been able to find new ways to support and engage Italian farmers while keeping them at safe physical distances. Syngenta is also using video to allow breeders to check on their field trials remotely.

FMC is producing daily live demos, talk shows and educational programming which includes information on COVID-19 precautions and agronomic advice for farmers throughout Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan and other Asia Pacific countries. Additionally, FMC teams in North America and Europe are employing extensive use of live and on-demand video programming to ensure farmers have easy access to demo trials, expert advice, technical meetings, product information and training.

Syngenta is using their network of Farmers’ Hubs to provide practical help to farmers during the pandemic. In Kenya, sensitization, aggregation, and extension are all part of the response and in Bangladesh, an Emergency Management Committee was set up to help with connections and guidance. In Indonesia, local employees are working with agriservice centers to develop and implement a farmer health awareness campaign.

These organizations are helping smallholder farmers in even more ways by helping to sell farmers’ produce and safeguard their health. During the lockdown, Syngenta has helped 327,000 smallholder farmers in 3,600 villages get vegetables from the field to farmers’ homes, provided money to those most affected, and guiding villagers to health checkups. They also launched a nationwide helpline in India to keep farmers informed about social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment, and other precautionary measures related to COVID-19.