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Interview Details

Interview with Friedhelm Schmider

  • Director General, European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)
  • Dated: Tuesday, December 20th 2011
  • EWP: The European Crop Protection Association’s work is focusing on two pillars. On the one hand, ECPA is the ambassador of the crop protection industry. On the other hand, you promote sustainable agricultural technologies by training farmers to improve the use of plant protection products. In the context of these two fields of activity, what is your mission and what is your priority when it comes to water?


    Friedhelm Schmider: Innovation and research that is constantly looking for better solutions, is the major pillar for the crop protection industry. ECPA is committed to protecting and conserving water resources via innovative crop protection solutions and by promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Sustainable agriculture includes a competitive European agriculture with social responsibilities. Sustainability implies economical reliability and social responsibility, as well as protection of the environment. All these characteristics are equally important and they are structured as equal pillars.  Within this, water plays a major role. Agriculture uses water for the production of our daily food and feed, but agriculture may contaminate water as well. To minimize this contamination to an absolute lowest level possible is one of the goals of sustainable productivity and in sustainability in general to protect the environment and water. Thus, ECPA aims to ensure consistent improvement in the safety and quality of all European waters as well.


    EWP: In 2008, ECPA completed a 3 year multi-stakeholder project called “TOPPS” (Train the Operators to prevent Pollution from Point Sources) which is an environment project on water protection. What was the aim of this project and how do you implement the results?


    Friedhelm Schmider: Actually, the project never stopped. “TOPPS” was 50% funded by the European Commission. As a result of the enormous success, we decided to continue the project. Today it is called TOPPS Prowadis (Protect Water from Diffuse Sources).

    Initially, the project aimed at avoiding water contamination coming from point sources. We learnt one lesson very fast: when pesticides are found in water, typically between 50% and 80% of these findings can be attributed to point sources, and this contamination can be almost completely avoided through reasonable practices. This implies that the farmers have to be informed and trained to avoid water contamination.


    Some practices existed already in the member states on the ground, but their quality was highly variable. With knowledge, the supply of equipment and initiating training, we tried to tackle the problem of water contamination. We trained farmers in the member states of the European Union in order to raise awareness. These efforts were successful beyond expectations and this is a key driver for us to continue the project. With TOPPS Prowadis, we extend the project. We are investing increasingly in training. Following on from the conclusion of the TOPPS project, we are applying the achievements to new areas,and specifically intend to address certain aspects of agricultural diffuse losses to water. Furthermore, some research is required on our activities and there is a need for creating buffer strips.



    EWP: In the Prowadis project, ECPA works with demonstration farms. Which techniques do you use to reach the farmers in the different Member States?


    Friedhelm Schmider: In a first step we established regional clusters and within these clusters we searched for leading partners, e.g. research Institutes or consultancies, which provided a direct contact to farmers and demonstration farms. In our TOPPS/Prowadis project, we focus on raising awareness among all farmers large and small. For the success of our project it was and is crucial to approach farmers at a national and local level, and in their own language, who will then in turn spread the information by mouth of mouth. At the same time, these opinion leaders should learn not to fear cameras or press contacts and in the best-case scenario some will also speak English. This is an enormous challenge, but we had considerable results in the past.


    EWP: One month ago, ECPA organized the conference “Hungry for Change”. The conference aimed to deliver measurable results in different thematic areas, health, food, water and biodiversity. What is ECPA’s hunger for change regarding sustainable water management? 


    Friedhelm Schmider: The “hungry for change” project is about protecting the environment and increasing agricultural productivity at the same time. We have to increase productivity, not only because of the growing world population, but also because of scarcity of resources like water, land and environmental habitat. Europeans are producing food, already today, on 35 million hectare outside of Europe.

    This cannot continue. We have to take care of environmental issues, such as water scarcity, water contamination and water pollution. We have to be concerned about the biodiversity and we can achieve these goals thanks to our tools. All of these elements need to be considered together and sustainable management of all of them are not only a common goal, but a shared responsibility for all. Our generation has the tools, the technologies and the knowledge to create a sustainable agriculture, if it is correctly implemented. The main task is to work on these possibilities together and take action to achieve sustainability. 

    For instance, thanks to the TOPPS project, we know how to avoid water contamination. Actions are needed now. However, we cannot achieve this alone. We need partners and stakeholders to discuss the possibilities together in an open and transparent dialogue. Joint action is the key driver for change. 

    EWP: ECPA committed to sustainable water management. How do you value the support of the European Water Stewardship in your projects? In your opinion, how does the EWS contribute to your values/missions?


    Friedhelm Schmider: I believe that only through partnerships, such as with the European Water Stewardship, we can help to ensure the availability of water resources for the future. ECPA is fully committed and proud to be a partner of this initiative.

    After all water is the essential for all life. The minimization of our industry’s impact on water has to go beyond legal requirements and show our responsibility as a good steward. Thanks to initiatives like yours this can be done.  I cannot stress enough that the problems of today can be only solved through collaboration.



    EWP: Thank you for the interview.



    Point sources: generally come from farmyard during filling, disposing of waste containers or spray solution and cleaning equipment.


    Diffuse sources: typically run-off from the field or drift in the wind


  • Friedhelm Schmider
  • Director General, European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)
  • Dr. Friedhelm Schmider is the Director General of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), the Brussels-based trade association representing the manufacturers of agrochemicals in Europe, since 2002. Mr. Schmider is German and has an educational background in soil science, agriculture, forestry and biology. He obtained his PhD from the University of Hohenheim, Department of Soil Science, Germany. He has been with the crop protection industry for more than 25-years holding a variety of technical and commercial leadership roles in both Germany and Asia. His widespread technical knowledge, public affairs experience and political interest have served to provide a solid foundation to his work in managing regulatory activities and relationships with international organisations, associations and authorities. Mr. Schmider also has a wide expertise in the fields of environment and nature conservation.
"Joint action is the key driver for change."

- Friedhelm Schmider
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