European Crop Protection Association, Belgium

A willingness to change and to question accepted wisdom and theories is fundamental to good science. It is not surprising therefore that the crop protection industry has always been dynamic. As the industry has evolved, it has shown a great willingness and capacity to manage change. More recently, the industry has realised that whilst it lives from science it must also address political challenges.

As we approach the new millennium, innovation will continue to be at the centre of our industry's activities. Just as importantly, the industry's awareness and responsiveness to the needs of stakeholders - policy-makers, consumers and others in the food chain - is at an all time high. We are in an industry with a changing attitude, one that is moving from being reactive to being proactive.

Options for the future
Globally, the demand for food is growing but that food must be provided in a sustaina e manner. The crop protection industry can contribute to this through:
technology - novel compounds with better environmental profiles, better formulations, biopesticides, biotechnology, constant efforts to innovate along the supply chain, for example through waste reduction and recycling;
better in-field management practices - development of better in-field decision aids such as diagnostics, training and information for distributors and operators, integrated pest and crop management techniques, support for best agricultural practice.

At the same time the industry needs to respond to:
Social and political needs. This will require practical support for further risk reduction programmes such as the OECD project, the continued development of the EU regulatory system and participation in society's efforts to attain sustainability as defined by Agenda 21. The industry sees the setting up of voluntary environmental agreements as the best way of achieving these goals rather than the introduction of additional, old-fashioned command and control measures.
Stakeholders needs by contributing to food safety in co-operation with all those involved in food production - from plough to plate.

Everyone at this congress needs to be aware that they have a social responsibility to contribute to feeding the world in a sustainable manner. Plant pathologists cannot restrict their thinking to the biological or molecular level. They also need to think broadly in business, ecological and social terms.

Plant pathology with its rapid development over the last 50 years, its broad range of fascinating disciplines - from biochemistry to epidemiology, from prevention of disease to disease control - and its success in resistance management is a wonderful example of the ingenuity of mankind. In the next 10 to 15 years we will know much more about the biochemical relationship between pathogen and host and we will be able to use this knowledge to gain better control. Plant pathologists will play their part in the development of ever more sustainable control procedures and will continue to contribute to the development of ever better in-field management practices.

But in my vision of the future, plant pathologists will do more than that. Every plant pathologist will become a communicator, proud to explain how their work benefits people and the environment.