EXCLUSIVE: Science is the key to the long-term sustainability of the global dairy industry, according to the new director general of the International Dairy Federation Caroline Emond.
Ms Emond, who took on the new role at IDF in February, speaking exclusively with the Australian Dairyfarmer from Brussels, came from Canada where she had twice held roles with Dairy Farmers of Canada.
She said it was vital IDF had a credible voice when representing the dairy industry with international policy-making organisations.
Science would also be the key to helping the industry to deal with claims made by activists and other groups about the industry.
But Ms Emond said the challenge was to communicate this information in a world of 'fake news' where many different people and organisations were making claims and presenting alternative views.
Ms Emond said the IDF was a unique organisation in agriculture as it represented the entire value chain at a global level.
For years it had brought together dairy experts from around the world to exchange knowledge and best practice to improve the sector.
The organisation's structure was critical to its success. National committees in each of the 47 member countries are made up of farmers, processors, researchers and others industry representatives. The national committees are represented in the IDF general assembly, which is the supreme authority.
The IDF has standing committees on four focus areas: nutrition, sustainability, dairy safety and quality and standards. Taskforces bring in experts to look at specific areas, for example, protein science or economic policy.
"We have science on every aspect of dairy - we have been doing that for years," Ms Emond said.
This meant the dairy industry was at the forefront in areas such as animal welfare and nutrition science.
"Dairy is very good at developing science - everyone in the dairy bubble knows the progress," she said.
"But we now need to communicate it better. Not everyone (else) knows about it."
Ms Emond said the science base gave IDF credibility when dealing with organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the International Standards Organisation (ISO) when those groups were looking to develop policies or standards that would apply around the globe.
IDF had an important role to play in promoting the quality of dairy as a source of nutrition. "Milk is an amazing product," she said. "We have to plan to feed world and dairy has a role to play ... it is really about feeding people."
Ms Emond said the nutritional value of different foods was sometimes lost in arguments about the environmental impact of different industries. Assessing the impact of growing the food was only looking at one side of the equation.
Sometimes alternative products were presented as solutions but were not when their nutritional composition was taken into account.
Ms Emond said it was vital for the dairy industry to be at the forefront of animal health and welfare. "We are all responsible for the way we farm," she said.
But there was no point in debating with animal rights activists whose agenda was the cessation of all forms of animal agriculture.
"There is no point in engaging when people are not interested in engaging - when they are positioning," she said.
"I am not saying it is easy. Our job is focusing on what we do well."
Ms Emond said the IDF's focus on science also allowed it to function as a representative organisation, despite the differences of opinion and policy between different member countries.
For example, on the issue of global trade, where "Canada and New Zealand might be in the room together", IDF did not set policy. Rather it looked at the challenges and how these might addressed, for example, how the industry could mitigate around the volatility in the world market.
The major meeting of IDF members takes place at the World Dairy Summit, held in a different country every year.
This year's event will be held at Daejeon in South Korea from October 15-19. The theme of this year's event is Dairy for the Next Generation and it will feature former secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon at keynote speaker.
Ms Emond said the conference would be looking at the reality of dairy in Asia - what it means as an emerging market for the global dairy industry.D