LAS VEGAS — Germany-based chemical and technology company Bayer CropScience is donating $1.1 million to the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., to establish a Center for Global Produce Sustainability.

John Smith, Bayer’s director of the horticulture division, formally announced the donation April 22 during the opening session of the 2009 United Fresh conference. The donation will be made over the next four years, Smith said.

The new center will help the association define sustainability, said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh, and will be directed at three goals.

Bayer CropScience donates $1 million to United Fresh

“The most important goal is to help us build partnerships with all of the stakeholders in the fresh produce industry,” he said.

It also ensures that the issue of sustainability decisions are based on sound science, and will help develop good tools to incorporate sustainability among growers worldwide, Stenzel said.

“We want to make certain sustainability standards are not a burden forced on growers, but will provide the opportunity to produce better, safer, sustainable produce,” he said.

The donation reflects Bayer’s field-to-market commitment to fresh produce, Smith said. The thrust of Bayer’s commitment is to provide innovative technology to address the globe’s growing demand for food, he said.

Studies have shown the world’s growing population will require growers to produce as much fresh produce in the next 80 years as was produced during the past 12,000 years, Smith said.

“We recognize Bayer has a responsibility to protect and to enhance the environment,” he said.

The sustainability issue is not new to United Fresh. Association chairman Tom Lovelace said the group has been working with a number of allied partners to better understand and define sustainability as it pertains to the fresh produce supply chain.

“With the great support from Bayer CropScience, we’ll be able to intensify those efforts and to develop real tools and programs to help companies from growers to retail and foodservice to proactively manage sustainability in their businesses,” he said.

United Fresh’s Research and Education Foundation will coordinate the new center, which will operate across the country, Stenzel said. Among the center’s first priorities is to develop an advisory board consisting of leaders throughout the fruit and vegetable chain and allied partners, he said. The donation also will permit United Fresh to add a new employee with a strong background in business and technology.

At the 2008 United Fresh conference, Bayer CropScience introduced its global food chain partnership program to the U.S.