TechnologyTowards a sustainable food system: The challenges of the...

Towards a sustainable food system: The challenges of the EU on the 2030 horizon


Where is research and technological development in food in the EU headed? What are the most relevant advances and the challenges in food security, nutrition and sustainable development in the coming years? What defines the European research and innovation policy framework? The European Commission’s FOOD 2030 document is tremendously revealing. In the article we analyze it and draw valuable conclusions for managers and professionals in agri-food R&D&i.

Food 2030 is a new framework for European research and innovation policy that pursues a sustainable future and is conceptually based on achieving a balance between production and consumption, with holistic management before and after use.

The thematic areas on which it affects and in which more work is being done are four:

  • Innovation in the food system and empowerment of communities.
  • Sustainable and healthy nutrition.
  • Action against climate change and environmental sustainability.
  • Circularity and efficiency in the use of resources.

This document, which was presented by the European Commission at the end of last year, coinciding with World Food Day, made it possible to see the analyzes of leading European experts, some of whom I consider important to include in these lines, due to their special value of approach, since it can help to anticipate where the EU food R&D&I support policies are going to go.

The challenge of reducing emissions, the growing demand for protein and the problems of obesity and malnutrition

In his presentation, John Bell, director of bioeconomy of the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Union, highlighted three issues that from the world of innovation must be addressed in the coming years, namely: On the one hand, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from food facilities and processes.

On the other, being able to cope with the growing demand for protein from a constantly growing population .

And finally, drastically reduce the problem of obesity and malnutrition.

Primary producers and consumers, priority objective

For his part, Luis Fresco, president of Wageningen University, highlighted what in his opinion are the priority challenges and lines of research for Europe. First, to be able to produce more with less.

Secondly, to change our way of thinking, incorporating ecological principles in our conception of food production systems.

Third, it will be necessary to integrate very disparate and complementary areas of knowledge, such as genetics, robotics, Big Data, photosynthetic production, the search for new sources of protein and the incorporation of a more informed consumer as a active agent in the production systems of the future through the widespread use of ICTs.

For his part, Tassos Haniotis, the director of Economic Analysis of the General Directorate of Agriculture highlighted the importance that common European policies have had for agricultural modernization since the 1990s in the process of European integration.

He also highlighted the need to adapt these policies to the new challenges and tensions that are taking place, such as climate change, the development of the digital economy, and the difficult balance between economic competitiveness and environmental costs in the short and long term.

Towards global models of food sustainability

Cristina Amaral, Director of the Office of the European Union at FAO, developed her presentation around three main messages. In the first place, she showed that after a historic reduction in hunger in the world, unfortunately, in the last decade malnutrition has been increasing again to reach 815 million people.

Secondly, he reminded us that in the world in recent years, more and more people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of political instability, with the serious relevance that this has had in the abandonment of cultivation areas. and recurrence of famines.

And finally, he reminded us of the important impact that the uprooting of the population from rural areas is having. Its impact on the increase in poverty and the inexplicable lack of social policies that mitigate the progressive abandonment of the territories as a consequence of migration flows. All this with a significant impact on the stability of the ecosystem and the food system in the medium and long term.

Joaquin von Braun, director of the Center for Development and Research (ZEF) in Germany, in his presentation emphasized the need to study global food systems as an interrelated whole. Today, food is a commodity in an interconnected world so changes in the efficiency of production, or an increase in consumer demand in one part of the world dramatically affects another part of it. Thus giving rise to changes in the prices of raw materials and imbalances in costs in other regions of the world.

Von Braun recalls that the trend in the study of food systems is currently to address the development of global models for the study of food production systems.

Models that must increasingly incorporate a holistic perspective and thereby include aspects such as waste reduction, bioeconomy, waste, climate change, improvements in production techniques, water availability.

For this reason, simulation models must be developed that serve for multidisciplinary decision-making and cooperation between agents of the scientific world and policy promoters from different organizations and countries.

On the other hand, in the coming decades the sustainability of the planet must be made compatible with the general pretense of governments to maintain the quality of life of the population. And that this supposes a contradiction that can only be overcome with a profound change, not only in technologies and production systems, but also in the activities and behavior of the population.

But in addition, the EU knows that although current policies have primary producers and consumers as their priority objective, since they are the most numerous, they do not always have the power and influence to make the necessary changes in the food system.

For this reason, a paradigm shift is needed, leaving aside the sectoral approach in exchange for a new comprehensive approach, which contemplates the globality of the agents of the food system, seeking a change of mentality and with it a planning of sustainability long-term versus current short-term production processes.

AINIA, reference center in sustainable innovation

At AINIA our mission is to provide value and cooperate with companies leading innovation and technological development in a sustainable manner. We want to be a benchmark in comprehensive value solutions. For this reason, our R&D responds to a multidisciplinary organization model that covers the entire innovation funnel, from basic research to the marketing of finalist innovation, through prototyping, technological development, etc. Our lines of research and the orientation of our own R&D in recent years is fully aligned with these objectives towards which Europe is moving.

We are pioneers in R&D lines in Bioeconomy and Circular Economy; benchmarks in innovative technological solutions in nutrition and health, specialists in adapting the agri-food sector to Industry 4.0 and, in addition, we offer the most complete offer for the sector in terms of prevention, control and research in food safety. If you want to know how we can cooperate with you in the field of R&D, please contact us, we can help you.

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