European Commission Launches Scientific Debate On How to Feed the Planet

The European Commission has launched an online consultation on how science and innovation can help the EU “ensure safe, nutritious, sufficient and sustainable food globally.”

The consultation will underpin the debate on a future research agenda to help tackle global food and nutrition security challenges. It will focus on the areas where the EU's research efforts can have the strongest impact, including how to improve public health through nutrition; increase food safety and quality; reduce food loss and waste; make rural development more sustainable; increase agricultural yields through sustainable intensification; and how to better understand food markets and increase access to food for people around the world.

The discussion is linked to the theme of this year's Universal Exhibition (Expo Milano 2015) "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", which aims to go beyond cultural activities and open a real political debate on global food security and sustainability.

The paper was presented Monday in Brussels by Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and responsible for the Joint Research Centre, together with Franz Fischler, Chairman of the Expo 2015 EU Scientific Steering Committee.

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"The European Union has a vital role to play in tackling the challenges associated with food and nutrition security and sustainability,” said Commissioner Navracsics. “Expo 2015 offers us a great opportunity to showcase what the EU is already doing in this field. I hope it will also breathe new life into our efforts and further foster international collaboration.”

The consultation is available online for input by all interested stakeholders until September 1. Its results will be published on October 15, ahead of World Food Day, and will help shape the EU's legacy for Expo 2015. They will complement the scientific program taking place at the EU's Expo Pavillion, which will bring together experts and decision makers from around the world.

A challenge global food companies face is that there is a limit to how much they can expect consumers to pay for higher sustainability standards — a limit in terms of the price that they will be willing to pay and also in terms of the market share that can be commanded, according to a report released late last year by U.K.-based Sustainable Food Supply Chains Commission. The report says consumers who aren't prepared to pay a premium for high standards present a problem for food and drink companies hoping to advance their sustainability agenda. Companies that aspire to promoting social and environmental sustainability in their supply chains are competing with other companies that may not share those aspirations.

Last year, Walmart announced a commitment to create a more sustainable food system through four key pillars: improving the affordability of food for both customers and the environment, increasing access to food, making healthier eating easier, and improving the safety and transparency of the food chain.

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