“Food and Nutritional Security” Plant ETP Workshop
On June 2nd, the European Technology Platform ‘Plants for the Future’ (Plant ETP), in collaboration with MEP Jasenko Selimović, organised the workshop “Food and Nutritional Security” at the European Parliament. The main aim was to discuss how plant research and plant breeding could address one of the major societal challenges for Europe and developing countries – food and nutritional security.
The event gathered representatives of various DGs, Committees, Ministries and Councils of the European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States as well as experts of the European Technology Platform ‘Plants for the Future’ from academia, industry and farming. This was the second event of a series of workshops “Sustainable growth: Unlocking the potential of plants”, which follows a report by former MEP Marit Paulsen on “Plant breeding: what options to increase quality and yields” published in 2014.
In the opening speech, MEP Jasenko Selimović underlined that “food security is a bigger challenge than ever, with a global population expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050 and the need to adapt to climate change”. Mr Selimović stressed that “innovation is the key to sustainable food security” and acknowledged the role of plant science and breeding that can contribute “by improving the nutritional quality of food products, tailoring plants for specific health benefits, and eliminating harmful compounds to improve food safety”. “Me, as a member of AGRI and ENVI Committees, I have recently posed a question to the Commission urging to accelerate the process and clarify the legal status of New Breeding Techniques to ensure we have an innovative agriculture sector in the future capable of meeting growing demand,” continued Mr Jasenko Selimović.
Joachim Schneider from Bayer raised attention to the role of society and politics to create “enabling environment to lift the great potential of improved nutrition for public health”. He explained how rapid technological advancement is influencing our ability to personalize diets in line with phenotypic and genetic difference between individuals. Eugenio Butelli from the John Innes Centre in Norwich discussed how crops with enhanced levels of specific compounds such as anthocyanins can improve diets and address the global challenge of escalating chronic disease on the example of purple, high anthocyanin tomatoes. Another example is the blood orange, which has a major impact when compared with the orange fruit on arterial plaque levels in a mouse model. Together, these approaches show how plant science can potentially have a positive role in developing fruits and vegetable with preventative properties for chronic diseases. Juan Sagarna García from Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias explained how technology can be used in the farm setting for smart agriculture and that “in the future, data and information will be as relevant for the farmer as fertilizers, seeds or energy”. He also stressed that “farmer cooperatives will be the key driver for introducing the BIG DATA within a smarter agriculture, especially in the small and medium size farms. They will allow the farmers to reap the benefits and the added value of the new technologies”.
In his concluding speech, MEP Jan Huitema emphasized that it is of outmost importance to close the gap between consumers and the agri-food and to increase cooperation between policy makers, the private sector and research institutes. “The agricultural sector should not be seen as a problem but rather as a solution. The plant breeding sector in Europe is enormously ambitious and innovative and can have huge advantages. We should make more use of the potential and knowledge that is available, like new breeding techniques. However, the public debate is more and more based upon emotions instead of scientific facts. It’s upon the different stakeholders in the food chain to act together in order to turn the tide and close the gap between consumers.
For further information:
Aleksandra Malyska, Executive Manager ETP ‘Plants for the Future’