Europe’s role in feeding the world in 2050

What is Europe’s role in feeding a growing world population now and in 2050? And what role should science and technology play? In a workshop on 4th December 2013 IEEP presented the synthesis of a series of reports for the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel aimed at answering these questions.

IEEP’s David Baldock summed up the body of work by pointing out priorities for a positive plan for Europe to actively conserve its own productive resources for food production, increase resource efficiency, foster innovation and best practices, and reduce Europe’s overall demands on the world food system. He pointed out that EU policies driving demand for biofuels could be changed to drive use of more waste and residues and fewer food crops. He also drew attention to the importance of the EU’s support for sustainable agricultural production in the developing world, where most of the current and future hungry are.

In his concluding reflections, David Baldock drew attention to points of consensus at the workshop; speakers and audience from all through the food chain agree that we need a collective approach addressing both supply and demand, and that we are not saying European food production needs to increase immediately. He reminded us that a more sustainable food supply will be very knowledge-intensive, and everybody needs to be well informed from farmers to consumers. There are trade-offs, and no sustainability magic box. Action is needed at all levels from high–tech and cutting edge science, to working with people especially farmers, and a key role for low tech agriculture and ecological agriculture approaches.

The five parallel studies, of which IEEP led the 1st and 5th, looked at:

  • The interaction between agriculture & climate change and between agriculture & biodiversity
  • Plant breeding and innovative agriculture for sustainable intensification of crop production
  • Sustainable food processing
  • Options for cutting food waste
  • Recycling crop and food residues for sustainable bioenergy and biomaterials

The workshop on 4th December was well-attended by around 100 people from NGOs, food companies, supermarket chains, farmers associations, researchers from Commission and Parliament, and students. It was also web-streamed by EuroParl TV, which has been accessed by a wide audience. The M EPs Giovanni La Via, Vittorio Prodi and Kent Johansson chaired the panels, and the well-known Dutch scientist and author Louise Fresco gave a keynote speech.

You can find all the reports and the presentations and videos here.