The European Commission has launched an onlineconsultation on how science and innovation can contribute to the EU ensuring safe,nutritious, sufficient and sustainable food globally. This debate is linked tothe theme of this year's Universal Exhibition in Milan: "Feeding thePlanet, Energy for Life". Its objective is to go beyond culturalactivities and open a real political debate on global food security andsustainability. European Commissioner Navracsics highlighted the vital role that Europehas in tackling the challenges of food and nutrition security andsustainability. Expo 2015 represents a great opportunity to showcase what theEU is already doing in this field and foster international collaboration.
The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed is willing to promote insects as a source for animal protein for both human consumption and animal feed. Given that the global population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050, the world by then would have to increase its food production by 70% in order to feed the population, meaning that the global demand for animal-based protein sources would double between 2000 and 2050. As the animal feed production is already competing for resources such as water, land and fertilizers, insects could play a crucial role.
NGO Fern revealed that the European Union is responsible for a quarter of products connected to illegal deforestation. The EU is one of the largest importers of products resulting from illegal deforestation. In 2012 imported €6bn of soy, beef, leather and palm oil which were grown or reared on land illegally cleared of forests in the tropics - almost a quarter of the total world trade, according to Fern’s report. For example, in Papua New Guinea, which is one of the world's largest exporters of tropical timber, it was found that approximately 90% of forest clearance licenses were obtained through fraud.
Connected agriculture was addressed at the 8th Forum for Agriculture in Brussels, held in Brussels on 31 March. Agriculture is one ofthe most inefficient parts of our economic value chain today, according to Jeremy Rifkin, an American social theorist, and global warming is expected to modify the water cycles of the earth, wreaking havoc for farmers and driving up food prices. Agriculture is responsible for one third of global warming emissions; consequently it needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. Nonetheless, technology offers an opportunity to address these challenges by transforming the food production system “from farm to retail”.
While the European commission and all 28 EU member states are signatories to the international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, Marie Haga, the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust questions the commitment to agrobiodiversity. Population growth is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050 and necessarily, such rapid population growth will correlate with an increase in global food demand, currently estimated at 50%. But there are many crucial challenges including climate change, crop pests and diseases, and pressure on agricultural land. As a result of globalisation and industrialisation of agriculture, the planet currently rely on only 150 crops for nearly all its nutrition.
This draft report on ‘The External impact of EU trade and investment policy in public-private initiatives outside the EU’, calls on ‘EU bodies to encourage EU companies participating in PPPs in third countries, in particular in least-developed countries, to work in accordance with the principle of policy coherence so that development cooperation objectives are taken into consideration; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to encourage sustainable investments and promote projects focused on environmental protection, waste management or the use of renewable energies, for instance.’ It also notes ‘Notes that SMEs and larger companies can provide unique private-sector know-how, experience, and networks involving public authority in non-EU countries.’
Twenty days after the signing of the new law on growing genetically modified (GM) crops in the European Union by the European Parliament, (11 March) and it’s publication in the Official Journal of the EU, the new law shall enter into force. The first crop likely to get European Commission endorsement is to be an insect-resistant maize known as 1507, whose developers DuPont and Dow Chemical have been lobbying 14 years for the EU to authorise cultivation. It is widely-grown in the Americas and Asia. It still remains a very divisive issue in the EU: Britain is in favour, while France is opposed.
Cassavas is currently one of the world's fastest-growing crops, and is holding up better to the rising temperatures caused by climate change, as pointed out by experts. Since the 80s, the global production of cassava has increased by 52% due, among other reasons, to the doubling of its production in Africa. It adapts better to higher temperatures compared to other crops, such as beans or corn, as it is less sensitive to climate changes.
Seychelles is all set to become the first country in the world to implement a comprehensive spatial plan for its entire ocean territory. The Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands, scattered through almost 1.4 million square kilometres of resource-rich waters, is in the process of finalising a marine spatial plan that will create one of the largest marine reserves in the region. Currently, only around one percent of the Seychelles' waters are protected as marine national parks. This percentage is expected to increase to between 10 and 15%.The plan also includes the protection of sustainable artisanal fisheries and create specific zones for exploitative activities, such a commercial tuna fishing and oil exploration and exploitation.
A new report explains that beansmay be Africa’s answer to lack of access to expensive fertilizers. A project currentlyencourages African farmers to plant beans as food and fertiliser could helpcounteract the impact of limited fertiliser take-up across the continent. Globaluse of nitrogen fertiliser is forecast to grow by 1.4 % each year to above 119million tonnes in 2018, But less than five per cent of that growth will comefrom Sub-Saharan Africa, because fertiliser is often too expensive forsubsistence farmers. As an alternative to fertiliser, Africa’s crop yields aregetting a boost from an edible and more environmentally friendly sourceinstead: beans.