1. Theme for the Joint Programming Initiative
FOOD SECURITY, QUALITY, SAFETY AND SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION
IN A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT
2. Proposing GPC member/members
MIUR (DGIR, CNR, UNI), MIPAAF, ENEA?, MIN.SALUTE?
This proposal takes into account the draft SCAR position paper on Joint Programming (June 2009)
and the recommendations of the Council of the European Union (Brussels, 11 May 2009).
The objective for this JP is to tackle the environmental and societal challenges for European
agriculture to produce sufficient and safe food in a sustainable way.
The main challenges are:
a. Food security
b. Climate change
c. Well-being & health concerns
a. Food security
(The term security refers to the extent to which food is physically available and can be bought at
Global food demand has been rising for decades, and almost one billion people suffer today from
hunger and malnutrition with many population groups still facing protein, micronutrient and
vitamin deficiency. The increase in food demand is fueled by both the exponential population
growth (expected to reach 9 billion by 2050) and the improving living standards, particularly in
developing countries. A substantial increase in food production will exacerbate the issue of the
sustainability of agriculture in the developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. Indeed,
according to the FAO the world food demand will double by 2050.
Food security is increasingly threatened by decreasing water and land resources, biodiversity losses,
soil degradation, and higher seed and fertilizer prices. This will make food systems more
vulnerable, particularly in view of the uncertainties about climate change (see below). The situation
is further aggravated by the strong dependence of the entire food chain (production, processing and
retailing) on fossil fuels. In addition, the food system is influenced by other policies, e.g. those on
the use of renewable raw materials for bio-energy or bio-fuel.
b. Climate change
Climate change affects agriculture and, in turn, agriculture affects the climate and its course (e.g.
through deforestation, nitrogen leaching, effects of animal husbandry). It is therefore essential and
urgent to explore new adaptation measures and means of mitigation through new agricultural
b.1. Adaptation to, and mitigation of climate change
Agriculture contributes considerably to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions (mainly CO2, CH4,
N2O), and it is in turn deeply affected by the climate change that GHGs generate. This causes a
vulnerability in the food production system - all plant and animal species have a very narrow
temperature-dependent performance window which determines their yield and their ability to grow
and breed - that must urgently be tackled. There is much need of innovation and technological
development to adapt production systems and the entire food chain to these expected climate
changes, and to reduce food production-related GHG emissions.
Climate changes may also have significant effects on animal health and the animal-plant-human
interface, with high risks of transmission to humans of pathogenic agents affecting animals and
plants (toxins) and deriving from the international trade in animals, plants and their products.
b.2. Reducing climate change through natural resource management
Taking into account the expected impact of climate change on hydrological systems, habitats and
biodiversity, the maintenance of ecosystems through the management of agricultural land will play
a central role in contributing to overall resilience to climate change. Agriculture can assist in
watershed management, protection of habitats and biodiversity, as well as in the maintenance and
restoration of multifunctional landscapes. The potential role of agriculture in providing "green
infrastructures" should be further enhanced by extending rural development measures to a territorial
scale, and by improving the farmer-based participatory approach to environment friendly practices
via a better awareness of the agricultural system.
c. Well-being & health (food quality and safety: effects of agro-food products on life quality and
prevention of human diseases)
Industrialisation, urbanisation, economic development and globalisation have led to rapid changes
in diets and lifestyles. As a consequence, millions of people in developed countries suffer from poor
health and diseases (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, and some
types of cancer) due to food over-consumption and/or to poor quality nutrition. This is happening to
an alarmingly increasing extent also in developing countries: it is expected that, by 2020, 75% of
worldwide deaths due to stroke, and 70% of deaths due to diabetes will occur in these latter.
In addition, even people with access to healthy diets may get sick by eating unsafe or inappropriate
food – e.g. people with allergies to food components.
On the other hand, the relationship between food and well-being of consumers, and the potential of
some food components in the prevention, and/or as integrators of therapies in the treatment of
diseases are facing agriculture with new productive challenges (e.g. new bioproducts, crops with
tailored biochemical composition).
Common to the developed and the developing world are also increasing, globalisation-enhanced,
problems of food safety (this term referring to the extent to which food is safe to eat), derived from
food-borne diseases driven by pathogens (e.g. toxins, zoonoses) or chemical contaminants (e.g.
plant protection products, fertilizers).
In view of what described above, a more holistic and systemic approach to agriculture and food
production is needed to change the attitude to risk, to privilege diversification over specialization,
and to move to new production systems. The main goal should be to establish new productive
processes utilizing a reduced energy input, and at the same time to ensure high qualitative food
standards: food security and food safety should be pursued together with a high quality of
agricultural productions and a low impact on natural resources.
4. Research questions being addressed
Food security and sustainability
Crop productivity and yield stability, as well as the nutritional value of crops are essential
conditions for ensuring food security, in particular in a changing environment. Research should
therefore aim to:
Identify key drivers of yield productivity and stability; prevent yield losses due to diseases
and pests by developing resistant crop plants; develop crop plants resistant to temperature
and water stresses, as well as plants growing under nutrient deficiency.
Enhance the nutritional quality of crops, by applying existing and new technologies,
Identify key factors in the competition between food and non-food crops to optimise the use
of land and resources, and increase economic and environmental crop sustainability.
Progressive water scarcity and global climate change urge research efforts aimed to:
Ensure the availability and delivery of adequate water quantity and quality, by developing
tools to provide decision-makers with the best options for water management.
Manage climate change impacts, by developing methods for the prediction of long-term
climate changes effect on agriculture. This will provide options to adjust management
Develop new agricultural practices to recover the ecosystem services and enhance the
resilience of agro-ecosystems to climate change.
The research should also address threats to food security resulting from animal diseases that reduce
Plants are the primary source of energy, nutritional ingredients and tissue-building substances for
most non-plant organisms: plants are at the heart of our own food chain.
Research and development actions in this area should therefore aim to develop plant raw
with an improved composition in major storage compounds;
with improved characteristics for the production of nutritionally enhanced food;
less harmful to animal/human health.
In addition, the prevention and cure of diseases deriving from unsafe eating habits, both in the
developed and in the developing world, should be taken in consideration by addressing research
richer in micronutrients and healthier/functional compounds (e.g. antioxidants,
polyunsaturated fatty acids);
with reduced allergenicity/improved tolerability.
Threats to food safety may originate from contamination by pathogens and microorganisms that
produce toxins; contamination by plant protection products, fertilizers and veterinary drug residues,
as well as from the presence of food adulterants and anti-nutritional factors.
Research and development actions in this area should be addressed to food-borne diseases due to
the presence of:
Food pathogens (e.g. Salmonella, Campylobacter).
Food toxins (e.g. mycotoxins).
Anti-nutritional factors and allergens.
Food production and climate change
More in general, considering the relation between climate and food production, in terms of
security, quality and safety above described the research should aimed to the following issues:
Developing methods to assess the efficacy of the implementation of new technologies
(nanotechnology, biotechnology, ICT) in the adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate
Developing integrated models to monitor and forecast the effects of climate change on the
animal-human interface, with particular reference to the food chain.
Developing methods to correlate consumers' choices and public health in times of
economic recession and market disruption due to the effects of climate change on food
5. Added-value, benefits and impact
Benefits and impact of a JPI under the proposed theme for European citizens and European
competitiveness as well as other benefits JP approach might bring to addressing the proposed
The crucial and complex challenges involved in the suggested theme can only be met by a strong
collaborative European research effort. The JPI format will endow research and innovation in food
security, safety, quality and sustainable production with the necessary scale and vision.
The results of this concerted effort will benefit European citizens and European competitiveness in
the first place, and in a wider perspective will be beneficial at a global level.
The value added to overall current research financed from national and Community public
funds and its potential to increase the efficiency and impact of public R&D financing
The multidisciplinarity and the interdependency of the proposed issues call for new types of
knowledge, only attainable through new institutional arrangements. Although research in
agriculture, natural resource management and food is supported to varying extents by individual EU
Member and Associated States (EU-MAS), and targeted research in these sectors is currently
financed under the EU FP7, the research and innovation goals described in this proposal would only
be met by common visions and shared strategic research agendas, and the necessary pooling of
resources which can only be ensured by a JPI scheme.
Reasons for choosing the JP approach as the most appropriate means to facilitate collaboration
at European level for the proposed theme for JPI shall be unequivocally stated, taking into
account other existing European mechanisms
The rethinking of food production, processing, purchase and consumption necessitates a quick
response of the agro-food system to effectively address these new challenges. Only the direct
cooperation among EU-MAS and the networking of their research programmes and resources
envisaged in a JPI will allow to reach the necessary critical mass of people, resources and
infrastructures to achieve these goals.
The way in which the JPI will contribute to overcome legal and practical barriers for
transnational cooperation in the specific thematic area
Agriculture and food are already strictly integrated in the EU in terms of single market and common
policies. The effort needed to establish the proposed JPI will be of enormous help in integrating
these crucial sectors also in terms of legal and administrative funding of national research programs,
beyond this specific JPI.
6. Preliminary suggestions concerning the governance and implementation of JPI
State the level of the envisaged involvement of the participating countries. Provide preliminary
suggestions on the common vision, governance structure and the implementation of the
proposed JPI. Such information could include, among others:
The participation of relevant regional, national, international and European stakeholders,
including, where appropriate, the private sector;
A large number of EU-MAS will definitely be interested in the theme of the present JPI. In fact,
consultations among the bodies (i.e. SCAR and ETPs) representing the major stakeholders possibly
interested in this JPI have been taking place during the last several months, and consensus between
the main actors on this theme has been reached.
Estimate of human, scientific and technical resources required to carry out the proposed JPI
(number of researchers, requirement on the research infrastructure, industry cooperation etc.);
It is too early a stage to get into details on this point. The proposed theme should first be formally
shared by other EU-MAS, and the players and the specific research goals defined.
In general, the relevance of the theme proposed would envisage a large participation of public and
private research institutions of the EU-MAS involved in this JPI, as well as a large and durable
support, both financial and in terms of facilities and infrastructures.
However, it is clear that Europe already has the necessary competences and at least some of the
initial infrastructures needed for this JPI. The new challenge is to orchestrate these competences and
develop further the infrastructures and individual components present in the participating EU-MAS.
Indicative overall budget and indicative contributions from the different participants;
Too early to predict, but given the scope and the vision of this JPI a large budget should be
Approximate duration of the research activities;
The activities of this JPI should be supported for a rather long period of time (at least 5-10 yrs) and
a monitoring system should be established to assess the achievements and possibly readdress
objectives if and as needed.
Indications for success/performance indicators which should be in harmony with the evaluation
systems of the Member States/associated countries and the EC;
The usual and internationally accepted indicators of success for research programs will have to be
utilized along the implementation of the proposed JPI.
The possibility to nominate the Steering Board of the participating countries and its leader;
Highly feasible: EU-MAS have long been leaders in the research themes proposed, and the
necessary human resources are therefore already present.
Italy as the proponent?
Intended implementing agencies, and the structure for cooperation between them.
Collaborative efforts among EU-MAS have been already established (e.g. ERA-NETs), the
appropriate participating funding bodies (Ministries, Academies, Research Councils etc.) identified,
and the administrative and legal tools have been devised. These should serve as model for the
establishment and functioning of this JPI.
It is now high time to scale up the existing collaborative schemes, and focus the EU efforts on the
emergence in the coming years of a very problematic global situations.
Openness to additional participant countries at a later stage, taking into account the principle
of open access as referred to in paragraph 7 of the Council conclusions (enclosure).
Food security, quality, safety and sustainable production are a global concern: the coordination and
collaboration of the present JPI with other large-scale international intiatives in this sector are
therefore highly recommended.
In addition, collaborative partnerships of the non-EU-MAS countries already associated to FP7
should be envisaged.