Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu

Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu
ea sac
Opportunities and challenges for
research on food and nutrition security
and agriculture in Europe

EASAC policy report 34

December 2017

ISBN: 978-3-8047-3811-9

This report can be found at
www.easac.eu                  Science Advice for Policy for the Benefit of Europe
Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu
EASAC – the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council – is formed by the national science academies of
the EU Member States to enable them to collaborate with each other in giving advice to European policy-makers.
It thus provides a means for the collective voice of European science to be heard. EASAC was founded in 2001
at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Its mission reflects the view of academies that science is central to many aspects of modern life and that an
appreciation of the scientific dimension is a pre-requisite to wise policy-making. This view already underpins the
work of many academies at national level. With the growing importance of the European Union as an arena
for policy, academies recognise that the scope of their advisory functions needs to extend beyond the national
to cover also the European level. Here it is often the case that a trans-European grouping can be more effective
than a body from a single country. The academies of Europe have therefore formed EASAC so that they can
speak with a common voice with the goal of building science into policy at EU level.

Through EASAC, the academies work together to provide independent, expert, evidence-based advice about
the scientific aspects of public policy to those who make or influence policy within the European institutions.
Drawing on the memberships and networks of the academies, EASAC accesses the best of European science
in carrying out its work. Its views are vigorously independent of commercial or political bias, and it is open and
transparent in its processes. EASAC aims to deliver advice that is comprehensible, relevant and timely.

EASAC covers all scientific and technical disciplines, and its experts are drawn from all the countries of the
European Union. It is funded by the member academies and by contracts with interested bodies. The expert
members of EASAC’s working groups give their time free of charge. EASAC has no commercial or business

EASAC’s activities include substantive studies of the scientific aspects of policy issues, reviews and advice about
specific policy documents, workshops aimed at identifying current scientific thinking about major policy issues
or at briefing policy-makers, and short, timely statements on topical subjects.

The EASAC Council has 29 individual members – highly experienced scientists nominated one each by the
national science academies of EU Member States, by the Academia Europaea and by ALLEA. The national
science academies of Norway and Switzerland are also represented. The Council is supported by a professional
Secretariat based at the Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Sciences, in Halle (Saale) and by a Brussels
Office at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium. The Council agrees the initiation of projects,
appoints members of working groups, reviews drafts and approves reports for publication.

To find out more about EASAC, visit the website – www.easac.eu – or contact the EASAC Secretariat at
Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu
ea sac
Opportunities and challenges for research
on food and nutrition security and
agriculture in Europe
Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu
ISBN 978-3-8047-3811-9

© German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina 2017

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, no part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in
writing of the publisher, or in accordance with the terms of licenses issued by the appropriate reproduction rights
organisation. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the terms stated here should be sent to:

EASAC Secretariat
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina
German National Academy of Sciences
Jägerberg 1
D-06108 Halle (Saale)
tel: +49 (0)345 4723 9833
fax: +49 (0)345 4723 9839
email: secretariat@easac.eu
web: www.easac.eu

                         Cover images: top row left and right, and bottom: copyright shutterstock; top row centre:
                         copyright Hans Blossey/Alamy stock photo.

                         Copy-edited and typeset in Frutiger by The Clyvedon Press Ltd, Cardiff, United Kingdom

ii   | December 2017 | Food and nutrition security and agriculture                                                   EASAC
Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu

Foreword by IAP Co-chairs                                                                                                      v

Summary                                                                                                                        1

1       Introduction                                                                                                           5
1.1     Global challenges                                                                                                      5
1.2     Improving the evidence base for attaining food and nutrition security                                                  6
1.3     Food and nutrition security and sustainable development                                                                6
1.4     Obesity                                                                                                                7
1.5     The situation on food and nutrition security in Europe                                                                 8
1.6     IAP and EASAC                                                                                                          8
1.7     Objectives and scope of this EASAC report                                                                              9

2       Science and policy context                                                                                           11
2.1     Joint Research Centre                                                                                                11
2.2     European Parliament                                                                                                  12
2.3     EU-funded research and innovation initiatives                                                                        12
2.4     Expo 2015                                                                                                            13
2.5     Food 2030                                                                                                            13
2.6     Scenarios                                                                                                            13

3       Food and nutrition security in Europe: the present situation, challenges and                                         15
        opportunities, science and technology strengths and weaknesses
3.1     What are the key issues in defining and characterising food and nutrition security?                                  15
3.2     What are the new challenges?                                                                                         16
3.3     Climate change: impacts, adaptation and mitigation                                                                   17
3.4     What is needed to mobilise national/regional scientific capacity to address the challenges?                          18
3.5     Societal acceptability                                                                                               20

4       Prospects for increasing efficiency of food systems sustainably and equitably                                        21
4.1     Reducing waste in a more efficient food chain                                                                        21
4.2     Food safety                                                                                                          22
4.3     Food science and technology                                                                                          24
4.4     Understanding markets and their instability in an increasingly globalised food system                                26

5       Nutrition, consumption patterns and public health                                                                    29
5.1     Policy opportunities                                                                                                 29
5.2     Scientific frontiers in nutrition                                                                                    30
5.3     Innovative foods and innovative, sustainable diets                                                                   32

6       Opportunities for innovation in agriculture: sustainable intensification at the farm scale                           33
6.1     What are the prospects for innovation to improve agronomic practice?                                                 33
6.2     Meat from land                                                                                                       33
6.3     Food and biomass from the sea                                                                                        35
6.4     Plant science                                                                                                        37
6.5     Biosecurity                                                                                                          39
6.6     Precision agriculture                                                                                                39
6.7     Digitalisation and use of big data in agriculture and food chains                                                    40

EASAC                                                            Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  iii
Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu
7         What are key issues for managing competition for land use and other resources              43
          for sustainable development at the landscape scale?
7.1       Bioenergy production                                                                       44
7.2       Food security, agriculture and water                                                       45
7.3       Soil science                                                                               45

8         Conclusions and recommendations                                                            49

Appendix 1           IAP core template for project on Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture    53

Appendix 2           Relevant previous EASAC publications, 2012–2016                                 57

Appendix 3           Working Group composition and timetable                                         59

Appendix 4           The JPIs FACCE and HDHL                                                         61

Abbreviations                                                                                        65

References                                                                                           67

iv  | December 2017 | Food and nutrition security and agriculture                                   EASAC
Ea sac Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe - MTA.hu
The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) global network             health linkages. Food systems are in transition and in
of the world’s science academies brings together              our project design we have employed an integrative
established regional networks of academies, forming a         food systems approach to encompass, variously, all of
new collaboration to ensure that the voice of science is      the steps involved, from growing through to processing,
heard in addressing societal priorities.                      transporting, trading, purchasing, consuming, and
                                                              disposing of or recycling food waste.
Combating malnutrition in its various forms—
undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies as well         Four parallel regional academy network working groups
as overweight and obesity—is a problem that is faced          were constituted: in Africa (the Network of African
by all countries. The transformation of agricultural          Science Academies, NASAC); the Americas (the Inter-
production towards sustainability is a global issue,          American Network of Academies of Sciences, IANAS);
connected with the global challenges of poverty               Asia (the Association of Academies and Societies of
reduction, employment and urbanisation. International         Sciences in Asia, AASSA); and Europe (the European
academies of science have a substantial history of            Academies’ Science Advisory Council, EASAC). Each had
interest in these areas, for example as indicated by the      an ambitious mandate to analyse current circumstances
InterAcademy Council publication in 2004 ‘Realizing           and future projections, to share evidence, to clarify
the promise and potential of African agriculture’.            controversial points and to identify knowledge gaps.
Science has the potential to find sustainable solutions       Advice on options for policy and practice at the
to challenges facing the global and national food             national–regional levels was proffered to make best
systems relating to health, nutrition, agriculture, climate   use of the resources available. Each working group
change, ecology and human behaviour. Science can              consisted of experts from across the region who were
also play a role in partnering to address important policy    nominated by IAP member academies and selected
priorities such as competition with land use for other        to provide an appropriate balance of experience and
purposes, for example energy production, urbanisation         scientific expertise. The project was novel in terms of its
and industrialisation with environmental connections          regionally based format and its commitment to catalyse
for resource use and biodiversity. The Sustainable            continuing interaction between and within the regions,
Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in            to share learning and to support implementation of
2015 provide a critically important policy framework for      good practice.
understanding and meeting the challenges but require
fresh engagement by science to resolve the complexities       These four regional groups worked in parallel and
of evidence-based policies and programmes.                    proceeded from a common starting point represented
                                                              by the agreed IAP template of principal themes. Among
There is an urgent need to build critical mass in research    the main topics to be examined were the science
and innovation and to mobilise that resource in advising      opportunities associated with the following.
policymakers and other stakeholders. Academies of
science worldwide are committed to engage widely              •   Ensuring sustainable food production (land
to strengthen the evidence base for enhanced food                 and sea), sustainable diets and sustainable
and nutrition security at global, regional and national           communities, including issues for agricultural
levels. In our collective Academy work, we aim to                 transformation in face of increasing competition for
facilitate learning between regions and to show how               land use.
academies of science can contribute to sharing and
implementing good practice in clarifying controversial        •   Promoting healthy food systems and increasing
issues, developing and communicating the evidence                 the focus on nutrition, with multiple implications
base, and informing the choice of policy options. The             for diet quality, vulnerable groups, and informed
current IAP initiative is innovative in bringing together         choice.
regional perspectives, drawing on the best science.
In this project, we utilise the convening, evidence-          •   Identifying the means to promote resilience,
gathering, and analytical and advisory functions of               including resilience in ecosystems and in
academies to explore the manifold ways to increase                international markets.
food and nutrition security and to identify promising
research agendas for the science communities and              •   Responding to, and preparing for, climate change
investment opportunities for science policy. A core part          and other environmental and social change.
of this work is to ascertain how research within and
                                                              Each regional group had the responsibility to decide
across multiple disciplines can contribute to resolving
                                                              the relative proportion of effort to be expended on
the issues at the science–policy interface, such as
                                                              different themes and on the various elements within the
evaluating and strengthening agriculture–nutrition–

EASAC                                                             Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  v
integrative food systems approach, according to local               the regional outputs vary in approach, content and
needs and experience.                                               format, all four provide highly valuable assessments.
                                                                    They are customised according to the particular regional
All four networks are now publishing their regional                 circumstances but with appreciation of the international
outputs as part of their mechanism for engaging with                contexts and are all capable of being mapped on to the
policymakers and stakeholders at the regional and                   initial IAP template. This latter IAP collective phase of
national levels. In addition, these individual outputs              mapping, coordination and re-analysis is now starting.
will be used as a collective resource to inform the                 According to our interim assessment, the project is
preparation of a fifth, worldwide analysis report by                making good progress towards achieving its twin
the IAP. This fifth report will advise on inter-regional            objectives of (1) catalysing national–regional discussions
matters, local–global connectivities and those issues at            and action and (2) informing global analysis and
the science–policy interface that should be considered              decision-making.
by inter-governmental institutions and other bodies with
international roles and responsibilities. We intend that            We welcome feedback on all of our regional outputs
the IAP project will be distinctive and will add value to           and on how best to engage with others in broadening
the large body of work already undertaken by many                   discussion and testing our recommendations. We also
other groups. This distinctiveness will be pursued by               invite feedback to explore which priorities should now
capitalising on what has already been achieved in the               be emphasised at the global level, what points have
regional work and by proceeding to explore the basis for            been omitted but should not have been, and how new
differences in regional evaluations and conclusions. We             directions could be pursued.
will continue to gather insight from the integration of
the wide spectrum of scientific disciplines and country/            We take this opportunity to thank the many scientific
regional contexts.                                                  experts, including young scientists, who have
                                                                    contributed their time, effort and enthusiasm in our
This project was formulated to stimulate the four                   regional working groups, which have done so much
regional networks in diverse analysis and synthesis                 to help this ambitious project to fulfil its promise to be
according to their own experience, traditions and                   innovative and distinctive. We thank our peer reviewers
established policy priorities, while, at the same time,             for their insight and support, and all our academies
conforming to shared academy standards for clear                    and their regional networks and our core secretariat for
linkage to the evidence available. The project as a                 their sustained commitment to this IAP work. We also
whole and in its regional parts was also underpinned by             express our gratitude for the generous project funding
necessary quality assessment and control, particularly              provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education
through peer review procedures.                                     and Research (BMBF).

We anticipated that the regions might identify                      Krishan Lal                           Volker ter Meulen
different solutions to common problems—we regard                    Co-chair, IAP for Science        Co-chair, IAP for Science
the generation of this heterogeneity as a strength of                                                     and President, IAP
the novel design of the project. We have not been
disappointed in this expectation of diversity. Although             October 2017

vi  | December 2017 | Food and nutrition security and agriculture                                                        EASAC
National academies of science have a long tradition of        the adoption of plant breeding innovations to cope
engaging widely to strengthen the evidence base to            with drought) but also that agriculture itself contributes
underpin the delivery of enhanced food and nutrition          substantially to climate change. Mitigating this
security at regional and national levels. EASAC, the          contribution depends on climate-smart food systems
European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, has             (such as land-sparing and agronomic management
produced this report for European audiences as a              practices) together with efforts to influence consumer
contribution to a project worldwide initiated by IAP, the     behaviours associated with excessive agricultural
InterAcademy Partnership, the global network of science       greenhouse gas emissions (overconsumption of calories
academies. The IAP work brings together regional              and high meat intake). Therefore, taking account
perspectives in parallel from Africa, Asia, the Americas      of the accruing scientific evidence, changing dietary
and Europe on the opportunities for the science–policy        consumption could bring co-benefits to health and to
interface, identifying how research can contribute to         climate change.
resolving challenges for agriculture, food systems and
nutrition.                                                    In our report we have focused on scientific
                                                              opportunities: how the current scientific evidence base
Our EASAC report combines analysis of the current             can shape understanding of challenges by the public,
status in Europe with exploration of ways forward.            serve as a resource for innovation, and inform policy
Overconsumption of calorie-dense foods leading to             options, and what the research agenda should be to
overweight and obesity creates a major public health          fill current knowledge gaps. It is urgent to continue
problem in Europe; but Europeans are not immune from          to build critical mass in research and innovation and
other concerns about food and nutrition security              to mobilise that resource in advising policymakers and
and must also recognise the impact of their activities on     other stakeholders. We emphasise the vitally important
the rest of the world. We define the goal of food and         role of basic research in characterising new frontiers in
nutrition security as providing access for all to a healthy   science and of long-term commitment to investing in
and affordable diet that is environmentally sustainable.      research to enable, establish and evaluate innovation.
We recognise the necessity to take account of diversity:      This innovation must encompass social and institutional,
in food systems and dietary intakes within and between        as well as technological, innovation.
countries, and in the variability of nutrient requirements
in vulnerable groups within populations and across the        We frame our specific recommendations within the
individual’s life cycle.                                      context of strategic dimensions that determine a wide
                                                              range of actions in science and policy:
In our report we take an integrative food systems
approach to cover inter-related issues for resource           •   The interfaces between research on the nutrition-
efficiency, environmental stability, resilience and               sensitivity of food and agriculture systems and on
the public health agenda, also addressing issues for              environmental sustainability must be addressed
local–global interconnectedness of systems. Setting               to connect scientific knowledge on natural
priorities for increasing agricultural production through         resources to the food value chain. The sustainable
sustainable intensification must take account of                  bioeconomy and circular economy provide for new
pressures on other critical natural resources, particularly       overarching frameworks, going beyond traditional
water, soil and energy, and the continuing need to avoid          concepts of economic sectors.
further loss in ecosystem biodiversity. Dealing with food
and nutrition security must include both supply-side and      •   The focus cannot be only on populations in general
demand-side issues: reducing food waste and changing              but should also cover particular issues for vulnerable
to healthier consumption patterns will reduce pressure            groups such as mothers and children, the elderly,
on land and other resources.                                      patients and migrants. This requires systematic,
                                                                  longitudinal data collection to generate robust
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and              resources, together with cross-disciplinary research,
Convention on Climate Change objectives provide                   encompassing economics and social sciences as well
critically important general frameworks for meeting the           as the natural sciences, to understand vulnerable
challenges to food and nutrition security but mandate             groups and the more general aspects of consumer
renewed engagement by science to clarify trade-offs               behaviour.
among goals and address the complexities of evidence-
based policies and programmes. For example, it is             •   Large data sets, based on comparable and verifiable
becoming clearer that climate change will have negative           methodology, are a vital tool to support innovation
impacts on food systems in various ways, necessitating            throughout the food system and to prepare for risk
the introduction of climate-smart agriculture (such as            and uncertainty. There is much to be done to fill

EASAC                                                             Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  1
data gaps, to agree improved procedures for data                  that may arise from implementation of other policy
     collection, curation, analysis and sharing, while                 objectives (for example, the circular economy goal
     also addressing data ownership and privacy                        of recycling of waste materials).
                                                                   •   Compiling analytical tests to authenticate food
•    To contribute with evidence to options for                        origin and quality.
     reform of the present Common Agricultural Policy
     (CAP) towards devising a European Union (EU)                  •   Assessing any disconnects between the implications
     food and nutrition policy that rewards innovation,                of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change
     reduces risks, focusses on public goods, takes                    Conference (COP21) objectives for livestock and
     account of the varying national interests and                     meat consumption, and standard recommendations
     cultures, and contributes to benefitting the rest of              for consuming healthy diets.
     the world.
                                                                   Plants and animals in agriculture
•    EU development assistance should be viewed
                                                                   •   For livestock, determining how to capitalise on
     broadly, to include international collaborative
                                                                       genomics research for food production and for
     research; research in the EU on priorities for global
                                                                       animal health and welfare. This includes the rapidly
     food systems, their resilience and perturbations;
                                                                       advancing science of genome editing and the
     sharing of science and technology especially related
                                                                       increasing significance of characterising genetic
     to food and nutrition security; and resolution
                                                                       material conserved in gene banks.
     of international governance issues of food and
     agriculture.                                                  •   For the oceans, improving the knowledge base
                                                                       for sustainable harvest and culturing of lower
•    Ensuring that regulatory and management
                                                                       trophic level marine resources and exploring
     frameworks are evidence-based, proportionate
                                                                       the potential for biomass provision to diminish
     and sufficiently flexible to prepare for and enable
                                                                       pressures on agricultural land, freshwater and
     advances in science.
Within this overall framework for European strategy
                                                                   •   For crops, progressing understanding of the
development, our report identifies many opportunities
                                                                       genetics and metabolomics of plant product
to generate, connect and use research. Among specific
                                                                       quality. This also includes capitalising on the new
scientific opportunities are the following.
                                                                       opportunities coming within range for the targeted
                                                                       modification of crops using genome editing.
Nutrition, food choices and food safety
•    Understanding the drivers of dietary choices,                 •   For plants as for animal science, it is important to
     consumer demand and how to inform and change                      protect wild gene pools and to continue sequencing
     behaviour, including acceptance of innovative foods               of genetic resources to unveil the potential of
     and innovative diets.                                             genetic resources.

•    Tackling the perverse price incentives to consume             Environmental sustainability
     high-calorie diets and introducing new incentives
                                                                   •   Evaluating climate resilience throughout food
     for healthy nutrition.
                                                                       systems and transforming food systems to mitigate
                                                                       their global warming impact.
•    Clarifying what is a sustainable, healthy diet
     and how to measure sustainability related to
                                                                   •   Capitalising on opportunities to co-design research
                                                                       across disciplines to understand better the nexus
                                                                       food–water–other ecosystem services and to
•    Exploring individual responsiveness to nutrition and
                                                                       inform the better coordination of relevant policy
     the links to health.
                                                                       instruments, including the CAP, Water Framework
•    Promoting research interfaces between nutrition,                  Directive and the Habitats Directive. Efforts to
     food science and technology, the public sector and                increase the efficiency of food systems should not
     industry.                                                         focus on increasing agricultural productivity by
                                                                       ignoring environmental costs.
•    Evaluating how to make food systems more
     nutrition-sensitive.                                          •   Developing an evidence base to underpin land
                                                                       and water use in providing the range of private
•    Characterising sources of food contamination and                  and public goods required in a sustainable way,
     the opportunities for reducing food safety concerns               appropriate to place.

2  | December 2017 | Food and nutrition security and agriculture                                                         EASAC
•   Regarding biofuel choices, the immediate research      •   Examining linkages between extreme events and
    objectives for the next generation of biofuels             price volatility, evaluating the effects of regulatory
    include examining the potential of cellulosic raw          policy instruments in agricultural commodity
    materials.                                                 markets and the price transmission between global
                                                               commodity markets and local food systems.
•   Research should continue to explore the value of
    synthetic biology and other approaches to engineer     •   Ascertaining the science agenda for understanding
    systems with improved photosynthesis. There is also        the characteristics of fair trade systems, for example
    continuing need for research to clarify impacts of         the non-tariff conditions associated with variation
    biomass production on land use and food prices.            in regulatory policy, labelling or other food safety
•   For soil, expanding research to understand and
    quantify the potential value of soil in carbon         Innovation trends
    sequestration and, hence, climate change
                                                           In each of the above-mentioned specific areas of science
    mitigation. There is a broad research agenda to
                                                           opportunities, the linkages between basic science and
    characterise other functions of soil and the soil
                                                           problem-solving applied science seem likely to become
    microbiome and contribute to the bioeconomy,
                                                           more closely related in the future. This is so in the fields
    for example as a source of novel antibiotics.
                                                           of biosciences, digitisation, mathematics and farm
    Research is also important to support cost-effective
                                                           precision technologies, health and behaviour, as well as
    soil monitoring and management, particularly to
                                                           in complex environmental and food system modelling.
    underpin the reduced use of fertilisers and improve
                                                           This has consequences for the redesign of the science
                                                           landscape and for science teaching and the training of
Waste                                                      next-generation scientists to address food, nutrition and
                                                           agriculture issues.
•   Committing to the collection of more robust data
    on the extent of waste in food systems and the         We emphasise the key role of agricultural sciences for
    effectiveness of interventions to reduce waste at      European competitiveness and urge a rebalancing of
    local and regional levels.                             commitments: to shift budget items from agricultural
                                                           subsidies towards innovation in the pending reform
•   Ensuring the application of food science and           of the CAP.
    technology and agronomy in novel approaches
    to processing food and reducing waste, and             It is now important to be more ambitious in identifying
    in informing the intersection between circular         and using the scientific opportunities. Our messages
    economy and bioeconomy policy objectives.              are aimed at European and national policymakers,
                                                           member academies, the scientific community and
Trade and markets                                          other stakeholders. We will also use this analysis of
                                                           European evidence as the regional contribution to the
•   Increasing commitment to data collection on trade
                                                           IAP integrated phase of the project, to develop inter-
    flows and prices with modelling and analysis of
                                                           regional and global recommendations.

EASAC                                                          Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  3
1 Introduction
1.1 Global challenges                                                        the previous year (FAO, 2015). The number affected by
                                                                             caloric deficiency has decreased by about 20% in the
Global and national food systems present increasing                          past decade but an additional approximately two billion
challenges for science communities in tackling issues                        people suffer from undernutrition from micronutrient
for health, nutrition, agriculture, ecology and human                        deficits. Data from the Global Hunger Index
behaviour, and for encompassing public and private                           (International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) et al.,
sector research. The Sustainable Development Goals                           2016) indicate significant progress in many countries
(SDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015                            in reducing calorie deficiency but less progress on child
represent a critically important framework for tackling                      stunting and micronutrient deficiencies.
challenges. However, progressing the SDGs requires
fresh engagement by science, including the economic                          The major global challenges for delivering food and
and social sciences, to address the complexities of                          nutrition security1 are compounded by the pressures
evidence-based policies and programmes.                                      of the growing population (projected to reach over
                                                                             9 billion by 2050 with 70% of the population in urban
Academies of science worldwide are committed to                              areas compared with 50% today), climate change, other
engage widely to strengthen the evidence base for                            global environmental changes, and economic inequity
enhanced food and nutrition security at global,                              and instability (Pretty et al., 2010; UNESCO, 2010;
regional and national levels. In this European                               GOS, 2011). In addition, lack of quality and safety of
Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC)                                  diets, risk-prone food distribution systems and adverse
report, part of a worldwide InterAcademy Partnership                         nutrition behaviour and lifestyles, resulting in obesity,
(IAP) project, we discuss critical issues for Europe                         are of increasing concern, including in the EU. It is vitally
within the context of this global project; our messages                      important to develop food systems that are nutrition-
on how science can help to resolve them are aimed                            sensitive.
at European Union (EU) and national policymakers,
the wider science community and other stakeholders.                          Historically, global production of staple foods has
We emphasise that the desired outcome for food                               increased faster than consumption, leading to reduction
and nutrition security is access for all to a healthy and                    in prices. However, this greater supply is now slowing
affordable diet that is environmentally sustainable. With                    because of production constraints2 together with further
our report, we also aim to contribute to the broader                         increase in demand because of the population growth,
IAP project objective of facilitating learning between                       exacerbated by changing dietary patterns (in particular
regions and to show how academies can contribute to                          global meat consumption). A healthy diet has become
sharing and implementing good practice on these vitally                      more expensive, although the assessment of relative
important topics.                                                            costs can be complex, as discussed subsequently. Setting
                                                                             priorities for increasing agricultural production must
There are three sets of nutrition issues that exist                          take account of pressures on other critical resources,
in parallel and are partly connected: hunger and                             particularly water, soil and energy, and the continuing
undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and                              imperative to avoid climate change and further loss
overnutrition with obesity. This represents a triple                         in ecosystems services and biodiversity. Agriculture
burden to public health and highlights the importance                        currently accounts for 40% of the Earth’s land surface
of nutrition security as well as food security (Horton                       and 70% of the world’s use of fresh water; the UN
and Lo, 2013). Increasing numbers of people are                              predicts that irrigation demands will increase by up
overweight or obese and many consume calorie-dense                           to 100% by 2025. About 2% of calories and 15% of
but nutrient-poor diets. At the same time, according to                      protein of human food is obtained from products from
the latest UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)                        the sea.
assessment (FAO, 2017), worldwide 815 million people
in 2016 were chronically undernourished in terms of                          Agriculture and the food system also currently account
calorie deficit to meet energy needs to lead a healthy                       for about 30% of energy consumption, and just
and active life, which is 38 million more people than                        under one-third of greenhouse gases originate from

  Food security as defined by the FAO occurs ‘when all people, all of the time, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and
nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’ This definition is discussed further in this
chapter and in Chapter 3.
  Without major technological intervention, growth in crop yields will continue to level out: globally the current rate of growth of yields of major
cereal crops has slowed from 3.2% per year in 1960 to 1.5% per year in 2000 (statistics summarised by UK Global Food Security programme,
www.foodsecurity.ac.uk and discussed in detail by Alston et al. (2014)).

EASAC                                                                              Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  5
agriculture and food3. Moreover, up to one-third of                         lower inputs and in the context of global climate change
the world’s food production is lost or wasted according                     and declining natural resources: this requires better
to some estimates, it being calculated that the food                        understanding of the trade-offs between different policy
wasted by the EU and North America is equivalent                            actions. We note that a food systems’ view requires
to the total food production of sub-Saharan Africa                          clear definition of the sub-systems under consideration,
(Steering Committee of the EU scientific programme for                      to avoid vague conceptualisation. A system whose
Expo 2015).                                                                 boundaries, external forces and internal functional
                                                                            relationships are not well defined is not a meaningful
Consideration of food and nutrition security must                           framework.
encompass both supply-side and demand-side issues.
Reducing waste will reduce pressure on land and                             Tackling the food systems’ challenges requires new
other natural resources. Therefore, achieving food and                      knowledge from the natural and social sciences5 as
nutrition security raises important issues for resource                     a resource for innovation and for informing policy
efficiency, environmental sustainability, resilience                        options across a very broad front. Scientific knowledge
and the public health agenda. There is urgent need                          is a global public good, provided by a wide range of
for adopting an integrative food systems approach                           research institutions, supported by a wide range of
(GOS, 2011; Steering Committee of the EU scientific                         funders. There is need to give increased prominence
programme for Expo 2015), to cover the inter-                               to all the elements necessary in a global research
related issues for resource efficiency, environmental                       agenda to improve food and nutrition security (Haddad
sustainability, resilience and the public health agenda,                    et al., 2016)6. As discussed in detail elsewhere (e.g.
within the context of the local–global connectedness of                     von Braun and Kalkuhl, 2015; Steering Committee of
systems.                                                                    the EU scientific programme for Expo 2015), collective
                                                                            engagement is essential to clarify the knowledge
1.2 Improving the evidence base for attaining                               gaps and priorities and to improve policy and science
    food and nutrition security                                             interaction. Enhancing the science–policy interface for
                                                                            food and nutrition security requires improving efforts
Achieving food and nutrition security, including
                                                                            to reflect the diversity of international science insights,
tackling the issues for overconsumption4, necessitates
                                                                            to exchange and coordinate between disciplines and
addressing the various physical, biological and socio-
                                                                            individual research efforts, to promote transparency
economic constraints that limit the ability of people
                                                                            in synthesis and assessment of new knowledge
to access a healthy diet (Quentin et al., 2015). Poverty
                                                                            and to increase the legitimacy of assessments and
is a significant factor in the lack of food and nutrition
                                                                            recommendations to governments and society
security: for example, there is evidence to show that
                                                                            (von Braun and Kalkuhl, 2015).
the national prevalence of stunting from malnutrition
is proportional to gross domestic product (Ruel et al.,
                                                                            1.3 Food and nutrition security and sustainable
2013). There may be particular problems for vulnerable
groups in the population, such as mothers and children
(Horton and Lo, 2013). According to the FAO, food                           It is necessary to do more to understand what makes
security covers issues for food availability (is there                      a healthy and sustainable diet and how it may be
enough?), access (can it be reached?), affordability (at                    produced and accessed. The magnitude of the challenge
a fair price), quality (is it edible?), nutrition (as part of               for the global and EU food systems is such that action
a balanced diet) and safety (could it harm health?).                        is needed throughout the system: moderating demand,
Nutrition security requires adequate food, hygiene,                         reducing waste, improving governance, as well as
health and social care.                                                     producing more food (Dogliotti et al., 2014). Every
                                                                            country is co-dependent to a greater or lesser degree
Taking the food systems’ view, the challenge is                             on local production and global trade. In addition to
to provide the world’s growing population with a                            production and trade flows, knowledge and science
sufficient, sustainable, secure supply of safe, nutritious                  information flows are of growing importance.
and affordable high-quality food using less land with                       Understanding this interconnectedness between local

  Taking into account also the consequences of land use change. In 2012 the EU-28 agricultural activities directly generated carbon dioxide
equivalent to about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from 2.5% for Malta to 31% for Ireland (data published July 2015 on http://
ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Greenhouse_gas_emissions,_by_country,_2012.png). The energy required to ensure food
supply in the EU amounted to about one-quarter of the EU’s energy consumption (in 2013; Monforti-Ferranto and Pascua, 2015). The share of
renewable energy in the food sector is relatively small (7%) compared with its part in the overall energy mix (15%).
  The term ‘overconsumption’ has been used in a variety of ways in research and there is further need to generate a clear and consistent definition
(Hakansson, 2014).
  Relevant science can be defined as ‘the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a
systematic methodology based on evidence’ (www.sciencecouncil.org).
  The work of Haddad and co-authors draws on a major recent study by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, Food
systems and diets: facing the challenges of the 21st century, available at http://www.glopan.org/foresight.

6  | December 2017 | Food and nutrition security and agriculture                                                                           EASAC
and global systems directs attention to a wide range of                   political decision-makers that requires more investment
issues for trade networks, land use, climate change and                   and better allocation, better data and sharing good
the health–nutrition–sustainability relationships. The                    practice to tackle malnutrition in all its forms.
necessary actions will require implementation of diverse
policy initiatives and transition to a new economic                       1.4 Obesity
system in which a central issue is the internalising of
                                                                          At the same time as billions suffer food deficiencies
current externalities, for example allocating economic
                                                                          because of lack of calories and nutrients, significant
value to environmental impacts of food systems (Ehrlich
                                                                          numbers worldwide are overweight or obese and,
and Harte, 2015).
                                                                          again, this is often associated with low income.
                                                                          Lifestyles and excess consumption of food or over-
As part of the wider considerations for local–global
                                                                          reliance on energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods
interconnectedness in food systems, the effects on
                                                                          increases personal health burdens and public health
food production must be achieved with less impact on
                                                                          impacts, being a risk factor, for example, for the non-
the environment (German et al., 2016): sustainable
                                                                          communicable diseases (NCDs), diabetes, heart disease
intensification to enhance the efficiency of inputs and
                                                                          and cancer. Overconsumption of calories can co-exist
land use. Which mechanisms are chosen for delivering
                                                                          with malnutrition in terms of essential micronutrients.
sustainable intensification has numerous implications:
for example, for biodiversity and ecosystem services,
                                                                          A study of body mass index trends between 1975 and
relationship to nutritional quality and animal welfare
                                                                          2014 confirmed that there are now more obese than
(Godfray and Garnett, 2014). Throughout the present
                                                                          underweight people in the world (NCD Risk Factor
report, environmental issues will be discussed in relation
                                                                          Collaboration, 2016). However, the respective public
to agriculture, with regard to climate change, use of
                                                                          health burdens of overweight and hunger/micronutrient
water and energy, soil health, opportunities for reducing
                                                                          deficiencies should not be quantified only in terms of
waste and for introducing precision agriculture. It is
                                                                          numbers affected, and it is necessary to explore in much
vitally important to take this integrated view to tackle
                                                                          more detail the relative effects on morbidity, longevity,
cross-cutting issues and identify opportunities for cross-
                                                                          lifetime social costs and inter-generational aspects.
disciplinarity without losing the essential science focus.
                                                                          The problems are also not equivalent in the sense that
                                                                          there is less robust scientific evidence for interventions
The links between food and nutrition security and
                                                                          to tackle obesity (Aveyard et al., 2016) compared with
sustainable development are embedded in the SDGs7
                                                                          the body of knowledge on how to tackle hunger and
with a necessarily close relationship between different
                                                                          micronutrient deficiencies.
SDGs in support of food and nutrition security8. SDG2
(end hunger, achieve food security and improved
                                                                          Although it is critically important not to concentrate
nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture) is
                                                                          attention on obesity at the expense of the continuing
closely connected with SDG1 (poverty alleviation),
                                                                          recognition of the substantial burden of undernutrition
SDG3 (ensure healthy lives), SDG5 (gender equality),
                                                                          in an unequal world (Smith, 2016), the marked rise in
SDG6 (water), SDG7 (energy), SDG 12 (sustainable
                                                                          obesity in the EU is a significant challenge to the public
consumption and production), SDG13 (climate change)
                                                                          health research and policy agenda. The latest data from
and SDG15 (land use and management). When building
                                                                          Eurostat10 indicate that 16% of the EU population are
on this close connectivity, there is more to do to ensure
                                                                          obese (body mass index greater than 30), with national
that the focus on nutrition is well integrated in pursuit
                                                                          figures ranging from Romania (9%) and Italy (11%) to
of the SDGs, with specific, quantifiable targets (Anon,
                                                                          Hungary (21%), Latvia (21%) and Malta (26%). Slightly
2014). It is essential for food and nutrition security
                                                                          more than half of EU adults (52%) are considered
policy at the regional and global levels to be integrated
                                                                          overweight. EU food strategy has, hitherto, given
across areas in a multi-sectoral approach and for
                                                                          relatively little attention to obesity, and this needs to
there to be policy integration at the different levels of
                                                                          be reformed as part of the construction of an EU food
governance within and between countries (Holzapfel
and James, 2016). The Global Nutrition Report (2016)9
provides comprehensive analysis of the critical issues at                 The over-abundance of calorie-dense foods and less
the country and region levels, with a call to action for                  access (through price) to nutrient-dense foods is a major

   For example, as discussed in the report by IFPRI (2016), describing how food systems can contribute to meeting SDGs.
   For example, as discussed by the FAO in 2016, on http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5499e.pdf.
   The IFPRI Global Nutrition Report is funded by the Gates Foundation, European Commission, CGIAR and several individual national government
agencies: www.globalnutritionreport.org/the-report.
    Recent analysis of overconsumption at the Member State level recommends that interventions must be evaluated within a wider consumption
strategy that integrates biological, economic, physical and social drivers of overconsumption (“Overconsumption and influences on diet”, Global
Food Security Insight August 2016, on https://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/blog/eyeing-up-intake-an-insight-on-overconsumption-and-diet/).

EASAC                                                                           Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  7
issue for Europe. Overconsumption is a challenge for                       credibility of its member academies and to access their
the efficiency of land use as well as for health. Tackling                 combined scientific talent. Recent structural changes14
obesity and overweight has implications for the whole                      have resulted in a new integrated organisation by
of food systems, including agriculture, and for personal                   merging what was the InterAcademy Panel together
behaviour: for both policy development and the                             with the InterAcademy Medical Panel and InterAcademy
research agenda, as will be discussed subsequently.                        Council.

1.5 The situation on food and nutrition security                           Many national science academies have a tradition of
    in Europe                                                              responsibility in ensuring that the collective voice of
                                                                           science is heard in major policy debates. By engaging
The EU is also not immune from other concerns about                        with its four regional academy networks (for Africa, the
food and nutrition security, and food systems have                         Americas, Asia, and Europe), IAP now has the capacity
to become better integrated as a pillar of the EU’s                        to advise on the science dimensions of policy-making
bioeconomy. The proportion of EU households unable                         at the global level and across disciplines. Many member
to afford access to the minimum amount generally                           academies and the regional academy networks have
recommended in dietary guidelines has increased                            previously conducted their own studies in areas relevant
since 2010, after having declined over the period                          to food and nutrition security. In November 2014, the
2005–2010, and reports from UK, Greek, Spanish and                         IAP Board and Executive Committee agreed that this
French charities indicate rises in the number of people                    was a vitally important topic with which to pioneer a
seeking emergency food support (Loopstra et al., 2015).                    new series of IAP projects.
However, the Global Hunger Index (IFPRI et al., 2016)
shows significant reductions in the hunger index for                       The IAP project will produce four regional reports
several eastern European countries over the period                         together with a global synthesis that highlights the
1992–2016.                                                                 similarities and differences between the regions,
                                                                           explores inter-regional issues, providing advice and
Further analysis of the broader issues in regional and                     recommendations for implementation at global,
country assessment for food and nutrition security                         regional and national levels, customised according to
across Europe can be found elsewhere12, and more                           local circumstances and strategic needs. Thus,
detail is also provided in section 3.1. It is pertinent to                 this IAP activity combines twin goals of delivering
emphasise that, because the EU imports much of its                         strong consensus messages at the global level, with
food and animal feed, it is vulnerable to anything that                    clarification of the scientific basis of current disparities
affects exports from the producing countries. Moreover,                    in policy expectations, objectives and options in the
the EU has a responsibility to ensure that measures                        different regions of the world. The IAP project was
taken to satisfy domestic food and nutrition security                      initiated with a meeting at the German National
objectives do not create additional problems for other                     Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in June 2015,
regions in terms of their use of land, water and other                     bringing together experts to advise where work
resources (for example, fertiliser (Nesme et al., 2016)).                  by IAP and its regional academy networks might add
Thus in terms of the local–global connectedness (section                   value to the considerable volume of work already
1.3) for producing a healthy, sustainable diet, it is
                                                                           conducted by many other scientists in seeking to inform
imperative to consider both the local issues for Europe                    policymakers. Collective discussion following this initial
and what European actions (in research, agriculture and                    step helped to develop a common, agreed template
other policy sectors) can do in global development. The                    to inform and guide all four regional Working Groups
interconnections between regions are complex. The                          (summarised in Box 1 with further details elaborated
contribution of food insecurity in triggering societal                     in Appendix 1). Necessary components of this shared
insecurity globally (Koren and Bagozzi, 2016) has                          template are to understand regional characteristics, to
multiple implications for the EU if civil unrest outside the               delineate the significant opportunities and challenges
EU then leads to increased migration to the EU13.                          where science can help to inform policy-making and
                                                                           serve as a resource for innovation, to address the
1.6 IAP and EASAC                                                          impact of the cross-cutting determinants of the various
The IAP is the global network of more than 130 science                     priorities, and to advise on how to mobilise scientific
academies aiming to harness the power, authority and                       resource.

   The Economist Intelligence Unit 2014, ‘Food security in focus: Europe 2014’ on http://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com; FAO regional office for Europe
(with a main focus on the Caucasus) on www.fao.org/3/a-i4649e.pdf. Eurostat statistics on the EU food chain, ‘Farm to fork’, from 2011, are on
   For example, drought in Syria may have helped to trigger the civil unrest and conflict that displaced populations (Kelley et al., 2015) and
promoted migration to the EU.

8  | December 2017 | Food and nutrition security and agriculture                                                                           EASAC
Box 1 Summary of IAP template questions

  1.   What are key elements to cover in describing national/regional characteristics for food and nutrition security and agriculture (FNSA)?
  2.   What are major challenges/opportunities for FNSA and future projections for the region?
  3.   What are strengths and weaknesses of science and technology at national/regional level?
  4.   What are the prospects for innovation to improve agriculture, at the farm scale?
  5.   What are the prospects for increasing efficiency of food systems?
  6.   What are the public health and nutrition issues with regard to impact of dietary change on food demand and health?
  7.   What is the competition for arable land use?
  8.   What are other major environmental issues associated with FNSA, at the landscape scale?
  9.   What may be the impact of national/regional regulatory frameworks and other sectoral–inter-sectoral public policies on FNSA?
 10.   What are some of the implications for inter-regional/global levels?

 See Appendix 1 for further details.

EASAC is formed by the national science academies of                          (including the objectives of enhanced cooperation and
the EU Member States, and its Council is composed                             reduction of unnecessary competition), in building an
of experienced scientists nominated one each by the                           enduring scientific capacity to deliver, in engaging with
EU national science academies, by Academia Europaea                           other national and international organisations, and in
and by ALLEA (ALL European Academies, the European                            assessing of inter-country and inter-regional issues.
Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities).
The national science academies of Norway and                                  We recognise, of course, that there may be considerable
Switzerland are also represented. Functioning as the                          diversity in agriculture and food systems across Europe
European arm of the IAP project, EASAC in this report                         and that country-specific approaches are often vitally
represents all of Europe, not only the EU countries.                          important. Our report does not provide a country-by-
                                                                              country analysis of the situation for food and nutrition
EASAC has significant previous experience in working                          security in Europe because the statistics and assessment
on areas relevant to the present project and some of                          are available elsewhere (Box 2 and see also footnote
our work is briefly summarised in Appendix 2. EASAC                           12). Other relevant analysis at the country level will be
constituted an expert Working Group formed from                               cited where appropriate throughout our report. Where
member academy nominations and other invited experts                          there is diversity within a country or across a region, we
(Appendix 3) to identify and clarify the critical issues for                  note the importance of devising frameworks to learn
Europe within the overall project defined by IAP.                             from that diversity.

1.7 Objectives and scope of this EASAC report                                 There is much still to be done to fill knowledge gaps.
                                                                              What is a diverse, sustainable and nutritious diet?
EASAC key messages and recommendations in this                                How do individuals respond to nutrients and what
report are aimed at EU and national policymakers,                             drives nutrition behaviour? How can food waste, and
member academies, others in the science community                             concomitant waste of natural resources, be reduced?
and other stakeholders. We also continue to engage                            How can changes in consumer demand, particularly
with colleagues in the other regional networks to share                       to reduce overconsumption, be incentivised? How can
evidence, key issues and evaluation. Our ambitions are                        climate resilience be fostered? How should land and
to explore and clarify where there is consensus on key                        marine resources be best utilised to avoid the negative
questions and to advise where further assessment of the                       effects of agriculture on the environment? How could
issues is required with particular regard to (1) facilitating                 yields be increased and what role should the biosciences
the translation of scientific advances into applications                      play? And how do we connect these questions towards
for societal benefit and into informing the choice of                         achieving sustainable healthy diets for all? Research and
policy options; (2) identifying where there are particular                    innovation have already contributed very significantly
scientific opportunities for inter- and trans-disciplinary                    to food and nutrition security but it is important to be
research throughout food systems, building on the                             more ambitious in identifying and using the scientific
strengths in individual disciplines; and (3) emphasising                      opportunities.
that what happens in the EU often has significant
international ramifications. We highlight the importance                      Our starting point is that the research and innovation
of basic research in helping to characterise new                              capabilities of the EU can do much to answer some
frontiers in science and of the long-term commitment                          of these questions, with resultant global as well as EU
to research that is often required (for example, to assess                    impact. But this will only happen if it is appreciated
new crops or other innovation). We also acknowledge                           that capitalising on scientific opportunity is something
and discuss the continuing roles of academies: in                             that should pervade EU policy widely and not just a
clarifying and auditing the achievements of research                          matter for those involved in funding and prioritising

EASAC                                                                               Food and nutrition security and agriculture | December 2017 |  9
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