Discussing new pathways towards resilient and sustainable food systems

December 5, 2023

The European Commission organised a 2-day conference in Brussels ‘FOOD 2030: Green and resilient FOOD Systems’ on the transformation of the European and global food systems to sustainability and resilience. The role of research and innovation policy is recognized as key to unravelling the complexities and catalyzing solutions. WUR Executive Board President Sjoukje Heimovaara provided her view on the role of science in societal transformation.

Sjoukje Heimovaara welcomed the statement on food systems at the COP28 Climate Summit; food systems need to be a major entry point for action to address the twin challenge of climate change and biodiversity. And there are plenty opportunities to do so, with solutions ranging from soil to seas, from citizen action to global conventions. A more sustainable terrestrial and aquatic food supply – diverse, inclusive, fair - is key to building resilience at all levels of European and global food systems and crucial to ensure Europe’s food security in future.

Beyond advancing discovery science, WUR is committed to finding answers together. Science has its role as knowledge broker, even science arbiter at times, and increasingly as a co-creator of solutions for systemic change. WUR researchers participate actively in processes of design, experimentation and scaling of innovation. Heimovaara welcomed the introduction of partnerships under Horizon Europe, as instruments for long term collaboration between funders and policy makers.

WUR actively supports the development of the new partnerships under Horizon Europe on food systems, animal health and animal welfare, agroecology and agricultural data and the Mission on soil health. Heimovaara gave a warning not to create new boundaries and silos, but to facilitate collaboration across the multiple domains within the scope of a food system approach and beyond, into other domains. Together with her co-panelist Philippe Mauguin, CEO of French research institute INRAe, she stressed the importance to connect with other European initiatives like partnerships and missions.

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Representatives from academia, business and policy from across Europe gathered in Brussels with the policy community from the European Commission to discuss the research and innovation pathways towards sustainable food systems. The urgency is evident. As the director for research and innovation on food systems of the European Commission indicated, there are seven harvests before we reach 2030. The Commission published a new report On the Food 2030 policy pointing out 11 pathways where research & innovation can deliver co-benefits related to nutrition, climate, circularityand communities, at multiple levels of governance, from the local to the international.The results from this gathering will contribute to new research agendas for future European Research Framework Programmes and will inspire policy development on food systems transformation in the European Union.