STOA Workshop ‘How to feed the world in 2050?’

STOA Workshop
‘How to feed the world in 2050?’
European Parliament Brussels,
4 December 2013
Chaired by Giovanni La Via, Vittorio Prodi, Kent Johansson
(MEP and STOA Panel Member)
Report by Stephen N. O’Sullivan,
STOA Trainee (*)
The global population is expected to reach 10 billion at some point between 2050 and 2100
according to UN projections. Together with climate change, this is a worrying evolution.
In order to assess options for feeding 10 billion people, within the European Parliament,
STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) launched a series of studies to find
answers to the following questions:
What role will Europe play in addressing the continued challenge of feeding a much
larger world population in the coming decades?
How will a more sustainable agriculture and food supply chain be created at the
same time?
The STOA studies on technology options for feeding 10 billion people are:
1. Interactions between climate change & agriculture and between biodiversity &
2. Plant breeding and innovative agriculture,
3. Options for sustainable food processing,
4. Options for cutting food waste,
5. Recycling agricultural, forestry & food wastes and residues for sustainable
bioenergy and biomaterials,
The findings of these studies were brought together in a synthesis report with ‘Options for
sustainable agriculture and food in Europe’ and it's summary.
STOA held a closing workshop on this project on 4 December 2013, entitled ‘How to feed the
world in 2050?’. This report gives an overview of the main elements raised by the speakers.
Rationale for the event:
Conclusion of the studies on Technology options for
feeding 10 billion people
The five studies recognise the strengths of the EU as a major food producer with diverse and
productive agricultural systems, a high level of skills and investment, major research
institutions and great potential for innovation over time. Together they identified some of
the key challenges that will confront Europe as it plays a part in a more robust global agrifood system. This role is not to increase production to fill a food deficit in poorer countries
but to establish a strong and sustainable resource base with greater capacity both to produce
and to conserve natural resources.
In the coming decades, the EU needs both to determine and then to demonstrate:
 How high yields can be maintained sustainably and even increased, while making full
use of knowledge intensive land management;
 How policy can be better arranged to incentivise and require farmers to reduce pollution
and pressure on natural resources, while increasing their provision of ecosystem services;
 How to make significant in-roads into reducing waste and harmful over-consumption,
and developing healthy diets, including the moderation of consumption of livestock
 How to reduce Europe’s global footprint in the realm of food supply, adjusting the
balance of domestic output according to a sustainability logic as well as changes in the
 How to align energy policy and the role of bioenergy in particular with the demands of
agricultural production and sustainable land use, utilising wastes and residues as a first
The chairs of the event
Giovanni LA VIA,
MEP, STOA Panel Member
Vittorio PRODI,
MEP, STOA Panel Member
MEP, STOA Panel Member
David Baldock
Europe's Role in Future Food Supplies:
a synthesis of five studies for STOA
The world's population is growing and estimated to
reach 10 billion by 2050.
This brings the world's food security into question.
The demand for animal products is increasing. These
are more demanding in total commodity production in energy terms and in terms of
their eco-footprint.
According to the FAO growing demand could require a 60% increase in food
production by 2050.
These growth patterns are segmented and unequal across the globe, with lack of access
to food due to poverty and lower incomes.
"To deal with hunger we must deal with poverty and lack of development and stimulate
food supply in some areas"
These issues of lack of food and hunger are currently most prominent in poorer regions
especially in Africa and Asia.
Currently there is no immediate necessity to increase overall EU production beyond
market opportunities.
But this may change in the future with the global decrease in food security due to rising
populations and increasing effects of climate change on agricultural systems.
The EU currently needs to begin the following processes to help ensure food security by
attaining sustainable intensification:
Actively conserve the EU’s own productive resources for food production,
including land, soil, water, skills, infrastructure, research capacity etc.
Strengthen the focus on resource efficiency in EU agriculture, including a
systematic effort to reduce the level of purchased inputs per unit of output.
Fostering innovation and the spread of best practice; take the opportunities to
reduce gaps between the top yielding and least efficient farms.
Reduce Europe’s overall demands on the world's food system, both of
agricultural inputs and of food itself; the challenges of reduced waste and
dietary change.
Align EU bioenergy policies with sustainability goals; aiming to reduce
pressure on limited land supplies, fully utilise wastes and residues.
Increase EU support for sustainable agricultural production in the developing
world, directly through aid and indirectly through trade, policies on climate
and energy etc.
It will be best to invest across the spectrum in terms of farming types, e.g. precision
agriculture, conservation agriculture, mixed crop-livestock farming, organic farming
and agroforestry.
Currently crop yields are high but there is potential for further increases through the
increased development of crop breeding.
These developments could maintain yields under more variable weather conditions
without increasing use of water and fertilizers, by increasing pest and disease
resistance, greater drought and salinity tolerance, increased efficiency of nitrogen use,
and enhanced nutritional qualities in certain crops.
While doing this we must endeavour to conserve crop genetic diversity and crop wild
Genetic modification and other technologies for introducing novel traits into crop
varieties have potential for success, but also have potential for negative impacts. This
means that public acceptance and regulatory issues are critical.
There are mixed potential impacts of climate change on EU agricultural production e.g.
water, soils, pests, and fire, with the greatest risk scenarios affecting southern parts of
In France, Greece, Italy, Portugal & Spain 80% of total water use is for
agriculture (European average 20%)
Agriculture’s share of EU GHG emissions is currently 10% and falling but will increase
by 2050.
Non CO2 emissions need to fall by 42-49% (from 1990) to 2050.
There is a large range of options to reduce emissions, especially in livestock farming;
some will need financial support.
Responses should revolve around productivity sustainability, mitigation and
"Europe needs more incentive schemes, such as agricultural environmental schemes for
farmers. Measures to stop unsustainable farming practices are also required. Europe has
some legislation to do this e.g. the Nitrates and Habitats Directives. But also targeted
innovation and research, as well as dissemination at farm level are required."
It is necessary to maintain high nature value agriculture in order to sustain Europe's
shrinking biodiversity e.g. honeybees and wild pollinators.
It is estimated that 138 million tonnes of food waste is produced every year in the
European Union.
There is also an opportunity to change dietary practices by 2050, as the European
Union's consumption of meat, dairy, eggs and fish is roughly double the world average.
Wastes and residues from the agriculture/forestry/food sectors are significant
resources not only for energy but for a range of materials, including biochemical, and
bio plastics. There is a growing industry emerging across Europe to fill this industrial
niche, the potential here is quite considerable.
The bio-economy is a question of policy because it is so dependent on the pattern of
subsidies and regulations that are set out by law makers.
Europe faces five challenges on its road to sustainable food security:
Maintaining and increasing yield sustainability, by using more knowledge
intensive approaches.
Implementing better policies in order to achieve environmental goals on
farmland that especially address the threats of climate change and biodiversity
Reducing waste and addressing consumption issues.
Diminish the EU’s global food eco-footprint.
Further development of our bioenergy
policy framework.
Charles Godfray
Sustainable intensification in
The reports emphasise that attention to
production is important but it is only part of
the overall picture.
It is impossible for a global population of 9-10
billion to eat the kind of diet that we are used
to in the rich world. Over the next three to four
decades we really have to come to terms with this fact.
The way by which we currently govern the global food system is not sufficient to
provide food security for the whole world.
"If we get the macroeconomics of food wrong we are going to see economic, political and
social disruption of the type we have not seen before."
Europe is a hothouse of innovation, both in the high-tech and low-tech sectors.
The engine that is science and technology in Europe has a massive amount to offer, not
only for agriculture in Europe, but throughout the world.
The history of the human race is that, up to now we have responded to increased
demand for food by bringing more land into agriculture.
There is no new land that we can bring into agriculture. The only lands left to bring into
agriculture are the rainforests and grasslands across the world.
"A production side response to the problems inevitably requires producing more food
from the same amount of land in a sustainable manner."
Sustainable intensification is a radical agenda that will change the way we are in
Europe: It is a goal not a trajectory.
We don't have the luxury of limiting ourselves to one particular green method, we must
utilise all concepts, while supporting rural communities by:
Increasing public money for public goods,
Unleashing the creativity of farmers and landowners to deliver different
ecosystem services in a multifunctional landscape,
Exploit the comparative advantages of different landscapes for different
Improving value for money.
José Lima Santos
How to encourage sustainable
farming (and food) systems?
How can we get enough food for more than 9
billion by 2050 without, biodiversity loss and
carbon emissions that would result from
expanding farmland?
The solution will be some form of
intensification that should result in more
output per hectare, in a sustainable manner.
We require technologies that deliver innovative solutions for sustainable farming (and
food) systems.
Policies that change priorities, choices and behaviours of all agents in the food chain:
Research institutions,
Input industries,
Food industries and retailers,
Sustainable intensification requires:
More targeted, precise and efficient input (information-technology, remotesensing based intensification).
Redesigned agro-ecosystems where internal ecosystem processes efficiently
substitute for industrial inputs (ecological-knowledge based intensification).
There are many tasks ahead for the European Union in the transition to sustainable
farming and behavioural change, these include:
Stopping desertification and adapting to climate change,
Controlling soil sealing by urban expansion,
Protecting ecosystem services that are relevant for food production,
Reducing the dependence of agro-ecosystems on fossil fuel by substituting
ecosystem services for industrial inputs,
Reducing other GHGs by agriculture and land use changes,
Increasing water use efficiency,
Increasing the efficiency of animal conversion of feed into food,
Reducing food waste from the field to the table,
Changing human diets.
Paulo Gouveia
Representing Copa-Cogeca
Some of the issues raised:
Demand of secure food supply for an
increasing world population and changing
food patterns.
Increasing production costs.
Speculation and price volatility for agricultural commodities.
Globalisation and trade liberalisation.
Biodiversity, environmental protection and other public services.
Climate change – adaptation to and mitigation.
Need for coherence of EU requirements aiming at the same purpose (e.g.
environmental protection).
In order to increase profitability while improving resource efficiency (e.g. efficient use
of water), promote carbon sequestration and reduce GHG emissions, productivity must
be encouraged in a sustainable way by :
Increasing competitiveness by promoting investments in rural areas,
Supporting growth (economic, social and environment) and employment,
Efficient use of resources (circular economy) and development of bio-based
products (e.g. growing market for bio-plastics)
Adapting farming practices, and maximising the use of existing farmers’
More research & innovation and better links between farmers, scientists and
Green growth is the best way to achieve greater food security, alleviate poverty and
improve the urban/rural balance.
Green growth can be seen as the driving force behind sustainable and multifunctional
European agriculture.
Need for a coherent and stable policy framework – market demand is influenced by
policy decisions.
Louise Fresco
Food in times of scarcity and
"Unfortunately we have a very mitigated and
ambivalent approach towards genetics in Europe. That
is partly because of a lack of understanding and partly
because of a fear of genetic modification. Let us not be
afraid of genetics, genetics are essential for the
agriculture of the future."
The generations after WWII are the first generations to see an abundance of food that
has never before been seen in human history.
A century ago half of the world was undernourished.
Life expectation has doubled.
Food production increased dramatically.
One in eight people today are hungry.
1.5 billion are overweight.
1 billion are malnourished.
1 billion have insufficient calories, minerals and vitamins at different stages of the year.
Can we design both technologies and policies that help us to preserve our resource base,
and the social ways of life while giving the credit to farmers who need the credit?
So few are responsible for feeding many and the number of food producers is declining.
Processed products are increasing.
The production of animal proteins is increasing.
Some insightful quotes:
"We here in Europe have lost our faith in technology and science. Public support for
improving technologies in the food chain as a whole is declining. Many people feel
that science is a danger, a risk that needs to be strongly regulated."
"We cannot afford to be negative about science."
"Today we live in a globalised world, and what we need is very much a global
understanding. There is no way in which we can feed Europe without importing food.
Even if we wanted to be self-sufficient we cannot, at least not with our current diets."
"Fundamentally I feel we are ill-prepared for the agriculture and food production of
the future."
"We should not be afraid of modern technology. What we need to look at is, what can
help us to improve food safety in the food chain, and what can help us to do new
things such as using new species like algae or insects."
Ben Langelaan
Technology options for
sustainable food processing
manufacturing sector is the Europe's largest
manufacturing sector in both terms of
There are seven major challenges for the
European food processing industry, out of
which come advantages and disadvantages.
Economic crisis: Decreasing disposable income, Limited investment capacity
Health and well-being: Ageing population; malnutrition; food and lifestyle
related diseases
Trust in food system: Food worries; estrangement; complexity/transparency
Industry weaknesses: Low innovation power; scattered SME’s; declining global
market share
Resource efficiency: Water and energy use; food loss and food waste; emissions
and losses
Raw materials availability: Price volatility; upcoming bio-economy; climate
"Sustainability as such is not a real driver for innovation in the food industry. So
we have to focus on technology options which increase the sustainability of the food
processing sector and also support the competitiveness of the European food
These include:
New and better food products,
Resource efficient manufacturing processes,
Integrated and transparent supply chains,
Enhanced innovation capacity,
Technology options for sustainable food processing
Short term: stimulate eco-efficient processing to create direct savings, e.g. through
operational excellence programmes, provision of benchmark data and advanced process
control strategies.
Further direct savings through implementation of more advanced technologies like
adaptive refrigeration, dry processing routes, food microsystems.
Largest impact: technologies that address the main inefficiencies in the food processing
sector: Food losses, suboptimal utilisation of by-products, unnecessary quality decay
within the supply chain,
Examples of such technologies:
Smart sensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that allow for
quality control over the entire supply chain,
Technologies for advanced product development (e.g. meat replacers),
Mild preservation and separation technologies,
Required: extension of the knowledge basis and easy access to pilot and demonstration
Toine Timmermans
Cutting food waste
"We should consider the other options like improved
production and looking at how to move towards having
more sustainable diets."
Public–private collaboration is the best way to
approach this complex societal issue with global food
& nutrition security as main driver.
With an improved awareness and social innovation
approach, we can in most cases at least reduce waste by 20-25%.
It is crucial to establish coherence in EU-policies (sustainable food consumption, food
safety, bioenergy, waste directive.
Prevention of consumer food waste should have highest priority in policy framework.
Solutions to improve the whole supply chain, based on a closed loop supply chain
paradigm have the highest improvement potential.
Sense of urgency is essential for real commitment!
Food Eco-footprint –
For the purposes of explaining what a
food eco-footprint is, and how an
individual can alter there's, a short
video was played for the audience at
the workshop. This video also went on to
be posted on YouTube and on the blog of
the newly formed Directorate General for
European Parliament Research Services
This short film was created in collaboration between the European Parliament's Audio
Visual Services and STOA, the Science and Technology Options Assessment section of
the newly formed European Parliament Research Services, with research assistance
from the European Parliament's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). It
describes how society is expanding its eco-foot print on the environment, by utilising
natural resources at an unsustainable level. The video does this by focusing on an
individual's food eco-footprint.
In its broadest sense an eco-footprint represents the amount of land and water it takes to
provide the resources required to sustain a person's consumption levels, and re-absorb
the associated waste.
One of the major societal contributions to our eco-footprint is our production and
consumption of food. Our food eco-footprint is the consequences of the food we eat,
and how it is produced and the rate by which it is consumed.
This also creates an interconnection between food consumption and climate change.
An increased knowledge of these issues allows for a more informed decision making
process, which has the possibility to help strengthen food security through the endorsement
of both sustainable producer and consumer
Maximillian Schroeder
Raising awareness of the food
eco-footprint in the European
"We are an institution that is very conscious of our
environmental foot print."
The European Parliament uses a traffic light
colour coding system to inform customers how
eco-friendly each dish is in terms of emissions from production, on a sliding scale from
red to orange to green, with green being the most eco-friendly.
Four million guests in the European Parliament per year.
Up to 12,000 guests per day in Brussels.
Raising awareness:
One off actions,
Cooperation with other services,
Price policy,
2014 - anti food waste year,
Actions with service providers include, benchmarking, purchasing policy, and
fine tuning of the production,
Joop Kleibeuker - FoodDrinkEurope
Retailers find it easier to source sustainable products
from farmers who have long term contracts:
These farmers are more willing to invest in
their production methods.
Tackling food waste is a key priority for
Waste food could be redirected into feeding people,
thereafter excess waste should be redirected to high
value industrial applications.
Optimise resource use,
Increasing uses for by-products not only as food, but as animal feed, fertilisers,
cosmetics, lubricants and pharmaceuticals, etc.
Launched joint campaign and a toolkit for tackling food waste along the food
Using the right amount and right kind of packaging,
Using eco-design tools to optimise the environmental performance of products
and packaging,
Cooperate with other stakeholders to prevent packaging waste through
promotion of re-use, recycling and recovery.
Improve environmental impacts of transport,
Collaboration with transport and distribution providers to improve efficiencies
in product sourcing, modal shifts, distribution networks, route planning and
vehicle choice,
Increase cooperation with transport and logistics operators to optimise loading
rates and increase back-hauling.
Consumers have significant impacts through their choices, household activities
and waste,
Envifood Protocol by the European Food Sustainable Consumption and
Production Round Table,
Work with stakeholders to avoid food waste at every stage of the value chain,
particularly by consumers.
Discussion & Closing remarks
It was emphasised by various speakers that food wastage is a phenomenon of the world in
which we live in today, a world with an abundance of cheap food; and that maybe the
pricing of natural resources could have an important influence in incentivising non-wastage
of food.
It was made clear that in order to reduce food waste, there needs to be further investment
somewhere along the food chain. In many cases the investments are carried out in the places
where the profits come from e.g. down-stream retail. The more apparent it becomes that the
benefits can be higher than the cost of food wastage, people are more likely to invest in
waste avoidance. It is increasingly becoming a factor of societal pressure that leads to these
investments, as the turning public opinion is leading to an increasing number of retailers
and organisations to begin to work on the issue.
Another sometimes rather emotional issue is genetic modification. This area could tie in
with the concept that we should not be afraid of technological advances, allowing us to open
our minds to the possibilities and future developments. A Member in the audience stated
that European producers could possibly be put at a disadvantage in relation to their level of
production and income. This is due to increasing competition from other external markets in
relation to genetically modified crop production. It was also emphasised in the debate that,
in future, we will require crops that are less dependent on water, herbicides and insecticides
due to climate change and herbicide and insecticide resilience.
The closing panel discussions and closing statements in the workshop showed a sense of
unified consensus amongst the speakers and the audience. Europe is at a crossroads with
two choices to make. We can either continue straight ahead along the path of business as
usual. Or we can take the road not taken, along which we can alter the human induced
effects on our world and look to a brighter future.
There was a consensus that we need to work collectively in order to become more resource
efficient in our production and consumption of food. At this current moment in time we do
not need to begin increasing European production drastically. However, we need to
increase resource efficiency. This area is a knowledge intensive field of study, within which
everybody throughout the food chain needs to be well informed, in order to optimise
utilisation of current and future dwindled resources. It is clear that some foods are produced
with certain benefits and certain disadvantages, e.g. cheap for the consumer but intensive on
In his final address, David Baldock summed up that action was identified at three different
1. The high-tech level - "Don't be frightened of technology".
2. The social level - "Sustainability is not an agenda for a lab. There has to be a very strong
communication and dissemination policy put in place through improved legislation".
3. Working with eco-systems - "This is going to have to be a key factor in how future systems
Louise O. Fresco summed up by making the point that
"science and technology are at least the basics for progress,
and they will make our progress possible. They are needed
to continue to make our progress possible in the future."
(*)About the Author
Stephen N O'Sullivan is a STOA trainee who has obtained a Master’s degree in European Development
Studies, for which he completed his dissertation on renewable energy policy and has worked as a renewable
energy policy advisor to an Irish Senator. He also carried out the research and wrote the script for and was
heavily involved in the creation of the video 'Food Eco-foot Prints' that has been shown at this event entitled
‘How to feed the world in 2050?’, and contributed a paper on food eco-footprints to the events participants