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Future of Food Safety and Nutrition

Europe, and the world, face critical challenges to ensure food safety and nutrition in the decades to come. Every person in this room, every politician, every stakeholder should ask this question: How will the 9 billion people living on planet Earth in the year 2050 have access to a sufficient supply of safe nutritious food? The answer to this question is not an easy one. We have to consider that :

- The world's natural resources are being steadily depleted;
- The effects of climate change are yet to be fully felt;
- Already today 10% of the population faces chronic food insecurity, with 1 billion people suffering chronic hunger.

The European Union has a key role to play towards achieving the ultimate goal of food sustainability and we are committed to implement policies and legislation that support sustainable food systems, in close co-operation with the Member States and agri-food chain stakeholders, discussing together with citizens like today, on the best way forward

Over the past 50 years, Europe has built a solid record of delivering results. The EU food chain has delivered on many challenges – including food security, high food safety standards, improved animal welfare and more environmentally-friendly farming practices.

So as we look to the future, it is vital that we continue to strengthen food sustainability and one area that I have made a priority to achieve this goal is Food waste

Today we waste around one-third of total food produced for human consumption. The food that is wasted utilises 28% of the world's agricultural land, and enough water to fill Lake Geneva 3 times over.

The Commission is working on an ambitious and comprehensive proposal on the circular economy by the end of 2015. This proposal will include suggestions on food waste.

But we all have to take a conscious leap. We all have to take responsible actions and take care of food. Respect people who produce food by not throwing it away, not buying huge quantities and leaving them to rot in a fridge. And also we have to use a common sense, for example when you see a date "best before" on a bottle of water – that does not mean you need to throw it away next day. We have to explain more what the dates actually mean.

One final statistic on food waste which I find very thought provoking - minimising food waste by 30% would mean that in ten years food to the value of 300 billlion euros is not wasted.

I think we cannot speak about the food in the future without mentioning few things more - novel food, biotechnologies and future technologies –like the synthetic production of proteins and new plant breeding techniques. All these areas are being advanced at a great innovative speed. Novel food legislation is about to be agreed between Council and Parliament and it will open new opportunities for European food producers. The advances being done in the biotech field are huge scientific advances. Crops that can withstand drought, that give better yield, that enable better management of our shrinking rural territory, is a way that can help us in feeding the world's population.

We have to remain vigilant and continue with our safety measures, that are the most stringent in the world, to care about environment, but we can, and have to find the way of reconciling new technologies and our concerns. We need to take what's good about innovation and science in food production and put it at the service of society. Not for profit to the few, but as a way to address the challenges that are ahead of us, to feed more with less, to reconcile increased production with environmental concerns. Science is our ally in this fight and we should not be afraid of it!

As Commissioner responsible for Health I cannot ignore the intrinsic link between access to healthy nutritious food and longer and healthier lives. The EU food chain's multiple roles in ensuring the supply of high quality sufficient affordable safe and nutritious food must be governed by a modern, state-of-the-art legislative framework. This is very important for the future.

Various components of the EU regulatory framework have been reviewed over the recent years and this process is ongoing.

The seminal "General Food Law" dating from 1992 will be "fitness checked" to ensure that – the founding act of the "farm to fork" approach – is assessed and reviewed in the context of the evolving needs and emerging challenges of the modern food chain.

There are other areas the Commission provides value added such as guaranteeing the veracity of health claims and looking into the links between trans-fatty acids and increased health risks. We want the consumers to know what is in their food.and we are working hard, today, to ensure that the food we eat now and in the future is safe and nutritious.

The food chain is made up of a highly complex food production and consumption network. The challenges it presents go far beyond immediate food and feed safety concerns.

They involve the way food is produced, traded and delivered to consumers, along with managing health risks, and combatting fraudulent practices and, as well as protecting the health of animals and plants, animal welfare and, zootechnics.

It is a vast and complex operation, however, it is one that Europe is the best in the world at managing. When looking at 2050 we have to continue building on what we have today. We have to export our standards and practices and ensure that the rest of the world realises that our way is the way forward.

I say this also in the context of how we trade with our neighbours. Trade deals like TTIP are not about us diminishing our standards or Europeans eating more burgers. It is about us showcasing our standards as the way forward. It is about Europe selling more of its produce abroad, selling more parmeggiano cheese more European Wines and more European Meat. Let us believe in what we have achieved till now, let us believe in our products because they are, without doubt in my mind, the best in the world.

I have used my time here with you today to raise some issues. I have also pointed at some of the priorities which I intend to pursue during my mandate as Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

This conference on "Food Safety and Nutrition in 2050" marks another important step – providing a forum for dialogue among global stakeholders on the emerging challenges to the food chain and the role of future policy-making in addressing those challenges.

I am looking forward to the discussions that should help us develop a long term vision.

I hope this event sparks an open discussion and look forward to hearing your views on how we can best work together in pursuit of our shared goals in the face of emerging challenges.

by Vytenis Andriukaitis
31 august 2015, The Opinion > Editorial

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