On 16 October Pip Beard, the lead of the DEFEND consortium, attended the FOOD 2030 discussion meeting at the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Carlos De Castro, Vice Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and Co-ordinator of the Parliamentary Alliance on the Fight Against Hunger. The aim of the day was to raise awareness of the rising prevalence of hunger in humans across the globe, and to encourage cross-cutting research and innovation strategies to tackle this problem.
A number of speakers from the European Commission, FAO, World Food Programme and elsewhere highlighted the key drivers of the recent rise in hunger – climate change leading to more frequent and exaggerated environmental disasters, conflict and war (currently exemplified by the crisis in Yemen), economic slowdown, and an aging population. The challenge we face was emphasised by a number of speakers. By 2050 there will be a 60% increase in the amount of food required to feed the world.
John Bell, the Director for Bioeconomy, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, spoke of how food is central to everything – it influences politics, land, democracy, every part of our society. Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit of Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition, in the Directorate-General for International Co-operation and Development, reminded the audience of the recently published 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report, and how this forecasts the impact of climate change on food security. Professor Roberto Sonnino from Cardiff University highlighted the need for new and more multidisciplinary, innovative solutions to tackle the problem of an unstable and insecure food supply. She advocated bringing together four quadrants – universities, industry, governments and civic society – to deliver better food security strategies.
This multidisciplinary approach is embodied within the framework of DEFEND which comprises a range of consortium partners from academia, government and industry, and has an embedded multiactor panel, with stakeholder representation from a range of parties. DEFEND is using this approach to reduce the impact of emerging livestock diseases on food security by developing new tools for diagnosis, control and prevention, leading to improved disease control programmes.