Next steps towards a Food Research Area
28 January 2016, Brussels
Carlos Moedas - Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
Check Against Delivery

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure many of you have places to be and trains to catch, so just this once, I will try my best to be brief.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate Commissioner Hogan and his colleagues for taking research and innovation so seriously in their work. I was recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The draft paper prepared by DG AGRI for this conference includes many of the areas we discussed there in relation to the 4th industrial revolution. I've also heard a lot of interesting things about the discussions you've had here since Tuesday. So not only are we like-minded, we share the same enthusiasm for supporting European agriculture.

Last year, Commissioner Hogan and I were at EXPO Milano to discuss research and agriculture for food security. It was there that I met Mark O'Dowd, a 16-year-old school pupil from Ireland, and presented him with his EU Young Scientist Prize. All of you here will be aware of the challenges to agriculture and, in particular, food security in Europe and the world. I know you have talked about many of them in detail over these past few days. Still, Mark filled me with optimism for the future. Optimism that these are challenges we can overcome. Mark's idea was intriguing. His project demonstrated that crop yields can be increased by perforating seeds. I hope his prize will encourage him to take his research career further and I hope it will inspire others to do the same.

The truth is, wonderful things are happening in Europe. Our young people grow up to value the state of the environment around them, but, more than that, they concern themselves with the environment of others too and they are ready to take action now and not tomorrow. So it is up to us do our part.

Commissioner Hogan and I have committed to setting up a Food Research Area. It is time for politicians, the scientific community and the food industry to share the same vision as our young people. We can achieve so much more together. By World Food Day 2016 (Sunday 16 October), the European Commission will launch a research and innovation agenda for food and nutrition security. This will lead to a Food Research Area by 2020, created by both the EU and its global food and nutrition security partners. So, in the lead up to World Food Day, we will be holding a number of events and workshops. This will end in a launch event for the new agenda on 12 October 2016.

We hope you will join us again at these events. I don't want your discussions to end here. I'd like you to part of this journey. There is still a lot to be considered and I hope you will want to take part. Our aim is to prepare a coherent, cross-sector strategy for food and nutrition security. Coherence in terms of programme alignment, the leveraging of funds and access to data. We want everyone to be part of its creation and we want it to have a measurable impact on nutrition, sustainability and economic growth.

As we come to a close today, the results of this conference will help us refine our strategic approach to EU agricultural research and innovation and your input will bring us closer to realising a Food Research Area that is fit for purpose and meets the needs of society. I know we are all committed to turning our words into meaningful actions.

The good news is that EU-funded projects are already enabling amazing research, from making biodegradable plastics from crop waste for food packaging, to using plant DNA to identify crop species that could thrive in drought and high temperatures. Europe has the talent and the science to achieve anything we set our minds to. Now we simply need the willingness to do so.

Thomas Jefferson once said to George Washington, "Agriculture […] is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness." This sounds a bit old fashioned now, but his words remind us that agriculture will always play an important role in a healthy and happy society.

Later, Eisenhower pointed out that, "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." His words are a warning to policymakers. We cannot make policies on agriculture without involving the agricultural community. I think that now extends to the research and innovation community also.

Ultimately, what we want to achieve is cooperation, openness and coordination, but we only accept change when we feel our voices have been heard. So I want you to make sure that our pencils here, lead to better farms out there! Finally, on behalf of Commissioner Hogan and I, allow me to bring this conference to a close. Thank you for joining us. Have a safe trip home. We hope to see you soon!