BRUSSELS – Food scientists and policymakers gathered here on 7 February to exchange ideas and best practices for protecting European society against a potentially deadly threat: biological attacks on the food chain. The meeting was organised under the auspices of the on-going Security Research project known as PlantFoodSec.
Due to long-established regulatory food health practices across Europe, consumers take the safety of the food they eat for granted. However, the possibilities of bio-security threats to Europe’s “farm-to-fork” food chain are less obvious, though just as serious. Whether it’s an inadvertent infiltration of dangerous bio-agents or the malevolent manipulation of food-chain processes, the result would have immediate and devastating impact on human health without proper food-chain surveillance, awareness and safeguard mechanisms in place.
This little-publicized threat area has been a focus of growing concern among scientists and policymakers. Indeed, ensuring Europe’s plant and food bio-security is all the more challenging because there is no common policy approach or set of best practices across the 27 EU nations to guard against such threats.
Enabling scientific ideas, research results and best practices to be compared and shared is imperative – and is precisely the focus of PlantFoodSec. Launched in February 2011 as a five-year project with EUR 4.6 million in EU funding, PlantFoodSec is structured as a Network of Excellence whose goal is to knit Europe’s bio-security community tightly together to support the circulation of the best and most effective fruits of research.
Today’s meeting brought together a wide range of researchers and officials from both sides of the Atlantic as well as from international organisations such as the UN to review the policy and scientific progress so far in this rapidly expanding field.
For more information about PlantFoodSec, see www.plantfoodsec.eu