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In the first decade of the 21st century, challenges for the global food supply have never been so complex. Between now and 2050, growth in global population and changing diets in emerging countries are projected to bring about a 70% increase in food demand. Simultaneously, depletion of fossil hydrocarbons will increase the demand for biomass to make biofuels and industrial materials, which may compete with land use for food production. At the same time, other essential natural resources are being depleted, and unmitigated climate change will influence the agenda.

Against this background, the EU Standing Committee on Agriculture Research (SCAR) decided to launch in 2010 the third phase of its foresight process. Originally initiated in 2006 and the foresight process was strongly encouraged by the informal meeting of the EU Council in Krems on 28-30 May 2006, where Ministers felt that it could provide the essential evidence-base to identify medium/long term priorities on which to strengthen agricultural research coordination efforts at EU level. In the last five years, the findings of the two previous foresight exercises (2006 and 2008) had a key role in identifying research areas where Member States should join efforts, namely through coordination platforms such as ERA-Nets and Collaborative Working Groups and, at a higher level, through the launching of two Joint Programming Initiatives namely "Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change" and "A Healthy Diet for a Health Life".

The important results of the previous foresight processes, and the challenges ahead which differ in complexity, duration, scale and speed from any faced before during human history, necessitated the need for a Third Foresight Exercise, which could update critical driving forces and focus on transition towards a sustainable agri-food sector in a resource-constrained world.
» Provide a long-term assessment and analysis of expected environmental and resource issues and their meaning for future agricultural research;
» Highlight the issues that must be addressed in ensuring a sustainable food supply in a world with resource constraints;
» Consider the role the Bioeconomy can play in addressing these challenges;
» Assemble the basis for a long-term vision of more resilient and sustainable agriculture systems for 2050.
Expert Group





Annette FREIBAUER (Chair)

Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Institute of Agricultural Climate Research


Erik MATHIJS (Rapporteur)

Catholic University of Leuven


Gianluca BRUNORI

University of Pisa – Department of Agronomy and Management of Agro-Ecosystem



ARC Fund's Innovation Programme



International Consultant



Agro-Food Technology and Research Institute, IRTA



Foresight and Strategy Development, TEAGASC


Sébastien TREYER

Directeur des programmes - Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales

The experts report “Sustainable food consumption and production in a resource-constrained world” gives a flavour of the risks and uncertainties expected in the near future. They highlight that the challenges ahead differ in their complexity, scale and speed to those we have faced in the past, pointing to a new level of change. The inter-connections between these combined challenges and the limited understanding of the various feedback loops linking them contribute to the uncertainty about future developments. There is growing evidence that these challenges are so large that a “business-as usual” approach is not an option but that transformative change is needed which will open up a window for innovation, for new ideas and new paradigms.

In order to make progress in making the transition to sustainable food consumption and production, it is crucial that we understand the new level of change, what this may mean for food production and consumption, and what needs to be done in preparation for the changes already visible on the horizon.

The views expressed and the conclusions drawn in this report will be used as input for the Conference.

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SCAR opinion
In this commentary the SCAR WG has extracted what it considers to be some of the more significant conclusions of the report and expresses opinions on the research and wider implications of these.

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