Knowledge Based Bio-Economy

Transition towards sustainable food consumption and production in a resource constrained world (SCAR Foresight Conference)

Disseminate the findings and reflect upon the long-term research needs from the Foresight Expert Group (FEG3) report on recent and ongoing foresight studies to help in the analysis of expected environmental and resource issues impacting on long term food supply and the implications for future agricultural and related research in Europe.

SCAR conference in coordination with the Hungarian Presidency

Budapest 4-5 May 2011 | 16.02.2011

On 4-5 May 2011, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, in coordination with the Hungarian Presidency, will organise a major Conference in Budapest on "Transition towards sustainable food consumption and production in a resource constrained world"

This Conference is part of a wide foresight process initiated in 2006 by the EU Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) with the aim of identifying emerging and innovative solutions which would enable agriculture to cope with a range of complex and interlinked challenges, such as rapidly increasing globalisation, climate change and unsustainable consumption of natural resources.

In 2010, a Foresight Expert Group (FEG3) was appointed to undertake a review of recent and on-going foresight studies to help in the analysis of expected environmental and resource issues impacting on long-term food supply and the implications for future agricultural and related research in Europe.

The report from the group is currently under finalization and will be the main document of the conference, which is expected to bring together major European and worldwide actors/stakeholders from the fields of agriculture, food, forestry, aquaculture, rural development, consumer science/behaviour, economics, etc

Background Information

By 2050, growth in the global population and changing diets are projected to bring about a 70% increase in food demand. In parallel, depletion of fossil hydrocarbons will increase the demand for biofuels and industrial materials, which may compete with food for land and other resources. At the same time, natural resources are being depleted, the resilience of ecosystems is being challenged and climate change means we are facing a future very different to anything experienced in the past.

However, sustainable development considerations still remain under-represented in the policy-making process and we need to consider how this can be resolved so that resource consumption and pressures on the environment do not increase at rates which will eventually result in human and environmental catastrophes.

This is the background against which the European Commission, on the advice of the SCAR committee, appointed a Foresight Expert Group (FEG3)to undertake a review of recent and on-going foresight studies to help in the analysis of expected environmental and resource issues impacting on long-term food supply and the implications for future agricultural research in Europe.

The objectivesof the study were to:

  • 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.

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

  • To disseminate the findingsof the foresight report;
  • To contribute to build a common understanding of the major challenges aheadand the urgency to act;
  • To reach a consensus about possible transition pathways towards a sustainable food production and consumptionin a resource-constrained world as portrayed;
  • To reflect on the future needs and long-term orientationsfor research in the Bio-economy area.