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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Measurements & testing projects > Food Safety: European projects on display in Gembloux
Graphic element Food Safety: European projects on display in Gembloux
    22-10-2001
 

On 11 October 2001, Research Commissioner Busquin toured industrial and academic facilities in the heart of the high-tech agricultural centre of southern Belgium. Also on hand were representatives of the local and national agro-food industry, academic institutions and journalists. The day included presentations on topical food-related research, including three EU-funded projects. In the wake of high-profile incidents such as the BSE and dioxin crises, the STRATFEED, MEDEO and SPELT projects, ranging in scope from the detection of animal tissue and the replacement of bone meal in feedingstuffs to the detection of adulteration of cooking oils, are critically important both in the establishment of higher food safety standards and in reassuring the public as to the quality of European foods.

'The fruit of our labours: the Commissioner with Mr R. Biston, Director of the ARCG'
'The fruit of our labours: the Commissioner with Mr R. Biston, Director of the ARCG'
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Speaking to a large audience including students at the Agricultural University of Gembloux, Mr Busquin said, "Since the Second World War, European agriculture has become increasingly competitive, sophisticated and specialised. Today, agriculture represents an annual production of €220 billion at Community level, and provides 7.5 million jobs, while agro-food activities represent €600 billion and are the third largest source of industrial employment with 2.6 million jobs. More and more, however, our agricultural practices are being re-examined, given the obvious and importance concerns about quality, consumer safety, ethical practices and the ecology. It is up to us therefore not only to continue our research but to optimise it to meet these difficult challenges."

Quality and safety: a closer look
 

The day began at the Crealys Science Park in Gembloux where much of the work initiated at nearby academic facilities is further developed for industrial application. The Commissioner and selected guests got a first-hand look at a number of ongoing projects aimed at improving food quality in the agro-food and bio-industrial fields. From there, the group was shown to the nearby Agricultural Research Centre of Gembloux (ARCG) where a number of ongoing quality- and safety-related projects were presented. Among them were MEDEO (cordis site) and STRATFEED (cordis site), two European-funded projects.
"With the MEDEO project, we are developing techniques for detecting hazelnut oil in fraudulently labelled olive oil," explained ARCG's Vincent Baeten. "Olive oil production is a basic source of income for around 2 million families in southern Europe, but uncontrolled adulteration is still a problem."
Meanwhile, in the wake of the BSE or 'mad cow' crisis, the STRATFEED project is looking at new tools and methods for detecting and quantifying meat and bone meal in feedingstuffs destined for ruminants. According to Pierre Dardenne, Head of the ARCG's Quality Department, "The project includes the establishment of a sample bank of animal-derived ingredients and feed samples, as well as new measuring techniques and new European databases."
Finally, another project known as SPELT is carrying out a comprehensive investigation of a minor but potentially very important traditional European crop known as spelt. This hulled cereal has shown great potential as high-protein meat a bone meal replacement for livestock feedingstuffs.
For more information on the MEDEO, STRATFEED and SPELT projects as well as other European-funded related projects, see the feature article on food fraud .

 
Agenda 2000: sustainable agriculture
 

"Until now, the lack of European investment in agricultural research compared to the United States and Japan has been aggravated by a lack of coherence among our research programmes," said Busquin. "Now, we are encouraging the development of more links through international co-operation among academic and industrial researchers, contributing to the foundation of the European Research Area ."
"In December 2000 at Versailles, the EURAGRI conference established three critical priorities for European agriculture. First, research must respond to societal needs, including transparency. Research and research results must be accessible to both agriculturists and the public at large. Second, agriculture must be multifunctional. That is, it must be competitive, environmentally responsible, and it must produce sufficient amounts of safe and affordable food. Thirdly and finally, the scientific basis of our agricultural research must be strong, especially in the biotechnologies."
"The application of biotechnology in agriculture in increasingly seen with suspicion among the general public," said Busquin. "The debate over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is a good example. I have recently launched a round table on the safety of GMOs to help in putting forward an objective and scientific point of view and to provide a forum for a permanent discussion of risks and benefits."

 
Forward: a New Framework Programme
 
'Exchange of ideas with a member of the Bioindustry Unit'
'Exchange of ideas with a member of the Bioindustry Unit'
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"The proposed New Framework Programme (2002-2006) has retained a number of opportunities for agricultural research," said Busquin. "in areas including 'food safety', 'genomics and biotechnology for health' and 'sustainable development and global change' as well as under 'support for the coherent development of policies' and 'anticipating the European Union's scientific and technological needs'."
In closing, the Commissioner stressed the challenges facing the agriculture sector. "The challenges are real," he said. "In the countries of the Union, our excellent agricultural research centres, institutions and enterprises have everything to win by coming together. The Commission wants to encourage this sort of common and co-operative action. Now is the time to set ourselves to the task of fruitful co-operation, removing old barriers on our way to a true European Research Area."

 
Quality and safety: a closer look
Agenda 2000: sustainable agriculture
Forward: a New Framework Programme
   

Key data

Research on food safety and the fight against adulteration are supported under the Measurements and testing generic activity of the Growth Programme.

Projects

MEDEO - Development and assessment of methods for the detection of adulteration of olive oil with hazlenut oil;
STRATFEED - Strategies and methods to detect and quantify mammalian tissues in feedingstuffs;
SPELT - A protein-rich cereal for animal feed and health foods.

     

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