In 2002, an EU-hosted seminar asked the question: what is the status of organic food and farming (OF&F) research, and what can be done to improve transnational co-operation in the field? Two years later, scientists and policy-makers assembled a second time to review what, if any, progress has been made and to recommend areas for further co-operation. The findings and conclusions are available in a recently compiled report.
The aim of the seminar was to assess the overall state of OF&F research in Europe, and to provide recommendations for further cross-border research co-operation.
|Organic food and farming research to secure the safety and quality of the food Europeans eat|
The headline conclusions of the report on Organic Food and Farming Research in Europe show that some notable development has taken place in the two years since the first seminar, and that more trans-boundary co-operation can be observed between researchers.
“However, this increased co-operation appears to be mainly… in projects funded at European level,” the report continues. One example offered is the ERA-Net project ‘CORE Organic', which kicked off in October 2004, and the Integrated Project called ‘Quality Low Input Food', which started in 2003. Both are being funded under the Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for research.
Recommended dose of research
The report, which was presented and discussed at the seminar on 26 November, was the result of analyses of individual country reports prepared by national representatives, in collaboration with the Programme Committee members of the ‘Food quality and safety' FP6 thematic priority. Of the 32 countries contacted, the report states, 27 supplied a national report with answers to five pre-defined questions.
A few countries, for instance, reported treating OF&F as a high priority at the national level. Others wrote that they offer a full range of research programmes covering the whole production cycle. Some Member States said they carry out specialised research in this field, while others have significantly strengthened official recognition of organic farming and reported having recently regulated the sector at state level.
During the recent seminar, delegates agreed a set of recommendations – to be addressed to European funding agencies – for boosting transnational R&D co-operation in OF&F. Europe needs to improve its “technical innovation and methodological development”, including for example, application of genomics to facilitate plant and animal selection and breeding. It needs to develop appropriate tools to boost “rural development”, and to pay attention to the safety and quality of the whole food chain in view of its “impact on human and animal health”. Research should also “support policy” and provide the scientific basis for revising regulations across Europe.
Several supporting activities were also identified during the seminar as important in meeting the objectives. “Increased coordination” to build on synergies between stakeholders and “improved communication” between researchers, consumers and producers – to improve knowledge transfer and awareness – were emphasised. As, too, was the importance of encouraging a permanent network of “infrastructures”, both existing and new. Equally, “training and demonstration”, through common programmes, should be developed, the seminar concluded.