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Ladies and gentlemen,

I start with the old news - the earth's projected population growth and the associated need for more food have been widely documented.

9 billion people will inhabit this world by 2050 and demand for food is expected to increase by 60%. These are astronomical figures whose economic and social impact can be drammatic.

Increased competition for dwindling natural resources means that we have to do more with less – across a whole range of sectors and industries.

Food security and effective natural resource management are absolutely crucial if we are to avoid deeper poverty, greater hunger and potentially severe environmental impacts.

In this context, the mission of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed – to be part of the solution to the immense challenges facing our planet – is a particularly valuable and forward-looking one. And I am genuinely delighted to have the opportunity to be part of this discussion today.

Several years ago, the Commission began work in this area in order to harbour this new industry within our legal framework on food safety.

The driving forces behind this approach, and the increased focus on insects, are

  • the need for sustainable, high-value animal protein,

  • actions in the context of the circular economy and

  • efforts to boost innovation, growth and new jobs.

It is fair to say that some major achievements have been reached in the last years, helping the European insect industry to position itself as a major global actor, thanks to strong clear rules.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk profile of insects as food and feed, published in October 2015, enabled us to revise our legal framework for insects and to authorise insect proteins in feed for all aquaculture animals since July of this year.

As a next step, we are working to authorise the use of insect proteins in feed for poultry. This is, however, conditioned on the availability of an operational laboratory control method. There are some significant technical challenges to overcome in this regard. However, 2019 is the optimistic target we are working towards.

An issue which I know is also important is the input part, meaning the way insects can be fed.

In this respect I want to remind a crucial principle, which remains essential if we want to guarantee the safety of the food chain and thus the reputation of your industry: authorised species of insects may only be fed with animal by-products already authorised for the feeding of other farmed animals.

At the same, in the context of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission is taking measures to clarify and - wherever possible - lift any barriers which prevent the safe use of food resources along the food and feed chain. For this reason, through the work of the European Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste we are about to finalise the guidelines on the use of "former foodstuffs" (such as unsold bread) as a possible resource for animal feed.

And in view to strengthen resource efficiency I am certainly interested in learning more today about your thoughts and which specific new substrate as feed for insects would be most promising.

I believe that we have important innovative avenues to explore, always on the condition that we do not compromise food and feed safety or human and animal health. For this reason the preliminary EFSA risk assessment remains essential before we take further steps in this direction.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me now touch briefly on what is probably the most challenging and innovative part of your job, insects as novel foods.

As you certainly know, the EU's new Novel Food Regulation will be applicable from 1 January 2018 and we are now progressing on the finalisation of the implementing measures.

The new Regulation increases the efficiency of the authorisation procedure, enables quicker delivery of safe, innovative food to market and removes unnecessary barriers to trade, whilst ensuring a high level of food safety.

It creates a centralised authorisation system, based on the risk assessment conducted by EFSA, which will grant greater certainty to applicants seeking an authorisation for novel food thus simplifying and speeding up the authorisation process.

Most importantly to the insect sector, the new Novel Food Regulation clarifies that whole insects are novel foods and can be authorised across the EU if considered safe. This is in addition to ingredients from insects that are already considered novel food.

In addition, whole insects already on the market in some Member States can remain on the market after 1 January 2019 on the condition that an application for authorisation has been submitted before that date.

While leaving the technical details of this framework to the intervention of my colleague, Director Sabine Jülicher, I would like to close my intervention with a request and a promise.

The request is for a strong commitment to the European food safety rules. You represent a very promising and young industry. The EU food safety rules are here to help you building a strong reputation based on reliability, safety and quality. Please make sure that all your members understand the importance of these rules and abide to them, as any wrong shortcut could have fatal reputational consequences for such an innovative sector.

The promise is about my full support for the safe production and use of insect products as feed and food. I strongly believe in science and innovation and I am convinced that if we want to meet the challenges our planet and our societies are facing, we need a diversified and sustainable food chain. I am deeply convinced that this industry can make a significant contribution both now and in the future and that you are part of the solution.

Food security and sustainable food systems are key priorities for the Commission – and I look forward to working closely with you towards these goals. Your input and expertise will help to inform our policies.

I wish you a fruitful conference. Thank you.