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Climate change and concern about the sufficiency of food are a challenge for the entire food chain

Talk about over production has now changed to concern about the sufficiency of food. New food strategies are being worked on both in the EU and in Finland. The better use of biotechnology throughout the world is seen as having the potential to solve a future food shortage.

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Climate change and changes in the price of food are now the subject of debate throughout the world.  Talk about over production has now changed to concern about the sufficiency of food. New food strategies are being worked on both in the EU and in Finland. The better use of biotechnology throughout the world is seen as having the potential to solve a future food shortage. It is also time for there to be discussion in Finland about the use of biotechnology.

The closing seminar of Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA, Changing Food, on November 4 brought together influential actors in the food sector to discuss the necessary changes that can be employed to improve the effectiveness of the food chain and the sufficiency of food in the future.

Agriculture the largest beneficiary of biotechnology

The EU has lagged behind in exploiting biotechnology in the agricultural sector. The OECD predicts that agriculture will be the biggest beneficiary of biotechnology in future years.  The shortage of food in changing climate conditions as well as the changing demand and supply environment are seen as some of the greatest threats.
 
– This lagging behind stems from the fact that the EU’s adoption processes are more laborious and expensive for new crops developed with biotechnological methods than for the results of traditional improvement, said analyst David Sawaya on his presentation of the OECD report  The Bioeconomy to 2030; Designing a Policy Agenda, which has just been published.

In the OECD report, Sawaya brought together the future challenges in the application of biotechnology and the opportunities in agriculture. Genetic modification is one of the new opportunities created through advanced biotechnology, which is a road the EU has been reluctant to follow to date.

Anu Harkki, Executive Director of Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA, was involved in the steering committee of experts that was put together from OECD countries and which prepared the report. She demanded that a debate on the subject, based on open and accurate information, should be initiated in Finland as well.

– The utilisation of biotechnology should be analysed in a sensible but systematic way. It is especially important to give consumers high-quality information on various alternatives. We should have the courage in Finland to also talk about alternatives in cultivation: organic, traditional cultivation and biotechnology.  All the alternatives must be examined and exploited to make production more effective while using natural resources sensibly, said Harkki.

Safety and information are highlighted in the EU’s food strategy

A new food strategy is being prepared in the EU, which aims to ensure the sufficiency of food as the population increases. Ensuring food safety in all conditions is one important objective.

Meglena Kuneva, the EU’s Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, explained how the EU is trying to improve consumer safety. 

– The safety, availability and price of food are of the utmost importance to consumers. The effective operation of the food chain and retail markets must be guaranteed. The correct information on the quality of food should be guaranteed for consumers at the different stages of the food chain. We should understand how the markets operate, which issues are of concern to consumers – and why – and initiate debate on these questions.

Finland – a model of healthy nutrition A joint strategy on creating a model country in terms of nutrition was drawn up three years ago within the framework of the Food and Nutrition Programme ERA. Expertise in nutrition is still one of the strengths of the Finnish food sector. This can only be exploited if the availability of the key raw ingredients has been ensured. 

In addition to expertise in nutrition, the impact of the changes taking place in the operating environment on the sector’s competitiveness must also be understood. 

– Finland’s new food strategy should also consider the climate impact of food and making agricultural production more effective through the use of biotechnology, and of course the wishes of consumers should be listened to. It is essential to remember in everything we do that a small country can succeed by developing its special expertise through good cooperation, said Harkki of the lessons of the ERA programme.

Webcast of the seminar can be found in the internet on 4 November starting at 19.00

Web cast of the seminar »

More information

Anu Harkki, Director
Food and Nutrition Programme, Sitra
Tel. +358 9 6189 9458, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Seija Kurunmäki
Communications Consultant, Kuule Oy
Tel. +358  400 460 894, firstname.lastname@kuule.fi

David Sawaya
Policy Analyst, OECD
Tel. +33 (0) 1 45 24 95 92, firstname.lastname@oecd.org

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