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This spring the European Union launched a special consultation project dedicated to exploring the potential of science and innovation in ensuring a safe, sufficient, nutritious and sustainable food not only in Europe, but all over the world. This topic is closely related to the theme of this year’s Universal Exhibition called Expo Milano 2015 with its main theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’. The exhibition is said to move beyond culture and stimulate a political and economic debate on global food sustainability and security.

Among the people responsible for the consultation project are Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, who is also responsible for the Joint Research Center and Franz Fischler, Chairman of the Expo 2015 EU Scientific Steering Committee.

Presenting their paper, Commissioner Navracsics pointed to the importance of this year’s Expo in helping the general topic of food sustainability be recognized by the public: “The European Union has a vital role to play in tackling the challenges associated with food and nutrition security and sustainability. Expo 2015 offers us a great opportunity to showcase what the EU is already doing in this field,” he said.

Here’s an overview of the Expo Milano 2015 theme and a survey of recent European ventures directed towards ensuring global safety and sustainability in food production.

Expo Milano 2015 and Sustainability

Expo Milano 2015 with its central theme of ‘Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life’ will be taking place in Milan from 1 May to 31 October 2015, with more than 145 countries and organizations participating. The event is said to attract at least 20 million visitors. It will explore the very broad connection between nourishment and sustainability, as well as to the right of people to a fair amount of safe and healthy food.

By bringing together governments, institutions, NGOs and individuals to engage in a debate on the themes relating to food and sustainable development, the Expo aims to fulfill its central mission – which is to seek and share more sustainable models of both production and consumption of food all over the world.

Some of the most important topics presented at the event are: the balance between natural resources and the production of food and energy, the problem of food security, the issue of protection of biodiversity in nature and on the farm.

All those subjects appear in conjunction with proposals for technological innovation, the idea of multidisciplinary vision, the importance of cooperation, as well as the connection between the expertise, skill, information and education about food.

The Role of Expo Milano 2015 in the Global Food Sustainability Debate

The organizers of the Expo are certain that this comprehensive 6-month event will play a vital role in stimulating the conversation about how we produce food and what technologies we could apply to make it safer, more nutritious and, most importantly, more sustainable.

I hope it will also breathe new life into our efforts and further foster international collaboration. I commend the work of the Joint Research Center and look forward to working on these issues closely with my colleagues, in particular my fellow Commissioners in charge of agriculture, health, research, environment and development,” said Commissioner Navracsics about the efforts of the Joint Research Center at the Expo.

Chairman Franz Fischler emphasized the role of scientific inquiry in global demand for sustainably-produced food: “I believe that science and innovation are crucial if we are to guarantee access to safe and nutritious food for all, produced in a sustainable way. We have worked hard to ensure that Expo 2015 has a strong scientific dimension. I hope that the consultation and the discussion paper will steer a global debate.”

Expo Milano 2015 will be a large piece of the food debate puzzle, which will focus on the areas where the research efforts of the European Union can have the strongest impact – improving public health through nutrition, increasing food safety and quality, reducing food loss and waste, making rural development more sustainable, increasing agricultural yields through sustainable intensification, as well as potential strategies for a better understanding of food markets and increasing access to food for people around the world.

The European Union and Food Research

Needless to say, the EU is a key player in different themes connected to the Expo – it’s the world’s largest food exporter and second largest importer, but at the same time the most significant development and humanitarian donor.

The Expo itself coincides with the move of its Development Goals – from the “Millennium” to the “Sustainable”, as well as the European Year for Development, and the International Year of Soils. All in all, the Expo will provide the EU with an occasion to take an important step forward and bringing in the public to make conscious choices and question the models of food production and consumption, which dominate in developed countries.

One of the most effective tools for a sustainable growth in agricultural production is agricultural research and development. Last year, the EU launched Horizon 2020, a €80 billion research funding program for 2014-2020.

The EU is further planning to invest more than €3.8 billion in research and innovation actions that address a number of our society’s most significant challenges like food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research or the topic of bioeconomy.

The area of food safety is an equally important goal in the EU’s policies, which are set to provide the highest food safety standards in the world and are underpinned by quality science and risk assessment studies. Nutrition is a major influence on human health and that’s why the European Commission also set itself a policy objective of promoting a healthy diet to the European society.

The Joint Research Center, the organization which is in charge of organizing the EU’s participation at the Expo, is basically the European Commission’s in-house science service. It actually boasts a long standing track record in food safety and security research, including its environmental aspects that are directly related to the core subject of sustainable growth.

The results of the consultation will be published on 15 October, half a month until the end of Expo Milano 2015 and ahead of World Food Day. The consultation’s will provide a major contribution to the EU’s legacy for Expo 2015 by complementing the scientific program at the EU’s Expo Pavillion, which is set to bring together experts and decision makers from around the world and help them understand the best practices for sustainable food production and innovation development.

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EurActiv Network