Food Research, Innovation and Partnerships for the Green Deal – A summary of the EU Parliament roundtable
An open, continuous dialogue between science and policy is essential to advance the transition to sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems, which are at the heart of the European Green Deal. Food research & innovation are the driving forces of this transformative change, contributing to the development of new solutions and providing the evidence base for policy makers, who can then take informed decisions. Therefore, strengthening the bond between science and policy, supporting community building and mutual learning is critical to deliver on green ambitions. With this in mind, MicrobiomeSupport brought together EU-Policymakers and Top-Researchers to discuss food research & innovation and lawmaking developments – all at the example of the microbiome.
Scientific knowledge of microbiomes and their “green potential” has made its way to the greater public over the last years and some sectors are already benefiting from microbiome solutions, such as agriculture through the use of microbial biopesticides for crop protection. However, the novelty of the microbiome innovation sector still limits public awareness and produces concerns with regard to the safety of microbiome applications. But just as dialogue with the public must be maintained to educate about microbiome issues, there is also a need for policymakers to understand the practical implications of what they are voting on and to know whether microbiome innovations can deliver on the promise and potential that they hold. Hence, it is the job of scientists and those who work at the interface of science and policy to raise visibility on critical issues, address key policy priorities and provide decision makers with a sound evidence base.
The objective of this MicrobiomeSupport – EU Parliament meeting, which, incidentally, was the second encounter of the project with the EU Parliament (STOA workshop 2021), was to exchange on advances in microbiome research and innovation, legislative updates and provide space for a lively and fertile discussion on mutual needs and expectations. From a long-term perspective, it was intended to be the beginning of increased exchanges that help develop shared expertise and foster mutually beneficial relationships. The event took place virtually on 15 March 2022 and convened leading scientists in the microbiome field and members of the European Parliament and the European Commission. The event was hosted by MEP Elsi Katainen, Vice-Chair AGRI Committee, and moderated by Bettina Schelkle, European Food Information Council (EUFIC). Around 90 people followed the presentations and discussions online. The agenda was divided into two sessions, each consisting of presentations followed by a panel discussion.
A critical point that was raised repeatedly in the conversation was the adaptation of science to realpolitik events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which have raised serious concerns about food security all around the globe and, to some extend, shifted political priorities. In response to these crises and rising food prices, the EU Commission has announced a series of measures to support global food security and to ensure long-term self sufficiency for agricultural products in the EU. There was a broad consensus that microbiomes can help deliver on these objectives and increase the resilience of global food systems.