Feeding the planet: innovation and research to ensure the universal right of access to food
Day after day, the planet where we live is still discovering new connections, new needs, and new opportunities. It is a place where all kinds of distance are shortening more and more, and the demands of the global population intertwine and draw a common direction. This is one of the perspectives that can broadly and instantly outline the scenario where Expo 2015 took place. ‘Feeding the planet’ is the global most important challenge: a challenge that will mark ultimately the future equilibrium. Today, Food Security – the ability to provide each person with access to enough food to meet his or her food needs – is no longer just a matter of resource distribution between rich and poor countries, but goes beyond this boundary to become a structural global problem.
The trends of food supply and demand are unequivocal: agricultural production is not keeping up with demand. The increase in population, and the even more marked one in consumption, are boosting food requests at an impressive pace, while the availability of agricultural lands and their productivity are declining. The increase in per capita wealth and, consequently, in the purchasing power in some countries have risen dramatically. This has resulted not only in an increase in demand for food, but also in a radical change in our diets, which have become richer and more varied, within the phenomenon known as global convergence of dietary habits.
In 2050, we will be more than nine billion people inhabiting the planet, and we will need to augment agricultural production by 70% to meet the new demand for food. This has to be done in a more sustainable way than in the past.
Producing more, while polluting less: this goal appears extremely difficult to be achieved without a strong effort by the international community. At the same time, an equally decisive turn of public commitment to research and innovation is needed.
We are facing a paradigm shift: the long era of abundant and cheap food is over, and makes way for a new era of scarcity.
This change, which has not been fully evaluated yet, is putting a strain on the response capacity of the economic and political systems. Urgent actions, to be taken at international level, are required in order to win the challenge of food security. Expo 2015 has launched a major confrontation, devoted to identifying concrete actions to be promptly implemented. In the coming years, the role of research and innovation will be crucial in defining the appropriate policies to be globally developed and shared.
Europe’s participation to the universal exhibition did focus on these essential factors, through a transparent and open debate. It has been the occasion for comparing different and, sometimes, opposite opinions, yet united by the desire to achieve a lasting and accessible result; an occasion for freeing the debate on global food security from all those biases that, until today, have made it largely unfruitful.
Science is the main driver we have in steering our global policies in the near future, in order to win the huge challenge of not only food, but also energy and climate.
A unifying direction is crucial in order to provide the social, environmental and economic dimensions for a clear perspective and a defined plan for growth. This is fundamental to narrow the distances that create differences and imbalances, with the purpose of attaining a finally sustainable global perspective able to ensure the universal right of access to food.