There have been four SCAR (European Commission's Standing Committee on Agricultural Research) foresight reports since 2007 – looking at the challenges facing agriculture overall; resilience and crisis in agriculture and food systems; resource scarcities; and the bioeconomy. Each has led to new EU initiatives to address the issues raised.
This fifth report takes a somewhat broader view, reflecting the mounting urgency of our food, agriculture, environmental and health problems. The focal point: How to get to “a safe and just operating space” for society, through better management of natural resources and food systems? The report focuses on ways and develops recommendations for a research and innovation programme how to achieve three main transitions: 1) sustainable and healthy diets for all; 2) a circular bioeconomy; 3) diversifying agriculture and food systems. More knowledge and better policies in these three transitions will lead to a more resilient EU and global food system.
Sébastien Treyer is a member of the Fifth SCAR Foresight Exercise Expert Group.
(...) research and innovation can directly offer new ideas, technologies and strategies to achieve each of the three needed transitions. Digital technologies, biotech, social and behavioural studies, new financing and technical innovations: these are the normal, expected outcomes of major public research and innovation programmes, whether in Brussels, Berlin or Budapest – and the Commission’s well-advanced plans for Horizon Europe will go a long way towards achieving them. In the additional materials to this report, listed in the Appendix and accessible online, we present a long list of specific research topics that emerged through the foresight workshops. But we wish to highlight the need to raise our collective heads above subject specialisation, and coordinate research efforts better across the EU on cross-cutting themes – such as disaster preparedness, social innovation, digital transformation and agroecology. At the same time, we need more tools to convert our research into action: new publicprivate partnerships, networks, international alliances and other ways of connecting citizens, experts, policy makers and businesses across borders.
In the end, this entire report boils down to one word: resilience. Diversity, circularity, health, social justice – all, if properly managed, lead to a safer and fairer world that is less vulnerable to catastrophe. Research and innovation can point the way.