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A European Take on Food Security

Posted by Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics in Food and Nutrition Trade
Feb 21, 2017
U.S. Pavilion at ExpoMilano
The 35,000 square foot U.S. Pavilion at ExpoMilano includes a massive vertical farm that will be harvested daily (photo courtesy of U.S. State Department).

Just like America, Europe is trying to address the challenge of how to feed the 9 billion people who will populate the world by the year 2050. In fact, the theme of ExpoMilano2015 – the world’s fair being held in Milan, Italy, this year – is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” On May 1, the European Union kicked off the Expo with a series of meetings, lectures and discussions surrounding that theme, and I was invited to take part.

The agricultural sector in the EU must produce food for more than 500 million consumers. At the meeting I attended, discussion focused largely on what research priorities should be established to inform the EU’s centralized agricultural policy, specifically on how to achieve three goals:

  • Ensuring a reliable supply of healthy, affordable food
  • Making agriculture greener and more efficient
  • Revitalizing the countryside and its rural communities

I heard a lot of interest among attendees in potential solutions geared not only towards increased food production, but also towards reducing the vast current amount of food wastage in developed countries and food loss in developing countries. As is the case here, as much as 30 percent of the food produced in the EU is discarded uneaten at various stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption.  In the developing world, a similar amount of food is lost during production and storage to diseases and pests, rot and rodents.

People in the EU are also very interested in sustainability, with emphasis on research for sustainable intensification of agricultural production and climate change adaptation.  Other priorities focus on research for improving nutrition, food safety and quality, and reducing waste; and research on food markets, trade and equity in a globalized food system.  The EU is working towards finding common solutions to these issues with other international organizations, countries and private stakeholders. The dialog on the EU’s research priorities will continue during the 6 months’ life of the Expo, with numerous opportunities for public engagement. 

Of course, the U.S. has a large ongoing presence at ExpoMilano, which will run until Oct. 1. U.S. Special Representative for Global Food Security Nancy Stetson is also meeting with members of civil society, business, and academia in Milan to discuss the challenges of ensuring food security and nutrition in rural areas and - as urbanization increases - in cities. And an impressive U.S. Pavilion showcases the United States as an innovator in the food sector and in many aspects of culture, science and business. You can follow these activities on Twitter at @StateDeptGFS or on Facebook.

It’s going to take all of us to meet the challenges ahead.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition Trade

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Allen Warren
May 20, 2015

It has now been scientifically established beyond any shadow of a doubt that the meat of US horses is tainted by over 350 drugs banned by FDA for meat producing animals. A major step toward food safety will be to permanently ban equine slaughter in the US and the export of US horses for slaughter for human consumption abroad. Allowing this trade to continue is against every value of our country and makes us little more than food terrorists. Thank you.

William & Debra Tracy
May 20, 2015

To Whom it May Concern,

Horses going over the borders:

The U.S. Is knowingly exporting animals to be butchered for a food product scientifically proven to be a hazard to human health. This is against everything our country stands for & makes us food terrorists in my humble opinion!
Thank You for Listening ( I hope)

May 20, 2015

Permanently banning the slaughter and export of American horses for slaughter will be a major step toward ensuring food safety. Today the United States is knowingly exporting animals to be butchered for a food product scientifically proven to be a hazard to human health. American horses are not raised for food and many of the veterinary drugs used on these horses, such as Phenylbutazone, have been known to cause serious illnesses in humans.

Shawn Cline
May 20, 2015

Please permanently ban the slaughter and export of American horses for slaughter. It would be a major step in the global food safety direction. Today the United States is knowingly exports animals to be butchered for a food product scientifically proven to be a hazard to human health because of all the drugs American horses, who are not raised as food animals, receive. This is against everything our country stands for and makes us look like "food terrorists".

Stefanie Driver
May 20, 2015

Our American Horses are Not a Food Animal and should Not be allowed to be Exported to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for Food in other countries!!! Phenylbutazone, "BUTE" a very dangerous drug causing aplastic anemia and kidney damage in humans that has no withdrawal period (it builds up in the horse’s system) and is outright forbidden both in the US and Europe for use in any kind of meat-producing animal, yet the American government is still allowing the poisoning of Humans by allowing the Export of Horses across the boarder for Food Consumption.

Hollie Mooers
May 21, 2015

I think the US should completely ban the slaughter, and sale for slaughter, of US horses. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that US horses are not safe for human consumption given the unregulated use of medications known to be hazardous to humans. We don't feed ourselves horse meat in part, because it's not safe. To continue to allow our horses to be slaughtered and exported to other countries for THEM to eat is hypocritical and representative of a nation that cares only about itself and refuses to accept responsibility for the harm its actions cause to others.