Improving food safety through technological innovation and environmental sustainability

Improving food safety through technological innovation and environmental sustainability

Improving food safety through technological innovation and environmental sustainability

The European Commissioner for health and food safety, Vitenis Andriukaitis, took part in the 8th BCFN Forum, providing the European Union’s view on sustainable food systems and the biggest challenges facing the European agri-food sector, with a focus on technological innovation – the only effective method for combatting hunger.

Vitenis Andriukaitis trained as a heart surgeon, but in 2014 he became the European Commissioner for health and food safety (until 2019). Since being a signatory of Lithuania’s declaration of independence in 1990, he has chosen to pursue European politics to help shape the future of his young nation and that of all European citizens. One of the key goals he has set out to achieve during his mandate is to modernise and simplify the EU’s food safety policies while maintaining the current high-quality standards. In view of rapid global changes, Andriukaitis is also developing a “crisis plan” to help the EU cope with a food crisis or pandemic. A champion of technological innovation in agriculture – in his view the only tool able to overcome the challenges of the future and fight global hunger against a backdrop of climate change – Andriukaitis was a keynote speaker at the BCFN’s 8th Forum on Food and Nutrition, held in Milan on December 4 and 5.

Dr Andriukaitis, what practical measures can we put in place to guarantee food safety and fight hunger on a global level?

There is a book, called “Our Shrinking Planet”, written by a professor of demography at the University of Florence, Massimo Livi Bacci, which really struck me. The book states that within a single generation, the global population will increase by two and a half billion. The problem is that this growth will be unbalanced: while the populations of the richest countries will stall and grow older, the populations of the poorest countries will double and even triple in the most deprived areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where the younger generations will predominate. What are the implications of this unbalanced demographic development on the social stability of our countries, global migration, power relationships between our nations and, of course, the environment

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Answers to these questions need to come from European politicians like us, with the help of events like the BCFN Forum, where experts and stakeholders can meet to discuss problems and solutions. Unfortunately there are no simple responses or off-the-shelf solutions.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities, on a European level, in the food and agriculture sector?

Water and soil resources are diminishing, the population is growing and we need to tackle climate change. So we might well wonder how we can fight hunger while ensuring the environmental sustainability of agriculture and protecting ecosystems. It is a huge challenge which we can only overcome by using modern technology and introducing innovation into agriculture. This outlook is shared by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which it aims to meet by 2030. 


We need to reduce food waste, guarantee access to water and eliminate hunger: these are all eye-catching targets. However, another challenge is to ensure nutritional, healthy and environmentally-friendly food for citizens of the European Union. From field to fork, food in Europe is subject to an endless list of checks and procedures, which need to be simplified and developed in an intelligent way. This will allow us to ensure that agricultural production also takes into account its environmental impact and biodiversity, as well as ethical issues, such as animal welfare, to which society is becoming increasingly sensitive. These choices need to be taken by all Europeans working together to enable us to compete on a global level. We need to put our faith in technological innovation and an innovative search for solutions to new problems presented by climate and demographic change.

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