Food Security and Safety
The food demand will increase by 50% in the next twenty years owing to the growing global population, rising affluence and accompanying changes in dietary preferences. The agricultural sector plays a key part in addressing the challenge to feed some eight billion humans in 2030, while preserving the environment and natural resources.
The World Bank pinpoints agriculture as the most credible way of significantly alleviating poverty, ensuring political stability and avoiding conflict. Indeed, a large proportion of the world population is, and will continue to be, dependent on agricultural activities. Family agriculture employs almost 1.5 billion people worldwide, and up to two thirds of all jobs are directly linked to agriculture1. As a global public good, agriculture is set to play a growing role in preserving and improving the renewable energy supplies, plant and animal biodiversity and production, human and animal health, and to mitigate climate change. The future of farming and farmers is therefore a major global issue and a key factor in social change.
In the ASEAN countries, regional food preferences, export traditions, and geographical conditions combine to make food security a particularly pressing issue. About 35% of the region’s GDP comes directly from agriculture, but beyond economic productivity, farming is part of daily life in the region and remains a strong part of cultural identity. The Pacific positioning and level topology of the ASEAN region renders crops vulnerable to variations in typhoons and El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)24 dynamics, increased flooding, increased salinity and long droughts. Rising affluence amongst the middle classes in the ASEAN region is associated with changes in food consumption patterns, notably towards diets that are richer in meat, dairy, and seafood.
Besides, ASEAN countries export large quantities of staple food products to Europe. Rice is, for instance, a principle crop and a major export commodity of many ASEAN countries, including Thailand, which is the world’s major exporter of rice and contributes around 10 million tons to the annual 30 million tons of internationally traded rice. Food security, safety and quality, referring to the nutritional value, diversity, origin and environmental impact of food, as well as consumers’ tastes and health become therefore public health issues not only for rural and urban populations in nutritional transition in Southeast Asia, but also for European consumers. For both Southeast Asia and Europe, a clear benefit would therefore arise from providing high quality and affordable food along the whole agrifood chain (production, harvesting, processing and distribution). In this context, joint EU-SEA agricultural and food research is one of the best ways to assist in solving key problems such as eradicating poverty and hunger, preventing conflict and making food accessible, varied, safe and affordable. Issues coming up in Southeast Asia may apply to Europe as well, solutions to problems in Europe may be found in Southeast Asia. Besides, innovative food research will remain a key factor of competitiveness, jobs, sustainable growth and social progress both in Europe and Southeast Asia.
The national and international agricultural research landscape is changing rapidly. In Europe, national organizations and universities are keen to work internationally, for instance in the fields of the environmental and risk management. On global scale, private firms play a determining role, particularly in the areas of agrifood technologies and genetic resources. The scientific capacity of the most developed ASEAN countries is similar to that of the scientifically leading countries in Europe. Apart from that, ASEAN has launched a specific Initiative in Food Safety which could clearly benefit to EU through S&T cooperation. Indeed, the ASEAN Expert Group on Food Safety (AEGFS) provides the overall oversight, facilitation, and coordination of food safety activities in ASEAN. The ASEAN Food Safety Improvement Plan (AFSIP) consists of the ASEAN Food Safety Policy and