The food sector contributes to food security but is also responsible for air, water and soil pollution. It can contribute to biodiversity loss, soil erosion and climate change, and it consumes excessive amounts of natural resources, including water and energy, while a significant amount of food is wasted. In supporting the implementation of the European Green Deal, the EU zero pollution action plan, the farm to fork strategy, the European climate pact, the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy and the Food 2030 initiative, the successful proposal should address all of the following outcomes:
- Increased overall knowledge of the environmental and climate impacts stemming from the food systems, including potential trade-offs/synergies with other sustainability aspects (environmental, social, economic).
- Robust evidence-based understanding of the impacts of food systems related to direct and indirect soil, water and air pollution that drive biodiversity losses, soil erosion, climate change and can negatively affect human health.
- Improved capacity to reduce the environmental and climate impacts of food systems, particularly in relation to pollution.
- Support to actors across the food systems through new available knowledge, shared existing data on environmental and climate impacts of food systems and identification of innovative solutions.
There is an increasing understanding of the impacts related to the green-house gas (GHG) emissions stemming from food systems. Around one third of human-caused GHG emissions worldwide originate from food systems. A similar share of emissions is also recorded in Europe. Although the largest share of the GHG emissions and other relevant environmental impacts can be attributed to the primary food production (or harvesting in the case of fisheries), a significant amount of food-related environmental impacts is also generated in post-production and post-harvest processes along food supply chains. However, when considering wider environmental and climate impacts of food systems, more information is needed to understand these impacts, particularly when it comes to pollution stemming from food processing, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, trade, consumption (including emerging food consumption trends, such as products of alternative diets), food waste and end of life practices.
The relevant data covering these latter industries or practices are often less available and/ or accessible compared to the agricultural data, for example through the CAP indicators. At the same time, knowledge gaps also exist when it comes to environmental impacts of primary food production and harvesting. Therefore, the successful proposal should fill the relevant knowledge and data gaps. It should explain how it will deliver co-benefits to some of the Food 2030 priorities: climate, biodiversity and environment, circularity and resource efficiency, innovation and empowering communities. The data should be aligned with, and support the relevant objectives of the upcoming Sustainable food system framework initiative.
Proposals are expected to:
- Collect relevant qualitative and quantitative data on environmental and climate impacts related to water, air and soil pollution stemming from the food systems, biodiversity losses, climate change and negative impacts on human health, as well as data on freshwater consumption, soil erosion, resource and energy efficiency of food production and supply practices.
- Increase the accessibility of relevant high quality life cycle inventory data according to FAIR principles and the EU’s open science policy by setting up actions to develop, review and make available existing databases.
- Provide new data based on requirements for Environmental Footprint compliant datasets and in line with the 2021 Recommendation on the use of the Environmental Footprint methods.
- Assess the environmental impacts of food systems from a life-cycle perspective, using the Environmental Footprint methods.
- Identify and map opportunities and innovative solutions, including existing good practices that address the identified impacts and promote the uptake of sustainable food production (including harvesting) and/ or food supply practices, including consumption practices, with minimum impact.
- Identify and map opportunities and innovative solutions, including existing good practices, that maximise synergies among the three dimensions of sustainability (i.e. environmental – including climate and biodiversity, economic, social – including health), different sectors, as well as actors across the food systems (from production/ harvesting to consumption), minimising trade-offs and reducing pollution as well as other environmental and climate impacts in food systems as a whole.
- Implement the multi-actor approach by involving a wide range of food system actors and conducting inter-disciplinary research.
- In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is encouraged.
- Where relevant, build on and expand the results of past and ongoing research projects and collaborate with relevant initiatives.
More information: Funding and Tenders