10 November 2011 in Madrid, Spain
Forecasts on population growth and economic development indicate that there will be substantial increases in food demand in the forthcoming decades, which will increase the pressure on our natural resources, notably on water. In the Euro-CASE 2011 Annual Conference on Water and Food Security in Europe, hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering of Spain, that took place in Madrid, on the 10th of November, 2011, it was concluded that the development of sustainable food systems for Europe should be based on state of the art engineering technologies to provide our citizens with sufficient and safe food now and in the future.
The Euro-CASE 2011 Annual Conference gathered representatives from partner academies from all over Europe, together with experts on food security and on water issues from different disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the nexus between food security and water. The focus was on how to face the challenge of achieving sustainable increases in food production in the face of an uncertain climate. A number of presentations followed by discussions covered key aspects of the interdisciplinary research and development needs, illustrated by several case studies from different European regions.
In her opening speech, Lena Treschow Torell, Chair of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and President of Euro-CASE, emphasized the paradox of the abundance of freshwater on Earth and the scarcity faced by many regions, even in Europe, and the need for innovative solutions to tackle the food and water crisis. The role of engineering academies in fostering international cooperation was also strongly emphasized by Prof. Treschow as President of Euro-CASE.
These conclusions have been transmitted to the appropriate Directorates of the European Commission:
– To meet the challenge of increased food demand, the sustainable intensification of production in Europe is essential.
– Farmers must be permitted to increase agricultural productivity with the best available modern technology, while ensuring that intensification is sustainable.
– While modern food processing has improved enormously the quality and safety of our food, respect for food and its producers needs to be promoted as society becomes more urbanized in Europe.
– Food production is a major consumer of diverted water in Europe and improved water management is essential to meet the challenge of dealing with a limited resource.
– Water scarcity is only one aspect of the water-food nexus but if intensification is to be sustainable, water quality and pollution control from agriculture must be faced firmly with appropriate technology and regulations.
– Energy is intimately linked to the water-food issues, including the dilemma of crops for food or energy, which in the latter case should be largely limited to the use of waste products, and the large energy needs of irrigated agriculture.
– The uncertainties brought about by climate variability and climate change, bring another dimension to the water-food problem that would be best tackled by appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures for the European food systems.
– The adaptation measures to best address the risks of climate change, should focus not only economic and social issues, but should include measures to manage water and land in Europe aimed at maintaining healthy ecosystems as well.
– Industry and governments should team to develop and implement advanced water management practices and sound strategies for the rural sector in Europe to ensure sustainability in the long term.