Plant research and innovation can contribute through three main paths to achieve Nutritional Security (NS):
- Underutilised nutritious fruit and vegetable crops: improve their economic performance and further increase their nutritional quality – emerging over the past years and providing co-benefits in terms of NS and sustainable environment – the focus of this statement.
- Biofortification: increasing micronutrients in staple crops and / or enriching compounds enhancing the bioavailability of micronutrients – a strategy developed over the past decade which needs to be continued for consumers depending on or preferring staple crop products.
- Supplements: adding beneficial compounds during food processing for the end product – the most common strategy until now, but the mainly chemically synthesised compounds need to be replaced by their natural counterparts in future, e.g. from niche crops or agri-food side-products.
Plant based foods are receiving a remarkable attention during the last decades in the research field of nutrition, due to the biological activities recognized for many classes of phytochemicals and the relevance that food security topics are obtaining in European countries. The availability and accessibility to nutritionally rich food sources are hallmarks for human health and wellbeing, that is why many efforts are being directed towards old and new generations of plant crops. At multiple levels, EPSO and scientists involved in the Nutritional Security (NS) working group are discussing the best strategies to increase the content in beneficial biocompounds in the daily diet of European consumers.
- First level: Re-discovering underused species and landraces of fruits, vegetables and staple crops
- Second level: Use of new metabolic engineering / new breeding technologies to re-design high quality crops.
- Third level: Promoting co-developing improved crops and agricultural management practices and post-harvest processes for these to keep or even enhance nutritional quality in the fresh and transformed products.
- Fourth level: Linking the concept of diverse diets enriched in different classes of nutritionally active biocompounds with the prevention of human diseases.
- Fifth level: Linking the concept of diverse diets to human health AND environmental benefits.
This underpins the recommendation by plant scientists to develop ‘diverse crops with diverse cropping systems for diverse diets and human health and resilient production’ as a multi-disciplinary and cross-sectorial approach to achieve Nutritional Security and Environmental Sustainability as co-benefits.
The draft statement will be further discussed at the next EPSO NS Workshop early 2021 and then finalised. Contact the authors by end June to express your interest to participate in this workshop.
Click here to read the full EPSO draft statement
- Angelo Santino, CNR, IT & EPSO NS WG chair
- Monika Schreiner, IGZ Grossbeeren, DE & EPSO NS WG chair
- Chiara Tonelli, University of Milano & EPSO NS WG chair
- Karin Metzlaff, EPSO, BE