A sustainable food system for the European Union

Evidence summaryInfographics

Food lies at the heart of our lives. It is vital for our survival, and links us to our natural and social environment in a unique way. But our food system is unsustainable. How can we ensure future food security without treating people unfairly or leaving them behind?

Food systems have complex social, economic and ecological components, and radical transformation is needed to make them sustainable. This report from SAPEA lays out the science on how that transition can happen in an inclusive, just and timely way.

What the report says

The global demand for food will increase in the future. To meet this demand, it is not enough simply to increase productivity in a sustainable way. We also need to change from linear mass consumption to a more circular economy -- which will mean changing our norms, habits and routines.

The evidence shows that this kind of behaviour change needs to happen collectively, not just individually. So we need joined-up governance at local, national and international levels.

Food systems also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. This can be addressed by reducing waste or directing it back into the supply chain.

A mix of different measures will be most effective. The evidence shows that taxation is one of the most effective ways to modify behaviour. Accreditation and labelling schemes can also have an impact.

Meanwhile, reform of European agriculture and fisheries policies offer great opportunities to develop resilience and sustainability.

But there is not yet enough evidence to know for sure exactly what works in practice, so the steps we take should be carefully evaluated, and trade-offs anticipated.

Debate and impact

Policy impactAcademic impactMedia coverageEvents
Covid-19 and our food
The first in a series of webinars covers changes of consumers’ attitudes towards food as a public good instead of as a commodity. It confronts the conclusions of the SAPEA report with the challenges and changes observed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more
The EU's Farm2Fork strategy
This webinar will bring together 30 organisations participating in the work of the EU Food Policy Coalition with Dr Jeroen Candel, a member of the working group which wrote the SAPEA evidence review report. Together, they will discuss how closely the EU's Farm2Fork Strategy follows the scientific evidence, and which elements and approaches will be best to achieve food systems transformation.

Read more
Food policy at a time of crisis: what should the future look like?
This webinar will bring together experts who will share their vision for radical system change and set out their views on the workable policies that are needed to achieve it. The audience will be able to pose questions and contribute to the debate.

Read more
Towards a sustainable food system: the EU's role in the global transition
A high-level expert panel of the UN's Committee on Food Security has recently delivered evidence-based policy advice on how to transition to a more sustainable food system. The conclusions reached and the recommendations provided by the UN an by the Science Advice Mechanism to the European Commission are unequivocal: a transformation of our food system is necessary, and there is a broad scientific consensus on how to achieve this. Through a moderated discussion between key speakers from the UN and the SAM, this webinar will explore the key recommendations made to achieve a more sustainable food system, and discuss the particular role of the EU in this global transition.

Read more
Framings of food and implications for policy, food security and sustainability in Europe
SAPEA hosted a mini-symposium at the International Conference on Global Food Security, on Framings of food and implications for policy, food security and sustainability in Europe on 4 December 2020.

Read more
The special role of chefs in a sustainable food system
In conjunction with the Chefs’ Manifesto, part of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, we hosted a special briefing on how chefs in the EU and globally can contribute to a sustainable food system.

Read more
Alternative proteins, consumers and sustainability in Europe: Where next?
The event will discuss weather promoting a shift towards diets with fewer conventional animal products by implementing new food technologies.

Read more
Food Systems Summit Dialogue
Professor John Thøgersen, a member of the SAPEA working group, will present and discuss some of the key findings from the Report on the 25th February. This Dialogue brings together stakeholders from the fields of science, food chain, policy and civil society, with a special focus on the institutions and the non-state actors operating in Brussels and impacting across Europe.

Read more

Working group members

How do we find our experts?
Peter Jackson
Chair
Professor
University of Sheffield
Personal profile
Jeroen Candel
Assistant Professor
Wageningen University
Personal profile
Anna Davies
Professor
Trinity College Dublin
Personal profile
Hugo de Vries
National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (France)
Personal profile
Cristiane Derani
Professor
Universities of Santa Catarina and Cambridge
Personal profile
Verica Dragović-Uzelac
Professor
University of Zagreb
Personal profile
Alf Håkon Hoel
Professor
University of Tromsø
Personal profile
Lotte Holm
Professor
University of Copenhagen
Personal profile
Piergiuseppe Morone
Professor
University of Rome
Personal profile
Marianne Penker
Professor
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Personal profile
Marta Guadalupe Rivera Ferre
Agroecology Chair
University of Vic, Central University of Catalonia
Personal profile
Ruta Śpiewak
Adjunct Professor
Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development
Personal profile
Katrien Termeer
Professor
Wageningen University
Personal profile
John Thøgersen
Professor
Aarhus University
Personal profile
Erik Mathijs
Invited contributor
Professor
KU Leuven
Personal profile

Subscribe to our newsletter