Wageningen, 2 February 2004
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start by thanking Aalt Dijkhuizen for hosting us today. I also take the opportunity to congratulate Dr. Lückemeyer on his nomination as President of EURAGRI.
Since the year 2000, we have been working with EURAGRI to try and meet, from the perspective of research, the challenges that Professor Cunningham eloquently presented.
Meeting these challenges will require an ambitious research agenda for Europe, involving all stakeholders: the scientific community, farmers, industry, public authorities at all levels, consumers.
Our response has been in various forms:
- We are working together with EURAGRI and others to realise a European Research Area for agriculture research.
- We have included food quality and safety as a priority in the Sixth Framework Programme. The budget for this priority is now close to €200 million per year.
- For this research priority, we have reversed the "farm to fork" approach that is applied in agriculture policy. We now look at agriculture and food research from "fork to farm".
- That means that we take the perspective of the responsible consumer who more and more wants to know the origin, quality and safety of the food he eats. The consumer also cares more and more about the environmental, socio-economic and ethical considerations in food production.
I believe the fork to farm approach opens up new perspectives for food production that meets environmental, health and competitiveness objectives.
- We have developed new types of intervention in FP6 to better structure the research landscape in Europe.
Last week, a new ERA-NET started on plant genomics.
I am very happy to see the large interest and broad mobilisation in response to these new opportunities.
As a result of the first call for proposals last year, the Commission will now be funding 6 integrated projects and 6 networks of excellence in the area of food quality and safety.
They cover a broad range of subjects, such as related allergies, prion diseases, the impact of diet on health, and the quality and safety of the organic food chain.
In addition, we will be funding 12 traditional research projects as well as 15 specific actions to support our objectives in food research.
We know that the same mobilisation exists for the second call for proposals in the area of food research. That call will be closing in a few days, on 5 February.
In the meantime, DG Research is conducting a wide consultation for defining the work programme for 2005 and 2006.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The three projects presented today provide a good and concrete illustration of what we want to achieve with our European Research Policy: having the best researchers from across Europe and from different disciplines to work together on the basis of a critical mass of resources.
I am happy to note the participation of researchers from the enlargement countries in all three projects as well as a Chinese and South-African participation in the SAFE-FOODS project.
It is no surprise that the three projects presented today are coordinated from Wageningen.
The Wageningen University and Research Centre is a centre of excellence with international reputation in the field of agriculture and food research.
In the Fifth Framework Programme, between 1998 and 2002, the Wageningen University was involved in 139 European research projects.
Such a centre of excellence is an important asset for the region of Gelderland.
Together with the Nijmegen University and the various polytechnics, public research institutions and the research departments of large companies, it provides the region with a strong basis for economic development in knowledge-intensive sectors.
If Europe wants to be a leader in the global knowledge-based society, it must nurture its universities and its researchers.
Universities are not only centres of research and education; they can be at the same time important drivers for regional economic development.
And universities can only thrive if they are able to good researchers in sufficient numbers.
I look forward to meeting later this afternoon with the Marie Curie fellows who currently work in this university and learn from their experience.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is very reassuring for a European Commissioner, visiting a research centre such as Wageningen, to see that our European research policy is producing concrete results and that European research money is well spent.
Europe is on the right track.
We have excellent researchers and world class centres of excellence.
Investing in them, giving them the instruments to work together at European and global level and better coordinating our national and European research policies are the best investment we can make for our future.