Brussels, 13 Apr 2004
Under the thematic priority 'Food Quality and Safety' of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the European Commission is funding an Integrated Project called 'QualityLowInputFood' that aims to improve quality, ensure safety and improve productivity in organic food supply chains in Europe.
Over the next five years, the project will receive 18 million euro to carry out research across the food chain, from fork to farm, for protected crops (tomato), field vegetables (lettuce, onion, potato, carrot, cabbage), fruit (apple), cereal (wheat), pork, dairy and poultry products.
QualityLowInputFood will measure consumer attitudes and expectations, and develop new technologies to improve the nutritional, microbiological and toxicological quality and safety of organic foods.
'The research will provide meaningful information that is currently lacking, on the extent to which differences in production systems affect nutritional value, taste and safety of food,' explained professor Carlo Leifert from the university of Newcastle, who is coordinating the project. 'The project is expected to make a significant impact on increasing the competitiveness of the organic industry to the benefit of the European consumers and organic farmers.'
Research shows that European consumers want tasty, safe, affordable and nutritious food which does not harm the environment. 'Low input' farming, which aims to avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, is therefore favoured.
'The best known low input system is organic farming, which is one of the most dynamic sectors of agriculture in Europe, but also faces substantial challenges to meet consumers' demands for safe, high quality, affordable organic food,' commented Professor Leifert.
The project will, therefore, start with investigating what consumers expect from low input foods and measure what they buy in order to establish what producers need to do to satisfy consumer demand. A second element of the project will be to compare low input and conventional products for features such as nutritional value, taste, shelf life as well as risks related to reduced fertility, pathogens and toxins from fungi.
Based on their findings, the project team on the will develop new techniques to generate better, cost effective products. These will then be circulated to the food industry.
'The focus here will be on farm-based research in cereals, vegetables, dairy, poultry and pork production. For example, agronomists will test different management strategies for improvements in soil fertility, disease, weed and pest control to improve yields of high quality, organic plant foods, while livestock experts will assess how improved husbandry methods and feeding regimes can improve the nutritional quality of organic milk and minimise parasites and bacterial infections in pig and dairy production,' said Professor Leifert.
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