Brussels, 05 Jul 2005
In the forthcoming call for proposals under the 'food quality and safety' strand of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), New Zealand is expected to be specified as one of the countries with which cooperation would be desirable in the context of a Specific Support Action.
With this in mind, a delegation of top New Zealand researchers is in Europe to meet with both representatives from the European Commission and Europe's top food researchers. Following a meeting with the Commission, members of the delegation told CORDIS News that they had received a positive but realistic message from the EU.
'We were told that it is now over to us. We have to do the hard yards and we have to be realistic,' said one delegate. All agreed that the meeting, which had outlined the steps that the New Zealand researchers must make in order to be successful within the EU's framework programmes, had been constructive.
Asked why they thought that New Zealand is to be specified as a country of interest in the forthcoming call, the researchers gave a number of explanations, summed up by Lynn Ferguson from the University of Auckland. 'We're perfectly placed to participate in the programme. The fit is perfect,' she said.
New Zealand has a unique population (Maori and Pacific Island) and climate, as well as distinctive flora and fauna. 'We are distinguished from Europe and yet we understand European culture,' she added.
Others could see more strategic reasons why the European Commission may wish to involve New Zealand in more of its projects. Mark Ward from AgResearch noted that New Zealand's links with Asia were mentioned a number of times by the Commission, and suggested that his country is therefore regarded as an entry point to further cooperation with Asia.
Mr Ward could also see New Zealand fitting into the EU's risk management strategy in terms of food. New Zealand is one of the world's most trusted suppliers of food, having remained free from prion diseases such as BSE and scrapie, and foot and mouth disease. The real power in Europe in this area lies with supermarkets, which are demanding more traceability in order to satisfy customers. Looking to New Zealand is one way of addressing the traceability gap that Europe has, suggested Mr Ward.
Other members of the delegation pointed to New Zealand's good record of researcher integration: between disciplines and between the commercial and public sectors.
Having found out more about the European Commission's demands and expectations, the delegation now hopes to gain a better understanding of the food research being conducted in different parts of Europe, and to find out more about where New Zealand researchers could fit in.
During their visits to some of Europe's best food research groups, the New Zealand delegation will be emphasising its expertise in areas such as: dairy bioactives; dairy process engineering; lactic acid bacteria genetics; microbial forensics; biosecurity; fruit databases; dietary fibre; non-thermal food processing; nutrition; wool harvesting; products and quality methane gas; the ecosystem; and clinical trials.
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