The European Commission is being urged to create dedicated research and innovation funding streams for the plant-based food sector to help the EU achieve its ambition of climate neutrality by 2050.
A letter signed by a coalition of 63 organisations, and led by the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods and global event organiser Bridge2Food, calls for the EU’s €95.5 billion Horizon Europe research programme to include funding streams solely for plant-based foods to make them sustainable, healthy, tasty and affordable.
“We have seen a huge demand for plant-based foods among European consumers as they embrace healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyles,” Siska Pottie, Secretary General for the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods, said.
“But to be able to scale up the delivery of these foods to a rapidly growing pool of conscious consumers, we need the EU to open up dedicated funding channels,” Pottie said.
Specifically, the coalition is asking the European Commission to create, under the Horizon Europe Work Programme for 2023-2024, the following: Funding opportunities to improve the taste and recipe of plant-based products to encourage more people to turn flexitarian;
- Funding opportunities for projects that will bring down the cost of plant-based products so they can better compete with animal-based foods;
- Funding for research on crops that are specifically meant to be used in plant-based foods rather than in animal feed. Feed currently represents the majority use of crops and is propping up a damaging animal-based food system; and
- Funding opportunities for processed plant-based foods, as well as whole foods, to support processes that allow for a large-scale transition to sustainable plant-based food systems. Consumer choices are driven by taste, price and convenience, so research is needed to make plant-based options as delicious and affordable as animal products, so that sustainable choices are made easy
“Horizon Europe is a vitally important mechanism to accelerate the shift towards more plant-based diets and deliver on the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy and its Beating Cancer Plan, both of which encourage the shift to plant-based diets,” Pottie said.
“Therefore, we urge the European Commission to make these funding opportunities available for the plant-based sector in the upcoming Horizon Europe 2023-2024 Work Programme,” Pottie added.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the consequent supply chain insecurity has also made the need for EU research funds to be tailored to the plant-based sector even more pressing, the coalition states in its letter.
By funding research and innovation for crops for use as inputs in plant-based food, the EU will be helping to contribute to Europe’s food security and strategic autonomy in the long-term.
“Much of the world’s grain is grown in Russia and Ukraine but the majority of it goes into animal feed for meat production rather than directly into people’s mouths as plant-based food,” the spokesperson said.
“At a time when these resources are facing price and availability pressures, encouraging the transition to more plant-based diets through dedicated Horizon Europe funding channels will ensure that more of the grain we grow will be used directly for human consumption.”