Following recent decisions on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), MEPs believe a redistribution of research funds is necessary in order to facilitate studies on rural development, consumer protection, the environmental and social aspects of agriculture and animal welfare standards.
The report, by German MEP Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, states that 'research into improving food quality and safety by strengthening links between consumers and producers (the 'fork-to-farm' approach) should remain a priority, but that additional research is needed.' The report also claims that the percentage of funding allocated to agriculture and rural development under FP6 is too low for a sector which is 'responsible for far more than simply producing food, renewable resources and energy crops.'
'Increased research funding and appropriately targeted research can boost innovation in the field of ecologically compatible farming and sustainable rural development,' reads the report. With this in mind, improvements to yield security, quality of life and environmental compatibility are highlighted as priorities.
The report questions the way in which the various aspects of agricultural research have to date been prioritised, stating that 'the European Commission has taken innovation to mean the development of new technologies for rationalising food production, and too little attention is paid to the diverse local and traditional knowledge on sustainable use of natural resources available within rural communities.'
The report also emphasises that 'research funding should not be used to develop acceptance strategies,' referring to studies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and food preservation through irradiation. This is 'solely the task of the economic operators wishing to put new technologies on the market,' writes Graefe zu Baringdorf.
Instead, the report advocates channelling funds into on-farm research. 'On-farm research projects increase the practical relevance of solutions, make efficient use of knowledge which is already available in practice but has often remained unrecorded, and speed up the implementation of research findings through the participation of those involved,' said the report.
In October last year the Commission declared that it had earmarked €166m in funding for a range of projects under the 'food quality and safety' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), rubber stamping thirty-six projects in Europe.