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EIT Food launches policy recommendations on protein diversification

  • The ‘Accelerating Protein Diversification for Europe’ policy brief calls for a systems-thinking approach to diversifying protein sources and transforming our food system to be healthier and more sustainable for all
  • The EIT Food Protein Diversification Think Tank combines the expertise of academics, companies and NGOs to overcome barriers and foster inclusive innovation in the field of protein diversification
  • The recommendations have been launched at the Future of Food Conference in Brussels, hosted by EIT Food, which is designed to inspire lawmakers to transform our food systems.
26 Oct 2023

EIT Food has today launched a new policy brief on protein diversification, presenting a series of policy recommendations aimed at accelerating progress towards a transformative shift in how we produce and consume protein. EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

Accelerating Protein Diversification for Europe’ has been developed by the EIT Food Protein Diversification Think Tank in consultation with experts and stakeholders across the sector.

After a year of in-depth reflection, consultations, stakeholder discussions, and expert interviews, the paper puts forward a series of recommendations to EU decision makers, that protein diversification should be a cornerstone of future food strategies in order to feed a growing population while mitigating the adverse impacts of food production on the environment and human health.

The findings have been launched at the Future of Food conference, taking place on October 26 in Brussels. Hosted by EIT Food, this event brings together the largest food community in the world to inspire lawmakers by sharing evidence-based insights, business cases, and concrete recommendations on how we can make change happen to transform our food systems.

Protein production and consumption are at the heart of many of the pressing issues with Europe’s food system, from nutrition and public health, to agricultural emissions and food security concerns. Innovative policymaking is one of the keys to unlocking protein diversification. This can enable Europe to transition from a strong dependence on resource-intensive animal-based proteins to a mix of sustainable protein sources, including plant-based, cultivated, precision fermented, algae-based and insect-based alternative protein sources.

Policy recommendations

The paper presents a comprehensive set of recommendations, advocating for a systems thinking approach and acknowledging the importance of engaging with the entire food system. Here is an overview of the recommendations:

  • Systems thinking: Success in diversifying protein is impacted by many factors and it must be seen as part of a complex and dynamic food system. Systems solutions will require collaboration across the entire food value chain to achieve widespread adoption and inter/trans-disciplinary research.
  • Enabling policy environments: EU-level future policies, starting with the EU Protein Strategy, must foster the evolution of alternative protein sources.
  • Regulation: To achieve the full economic, environmental, and societal benefits of protein diversification and to establish itself as a global leader in this space, the EU must assess how its various regulatory frameworks are either hindering or enabling innovation.
  • Farming: Farmers remain essential in providing the key ingredients for alternative proteins. Beyond being part of dialogues and transition planning, farmers should be awarded substantial support by governments in research, development, and de-risking investments.
  • Research, development, and innovation (RDI): Protein diversification must be sufficiently funded by governments, as public financing can drive long-term RDI into societal topics such as environmental sustainability and can mitigate risks for private investors.
  • Going to market: We must also consider the broader food environments within which these alternatives exist. This includes considerations around availability, affordability, and cultural preferences, and necessitates a wide range of policy measures from information to competitive pricing.
  • Education and training: The food industry and sector require a larger workforce, and to continuously attract and retain talent, comprehensive education, capacity building and training programmes are needed, covering a wide range of disciplines and sectors.

The EIT Food Protein Diversification Think Tank will continue to engage stakeholders in a structured discussion to examine the existing gaps, barriers, and opportunities, and will co-create evidence-based roadmaps, including recommended actions and policies for protein diversification to drive food system transformation.

"Embracing protein diversification fosters innovation, has the potential to create substantial economic opportunities and position EU Member States at the forefront of a rapidly evolving sector. The adoption of a comprehensive strategy for protein diversification is not solely an option, but a necessity.

“Putting these recommendations into action requires meaningful collaboration among governments, industry stakeholders, academia, and civil society. Only through shared commitments can we address the main challenges of our time, transcend traditional limitations, and foster a sense of global responsibility. As we continue this discussion, we invite all policymakers and stakeholders across the EU to join us to co-create a more sustainable, resilient, healthy, and safe food system.”

- Marja-Liisa Meurice, Director, EIT Food North and East

“Protein diversification has a central role to play in transforming food systems at the scale needed to bring down climate emissions and increase resilience while creating new opportunities. This collaborative effort confirms the important role of EU governments in driving change – from R&I funding, to enabling policy frameworks, to support for farmers.”

- Acacia Smith, Senior Policy Manager at GFI

About the EIT Food Protein Diversification Think Tank

The EIT Food Protein Diversification Think Tank combines the expertise of academics, companies, cooperatives and NGOs to foster broad and inclusive participation in overcoming barriers to innovation in the field of protein diversification. Its members are Danone, Lund University, The German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL), University of Helsinki, VTT Finland, The Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe, Puratos Group, ShakeUpFactory, Aarhus University, Grupo AN, BGI.

About EIT Food 

EIT Food is the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community. We accelerate innovation to build a future-fit food system that produces healthy and sustainable food for all.

Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, we invest in projects, organisations and individuals that share our goals and vision for a healthy and sustainable food system. We unlock innovation potential in businesses and universities and create and scale agrifood startups to bring new technologies and products to market. We equip entrepreneurs and professionals with the skills needed to transform the food system and put consumers at the heart of our work, helping build trust by reconnecting them to the origins of their food.

We are one of nine innovation communities established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.

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