SCIENCE ADVICE FOR POLICY
BY EUROPEAN ACADEMIES

A sustainable food system for the European Union

Food lies at the heart of our lives. It is vital for our survival, and links us to our natural and social environment in a unique way. But our food system is unsustainable. How can we ensure future food security without treating people unfairly or leaving them behind?

Food systems have complex social, economic and ecological components, and radical transformation is needed to make them sustainable. This report from SAPEA lays out the science on how that transition can happen in an inclusive, just and timely way.

The global demand for food will increase in the future. To meet this demand, it is not enough simply to increase productivity in a sustainable way. We also need to change from linear mass consumption to a more circular economy — which will mean changing our norms, habits and routines.

The evidence shows that this kind of behaviour change needs to happen collectively, not just individually. So we need joined-up governance at local, national and international levels.

Food systems also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. This can be addressed by reducing waste or directing it back into the supply chain.

A mix of different measures will be most effective. The evidence shows that taxation is one of the most effective ways to modify behaviour. Accreditation and labelling schemes can also have an impact.

Meanwhile, reform of European agriculture and fisheries policies offer great opportunities to develop resilience and sustainability.

But there is not yet enough evidence to know for sure exactly what works in practice, so the steps we take should be carefully evaluated, and trade-offs anticipated.

Recommendations from the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors

Working group members

Professor
University of Sheffield
Personal profile

Assistant Professor
Wageningen University
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Professor
Trinity College Dublin
Personal profile

National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (France)
Personal profile

Professor
Universities of Santa Catarina and Cambridge
Personal profile

Professor
University of Zagreb
Personal profile

Professor
University of Tromsø
Personal profile

Professor
University of Copenhagen
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Professor
University of Rome
Personal profile

Professor
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Personal profile

Agroecology Chair
University of Vic, Central University of Catalonia
Personal profile

Adjunct Professor
Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development
Personal profile

Professor
Aarhus University
Personal profile

Policy impact

Events

Alternative proteins, consumers and sustainability in Europe: Where next?
We know from reliable evidence that our societies need to transition to a more sustainable food system, so that we can provide enough healthy food for an increasing world population without harming the environment. One well-known recommendation is to promote a shift towards diets with fewer conventional animal products.
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The special role of chefs in a sustainable food system
In conjunction with the Chefs' Manifesto, part of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, we hosted a special briefing on how chefs in the EU and globally can contribute to a sustainable food system
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Towards a sustainable food system: the EU's role in the global transition
Working independently of the European Commission's Scientific Advice Mechanism, a high-level expert panel of the UN's Committee on Food Security has recently delivered evidence-based policy advice on how to transition to a more sustainable food system, and thus work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Although the SAM focuses on the EU and the UN covers the whole globe, the conclusions reached and the recommendations provided are unequivocal: a transformation of our food system is necessary, and there is a broad scientific consensus on how to achieve this.
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Food policy at a time of crisis: What should the future look like?
The global crisis of 2020 has made every one of us aware that 'business as usual' is not an option for future food policy. How have we arrived at where we are now, in terms of the food we eat, where we source it and the impact it has on our planet? What should a transformed future look like? What actions can we all take, collectively and individually, to bring about a sustainable and fair food system that is better for our health, the environment, society and the economy?
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The EU's Farm2Fork strategy
The Farm2Fork Strategy aims to promote sustainable food systems by setting concrete targets and establishing an Action plan, annexed to the F2F Strategy. This creates the framework for a real debate on the future of food systems, leading to a legislative proposal for sustainable food systems by 2023.
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Covid-19 and our food: How is the current crisis affecting how we eat?
The first in our series of webinars on the sustainable food system discussed changes in consumers' attitudes towards food as a public good instead of as a commodity. It confronted the conclusions of the SAPEA report with the challenges and changes observed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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News

07 June 2021: SAPEA report contributes to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
Professor Peter Jackson was invited to a webinar on on environment-friendly food systems, which was organised in frame of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2022. The event took place on 25 May 2021.
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02 June 2021: SAPEA report discussed at an event by the Global Young Academy
SAPEA Evidence Review Report “A sustainable food system for the European Union” was presented at a webinar “Transforming Food Systems: Public Trust and Engagement to Reach the UN SDGs” on 2 June 2021. The event was organised by the Global Young Academy.
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11 March 2021: Farm-to-Fork strategy should be reframed, experts argue
The EU’s Farm-to-Fork strategy needs to be reframed to avoid an unjustified focus on food as simply a commodity, according to a group of top European experts whose independent science advice was used to inform the strategy last year. 
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05 February 2021: SAPEA report contributes to European Parliament’s hearing
Key findings from the SAPEA report ‘A sustainable food system for the European Union’ were presented at a public hearing in the European Parliament by working group member Marianne Penker on 4 February. 
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05 June 2020: Covid tops the agenda for new food-based webinar series
The challenges of creating a sustainable food system for Europe will be examined in a series of high-profile webinars in the second half of 2020 — including an analysis of changing consumer attitudes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
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08 May 2020: Sustainable food report feeds into lively policy debate
SAPEA’s new evidence review on the future of food sustainability continues to give food for thought to policymakers and campaigners in Brussels and beyond.
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09 April 2020: The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable. Here’s how to make it happen
Europe’s top scientists agree that a radical change is coming in how we produce and distribute food, to ensure food security and deliver healthy diets for all.
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28 March 2019: Sustainable Food Systems – SAPEA to work on a new topic
What are workable paths to deliver an inclusive, just and timely transition to an EU sustainable food system, where possible delivering co-benefits for health, the environment, and socio-economic aspects? That’s the new question SAPEA will work on in coming months on the request of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.
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Academic impact

Jackson, P., Rivera Ferre, M.G., Candel, J., Davies A., Derani C., de Vries H., Dragović-Uzelac V., Håkon Hoel A., Holm L., Mathijs E., Morone P., Penker M., Śpiewak R., Termeer K., Thøgersen J. (2021), Food as a commodity, human right or common good., Nat Food . 2021

Media coverage

12 July 2022: Pesticide Action Network - Europe
Factsheet: Contribution to the EU feedback mechanism on Sustainable Food Systems – New Initiative
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08 March 2022: European commission
Legislative framework for sustainable food systems
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07 March 2022: European Food Information Council (EUFIC)
The EU Farm to Fork Strategy: Can we make the European food system healthier and sustainable?
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02 March 2022: Barcelona Metropolis
The commercialisation of agriculture: impacts and alternatives
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19 July 2021: Zientzia
CRISPR-Cas9 to help combat the ecological crisis
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17 April 2021: EFE agro
Expertos piden a la UE que deje de tratar la comida como una mercancía
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09 April 2021: Eurogroup for Animals
New report on sustainability in food production recommends reducing meat production levels
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31 March 2021: Sustainable Lifestyles Education Hub
Food and sustainable lifestyles
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31 March 2021: The Council of Finnish Academies
SAPEA: THE SHIFT TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM IS INEVITABLE
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22 December 2020: EPHA
Does the Farm to Fork strategy ‘walk the talk’ on food environments?
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12 October 2020: Scienza e governo
L’Unione europea verso un sistema alimentare più sano e sostenibile
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09 October 2020: Wageningen University blog
The global food challenge and the many-headed monster
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16 September 2020: The Rockefeller Foundation
Can Policy Change Diet for Better Health? Yes, It Can – Now.’
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04 August 2020: European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development
New scientific report ‘Towards a sustainable food system’
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04 August 2020: fit4food2030
New scientific report ‘Towards a sustainable food system’ by the SAPEA consortium
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28 July 2020: Share City
SAPEA Report 2020: A sustainable food system for the European Union
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11 June 2020: Czech Academy of Sciences
Přední evropští vědci apelují na dlouhodobou udržitelnost produkce a distribuce potravin v EU (SAPEA)
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10 June 2020: Prumyslova Ekologie
Nakládání s potravinami v EU se musí změnit, apelují vědci
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09 June 2020: TechFocus
NAKLÁDÁNÍ S POTRAVINAMI V EU SE MUSÍ PODLE VĚDCŮ ZMĚNIT
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08 June 2020: European Law Blog
The SAMs Report “Towards a Sustainable Food System” bites the hand that feeds us!
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05 June 2020: Food Governance
EU FARM TO FORK STRATEGY: COLLECTIVE RESPONSE FROM FOOD SOVEREIGNTY SCHOLARS)
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25 May 2020: University of Zagreb
SAPEA EU dokument
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22 May 2020: Interbev
Un système alimentaire durable pour l’union européenne
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21 May 2020: Uvic
Un informe científic de la Comissió Europea reclama un canvi radical del sistema alimentari europeu per garantir-ne la sostenibilitat
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15 May 2020: Food Governance
The relevance of agroecology, territorial solidarity and the right to food for the EU Farm to Fork Strategy
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15 May 2020: International Planning Committe for Food Sovereignty
Green New Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy: Time for another narrative in Europe
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15 May 2020: Euractiv
What has COVID-19 changed for the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy?
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15 May 2020: PAN Instytut Rozwoju Wsi i Rolnictwa
Raport pt. A Sustainable Food System for the EU
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15 May 2020: Le Map
Nouveau Pacte Vert et stratégie « de la Ferme à la Fourchette » : il est temps de passer à une autre histoire en Europe
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15 May 2020: Telesforo Monzon elab
Normalitate berrirako agroekologia feminista
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11 May 2020: Scoop
The Shift To A More Sustainable Food System Is Inevitable. Here’s How To Make It Happen
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11 May 2020: Fruchtportal
Forschung: Der Übergang zu einem nachhaltigeren Lebensmittelsystem ist unumgänglich
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08 May 2020: Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance
Evidence review report "A Sustainable Food System for the EU", produced by Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) and co-authored by C-EENRG Fellow Prof. Cristiane Derani, has been published
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06 May 2020: Transitie coalitie voedsel
Reactie internetconsultatie ‘nieuwe aanpak productverbetering’
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06 May 2020: MundoECO
Necesitamos urgentemente un cambio radical de nuestro sistema alimentario
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04 May 2020: Horizon
Q&A: Covid-19 pandemic highlights urgent need to change Europe’s food system
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04 May 2020: EPHA
A silent revolution: chief scientific advisors breathe life into EU food policy
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01 May 2020: The SDG2 Advocacy Hub
A Sustainable Food System for the European Union
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30 April 2020: Croatian Academy of Engineering
SAPEA Izvješće- “Sustainable food system for the European Union” – prof. dr. sc. Verica Dragović Uzelac
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29 April 2020: AgroLink
Especialistas exigem mudança no sistema alimentar europeu
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28 April 2020: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
A shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable
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28 April 2020: Healthydietforhealthylife.eu
SAM Scientific Opinion “Towards a sustainable food system”
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28 April 2020: Valencia Gastronomica
Expertos reclaman un cambio radical del sistema alimentario europeo para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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28 April 2020: Food and Farming Future
The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable
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25 April 2020: The Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture
Fenntartható élelmiszer-ellátó rendszer az Európai Unió számára
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23 April 2020: Economía Sustentable:
Impulsan un “cambio radical” en el sistema alimentario: ¿en qué consiste la propuesta?
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22 April 2020: Future Earth Ireland
Sustainable food transitions (video)
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22 April 2020: FloripAmanhã
Relatório europeu, com participação de professora da UFSC, aponta soluções para um sistema alimentar sustentável
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22 April 2020: Noticias de la ciencia
Un informe científico de la Comisión Europea reclama un cambio radical del sistema alimentario europeo para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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22 April 2020: U-divulga
Un informe científico de la Comisión Europea reclama un cambio radical del sistema alimentario europeo para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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22 April 2020: MISTERIOS Y CORAZON
Un informe científico de la Comisión Europea reclama un cambio radical del sistema alimentario europeo para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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21 April 2020: EP Catalunya
Un informe de la Comisión Europea reclama un "cambio radical" del sistema alimentario para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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21 April 2020: Bolsamania
Un informe de la Comisión Europea reclama un "cambio radical" del sistema alimentario para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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21 April 2020: Siglo XX
Un informe de la Comisión Europea reclama un "cambio radical" del sistema alimentario para garantizar su sostenibilidad
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21 April 2020: La Vanguardia
Expertos reclaman mejorar la sostenibilidad del sistema alimentario europeo
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21 April 2020: Gente un Catalunya
Un informe de la Comisión Europea reclama un "cambio radical" del sistema alimentario
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20 April 2020: IFOAM EU Group
Organic in the SAPEA report
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20 April 2020: Academia Europaea
A Systematic Review On The European Food Policy Ecosystem Is Published
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19 April 2020: Wikipedia
Effects of climate change on agriculture
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17 April 2020: EPSO
EC’s Chief Scientific Advisors published scientific opinion ‘Towards a Sustainable Food System
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17 April 2020: The Council of Finnish Academies
SAPEA: NÄIN SIIRRYMME KOHTI KESTÄVÄMPÄÄ RUOKAJÄRJESTELMÄÄ
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17 April 2020: European Plant Science Organisation
EC’s Chief Scientific Advisors published scientific opinion ‘Towards a Sustainable Food System’
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17 April 2020: UDivulga
Marta Rivera participa en un informe de SAPEA per a la transició cap a un sistema alimentari sostenible a la UE
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16 April 2020: Euro-CASE
A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION
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16 April 2020: Wageningen University & Research
The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable
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15 April 2020: University of Hohenheim
SAPEA Evidence Review Report on “A Sustainable Food System for the EU"
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14 April 2020: HISFA
De overgang naar een duurzamer voedselsysteem is onontkoombaar
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14 April 2020: Food Navigator
EU academics call for policy-led shift towards sustainable food system
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14 April 2020: White Rose Brussels
A Sustainable Food System For the EU (SAPEA Report)
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14 April 2020: The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
De overgang naar een duurzamer voedselsysteem is onontkoombaar
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14 April 2020: Cardiff University
A Sustainable Food System for Europe
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14 April 2020: Food&Farming Futures
A sustainable food system for the European Union
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14 April 2020: UFSC
Relatório europeu, com participação de professora da UFSC, aponta soluções para um sistema alimentar sustentável
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11 April 2020: Akademie der Naturwissenschaften Schweiz (SCNAT)
Ein nachhaltiges Ernährungssystem für Europa
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11 April 2020: 21 Noticias
El cambio a un sistema alimentario mas sostenible es inevitable
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10 April 2020: Politico Europe
coverage in Agriculture Pro newsletter
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10 April 2020: Phys.org
The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable: Here's how to make it happen
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10 April 2020: TEKK.TV
Der Übergang zu einem nachhaltigeren Ernährungssystem ist unausweichlich
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10 April 2020: Politico Europe
Coverage in Agriculture Pro newsletter
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09 April 2020: Bioeconomy in Transition
SAPEA Evidence Review Report on “A Sustainable Food System for the EU”
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09 April 2020: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
A Sustainable Food System for the EU
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09 April 2020: Eurogroup for Animals
New report on sustainability in food production recommends reducing meat production levels
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09 April 2020: Trinity College Dublin
The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable – here’s how to make it happen
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09 April 2020: Academia Europaea Cardiff Hub
A sustainable food system for Europe: SAPEA publishes its latest report, including a systematic review by Cardiff University
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09 April 2020: ALLEA
The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable. Here’s how to make it happen
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09 April 2020: The Royal Irish Academy
New SAPEA Report on Food Sustainability
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09 April 2020: Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
Business as usual ‘no longer an option’ for Europe’s food system, experts warn
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07 April 2020: Ecoticias
Europa incide en la necesidad de garantizar la sostenibilidad del sistema alimentario
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