Research for sustainable food systems

The European Union approves funding for several projects in which the University of Bonn is involved

How does international trade in agricultural and forest products affect biodiversity? A research project led by the University of Bonn will investigate this question, particularly for animal feed, energy crops, tropical timber and aquacultures. In collaboration with stakeholders from politics, the private sector and civil society, the researchers will develop innovative solutions for more sustainable production and consumption. The European Union is funding the project with around 2.6 million euros over the next three years, of which around 850,000 euros will go to the University of Bonn. Funding has been granted for other projects.

"The project, called CLEVER, aims to improve the scientific basis for measuring, analyzing and computer-assisted simulation of links between international trade in agricultural and forest products and biodiversity," says Jan Börner of the Institute of Food and Resource Economics (ILR) and the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn. The researchers are focusing on non-food biomass products, such as soy for feed and bioenergy, tropical timber, and aquaculture products. Based on this, innovative solutions will be developed in collaboration with stakeholders from policy, private sector, and civil society.

"This is a decidedly transdisciplinary approach that fits very well into the concept of transdisciplinary research areas at the University of Bonn," says Börner. In addition to the University of Bonn, which is coordinating the project, eleven other partners from Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Cameroon and Brazil are involved.

FoodCost: indirect costs of food production

With the help of the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Innovation and Technology for a Sustainable Future", which supported the application, other projects of the University of Bonn on the same set of topics have also been approved by the EU. "These projects illustrate that the University of Bonn has become an important hub for research on sustainable food systems’," says Prof. Börner, one of the spokespersons of the TRA "Innovation and Technology for a Sustainable Future" at the University of Bonn.

For example, the Center for Development Research (ZEF) is involved in the new EU research project "FoodCost," which examines the indirect costs of food production and consumption. "The environmental and health costs are estimated to be three times higher worldwide than the visible costs of food on the market," says Börner. The four-year project has a budget of about eight million euros. ZEF at the University of Bonn is cooperating with Wageningen University (Netherlands), which is leading the project, and 20 other research centers. Prof. Joachim von Braun at ZEF is the scientific coordinator for the entire project. 330,000 euros are available for the University of Bonn.

RAINFOREST investigates supply chains of agricultural commodities

Under the leadership of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the "RAINFOREST" project focuses on the case study-based development of solutions for biodiversity protection in international trade. The consortium will work with companies such as Unilever to examine selected supply chains of internationally traded agricultural products and identify best practices. The EU is funding the University of Bonn in this project with 365,000 euros.

LAMASUS: How does policy influence land use dynamics?

LAMASUS aims to enhance our understanding of how agricultural and forestry policies affect land use dynamics. "This understanding provides guidance for the formulation and implementation of EU Green Deal policies," says Dr. Hugo Storm of the Institute of Food and Resource Economics (ILR). The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, is leading the project. Of around 5.2 million euros in EU funding, 200,000 euros will go to the University of Bonn over four years.

BRIGHTSPACE: Focus on environmental and social aspects

The BRIGHTSPACE project addresses the question of how policy can contribute to making the agricultural sector safer and fairer in terms of environmental and social aspects. Wageningen Economic Research in the Netherlands is in charge of the project. "The team from the University of Bonn will focus primarily on biodiversity issues and the environmental impact of agricultural technologies," says Storm. Of about 9.6 million euros from the EU, about 850,000 euros will go to the University of Bonn over the next five years.

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