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Improving Organic Food Through Low Input Farming


Our desire for safe, affordable and nutritious food that can be produced without damaging the environment looks set to become a reality thanks to an €18 million grant under the ’Food Quality and Safety’ area of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
The cash will be used over the next five years as part of an Integrated Project called ’QualityLowInputFood’. The 31 project partners across Europe will examine consumer attitudes and expectations across the food chain and develop new technologies to improve the quality and safety of organic foods.

“We will look at everything ‘from fork to farm’ for a range of food produce, including tomatoes, lettuce, onion, potato, carrot, cabbage, apples, cereals, pork, dairy and poultry products”, says project co-ordinator Carlo Leifert, Professor of Ecological Agriculture at the University of Newcastle. “We know that consumers want better quality, safe, affordable and nutritious food which does not harm the environment. The best way to achieve this is through ’Low input’ farming, which aims to avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers.

“The best known low input system is organic farming, which is one of the most dynamic sectors of agriculture in Europe, but also faces substantial challenges to meet consumers’ demands.”

’QualityLowInputFood’ aims to make a significant impact on the production of organic foods to the benefit of both the consumer and the farmer. The research will provide meaningful information that is currently lacking, on how the differences in production systems affect the nutritional value, taste and safety of the food.

“This project is a perfect example of how we aim to use the money available through the Framework Programme to improve the quality and safety of the food we eat and, at the same time, benefit the environment”, says Paul Leeks, Project Director for FP6UK. “I would urge other organisation who are considering carrying out research and development in other areas of food quality and safety to find out if Framework Funding could help them.

“The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the €19bn of funding available to support internationally collaborative R&D should log on to or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080.”

The ’QualityLowInputFood’ project will start by investigating what consumers expect from low input foods and look at what they buy. This will enable them to identify what the producers need to do to satisfy consumer demand. A second element of the project will compare low input and conventional products for features such as nutritional value, taste, shelf life as well as the risks related to reduced fertility, pathogens and toxins from fungi. Based on theses findings, the project team will than look to develop new techniques to generate better, cost effective products.

Dave Sanders | alfa
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