Report by Declan Troy, Chair of the 18th World Congress of Food Science and Technology, Dublin, Ireland, and President of the Irish Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFSTI)
As Chair of the 18th World Congress of Food Science and Technology 2016, I was particularly delighted and honoured that IUFoST chose to convene its Global Food Summit in collaboration with Teagasc, the FSAI and the IFSTI during the Congress.
The creation of this important Summit began while developing the Congress scientific programme. In many conversations with the IUFoST Secretariat, it became apparent that an immense opportunity for IUFoST presented itself. The gathering of key decision makers and thought leaders who are critically involved in identifying needs, developing policy and implementing solutions on a global basis in ensuring a more resilient food security system worldwide by IUFoST would greatly strengthen its profile. It would also set a high-level nature and tone of debate for the following days during the Congress.
In keeping with the vision of IUFoST, namely to Strengthen Global Food Science and Technology for Humanity by promoting international co-operation and information exchange, the pre-Congress Summit was planned. Its main aim was to create a high-level forum whereby leading scientific advisors to Government, key food research funders, major leaders of food programmes and infrastructure and international scientists could debate and identify a) areas for collaborative action, b) needs of developing countries, c) how the importance and profile of food science can be enhanced and d) new and emerging technologies that will offer solutions for a more sustainable and secure global food system.
It was important that the Summit had representatives from Governments, their agencies and their Departments as well as representatives from high-level NGOs and global institutes. In this way, it was not just a forum for more scientific exchange but for high-level dialogue among decision makers. We were delighted that the European Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. Phil Hogan, opened the Summit. He set out the “big challenges” facing Europe and the world in the areas of nutrition and health, climate and sustainability, resource efficiency, innovation and rural communities. These are all important areas to which IUFoST can respond and make a meaningful contribution.
Having set the scene, an International Priority Setting for Research and Research Funding – Future Earth session provided an overview on a global basis to the needs identified by key thought leaders, in responding to the challenges, representing the United Nations, China and the International Council for Science.
IUFoST took the lead in the next session, Global Visions for the Role of Food Science and Technology to meet Societal and Technological Changes – Mapping the World, and focused on the global research landscape, including technology foresight reports and future prioritisation of research from an academic and industry viewpoint.
The final session, entitled Mobilisation and Implementation of Policies by Governments and Scientific Advisors in the areas of Food Science, Food Safety and Food Sustainability – International Best Practice, focused on how governments were putting into place actions to meet the challenges discussed earlier. Perspectives from Ireland, USA, Canada and the Lebanon were described in detail. Approaches to implementing policy and identifying research prioritisation were outlined.
A robust and highly interactive discussion comprised the final session, Expert Panel Discussion: Action for Progress. A large panel of key figures debated common approaches and key areas for collaboration. However, it was gratifying that IUFoST took front and centre stage in these proceedings and can now with confidence take this format on to future Congresses.
The Summit allowed IUFoST to be recognised as not just contributing to international food science and technology policy but as an international organisation that is leading the identification of needs, development of research prioritisation and the underpinning of the formation of advice and implementation of policy for a more secure and resilient global food system.
The Summit was attended by over 400 high-profile delegates, who left with key take-home messages in these vital areas for food research and production. Post-Summit, the feedback was extremely positive, and I feel that future IUFoST World Congresses would certainly benefit by continuing to hold this pre-Congress event.