Knowledge for Development

Judith's pick – May 2014

20/05/2014 - Judith Francis

Dear colleagues,

Here below a short selection of recent developments that may be of interest to you. More information on th


Horizon 2020 opportunities

The Work Programme on ‘Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy’ offers opportunities in finding diverse 
and innovative solutions to well-identified challenges in key EU policy priorities. Through generic or dedicated topics, a broad multidisciplinary participation is welcomed in these efforts.
Specific topics related to Africa:

SFS-6-2014: Sustainable intensification pathways of agro-food systems in Africa (page 14) 

Deadline: 26 June 2014

SFS-18-2015: Small farms but global markets: the role of small and family farms in food and nutrition security (page 29)

Deadline (first stage): 24 February 2015


Decoding EU science policy

To help learned societies and other scientific institutions decode the mysteries of the European Union in relation to science policy, Lisa Bungeroth, European Research Policy Officer at the UK Higher Education International Unit (IU), presented a simplified view of the processes behind higher education and innovation policy in the EU. The three bodies that interact to pass EU legislation are: the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of Ministers. Once legislation has been proposed by the Commission, documents bounce back and forth between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers, taking any amendments into account. Bungeroth also highlighted four main policy frameworks relevant to science research in the EU: (i) EU 2020 – a 10 year strategy to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world; (ii) Innovation Union – the flagship initiative of EU 2020 to promote innovation in the EU; (iii) European Research Areas – the strategy to create a Europe-wide single market for research, innovation and knowledge; (iv) Horizon 2020 – the main funding programme for research and innovation.

(British Ecological Society, 01/05/2014)


Parliament rejects draft EU law allowing nanomaterials in food

On 20 March 2014, the European Parliament rejected the EC’s proposed definition of nanomaterials added to food products. Lawmakers decided that the proposed definition would have exempted foods containing nanomaterial additives that are already on the market from being labelled as such. The parliament argued that allowing the word 'nano' in brackets on the labels would confuse consumers and suggested that these additives are new, which would therefore make them 'erroneous and irrelevant'. In addition, a month ago the Parliament's committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) had stated that the Commission's 50% nano-particles threshold for an ingredient to qualify as 'nano' was much too high. This definition, they argued, disregards the European Food Safety Agency's (EFSA) advice of a 10% threshold in light of ongoing uncertainty regarding the safety of nanomaterials.

(, 12/03/2014)


Some EU legislation hinders the use of insects in animal diets

Emmy Koeleman, editor at, writes about the production, trade and use of edible insects as food and feed and the wide range of regulatory areas, from product quality assurance to the environmental impact of insect farming, that govern this sector. She argues that no clear legislation with respect to insect-based animal feed exists, raising questions on how the development of novel insect products are affected by the multitude of laws in the EU. She cites the work of the FAO in providing a first look at the regulations on the regulatory frameworks influencing insects as food and feed at international, regional and national levels. Her focus is on the processing aspects of using insects in animal feed, the early experiments and the promising avenues. The need for new protein sources with minimal environmental impacts is urgent and the EU should be pressed to develop an enabling legal framework to govern the sector, she argues.

(, 02/05/2014)


Commentary: Using science to drive adoption of new technologies

Paul Weisenfel, vice president for Global Programs at RTI International, comments on the renewed interest in agricultural production shown by governments and the private sector. While many new technologies in agriculture are being touted as answers to the world’s food security challenges, Weisenfel notes that the bulk of research has been expended on these new technologies with insufficient attention to determining how best to scale them up. According to him, what is needed is a combination of the hard and soft sciences to effectively get smallholders to use these new technologies on a large scale. Weisenfel suggests a focus on three broad areas of research that could dramatically increase uptake: (i) combination of technologies (both new and existing) that work best in particular agro-ecological zones; (ii) better tools to quantify and disaggregate the barriers to adoption; and (iii) sophisticated economic modelling to better understand the market dynamics that drive or inhibit adoption of technologies. With a market-led, design-centred approach – understanding the needs (expressed and latent) and modelling the markets' ability to respond – Weisenfel believes it is possible to guide programmes to address market constraints to adoption.

(The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 05/05/2014)


Call to invest in laboratory infrastructure

At the April 2014 meeting of the Open Agricultural Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Nigeria, agricultural biotechnology experts called on governments to invest in and develop laboratory infrastructures across the continent. Professor Baba Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria and Dr Jonathan Mufandaedza, chief executive and registrar of the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe explained that modern laboratory infrastructures were indispensable to the promotion of research, enabling testing, certification and innovative development of food products. Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, chief executive of AfricaBio, said the continent must explore ways of mobilising resources to improve laboratory infrastructure and training scientists in agricultural research, such as public-private partnerships. Other experts argued that obstacles to scaling up research laboratory infrastructures included shortage of trained personnel, poor laboratory management systems, and lack of accessible and quality-assured laboratory services to support meaningful research in agriculture. 

(The Herald, Zimbabwe, 02/05/2014)




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