Knowledge for Development

Related developments

EU Action Plan on Nutrition

In December 2014, the Council of the European Union endorsed the EU Action Plan on Nutrition. This action plan outlines how the Commission plans to reach its commitment to reducing stunting in children under five by at least 10% (7 million children) of the World Health Assembly goal by 2025. The plan addresses how EU’s strategic objectives in the areas of governance, scaled up interventions and research are to be attained, underscoring the need to work more closely with development actors and partner countries. (EU Council, 12/12/2014)


Joint EIARD–SCAR working group on agricultural research for global challenges: Policy principles

The Joint EIARD–SCAR Strategic Working Group on Agricultural Research for Global Challenges (ARCH) has recently updated the main Agricultural Research (AR) and Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) policy principles and the linkages between them. It is argued that AR and ARD are increasingly interlinked due to the global scale of challenges such as climate change, food and nutrition security and access to natural resources. This action by the Joint EIARD–SCAR Strategic Working Group ARCH was considered necessary in moving from the Millennium Development Goals towards the Sustainable Development Goals, so as to create sustainable policy alliances on research for global challenges.    (PAEPARD, 25/01/2015)


EC report: Implementing EU food and nutrition security policy commitments

In December 2014, the European Commission presented the First joint EU–Member States report on the implementation of the EU’s food and nutrition security policy commitments to the European Parliament. It presents an analysis of EU donors' alignment with the six priorities of the implementation plan: (i) improve smallholder resilience and rural livelihoods; (ii) support effective governance; (iii) strengthen social protection mechanisms for food and nutrition security; (iv) enhance nutrition; and (v) enhance coordination of humanitarian development actors to increase resilience.  The analysis concludes that with almost EUR 3.4 billion spent in more than 115 countries by the EU donors in 2012 alone, food and nutrition security is important both in terms of share of total development assistance and in geographical coverage. In particular, food insecure states in Sub-Saharan Africa receive substantial support. The interventions principally focused on improving smallholder resilience and rural livelihoods (priority 1 | 60 %), followed by enhancing nutrition (priority 5 | 14 %) and supporting effective governance (priority 2 | 12%). The review further concluded that demand-led research, extension and innovation needed more attention, both in terms of increased investments in accordance with 2010 commitments and, in particular, to ensure the translation of results into action on the ground so as to maximise impact and that EU donors’ coordination at country level should move beyond information sharing.    (EuropeAid, 02/12/2014)  Download the report 


The Sustainable intensification of European agriculture

This report comprises the first systematic analysis of sustainable intensification (SI) of the European agricultural sector and argues it must be the paradigm within which future agricultural policy is made in the EU. Three key points are made. First, the agricultural input which needs to be intensified across all of Europe is knowledge per hectare. This means knowledge in managing delicate ecosystems, knowledge to ensure that pollinator populations thrive, knowledge to make water management minimise flooding, as well as knowledge to achieve more food output per hectare. Second, the EU needs to devise a measurement tool for environmental farming performance. It would be strongly preferable to build on an EU-wide set of indicators already developed, for example the Joint Research Centre’s IRENA indicators. And third, in addition to better enforcement of existing environmental regulations, and using policy measures under the CAP, changes in farming practices must also come from farmers and private actors themselves. This report was the initiative of the Public Utility Foundation for Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) and launched at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS).   (PAEPARD, 24/06/2014)


North-South research partnerships: Academia meets development?

This working paper examines recent experiences in North–South research partnerships, identifying worst and best practices. It draws on work undertaken by the EADI Sub-Committee on Research Partnerships over the last two years. The paper explains that research partnerships are not immune to the typically unequal, biased donor-recipient relations that have plagued international development cooperation for decades. It argues that despite improvements in recent years, entrenched behaviour and enduring practices still affect the quality and effectiveness of research partnerships. Power relations influence the ability to combine capacity building aspirations with the drive for academic excellence. Mounting pressure to publish research outcomes fast in journals edited in the North, combined with harsh competition for funding, seriously limit the time and scope available to establish equitable partnership frameworks and support institutional capacities. The paper calls for addressing funding, knowledge and power issues in development research partnerships.   (EADI Policy Paper Series, June 2014)


Science, policy, and the transparency of values

Guiding principles for communicating scientific findings in a manner that promotes objectivity, public trust, and policy relevance have been proposed by Kevin C. Elliott (Michigan State University, US) and David B. Resnik (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US) . These are based on current ethical, conceptual, and empirical studies of objectivity and conflicts of interest in scientific research. Both conceptual and empirical studies of scientific reasoning have shown that it is unrealistic to prevent policy-relevant scientific research from being influenced by value judgments. Conceptually, the current dispute over an EC report on its regulatory policy for endocrine-disrupting chemicals illustrates how scientists were forced to make value judgments about appropriate standards of evidence when informing public policy. Empirical studies provide further evidence that scientists are unavoidably influenced by a variety of potentially subconscious financial, social, political, and personal interests. The authors conclude that when scientific evidence is inconclusive and major regulatory decisions are at stake, it is unrealistic to think that values can be excluded from scientific reasoning. Thus, efforts to suppress or hide interests or values may actually damage scientific objectivity and public trust, whereas a willingness to bring implicit interests and values into the open may be the best path to promoting good science and policy.   (Environmental Health Perspectives, 01/ 07/2014)


Reducing food waste by households and in retail in the EU

The EC commissioned LEI Wageningen UR this study to investigate what the effects of a 40% reduction in food waste at the household and retail level would be on the economy. The study shows that such reduction could result in annual savings of € 123 per person and the total savings for the EU of € 75.5 billion. However, the total effect on the EU economy will be negligible. The reduction in food waste on the demand side (household and retail) will mean that much less agricultural land will be needed for growing food (in the EU, agricultural land use will be reduced by 28,940 km2 – an area of the size of Belgium). Most of this agricultural land will be freed up because of a reduction in waste of dairy products, fruits and vegetables and red and white meat. The study reveals however that results would be greater if European households would adopt healthy eating patterns in terms of lowering consumption of meats and dairy instead of reducing food waste. Follow-up research is necessary to determine what the results would be of reducing food losses on the supply side (agriculture, the processing industry, storage and transport) and food losses and waste in the rest of the world.   Editor’s note: ACP governments need similar evidence from their national and regional universities to support decision-making.  (LEI Wageningen UR, 16/04/2014)


Engage farmers in agricultural research

Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at the Soil Association, Bristol, UK, and Tim G. Benton, who leads the United Kingdom's Global Food Security programme and is professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, UK, argue that the next wave of agricultural innovation must be at smaller scales and engage farmers directly in scientific research efforts. Enhancing farmers' own R&D could reap big rewards for minimal extra cost as farmers everywhere are practical experimentalists who understand the idiosyncrasies of their land. Technologies not invented by farmers – new kit, seeds or chemicals – are almost always adapted by farmers  to fit their circumstance but such essential contributions are rarely recognised in official assessments of agricultural R&D. These count farmers as users, rather than makers, of knowledge. Some of the best returns can come from helping farmers to assess their own ideas. Until now, such initiatives have been at arm's length from formal science, and almost exclusively in the developing world. The authors' involvement in a farmer-focused innovation programme in the UK has convinced them that such participatory R&D could also boost agricultural innovation in rich countries.   Editor’s note: Interesting development. For many years this participatory R&D approach was promoted for the Southern research community and perhaps, with this development, it will be more widely embraced by all scientists striving to make a difference and enhance the impact of research.   (Nature, 30/04/2014)   


How to improve the evaluation of research activity at universities

At a seminar organised by the Interuniversity Institute for Advanced Research on Science and Universities (INAECU), Rafael van Grieken, director of the Spanish National Agency for Evaluation of Quality and Accreditation (ANECA), spoke about the evaluation of research activity at universities. Van Grieken argued that the model of accreditation and evaluation of research at universities is characterised by being overly quantitative and by not sufficiently appreciating aspects such as professional activity and knowledge transfer. 'The model tries to evaluate quality, but ends up being very quantitative because of the regulatory framework, the secondary or indirect nature, the structuring (of knowledge) into large areas and the obligation to express it by points', explained van Grieken, who noted that knowledge transfer is not sufficiently appreciated in some areas while in others it is perhaps valued too much. According to him, there was a need to develop solid qualitative indicators to assess the universities' activities and impact. The purpose of the seminar was 'to help Spanish science improve, be competitive, on the basis of proposals of evaluation and of policies of incentive schemes for research activities'.    (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, 07/05/2014)   


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)   


Policy: The art of science advice to government

In Nature Peter Gluckman, New Zealand's chief science adviser, offers his ten principles for building trust, influence, engagement and independence (Issue 507, March 2014). His own experience is of a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy in a small advanced economy. Other countries have different forms of government and different cultural histories of public reason; high-level scientific advice may be provided by individuals, councils or academies, or a combination. Nevertheless, these guidelines are relevant to all those providing advice to senior levels of government.   Gluckman’s ten principles are: Maintain the trust of many; Protect the independence of advice; Report to the top; Distinguish science for policy from policy for science; Expect to inform policy, not make it; Give science privilege as an input into policy; Recognize the limits of science; Act as a broker not an advocate; Engage the scientific community; and Engage the policy community.   (Nature, 13/03/2014)


Three years of Joint Programming on agriculture, food security and climate change with FACCE-JPI

The Joint Research Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE-JPI), jointly led by INRA and BBSRC, celebrates its 3-year anniversary with the launch of its first biennial Implementation Plan, show-casing the role of FACCE-JPI in the research on the interplay between agriculture, food security and climate change. The Plan addresses subjects that are central to FACCE’s ambitions, for example the improvement of agricultural soil quality, the sustainable intensification of European crop and livestock systems and plant disease epidemiology under climate change. It also foresees the creation of a network of experimental climate change studies on crop and grassland systems. After three years of activity and already five joint actions launched, FACCE-JPI is no longer working at the level of coordination of national policies, but more ambitiously on alignment and convergence of these, around a commonly agreed Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).   (INRA, 13/11/2013)   


New large-scale aquaponics project funded by the EU, aiming at optimized food and water management

The newly started collaborative project INAPRO (innovative model and demonstration based water management for resource efficiency in integrated multi-trophic agriculture and aquaculture systems) aims at achieving a real breakthrough towards implementation and commercialization of aquaponics systems. INAPRO’s project coordination is located at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin, Germany. INAPRO will build on the technological basis of an earlier project by IGB that developed a very efficient tomato-and-fish aquaponics system. Prototypes will be tested in Europe and China.    (AlphaGalileo, 10/02/2014)   


Paint and chemical products from plants

In this web story, chemist Hermann Fischer, who co-founded a manufacture of natural paints in Germany, explain the potential of biomass to replace crude oil in the production of everyday goods. According to Fisher, much of the agricultural waste left after harvest could be used to produce the ingredients and compounds necessary for products such adhesives, paints, batteries, insulation and lubricants. R&D is crucial to enable the potential of biomass and pushing widespread acceptance of biodegradable products, outside of niche production.   (Deutsche Welle, 13/01/2014)   


Regional assessment of organic carbon stock in agricultural soils

Scientists at the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) Institute for Environment and Sustainability of the European Commission published an article on a modelling platform to estimate organic carbon stock in European agricultural soils in the Global Change Biology journal. Soil organic carbon is an essential indicator of good soil quality. It improves the physical properties of soil, notably by increasing its nutrient retention and groundwater protection capacities. To provide consistent carbon stock estimation at the European scale, the model computed almost 164 000 combinations of soil, climate, and land use data, resulting in new soil organic carbon datasets at the pan-European level. The platform provides a comprehensive modelling platform with comparable and harmonised European geographical and numerical datasets. It should prove to be a very useful tool to orient future policymaking decisions related to soil. JRC IES, 17/12/2013) 


A UK strategy for agricultural technologies

The UK Government recently released its UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies, which sets out how it plans to put Britain at the forefront of these technologies. It  involves building on the nation's strengths and investing £160m in new technologies, £70m through a new agri-tech Catalyst Centre and £90m through government  funding for Centres for Agricultural Innovation to explore and innovate in domains such as precision farming and no-till cultivation, GM crops, new anti-pest strategies  and even the use of drones and nanotechnology.     (NERC, 30/07/2013)   


Farmer’s choice of seeds in four EU countries under different levels of GM crop adoption

Researcher Angelika Hilbeck at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology looked into the agricultural seed catalogues available to farmers in countries  with different degrees of GM crop adoption (Austria, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland). She and her colleagues estimated how much real-world choice in seeds maize farmers have in each  of the countries. The results show that, between 1995 and 2011, in the countries that did not adopt GM crop (Austria, Germany and Switzerland), actual restrictions and regulations of GM  crops have not decreased seed choices/cultivar availability for farmers. In contrast, they observed that in Spain, which has adopted GM maize, the seed market was more concentrated with  fewer differentiated cultivars on offer: the overall number of maize cultivars declined. The research also plotted the yields over the time period only to note that there was no reduction in yields  in non-adopting countries.(Environmental Sciences Europe 2013, 25:12 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-25-12)


Opportunities and limitations for functional agrobiodiversity (FAB) in the European context

Planned reforms in European agricultural policy could facilitate the implementation of functional agrobiodiversity (FAB) concepts in the sector. However, impediments to the adoption of FAB approaches still exist, mainly (i) translation of general knowledge to tailored, ready-to-use management practices, (ii) limited information on the effectiveness of FAB measures in terms of crop yield and quality, profitability, and reduction of agrochemical inputs, (iii) lack of appropriate financial accounting systems that allow fair accounting of the private investments and public benefits, and (iv) the implementation of FAB measures at the right spatial scales, which requires coordination among the various actors in a region. This paper explores the current and new legislation that may provide incentives to address these limitations. (via ELN-FAB Newsletter, April 2013)