Last November, the European Commission launched a report on the development of plant proteins – specifically soy, chickpeas, lentils and rapeseed – across the EU in order to tackle its looming protein crop deficit. However, representative bodies for the algae (European Algae Biomass Association, EABA) and insect (International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed, IPIFF) production sectors argue that the agenda overlooks the potential of ‘new’ protein sources.
Within this context, EABA and IPIFF have jointly called for a wide EU Action Plan that ‘looks beyond vegetal or conventional protein sources’. They propose:
1. The establishment of appropriate EU funding measures and cross-sectorial collaborations (through R&D projects, for instance) to foster the upscaling of these emerging industries, and remove barriers to the uptake of innovative solutions.
2. The launch of EU information campaigns to raise awareness on the existence and advantages of new protein sources, while promoting the benefits of eating a variety of protein sources for EU consumers.
The EU’s self-sufficiency rate varies substantially depending on the protein source (e.g. rapeseed 79%, sunflower 42%, soya 5%). As a consequence, it relies on around 17 million tonnes of crude protein imports annually to meet human and animal dietary demands; on top of placing enormous economic and environmental strain on European crop production systems.
The use of insects and algae as nutritional, competitive and sustainable protein sources for food and feed applications is a recurring theme in signals spotted by the Futures Centre. From ‘insect fine-dining’ in Bangkok to seaweed-based additives in cattle feed to reduce methane emissions, both are pertinent to addressing the deficit outlined in the EU protein plan. To do so, however, further research, investment and legislative evolution is key.
Find out more about how the protein system is changing in Forum for the Future's latest report, The Future of Food.