Today is the United Nations World Food Day and this year's theme is Social protection and agriculture. The World Food Organisation's Acting President Evelyn Nguleka recently said “I think technology and innovation should work together to produce the quality food that we need to survive.” I couldn't agree more.
The challenges are immense. Nearly one billion people are undernourished, yet nearly two billion are overweight or obese.
We waste up to one third of our food, when 60% more food is needed to feed nine billion people by 2050. To be able to do that we will need to increase food production by 1.1% every year: a challenge that is further complicated by the effects of climate change mitigation and the deterioration of our natural resources.
So how can we produce more and better food with fewer resources? The answers will be found through research and innovation.
Food, water, health and energy - these are the areas we need to focus on. It's vital that we empower people to farm the land and seas sustainably. Research and innovation must be active every step of the way to provide people with the knowledge, tools and innovations that they need.
On Tuesday I announced the Horizon 2020 Work Programmes for the next two years, including an investment of €600 million on research and innovation on Food and Nutrition Security. This will fund projects at global level to help farmers to improve their yields while protecting the environment, and protecting everyone's future.
This is a very welcome boost to the European Commission's support for food research and innovation. To give just one example, the SIGMA project brings together 22 partners across four continents to create tools and methods to give farmers and researchers a long-term global view on how land is being used; what is being farmed; how yields and production are evolving and how agriculture is impacting the environment.
Yesterday, after listening to the EXPO 2015 recommendations with Commissioner Hogan, I announced the EU's commitment to build a new Global Food Research Area (FRA) by 2020 with our global research partners. It will focus on four priorities: climate change, sustainability, nutrition and growth.
The aim is to ensure that we are all working coherently, so that we can spot any gaps and no longer waste time and resources. We shall meet one year from now, on World Food Day 2016, to present a comprehensive agenda and action plan for our work.
This will strengthen existing international partnerships between the EU and Mediterranean countries on water and food with Africa on sustainable agriculture, with China on urbanisation, with Brazil and the South Atlantic on marine issues and fisheries, and with the ASEAN countries on Aquaculture.
Feeding the planet is everyone's issue and a goal for both the European Union and the United Nations. So, on World Food Day 2015, I would like to congratulate Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.