Global warming and the expanding ranges of pathogen vectors contribute to spread emerging plant, animal, and human diseases across Europe and the world. Chemical substances, including medicinal compounds, are used in agricultural systems. They then end up in the environment, feed, and/or food, where they can adversely affect biodiversity as well as human and animal health. Factors that contribute to global warming and environmental degradation include dietary imbalances, which are directly associated with the prevalence of the triple burden of malnutrition (overnutrition, undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies) and of many diseases.
The relationships among food production, the environment, and health are therefore key issues being addressed by INRAE as it investigates food system transitions and environmental preservation. Our work takes a specific tack: we use the transversal and integrative approach embodied by the EcoHealth concept.
- Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that move within and among environments, agricultural systems, and food production systems
- Pollution, contaminants, and the exposome
- Preventive nutrition for improved human and environmental health
Microbiomes and health
- A European INRAE/INSERM research programme on microbiomes and human health which aims to better understand the role of microbiomes in human health and the impact of food that modulates microbiomes and constitutes both risk factors and avenues for intervention to preserve health.
- The French Gut (FG) project, on microbiota and chronic diseases, is currently being set up with partners. This project aims to characterize the heterogeneity of the healthy French intestinal microbiota and its deviations in chronic diseases in order to serve as a reference. It will work with a cohort of 100,000 subjects, from newborns to the elderly.
To prevent future pandemics and the link between biodiversity and emerging zoonoses
- The PREZODE intiative to prevent future pandemics, was announced on the occasion of the One Planet Summit for biodiversity held on 11 January. Indeed, some 75% of these human infectious diseases which originate from animal reservoirs are due to pressure exerted on biodiversity. Three French research institutes - INRAE, CIRAD and IRD – teamed up with around ten other research bodies in France, Germany and the Netherlands to launch PREZODE, which has already mobilised more than 1,000 researchers. This worldwide programme will combine research and practical steps.
Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that move within and among environments, agricultural systems, and food production systems
Epidemics result from a variety of causes: deforestation, agricultural practices, urbanisation, the loss of biodiversity, and the expansion of international transportation networks. All these phenomena offer pathogens new opportunities to come into contact with plant species, animal species, and human populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the impact that such zoonoses can have on human health, the economy, and societal dynamics.
Our research must identify environmentally friendly practices that effectively prevent pathogen emergence. This work involves reconsidering our relationship with biodiversity and recognising the ties between the social and ecological dimensions of emergent diseases.
Pollution, contaminants, and the exposome
Food systems are the source of multiple types of chemical pollution. When such pollutants mix with pollutants of other origins, ecosystems and public health are dramatically affected. In this domain, INRAE faces a variety of research challenges: characterising these pollutants; quantifying exposure to contaminant cocktails (which often occur in trace amounts); assessing the threats posed to biodiversity and to organismal health at all life stages; and predicting and managing the risks of exposure. Against this backdrop, dealing with antibiotic resistance remains a global public health issue, and it requires us to address human, animal, and environmental facets in tandem. INRAE is developing its research in this domain both within France, via a priority research programme, and within Europe.
Preventive nutrition for improved human and environmental health
To simultaneously attain objectives related to public health and environmental preservation, we must better assess the impacts of supply, demand, and the environments in which food is produced. To this end, INRAE research on dietary impacts examines the wide range of production, processing, storage, and distribution methods. Furthermore, with a view to designing effective nutrition-related policies that help preserve human and environmental health, we are exploring how dietary needs vary depending on age, physiological condition, and physical activity while simultaneously addressing the environmental impacts of human diets and accounting for the local, cultural, and economic contexts in which individuals live. The metaprogramme Agrifood Systems and Human Health (SYALSA) develops interdisciplinary research in this field.