Humanity and the Earth are facing global changes that call for new research objectives: we must figure out how to mitigate and adapt to climate change; increase food and nutrition security; boost human and planetary health; facilitate agricultural transitions; preserve natural resources; restore biodiversity; and both predict and manage risks. In addition, we must address regional issues related to the living conditions and wages of farmers, the economic competitiveness of businesses, land use, and universal access to healthy and diverse diets.
As a public research institute serving the common good, INRAE must tackle these challenges head-on.
Although we face great challenges, we are not without solutions
Although we face great challenges, we are not without solutions. We can still take action to protect life on Earth and ensure a good quality of life for future generations. Sustainable development hinges on choices of food systems and, more generally, on patterns of land use. Food and environmental systems can increase food security and quality at the population level while also improving human health and bolstering environmental, economic, and social sustainability. However, to do so, such systems must undergo radical transformations over the next 10–30 years, via immediate action, progressively applied solutions, and customised trajectories.
Several international groups of experts—including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), and the EAT-Lancet Commission—have all proposed solutions for bringing about these transformations in ways that would also make it possible to respect the Earth's limitations, keep global warming below +2°C by 2100, and sustainably feed 10 billion people in 2050, while still boosting the resilience of vulnerable systems and regions. These groups have arrived at remarkably similar conclusions:
- We must change our diets to better incorporate WHO recommendations, which state that we should eat less red meat and more legumes/protein-rich plants, vegetables, and nuts
- We must reduce resource loss and waste, all the way from the crop harvesting to product consumption
- We must further develop agroecological practices and boost productivity
- We must sustainably manage soils, land, forests, freshwater resources, and the oceans
- We must become more efficient and economical in our use of resources (including energy) and put in place circular economies
- We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost carbon sinks (e.g., soils, forests), and sensibly develop renewable energies, including bioenergy
- We must re-establish the balance of international trade
- We must reduce inequalities, especially economic and gender inequalities
Tool development—the central focus of INRAE research
Several tools already exist that can facilitate these transformations and promote transitions to healthy and sustainable systems. These tools are the central focus of INRAE research. They include solutions inspired from nature; plant and animal breeding programmes; the diversification of crop and livestock systems; the sensible use of digital approaches and technologies; sustainable bioeconomies and circular economies with strong regional roots; regional dynamics that promote ties between cities and rural areas; improved educational systems, especially those for girls; support for production systems and knowledge exchange; and the preservation of different knowledge systems.
The specific traits and trajectories of these transformations vary among global regions as well as between developed and developing countries. They may even vary among different parts of the same country. In all cases, they must be customised.
Looking to 2030, INRAE has defined its scientific priorities and objectives for the next decade. They arose from a collaborative, participative process that took place both internally and externally and that welcomed contributions by international experts.
> Press release of 25 January 2021
How do we go about addressing a number of intertwined challenges concerning food, climate change, biodiversity, health, inequality and poverty and enabling transformative changes across multiple interconnected systems (land, water, health, food, environmental, and socio-economic systems)?
To answer these important and ambitious questions, high-level international experts were invited by INRAE to participate in a workshop at Royaumont Abbey near Paris, France in 2020.
After a process of discussions with the INRAE scientific committee, a report summarizes their deliberations, conclusions and recommendations.