Franz FischlerFranz Fischler ©Isopix Rex

The EU has launched an online consultation in a bid to open political debate on global food security and sustainability issues across member states.

A group of 11 scientific experts from across the EU have produced a discussion paper, under the chairmanship of former farm minister Franz Fischler, which has now been opened up to the public.

“The issue of food and nutrition security is one that affects us all,” said Mr Fischler in his introduction to the document, which was published in Brussels on 13 April.

See also: British produce vital for food security

“We must look to innovative solutions to increase food production if we are to feed a growing world population healthily and sustainably.”

The 32-page discussion document suggests there needs to be debate about the EU’s research efforts, with the objectives being to cut waste and losses in the supply chain, increase agricultural output and raise the quality and safety of food.

On the issue of increasing production, the document notes that genetically improving crops and livestock to enable “sustainable intensification” will require the use of modern biotechnology.

But perhaps reflecting the EU’s caution over technology such as genetic modification crops, it warns that the use of modern biotechnology will “require significant dialogue with society to ensure legitimacy and the minimisation of risks.”

It suggests research may be need to “understand better how to engage with citizens and their attitude to the potential benefits/costs/risks associated with new technologies in agrifood and the environment”.

Other tactics to increase agricultural output put forward in the paper include greater use of precision farming techniques in both arable and livestock systems.

It suggests for livestock this could include manipulating bacteria in the gut of animals to boost growth rates and reduce methane emissions. Developing individual health surveillance processes might also reduce the preventative use of antibiotics, it says.

On the arable side, the document suggests new pests and pathogens are likely to emerge due to globalisation and changing climate.

This means developing new ways of breeding for sustainable pest resistance, as well as predicting and tackling pests, are all important areas of research.

The consultation on the role of research in global food security will be open until 1 September 2015. The results will be published on 15 October, ahead of World Food Day.