DFG's position paper on boosting food and nutrition research in Germany

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The challenges facing society in the field of food and nutrition have become increasingly visible on a global scale in recent years: securing the world's food supply and combating hunger, the prevention and treatment of diet-related diseases such as obesity, and the eco-friendly and climate-friendly restructuring of agricultural and food systems. Food and nutrition research in Germany is now faced with the task of providing active scientific support in tackling these challenges and in bringing about the transformation of the food system that this will involve.

To this end, the DFG's Senate Commission on Food Safety (SKLM) has now published a position paper entitled "Food and Nutrition Research in Germany" in which it recommends further boosting this field of research, in which universities in particular have a key role to play.

"In the face of worsening climate change, the rapid extinction of species and limited resources, it will be vital to guarantee food security for the growing world population - and to do so in such a way that the food supply is sustainable and safe while at the same time enabling social participation," said DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker when the paper was published. "In order to ensure that nutrition research in Germany is well prepared for this key mission, research at universities is to be boosted with the closest possible involvement of all research stakeholders. The efforts of all stakeholders must be closely coordinated for this purpose," said the DFG President, echoing the conclusion of the position paper.

The 90-page document provides a comprehensive presentation of the research and research funding landscape in the area of food and nutrition research in Germany. In the view of the Senate Commission, there should be a greater awareness of the fundamental insight that universities are key players in food and nutrition research, and accomplishments in this field must be more visible. In addition to research and teaching, this also includes maintaining and developing research and data infrastructures, transferring knowledge to practical application, and also engaging in science communication and policy advice. According to the paper, numerous stakeholders in the areas of knowledge transfer, communication and policy advice are especially closely involved.

The SKLM's position paper supplements the statements previously issued by the German Nutrition Society (DGE) and the German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat, WR). In "Perspectives for nutrition research 2022", the DGE identified seven research fields in which there is an increased need for research, while in "Future perspectives for agricultural, food and nutritional sciences" published in 2023, the WR pointed out the need for a transformation of agricultural and nutritional systems by describing both the status quo and a target vision of these systems. The SKLM position paper now supplements the WR's external view by adding the perspective of the food sciences along with that of those working in the research field themselves and of the institutions and funding agencies involved. The DFG has collected extensive data on this for the first time.

Since 1952, the SKLM has developed policy statements and criteria that establish a framework for the scientific assessment of such things as food ingredients and food technology processes. In doing so, it supports the work done by authorities and institutions at EU, federal and state level. In addition, this Commission is Germany's sole body in the field of food and nutrition research that is scientifically independent.

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