Food, Environment & Health (FEH)
The rapidly increasing size of the human population requires the development of innovative strategies for the sustainable exploitation of natural resources, but at the same time generates major challenges in supplying water and food and in combating diseases. The ERU FEH will provide solutions by research and teaching thus helping to develop answers to some of the most important problems of society to date.
The vision of FEH is to become an internationally recognized key player, through understanding of the agri-food chain, ecosystems processes and their management, for strategies to achieve simultaneously progress in the UN Millennium Development Goals (1) "eradicate extreme poverty and hunger", and (7) "ensure environment sustainability". It will give the basis to implement ways to improve public health by special foods and measures against diseases related to food and environmental changes.
The mission of FEH is to develop and integrate new ways of environmentally friendly food production and efficient water reuse in the South and innovative products and sustainable manufacturing technologies in the North while addressing consumer expectations for high quality and safe food, minimized environmental impact as well as improved public health. Through appropriate measures of education & outreach, dissemination of FEH’s results will be guaranteed and the North-South dialogue will be facilitated.
Goals and strategy
FEH intends to reduce the existing gaps in knowledge with respect to food, environment and health and to facilitate education & outreach trough the development of specific focal areas, representing concerted actions in research. Approaches are chosen which are innovative and so far lacking in the scientific community.
In a first approach, FEH focuses on three areas:
- Development of healthy foods from novel environmentally sound industrial production technologies: The objectives are to provide a basis for innovative, healthy and safe foods with tailored functionality produced by clean and sustainable technologies including optimized energy and water management. The health-related functionality will focus on controlled delivery of micronutrients and antioxidants in order to fight micronutrient deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The strategy includes the development of an industrial working group consisting of large enterprises and SMEs with impact on the Swiss economy in the domains of food, water and environment, which will provide a forum for discussion, project evaluation and knowledge transfer.
- Global food and water security: The objective is to target the inter-relatedness of three urgent problems in the developing world: food security, environmental quality and health. Subtopics are (i) specific interaction of food production and water use/reuse, (ii) countermeasures against under- and malnutrition of the poor and related health problems with minimal environmental impact, (iii) sustainable land use in food production, and (iv) food policy measures including food forecasting. This focus will be followed in synergy with the Center for International Agriculture (ZIL).
- Infectious Diseases and the Environment: Infectious diseases are a major threat to society, and increasingly also in the environment. FEH will advance the knowledge and understanding of the biology and control of infectious diseases in the context of societal and environmental changes including increased urbanization, global traffic, intensive farming and population size. A key aspect will be to study the interactions between human pathogens, food, and the environment, with the ultimate goal to identify ways to increase public health and protect environmental health. This will be done exemplarily on few, particularly threatening, diseases.