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Prevention, detection, response and mitigation of chemical, biological and radiological threats to agricultural production, feed and food processing, distribution and consumption

Expected Outcome:

Projects’ results are expected to contribute to some or all of the following outcomes:

  • Increasing EU capabilities to assess risks, detect, alert, mitigate and respond to feed and food intentional and accidental contamination from chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) agents, through the entire food chains (soils and agro-production, feed and food industry, transporting, retail and hospitality industry, public catering);
  • Increasing the understanding on food terrorism threats and on food chain vulnerabilities to intentional and accidental contaminations;
  • Raising awareness among feed and food companies and authorities to CBR threats arising from malicious use of hazardous agents that pose danger to animal and public health. This should be done under the premises of feed and food as a critical infrastructure and risks pertaining therein;
  • In addition to raising awareness, proposals should develop possible preparedness, mitigation and response plans for national authorities and the private sector.

Scope:

Plant and animal health is of global importance for sustainable agriculture and competitive agriculture and forestry, as well as for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems[1]. Globally, between 10 and 28 percent of crop production is lost to pests and contamination of food and feed by mycotoxins can severely threaten the health of humans and livestock. The International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) 2020, established by the United Nations, raised public and political awareness of the importance of plant health and a recent study (IPPC, 2021) calls the attention of policy makers to the main effects of climate change on plant health, helping governments and the international community addressing plant health challenges. Also, the food chain, from harvest of agricultural products, throughout processing, distribution and until consumption can be challenged by several (hybrid) threats, which are increasingly taking non-conventional forms and possibly targeting the agriculture and food chain with severe consequences.

The Word Health Organisation identified intentional agriculture attack with biological weapons and food contamination as one of the main global public health threats of the 21st century. The potential for terrorist attacks or other criminal actions against agri-food targets is increasingly recognised as a threat to international security. The population's health could be jeopardised by the manipulation of communicable diseases or the contamination of food, soil, air and drinking water by CBR agents. These risks have been studied and documented by a Network of excellence (Plant and Food Biosecurity) funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (PLANTFOODSEC).

In 2017, the ENVI Committee (Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the EU Parliament) has defined food defence as “the protection of food from intentional contamination or adulteration by biological, chemical, physical or radiological agents. It includes measures regarding prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery form intentional acts of food contamination”. The potential impact on human health of deliberate sabotage of agricultural crops, seed or food can be estimated by extrapolation from the many documented examples of unintentional outbreaks of foodborne disease.

Current EU capabilities to detect and respond to agro-terrorism and bio-criminal acts are dispersed across different national practitioners, normally handled by regional or national bodies and are very limited in terms of coordination. Different countries have different governmental authorities for agricultural and feed and food domains, different collaborative networks, different border controls, different inspection bodies and different regulatory references and reporting mechanisms as well as different investigative bodies in the case of suspected feed/food crime. The EU institutions have to start to consider the agri-food chain as a critical infrastructure which can suffer from attacks and which need to be protected. The most effective way to accomplish this goal is through international cooperation by a multi-sectorial approach combing different expertise, such as from law enforcement, the feed and food sector and health emergency services.

The main challenge is to increase the resilience of European agricultural production, feed and food processing and distribution chain in case of sudden shocks. Agriculture and food chains will be included as an important dimension to be analysed in the context of protection of European critical entities[2] in case of emergencies. It is also crucial to address the interrelations between the food chain shocks and different types of critical entities with the objective of developing tools and methods to minimize cascading effects and allow rapid recovery of service performance levels after incidents. In the new context also the interaction with climate change, global trade and internet trade (spreading often plant material not controlled at all and of low quality) need to be taken into consideration. Artificial intelligence provides new tools for better coping with many of the most important challenges.

In this context, research should address agri-food systems shocks, taking account of the increasing effects of climate change and global trade (and their interaction) on pest outbreaks and spread, feed/food commodity shocks, due to external challenges, feed/food supply chains interruption and organised agri-food terrorism attacks.

This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is also encouraged.

Coordination among the successful proposals from this topic as well as with the successful proposal(s) under topic HORIZON-MISS-2023-SOIL-01-02: Soil pollution processes – modelling and inclusion in advanced digital decision-support tools should be envisaged to avoid duplication, and to exploit complementarities as well as opportunities for increased impact.

[1]For R&I on plant and animal health as well as on agro-biodiversity please consult further topics under the Cluster 6 Work Programme.

[2]Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the resilience of critical entities (COM(2020) 829 final.

General Information

Call Type
EU Horizon Europe
Eligible Country/ies
EU + Horizon Europe associated countries
Call Identifier (if any)
HORIZON-CL3-2024-DRS-01-01
Expected Outcome or Impact
Expected Outcome:
Projects’ results are expected to contribute to some or all of the following outcomes:

- Increasing EU capabilities to assess risks, detect, alert, mitigate and respond to feed and food intentional and accidental contamination from chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) agents, through the entire food chains (soils and agro-production, feed and food industry, transporting, retail and hospitality industry, public catering);
- Increasing the understanding on food terrorism threats and on food chain vulnerabilities to intentional and accidental contaminations;
- Raising awareness among feed and food companies and authorities to CBR threats arising from malicious use of hazardous agents that pose danger to animal and public health. This should be done under the premises of feed and food as a critical infrastructure and risks pertaining therein;
- In addition to raising awareness, proposals should develop possible preparedness, mitigation and response plans for national authorities and the private sector.
Target Groups
Research Institutes, Academia, Small- and Medium Enterprises, Industry, Non-government organisations, Start-Ups
Submission Deadlines
Single fixed deadline
(Next) Submission Deadline
20 November 2024
Type of Funding Instrument
Individual Support
Max. funding amount per project [EURO]
4.000.000€
Overall budget for all projects [EURO]
8.000.000€
Horizon Europe project type
Research and Innovation Action (100% funding)

Author Info

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Patric Gerö

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