Combining health and environment
Healthy food products that are produced in an environmentally-friendly manner will boost the health of the Swiss population while protecting natural resources. The National Research Programme "Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production" (NRP 69) aims to identify new approaches to food production.
Diet-related diseases account for a large portion of health-care costs in Switzerland, namely around CHF 20 billion per year. Even though many know full well what and how much they should eat, this knowledge is frequently ignored when choosing food. The National Research Programme "Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production" (NRP 69) explores new ways in which the Swiss population could be encouraged to adopt a healthier diet.
At the same time, NRP 69 investigates ways of improving food products. One project aims to enhance the health-inducing properties of dietary fibres in grains, another searches for biological substances that inhibit the development of mould in order to extend the storage life of food products.
However, NRP 69 aspires not only to healthy, but also to environmentally-friendly food products. "This is the double challenge of the programme," says Fred Paccaud, Director of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University Hospital in Lausanne and President of the Steering Committee of NRP 69. "We have to re-invent food production: less water and soil should be used to produce healthy and still affordable food."
How can we make dairy farms in Alpine regions more environmentally friendly? How does regional contract farming combine sustainability, solidarity and co-determination when connecting farmers and consumers? How can we prevent 40% of the Swiss potato harvest from being wasted each year?
The programme unites various disciplines from the life sciences, agricultural sciences, nano and engineering sciences as well as humanities and social sciences. "The NRP has to remove the barriers between the various disciplines if it is to achieve its ambitious aims," says Paccaud.
The 21 research projects have been assigned a budget of CHF 11 million for the next five years. More detailed information about the projects and the organisation of NRP 69 can be found at www.nfp69.ch.