The QualityLowInputFood Project, which unfolded over the course of the five years between 2004 and 2009, was a European-Union initiative that endeavored to meet three goals within the field of organic and low-input food supply chains:
- To enhance the quality of organic and low-input food within the European Union
- To ensure the safety of such foods found on the EU market
- To reduce the cost of organic and low-income food for the benefit of consumers, in a manner that would also benefit farmers
As an integrated project, QualityLowFoodInput was part of a broader effort to support European-Union member states in moving forward with implementing climate and environmental legislation. The QualityLowFoodInput Project aimed to make marked improvements in the areas of organic and low-input agriculture through research conducted at universities within the EU and beyond in combination with actionable training. QualityLowFood had a total budget of €18 million to fund these key activities.
What Research Activities Did the QualityLowInputFoodProject Embark On?
As QualityLowInputFood set out to reach the objective of contributing to a culture that nurtures low-input sustainable farming — meaning, concretely, reduced use of environmentally-hazardous substances such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and moving towards an emphasis on farming in a manner that serves public health while simultaneously protecting the environment — seven subprojects were established in partnership with 31 diverse stakeholders including universities and food producers.
One of these projects focused on consumers, by exploring consumer attitudes towards organic and low-input food. The second tested how accurate consumer perceptions were with regard to the differences in taste, nutritional content, and other attributes of low-input and organic foods as compared to conventionally-farmed foods. Four subprojects researched how to ensure the quality and safety of organic, low-input, and sustainably-farmed crops and meats at every stage of production, in transit, and in retail settings. A seventh working research project existed to coordinate between the other projects in order to enable effective sharing of valuable information while analyzing the cost and benefit of low-input food.
What Discoveries Did the Conducted Research Make?
Among other important findings, the research projects conducted under the guise of the QualityLowInputFood Project discovered that certain sustainably farmed crops possess superior nutritional quality; kiwis, potatoes, and carrots farmed by means of low-input methods were found to be richer in vitamin C, while spinach, cabbage, and lettuce farmed with low-input techniques had higher levels of antioxidants and minerals. Milk produced organically, meanwhile, was found after rigorous testing to contain more vitamin E.
To name another example, research carried out under the umbrella of the QualityLowInputFood Project revealed that EU-based consumers lacked consistency in their attitudes toward low-input and organic foods, however, price and low-availability represented two key barriers when consumers chose whether to purchase low-input or conventionally-produced foods.
QualityLowInputFood: Outreach Activities
In addition to research, QualityLowInputFood engaged in outreach activities aiming to achieve collaboration with farmers, food processing and distribution ventures, and consumers. Most notable among these efforts were the QualityLowInputFood congresses and educational projects.
The QualityLowInputFood congress was an annual event that enabled the sharing of knowledge regarding diverse topics such as improved farming techniques, quality assurance, and trends in the consumption of organic and low-input foods. These materials continue to be publicly available. Educational activities aimed at researchers, farmers, and consumers included seminars and workshops wherein stakeholders could learn about low-input, organic, and sustainable farming methods.
Liaising with the press corps was another key aspect of the outreach portion of the QualityLowInputFood Project’s activities, and because of this, the research findings achieved over the course of the project were widely disseminated. This fact, itself, enabled consumers in the European Union to become more aware of the benefits of opting for organic and low-input foods.
Was the QualityLowInputFood Project a Success?
The QualityLowInputFood produced rich datasets that offer valuable insights, enabled low-input food producers to begin implementing more effective methods, and formed the basis for further research projects conducted after the QualityLowInputFood Project was completed. Low-input and organic food producers within the European Union continue to face key challenges, particularly pertaining to increasing their output, however, future findings to make strides in this area can be founded on the research conducted over the course of the QualityLowInputFood Project.