Members' Research Service By / May 1, 2015

Expo Milano 2015

Written by Astrid Klaver, Maria Kollarova and Ana Martinez Juan The World Expo traditionally addresses a specific theme to demonstrate…

© laboo / Fotolia
Written by Astrid Klaver, Maria Kollarova and Ana Martinez Juan
Expo Milano 2015
© laboo / Fotolia

The World Expo traditionally addresses a specific theme to demonstrate the progress achieved and showcase future prospects, with the purpose of educating the public. The Universal Exhibition ‘Expo Milano 2015 ‘ is themed ‘ Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life ‘. It will focus on the need for healthy, safe and sufficient food that is sustainably produced. Balancing mankind’s need for food and the resources available will be one of the main challenges addressed. Keywords are innovation, energy conservation, environmental protection and natural resources. Expo Milano takes place from 1 May to 31 October 2015. 145 countries will be present, alongside the United Nations (UN), European Union, non-governmental organisations such as WWF and Oxfam, and thirteen corporations.

The European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on Milano Expo 2015: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life on 30 April 2015. It urges the Commission to make the most of the opportunity provided by the Expo and encourage practices that ultimately increase global food security.

Relevance of the theme

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 805 million people are chronically undernourished while 1.4 billion are overweight. At the same time, the world population keeps growing (to an estimated 9 billion in 2050) which implies demand for food will increase up to 60% by 2050. Areas of food insecurity still exist in the EU, where 79 million people live below the poverty line. Moreover, Expo Milano 2015 coincides with the UN Millennium goals target year, fits in the frame of the Europe 2020 strategy and 2015 is the European year for Development and the UN International Year of Soils .

The food theme at the Expo relates to many EU policy areas, one of them being agriculture.  Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will take centre stage at the Expo, as it protects the future of farming and food security in Europe. The main goals of the CAP are to ensure a reliable supply of healthy, affordable food; making agriculture greener and more efficient; and revitalising the countryside and its rural communities. Although the need for food will mostly increase outside of Europe, The Science and Technology Options Assessment report (STOA, 2013, 121 p.) on Technology options for feeding 10 billion people – Options for sustainable food and agriculture in the EU concludes it will be important to produce more with less in Europe and to cut wastage in the future.

This keysource provides information on plans of the EU at the Expo and provides sources discussing food security, food safety, food losses and waste and sustainable intensification.


Expo Milano 2015 (1 May – 31 October 2015): Information from the Italian delegation / Note (7947/15) to the Council of the European Union, 16 April 2015.

2015 Expo in Milan: EU must do more in terms of global food security, MEPs say / European Parliament, press release, 24 March 2015.

European Parliament meets Expo / Martin Schulz, 12 November 2014.

Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life / Herman Van Rompuy, 29 January 2014.

Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Comittee and the Committee of the Regions: EU participation at the World Expo 2015 in Milan “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life” / (COM(2013) 255 final), 3 May 2013.

EU and UN pavilions

European Union

EU institutions are to open an EU pavilion that emphasizes the importance of cooperation between people, science and agriculture and will be the venue of more than 200 conferences relating to policy and science . The aim is to go beyond informing and entertaining the public and make a lasting contribution on global food security and sustainability. A scientific programme is set up by the EU’s Joint Research Centre ( JRC ), which is in charge of organising the EU’s participation at the Expo. In line with the EU’s scientific approach to the Expo, the European Commission launched on 13 April an online consultation on the role of research in global food and nutrition security. The consultation is linked to the theme of Expo Milano 2015 and will underpin the debate on a future research agenda to help tackle global food and nutrition security challenges.

In their discussion paper , the JRC selected seven main research challenges to be discussed at Expo 2015:

  • Improve public health through nutrition – healthy and sustainable consumption;
  • Increase food safety and quality;
  • Reduce losses and waste – more efficient food chain;
  • Manage the land for all ecosystem services – sustainable rural development;
  • Increase agricultural outputs sustainably – sustainable intensification;
  • Understand food markets in an increasingly globalised food system;
  • Increase equity in the food system

Apart from working on the solutions of these main challenges with other international organisations, countries and private stakeholders, the EU will reach out to citizens. Its aim is to promote a positive understanding of EU policies and to work towards a more interactive approach to policy development. Twenty EU member states participate with their own pavilions.

United Nations

Key-participant UN focuses on ‘The Zero Hunger Challenge’ . The concept states that within our lifetime all people at all times can have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. The five key pillars are zero stunted children; access to food; sustainable food systems; smallholder productivity and income; and food losses and waste. Women’s empowerment forms an integral part considering the role women play in fighting hunger and malnutrition. The objective of the UN’s presence is to establish that the 805 million people who suffer from hunger worldwide are not left unmentioned while discussing food and food production.

Expo Milano 2015 projects

The Expo boosts a few side projects like the Milan Charter, Feeding Knowledge and WE-Women for Expo.

Milan Charter

The Charter of Milan is an Italy-led project that will result in a proposal for a sustainable global food system. The Charter will form the Expo’s contribution to the international dialogue on the next UN Sustainable Development Goals and will be presented on World Food Day (16 October) as the legacy of Expo 2015. Institutions, academia, civil society and the private sector contribute to and sign the Charter, containing commitments for all of them. The charter of Milan initiates from several initiatives and studies, one being the Milan Protocol .

Feeding Knowledge

Feeding Knowledge is the Expo 2015 program for cooperation in research and innovation on food security, developed by the Instituto Agronomico Mediterraneo Bari and Politecnico di Milano. The main purposes of the programme are: the creation of a Mediterranean network of experts on food security; the creation of an online environment for knowledge transfer; and identification of best sustainable development practices for food security in the frame of Expo Milano 2015. The network currently includes over 2500 researchers and a database of over 800 articles.

WE-Women for Expo

WE-Women for Expo is a network of women who speak out on the subjects of food and sustainability, putting women’s culture at the heart of the exposition. The network will use the Expo to reflect on women’s role in food production, nutrition, consumption and education, highlighting women’s role in development.


Food security

Food security refers to the situation in which all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

The state of food insecurity in the World 2014: Strengthening the enabling environment for food security and nutrition / FAO, IFAD and WFP, 2014, 54 p.
This annual report estimates global undernourishment and provides an update on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals and World Food Summit hunger targets. The report states that chronic undernourishment went down more than 100 million over the last decade to an estimated 805 million people in 2012-2014. An enabling environment is needed to encourage stakeholders to improve their impact on hunger. Comprehensive policies, human and financial resources, coordination mechanisms, evidence-based decision-making and resilience are key dimensions to achieve this environment.

Creating a sustainable food future:  a menu of solutions to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 / Tim Searchinger (et al.), World Resources Institute, 2013, 154 p.

An initial analysis of the scope of the global challenges in providing enough food and economic opportunities for a growing population while reducing environmental impacts. A menu of solutions provides options for reducing excessive food consumption; options for increasing food production without adverse land expansion; options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production, and avoiding competition from bioenergy.

G20 Talks: Latest developments on food security / Fabian Capitanio, European Parliament, DG for Internal Policies, Policy Department B, structural and cohesion policies, 2013, 61 p.

Outline of the food security global governance system. Includes a description of initiatives taken and results achieved to improve food security.

Global food security: Challenges for the food and agricultural system / OECD / 2013, 160 p.

This study discusses food availability and access to food. It establishes priorities for ensuring global food security and offers policy recommendations to this end.

Food Safety

Food safety is defined as the extent to which food is safe to eat. The EU aims at an integrated approach to food safety along the entire agro-food chain by preventing food contamination and promoting food hygiene, plant health and animal health and welfare. According to the WHO , food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is responsible for over 200 diseases.

Private food safety and quality standards in international trade / Oliver von Hagen, Joseph Wozniak, Mathieu Lamolle, CIHEAM, In: Mediterra 2014, 2014, pp. 387 – 399.
Increasingly globalised trade causes challenges for food safety and production quality. Producers are facing a strict regulation and compliance costs. The report looks at the main food and safety standards and harmonisation efforts from a Mediterranean viewpoint.

Food Safety: State-of-Play, current and future challenges / Robert Pederson, Guillermo  Hernández, Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department A, Economic and Scientific Policy, European Parliament, 2014, 21 p.

This report summarizes the legislative and institutional framework on food safety. It discusses the following food safety challenges: globalisation; climate change; free trade agreements; persistent problems and new health threats; the use of chemicals; and new technologies.

Delivering on EU food safety and nutrition in 2050: Scenarios of future change and policy responses / Food Chain Evaluation Consortium, 2013, 334 p.

Study carried out for the Commission’s DG SANCO about the food safety and nutrition challenges Europe is likely to encounter in the future. The possible impact of challenges like global trade, climate change and new technologies is examined.

Food losses and waste

The FAO defines food losses as the decrease in edible food mass during the production, post-harvesting and processing stages of the food supply chain. Food waste occurs at the retail and consumption stages of the chain.

Food waste along the food chain / Bagherzadeh, M, Inamura, M., Jeong, H., OECD, 2014, 29 p.

This OECD report assembled existing definitions, statistics and policy instruments relating to food waste. It concludes little is known about food losses in the primary and manufacturing stages of the supply chain. Moreover, waste management in OECD countries is not specifically adapted to food.

Reducing food loss and waste / Brian Lipinski (et al.), World Resources Institute, UNEP, 2013, 39 p.

Working paper, part of the series Creating a Sustainable Food Future. This paper uses statistics from the 2011 FAO report on global food losses and waste and focuses on approaches and recommendations to reduce food loss and waste.

Global food losses and food waste: extent, causes and prevention / FAO, 2011, 29 p.

This report estimates the extent of food losses and waste by region, type of food, and the supply chain stage in which the food is lost or wasted. It also describes causes and prevention of food losses and waste.

Sustainable intensification

Sustainable intensification is defined by the RISE foundation as generating higher productivity and at the same time improving the environmental management of agricultural land. It is generally summarised as producing more with less.

The Sustainable Intensification of European Agriculture / Allan Buckwell, (et al.), RISE Foundation, IEEP, 2014, 97 p.

Providing a look at sustainable intensification from a European perspective, the report argues that research will be a key factor for Europe since agriculture is already highly intense. It is suggested that the contribution of European agricultural production to global food security is overestimated, as Europe is generally not a source of low cost calories for poor countries.

Sustainable intensification: a new paradigm for African agriculture / Montpellier Panel, 2013, 35 p.

Discusses what makes intensification sustainable and which practical approaches can help deliver sustainable intensification, while focusing on ecological, genetic and socio-economic intensification. Concludes that although the concept of SI is relatively simple, it is difficult to achieve in all of its facets, namely using a more sophisticated set of inputs while increasing outputs.

Sustainable intensification in agriculture: navigating a course through competing food system priorities / Tara Garnett, Charles J. Godfray, Food Climate Research Network and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford, 2012, 51 p.

A report on a workshop, considers how agricultural policy intersects with environmental-, animal welfare and health policies. The report argues that an integrated approach of these fields is needed to ensure food security.

Further literature

Keysource on Food Safety / Valérie Léau, DG EPRS, 2014.

Briefing on Tackling food waste: the EU’s contribution to a global issue / Ivana Katsarova, DG EPRS, 2014, 8 p.

Briefing on L’Union européenne et l’agriculture durable /  Ariane Debyser, DG EPRS, 2013, 6 p.

Keysource on Sustainable Agriculture / Maria Kollarova, DG EPRS, 2012.

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