FIVE Nordic countries who have launched a new initiative to achieve sustainable development in fishing, aquaculture and agriculture, were told the region could become the new Silicon Valley for food.
Plankton, seaweed and edible insects were on the menu, when the prime ministers of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway met near Bergen recently. They launched a project called Nordic Solutions To Global Challenges,which aims to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030. The Nordic leaders said they want to focus on sustainable food production in order to fight climate change.
The prime ministers ate their climate-friendly lunch in a tent outside the Austevoll Research Station, one of Europe’s largest and most advanced research facilities for studies of fish welfare and the ecological effects of aquaculture.
They were told that with around 70 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, it appears logical to explore how much additional food and proteins the oceans could potentially provide in the future.
The five premiers got a taste of the changes in diet that lie ahead, when they were served various shellfish, farmed halibut and fried mealworms – all nicely arranged with flowers and edible pine tree needles.
The ministers were also presented with Sophia, a 20-year-old enormous halibut, swimming in one of the giant water tanks in the research centre. In the wild, halibuts rarely live long enough to grow to their full potential weight of 200-300 kilos (for female fish).
Initial results of the Norwegian research show that halibut farming could potentially form the basis for new businesses in Norway, which is in search of ways to replace its weakening oil industry.
”We can manipulate the fish to reproduce as females only, with the advantage that the female halibut fish grow much bigger than the males”, explained one of the researchers at Austevoll Research Station.
The fish can also be genetically engineered so that they are unable to reproduce, which prevents disruptions to the ecosystem in case the engineered fish were to escape into the ocean by mistake.
Norway already has a big industry based on farmed salmon, but this business has reached its limits and the production has been capped. Meanwhile, researchers are looking into ways of solving problems such as fish lice and other issues resulting from intensive fish farming.
Gunhild Stordalen, founder of the EAT foundation and one of the driving forces in the coming food revolution told the prime ministers: “I believe the Nordics can become the Silicon Valley of future food,” She reminded the prime ministers that the “way we currently produce and waste our food is far from sustainable… food production is a main driver of climate change and environmental problems”.
“What we need is a coherent food and agricultural policy, linking what we produce to what we should eat,” Stordalen said, adding that “unhealthy diets are now posing a greater threat to public health than tobacco”.
“Right now, the majority of us are still eating too much meat, sugar and salt, and too little fish, vegetables and whole grains. If we closed this gap, between vision and action, we could save lives and emissions,” she said.
She added: “We need to shift to more plant-based diets, but we are still lacking the exact formula for how to feed a growing world population within the planetary boundaries.Obviously, getting it right on food won’t solve everything. But a global shift – towards diets that are both healthy and sustainable – is a pre-requisite for achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals,” Stordalen stressed.