Dutch players launch initiative to speed up shift from animal to plant-based proteins
20 Feb 2023 --- The agri-food sector is spearheading a “master plan” to accelerate the protein transition in the country and beyond. Their initiative is centered on ensuring farmers achieve greater vegetable yields, grow plant-based on a large scale and consumers eat twice as many legumes as they currently do.
The five initiators of the master plan called the Economically-Powered Protein Transition through Innovation in Chains (EPPIC) believe it catalyzes €2.6 billion (US$2.7 billion) in economic activity and contributes significantly to achieving climate and nature goals.
The key objective is to double the consumption of legumes in the Netherlands by 2030.
To achieve that goal, the partners are betting on a comprehensive master plan for agriculture, the food industry and consumers.
For farmers, the plan focuses on the economic feasibility of growing crops high in vegetable protein, such as soybeans, peas, field beans and lupins. However, this means a massive increase in yields per acre while plant and cultivation disease resistance must also significantly improve.
The food industry would also need the know-how to adapt their production processes from imported soybean – which could be cut by a third – to Dutch legumes.
Environmental benefits outlined by EPPIC include a 640 million kg reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions, a 10 million kg reduction in nitrogen, and a 7% reduction in land use for the Dutch diet.
Wageningen University & Research (WUR), the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Southern Agriculture and Horticulture Organization, Larive International B.V., and Next Food Collective are the organizations behind EPPIC.
Economic engine in the Netherlands
The plan aims to deliver new perspectives for farmers involved in the transition.
Dutch farmers growing plant protein on a large scale and consumers eating twice as many legumes may seem like something for the distant future. Still, it is achievable within six years, believe the EPPIC organizations.
In terms of funding, the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has applied to the Dutch National Growth Fund on behalf of the five initiators and 82 partners.
It is one of 47 proposals that ministers Micky Adriaansens and Sigrid Kaag informed the House of Representatives on February 16.
The shift from animal to plant-based proteins needs to go faster to meet Dutch national goals for climate, nitrogen, and combating deforestation despite a wealth of efforts in agriculture, the food industry and science, and campaigns aimed at consumers.
“In the Netherlands, few farmers manage to grow profitable protein crops to supply the market with local options. As a result, most plant proteins in The Netherlands, including soy, still come from abroad,” highlights EPPIC.
“Despite consumer intentions to eat fewer animal products, the animal: plant consumption ratio remains unbalanced. An acceleration of the transition is needed,” it flags.
For consumers, it’s all about changing the food choice environment, such as the offerings in the supermarket or items on a menu.
“This brings everyone into contact with plant-based proteins in more places and makes the sustainable choice the easy choice. One research question, for example, is whether eating meat substitutes based on plant proteins is a necessary intermediate step that eventually leads to consuming legumes that are less processed,” EPPIC continues.
The EPPIC concludes by saying that the knowledge gained through this initiative is domestically significant and invaluable for the protein transition worldwide.
“The Netherlands already has a tremendous amount of expertise for innovation in agriculture and the entire food chain. In the field of protein transition, now is the time to take a leading position worldwide,” states Stacy Pyett, program leader Proteins for Life at WUR.
“By working together with the entire value chain, we are making plant proteins more available, affordable and attractive to consumers.’ A total of €96 million (US$102.5 million) has been requested from the National Growth Fund for this EPPIC plan.”
By Gaynor Selby
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