Researchers to promote protein self-sufficiency in Finland

The action plan would help the country to build a sustainable and carbon-neutral food chain

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2019
Finnish researchers promote protein self-sufficiency. Photo: Getty Images

Finnish researchers have created a new action plan that promotes a more sustainable food system by using grains, grass, fisheries, insects and cellular agriculture as sources of protein in the production of both food and feed, according to a new report.

The plan would enhance Finland’s protein self-sufficiency while also build a sustainable and carbon-neutral food chain, states the report by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and VYR (the Finnish Cereal Committee).

“The EU has prioritised the replacement of forage soyabean with protein sources produced in Europe. Many operators have in fact already started to replace forage soyabean with domestic sources of protein. A many-fold increase is expected in the use of forage based on domestic protein sources in the near future,” Max Schulman, Chairman of the Board of Directors, VYR, said in a statement.

“However, this requires targeted breeding efforts for high-quality cultivars, as well as allocating significantly larger areas for the cultivation of protein crops and increasing their yield,” Schulman added.

Protein self-sufficiency gained importance in Finland in 2015. Since then the consumption of plant-based protein products in food has increased.

Moreover, as climate change can trigger unstable market conditions, it is important for the European Union and Finland to increase domestic production for food security. For a successful implementation, there is a need for cooperation and development throughout the supply chain, particularly among the cultivars, contract farming and ingredient industry, the report noted.

“In addition to substantial research efforts, building a network and business models for operators are critical to enable the efficient utilisation of grass, insects and cellular agriculture in protein production,” said Emilia Nordlund, VTT’s Research Team Leader, in a press note.

Besides plant-based food sources, the fisheries can also play a key role in enhancing Finland’s protein self-sufficiency. However, implementing measures related to the viability of fishing as a livelihood in both inland and coastal fishing communities is necessary.

According to a 2016 study by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, consuming of plant-based diet, which includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, can reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 20 per cent. Importantly, lowering animal food consumption, from five to six servings per day to about four servings per day, is linked to lower diabetes incidence, revealed the study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

This is because plant-based diets are rich in fibre, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients such as magnesium and are low in saturated fats, according to the researchers. Such diets are also known to promote gut health.

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