REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202007.0095.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Other Keywords: COVID-19; agriculture; food industry; applied research; technology transfer; sustainability; Italy
Online: 6 July 2020 (04:13:40 CEST)
The recent outbreak of a new Coronavirus has developed into a global pandemic with about 10,5 million reported cases and over 500,000 deaths worldwide. Our prospective paper reports an updated analysis of the impact that this pandemic had on the Italian agri-food sector during the national lockdown and discusses why and how this unprecedented economic crisis could be a turning point to deal with the overall sustainability of food and agricultural systems in the frame of the forthcoming European Green Deal. Its introductory part includes a wide-ranging examination of the first quarter of pandemic emergency, with a specific focus on the primary production, to be understood as agriculture (i.e. crops and livestock, and their food products), fisheries and forestry. The effect on the typical food and wine exports, and the local environment tourism segments is also taken into account in this analysis, because of their old and deep roots into the cultural and historical heritage of the country. The subsequent part of the paper is centered on strategic lines and research networks for an efficient socio-economic and territorial restart, and a faster transition to sustainability in the frame of a circular bio-economy. Particular emphasis is given to the urgent need of investments in research and development concerning agriculture, in terms of not only a fruitful penetration of the agro-tech for a next-generation agri-food era, but also a deeper attention to the natural and environmental resources, including forestry. As for the rest of Europe, Italy demands actions to expand knowledge and strengthen research applied to technology transfer for innovation activities aimed at providing solutions for a climate neutral and resilient society, in reference to primary production to ensure food security and nutrition quality. Our expectation is that science and culture return to play a central role in national society, as their main actors are capable of making a pivotal contribution to renew and restart the whole primary sector and agri-food industry, addressing also social and environmental issues, and so accelerating the transition to sustainability.