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Call: Filling knowledge gaps on the nutritional, safety, allergenicity and environmental assessment of alternative proteins and dietary shift

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 2: Fair, Healthy and Environmentally-friendly Food Systems from Primary Production to Consumption"

National, EU and global food systems are facing sustainability challenges, from primary production to consumption, that could jeopardise food and nutrition security. The farm to fork strategy, which is key to the success of the European Green Deal and achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), aims to address these challenges and to deliver co-benefits for environment, health, society and the economy, ensuring that actions leading to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis also put us onto a sustainable path going forward. Research and innovation (R&I) are key drivers steering and accelerating the transition to sustainable, safe, healthy and inclusive food systems, from farm to fork, thereby ensuring food and nutrition security for all.

Sustainable farming systems provide a number of economic, environmental, social and health benefits, and are the main prerequisite for food and nutrition security. For farmers, who are the backbone of food systems and the immediate managers of natural resources, the Green Deal sets ambitious targets with respect to the sustainability and safety of feed and food production. These targets are included in the core Green Deal policy initiatives, in particular the farm to fork strategy, the biodiversity strategy, zero pollution efforts and climate action. R&I in line with the strategic approach to EU agricultural research and innovation[[]] will be key enablers if these challenging targets are to be achieved. They will speed up the transition to sustainable and competitive agriculture by unlocking the potential of agroecology[[]], including improving organic farming as part of the agroecological transition, boosting production of EU-grown plant proteins and advancing digital and data technologies (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). R&I will support farmers to manage land, soil, water and nutrients in new, sustainable ways, in particular through the Horizon Europe mission in the area of ‘soil health and food’. New knowledge and innovative solutions will improve plant and animal health and welfare, prevent interspecies disease transmission through food production and trade systems, and reduce farmers’ dependency on pesticides, antimicrobials and other external inputs. Thanks to R&I, farming systems will maximise provision of a wide range of ecosystem services from more sustainably managed EU agro‑ecosystems and landscapes, and help to reverse the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility while ensuring resilient primary production (Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’). Farmers will be better equipped to make a significant contribution to climate neutrality and become more resilient to climate change (Destination ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’). Also, R&I will support the development of policy (in particular the common agricultural policy (CAP)), business models and market conditions enabling transition to sustainable food and farming systems. Effective agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKISs) will speed up innovation and the uptake of R&I results from farm to fork (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). As a result, farmers will be able to transform their production methods and move to climate- and environment‑friendly, and resilient farming systems, thereby contributing to sustainable food value chains that provide producers with fair economic returns and consumers with affordable, safe, healthy and sustainable food (Destinations ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ and ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’).

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture contribute directly to environment‑friendly, inclusive, safe and healthy food production by providing highly nutritional proteins, lipids and micronutrients for a healthy diet. Sustainably produced food from marine and freshwater bodies can and should account for a much bigger proportion of our overall food consumption. The farm to fork strategy seeks to help fishers and aquaculture producers to achieve better climate and environmental results and to strengthen their position in the supply chain. R&I will directly support the common fisheries policy (CFP) and deliver inclusive, diversified approaches to allow fisheries management to adapt to different realities, including in the international context. Sustainable and resilient aquaculture systems, including the use of low trophic species (e.g. algae and herbivores), high animal welfare standards and alternative sources of protein for food and feed, will increase seafood production and reduce its environmental impact while adding economic value to the chain. Seafood security will benefit from a drastic reduction in the current massive pre- and post-harvest losses in seafood biomass. Producers’ and consumers’ awareness, trust and behaviour with respect to the responsible production, consumption and disposal of seafood will contribute directly to the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector. An overarching partnership for a climate‑neutral, sustainable and productive blue economy will contribute to food security, added value, blue growth and jobs in Europe through a jointly supported R&I programme in the European seas, coastal and inland waters.

Transforming food systems for health, sustainability and inclusion requires robust, system-wide changes at all governance levels (from local to global and vice versa) as food systems are intertwined with all other sectors and are among the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation. Food systems are to be understood as covering all the sectors, actors, stakeholders, organisations and disciplines relevant to and connecting primary production from land and sea, food processing, food distribution and retailing, food services, food consumption, food safety, nutrition and public health, and food waste streams. The European Green Deal and, in particular, the farm to fork strategy support a shift to more resilient and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food systems, as required to deliver safe, healthy, accessible and affordable food and diets for all sourced from land and sea, while respecting planetary boundaries. This will involve a better understanding of the multiple interactions between the components of current food systems, to foster solutions that maximise co-benefits with respect to the four priorities of the Commission’s ‘Food 2030’ R&I initiative:

  • nutrition and health, including food safety;
  • climate and environmental sustainability;
  • circularity and resource efficiency; and
  • innovation and empowering communities.

R&I will accelerate the transition to sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems by delivering in various areas: dietary shifts towards sustainable and healthy nutrition; supply of alternative and plant-based proteins; prevention and reduction of food loss and waste; microbiome applications; improving food safety and traceability; fighting food fraud; behavioural change; personalised nutrition; urban food systems (Destination ‘Resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities’); food systems governance and systems science; and digital and data-driven innovation (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’).

R&I activities supporting the partnership for safe and sustainable food systems for people, planet and climate will help identify and deliver innovative solutions providing co-benefits for nutrition, food quality, the climate, circularity and communities.

The EU also aims to promote a global transition to sustainable food systems. Targeted R&I activities, in particular under the EU-Africa Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) and global initiatives involving international research consortia, will contribute to this ambition.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out credible pathways to fair, healthy, safe, climate- and environment‑friendly, resilient food systems from primary production to consumption, ensuring food and nutrition security for all within planetary boundaries in the EU and globally.

More specifically, proposals should contribute to one or more of the following impacts:

  • sustainable, productive, climate-neutral and resilient farming systems providing consumers with affordable, safe, traceable healthy and sustainable food, while minimising pressure on ecosystems, restoring and enhancing biodiversity, improving public health and generating fair economic returns for farmers;
  • sustainable fisheries and aquaculture increasing aquatic biomass production, diversification and consumption of seafood products for fair, healthy, climate‑resilient and environment‑friendly food systems with low impact on aquatic ecosystems and high animal welfare; and
  • sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems delivering co-benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, environmental sustainability and circularity, sustainable healthy nutrition, safe food consumption, food poverty reduction, the inclusion of marginalised people, the empowerment of communities, and flourishing businesses.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[See Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation).]], whereby R&I projects should not support or involve activities that significantly undermine any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

To unlock the full potential of R&I and maximise impacts, participatory approaches, e.g. multi-actor approach, involving input from industry, technology providers, primary producers, the food, drink and hospitality industry, consumers, citizens, local authorities, etc. should be promoted with a view to co-creating innovative systemic solutions in support of food systems’ sustainability.

Topics under this destination should have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024:

  • sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea
  • climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters;
  • good health and high-quality accessible healthcare;
  • clean and healthy air, water and soil;
  • a resilient EU prepared for emerging threats; and
  • inclusive growth and new job opportunities.
Link Link to Programme
Filling knowledge gaps on the nutritional, safety, allergenicity and environmental assessment of alternative proteins and dietary shift
Description of call
"Filling knowledge gaps on the nutritional, safety, allergenicity and environmental assessment of alternative proteins and dietary shift"

Expected Outcome:

In line with the European Green Deal priorities, the farm to fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environment‑friendly food system, and the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 and 2050, the successful proposal will support R&I to promote the production, provision and safe consumption of alternative sources of protein, and dietary shifts towards sustainable healthy nutrition, contributing to the transformation of food systems to deliver co‑benefits for climate (mitigation and adaptation), biodiversity, environmental sustainability and circularity, sustainable healthy nutrition and safe food, food poverty reduction, empowerment of communities, and thriving businesses.

The farm to fork strategy states that ‘[a] key area of research will relate to (…) increasing the availability and source of alternative proteins such as plant, microbial, marine and insect-based proteins and meat substitutes’.

While information already exists on the environmental and climate-related benefits of a dietary shift to alternative proteins, more R&I is needed to obtain a comprehensive and up‑to‑date understanding of the environmental footprint and sustainability performance of alternatives (e.g. plant-based, microbe-based, ocean-based (i.e. fish, algae, invertebrates), fungus-based, insect-based, cultured meat) compared to conventional sources of protein (e.g. meat and dairy) and dietary shifts. There is also a need for further research on the positive and negative impacts of alternative protein sources in European diets on human health (e.g. food allergies) and their bioavailability (along with other characteristics such as structure, colour, taste and flavour). It is presumed that a shift to alternative proteins should lead to healthier and overall more sustainable diets, but this depends on the nature of the shift (e.g. shifting from processed meat to another nutrient‑poor, highly processed protein source might not provide the desired health benefits).

Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • informing a systemic approach to integrated food policy development and informing sectoral policies (e.g. on food safety, public health, agriculture, aquaculture and the environment) through additional, up-to-date information and knowledge on alternative sources of protein and dietary shift; and
  • providing solutions and assessing their potential for fighting climate change (through adaptation and mitigation), halting biodiversity loss and improving ecosystem services, promoting the circularity of the food system and improving people’s health and well‑being through more nutritious, healthier and overall sustainable food systems and food choices.


Many studies (e.g. IPCC, EAT-Lancet) have highlighted the large environmental impact of traditional livestock production and consumption of products thereof, and the need for and benefits of a dietary shift to alternative protein sources. For example, switching from meat and dairy to alternative sources of protein could lead to savings in land use (plant alternatives need less land per unit of protein; aquatic animals generally have a high production per area), better animal welfare and less deforestation for food production. Excessive consumption of livestock-derived products could also lead to a decline in health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans and red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans. An Oxford University model specifies that switching to diets made of alternative protein sources (e.g. algae, insects, plants, fungi) reduces diet‑related mortality by 5-7%, due to increased consumption of dietary fibres. However, a concern regarding novel foods (especially those containing proteins) is the likelihood of food allergies.

Proposals are expected to address the following:

  • consider all alternative sources of protein (e.g. plant-based, microbe-based, ocean‑based (i.e. fish, algae, invertebrates), fungus-based, insect-based, cultured meat), including their processing, and avoid focusing on only one, so as to enable comparison;
  • fill knowledge gaps and improve our understanding of the positive and negative impacts of each type of alternative protein and the overall dietary shift with respect to the environment, natural resources, biodiversity and climate (considering global aspects, pedo‑climatic and biogeographical conditions, pollution pressure and trade issues);
  • fill knowledge gaps on the characteristics of each type of alternative protein, including nutritional quality (e.g. bioavailability, the quality of the protein itself and of combined protein sources), alone and in the context of its introduction in European diets (taking into account the cultural aspects of diets and national dietary advice in the EU);
  • fill knowledge gaps on the health impact of alternative proteins and overall dietary shift in the European Union, in particular for those sources of proteins for which limited information on health impacts is available, such as (but not limited to) invertebrates or insects-based proteins (e.g. allergies, compliance with nutrient‑based and food‑based dietary guidelines and recommended dietary patterns), while considering gender aspects, and other safety aspects (e.g. not cytotoxic, no toxic aggregates or excessive amount of toxic substances);
  • conduct a comparative systemic analysis of conventional and alternative proteins. New Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)-based categories should be created and health effects should be included in diet assessment frameworks. Non-linear effects should be studied, with regard to both consumption and production;
  • highlight the need for new future-proof technologies and anticipate potential issues in relation to resource availability, pollution and societal acceptability;
  • create or contribute to a data space to gather knowledge, information and results of studies, and share them openly (open science) among research communities, interested parties and the public (dietary data hub). Seek interactions and complementarities with the data space for R&I and the European Open Science Cloud, and contribute to increasing the level of FAIRness (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Re-usability) of dietary data;
  • clearly explain how they will contribute to the farm to fork objectives and deliver co-benefits on each of the Food 2030 priorities: nutrition for sustainable healthy diets, climate and environment, circularity and resource efficiency, innovation and empowering communities (e.g. meeting the needs, values and expectations of society in a responsible and ethical way); and
  • implement the multi-actor approach by involving a wide range of food system actors and conducting inter-disciplinary research. Proposals should also promote international cooperation. Where relevant, activities should build and expand on the results of past and ongoing research projects (especially the four projects funded under topic LC-SFS-17-2019: Alternative proteins for food and feed). Projects should have a clear plan as to how they will collaborate with other projects selected under this topic (if funding of more than one project is possible) and topic HORIZON‑CL6‑2021-FARM2FORK-01-02: Developing sustainable and competitive land‑based protein crop systems and value chains. They should participate in joint activities, workshops, focus groups or social labs, and common communication and dissemination activities, and show potential for upscaling. Applicants should plan the necessary budget to cover these activities. The possible participation of the JRC in the projects will also ensure that the proposed approach will be compatible with and/or improve existing databases and tools used at the European Commission with regard to the environmental aspects, and ensure open access to data.
  • This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.
Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Administration & Governance, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Competitiveness, SME
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Public Services, National Government, International Organization, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Start Up Company, Education and Training Centres
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 11.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 11.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding. The proposals must use the multi-actor approach.

Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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