Photo by Sam Tranum

On Donating Food

The European Commission has issued new guidelines to try to get rid of some of the barriers that hinder food donation, and redistributing surplus food. It is an attempt to clarify legislation on issues such as food hygiene and food information requirements.

So, food suitable for donation may include: products that might fall short of producer or consumer standards because they’re the wrong colour, or shape, or have the wrong packaging or labelling. Or food that has passed its best-before date, but can still be eaten safely.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. According to Eurostat, in 2015, 42,5 million people in the European Union were not able to afford a quality meal every second day. At the same time, it is estimated that 88 million tons of food is wasted yearly, with estimated costs of €143 billion.

Tidying the Sky

The European Commission wants the European Parliament and member states to move fast on implementing rules around using drones. There were more than 1,200 safety incidents – including near-misses between drones and aircrafts – recorded in Europe in 2016. The number is likely to be higher in reality, given challenges in collecting data.

According to the new rules, all drones, regardless of weight, would be treated as all other aircraft and would be subjected to the European Union aircraft-safety regulations. Drones would also have to be equipped with geo-fencing software, which uses satellite positioning to create virtual boundaries and stop drones from flying too close to some areas, such as airports. The European Commission has allocated an extra €500 000 to support the development of geo-fencing services.

Funding Research

The European Commission plans to spend €30 billion through the research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 during 2018-2020. Over the next three years, that funding is targeted at a few big-budget topics, including migration, security, climate and clean-energy projects, and the digital economy.

At the same time, under Horizon 2020, the commission will continue to fund “curiosity-driven science”. That includes €2.9 billion over three years for Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Actions, which fund fellowships for researchers at all stages of their careers. The commission wants to strengthen international cooperation in research and innovation, working with Canada on personalised medicines, with Japan on road-transport automation, or with India on water challenges.

Currently, Ireland has 1,068 participants on the Horizon 2020 programme, including 267 small and medium companies and 220 participants in Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Action. So far, these Ireland-based participants have received in total more than €463 million, putting Ireland in fourteenth place for the number of contracts signed.

Legal Highs

The European Parliament has voted to update drug legislation to ban new synthetic drugs, so-called “legal highs”, from the European Union market and declared them to be illegal. More than a hundred new psychoactive substances, which are synthesised from legal components but can have effects similar to illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine, appear every year on the market.

The speed at which new drugs appear has made it tough for EU countries to respond. The European Parliament wants to strengthen the role of Europol and simplify the procedure for adding legal highs to the list of illegal drugs. In addition, the production, distribution and sale of the most dangerous new substances would be punishable with a maximum 10 years’ prison just like with other illicit drugs. Government sin member states have 12 months to adopt new regulations into their national law. According to the Eurobarometer, 8 percent of young people have used such substances at least once in their life. The highest percentage, 22 percent, was in Ireland.

Jowita is a Polish journalist based in Brussels, covering EU affairs and legislation.

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