Over the last decade, the University of Pavia has developed an increasing attention to advanced academic training and scientific research in the technical-scientific and biomedical areas, with specific contents related to the agricultural sector: from plant pathology to agricultural economics, from conservation and enhancement of biodiversity to high-tech, from green chemistry to clinical evaluation of nutrition.
The context in which the University of Pavia operates, both locally and regionally, allows the University to be immersed in an extraordinary entrepreneurial liveliness in the agricultural sector, that is a driving force at the economic level: rice, wine, corn, milk, soy are the most common products, jointly with the emerging horticulture.
Within this scenario and starting right from these basis, the Master's Degree Programme in "Agri-food Sustainability" responds to the challenge of the modern world related to the needed transformation of the world food system that is currently unable to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In particular, among the goals of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations, the following goals are met: defeating hunger (2); health and well-being (3); clean water and sanitation (6); responsible consumption and production (12); climate action (13); life on land (15); partnership for the goals (17).
According to the EAT-Lancet Commission, food is the main factor able to improve both human health and environmental sustainability of human activities on Earth. This affects directly the environmental impact of the food system on the entire supply chain (from production to transformation, retail, consumption) with important implications for human health, society, culture, economic system and, generally, the global well-being of the planet (source).
Over the last 30 years, the world of primary or agricultural production has undergone an increasingly rapid evolution towards the integrated use of agronomic techniques and practices. This led to considerable successes at quantitative level at the expense of quality, with costs for environment and human health. This scenario is not new and persists since the introduction of the so-called "green revolution" starting after World War II, that included a massive use of external chemical inputs.
In light of climate change, this system is in crisis and needs new techniques and practices more sustainable and more focused on the health of products, in order to keep production high both at quantitative and qualitative as well as at environmental level.
This transformation requires new figures ready to react to continuous changes such as to the new “green” trends of consumers and authorities, including the EU itself. In fact, sustainability is declined at various levels and pervades also the world of agricultural production, which is seen as one of the sources of pollution and greenhouse gases (CO2 and methane), and therefore the cause of climate change itself.
According to the Italian National Statistical Institute (ISTAT), the value of agriculture in Italy in 2019 was equal to 31.6 billion euro. In the same year, Italian agriculture ranked first in Europe, overtaking France (31.3 billion), Spain (26.6 billion) and Germany (21.1 billion). The amount generated in Italy is almost one fifth of the added value of the entire agricultural system of the whole EU: out of an estimated total of 188.7 billion euro in 2019, Italy contributed for 16.8%, France for 16.6%, Spain for 14.1% and Germany for 11.2%.
Furthermore, according to the data processed by the National Information System on Organic Agriculture for the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, the area cultivated in Italy for organic farming at 31st December 2018 was almost 2 million hectares, with an increase by about 3% (i.e., 49,000 hectares more) compared to 2017.
This growth must be explained not only in terms of more occupied surface area but also of subjects involved in the sector, which reached 79,000 units, and an increase of over 4% compared to the previous year. Organic farms in Italy represent 6.1% of total farms. This trend is slowly but steadily increasing, and has not stopped even following the recent economic crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, it is important to emphasize that in this period the attention of consumers towards supply chains more attentive to the use of plant protection products has grown considerably.