The EU’s new flagship food policy was released on Wednesday 20th of May, confirming the aspiration to transform the European way of producing, distributing and consuming food. The Farm to Fork strategy, is made up of 27 actions that will aim to make the European food system a global standard for sustainability. The strategy sets “concrete targets” to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% and fertilizers by 20% in the EU, halve the sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, and turn a quarter of the total farmlands to organic cultivations — all to be achieved by 2030 at the latest. Farm to Fork also focuses on reducing food waste and loss of nutrients and promotes the transition to a sustainable food system “that safeguards food security and ensures access to healthy diets.”
Together with the Biodiversity Strategy, the Farm to Fork Strategy sets a commitment of dedicating 25% of EU agricultural land to organic farming, tripling the annual conversion rate of organic farming. The Farm to Fork Strategy has been put “at the heart of the European Green Deal,” highlighted that it is also “a central element of the EU recovery plan.” holding the potential to create immediate business and investment opportunities to restore Europe’s economy as fast as possible, creating an economic value of more than €1.8 trillion. Sustainable agricultural and food production practices are expected to create over 200 million fulltime jobs globally by 2050.
Food systems cannot be resilient to crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic if they are not sustainable. Putting our food systems on a sustainable path also brings new opportunities for operators in the food value chain. New technologies and scientific discoveries, combined with increasing public awareness and demand for sustainable food, will benefit all stakeholders.
We need to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global GHG emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers. There is an urgent need to reduce dependency on pesticides and antimicrobials, reduce excess fertilisation, increase organic farming, improve animal welfare, and reverse biodiversity loss.
A shift of consumers to plant-based and reduced-meat eating patterns is a main pylon of the strategy to reduce the obesity rates in European populations and increase the prevention of diseases like cancer. To facilitate the transition to plant-based diets, more EU funds are to be allocated to the research and production of alternative plant proteins and meat substitutes.
This will cover every step in the food chain from production to consumption, and feed into the circular economy objectives. It should combine regulation with communication and awareness campaigns and have full buy-in from local, regional and sectoral actors, as well as Member States and European institutions.
Transition to Sustainable food systems – Farm to Fork
The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should: have a neutral or positive environmental impact. … ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to enough, safe, nutritious, sustainable food.
- Primary production (CAP, pesticides, fertilisers, welfare, AMR, ..)
- Food processing and distribution (need to stimulate sustainable food production)
- Consumers’ empowerment (food information /awareness/ behavioral change)
- Food waste
Sustainable Agricultural Techniques
Promoting the use of sustainable practices, such as precision agriculture, organic farming, agro-ecology, agro-forestry and stricter animal welfare standards. Consumer co-operatives have a long tradition of supporting farmers in these operations, and above all, promoting high animal welfare standards.
Circular Economy: Lowering the Environmental Footprint
The aim is to reduce the environmental impact of the food processing and retail sectors by taking action on transport, storage, packaging and food waste. This will include actions to combat food fraud, including strengthening enforcement and investigative capacity at EU level.
Consumer co-operatives are at the forefront of packaging reformulation and labelling with the aim of maximum and user-friendly consumer information. Reducing food waste has been and continues to be the focus of Euro Coop members’ campaigns designed to raise awareness among consumers of the need to change consumption patterns. Euro Coop is already participating in the EU Commission’s consultative platforms tasked with establishing criteria to define and measure food waste. Within the consultation phase, Euro Coop must put forth the position of consumer co-operatives by presenting their innovation, but also to avoid any future legislative requirements which would overburden retailers concerning the packaging and/or requirements to reduce food waste, which run contrary to viable business practices.
The Farm to Fork strategy will also contain proposals to improve the position of farmers in the value chain. This could trigger legislation actions targeting the further restriction of retailers’ operations, as was the case with the UTP Directive. Therefore, Euro Coop and other retail organisations have a responsibility to ensure a balanced and fair supply chain, especially concerning consumer co-operatives.
Sustainable Consumption & Healthy Lifestyles
Lastly, the Farm to Fork Strategy will strive to stimulate sustainable food consumption and promote affordable healthy food for all. Imported food must comply with EU’s high environmental and food standards. The EU Commission wishes to propose actions to help consumers choose healthy and sustainable diets and explore new ways to give consumers better information, including digitally, on the origin of food, its nutritional value, and its environmental footprint. This would also include product labelling schemes.
The financial support for sectors which will need to adjust
The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will remain key tools to support the transition to sustainable food systems while ensuring a decent living for farmers, fishers and their families.
Research and innovation (R&I) are key drivers in accelerating the transition to sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems. Under Horizon Europe, the Commission proposes to spend €10 billion on R&I on food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and the environment as well as the use of digital technologies and nature-based solutions for agri-food.
The InvestEU Fund will foster investment in the agro-food sector by de-risking investments by European corporations and facilitating access to finance for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and mid-cap companies.
In 2020, the EU framework to facilitate sustainable investments (EU taxonomy) as well as the renewed strategy on sustainable finance will mobilise the financial sector to play a major role in the transition and to invest more sustainably, including in the agriculture and food production sector. The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) must also increasingly facilitate investment support to improve the resilience and accelerate the green and digital transformation of farms.