After several delays, the EU’s new flagship food policy was finally released on Wednesday (20 May), confirming the aspiration of the EU executive to transform the European way of producing, distributing and consuming food.
The European Commission’s landmark food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), is made up of 27 actions that will aim to make the European food system a global standard for sustainability.
In terms of concrete targets, the Commission proposed an ambitious 50% cut for the use and risk of pesticides, as well as a 50% reduction of highly hazardous pesticides, a 20% cut in fertiliser use and a 50% reduction of antibiotic use in farming and aquaculture, all by 2030 and compared to the EU’s current level.
Together with the Biodiversity strategy, the F2F also sets a commitment of dedicating 25% of EU agricultural land to organic farming, tripling the annual conversion rate of organic farming.
On the other side, the biodiversity strategy proposes a far-reaching EU Nature restoration plan that includes the transformation of at least 30% of Europe’s lands and seas into effectively managed protected areas, in order to reverse the growing loss of biodiversity.
“Our targets are ambitious but they’re realistic, and they will be seen very carefully over the coming development of the strategy,” said EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
According to the Environment Commissioner, the Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius, halving the risk and use of chemical pesticides can support farmers in shifting to agroecological practices.
However, a Commission official clarified that the strategy represents a vision and targets are not directly anchored or linked in legislation.
The official spoke of “aspirational targets” that will be developed over time and then translated into detailed legislative targets, taking also into account the different starting points of each member state.
The F2F has been put “at the heart of the European Green Deal,” the official communication reads, but Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans highlighted that it is also “a central element of the EU recovery plan.
For Timmermans, it holds 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.
The EU’s food policy also aims to pave the way for addressing the challenges of sustainable food systems, emphasising the need to create a “robust and resilient food system that continues to function in all circumstances, capable of ensuring access to a sufficient supply of affordable food for citizens.”
This has become particularly pertinent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Health and Food Safety Commissioner Kyriakides saying that the crisis has brought this need “into sharper focus.”
The new Commission’s comprehensive agenda for all stages of food production aims to put consumers and producers at the core.
Among the concrete actions, most of them already announced by the Commission in recent months, there will be a revision of the EU legislation on sustainable use of pesticides, also promoting alternative ways of protecting harvests from pests and diseases.
It is also planned to address the issue of food loss and waste, step up the fight against food fraud and strengthen EU animal welfare rules, as well as provide clear information and empower consumers to make healthy and sustainable choices thanks to an EU-wide mandatory food labelling.
“These strategies are not about telling people what to do, but they’re about telling people how they can make their choices better informed,” said Timmermans.
The strategy was presented by Timmermans, Sinkevicius and Kyriakides and the one fly in the ointment was the conspicuous absence of agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, whose own service, the Directorate-General for Agriculture, had played a major role in drafting the strategy.
By way of explanation, a Commission source said that those on stage were the Commissioners who have been leading the work while Wojciechowski, who has been very much involved as well, will use other opportunities to comment on the strategy.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]