The new EU food policy, the Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F), will feature legislative actions and have specific targets for the reduction of risk and use of pesticides, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides confirmed in front of the parliamentary committee on the Environment (ENVI) on Tuesday (18 February).
While the strategy was previously thought to be non-legislative only, Kyriakides told MEPs the F2F, due to be published at the end of March, “will include legislative and non-legislative actions in order to improve the sustainability of the food chain.”
“There are important citizen concerns and the Commission intends to put forward realistic targets and actions,” she added.
The F2F will be embedded in the EU’s flagship environmental policy, the Green Deal, and aim to make the entire food chain from production to consumption more sustainable and neutral in its impact on the environment.
It will be coordinated by the Commission’s mighty man Frans Timmermans and will involve Kyriakides for health and food safety aspects, as well as Poland’s Janusz Wojciechowski and Lithuania’s Virginijus Sinkevičius for agriculture and seafood products, respectively.
Among the priorities that the F2F is going to address, Kyriakides mentioned “specific targets for [reduction of] both risk and use of chemical pesticides,” and a “reduction in the use of fertilisers and antibiotics.”
But food labelling will also play a crucial part in the attempt to deliver the promised “tangible benefits for the society, the environment and the economy.”
“We need to create a food environment that is also easily accessible to citizens,” Kyriakides said, adding that consumers must be provided with the amount of information that they are now requesting.
Some MEPs questioned her on which food label the Commission has in mind, considering the ongoing battle for an EU-wide nutritional food label scheme between the French and the Italian model.
French Nutri-score converts the nutritional value of products into a code consisting of five letters, from A to E, each with its own colour, while Italy’s Nutrinform is based on a “battery-powered” symbol which shows the consumer the nutritional contribution in relation to his daily needs, as well as the correct dietary style.
Although challenged by Italy, the Nutri-score is currently the only nutritional label system tested in supermarkets’ aisles, thus enjoying a head start over the battery system.
“At the moment the Nutri-score is voluntary. I believe that we need to work towards harmonisation and we will come up with a proposal on food labelling,” the Commissioner said, adding that she was not able to say at the moment which food label will be proposed.
“But we need to look at the principle and the principle is that consumers have the right to clear information on what they’re buying off the shelf,” she said.
According to her, working towards a harmonised approach within the member states will give consumers better information on foodstuffs.
“I know that there are concerns by certain member states on certain front-of-pack schemes, but everything is being assessed,” she added.
Kyriakides also talked about the link between the Green Deal and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), acknowledging there are some concerns.
“The CAP needs to be ambitious and be able to deliver what the Green Deal has, in fact, proposed,” she said.
The European Parliament has also requested an in-depth analysis from the Commission on how the CAP can meet the environmental ambitions set out in the Green Deal.
However, Kyriakides highlighted the broader services that farmers offer whilst producing food for citizens and advocated for finding ways to leave no one behind.
“Farmers will play a central role in the transition and we must find ways to enable and support them in this,” Kyriakides concluded.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]