Commissioner: EU’s sustainable food strategy ‘on pause’, but not forgotten

P054935-374202 [European Union]

The war in Ukraine has “pressed the pause button” on the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy, but the long term ambition for the sector remains unchanged, according to the EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

“We press the pause button without changing the level of ambition of the Farm to Fork strategy,” the Commissioner said while addressing concerns from lawmakers in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee on Thursday (31 March).

This pause is necessary to ensure that food security is “guaranteed for the European neighbourhood,” she said, adding that Russia’s “atrocious invasion of Ukraine has brought the question of food security to the very top of our political agenda”.

Between skyrocketing food prices and shortages of key inputs, such as fuel and fertiliser, the war has sent the EU agrifood sector reeling.

To cope with the fallout from the war, the EU executive has rolled out a series of short-to-medium term measures designed to minimise disruption, the most controversial of which includes allowing a derogation permitting farmers to plant crops on ecological focus area.

Meanwhile, the Commission is coming under increasing pressure to grant a derogation from the EU’s nitrate’s directive, which aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing leakage of nitrates from agricultural sources, in order to cope with rising fertiliser prices.

Standing by the decision to approve these short term measures, the Commissioner said these actions are “necessary to mitigate the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war,” calling for “pragmatism” in dealing with these “unprecedented” circumstances.

“We’re working hard to address global food security and for food affordability in the EU, including finding alternative feed sources for the short term,” she said.

Commission under pressure to ease rules on nitrates use in farming

The European Commission is under increasing pressure to ease rules on nitrate use in farming allowing the use of processed manure in sensitive areas to help cope with rising fertiliser prices.

Long term ambitions unchanged

However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, others have gone further, calling for a wider reconsideration, or weakening, of the EU’s overall sustainability ambitions to place a stronger emphasis on food production.

For example, French President Emmanuel Macron has been outspoken about his ambitions to adjust the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy, which he has said is based on a world “before the war in Ukraine”.

For their part, environmentalists and campaigners have stressed that the strategy’s sustainability goals must not be sacrificed on the altar of food security, emphasising instead that the strategy is key to ensure the long term viability of the sector.

And the Commissioner seemed to agree.

“The Ukraine crisis should not be a reason to change the EU’s approach to sustainability,” said Kyriakides, emphasising that, while action must be taken to alleviate immediate pressures on the sector, there is also a need to “look forward and look at what’s ahead”.

“We move forward to a system more resilient to shocks,” she said, rejecting the idea that the strategy should be revisited.

Instead, she maintained that the strategy’s targets are now “more relevant than ever” in light of the war in Ukraine.

“We are committed to making this transition a successful one and a win-win situation for both farmers and consumers,” said Kyriakides, highlighting the need to reduce over-reliance on imports, including pesticides.

“For the sake of all the generations that follow, we must choose wisely,” she concluded.

Macron wants to 'adapt' EU Farm to Fork to the post-Ukraine war world

France’s agriculture sector will aim for “agricultural independence”, prioritising productivity over sustainable farming goals in the EU’s Green Deal to cope with a post-Ukraine war Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron told a press conference Thursday (17 March).

[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Zoran Radosavljevic]

Supporter

This stakeholder supports EURACTIV's coverage of Sustainable food systems. This support enables EURACTIV to devote additional editorial resources to cover the topic more widely and deeply. EURACTIV's editorial content is independent from the views of its supporters.

Syngenta

From Twitter

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe