EU’s draft food policy to address livestock farming emissions, animal welfare

A new draft of the F2F strategy says that the Commission will place on the market innovative feed additives that help reduce methane emission of livestock farming. [SHUTTERSTOCK/MENENDEZ]

The latest draft of the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), obtained by EURACTIV, features a few notable changes from the previous version, including an emphasis on the possible role of animal farming on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and on options for animal welfare labelling.

The draft highlights the impact of livestock on the environment, saying that “to facilitate ways to reduce” the environmental and climate impact of animal production, the European Commission “will facilitate the placing on the market of innovative feed additives that help reduce the carbon footprint, water and air pollution and methane emission of livestock farming.”

There is also a strong focus on animal welfare, something that EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski has previously been vocal about.

The draft says that the EU executive will revise the animal welfare legislation, including on animal transport, with a view to updating it based on the latest scientific evidence, make it more encompassing and easy to enforce and, in the end, achieve a higher level of animal welfare.

Another new element in this latest leak is that the Commission will also “consider options for animal welfare labelling,” justifying it as a way to enhance opportunities for farmers, as consumers increasingly demand more information about the conditions in which the animals whose meat they eat have been raised and slaughtered.

At the Agrifish Council on 27 January, the German delegation called for the creation of a  transparent and harmonised EU-wide animal welfare label, arguing that this will “significantly increase consumer confidence in the labelling of animal products.”

This proposal was supported by several other delegations, including Spain, Denmark and Italy, the latter saying that such a label would help the “growing number of citizens” who would like as much information as possible about animal welfare in order to make informed choices on the nutritional and ethical aspects.

Speaking at the Council, Health Commissioner Kyriakides said she would consider the German delegation’s proposal for EU-wide labelling, saying that proposals to go beyond existing animal welfare rules and regulations will be part of the Farm-to-Fork strategy, due to be released this spring.

Commission bemused by consumer information conundrum

The European Commission has started sketching the new EU-wide food labelling scheme, expected to be proposed in the context of the new Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F), but the debate over what kind of information to provide to consumers has just started.

Carbon capture and pesticide

Carbon sequestration is deemed in the document as another “promising example of new green business models,” also acknowledging that payments through the Common Agriculture Policy or from private initiatives such as carbon markets can make the relevant farming practices financially rewarding.

To this end, the Commission will develop an ‘EU Carbon Farming manual’ to quantify emission reductions and carbon removals in farms and forestry systems, the docuent reveals.

How to best support carbon capture through the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), was the main topic of discussion of an informal meeting with agriculture ministers hosted by the Finnish Council presidency last September.

Carbon-capture crops need incentives through CAP, EU ministers said

Soil carbon sequestration and other measures intended to reduce net greenhouse emissions in farming require proper funding and a degree of flexibility, EU agriculture ministers agreed at an informal meeting hosted by the Finnish Council presidency.

The document adds that a “review of the promotion programme for agricultural products” will also be conducted with a view to “enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption.”

The Commission will also “strictly assess” the compliance of granting coupled income support, with a view to improving the sustainability of the supported sectors.

The longstanding production-based subsidies known as coupled payments were the core of the CAP payments before the Fischler reform in 2003, which reduced their weight.

Last week, EURACTIV reported that the first draft of the strategy specified that mandatory targets for the reduction of use and risk of synthetic chemical pesticides will be established using the controversial Harmonised Risk Indicator 1 (HRI1), whose suitability was contested in the past.

However, the latest leaked version makes no mention of the HRI1, saying instead it will “revise the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, enhance provisions on integrated pest management and promote greater use of alternative ways to protect harvests from pests and diseases.”

Marketing and reformulation

The draft acknowledges the key role that the EU food and drink industry plays in influencing consumers’ dietary choices by promoting more or less healthy and sustainable products.

As such, it says that to ensure the uptake and supply of sustainable agricultural, fishery and aquaculture products and reduce food loss and waste, the Commission will “revise marketing standards,” including the legislative framework on geographical indications.

The leak also said that to promote such practices and engage the food industry in a transparent and participatory process, the Commission will, “as a priority, develop an EU Code of Conduct, and its accompanying monitoring framework, for responsible business and marketing practice.”

The main goal of the Commission’s initiative is to stimulate reformulation of processed food, including setting maximum levels for certain nutrients and setting nutrient profiles to restrict the promotion of food high in salt, sugar and/or fat.

The promotion – via nutrition or health claims – of foods high in fat, sugar and salt will be restricted to improve the EU food environment and facilitate shifting to healthier diets.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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