It is wrong to say that ensuring both food security and food safety in Europe is an objective that has already been achieved and can be taken off the table, the chief of Italy’s farmers’ organisation Confagricoltura told EURACTIV Italy in an interview.
“Food security and food safety are not outdated. On the contrary, they are more topical than ever, especially after the coronavirus emergency,” Massimiliano Giansanti said.
He reacted to what the Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius recently told MEPs in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (COMAGRI) when he said that food security is no longer a major concern for the European Union.
The Commissioner said that other challenges are dominating the European food system, such as food waste, overconsumption, obesity and its overall environmental footprint.
“We think that the Commissioner for the Environment should probably think more carefully,” Giansanti commented.
According to Italy’s farmers boss, the COVID-19 emergency highlighted the fragilities of the European agricultural system, which is still uneven although the fact that the Common Agricultural Policy has been in force since 1960.
“Today, for example, in Italy, food self-sufficiency is still a long way off, given that we produce around 75% of what we consume,” he argued.
On the other hand, there is a broader issue of the quality and safety of food production cycles.
“We have very high production standards and the analyses carried out by the Ministry of Health guarantee that the national production system is a safe system”, Giansanti said.
“However, the same cannot be said of some other countries, including the European Union,” he added.
Therefore, for Confagricoltura, the future CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] should set as a priority objective not only a production capacity capable of satisfying European consumption in any emergency situation, but also ensuring quality standards that will protect and reassure our consumers.
Giansanti welcomed the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on a two-year temporary CAP scheme before the next EU farming subsidies programme starts.
“A transitional regime will allow us to plan a new CAP able to say what we should do in the years to come in the light of what will be the effects and legacy of the pandemic,” he said.
If the pandemic ends within this year, he added, European agriculture policy will follow a certain direction, but if the coronavirus emergency continues, this will have an impact on the market.
“In that case, we will need policies capable of withstanding a more or less long period in which markets risk remaining closed,” he said.
According to him, at a time of uncertainty, it is good to have hands free, and a two-year transitional regime gives the EU the possibility of being able to reprogramme its activities.
Giansanti also stressed that the CAP is one of the economic pillars through which the European Union provides policy guidance and must remain one of those fundamental measures on which the EU’s activity is focused on.
“It will be good to keep the CAP separate from the other strategies that are prioritised by the von der Leyen Commission, which may not be reconfirmed by a future Commission in four years’ time,” he said referring to the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), the EU’s new food policy.
“We must, therefore, keep the two areas of activity separate,” he added.
He recalled that CAP has served precisely to guarantee farmers’ incomes on the one hand and enough food for citizens on the other, but now the EU wants to go a step further preserving natural resources too.
“Fine, but the objectives we set ourselves must be achievable and, above all, we must understand what the effects of achieving those objectives are,” he said.
Giansanti criticised the target for 25% of EU farmland to be farmed organically by 2030, which could limit conventional agriculture and the use of agro-pharmaceuticals and chemically-based nutrients for the soil
“As a farmer, I know what it means to feed a soil today: there is not enough organic soil to meet the demands of 30% of European soil,” he said.
[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Zoran Radosavljevic]