In addition to longstanding objectives like the reduction of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the European Commission envisages setting three more targets in its new flagship food policy, EURACTIV can reveal.
The three new objectives relate to decreasing the use of antimicrobials for farmed animals, increasing the EU’s land area dedicated to organic farming, and reversing obesity, according to a draft version of the Commission’s upcoming Farm to Fork Strategy.
Due to be published at the end of March, the Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) will be devoted to making agriculture practices more sustainable, and will include a new integrated food policy that involves the full supply chain.
In the latest draft, seen by EURACTIV, the main objectives of the new Commission’s policy “are supported by targets indicating what we strive to achieve and by when,” including “specific actions.”
Although exact numbers are still not indicated at this stage, five of these targets are explicitly mentioned in the draft, providing a glimpse into the EU executive’s intentions.
The first target, already announced on several occasions by Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, involves the reduction of the use and risk of synthetic chemical pesticides by a certain percentage between 2017 and 2030.
The percentage, however, has not been specified yet. But it will be a “mandatory target, with a clear legal basis” implying an overhaul of existing EU laws, including the Harmonised Risk Indicator established under the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD).
A recent report from the European Court of Auditors said the current risk indicators were unsuitable given they do not take into account how, where and when chemical pesticides are used.
In order to achieve the pesticide reduction target, the Commission is also considering to make a new legislative proposal to enhance the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
The increase of the EU’s land area dedicated to organic farming is the second target set in the draft F2F strategy. It should be achieved by a mix of measures, including ways to stimulate demand for organic products.
Last December, Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski said that “consumption is the main barrier to the development of organic in Europe” and that the problem lies in the market, at retail level.
A 5-year plan will include support for farmers to convert to organic farming, as well as measures to prop up existing farms.
On top of promoting organic farming, the Commission will support “a higher uptake” of sustainable practices, such as precision agriculture, agro-ecology and agro-forestry.
The third and fourth targets, on reducing antimicrobial products for farmed animals and cutting fertilisers, have already been disclosed earlier.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will play a role in meeting those objectives, as the national strategic plans due under the post-2020 CAP already have to comply with EU policies on pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics.
The fifth – and newest – target listed in the F2F draft aims to reverse the rise in overweight and obesity rates across the EU by 2030.
People’s diets are not in line with health recommendations and retailers do not always make the healthy option the easiest one for consumers, the Commission points out in the F2F draft.
In order to empower consumers to make sustainable food choices, the EU executive will put forward a legislative proposal to harmonise front-of-pack nutrition labelling.
The new food labelling proposal will set nutrient profiles to limit the use of nutrition and health claims on foods high in fat, sugar and or salt, but it will also require origin indication for certain food products.
The Commission also stresses that low-quality diets contribute to the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, including some cancers.
Another objective of the strategy is to reduce the carbon footprint, water pollution and methane emission of livestock farming through the promotion of innovative feed additives.
A shift from an animal-based to a plant-based diet can not only reduce risk of life-threatening diseases such as cancer but also reduces the environmental impact of the food system, the EU executive says.
To support the shift, the Commission wants to stimulate the production and use of sustainable novel sources of protein, like algae or insects.
Among the 28 actions of the F2F, the Commission will also assess the status of new genomic techniques under EU law and, if appropriate, follow up by submitting a proposal.
On food waste, studies to better understand the extent of food loss at farm level will be launched. The possible impact of marketing standards such as the “use by” and “best before” dates will also be investigated.
The Dutch government proposed extending the list of products that do not need a date marking to tackle food waste, while in France a coalition of food companies has called for new measures to avoid the confusion between use by/best before dates.
(Edited by Frédéric Simon)