LEAK: EU’s Farm to Fork strategy will be based on five key targets

The increase of the EU organic farming area is one of the targets set in the draft F2F and it should be achieved by a mix of measures, including appropriate stimulation of demand for organic products. [SHUTTERSTOCK]

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).

Commission wants ‘realistic targets’ for pesticide, fertilisers cuts- Kyriakides

Speaking before the parliamentary committee on the Environment (ENVI), Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides confirmed that the new EU food policy, the Farm 2 Fork Strategy (F2F), will feature legislative actions too and that there will be specific targets for the reduction of both risk and use of pesticides.

Organic farming

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.

EU's new agriculture Commissioner vows to promote organic farming

The EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, highlighted the promotion of organic farming as a key aim for the new European Commission in his inaugural speech yesterday (10 December).

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.

Reversing obesity

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.

Tackling obesity: The difficult task of finding the right policies

Obesity affects at least one in six adults and one in eight children aged 7-8 across EU countries, putting pressure on policymakers to fight the crisis and nudge behavioural changes in citizens’ lifestyles.

Livestock farming

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.

EU pressed to address meat reduction, plant-based diet in new food policy

The debate on livestock farming has heated up as a coalition of NGOs urged to EU executive to address the issue of reducing meat consumption in the announced Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy. Meanwhile, a Green MEP has filed a …

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)


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