Meat reduction, gene editing regulation and farmers protests

Your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s AgriFood Brief, your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU. You can subscribe here if you haven’t done so yet.

The debate on livestock farming has heated up as a coalition of NGOs has recently urged EU executives to address the issue of reducing meat consumption in the announced Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy. Meanwhile, a Green MEP filed a parliamentary question asking the Commission to promote the plant-based protein sector. Gerardo Fortuna has the story.

7 - Plant-based diets, gene editing & SMEs, farmers protests

Agrifood news this week

Gene-editing regulation not the biggest hurdle for SMEs, says academic
The argument that excessive regulation adversely affects small and medium enterprises (SMEs) does not stand up to scrutiny, according to molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou, head of the gene expression and therapy group at King’s College London. Natasha Foote has the story.

Nestlé chief: EU’s Green Deal should ensure prosperity too
The announced EU food policy should also strive to create future prosperity for businesses in harmony with the environment, rather than only taking policies against some parts of the food value chain, Nestlé Europe chief Marco Settembri told in an interview.

From Farm to Pitchfork: farmers take to Brussels streets ahead of EU summit
Farmers from across Europe fired up their tractors and drove to Brussels on Thursday (20 February), rallying against proposed cuts in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They also demanded that the EU does not leave them out of the environmental transition requested in the Commission’s new flagship policy, the Green Deal. Read more here.

Embracing technology to feed a growing world
It is time for America and Europe to work together to solve the next great challenge facing us – to produce enough food, with fewer inputs, to feed a growing world population – which means embracing innovation and technology in a safe, sustainable agriculture, writes US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in an op-ed for EURACTIV.

French agricultural sector wants to change image to convince consumers
With this year’s Salon International de l’Agriculture currently taking place in Paris, the image of the agricultural sector is at the heart of farmers’ concerns, as they are struggling to recruit and complaining about so-called agribashing, a trend of disparaging farmers and their work. EURACTIV France reports.

How is tech revolutionising the agricultural sector?
High-tech is gaining ground in the agricultural sector, with agricultural innovations revolutionising work in the fields and on the farm in recent years. In this special report, EURACTIV France takes a look at the effect that technology is having on the sector.

Quote of the Week

“This year the government must show global leadership, insist that UK farm standards are the benchmark for climate-friendly farming around the world and that whoever wants to trade with us trades on our terms.”

Minette Batters, President of the UK National Farmers Union (NFU), in her opening keynote speech on the first day of the NFU’s annual conference

Agrifood news from around Europe


The news that researchers at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) have developed an effective vaccine against the African swine fever virus (ASFV) has offered hope to Poland, as one of the most affected countries. Read more here. (Łukasz Gadzała |

Agricultural protests are continuing all across the country this week, with young farmers turning out in force to defend the sector’s viability and it’s profitability which is under pressure due to the extremely low prices of many agricultural products. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
The issues of farmers revenue and access to agricultural land were placed high on the agenda of the famous Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris this week. Read more here. (EURACTIV.FR)

The minister of agriculture Marija Vucković has said the CAP has not responded appropriately to differences in agricultural production between EU member states, and that these differences have not diminished in the last 15 years. Read more here. (Karla Juničić |

The Romanian government is thinking of combining the two agencies responsible for the management of EU agricultural funds according to interim agriculture minister Adrian Oros, who said that this was at the request of the European Commission. Read more on the story here. (Bogdan Neagu |

Italy’s government has adopted its first national plan to fight exploitative conditions of migrants working on farms, a phenomenon known as ‘caporalato’. “The key words of the plan are coordination and integration,” said Italy’s minister of agriculture Teresa Bellanova. With a budget of €88 million, the plan includes 10 priority actions and has the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO) through an EU funded structural reform programme. (Gerardo Fortuna |

The debate over post-Brexit food standards has been escalating this week, with UK farmers piling on the pressure to ensure the government will not allow imports of chlorinated chicken and other low-standard farm produce in trade talks with the US. This comes after the new environment secretary, George Eustice, refused to repeat the assurances of his predecessor, Theresa Villiers, that quality standards will be maintained post-Brexit, something which has reportedly infuriated farmers. (Natasha Foote |

The Greek government is planning to launch an awareness campaign to combat the tradition of Greece’s top summer destinations using donkeys and mules as “taxis” to carry holidaymakers from the port to their destination under cruel circumstances. The locals also use them to carry disproportionally heavy weights and cases of violence have also been reported. (Sarantis Michalopoulos |

The German Farmers Association (DBV), the largest agricultural trade association in the country, wants to change the message in supermarket advertising. Currently, Germany’s largest chains put the emphasis on low prices, but the DBV wants to reorient this to focus more on quality, in particular regional and organic foods, something they expect will add value for both farmers and retailers.  (Sarah Lawton |

The Austrian Farmers’ Union called for nationwide protests in front of the country’s SPAR supermarkets on 26 February. This comes after President of the union, Georg Strasser, failed to reach an agreement with the head of the Austrian branch of the discount supermarket chain. “It is time for the food retail trade to commit itself to both the organic and conventionally produced products of our domestic agriculture and thus show our farmers the appreciation they deserve,” Strasser said. (Sarah Lawton |

On our radar this week

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides will receive representatives from Compassion in World Farming and  EU farmers organisation COPA-COGECA this week.

The Commission approved a new geographical indication from Spain this week, adding the Spanish cheese ‘Queso Castellano’.


Upcoming events 

  • 27 – 28 February – The final days of the World Bio­di­ver­si­ty Fo­rum,  a five-day scientific conference which brings together leading researchers, decision-makers and societal actors to discuss future biodiversity strategies.  More information here.
  • 3 March – Innovative Breeding Techniques, an event focusing on the crucial role of sustainable farming to achieve the Green Deal ambitions. See here for more details.
  • 5 March – Empowering female entrepreneurship in the farming sector, an event at the European Parliament. See here for more information.

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