The EU’s Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy has set a target of 25% of agricultural land in the EU being farmed organically by 2030, a three-fold increase.
The strategy, which was released on Wednesday (20 May) after several delays, emphasises the potential of organic agriculture for safeguarding the EU’s environment and creating a sustainable agricultural system.
“The market for organic food is set to continue growing and organic farming needs to be further promoted,” the strategy reads, highlighting that it has a “positive impact on biodiversity, it creates jobs and attracts young farmers.”
To support the uptake of sustainable practices, the strategy offered new ‘eco-schemes’ as a major stream of funding to support practices such as precision agriculture, agro-ecology, agro-forestry and carbon farming.
“Member states and the Commission will have to ensure that they are appropriately resourced and implemented in the Strategic Plans,” it states, adding that the Commission will support the introduction of a minimum ring-fencing budget for eco-schemes.
It added that the Commission will put forward an action plan on organic farming, designed to help member states “stimulate both supply and demand for organic products,” and will work to ensure consumer trust and uptake through, for example, promotion campaigns and green public procurement.
To improve the availability and price of sustainable food and promote healthy and sustainable diets in institutional catering, the Commission will also determine the best way of setting minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement.
The strategy also focuses on the importance of seed security, highlighting that farmers need to have access to a “range of quality seeds for plant varieties adapted to the pressures of climate change.”
“The Commission will take measures to facilitate the registration of seed varieties, including for organic farming, and to ensure easier market access for traditional and locally adapted varieties,” it said.
In response, the chair of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, Norbert Lins, said that MEPs “will focus here on organic land and changes in farmable land as well as indications on the forest strategy,” adding that they will “try hard to ensure that the decisions on these issues are taken with farmers and not against them.”
EU organics association IFOAM EU welcomed the “landmark decision to put organic at the heart of the future European food system.”
“Organic farming is a successful economic model for farmers with proven benefits for the environment. Making it a cornerstone of a future EU sustainable food system is the right decision,” said Jan Plagge, IFOAM EU President.
He added that the F2F strategy “provides EU citizens with a clear vision for the future of our food system.”
However, farmers association COPA-COGECA appeared to criticise the inclusion of targets in the strategy, tweeting “why do targets come before impact assessments? What will happen with the impact assessments show that they are not realistic? How to achieve this if alternatives are not readily available but need time/investment to be developed?”
This sentiment was echoed by Géraldine Kutas, director-general of the European Crop Protection Agency, who stressed that targets must “be realistic and science-based ensuring the desired outcomes in terms of biodiversity preservation, safeguarding health, and agricultural production.”
The organic sector has experienced a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, with higher sales of organic produce reported across various member states.
Although he highlighted that certain sections of the sector have been hit by the crisis, especially the dairy and beef sector, IFOAM director Eduardo Cuoco recently told EURACTIV that “overall, organic is a more resilient system when hit by such a crisis as it relies less on external input than conventional systems.”
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]