SMEs could lead the change in new EU food policy, MEP said

Lukas Mandl said that MEPs appreciate the new focus on the sustainability of the food production outlined by President-elect von der Leyen in her new Farm to Fork strategy. [MARVAUX/EP]

Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should have a role in delivering the new Farm to Fork strategy, a comprehensive EU food policy outlined by incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl.

There is much curiosity among lawmakers over the Farm to Fork policy, described in von der Leyen’s mission letters as a strategy for sustainable food that will cover every step in the food chain from production to consumption.

The strategy will be coordinated by the Commission’s mighty man Frans Timmermans and will involve Commissioner-designate Stella Kyriakides for the health aspects, as well as Poland’s Janusz Wojciechowski and the Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius for agriculture and seafood products.

Both Wojciechowski and Kyriakides should expect to be grilled on this topic in Tuesday’s hearings (1 October), as they are the forefront of efforts to provide food safety and sustainable food production.

The topic was touched last Wednesday (25 September) during a cocktail reception in Brussels organised by Herbalife nutrition and the working group on healthy nutrition of the SME connect, a recently-founded platform that represents the interests of 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe.

“As European Parliament members, we really appreciate the new food policy approach put on the agenda by the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, because it means also meeting the needs of climate change,” said Christian Democrat lawmaker Mandl during the event.

Mandl pointed out that there is a part of the new strategy dedicated to farming and agriculture, but there should be something addressed to SMEs due to their flexibility and innovation in the food chain production.

“We need to build communities among the SMEs and give them guidelines, as they provide products close to the customers and they can immediately meet the needs of customers, even more than larger companies or larger corporations,” the Austrian MEP stressed.

Lawmakers give nod to EU food policy-making platform

EU lawmakers from different political groups and parliamentary committees are set to give birth to a multi-stakeholder platform that will address EU food policy in a holistic way, EURACTIV.com has learnt. 

Getting a hint

Though it was not well defined as yet, it was possible to get a hint of what the new EU food policy could be from the answers the Commissioners designate provided to Parliament’s written questions.

For instance, in his questionnaire replies, Timmermans clarified that he is tasked with coordinating the entire ‘Farm to Fork’ as part of the European green deal.

The broader strategy will address the whole food production and consumption chain, paying special attention to promoting efficient and sustainable food production methods, but also to boosting the support to innovation, digitalisation and smart technologies, Timmermans’ written answers said.

Speaking of the strategy, Wojchewoski also underlined the need to incentivise the uptake of digital technologies and ensure the sector can remain competitive, while Kyriakides wrote:

“I’m thoroughly convinced that food, health and environment are inseparable and expect my contribution to the Green Deal to be essential through the new Farm to Fork strategy”.

According to the Health Commissioner-designate, one of the Farm to Fork strategy’s aims will be to provide Europeans with nutritious, affordable and safe food.

A stable framework

The new strategy will rely on a consolidated framework, recently reinforced with the overhaul of the General Food Law.

Adopted following the controversy surrounding the safety evaluations of disputed products such as the herbicide glyphosate, the revised law will, however, have a large impact not only on pesticides but on all agri-food supply chain authorisations.

The revised EU legislation on mutual recognition of goods, the backbone of the EU internal market, was also considered by the food industry as a major step forward in the completion of the EU single market.

Lukas Mandl also recalled the distinction between drugs and food supplements operated in the Nutrition and Health regulation, important for providers who want to be innovative in the food market.

The Health Commissioner-designate Kyriakides mentioned in her written questions that the EU “should explore nutrition and health labelling in a holistic way, opening to a revision of the current food-label system.

Chorus of approval over new EU food safety transparency rules

On Wednesday (17 April) a large majority of MEPs gave a thumbs up to an overhaul of  the General Food Law (GFL). The increased transparency of the EU risk assessment, already acknowledged as one of the most stringent in the world, has now been hailed.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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