On 20 May 2020, the European Commission set another important step to implement the Green Deal: with the now presented Farm to Fork Strategy, food production in Europe is to become more sustainable and ensure more transparency for consumers.
Producers and consumers at the centre of the strategy
The Farm to Fork Strategy, compromising 27 measures, aims at reducing the environmental and climate footprint of our food system as well as strengthening the role of the EU as an example for global developments. In doing so, the Commission takes aim at the entire food supply chain: As declared by the EU-Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, both producers and consumers are at the centre of attention.
In accordance with this new Strategy, production, processing, marketing and finally consumption should be made more sustainable and in doing so contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The food systems in the EU are responsible for no less than 10.3 % of greenhouse gas emissions, whereby 70 % are linked to the production of animal products. The dependency on pesticides and antimicrobials, the reduction of fertilisers, the promotion of organic farming, improvements with regard to animal welfare and the fight against the loss of biodiversity are identified as the areas where most action is needed. The aim is to reduce the use of pesticides by 50 % by 2030; with regard to fertilisers it is 20 %. Furthermore, transport and slaughter conditions are to be improved, and a label to indicate animal welfare is also under consideration.
The aim is to achieve more transparency and food quality assurance to improve the situation of consumers. Thus, the Commission announces a zero-tolerance policy with effective deterrents to prevent food fraud and the deception of consumers. Apart from that, it wants to reduce food waste by ensuring a better understanding of the dates on products. No less than 20 % of the food produced is wasted. With regard to product labelling the aim is to introduce harmonised mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling. However, the Commission only suggests traffic light labelling of of foods high in fat, sugars and salt, as already introduced in some EU countries as an option.
Promotion of organic farming
Apart from the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission presents a biodiversity strategy, which as one of many goals aims at a transition to organic farming of currently 8 % to 25 % by 2030. In accordance with the Action Plan 2023, the Commission will present a proposal for a legal framework for sustainable food systems. A plan for ensuring food supply and security shall be finalised as early as late 2021.
In accordance with a socially just transition, the Commission also declares that the considerations of workers in the food sector have to be taken into consideration and that the incomes of primary producers should be improved. According to Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans it is also important to create jobs in this sector. Farmers and fishers shall be financially supported by new subsidies. Apart from that, the Commission refers to the principles enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights, in particular in view of the precarious and seasonal workers in this sector. As Stella Kyriakides points out, the implementation of the strategy with the objective to create a healthier, more sustainable world is not possible without creating good conditions in food production.
When, if not now?
Both the Farm to Fork Strategy as well as the biodiversity strategy are part of the Green Deal. Timmermans emphasised - see Green Deal – Quo Vadis – that delaying the implementation of the Green Deal is not an option. The Farm to Fork Strategy has already drawn first lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and declares that it would like to make a contribution to risk reduction for future pandemics. The long supply chains had also increasingly come under criticism in view of the COVID-19 crisis. Even though supply chains should be shortened, Timmermans warns at the same time that countries should not fall into protectionism.