From pitch fork to plate: steps to greater food safety
We should not pretend that everything will return to normal after the Coronavirus, but instead seize the opportunity to reform the CAP to meet Europe’s future needs, says Eric Andrieu.
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Adapting the European Green Deal for agriculture and food; the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy is a sizeable project and one that is based on a fundamental precept: Europe must guarantee its citizens a secure supply of healthy foods of good quality.
Farm to Fork must support sustainable farming, products of good quality, rural development, food safety and traceability, animal health and well-being. The global pandemic is creating significant anxieties in several industries such as dairy and wine production.
Certain people, the same ones that would be happy for the world to return to what it was before the health and climate crises, are seeking to use this context to justify a deferment, or even a reduction, in the political ambition of the Farm to Fork strategy, on the pretext that reducing the use of pesticides and increasing the share of biological agriculture would put our food safety at risk. This is obviously opportunist and it would be a mistake to oppose environmental transition and food safety. In my opinion, both objectives are two sides of the same coin.
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They must challenge the current neo-liberal logic of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), which, owing to growth in the markets, distributes income based on area and removes all capacity of orientation on markets and production from public oversight. The same people would be capable of making us believe that European agriculture was doing fine before the crisis, in order to justify their procrastination, even their inertia. There are many who justifiably call for a relocalisation of agriculture and food.
Having a diversified agriculture available in each territory illustrates the synergy between environmental transition and food safety. It is the guarantee of a more secure food supply, better for biodiversity while reducing the need for transporting over longer distances.
“Having a diversified agriculture available in each territory illustrates the synergy between environmental transition and food safety”
This is why it is essential to consider strong measures that call into question the concentration of breeding in the regions of north-west Europe.
While the merits of the circular economy are being highlighted, improved distribution of animal production represents the ideal pathway for reducing fertiliser consumption. It must not be taboo to limit the size of breeding in farms, for the sake of the environment, animal welfare and for preventing future pandemics. The economic and social crisis that we will have to face nevertheless requires us to go further and to build genuine European food independence.
Compared to the $80 billion that the United States spends each year on food aid, the €600 million each year of European funds distributed to the most deprived, financed by the food aid associations, are obviously insufficient.
It is not normal to witness the destruction of surplus produce on the one hand, while on the other noting that families are suffering from a lack of food. The right to food for all must be an objective of a common renewed agricultural and food policy. Food safety is built on the scale of the planet.
“Rebuilding European food sovereignty will inevitably go beyond challenging the deregulation of agricultural markets”
The EU must play its part in stabilising the markets by ensuring the availability of sufficient stocks of cereals. Currently, the EU is behaving like a cicada that profits from the stocks of others, in particular those of India and China.
While climate change is a genuine threat, the logic of the rules of the World Trade Organization, which bans stabilising food stocks, is no longer defensible. As for oil, European States have a permanent reserve at their disposal - equivalent to 90 days of consumption. It should be the same for the main raw agricultural materials. The Farm to Fork strategy must come to grips with the multiple dimensions of food safety.
Rebuilding European food sovereignty will inevitably go beyond challenging the deregulation of agricultural markets. It will be necessary to revive the spirit of the founding fathers of the Common Agricultural Policy by rehabilitating the social solidarity while adding ambitious environmental objectives.
By proposing a supplementary stage towards re-nationalisation while at the same time reducing the tool box of the Member States to decouple aids for what is essential plus a few indicators, the previous Commission launched the negotiations of the next PAC on bases that seem to be even less satisfactory since the launch of the Green Deal and the COVID-19 crisis.
The definition of the Farm to Fork strategy will not be able to happen without questioning the fundamentals of the ongoing negotiation. It should, according to all evidence, lead the current Commission to make additional new regulatory propositions.
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