Creating a sustainable food system: The EU’s strategy

Setting targets

The strategy provides the framework for a series of laws that the Commission will propose,  ranging from a revision of EU pesticides legislation, new EU animal welfare rules and plans to address food waste and tackle food fraud to food labelling, a carbon farming initiative and the reform of the EU farm system.

It will complement existing EU legislation and build a comprehensive framework that covers the whole food supply chain.

All the proposals will need to be negotiated with and approved by the Council and Parliament.

The strategy’s key targets for 2030:
  • 50% reduction in the use and risk of pesticides;
  • at least 20% reduction in the use of fertilisers;
  • 50% reduction in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, and;
  • 25% of agricultural land to be used for organic farming.

Although EU agriculture is the only major farm sector worldwide to have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions (by 20% since 1990), it still accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions (of which 70% are due to animals) Together with manufacturing, processing, packaging and transportation, the food sector is one the main drivers of climate change.

According to the strategy, a shift in our way of producing, buying and consuming food is necessary to improve the environmental footprint and help mitigate climate change, whilst protecting the livelihoods of all economic actors in the food chain, by generating fairer economic returns and opening up new business opportunities.

The Farm to Fork Strategy is part of the European Green Deal and its goal of making the EU climate neutral by 2050, which is closely linked to the new Biodiversity Strategy 2030.

It aims to make the EU food system more robust and resilient to future crises like COVID-19 and more recurrent natural disasters such as floods or droughts.

Ensuring affordable, healthy and sustainable food

The Farm to Fork Strategy intends to ensure affordable safe and nutritious food for consumers. It responds to increasing demands for healthy and environmentally friendly products.

According to a Eurobarometer survey from April 2019, the most important factors for Europeans when buying food aare origin (53%), price (51%), food safety (50%) and taste (49%). In addition two thirds of respondents (66%) said they had changed their habits after finding out information on food risks.

Consumption patterns are changing, but with more than 950,000 deaths in 2017 related to unhealthy diets and half of adults being overweight, there is room for improvement. To make it easier to choose healthy options and make informed decisions, the Commission proposes a mandatory harmonized front-of‑pack nutrition labelling system.

Leading a global transition

The EU is the number one importer and exporter of agri-food products worldwide and the largest seafood market. European food is of the highest global standard and the strategy aims to promote a global transition to sustainability in co-operation with partners and through trade agreements.

Parliament, a strong defender of sustainability

In a resolution on the European Green Deal adopted in January, Parliament welcomed the plan for a sustainable food system strategy and highlighted the need to use natural resources more efficiently while supporting the agricultural sector. They reiterated calls to reduce pesticides dependency, and the use of fertilizers and antibiotics in agriculture. They also wanted higher animal welfare standards and an EU-wide food waste reduction target of 50%.

After the presentation of the new Farm to Fork Strategy, environment committee chair Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe, France) said the plans need to be transformed into EU legislation. Norbert Lins (EPP, Germany), chair of the agriculture committee, said that the strategy must be built on the lessons learnt by the COVID-19 crisis and give farmers the support they need to guarantee food security.

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