At a round table discussion meeting with leading farming representatives, food producers, retailers, consumer experts and scientists in Madrid, EU Commissioner David Byrne for Health and Consumer Protection laid out a strategic re-thinking of food production and food policy in terms of quality, safety and cost.
The Commissioner emphasised the need for shifts in attitudes of both consumers and producers if society's expectations of food and agricultural policy are to be met.
He added that the Commission will be looking again at genetically modified foods but it would only allow them if they were absolutely safe.
Industry, consumer and agricultural sector representatives welcomed the initiative as timely and of strategic importance.
The group also called for the early establishment of an independent European Food Authority.
"Consumers increasingly want higher quality food, as well as higher animal welfare, environmental and hygiene standards in food production," said Commissioner Byrne. "There is a price to pay for all of that. But modern production methods must put consumers first. There has been a fundamental change in the job agriculture is expected to do from the days after the post-war when the people and politicians of Europe worried about food scarcity.
"Responsible agriculture nowadays must be viable yet sustainable economically, environmentally and socially. We must work more and more with nature and not against it. It is my intention to listen to society in shaping the future common agricultural policy," he added.