The idea for a Food Chain Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Roundtable was a major talking point at the CIAA Congress in Brussels in November (Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU).
Now the idea has been included in the CIAA’s document on priorities for the Czech presidency, which runs from January to June this year.
“CIAA and its members are proactively engaged in the establishment of the Food Chain SCP Roundtable, and invite the Czech presidency to play an active and facilitating role in the successful launch of this platform,” says the trade organisation.
The principle behind the round table is that sustainable production and consumption is a matter of shared responsibility across the whole food chain. It should involve, “on an equal basis”, farmers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers, EU and national policy makers, scientists and NGOs.
For now, the CIAA is working to a set of three priorities for the roundtable.
First, it says scientifically reliable and uniform methodologies need to be developed so that the environmental performance of food and drink products can be assessed across their lifecycle.
The most significant environmental impacts are seen to include not just green house gases, but also water and energy use, biodiversity, air and soil.
Whatever the assessment methodology that is developed, CIAA says it “must have the broad support of the supply chain”. For this reason it is proposing it be developed in a representative multi-stakeholder process.
The second priority is to identify suitable tools for communicating to consumers about the environmental performance of food. The CIAA says it is in support of voluntary consumer information on all relevant product characteristics, subject to several conditions.
These conditions include the need for information to be scientifically reliable and based on uniform environmental assessment methodologies. The information must also cover the more significant environmental impacts throughout the life-cycle; avoid undue financial or administrative burden, especially for small and medium businesses; and maintain innovation and functioning of the internal market.
The CIAA does not support the existing Eco-label scheme being extended to foods, as proposed by the European Commission last year, as it would limit the view to just a few stages in the lifecycle – processing, packaging and transport.
It also draws a distinction between processed and unprocessed food, which CIAA calls “arbitrary”; processed foods would be included, but unprocessed not.
“Consumers would be confused by such an incoherent patchwork of information”.
The Eco-label scheme is also seen to fall short in considering the specificities of foods and drinks, in terms of health and nutrition.
The third priority CIAA envisages of the Food Chain SCP Roundtable is facilitating consistent voluntary action to improve environmental performance.
This, it says, should take place along the food chain, and would take account of existing initiatives at national, EU and global level.