Is Europe’s Farm to Fork strategy in trouble? ‘Political resistance is threatening to derail the process’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Will Farm-2-Fork be watered down or delayed? / Pic: GettyImages-fotokostic
Will Farm-2-Fork be watered down or delayed? / Pic: GettyImages-fotokostic

Related tags Food security Agriculture Food European union Sustainability European commission

A coalition of 286 civil society organisations have come together to urge the European Commission to follow through on its plans to legislate for a more sustainable food system. The move, they say, is necessary in the face of ‘political resistance’ that is ‘threatening to derail the process’ for an EU Sustainable Food System Law.

The organisations suggest that, behind-the-scenes, opposition to sustainable food policies is placing a number of proposals – which were due to be presented by September this year – in jeopardy.

In an open letter to EC President Ursula von der Leyen, the coalition states: “While some stakeholders and policy-makers are instrumentalising the current geopolitical context to weaken the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, we would like to reiterate our full support for the publication of this proposal. The new legal framework should set a clear path for the transition to a sustainable EU food system and anchor the objectices of the F2F strategy into law by including all the actors in the food supply chain.”

The letter stresses that giving F2F a legal framework would be a ‘key political achievement’ and an ‘important legacy’ for the current Commission. It is critical, they add, that action on food system sustainability is taken if the EU is to meet its international commitments and the objectives of the European Green Deal.

‘The people of Europe need this law’

The open letter has attracted broad-based support, with signatories ranging from trade unions, to environmental organisations and health campaigners.

“The fact that this letter has received such overwhelming support from all corners of Europe shows that people need this law,” insisted WWF’s Giulia Riedo, Agriculture and Sustainable Food Policy Officer.

The signatories make the link between the health of people and planet and argue that access to affordable, sustainable and healthy food is a critical outcome of regulating for food system sustainability. "[F2F] has the potential to enable all EU citizens to access more equitable, healthy and environmentally friendly food by fostering food environments that nurture people’s health and protect the planet. Making healthy and sustainable food the easiest and most affordable choice is therefore key to the effective implementation of the F2F strategy, as it will help consumers and the food industry support sustainable producers." 

It also affords the opportunity to combat the biodiversity and climate crises, the letter's authors continued. The WWF stressed that currently, food systems are responsible for 34% of global CHG emissions and for the unhealthy diets behind the deaths of 1 in 5 Europeans.

“The way we produce and consume food is harming our health and degrading our environment to a level that we cannot afford - indeed, this is already now impacting Europe’s production capacity. We need to make our food systems more sustainable and we need to do it now,” Riedo urged.

Will F2F damage food security? 

In 2021, the European Commission announced a flagship EU legislative framework for sustainable food systems for late 2023 as part of the F2F strategy, with the aim of integrating sustainability into existing and future food-related policies and setting a clear path for all the actors in the food value chain.

However, according to a recent report from 'POLITICO' citing internal EC documents, many of the most ambitious reforms are likely to be delayed or entirely blocked by political battles among farmers, EU officials and national governments. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and energy crisis have been seized on by critics of the F2F policy as evidence that the EU needs to place food security and the competitiveness of its production at the heart of its food and farming policy, prompting pushback against plans such as a reduction in the amount of pesticides in use. European farming organisations Copa and Cogeca, for instance, have called for a stronger European agriculture policy that will protect producers and consumers in the bloc from such shocks.

WWF does not agree with this assessment, warning: “Developments have shown how some stakeholders and policy makers are instrumentalising the current geopolitical context and scare-mongering about alleged risks to Europe’s food security to weaken the F2F strategy, which could hinder this framework law.”

Indeed, the open letter insists that environmental protections themselves are not a threat to food security. Rather, the organisations insist, failing to act to tackle climate and biodiversity risks place production in the bloc under threat. "Biodiversity loss and climate change are serious threats to food security and require immediate action," they argued. "It is evident and scientifically proven that their impacts are already hampering our capacity to produce and access food. Strengthening environmental and social sustainability will increase the resilience and security of our food system to external shocks."

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