This week, the European Commission unveiled its landmark Farm to Fork strategy (F2F) after a series of delays. Published in tandem with a new Biodiversity Strategy, F2F will spearhead Europe’s transition to a more sustainable food system as an essential part of the ambitious European Green Deal, while preserving the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain.
Announcing its publication, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said the strategies “point to a new and better balance of nature, food systems and biodiversity” while Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, promised a positive difference to how Europeans “produce, buy and consume food that will benefit the health of citizens, societies and the environment.”
The Farm to Fork strategy is comprised of a number of actions to promote sustainable production, empower consumers and reduce food waste. Headline targets include a 50% reduction in the use of pesticides, a 20% reduction in the use of fertilisers, and a 50% reduction in sales of antimicrobials used in animal farming and aquaculture, all by 2030. By this date, the Commission also targets 25% of agricultural land will be used for organic farming, as well as tax incentives and investment in organic aquaculture, under a forthcoming Action Plan on organic farming.
Other measures include encouraging circular business models in food processing and retail, revising marketing standards and improving information available to consumers through harmonised food labelling.
To help with the transition, farmers and fishers will receive financial support under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), with new streams of funding and eco-schemes to reward sustainable practices. The Commission anticipates that ‘competitive sustainability’ in the agri-food sector will open up new business opportunities and diversify sources of income for European farmers. Resilience to food insecurity and nature restoration are also envisaged as key elements of the EU’s recovery plan amidst the economic fallout from coronavirus
The strategy has yet to convince some organisations representing the agri-food sector. Tim Cullinan, President of the Irish Farmers’ Association, said that many aspects of F2F are “unrealistic and will make European farming uncompetitive” and called for comprehensive economic impact assessments at both national and European level before proceeding further. Other stakeholders, ranging from the European chemicals industry to plastic packaging producers, raised their concerns and commitments during the consultation phase earlier this year.
Some European environmental groups, conversely, have commented that the strategy does not go far enough. The most influential of these, Greenpeace, has reiterated its call for more action to reduce the production and consumption of meat and dairy. Following the announcement, it is now up to the European Parliament and the Council whether to endorse the Commission’s proposal.