Industry weighs in on European Parliament’s efforts to revamp Farm to Fork Strategy
22 Oct 2021 --- The European Parliament has released a report that outlines areas for improving Europe’s “Farm to Fork Strategy,” originally proposed by the EU Commission in May 2020. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and FoodDrinkEurope have since applauded Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for adopting this stance.
However, some F&B stakeholders have expressed concerns that the additional regulatory requirements presented by the report may pose extra burdens and costs on Europe’s food SMEs – by setting maximum limits on some nutrient levels, for instance.
Addressing the blind spots
“We believe that there are still quite a few blind spots and this is why we call on the EU Commission to commission a comprehensive cumulative impact assessment,” Ksenija Simovic, communications manager at the agri-food organization Copa-Cogeca, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Setting targets is not a solution per se – what farmers need are concrete, realistic solutions that they can implement and afford.”
Meanwhile, Pauline Constant, head of communications at the BEUC, comments: “The report the EU Parliament adopted this week is excellent, in the sense that it endorses and even improves the original Strategy.”
“This report is not binding but it does send a strong political signal and gives the EU Commission a strong mandate to propose legislation as part of the strategy.”
While the majority of the EU Parliament have expressed the need for binding reduction targets for pesticide use, livestock welfare standards are also called into question.
MEPs are also calling for more land to be designated to organic farming, while insisting that farmers must earn a fair share of the profit from sustainably produced food.
Improved targets to clean up agri-food
Bolstering the EU’s plans for environmentally sustainable food and farming, EU lawmakers voted for greener food production. These include proposals for binding targets for cutting back on pesticides, fertilizers and antimicrobials in farming.
The Parliament also called for healthier food environments, urging the EU to regulate the marketing and advertising to children of food high in fat, sugar and salt. MEPs also want food prices to reflect the “true” costs of production – also known as “externalities” – including those upon the environment and society.
In addition, MEPs backed an EU-wide simplified front-of-pack nutritional label – for example, using a color-code – to help consumers choose healthier foods. EU lawmakers want such labeling schemes to be mandatory and stressed that any exemptions should be science-based.
The adoption of eco-labeling is anticipated to continue rising across European markets, prompting Foundation Earth to launch a UK pilot program to test consumer response to a science-backed environmental scoring system.
Meanwhile, the Ministers have also stressed that greenwashing “has no place on food” and that regulation is needed to weed out the market of misleading green claims. They also insist that farmers must earn a fair share of the profit from sustainably produced food.
In alignment with this, Innova Market Insights’ industry trends analysis recently underscored that “myths and misunderstandings” across industry are “crumbling,” which is why it has never been more important for brands to engage in honest and open communication with consumers.
Industry welcomes proposals
FoodDrinkEurope is also behind the Parliament in its ambition to revamp Europe’s common food policy. However, its director general Mella Frewen has vocalized certain shortcomings.
“We share MEPs’ view that the cumulative effects of the various measures of the Farm to Fork Strategy should be assessed to ensure that cost-effectiveness, unintended consequences and trade-offs are taken into account,” says Frewen.
She notes that the Parliament’s report calls for regulatory requirements that may present extra burdens and costs on Europe’s food SMEs, such as by setting maximum limits on some nutrient levels.
“We regret that some parts of the Parliament’s report single out ultra- or highly-processed foods for their impact on our health and the environment. We must point out that the level of processing is not, in itself, a marker of health or sustainability,” Frewen remarks.
“As part of the strong commitment of our industry to help address challenges such as obesity and associated health problems, we would welcome the chance to discuss this complex topic – in all of its facets and its implications for food sustainability – with policymakers.”
Changing the way Europe eats
The EU Parliament’s bid to reshape the Farm to Fork strategy follows its recent call for stricter regulations on “natural” claims for food products. MEPs are continuing to advocate for the development of a clear “natural” definition and stringent legislation to regulate the use of this term for food products.
Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, comments: “Since day one, consumer groups have thrown their weight behind the EU Commission’s ambitious Farm to Fork Strategy. This blueprint is a crucial step to finally put the EU on the right track to make our food healthier, greener and fairer.”
“Most consumers are ready to change the way they eat for the planet,” she continues. “But they can’t do it on their own. Decision makers must make consumers’ lives easier, by ensuring the sustainable and healthy food choices are easy to spot and affordable.”
“There are plenty of solutions at hand: sending the right price signals, tackling all the factors that determine why we choose one food over another, making nutrition information easy to grasp, ridding the market of bogus green claims, etc. This is what the Farm to Fork provides for.”
By Benjamin Ferrer
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