A transition towards sustainable food systems is urgently needed to deliver numerous benefits for people and the planet, and to address some of the existential threats that we face. It will ensure the ecological transition necessary to tackle climate change impacts, water scarcity, soil degradation, biodiversity collapse, fish stock depletion, animal welfare, chemical pollution, and food waste and loss.
It will allow farmers and fishers to achieve a fair income, as a basis for thriving rural communities. It will also halt the spread of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by making healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible for all citizens. It will help alleviate poverty and ensure food security in the Global South.
Reforming our food systems is therefore anopportunity for the EU and its Member States to address the concerns of many citizens, and is the key to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, and many other commitments to protect people and the planet.
In order to reach its targets, the EC commits to promote the investing in environmentally friendly technologies; to support industry in innovation; to provide cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport; to decarbonize the energy sector; to ensure buildings are more energy efficient and to work with international partners to improve global environmental standards.
To achieve the transition to sustainable food systems, the EU must work towards an integrated food policy. A new governance framework for food systems is required for four reasons:
- Integration across policy areas – The various policies affecting food systems in Europe have developed in an ad hocfashion over many years. As a result, objectives and policy tools have multiplied in confusing and inefficient ways; policies focused on competitiveness continue to contradict sustainability objectives. An integrated food policy would be designed to bring different policies into coherence, establish common objectives, and avoid trade-offs and hidden costs, in Europe and around the world.
- Integration across governance levels – Social innovation is emerging rapidly at the local level, from Community Supported Agriculture schemes to sustainable school food procurement, from Food Policy Councils to pesticide-free districts. EU and national policies are, however, ill-equipped to encourage this type of innovation. An integrated food policy would remove hurdles to local innovation and support grassroots experimentation in all of its diverse forms.
- Governance for transition – Only an integrated policy with a long-term vision can drive the coordinated shifts that are required across food production, processing, distribution, and consumption in order to meet the SDGs, tackle climate change, and address other urgent global challenges
- Democratic decision-making – Whether we look at CAP reform, pesticide approvals, or trade negotiations, the gap between what citizens want food systems to deliver, and what current policies are able to achieve, is wider than ever. By putting a coherent food strategy at the core, and bringing a wider range of actors around the table, non-economic interest groups will increasingly be heard.
On December 2019, the EC unveiled its long-awaited communication entitled ‘The European Green Deal’. The Deal is presented as a growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.
Furthermore, it is an integral part of the Commission’s strategy to implement the UN 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. In agreement with SAFE’s misson, we give a special attention to the F2F Strategy – postponed to a later date due to the COVID19 outbreak in Europe-, which conveys the approach to a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system.
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