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Looking Towards a New European Food Policy

Belgium - 01/04/2014

It will be a decisive moment for Europe. Between May 22 and 25, elections will be held for the European Parliament, the directly elected institution that defends the interests of the citizens of Europe within the European Union’s decision-making processes. Carlo Petrini is sending the electoral candidates a message about the need for a transition from an exclusively “agricultural” policy to an “agricultural and food” policy.

Dear European Parliamentary Candidates,

The association I lead, Slow Food, promotes food that is “good, clean and fair.” Food whose quality is not defined just by sensory parameters, but also environmental and social ones. We strongly believe that the idea of food quality is multifaceted and that we must therefore take responsibility for safeguarding the heritage of biodiversity, culture and ancestral knowledge that makes the act of consciously feeding ourselves one of the fundamental pleasures of existence and a universal right. Everyone should be entitled to “good, clean and fair” food.

Europe is home to an extraordinary biodiversity, a genetic wealth that is also cultural, social and economic. Despite this, it has still not adopted satisfactory measures to protect it, putting at risk local plant varieties and animal breeds, goods that feed the social fabric of communities and their small-scale economies. If biodiversity dwindles, so too do the possibilities for all European citizens to secure their well-being and quality of life.

Slow Food believes that the main cause of the limitations of European policies when it comes to food is the lack of integration and coordination between different initiatives and sectors. Not enough attention is paid to the connections and overlaps between similar issues and the actors involved. At a European level it is therefore necessary to analyze and regulate the food system holistically, in an interdisciplinary way, strengthened by a perspective that takes into account all the complexity of the system itself.

To date, the issues linked to the food system have mostly been governed by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). At the same time, other measures that heavily influence the food system are regulated separately, almost always generating contradictory results.
To achieve better coordination, it is therefore necessary for European policies to formalize and structure their sphere of action, expressing a more complete vision (a holistic one, to be precise) and effecting a transition from an exclusively “agricultural” policy to a one that can be defined as “agricultural and food” policy. It should be based on the values of sustainability, biodiversity protection, the preservation of natural resources and inclusive development.

Different EU policies must be better integrated in order to efficiently tackle cross-cutting issues like energy, environmental and natural resource protection, climate change, employment, public health, the development of local economies, infrastructure creation and international development aid. Cross-cutting issues need cross-cutting tools, in other words a “new European food policy.” It is therefore necessary to promote and support a food system that is more conscious of local products, local cultures and community needs. A system that gives the right value back to food, respecting those who produce it, those who eat it and environmental well-being. Too often the value of food is connected only to its price, to its value from a purely commercial perspective, but that is not accurate. There is so much more.

Slow Food is asking all the candidates for the European Parliament to have the courage to imagine a different Europe, a Europe in which access to “good, clean and fair” food is not a privilege for the few, but the right of everyone. For this to happen, it is necessary that you commit to putting the promotion of this new European food policy at the center of your electoral agendas and your political activities.

We ask those of you who are elected to accompany the future European Commission along the path towards a Common Food Policy. In this regard, the vote of European parliamentarians to elect the new president of the European Commission will play a fundamental role. We also ask you to ensure that this process and all the debates relating to the food system are carried out in complete transparency, and that the Parliament fully embraces its responsibilities and decision-making powers in relation to other European institutions.

 Carlo Petrini


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