European Advocacy

European policies affect us all.

Let’s get them right.

Following years of impactful advocacy work targeting European decision-makers, and given the widespread diffusion of our movement throughout Europe, in 2011 we decided to increase our impact in the region under the coordination of Slow Food Europe. Then, in 2013 Slow Food opened its office in Brussels, the home of the EU Parliament, to ensure our advocacy work reverberates around the halls of power. 

We have since been at the forefront of the fight for a better food and farming system in the EU, translating our grassroots actions into policy work and elevating local or national issues to European and international level. 

The different elements of the EU’s food system continue to be regulated by disconnected policies and authorities, often with contradicting results. We believe this must change to reflect the overlap between the various aspects of the food system. Our solution is a Common Food Policy which enables a holistic approach to our food system to include our environment, our health and our food producers.

This Common Food Policy should align policies on agriculture, rural development, environment, trade, health, animal welfare, fisheries, food safety, and development, among others, and set the direction of travel, bringing together a variety of initiatives and measures under one roof to facilitate the transition to sustainable food systems.

Slow Food focuses its European work on key EU policies that shape various aspects of food production, agriculture, fisheries, and their effects on biodiversity, and climate change.

Through its advocacy campaigns and lobbying, Slow Food Europe aims to raise awareness and positively impact the development of food policies. We focus primarily on the following topics:

  • Agriculture

    Europe’s current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU’s oldest policy, and is in need of radical reform. It perpetuates a model of agriculture that depletes Earth’s finite resources and damages the environment. It also contributes to climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, soil erosion and water scarcity, not to mention water and air pollution and the depletion of fisheries. Europe’s agricultural policy subsidizes factory animal farming which is largely dependent on imports of feed and represents a major source of antimicrobial resistance.

    Factory animal farming and industrial agriculture have been promoted at the expense of viable incomes for farmers and jobs in rural areas in Europe, degrading human rights, working conditions, and farmers’ livelihoods in developing countries.

    Slow Food stands in defense of the environment, biodiversity, animal welfare, and small-scale farmers. It promotes a model for agriculture that puts emphasis on local agriculture, short distribution chains, and closed local cycles of production and consumption. It is a model that prioritizes soil fertility, the presence of people in the countryside, and the protection of biodiversity. From this perspective, Slow Food promotes a European food system based on agroecological small-scale food production and diversified local economies.

  • Biodiversity

    Defending biodiversity has been at the center of our mission since the foundation of our movement. Slow Food promotes the diversity of life at every level—from the micro (genetic biodiversity including microorganisms like bacteria) to the macro (ecosystem diversity).

    Our work to promote sustainable food systems protects not only wild biodiversity, such as wild bird and insect species, but also agrobiodiversity. The latter encompasses the domestic species of animals and plant varieties whose existence is the result of thousands of years of selection by peasant and pastoral communities, soil biodiversity, and the diversity of traditional processed products (such as cheeses, breads and cured meats).

    Without biodiversity in all its forms, nature would be driven to extinction. And yet intensive and industrialized agricultural systems, pollution, overbuilding, and the interests of global trade have put biodiversity under existential threat. The decline of wild pollinators is particularly alarming; in Europe, 1 in 10 bee and butterfly species are on the verge of extinction, largely due to pesticides.

    Slow Food helps protect biodiversity by preserving knowledge and know-how (mapping of traditional products, native breeds, and local vegetable varieties and ecotypes), supporting farmers, fishers, and food artisans who cultivate and protect agrobiodiversity, and advocating for sustainable food systems.

    At the EU level, Slow Food advocates for policies that support pesticide-free agriculture, soil regeneration and seed biodiversity. To join our call for the European Commission to support an agricultural model that allows farmers and biodiversity to thrive in harmony, sign the Save Bees and Farmers European Citizens Initiative.

    Resources

    Position paper

    Policy Brief

    Policy Brief on Biodiversity to the UNCBD and national goverments (2022): English

    Studies

    • Study: Artisan Cheese Production – does hygiene policy help or hinder? (2015):English

    • Do the Slow Food Presidia Represent an Opportunity for the Future of the Mountains? : Italian | English

    • Slow Food Presidia in Europe, a Model of Sustainability: Italian | English
    • Monitoring and assessment of good practices on the role of small-scale farmers in the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems: Italian | English
    • An analysis Of five best practices in Europe, starting with the experience of the network of Slow Food Presidia: Italian | English 
    • Joint Information Document by Slow Food and Europarc: On Agriculture and Biodiversity in Protected Areas:
      Italian | English 

  • Climate Change

    Climate change is one of the most urgent and complex challenges we face today. Many of its root causes lie in the industrial food and farming systems, which globally contribute up to 30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Industrial agriculture exacerbates pollution and the greenhouse effect—with intensive livestock breeding releasing huge quantities of pollutants into the atmosphere—while food waste has reached around 1.3 billion tons of food every year: a third of all the food produced.

    Slow Food believes that one way to fight and prevent climate change is to move away from industrial agriculture and towards diversified agroecological food systems. Agroecology depends less on fossil fuels, adopts techniques designed to retain humidity and carbon dioxide in the soil, prevents soil erosion, manages water resources efficiently, and slows down desertification. Slow Food also advocates fostrong food waste and loss reduction targets at the national and EU levels, at all stages of the food chain. 

    Food waste has reached frightening proportions: one-third of all food produced in the world is wasted.

    In the Global North, there is an excess of food produced and bought, which often ends up in the bin even before it perishes. According to the FAO, food wastage amounts to between 280 – 300 kilos per capita each year, cutting across every phase of production: from harvest, to processing and distribution, all the way to our kitchens.

    In the Global South, on the other hand, food is wasted for lack of adequate infrastructure, storage facilities and transport. But food is also wasted where its production for the production of biofuels, biogas, and large quantities of feed for animals competes with food for humans. In some parts of the planet, this competition is heavily biased towards the interests of speculators and agribusiness.

    In addition to being a problem of great ethical value, food waste necessarily leads to senseless pressure on Earth’s natural resources. Overproduction means using more energy and prime materials than necessary. Food waste is responsible for roughly 5% of carbon emissions that cause global warning, and for 20% of the pressure on biodiversity. No less than 30% of the land dedicated to agriculture is used to produce food that never reaches its destination, while the use of water of wasted food (that is, the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) is about 250 cubic kilometers per year, three times the volume of Lake Geneva.

    The great paradox with food waste is that it which occurs at every step of the food supply chain, all the while one billion people suffer from hunger worldwide. It is the clearest symptom of a distorted and unsustainable food system that treats food as merchandise and deprives it of all its cultural, social, and environmental values.

    Therefore, Slow Food’s action aims at putting food back at the center, in both personal and public spheres, by demonstrating its priceless value from economic, environmental, social, and cultural points of view. Food waste is unacceptable and fighting it is a fundamental aspect of Slow Food’s mission.

    Resources

    Position paper

    On Climate Change and Food Systems: Italian | English 

    Appeals

    • Appeal To the representatives of nations and international institutions meeting in Paris (COP 21) (2015):
      Spanish | German | French | Portuguese 
    • Appeal to the Representatives of Nations and International Institutions Meeting in Marrakech (COP 22) (2016):
      English | Italian 

    Analysis

    • Analysis of the life cycle and carbon footprint of Slow Food Presidia products (2018):
      Italian | English

    • Analysis of the life cycle and carbon footprint of hay milk production (2018):
      Italian | English

  • Common Food Policy

    Slow Food advocates for sustainable European food systems and believes that a shift in policy-making must occur; from a focus on agriculture to a food systems approach that encompasses the entire range of actors and activities involved in the production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products.

    That is why Slow Food has been calling for a shift towards an EU Common Food Policy. A Common Food Policy should address not only food production, farming, and trade, but also food and environmental quality, health, resource and land management, ecology, social and cultural values, and help reshape the entire agricultural and food market chain.

    Slow Food believes that the European food system should be environmentally, economically and socio-culturally sustainable. It should preserve biodiversity and natural resources, while generating long-term income for farmers and farm workers and guarantee their access to fundamental rights and well-being. Policymakers can no longer consider these aspects of sustainability in isolation. They are strongly interrelated and need to be analyzed and regulated through an integrated and holistic approach.

    Since 2019, Slow Food Europe has been part of the EU Food Policy Coalition which advocates for a transition to sustainable food systems at the European level through coherent and integrated policies. The EU Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy announced by the European Commission in December 2019 are the EU’s first steps towards a common food policy, but there is still a long way to go. Slow Food and the coalition will continue their hard work and keep pushing for these new strategies to lead toward a transition to truly sustainable food systems.

    Resources

    • Position Paper: A Slow Food Vision to Good, Clean and Fair Food Systems in the EU (2023)
      English | Italian | German
    • Consultation Response: Slow Food’s Response to the EU consultation on the Inception Impact Assessment on the EU Sustainable Food System Framework (2021)
      English
    • Food Environments & EU Food Policy: Discovering the Role of Food Environments for Sustainable Food Systems (2021): English | French | Italian | Spanish
    • Policy Brief: What Do the New EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies Mean for Slow Food? (2021): English | French German | Italian
    • Consultation Response: Slow Food’s Response to the EU consultation on the Farm to Fork Strategy (2020): English 
    • Slow Food Contribution to the Debate on the Sustainability of the Food System (2013):
      Italian | English
    • Joint Policy Brief: Transitioning Towards Sustainable Food Systems in Europe (Slow Food, EPHA, FoE, IFOAM EU) (2018): English
    • Policy Brief: From Food Security to Food Sufficiency: Challenging the Narrative
      English | French | Spanish | German | Italian

    • Food policy blueprint scoping study: A transition towards sustainable food systems in Europe (2018):
      English

  • Fisheries

    Around 40% of the world’s population lives in coastal areas – oceans are hugely affected by all human activities, be they land-based or aquatic.

    As with agriculture, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) initially focused mainly on the economic development of fisheries and on giving people access to as much fish as possible at the lowest prices possible, thus promoting and consolidating large industrial fishing fleets. However, it largely underestimated the effects of overfishing, habitat destruction, and damage to the balance of the ecosystem (not to mention climate change and pollution) and failed to factor in the effects on social cohesion and well-being of fishing communities.

    Slow Food believes that oceans, rivers and lakes are our common goods, together with their resources, and that is why we advocate for a sense of collective responsibility. We owe it to ourselves to conserve these habitats as well as the livelihoods of small-scale, sustainable fishing communities, who play an essential role in providing jobs, food, and safeguarding our fragile aquatic ecosystems.  Check outSlow Fish, the Slow Food campaign for sustainable fishing to delve deeper into this work.

    Resources

  • GMOs

    Worldwide, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) constitute a threat to food sovereignty, to farmers livelihoods, and to the environment and biodiversityGMOs are often presented as a solution to hunger and food security, but so far they have not shown that they can provide any actual solutions to problem of hunger. Their development and their production, in fact, satisfy the economic interests of multinationals and contribute to the increase of corporate control, rather than the need to feed an expanding population.

    As a consequences, small-scale farmers’ livelihoods and freedom to choose what they will produce is under threat. Furthermore, GMOs contribute to an agricultural model based on monocultures and high levels of pesticide use, which endanger both our biodiversity and farmers’ health.  

    Despite there being few authorizations for the production of GMOs in the EUEurope is not “GMO-free”. The import of GMO corn and soy to feed animals raised in the EU, as well as the development of new techniques of gene editing (new GMOs) are issues on which Slow Food continues to fight tirelessly 

    Slow Food advocates for pesticide and GMO-free food and animal feed. It stands firm for a future without pesticides and GMOs, a prospect that puts the value of food and the dignity of producers at its core.

    Resources

    Slow Food Policy Brief on the European Commission’s proposal on “New Genomic Techniques”
    English | Italian

    Response to the EU Commission’s Report on New GMOs (2021)
    English

    Policy Brief: The European Commission’s Working Document on “New Genomic Techniques” (2021)
    English Italian | German French

    Position Paper on Genetically Modified Organisms (2016)
    English | Italian | Portuguese | French | Spanish 

    Joint Statement on New Techniques of Genetic Engineering (2016)
    English

  • Responsible Consumption and Food Labeling

    Although food consumption is largely determined by availability and consumers’ food environment, Slow Food believes that shopping for food is a fundamentally political act. The choices we make affect agricultural models and food policies, and leave a lasting impact on the environment and biodiversity. That is why Slow Food has always underlined the importance of labeling food products clearly.

    Clear labeling empowers consumers to make informed decisions and allows producers to emphasize their products’ specific qualities. Equipped with appropriate knowledge, consumers possess the power to shape food production and the market. Given the importance of their role, Slow Food has coined the term “co-producer” to highlight that our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced, and distributed.

    Slow Food contributes to the debate on food labeling taking place at the EU level, in particular on the topics of labeling of origin and geographical indications (Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication).  Our movement even launched its narrative label project to deliver more complete and transparent information to customers.

    A narrative label does not replace mandatory labels, but supplements them: providing additional information regarding varieties and breeds, cultivation and processing methods, place of origin, animal welfare, and giving advice on storage and use. The narrative label already features on Slow Food Presidia products and represents a way of highlighting their competitive value based on their authentic difference.

    Resources

    Slow Food’s guides to responsible consumption

Blog & news

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