Dear Secretary-General Catherine Day,
Dear Commissioner Janez Potočnik,
We are writing to express our concern that the launch of the Communication on Sustainable Food, initially planned for 2013, has been postponed again. Its initial aim, as communicated by DG ENVI, was to limit waste throughout the food supply chain, and find ways to lower the environmental impact of food production and consumption patterns.
In a joint letter at the beginning of 2014, we highlighted the need for more ambitious steps in order to move to a food system that provides nutritious food, promotes a healthy diet, consumes less land and water, and rebuilds soil quality while restoring biodiversity and ecosystems and protecting animal welfare. Only reducing food waste is not enough. This requires changes in the current EU model of livestock production. Solutions already exist; we need political support for their development and implementation.
We see the need to undertake serious action. Therefore we hope that the following recommendations will be included in the Communication on Sustainable Food.
Better technical knowledge on the environmental impacts of food
Knowledge about sustainable food and agriculture should be developed through meaningful inter-disciplinary networks, involving a wide range of stakeholders. Integrating local and traditional knowledge with formal scientific knowledge, and adapting institutions to be more responsive to stakeholder needs, is crucial if we are to successfully address the global and regional challenges of our food system. Agricultural research and development must explicitly address the multiple functions of agriculture.
Stimulating sustainable food production
The last Common Agricultural Policy reform did not achieve its aim of introducing strict mandatory measures to stimulate sustainable food production. Member states are now free to decide how they spend the money, and subsidies can still support harmful environmental practices. The next reform should ensure a transition towards more sustainable levels of supply and demand at a European level.
Promoting sustainable food consumption
It is now essential to develop programmes and pilot programmes that inform and educate consumers on food sustainability, on how to waste less and on how to eat a sustainable, healthy diet – in particular, given the massive ecological footprint of unhealthy diets, the need to eat more plants and less and better meat, dairy and fish. We need to see strong member state measures that are backed by EU wide guidance, support and initiatives that will lead to habitual behaviour change.
Reducing food waste and losses
A voluntary target to reduce food waste by 30%, as part of the Circular Economy Package, is disappointing considering the high quantities of food waste and losses across the supply chain and in Europe. Food waste is a major symptom of an unsustainable food system. Therefore, a food waste reduction strategy across Europe, with mandatory reduction targets, is needed to change the current model of producing, retailing and consuming food, and to put in place the necessary measures to ensure that food waste does not occur in the first place.
Improving food policy coherence
Given the huge impact of the food system on the economy, public health, the environment and resource use, a coherent and integrated policy framework is needed which ensures involvement of all relevant departments to create effective policy reform to develop EU wide strategy on sustainable food. This should work to ensure the development of a Common Sustainable Food Policy, which not only addresses the sustainability of farming, food production and trade, but also of food and environmental quality, health, resource and land management, ecology, social and cultural values, and the shape of the entire agricultural and food market chain.
We are hugely supportive of the initiative to produce this Communique and so would not want it to be delayed or even deprioritised.
Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive
Compassion in World Farming
Adrian Bebb, Senior Food Campaigner
Friends of the Earth Europe
Paolo Di Croce, Secretary General