Slow Food: The European Commission turns its head from a sustainable food system

17 Oct 2023 | slow-food-the-european-commission-turns-its-head-from-a-sustainable-food-system

“Today, presenting its work program to the European Parliament, the European Commission stated clearly that transforming food systems is no longer its priority. In the 2024 work program, the promised proposals on animal welfare and sustainable food systems are visibly absent. This is a gaping omission given the role food systems can play in redressing the current crises, and the role of legislation in supporting this. It is not too late for EU President von der Leyen to take a stand and ensure the Farm to Fork Strategy doesn’t boil down to an empty promise, but holds up one of the strategies that most defines her mandate: to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly, as set out in the Strategy”. With these words Marta Messa, Slow Food Secretary General comments the Commission’s political strategy for the coming months.

The European Commission pats itself on the back by stating that: “Through its Farm to Fork Strategy, it has been delivering on the vision of making the EU food system fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly”, but has it? Considering the number of key files that have not been delivered, including the sustainable food systems law, the revision on animal welfare rules, rules on labeling of origin, and the uncertainty regarding the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation, Slow Food believes a lot more still needs to be done to consider the Farm to Fork Strategy a success.

On the other hand, the discussions on the Commission’s proposal to deregulate new GMOs in the EU remain on the work program, showing a prioritization of making biotechnology solutions available instead of supporting a transition to agroecology.

Finally, a new item has made its way into the Commission’s priorities: “A strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU, further engaging with farmers, stakeholders in the food chain and citizens, working together on the transition towards sustainable food systems”. Whilst Slow Food believes dialogue with stakeholders, including farmers and citizens is paramount to fair food policy making, the shift of focus from “food systems” to “agriculture” is a worrying signal that the impacts of food systems beyond food production may be considered less relevant, for example the important role food environments play in the access to healthy diets, or addressing the imbalance of power between food industry and farmers. Slow Food worries that this new strategic dialogue seems to want to ignore the years of constructive dialogue in which civil society, including Slow Food, has been engaged in, and will instead further delay key legislation. The work done towards a SFS Law must not be swept away. The multiple interconnected crises we are currently facing – from the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, to the spread of diet-related diseases, premature mortality and the cost-of-living crisis – have further emphasized our food system’s failings. Lower-income households and small-holder food producers have been the worst hit by supply chain disruptions and inflationary increases in food prices, whereas large industry players have seen their profits rise steadily.

“Slow Food has been calling for a new approach to food systems and food policies for years and now more than ever the Sustainable Food Systems law is urgently needed to ensure that all food and agriculture policies ensure a transition to agroecology”, comments Madeleine Coste, Slow Food Advocacy Director. “It’s time for the EU leaders to reject the false narrative that Europe needs to intensify food production in order to “feed the world”, which has been the main claim for agro-industry and conservative politicians since the war in Ukraine erupted last year”. The truth is that the unsustainability and unfairness of our food systems are not going away whilst ongoing crises including the recovery from Covid19, widespread droughts and extreme floods, ongoing conflicts and rising cost of living continue to cause deep concern for all. The costs of inaction on climate, biodiversity and our and animals’ health and wellbeing cannot be ignored, as they will represent billions.

“It’s not too late to take action”, she concludes.

Slow Food will be among the many civil society groups calling on EU leaders to deliver on their promises on 8th November in Brussels at the protest organized by Good Food Good Farming “Put food Systems back on the Table”.


If you want to know more


o   The 2 joint letters Slow Food sent in Septembre 2023 to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to urge the EU to make the proposals on SFS Law and on Animal Welfare

o   Slow Food position paper on Sustainable food systems

o   Slow Food policy brief on animal welfare

o   European Commission Work Program 2024:

o   European Commission Work Program 2024 Annexes


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