Slow Food Unconvinced by the Commission’s Mixed Communication on Food Security

24 Mar 2022 | English

Today, the Commission has announced its Communication on “Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems” as a response to the rising food prices and supply chain disruptions in part due to the war raging in Ukraine. Slow Food backs emergency measures to support vulnerable populations but believes the roll back of several ecological measures completely undermines the Commission’s assurance that it stands by the EU Green Deal to ensure long term food security.  

“It is reassuring to read the Commission highlight the need for a “fundamental reorientation of EU agriculture and EU food systems towards sustainability”. Yet, this is contradicted by the derogation to greening measures to bring additional agricultural land into production. The Commission should not cave into short-sighted interests and productivist narratives that have long been dismantled by science. Our decision-makers must show the courage to pursue the only solution that will ensure food security now and in the future: reorienting our food systems towards agroecology now”, comments Marta Messa, director of Slow Food Europe.   

An important response to food insecurity outside of the EU  

The Commission highlights that the risks of food insecurity are not in Europe, but in Ukraine and other countries in Africa, the Middle East, and the Western Balkans. The Commission thus proposes a plan to provide food aid and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, and “macro-economic support to low-income food-deficit countries”. Slow Food believes that it is crucial to provide support to vulnerable countries and populations, and prevent food and hunger from becoming a weapon that amplifies the already horrific damages caused by war. Slow Food also welcomes the Commission’s highlight of the need to ensure everyone can afford enough “healthy and nutritious food”, as we recall that billions around the world already suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, alongside undernutrition.  

Regarding the European Union, the Commission clearly states that “for the EU food availability is not at stake, though food affordability for low-income persons is”, reaffirming the priority of ensuring that everyone has access to nutritious food.   

Sustainable Food Systems are the only way to ensure food security 

Slow Food welcomes that the Commission sees the transition to sustainable food systems as necessary to ensure food security as it states that “While short term emergency support measures are important, they do not replace the importance of refocusing the food sector in the long run towards sustainability and resilience”, and highlights that a “fundamental reorientation” of EU food systems towards sustainability is necessary. In particular, we welcome the push to Member States to provide support to agroecology as a type of “innovation […] leading to long-term progress in productivity to achieve the green transition”. The Communication on food security also rightly reminds the need to shift to “plant-based diets”, which Slow Food believes is fundamental to rebalance our food system and to tackle climate change, by focusing on reducing the production and consumption of industrially produced animal products.   

The Commission backtracks on ecological measures, jeopardizing food security  

However, several worrying statements are also included in the Communication. The Commission clearly aims to increase agricultural production both for food and feed, contradicting the initial observation that there is no risk of food shortages in Europe. Most worrying are the derogations from greening obligations for Member States and the permission to produce any crops for food and feed on land that is destined to Ecological Focus Areas, for which the use of toxic pesticides is not clearly excluded despite the Farm to Fork Strategy’s 50% reduction target.  Furthermore, as if proposing to roll back the protection of Ecological Focus Areas wasn’t bad enough, the Communication says these can be used to produce animal feed, which is in stark contrast with the stated need to shift towards more plant-based diets, in a context where 60% of European cropland is already dedicated to feed production 

Instead of intensifying our food systems, measures must be taken to ensure food is produced in priority for people, not intensive animal farming. Any such conversion of fallow land, which is crucial for soil regeneration, even if temporary brings long term consequences on the EU’s food system, which will take years to recover from.   

Slow Food also finds very worrying that the Commission is urging Member States to “revise their CAP plans where necessary to ensure food system resilience” by which it appears that the Commission is allowing countries to put sustainability on hold in the name of short-term security, whilst for Slow Food, resilience and sustainable food systems go hand in hand. The mention of new genomic techniques and the focus on precision farming as pathways to ensuring sustainable food systems is another sign that the Commission continues to look for short cuts rather than aiming for a true transformation of our food system.  

Additionally, the Commission is planning a support package of EUR 500 million to support farmers most affected; although it states, “farmers engaged in sustainable practices should be prioritized”, Slow Food worries that such funds will be widely distributed unconditionally from agroecological practices which can ensure more productive and resilient food systems.    

EU decision makers must listen to EU citizens rather than to the industry 

The agri-food industry has blown repeated attacks on the Farm to Fork Strategy, which have gained increased strength since the war in Ukraine broke out, pushing for delaying or even abandoning the transition to sustainable food systems based on agroecological practices. This will only weaken the resilience of our food system to face shocks including those linked to the climate crisis.    

We have seen their tactics have successfully convinced the Commission to delay the revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD) rather than significantly strengthening it as called for by >70 organizations. We mustn’t forget that 1,2 million EU citizens of the “Save bees and Farmers” ECI have called for a complete phase out of the use of synthetic pesticides by 2035 and for farmers to be given the adequate support they need to transition to agroecological practices.    

We urge decision makers totake a strong stand to defend the transition to sustainable food systems. We ask Members of the European Parliament voting on a resolution on food security on Thursday 24 March to uphold the much-needed ambition of the Green Deal. Additionally, we call on Member States to not water down their CAP national strategic plans any further. 

 

Slow Food International Press Office

 Alice Poiron – [email protected] (+32) 473 77 07 39

Paola Nano – [email protected] (+39) 329 8321285

Alessia Pautasso – [email protected] (+39) 342 8641029

 

Slow Food is a worldwide network of local communities founded in 1989 in order to counteract the disappearance of local food traditions and the spread of fast food culture. Since then, Slow Food has grown to become a global movement that involves millions of people in more than 160 countries and works so that we can all have access to good, clean and fair food.

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