The Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies are the Opportunity to Transform Food Systems and to Protect the Environment
It is on World Bee Day that the European Commission unveils the long-awaited Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Slow Food believes they represent the opportunity to set in motion the transformative change we need to build sustainable food systems and to protect our environment, farmers, and our health. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the strategies give hope for a green and resilient recovery, where the question of sustainability is not compromised.
While the Farm to Fork Strategy is the first real attempt at an EU Common Food policy, the Biodiversity Strategy recognizes the fundamental value of agrobiodiversity. These are two core elements that Slow Food has been advocating for years and it is a real positive change in narrative. Both strategies touch upon many essential interrelated aspects such as promoting agroecology, sustainable diets, and the need to move towards less and better meat.
“We need a long-term approach to transition towards a truly sustainable and resilient food system that respects the wellbeing of farmers, farmworkers, consumers and the environment. The Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies are a big step in the right direction. We welcome that the strategies highlight that farmers and fishers are part of the solution and that they require support to achieve the transition towards agroecology. Overall, the targets and actions are ambitious and send a strong signal on the objectives to be achieved, involving all actors in the food system,” says Marta Messa, director of the Slow Food Europe Office.
Slow Food regrets that despite the 2018 ECJ ruling and heavy criticism by Slow Food and many other European NGOs, the Commission has included new GMO in the Farm to Fork strategy. This undermines the recognition by the Biodiversity strategy that the use of traditional varieties of breeds and crops can contribute to reversing the decline in agrobiodiversity (or “genetic diversity”).
Although the new Biodiversity strategy acknowledges that farmland birds and insects, particularly pollinators, are “key indicators of the health of agroecosystems”, the pesticide reduction targets of 50% are still too low to reverse unprecedented pollinator extinction rates. Slow Food is part of the European Citizens’ Initiative “Save Bees and Farmers”, which calls for an 80% reduction target by 2030 and a complete phase-out of synthetic pesticides by 2035. These targets are realistic as long as farmers are properly rewarded and incentivized to farm biodiversity.
Slow Food agrees with the Commission that the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, part of the European Green Deal, will be a catalyst for the EU Recovery Plan following the Covid-19 pandemic. Slow Food encourages the European Parliament and the Council to support the implementation of both strategies and to work on improving these below-mentioned aspects.
The Strategies must:
- Further protect and promote agrobiodiversity by setting up measures to reward producers who cultivate and farm agrobiodiversity, ensuring the registration of seed varieties in public registers and that the conventional breeding of plants and animals is kept free from patent claims;
- Support agroecology by reorienting the CAP to give support to small agroecological farms, and by giving support for agroecological transition through independent Farm Advisory Services;
- Support farmers in the development of alternatives to synthetic pesticides, in order to reach an 80% reduction of pesticide use by 2030, and a complete phase-out by 2035;
- Create a dedicated action plan towards less and better production and consumption of meat, dairy and eggs in the EU, to shift away from industrial farming and towards circular, extensive livestock production as part of mixed farming systems;
- Make agroecological food accessible to all Europeans by aiming for a 20% raise in numbers of CSAs (Community-supported agriculture) schemes in Europe by 2030;
- Establish fair supply chains and fair working conditions for all farmers, farmworkers, food artisans and in particular for migrant farmworkers, youth, and women;
- Uphold the Parliament resolutions of October 2016 and October 2017 against the Commission’s authorization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and on efforts to facilitate the banning of GMO cultivation by Member States in line with the objective of protecting biodiversity, nature, and soil;
- Support the swift implementation of the ruling by the European Court of Justice of 2018, clarifying that new techniques of genetic engineering fall under EU legislation on GMO, and ensure that Gene-edited varieties go through usual risk assessment procedure, are traceable and are labeled.