A Common Food Policy for Europe Unveiled by IPES Food: Slow Food Among the Contributors to the Process

“A Common Food Policy for Europe is urgently needed to address climate change, halt biodiversity loss, curb obesity, and making farming reliable for the next generation.” This was the key message of a report launched today by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), following a three-year process of participatory research. Slow Food was among 400 food system actors who helped to shape a blueprint for a reform, which was presented at the high-level meeting at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

A new report “Towards a Common Food Policy for the European Union” maps out a single, time-bound vision for reforming European food systems under a Common Food Policy: a policy framework setting a direction for the whole food system, realigning the various sectoral policies that affect food production, processing, distribution, and consumption, and refocusing all actions on the transition to sustainability.

“Today is a very important day because it is a day zero for the establishment of a Common Food Policy, which can spark a wholesale transition to sustainable food systems in a way that the CAP, as a Common Agricultural Policy, cannot,” said Olivier De Schutter, IPES-Food co-chair and lead author at the high-level meeting at the EESC.

“The most ambitious reforms will only become viable on the basis of reclaiming decision-making processes from powerful lobbies, bringing new actors to the table, shaping policies in more democratic ways, and allowing new priorities and new coalitions of interest to emerge.”

The report puts forward 80 concrete reform proposals, including introducing EU-wide restrictions on junk food marketing, requiring Member States to develop Healthy Diet Plans, create an EU Land Observatory and an EU Food Policy Council.

The perspective of having the Food Policy Council in the EU was largely endorsed by civil society groups as well as EU officials.

“An EU Food Policy Council should be well integrated into the decision-making process, it cannot just have a placebo effect. It should not be just a space where stakeholders get to have a say, while decisions are taken elsewhere: their suggestions need to contribute effectively to the decision making process,” said Marta Messa, director of Slow Food’s European Office, in a round of discussions with civil society stakeholders, urging EU policy and decision-makers to start thinking concretely about how to integrate the contributions of an EU Food Policy Council in their work.

High-level EU decision-makers attended the launch of the report at the EESC. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis encouraged the panel to talk not only about food policies but rather more about healthy food.

“Public health instruments should be integrated in all policies: from farm to fork because of existing evidence of links with child obesity, diabetes, cancer. Our generation has a big duty and responsibility to design, develop and support a shift towards comprehensive, nutritionally aware, and sustainable food policies,” said Andriukaitis adding that EU standards will remain core when transitioning towards a more sustainable food system, built on the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the circular economy.

EESC President Luca Jahier, who opened the high-level meeting, urged those present to explore the possibility of a Common Food Policy for Europe.

“Thanks to the CAP we are no longer experiencing food shortages in Europe, however, our environment is paying the price. We need a rapid transition to a more sustainable, healthy, and environmentally friendly food system.”

“We all know good food: it is locally produced, it should be organic, it should be within a vegetable-based diet. It’s not that difficult to do but our system guides us in a different direction,” said MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, calling for change in the governance of food policy at the EU, national and local level.

The Common Food Policy vision draws on the collective intelligence of more than 400 farmers, food entrepreneurs, civil society activists, scientists and policy makers consulted through 5 policy labs in Brussels, 4 local labs around Europe, and the May 2018 EU Food and Farming Forum. The blueprint also includes proposals already endorsed by the European Parliament, the EESC, the Committee of the Regions, and broad civil society coalitions.

The executive summary of the report is available here

The full report is available here

Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe

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