It has been a few months since the European elections took place in May; however, the formation of the new leadership of EU institutions is far from being done. In September, when newly elected Members of Parliament (MEPs) and recently approved Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will return to Brussels, they will have an immense task to form and approve the new Commission. Meanwhile, the new Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) is expected to determine the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.
The European Days of Action for Good Food Good Farming are just around the corner. In October, Slow Food Europe will join forces with other civil society groups across Europe to demand of decision-makers that they implement food and farming systems which support small farmers and rural livelihoods, and protect our soil, water, ecosystems, and biodiversity. The first joint Good Food Good Farming action took place last October and saw the emergence of more than 60 events across 19 European countries.
It has been one year since July 25, 2018, when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that organisms obtained from New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs), such as CRISPR, must fall under the already existing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) directive and must thus be subject to thorough risk assessment procedures and labelling. Industry representatives and several Member States of the European Union are currently putting EU decision-makers under pressure to exclude NPBTs from the existing EU regulation. Slow Food Europe is certain this would undermine the precautionary principle and sign the end of consumer choice to eat GM-free food.
Ahead of the meeting of the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF), Slow Food Europe urges its members to support the implementation of toxicity assessment standards and to take responsibility to effectively protect bees from harmful pesticides. Member States in the PAFF Committee have been procrastinating on a formal EU-wide adoption of bee safety standards, developed in the so-called Bee Guidance Document several years ago. On July 16-17, they are expected to vote on the implementation of the document which would help to halt the usage of bee-killing pesticides.
By signing a trade agreement with the South American trade bloc Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay), the European Union has missed a chance to stand firm on European principles. Slow Food Europe regrets that the main concerns, earlier expressed by more than 300 organizations over the deteriorating human rights and environmental situation in Brazil have been ignored.
The leaders of the European Union have adopted the EU’s Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024, where the main priorities for the upcoming years were set. Slow Food Europe is pleased to see that climate change and the sustainable future of Europe were brought into the Strategic Agenda as one of the key topics for the next five-year framework. However, the eight-page document did not go into detail on how “a climate neutral, green, fair and social Europe” will be built.
Slow Food Europe and Slow Food Brazil signed an open letter asking the European Union to immediately halt free trade agreement negotiations with the Mercosur bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay). 340 civil society signatory organizations believe that it is a critical step to take to prevent deteriorating human rights and environmental situation in Brazil. The letter is addressed to presidents of the EU institutions ahead of the ministerial-level meeting next week in Brussels where EU and Mercosur foreign ministers aim to finalize the negotiations.
There is a growing trend in some countries of the European Union, such as Italy, Greece, France, or Lithuania, to have more accurate food labeling. While Italy has recently imposed mandatory labeling on pasta and rice packaging, asking to indicate the origin of wheat and rice’s place of cultivation, in the majority of EU countries, origin information is largely absent from labeling for milk, dairy products, unprocessed food, and single-ingredient products such as flour or sugar. The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Eat Original. Unmask Your Food”, which Slow Food Europe supports, calls on the European Commission to impose mandatory declarations of origin for all food products to prevent frauds, protect public health and guarantee consumers’ right to information. The ECI was launched last autumn by the Italian farmers union Coldiretti.
The European Elections showed the highest voters’ turnout in 20 years, giving the European Union hope that people still believe in its future. However, the big center-right and center-left blocs in the European Parliament have lost their combined majority. Now, they will have to form a coalition with other political groups, which will likely include the Greens, which bagged record gains in the elections.
It is the last day of the European Elections. While a few countries of the European Union have organized the vote between Thursday and Saturday, the majority of Member States will elect their representatives to the European Parliament today. Slow Food Europe calls everyone to vote for the candidates who respect European values and care about the future of European agriculture, food, and the environment.