In view of the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), on February 2 this year the European Commission launched a public consultation on the policy’s modernization and simplification, open to all European citizens and interested groups.
Back in March, Slow Food, along with over 150 other civil society organizations, provided some initial ideas about the CAP’s future in the joint statement Good Food, Good Farming – Now.
With the aim of continuing this participatory process with European institutions, Slow Food has responded to the Commission’s consultation, highlighting the key points for CAP reform, planned for 2020.
The Commission has based the consultation mostly on closed questions, whose fixed responses are, in some cases, partisan, ambiguous and unclear. However, the Commission has also made it possible to attach a brief document, on which Slow Food has chosen to focus particularly in order to emphasize the need to move away from a common agricultural policy and towards a European food policy, with the proposal of a series of concrete measures.
- A shift away from a Common Agricultural Policy and towards a Common Food Policy, so that the food system in its entirety is taken into account. This would mean including certain significant problems, like distribution systems and food waste. The aim would be to put into place a truly sustainable food system, abandoning industrial forms of food production. This change is already underway, as is clear from the development of alternative, non-industrial market models, based on the collaboration of various social partners. Indeed, it is worth underlining that food is not a good like any other, but has the fundamental characteristic of being essential to our survival. As a result, it cannot and must not be treated like a commodity, as it has been so far. It is by now obvious how disastrous it is to apply a strictly industrial logic to the agricultural system: In the European Union, 88 million tons of food are wasted every year (20% of total food production), while one in four farms has shut down in the period between 2003 and 2013. From an environmental perspective, the situation is equally bad: 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU come from the agricultural sector. We have been hearing figures like these for too long now.
- The recognition of food sovereignty, in other words “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” Food sovereignty undoubtedly represents an effective tool for allowing citizens to re-appropriate the resources and means necessary to combat the real challenges that the current food system is facing, from climate change to the crises of the food market, from biodiversity loss to the guarantee of a fair income for farmers, from access to natural resources to respect for the rights of agricultural workers.
- Concrete support for small-scale agroecological producers and local food production, given that these are essential elements to a sustainable food system. It is in fact small-scale agroecological producers who provide a whole series of environmental and social services to their community. Of course, these include the production of quality food, but these producers also allow the maintenance of soil fertility and other natural resources, thanks to their low use of chemical inputs, cultivation of local varieties and protection of biodiversity. Additionally, small farms allow the use of more labor, thus representing a valuable source of employment and support for the local economy, resulting in the preservation of rural communities.
- The promotion of agroecological practices, which are based on an efficient use of resources, with little or no use of chemical products, and the existing synergy between different species. Consequently, this agricultural model produces many benefits at an environmental level, ensuring the conservation of biodiversity and soil fertility and an excellent crop yield. Diversified agroecological systems also guarantee an adequate and secure economic return for farmers, who no longer need to reply on the success of just one crop; with a single product, their income is highly dependent on market trends and unpredictable natural events.
- Concrete help for disadvantaged groups, particularly people living in marginal areas (such as mountain zones) and youth. The abandonment of marginal areas due to a lack of infrastructure and employment opportunities is a very relevant problem in all of Europe, considering that a rich biodiversity is still present in these places. Another negative trend that can be seen in Europe today is how hard it is for young people to enter the agricultural sector, discouraged on the one hand by the apparent unprofitability of the profession and on the other by the difficulty in accessing the necessary resources, in terms not just of credit but also natural resources, particularly land.
- Encouraging participatory processes, so as to ensure that policy decisions regarding food are taken democratically. Producers, consumers, civil society organizations and researchers must be able to find a political space within which they can establish the priorities of the sector and demonstrate a shared strategy to institutions. These spaces must also be able to carry out a “knowledge-sharing” function between those who work in the food sector in different roles, thus guaranteeing cohesion between the various social partners and avoiding power being concentrated in the hands of a group of large transnational corporations.
Slow Food strongly believes in the potential of a common food policy, but the axis of priorities must be realigned in a way that takes into account the actual needs of the rural population, which deserves proper recognition and support for its role, and the urban population, which deserves quality food at an honest price.
Click here to read the Slow Food response to the Commission’s consultation.
 Declaration of the Forum for Food Sovereignty, Nyéléni, Mali, 2007.