Following delays to the publication of the European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy, FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) has set out five tests that it believes the strategy must pass if it’s to deliver truly sustainable food systems in light of COVID-19.
FDE urges the Commission, which is due to publish the strategy later this month, to reflect and incorporate its recommendations which include preserving Single Market principles and trade, reaching carbon neutral targets, helping small to medium-sized businesses, stimulating green innovations and facilitating healthier and sustainable living.
“It was no great surprise that the European Commission decided to delay the publication of its Farm to Fork strategy recently,” says FoodDrinkEurope Director-General Mella Frewen. “COVID-19 has thrown the entire global economy into turmoil and the food system is being tested like never before. It is important that the Commission uses this time to ensure its strategy can reflect the new world in which we live.
Here are the five ways FoodDrinkEurope expects the Farm to Fork Strategy to deliver:
Maintain the ambition: The Farm to Fork Strategy must not lose its ambition to contribute to the EU’s goal to become the first carbon-neutral region in the world by 2050 and drive truly sustainable food systems. COVID-19 should not be used as an excuse to ignore our shared responsibility towards more sustainable production and consumption. The food and drink industry will continue to explore ideas and innovations that will allow us to contribute to food security and to fulfill people’s dietary needs while decreasing the footprint of our products and operations.
Support SMEs to thrive: Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the beating heart of the food and drink industry in Europe, making up 99 percent of the sector and it is these businesses that are feeling the effects of COVID-19 most acutely. Without help, many of these SMEs will go out of business and many more will find it hard to survive the coming months and years. Jobs and livelihoods are at stake. The Farm to Fork Strategy must help SMEs thrive, avoiding unnecessary red tape, a disproportionate regulatory burden and punitive fiscal measures that penalize businesses.
Ensure Single Market principles and trade: COVID-19 has shown that a fully functioning Single Market is key for the proper functioning of EU food supply chains. To ensure the diversity, affordability and safety of EU products for consumers, while also providing a vehicle for growth and jobs in the industry, it is imperative that Single Market principles, such as harmonized rules across all Member States, are firmly embedded into the Farm to Fork Strategy. Any diversion from these principles will add costs, administrative burdens and uncertainty to operators and consumers. It is also important to resist unjustified protectionism and “gastro-nationalism” – both within the Single Market and with our trading partners – which could jeopardize consumers’ access to diverse and affordable food and drink products.
Stimulate green innovations: FDE stresses we must avoid a damaging rise in global temperatures and loss of biodiversity while continuing to provide good food to a growing population. The Farm to Fork Strategy must give the food and drink industry the confidence to invest in innovation and pursue ideas that will further improve the environmental footprint of food and drink products, develop sustainable packaging, and conduct low carbon operations. We firmly support the Commission’s ambition for achieving a circular economy, and this should be through genuine collaboration with the food and drink sector
Facilitate healthier and sustainable living: One positive outcome of COVID-19 has been a renewed interest in food as people explore their cupboards, discover new recipes, and rethink their lifestyles. This presents opportunities for the Farm to Fork Strategy to seize upon, such as empowering consumers to choose healthy diets through a single, harmonized nutrition labeling system. Alongside the label, better education will help consumers of all ages to understand what a balanced, healthy, and sustainable diet looks like. Farm to Fork must also support industry innovations to further optimize the nutritional content of products and develop new nutritious products while satisfying consumer demand for a broad range of products.
“While COVID-19 should not change the Commission’s overarching Farm to Fork goal, it should refocus ambitions on the economic and social necessities for a full and sustainable recovery from the pandemic,” adds Frewen. “The food and drink industry has the ideas, innovations and the desire to be part of the solution, and we hope the strategy will meet our five tests to unleash that potential.”
By: Gaynor Selby
Source: Food Ingredients First
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