The European Commission has set targets to reduce pesticide use and sales of antimicrobials by 2030.

The Farm to Fork strategy includes a reduction by 50 percent on the use and risk of pesticides and in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture products. Plans still need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council.

Plans call for action on food fraud to be scaled up to achieve a level playing field for operators. Measures that can be taken by control and enforcement authorities will be boosted.

The Commission will assess the resilience of the food system and develop a contingency plan for ensuring food supply and security in a crisis. The plan should set up food crisis response ability coordinated by the Commission and involving member states. It could include the food safety sector depending on the incident.

The agency plans to propose mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling and develop a labelling framework that covers the nutritional, climate, environmental and social aspects of products. Extending mandatory origin or provenance indications to certain products is being looked at. There are also plans by 2023 for legally binding targets to reduce food waste across the EU.

“The Farm to Fork Strategy will make a positive difference across the board in how we produce, buy and consume our food that will benefit the health of our citizens, societies and the environment,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety. “It offers the opportunity to reconcile our food systems with our planet’s health, to ensure food security and meet the aspirations of Europeans for healthy, equitable and eco-friendly food.”

Need to support farmers and animal welfare
Pascal Canfin, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, said the objectives need to be transformed into EU legislation.

“The two new strategies presented contain important new commitments such as tripling the rate of conversion to organic farming to reach 25 percent of organic farming products on the EU market by 2030, a 50 percent reduction in the use and risks of pesticides, a strengthening of food safety at our borders and a target to protect 30 percent of both sea and land as natural areas,” Canfin said.

Norbert Lins, chair of the parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said the strategy must give farmers the support they need.

“The Farm to Fork strategy can only be successful if there is a balance between the farm and the fork,” Lins said. “The conspicuous absence of the Agriculture Commissioner (Janusz Wojciechowski) at [the] Commission press conference does not give us much hope that the strategy aims for such a balance. We need to give our farmers the respect and support they deserve for filling our tables every single day and not to overburden them with disproportionate requirements.”

Anja Hazekamp, a member of the GUE/NGL political group, will be responsible for drafting the European Parliament’s response to the proposal.

“We have been pushing for stricter rules on animal welfare during transport for years. It is a breakthrough that the European Commission intends to amend these rules. The EU transports over 1.5 billion animals annually, often under appalling conditions,” she said.

“Transport of live animals to countries outside the EU must end and maximum transport times for all animal transports must be drastically reduced. The frequent abuses in slaughterhouses need also be addressed. There must be ambitious and binding targets to reduce the use of toxins in agriculture, and the most dangerous substances must be banned immediately to protect people, animals and the environment.”

Risk to livelihood
Irish Farmers AssociationPresident Tim Cullinan warned the strategy could put farmers out of business.

“It is not credible for the EU to drive up production costs for European farmers while at the same time looking for low food prices. They want food produced to organic standards, but available at conventional prices,” Cullinan said. “It is likely that farmers will end up paying through higher costs and low prices while retailers will continue to make billions,” he said.

“The EU wants ever-increasing standards imposed on European farmers, but will do trade deals to import food from other countries which have much lower standards and do not meet EU rules. These EU strategies could be counterproductive as they we will drive European farmers out of business, leaving the EU dependent on these imports and threatening food security.”

Slow Food, a group that defends small-scale traditional food producers, said it regretted the decision to include genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the Farm to Fork strategy.

“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. 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,” said Marta Messa, director of the Slow Food Europe office.

Promotion of a new wave of GMOs and inadequate pesticide reduction targets undermine the strategy, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.

Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner for the group, said industrial agriculture is causing ecological collapse – and it’s made possible by pesticide use, weak GMO safety laws and factory farms being politically acceptable.

“The Farm to Fork Strategy leaves the door open for weakening GMO safety laws, remains dangerously weak on pesticides and industrial animal agriculture,” Schimpf said.

A positive step
Sascha Marschang, acting secretary general at the European Public Health Alliance, said a constructive, structured and action-oriented debate should take-off on the future of food. The health community must strengthen its voice to ensure this process delivers a true transformation for the benefit of people and planet she said.

Mella Frewen, FoodDrinkEurope director general, said it is a positive step toward a common EU food policy.

“However, we would like more assurance from the Commission that the strategy will include a structured dialogue with stakeholders and systematic impact assessments to ensure that food security, food safety, economic recovery and sustainability are not compromised.

“The food and drink industry is a major buyer of raw materials, including 70 percent of all EU farm produce. We welcome the Commission’s intention to develop a contingency plan to ensure food supply and food security in times of crisis.”

Monique Goyens, the European Consumer Organization’s (BEUC) director general, said the plan shows the EU is on the right track.

“Better information on food origin and sustainability is also good news as consumers are hungry to know more about what is on their plates,” she said.

“However, relying on individual consumer choice alone will not be enough to change food habits if the healthy and sustainable option is insufficiently available or the most expensive one.”

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