While the UK is adapting to implement the Precision Breeding bill that will allow for less strict regulation of genome editing, the European Committee on agriculture discussed with the Commission the state of the art of the revision of the EU legislation. The representative of DG SANTE said that the current legislation does not consider the latest scientific developments, and that its proposal will consider a tailored regulatory framework.
In Germany, the national parliament discussed at first reading a proposal to target further development of new genomic techniques, supported by the CDU/CSU. However, the Federal minister for environment publicly opposed a revision of the current law, arguing that transparency and security should be paramount.
After several months of delay compared to the original publication date, the Commission published its legislative proposal for a revision of the sustainable use of pesticides directive, in order to make the F2F target of reduction of these products legally binding, but having the member states to find ways of applying it. Despite some member states and producers’ organisations voiced their willingness to push the proposal back so to concentrate on the disruption of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict on the agri-food markets, Executive Vice President of the Commission Timmermans defended the proposal saying that it will foster sustainability and environmental protection, as well as long-term agricultural production.
EU Ministers had a last discussion under the FR presidency on on mirror clauses, supporting an analysis done by the Commission that concludes that this kind of measures can be compatible with WTO rules, and that, however, a case-by-case approach should be taken for single products.
Preparing for its six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, Czech representatives stated that the priorities of the farm to fork strategies should be put on hold, considering the conflict in Ukraine and its consequences on the food markets as the main catalyst of their actions.
On Strategic National Plans, the Organic sector complained to some member states that their plans do not foresee enough efforts to reach the targets set by the Green Deal, notably to have 25% of their agricultural land farmed with organic agricultural methods.
The event presented an opportunity for a fruitful exchange on the upcoming carbon farming initiative between the participants of the webinar with the members of the European Parliament, the European Commission (DG CLIMA & DG AGRI), and researchers (Arvalis & Wageningen University), and the farming community.
The Commission’s new initiative (Certification of carbon removals) is proposing EU rules on certifying carbon removals, meaning that it will develop the necessary rules to monitor, report, and verify the authenticity of these removals. At the same time, time is ticking, as the Commission has set the objective to reach climate neutrality by 2035 in the combined land use, forestry, and agriculture sector at the EU level. These developments represent a major impact on the way farmers operate across Europe, and an opportunity to define a common EU standard for the transparent identification of activities that remove carbon from the atmosphere in a sustainable way.
In his opening, MEP Martin Hlaváček has outlined that the system needs to be fair, where farmers would be benefitting from what they are contributing to society. In return, this could turn the CAP into a tool fully appreciated by all for its role in coping with our future challenges. But additional financial support beyond CAP budget will be needed.
Up next, the European Commission has outlined the upcoming steps for the regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals, highlighting that the Commission is going to table a proposal by the end of this year, and set up an expert group to assist the Commission in developing the framework. In addition, the discussion touched upon the role the CAP might play to put in place enabling conditions for carbon removing certifications.
On the question of whether the Commission intends to ‘fill two needs with one deed’ – meaning that it aims to tackle both carbon sequestration and reducing GHG emissions at the same time with its proposal – DG CLIMA has reaffirmed that the initiative will focus specifically on carbon removals, and won’t certify emission reductions. A discussion is still on going on this specific issue within the European Commission.
Furthermore, the researchers from Arvalis & the Wageningen University have presented their already developed models, such as the French Low Carbon Label or the Soil Carbon Tool, to feed into the upcoming initiative. Jan Peter Lesschen from the Wageningen University defined the steps for the successful uptake of carbon farming, while Laure Nietschelm from Arvalis has reaffirmed that it is crucial to take into account a complete coverage of emission reductions, meaning both pillars of carbon sequestration and GHG reduction. After designing a method to calculate emissions reduction, the Label built a robust rewarding scheme based on operative, mature and easy to use scientific approaches.
French farmer Benjamin Lammert has shared some of his own experiences from his farm, showing, based on more than 20 years of data collection and samples, that improved yields and increased and enhanced productivity can lead to more carbon in soils. Farmers are climate sentinels, they experiment the effect of climate change on the ground in their daily practices.
In her closing statement, MEP Anne Sander has reiterated the need for a solid scientific basis and financial tools to accompany the farmers in being able to move forward with the initiative, underlining that the environmental transition must be done with the farmers on board, not without. We need a simple, transparent and truly European framework, combining carbon sequestration and GHG emissions reductions, evidence and data-based systems, accompanied by incentives and funding to boost investment.
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The advancement of gender equality is today a major goal in the Member States & the EU Institutions. Following this spirit, and in order to guarantee the principles of equality between women and men and equal pay for equal work, Farm Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy presents the main objectives and indicators for the 2022 – 2025 plan period for the commitment to provide an inclusive work environment based on the principle of equal employment opportunity for all its employees irrespective of gender.
The European Commission has recently announced a renewed push to conclude the negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with New Zealand and Australia.
The New Zealand case is paradigmatic, but what Farm Europe outlines below can be largely said about the FTA with Australia.
New Zealand has no tariffs on imports of most products. Already today the EU can export to New Zealand free of customs duties. In agriculture only a few products face a low 5% tariff.
New Zealand is a large and competitive exporter of agriculture products, which account for 80% of the total exports of the country. In 2021 New Zealand exported 28 billion euros worth of dairy, eggs, meat, fruits and nuts, wine, and other agriculture products.
To the EU, New Zealand exports mostly agriculture products, whilst importing mostly industrial goods. The EU currently benefits from a positive trade balance with New Zealand.
Which will be EU’s gains with the FTA? It will hardly increase its exports, as New Zealand tariffs are either zero or very low. Only New Zealand can benefit, in the agriculture sector in particular, as EU’s tariffs are currently much higher.
The inevitable result of the FTA would be more New Zealand exports of dairy, meats, wine, fruits, and so on, and no further EU gains in the New Zealand market.
Not even in the industrial area should the EU expect significant trade advantages, as only a few products have a 10% tariff, most others are already duty free. And it should not be forgotten that New Zealand has FTAs with China, Hong-Kong, Singapore, Taiwan. Our agriculture sector will suffer for no good.
This FTA is thus not balanced in terms of gains and losses. It departs from a pragmatic approach to trade, and instead dwells entirely on an ideological approach that sees free trade as a good thing irrespective of its actual impacts.
The economic impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war continues to cause concern. The livestock sector is bearing the brunt of the general price increase, with energy costs and rising feed and fertiliser costs particularly affecting the sector.
World dairy prices have recently fallen. This decline follows high price levels, and is also partly due to disposal problems in China, linked to the Shanghai containment.
African swine fever continues to spread in Europe. With cases reported near the French border, British pork producers have called on the government to introduce import controls to limit the risk of introducing the disease.
The end of the second wave of avian flu marks the return of free-range eggs. This health crisis has generated considerable costs for professionals, due to production stops and the closure of export markets, but also for the governments which are compensating farmers for the animals slaughtered and the economic losses incurred. In response to these disease outbreaks, the Commission and the Member States are called upon to intensify their efforts to develop vaccination strategies for the prevention and control of HPAI.
According to a Commission report, CAP measures have improved animal welfare in some cases in some regions but have failed to bring about a significant change overall. The requirements defined at EU level under cross-compliance have primarily improved animal welfare in those regions and member states that only partially met the EU welfare directives.
Brussels is considering mirror clauses ‘on a case-by-case basis’. The Commission states that the European Union can “take autonomous action where necessary to address global environmental concerns or animal welfare issues”. These avenues remain controversial within the WTO (risks of retaliation, control mechanisms, tariff conditionalities, etc.). Nevertheless, the European Commission could adopt mirror measures in the meat sector (antibiotics, deforestation, animal welfare).
The France Carbon Agri Association (FCAA) wishes to expand its scope to include all sectors. Numerous methods are being developed within the Low Carbon Label (pig farming, poultry farming, small ruminants, arboriculture, viticulture, etc.) and should soon be able to be integrated into FCAA’s calls for projects.
In May, lot of new reports came out for countries such as the US, Australia or France calculating the change in their wine production and export showing a sector bouncing back compared to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. In France, Marc Fesneau became the new minister in charge of the wine sector, while Italy published its national CMO call for proposals for the 2022-2023 wine year promotions, and Russia is looking for ‘friendlier countries’ to plug the hole on its wine import. In the meantime, wine fairs are slowly coming back with the ProWein and the FENAVIN in Spain.
As the Russian invasion to Ukraine goes on, food markets are still experiencing the repercussions of the conflict, notably on grains and oilseeds. EU ministers of agriculture supported the initiative to postpone the crop rotation requirement to 2024, and well as approved lump sum payment through the EAFRD fund to support farmers. The Commission keeps the Green Deal objectives high on its agenda, but pressure is made to derogate them from co-legislators and stakeholders.
On animal welfare, a study from the Commission reveals that the CAP efforts in this sector did not contribute enough to the reduction of antimicrobial use nor to the improvement of animal welfare at large. In parallel, NGO attacks the decision of expanding crop production for animal feed.
In Asia, several countries have adopted – or are about to adopt – nutritional labelling solutions, such as Japan, where the government introduced a voluntary scheme for alcoholic beverages, or in Singapore, where beverages industries adopted the ‘Nutri-Grade’ to inform consumers about the nutritional quality of the beverage. Meanwhile, research in China shows that Chinese consumers would tend to prefer a ‘traffic-light’ design for a possible labelling on food.
The expansion of the synthetic foods industry is growing, with Israeli start up committed to scale-up processing and reduce costs, Impossible food products that hit the UK market, Austrian start up that developed the first automated process platform to produce fermented casein, and trends in meat consumption that lower in Germany.
During the Queen’s speech in the UK, a definitive opening towards gene-edited was assured by the government and the Queen herself. At the same time, Argentina allows the commercialization of trans-genic wheat, and Egypt starts the firs harvest of a salinity-resistant wheat.
In the EU, the Commission opened for public consultation on the legislative initiative to regulate the outcomes of new genetic techniques. The consultation runs until July 22. The debate on NGTs sees German ONG gathering signatures for a petition to stop “deregulat[ion of] new genomic techniques”, supported by MEP Häusling.