Nutrition & Food policies: WHO supports Nutri-Score

September 17-18th marked the Agricultural G20 held in Florence, Italy, after which agriculture ministers signed a declaration of intentions named “Charter of Florence”: with commitments in turning agriculture more sustainable. 

On the Front-of-Package labelling debate, IARC/WHO – International Agency for Research on Cancer – published a paper in support of the Nutri-Score system, whereas the Czech and Italian ministers accused the same nutritional label to damage traditional culinary products and that it creates judgments, not information, respectively. 

At the same time, the European Commission launched the Healthy Lifestyles 4 all initiative, and advanced the idea of applying the same rules for the labelling of alcoholic beverages that are now applied for ingredients, additives and processing aids. 

full note available on FE Members’ area

Farm to Fork: new studies unveil the economic effects of the strategy

A new study from the Kiel University, Germany, takes a clear cut conclusion on the effect of F2F on the agricultural sector in the UE. And while the US tires to create a coalition that would oppose the agri-food strategy, Vice-President Timmermans called on world leader to be inspired by the same strategy so to follow the EU steps in agriculture. All along, the Parliament AGRI & ENVI Committees voted on the report on F2F, passing the whole of the amendments.  

full note available on FE Members’ area

New Genomic Techniques: Commission opens public consultation

In September the European Commission opened for public consultation asking for stakeholders their opinion on the legislative initiative to update the curent legal framework on the matter of New Genomic Techniques, following the study published in April 2021. At the same time, a letter signed by 50+ organisations addressed to the Commission opposed its opening to these technologies, arguing that with this action, the Commission would put into danger the health of humans, animals, and the environment. 

full note available on FE Members’ area

Livestock in the EU: debate on AMR

In September 2021, the EU Parliament has rejected plans to reserve five specific groups of antibiotics for use in humans and largely ban them in animals. Developments concerning the avian flu and African Swine Fever are still closely monitored in the EU.

At national level, a pig backlog and shortage of CO2 and workers are causing a pork crisis in the UK, while The Netherlands have announced radical plans to cut livestock numbers and Ireland is not ruling out a limit on a national livestock herd.

full note available on FE Members’ area

Wine news: the lowest harvest

At EU-level, historically low harvests have been forecasted for France, Italy and Spain following spring frosts, hail, droughts and diseases earlier this year.

At national level, a volcanic eruption on the Canary Islands is threatening wine growers, hail affected Spanish vineyards and wildfires threatened white wine crops in Greece.

In Italy, Agriculture Minister Patuanelli ensures Italy’s strong position in the on-going dispute between Prosecco and the Croatian “Prosek”. 

Meanwhile, Champagne exports to Russia have started again following a name dispute between the Russian “shampanskoye” and the French Champagne protected under EU law.

full note available on FE Members’ area

UN Food Systems Summit

After 18 months of preparation, the much awaited UN Food Systems Summit took place this September 23rd and 24th, where hundreds of world leaders (prime ministers, agricultural ministers, international organisations – such as FAO or the World Food Program -, experts, farmers, representatives from the civil society and indigenous people) have expressed their vision on the future of the planet’s food systems.

Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has outlined the current state of play regarding reaching Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero hunger; and highlighted the challenges ahead. He has recalled that each day hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry and three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet, which numbers have gotten even worse after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated that “change in food systems is not only possible, it is necessary” for the people, for the planet and for prosperity. In his intervention he highlighted that there’s a need for food systems that

  • support the health and well-being of all people,
  • protect the planet and which
  • support prosperity.

Prof. Joachim von Braun, the Chair of the Food Systems Summit Scientific Group, underlined that good food is undervalued and that science says we can end hunger by 2030, but much greater investment is needed to achieve this. He has praised climate-neutral food systems to be recognised as a goal, and that nature-based solutions must be promoted. He added that living wage goes hand in hand with zero hunger and that digital opportunities related to food are not yet exploited, plus gene editing should be pursued as well. He has also floated the idea of a kind of “IPCC of food” as well.

From the side of the EU, Executive-Vice President Frans Timmermans made a speech about having a “make or break decade”, where humanity faces the challenge of learning to live within planetary boundaries.

He highlighted that food production is a big driver of ecocide and GHGs, and yet farmers are the first the suffer due to climate change, hence we must act now. In the EU, thus the Farm to Fork Strategy was put forward, but the shift to sustainable food systems needs to be a global movement.

He has spoken about the biodiversity goals such as, that by 2030, the Commission aims to halve the use of pesticide and farm ¼ of land organically. He stated that we need to make sure that the easy choice is the healthy choice. Finally, he recalled the EU code of conduct for responsible marketing practices, which he believes will trigger a real change and called upon others to follow it.

On the other side of the Atlantic, US President Biden pledged $10 billion to eradicate hunger, half of which will be spent in the US and half in the rest of the world (https://www.feedthefuture.gov). The US also presented its idea of sustainable productivity growth and doubling of climate innovation in agriculture to reduce emissions (Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate). The Gates Foundation has also committed $922 million to advance global nutrition to help women and children.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, who has also highlighted the need for more and better targeted and sustained investments, had declared that FAO will take the lead on implementing the UN Food Systems Summit outcomes, such as the 5 Areas of Action:

Action Track 1: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all
Action Track 2: Shift to sustainable consumption patterns
Action Track 3: Boost nature-positive production
Action Track 4: Advance equitable livelihoods
Action Track 5: Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress

A link to the event: https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-summit

State of the Union 2021

At the 10th anniversary of the event, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has given today her second ‘State of the Union Address’ at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. This annual event is significant to demonstrate the European Commission’s accountability towards the EU’s democratically elected representatives, the Members of the European Parliament, and to be able to debate on the vision and roadmap that the European Commission is proposing.

In her speech, she has given an overview on what the Commission has been doing since last year’s address and what plans they have for the future. Moreover, this was backed up by producing several Factsheets of the work done so far with a list of its Achievements. For agriculture, the newly reformed common agricultural policy is mentioned, which should “enable European farming to become greener, fairer and more flexible”.

Much like the previous edition, the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic dominated the opening of the speech. It included the topics of health with now the successful vaccination rollout, the digital health certificate and thus the aftermath/recovery. Here she underlined the proposal for “a new health preparedness and resilience mission for the whole of the EU” to stop the next pandemic from happening, which should be backed up by Team Europe investment of EUR 50 billion by 2027. 

Other issues included, the state of the single market, uptake of digital (5G and the European Chips Act), social pillar, climate change, Afghanistan, cyber security, common defence, partnership with the world, migration and rule of law.

In parallel to this, the Commission has also sent a Letter of Intent to the European Parliament, and the Presidency of the Council regarding its next upcoming legislative and other initiatives, such as the “Legislative proposal on carbon removal certification” for example. See the full list here.

The 2020 edition had the declaration of the -55% target for emission reduction and that by next summer, the Commission shall revise all of the climate and energy legislation to make it “fit for 55”. They will enhance emission trading, boost renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, reform energy taxation. This has been now indeed realized in the “Fit for 55” package, for which von der Leyen has said the goal is simple: “put a price on pollution, clean the energy we use, have smarter cars and cleaner airplanes”. Furthermore, she has asked the co-legislators to “keep the package and its ambition together”.

In her speech last year, she did not mention agriculture, farming or food production explicitly, just in the context of precision farming or that farmers had received funding as a support too. This lack of the topic has been criticized by MEPs, who sit in the AGRI Committee. However, in this year’s speech there wasn’t even a single reference on agriculture or the food systems despite the constant background theme of the need for a sustainable transition in the Green Deal. One notable mention came only from Philippe Lamberts (Greens), who lashed out on the CAP being “deaf and blind to climate and biodiversity issues”, while the Commission has stated the importance of this year’s COP in Glasgow and has made the new pledge to double its external funding for biodiversity.

Find the Commission’s document attached to this email and the link to the full speech is available at:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_21_4701

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZlifT2aN1g

THE IMPACT OF THE FARM TO FORK AND BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY – LOTS OF PAIN FOR LITTLE GAIN

The Commission has finally released a study on the impact of its F2F and Biodiversity Strategy proposals on the agriculture sector.

The key commitments that directly affect the EU farming sector include reducing the use of chemical pesticides by 50% and of fertilisers by 20%, setting of at least 10% of agricultural area under high-diversity landscape features and of at least 25% under organic farming.

The results are staggering: supply is reduced by 10-15% in the key sectors, cereals, oilseeds, beef, dairy cows; over 15% in pork and poultry, and over 5% in vegetables and permanent crops.

The EU net trade position worsens (with the notable exception of dairy, as less use for animal feed and improved genetics would more than compensate for the sharp drop in the dairy herd).

Revenues plummet, with the exception of vegetable and permanent crops, and pork (due to sharp price increases that we discuss further down), with an average of 2 500 to 5 000 € drop per holding (subsidies included). The most penalized would be cereal growers and dairy farmers (-5 000 €), with lesser revenue cuts for the other sectors. Fruits and vegetables revenues would increase around 2 500 €, and pork up to 10 000 €.

The positive impact in reducing GHG emissions by less than 30% is leaked at least by half, as the EU increases imports and therefore the rest of the world increases production.

To put it concisely, lots of pain for little gain.

The study results are similar to a USDA-ERS impact assessment that found that the Commission proposals would reduce EU agriculture production by 12%, increase prices by 17%, reduce exports by 20%, increase imports by 2%, shrink gross farm income by 16%, and increase the annual per capita food cost in the EU by 130 euros.

Farm Europe also recently published an evaluation of the Commission proposals showing that production would experience a significant and rapid decline, -12% for wheat, -10% for maize, -7% for beet, -25% for oilseeds, -7% for red meat, -4% for milk, -1% for pork, -3% for poultry. That will generate a reduction in exports by 20%, and a significant increase in imports of plant proteins (soya) to cope with the decline in European oilseed production, contrary to the European incantations of a protein plan for greater autonomy of the European Union and the fight against imported deforestation. Agricultural incomes would fall by more than 8% in such a scenario.

All the analysis published show similar results, leaving little doubt that we would face a sharp policy driven contraction of agriculture in the EU.

Although in the study the Commission is at pains to lessen the staggering global negative impacts of its proposals, a closer look shows that most likely the impact would be harsher.

– Let’s begin by what is left out of the analysis: the Commission proposal to plant in good ecological conditions 3 billion trees. That would divert a lot of agriculture land to forestry. It could amount to between 1,5 to 2,7 million ha, depending on species and ecological conditions.

-Then come the rosy assumptions in the study. The expected increase in revenues for pork producers is contingent upon an expected uplift of pork prices by over 40%. Exports would somewhat decrease and imports raise, but far from the extent that would check such a dramatic price increase.

The way the model used in the study operates cannot capture real world trade dynamics, where imports out of quotas take place when the difference between EU and world prices is so high, and the quota rents are so hefty, that they become profitable despite the high out of quota tariffs.

Also beef prices are expected to jump over 20%, which in the real world would suck-in significant additional imports.

This problem is acknowledged in the study, without however leading to adjusting the results: “This was seen with the magnitude of price reactions when production falls significantly (i.e. meat activities), leading to the use of an additional model and change to some modelling assumptions for comparability. Even when undertaking sensitivity analysis, the price responses are large and the reaction of world markets is potentially too rigid to capture their adaptation capacity, especially in the long run”.

– In addition the study does not capture the likely impact of Brexit, in reducing our exports to an UK market open to third countries. Our exports of meats, dairy and other products will most likely fall, and that will depress both the EU production, prices and farmers revenues. Let’s not forget that the UK is a lead export market for the EU, our losses in that market will have a huge impact.

– Another area where the study assumptions are too optimistic is on the adoption of mitigation technologies, like precision farming and anaerobic digesters, key to reducing GHG emissions. The study assumes that the New Generation EU budget for the sector, which in the study assumptions would reduce mitigation technologies investment costs by 30%, is actually the double of what was decided – 15 billion vs 8.1 billion euros. Assuming that 60% of the EU agriculture would be using precision farming in 2030 seems overly optimistic, all the more as farmers revenues are expected to drop. How to expect investments to go up so much and so quickly when farmers would be worse off than today?

This has in turn a significant impact on the actual GHG reductions expected. Mitigation accounts for half of all GHG reductions, and precision farming and other mitigation technologies are the second most important contributor.

A more sober and less embarrassed analysis by the Commission, would show even steeper production and revenue cuts. As the net trade impact would be event worst, and the adoption of mitigation technologies more modest, the reduction of GHG emissions would be lower and show an even higher leakage as the EU would have to import more.

And thus, even more pain for lesser gains.

To conclude, the Commission Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategy proposals would cause an unprecedented fall in the EU’s agriculture production, a sharp cut in farmers’ revenues, a degradation of the bloc’s net trade position, and an increase in producer prices that would raise food costs for consumers. The environmental benefits would be mostly leaked, as EU imports would increase triggering higher GHG emissions in the rest of the world.

Ultimately, the way the European Commission is currently planning to implement the Green Deal objectives in agriculture would result in a global impoverishment of the sector and of European rural areas, a weakening of our food security, and an inflation of consumer prices. Agricultural sectors would face massive restructuring, with the abandonment of the least productive lands and a drastic reduction in the number of farms. It is hard to fathom a worst case scenario.

Nutrition & food policy: FAO prepares for the global Summit

The Summer months have been full of international attention to food policies: starting in July, with the to the UN Food System Pre-Summit held in Rome, where civil society, private sector businesses, decision-makers and other stakeholders met to discuss the issues of transforming the global food systems, in preparation to the Food System Summit to be held in September in New York. The FAO proposed a voluntary code of conduct for businesses for food losses and food waste, and published its report on the state of nutrition of the world, underlying the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on hunger and malnutrition. At the European level, the EFSA opened a public consultation on minimum sugar levels in diet, and the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer adopted the first draft report of the EU Strategy on Beating Cancer. 

full note available on FE Members’ area

Farm To Fork: JRC publishes impact assessment under the radar

While August has been a quiet month, July has seen some movements as regarding the Farm to Fork Strategy sponsored by the services of the European Commission. An unofficial impact assessment of the strategy has been published during the holidays considering the impacts of the targets on the EU agri-food markets, together with a report analysing the implementation of the “One Health” action plan on animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance; MEPs from ENVI and AGRI Committees agreed on amendments to the strategy texts, while in the Council of the EU consensus was found on the Organic Action Plan, during the first meeting under the Slovenian Presidency. 

full note available on FE Members’ area