Wine sector: US retaliation on the back

1) This month started with the WTO announcement on 2 October over the U.S-EU Airbus subsidies case. The U.S. has been given the right to request a total amount of $7.5 billion (annually) equal to 6.9 billion euro incountermeasures with respect to the European Union and some EU member states, with October 18 as the effective date of additional duties. It has to be highlighted, that the US retaliation list is heavier on additional tariffs for agriculture products than for aircraft – 25% as compared to 10%.

In this regard, Spanish, French and Italian Agriculture Ministers took the floor during this month’s Agri-Fish Council in Luxembourg (14-15 October), and voiced their concerns respectively on the damaging impact on olive oil and table olives (ES), cheeses (IT) and wine (FR), among the most affected agri-food products.

2) Key topics for the wine sector as internationalization, innovation, trade dynamics, finance, digital transformation & competitiveness were at the core of the Wine Business Forum, which was held during the Milan Wine Week (6-13 October 2019), and which gathered more than 100 winemakers, businesses and experts.

3) Winemakers in France are changing their practices in an effort to adapt to the current changing environment and climatic hazards. Labels like organic, biodynamic and the so-called “high environmental value”certifications (HVE) are gaining traction, among them, and among consumers as well.

4) In terms of wine market figures, latest forecast by DG AGRI (October 2019) show that this year the EU28 wine production will return to a normal level, after the exceptional 2018 harvest of 189 million hectoliters. Estimates indicate a total wine production for 2019/2020 at around 161 Mio hectoliters.

 

full note available on FE members area 

Potential impact of a proposal of CAP 1st pillar aids based on AWU across the EU

A department reporting to the French Prime minister tabled last week a report proposing to consider a switch from 1st pillar aids per ha to a payment per AWU (and eventually the remaining part of the 1st pillar budget per ha). 

It suggested a 8000 €/AWU which would not be doable in any case as it would request more than 66 billions euros to finance such a scheme (to be compared to the 44 b€ of 1st pillar budget!). 

In the EU, current 1st pillar budget is equivalent to 5336 €/AWU.

Here below is a first estimation of what would imply such a proposal in terms of 1st pillar repartition between Member states (in case of a 8000 €/AWU and of a 5336 €/AWU) as well as estimated impact on farms’ incomes. The « proposal »  has been simulated for French farms of respectively 60 ha (and 1 AWU), 100 ha and 200 ha (1AWU) and 200ha with 2AWU. 

Figures speak by themselves!

The idea of farmers receiving a kind of “social minimum income” with as a result a farming sector loosing its competitiveness and the UE most of the added value generated by its agri-food sectors seems quite strange.
Budgetfor8000or5336euros:AWU:year
Max:AWUtorespect1stpillar
Frenchestimatedimpact

Will Eating Good Quality Healthy Food Become a Privilege in Europe ?

“Consumers today want it all: healthy, tasty, convenient, sustainable and affordable food. Sustainability and traceability are key requirements but very few shoppers are ready to pay a premium for these new benefits. People switch brands and products for sustainability and traceability reasons but these additional features comes with additional costs and do not bring any value.

This requires a value chain and business model overhaul. Otherwise, eating good quality healthy sustainable and traceable food will become a privilege of the happy few. Low income populations already massively suffer from diabetes and obesity in Europe…

There is an urgent need for all European food system actors, from regulators to farmers, including retail and food manufacturers, to work together.

They need to reconsider the way we farm, trade, eat and dispose of food with the help of innovative and consumer-centric solutions.”

 

This topic will be part of working sessions in the Global Food Forum 2019, EP, Brussels 2&3 December #EUGlobalFoodForum

To read the entire post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/eating-good-quality-healthy-food-become-privilege-europe-sangouard/

Agri-Fish Council – Focus on the Discussion on Post 2020 CAP reform package

In a nutshell:

—> The Finnish Presidency‘s intention is to pursue the technical discussion & the two forthcoming ‘Agriculture and Fisheries Council’ meetings in November and December to discuss the higher environmental ambition of the CAP and the New Delivery Model. Furthermore, the Presidency intends to present updated drafting suggestions on all three Regulations by early December;
 
> On the NDM: the Presidency intends to continue the discussion both at the SCA and the Council levels and will present drafting suggestions on how to make the NDM practical and easier to implement in the Member States;  Indeed, the New Delivery Model and the “green architecture” were the main elements highlighted as “more discussion is needed on that”Additional flexibility and simplification “to better adapt the requirements for a higher environmental and climate ambition to member states’ needs were raised many times during the exchangeStill diverging positions on the following points: small farmers, eco-schemes, and minimum expenditure for the fruit and vegetables schemes;
 
> On the Horizontal Reg: broadly stable (Presidency’s comment in the Report), however still persistent discussion among MS about the scrutiny of transactions & the level of controls; 
 
> On the Amending Reg: the Presidency intends to further discuss technical details of wine labeling at the Working Party on Agricultural Products on 25 October;
 
—> Overall, Ministers highlighted their support towards a higher environmental ambition for the new CAP, but they also reiterated once again the importance of an appropriate CAP budget. Many delegations stressed that “no agreement on the CAP reform could be reached before an agreement on the next MFF”. While concerning specifically 2020 EU budget related to Brexit contingency measures, the Council will request the EP’s consent on additional measures aimed at mitigating the impact of a no-deal scenario for funding in a wide range of areas such as research and agriculture (the EU would continue to make payments to UK beneficiaries for contracts signed and decisions made before the withdrawal date or between the withdrawal date and the end of 2019, AS LONG AS the UK continues  to pay into the EU budget for 2020 and also accepts the controls and audits);
 
—> The Commission’s Communication on World’s Forests was praised overall but some Member States wished to push for further actions for example on the demand side including regulatory and non-regulatory measures. The ideas of building alliances and cooperation with 3rd countries and private sector players as well as the need to further strengthen the current framework and develop systems to attain deforestation free supply chains through certifications and due diligence circulated the discussion in order to rapidly reverse the trend of forest loss. The harmful effects of imported agricultural commodities was frequently cited as a root cause and that the EU needs to translate its policy commitments into its (future) trade agreements;
 
—>  On the Market situation: Hogan presented an overall general stability of the EU market situation with the exception of the following sectors: olive oil (high level of stocks, high level of harvest & low prices), beef (under constant pressure performing below 2018 levels) and sugar. However, main potential impacts stemming from the upcoming introduction of US additional tariffs following the WTO decision (Airbus case) and Brexit should be closely monitored, he said. Ministers welcomed the positive outlook, but expressed concerns with regards to the persistent difficult situation for the sugar (small signs of recovery), olive oil (very low price levels), beef and rice sectors. Biggest causes for uncertainties are no-deal Brexit (Ireland asked for an exceptional aid regulation in case of a hard Brexit as an additional instrument) & U.S. countermeasures. The need of cumulative impact assessments for trade negotiations (additional imports) was also being raised, together with the necessity to ensure a level-playing field, reactive tools to cope with market disruptions & a better coordination between trade and agri policy;
 
*LATEST SHORT-TERM MARKET OUTLOOK AVAILABLE HERE*
 
—>  New market observatories for Wine & Fruit and Veg will soon be available: https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/farming/facts-and-figures/markets/overviews/market-observatories;
—> Regarding the US additional duties on certain EU agro-food products (Airbus-Boeing WTO dispute) that would be imposed as of 18 October 2019, the Spanish, French and Italian Ministers took the floor and shared their concerns particularly on olive oil and table olives (ES), cheeses (IT) and wine (FR). The Italian delegation asked the Commission for the possibility to activate private storage for cheeses under the CMO regulation, while the French delegation highlighted the need to push for  more promotion activities and finally Spain pinpointed the need for the EU to promote the development of a rules-based international trade system, in view of a better protection for EU farmers; The Commission is wiling to negotiate a solution to avoid main disruptions. Measures as additional promotion activities were mentioned;
 
—> Indicative Planning / Dates: next planned Agri-Fish Council(s) on November 18 (eco-schemes, conditionality and related control and sanctions, the scope of the 30% ring-fencing under EAFRD, & the treatment of small farmers under conditionality, will be on the agenda + environmental and climate related aspects) and December 16.
full version of the Council report available on FE members area

NEW BREEDING TECHNIQUES: JUMPING GENES & GENE DRIVE UNDER THE LIGHT

This month some interesting news that worth more than a look come from both EU & U.S. recent research results and polls.

Researchers from Cambridge University highlighted the capacity of transposons, better known as “jumping genes” to rapidly generate new traits in various crops to make harvesting more efficient and maximize yield at the same time. New gene targeting technologies are found to be key for further optimization.

Finally, in the current EU executive’s institutional transition period which will see the next Commission to be appointed by year end, a closer look should be taken at how policy and regulatory developments for biotechnology will be addressed and ultimately shaped, going beyond the legislative process. Biotechnology, and specifically new genomic techniques, will be certainly part of the EC’s dedicated Directorate’s overall strategy (Health).  Member states will play a key role in this regard.

 

full note available on FE members area 

WINE SECTOR: A SMALL BUT QUALITATIVE EU HARVEST

First of all a quick look at the 2019 harvest forecasts for main EU wine producers: extreme weather conditions of last summer had a huge impact, notably for Italy, where a decline of 10% in comparison with 2018 has been estimated. Same goes for France, with a wine output fall of an average of 12% in 2019, and Germany, where grape harvest this year won’t reach 9 million hectoliters. However, thanks to more favorable weather conditions of the last weeks, an overall good quality of grapes has been secured.

Climate change impacts are literally changing current and upcoming scenario for EU agriculture, especially for southern European regions. New adaptation measures are being proposed, in view of allowing a proper transition towards more resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.

In terms of wine market dynamics, the slowdown in Chinese wine imports continues to be significant, especially for EU countries’ sales of still wines (France being the most impacted).

 

full note available on FE members area 

How can the EU avoid actually importing deforestation?

Deforestation and EU imports of agri-food products

How can the EU avoid actually importing deforestation?

September 2019

The recent forest fires in the Amazon have put a renewed focus on the loss of forests at a global level, and on its connection to the EU’s international trading policy on importing various agri-food products that are linked to deforestation.

Since mid-July thousands of fires have been burning in the Amazon, destroying the habitat of the world’s largest rainforest. According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), there were over 80 percent more forest fires than in the same period of the previous year. Images of the burning forests, smoke and a black sky over Sao Paulo have circulated the Internet resulting in increased public concern, culminating in an outcry from the international community. Several world leaders, such as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Pope and the G7 Summit, have joined NGOs in calling for a global commitment to more effectively and efficiently fight the fires.

The current fires in the Amazon renew attention to the loss of forests at global level.

If the loss of forests is not new, it has to be acknowledged that it now happens at an alarming rate. INPE’s latest preliminary data on the loss of trees in the Amazon show that an area of 1145 km2 – almost as big as Greater London – was cleared just in August, making it the highest level in the past five years. 1

In 1990 the world had 4 128 million ha of forest; in 2015 this area had decreased to 3 999 million ha2, and the latest FAO Report on the State of the World’s forests (2018) states that the “total area of the world’s forests is shrinking day by day”. During this period the largest forest area losses occurred in the tropics, particularly in South America, Africa and Indonesia.

Forest/land area

Forest area

UN Forest Cover 2015 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 Change 1990-2015
Country % (1000 ha) (1000 ha) (1000 ha) (1000 ha) (1000 ha) (1000 ha)
Angola 46.4 60976 59728 59104 58480 57856 -3120
Brazil 59 546705 521274 506734 498458 493538 -53167
Cameroon 39.8 24316 22116 21016 19916 18816 -5500
Colombia 52.7 64417 61798 60201 58635 58502 -5915
Congo 65.4 22726 22556 22471 22411 22334 -392
Côte d’Ivoire 32.7 10222 10328 10405 10403 10401 179
DRC 67.3 160363 157249 155692 154135 152578 – 7785
Ecuador 50.5 14631 13729 13335 12942 12548 -2083
Honduras 41 8136 6392 5792 5192 4592 -3544
Indonesia 53 118545 99409 97857 94432 91010 -27535
Malaysia 67.6 22376 21591 20890 22124 22195 -181
Nigeria 7.7 17234 13137 11089 9041 6993 -10241
Paraguay 38.6 21157 19368 18475 16950 15323 5834

(Data from the UN FAO 2015 Forest Resources Assessment)

According to FAOSTAT, while in 1990, Brazil was 65,41% covered by forests, this dropped to 59,05% in 2015. The same dramatic trend can be seen in Indonesia as well: 65,44% in 1990 and 50,24% in 2015.

FAO’s 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment shows that agriculture is expanding at the expense of forests in countries located in South America (e.g. Argentina, Brazil), South-East Asia (e.g. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand) and West & Central Africa.

The State of the World’s Forests 2018 concludes that “one of the great challenges of our times is the question on how to increase agricultural production and improve food security without reducing forest area.“ 3

Besides wildfires and illegal logging, the causes of deforestationthe conversion of forest to other land use or the long term reduction of the tree canopy cover below a minimum 10 percent threshold – are numerous and include the conversion of forests mainly for agricultural purposes, mining, infrastructure development and urban growth. Some of these conversions can even occur with the support of national authorities as for example most recently Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defended the opening of indigenous lands for mining and threatened to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement.

page3image55926496

These practices are global and can also be observed in Central Africa, which due to the Amazon fire coverage has gained more attention recently as satellite images show intense fires near the Congo Basin. 4

According to UNEP5, besides illegal logging and fires, widespread investments in palm oil plantations are the leading cause of rainforest destruction in South-East Asia. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s leading exporters of palm oil, with production skyrocketing. Based on FAOSTAT, the area under palm cultivation expanding by a factor of 7 times in Indonesia (from 1190000 ha to 8630000 ha) and almost doubled in Malaysia (from 2540087 ha to 4859397 ha) between 1995 and 2015. Greenpeace and Forum for Environment (Walhi) argue that due to its loopholes, Indonesia’s legal moratorium on converting primary natural forests and peatlands to palm and logging concessions has been ineffective. The European Commission’s Report on the status of production expansion of relevant food and feed crops worldwide (2019) states that palm oil is the highest ILUC-risk biofuel feedstock.6

Economic losses from weather and climate-related events already average EUR 12 billion per year in the EU (EUR 426 billion – at 2017 values – between 1980 and 2017)7, which is only set to increase in the future if no action is taken.

The EU is well aware of the situation and is committed to act against it. Just recently the European Commission has published its Communication “on stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests”, in which it calls for “a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory actions” and proposes a list of initial actions to reach its two-fold objective of protecting existing forests and increasing global forest coverage. In doing so, the Commission sets out five priorities, including reducing the EU consumption footprint on land and encouraging the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains.

Through its trade and consumption of various agri-food products, the EU causes deforestation. In its resolution on palm oil and deforestation of rainforests, the European Parliament noted that a little under one quarter (by value) of all agricultural commodities in international trade obtained from illegal deforestation is destined for the EU. 8 Such previously identified products coming from agriculture include palm oil, soy, rubber, beef, maize, cocoa and coffee. 9

The origin of the goods and services consumed in the EU27 that were associated with deforestation (between 1990-2008) point towards South America and South- East Asia. For Southeast Asia, palm oil is the main source of deforestation related to EU imports. For South America, this is primarily beef and soy.

This trade could be expanded under the proposed EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement. Experts have well described the vicious circle of the Amazonian forests being deforested due to illegal logging of a few high value trees and the burning of other low-value trees into charcoal sold to the iron and steel industries, with the land cleared being then used as pasture for beef production. In this disaster in the making for the climate and our planet, the share of deforestation attributable to farmers, including small farmers, whose production consolidates the overall supply of meat from Brazil and its ability to export, can’t be denied.

In the context of the proposed EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement the export of beef meat is planned to increase and additional beef production in the Amazon – even if only consumed in the domestic market – frees up more beef produced in Center and South Brazil for export too.

During the Commission’s publication of the Forest Communication, Commissioner Jyrki Katainen defended the Mercosur deal by stating that it requires Paris Agreement compliance and contains a “strong, robust sustainable development chapter, which gives the EU a stronger hand to have a political dialogue on sustainability related issues”. Hence he insisted that the deal gives the EU more influence in preventing deforestation in Brazil.

The Trade and sustainable development (TSD) chapter 10 of the agreement includes indeed Articles on biodiversity, environment and climate, which state that each Party shall effectively implement the Paris Agreement, which both blocs signed. Nevertheless there are today no further concrete instructions or control/reporting mechanisms on the ‘how’ part within the Agreement. The Paris Agreement includes a pledge to stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030, but the opposite is happening.

Due to their importance to the Earth’s ecosystem, rainforests like the Amazon, Borneo or the Congo Basin are a universal common good and concern of all humanity and should be preserved accordingly. 11

Accordingly, if the EU wishes to be a world leader in fighting climate change it must do more.

One way is to explicitly declare and follow-up its ‘zero-deforestation’ policy and commit to a ‘zero-deforestation’ supply chain. For that, it needs to find a way to:

  •  value the preservation of rainforests more than the products that originate from its destruction.
  •  stop imports of goods linked with deforestation, and put efficient safeguard mechanisms to be activated at any time by the EU on the basis of objective data and reports that the EU should revisit every 6 months.

Both for its imports of biofuels and feedstocks used for biofuel production in the EU and for imports of agricultural and food products from areas at risk of deforestation, the European Union should either build a robust system of deforestation free import certification or an efficient system of verification of deforestation free export certificates made by exporting countries. Such certifications would be the first sine qua non for authorization of entry of these products into the territory of the European Union.

On top of that publicly accessible data on the matter at hand would make sense and put Europe in a perspective of co-construction and search for solutions as it could help to prevent the start of deforestation of intact forests and contribute to work together in order to develop “local” regional strategies.

Proposal for specific conditions for an efficient and trustworthy EU deforestation certification scheme (safeguard clause):

Every 6 months, the European Commission should present a report covering the trends related to deforestation and the expansion of deforestation risk related products into high carbon stock areas including forests and peatlands. The European Commission should be empowered to trigger a safeguard clause allowing the European Union to suspend the deforestation free certificates in regions or countries, where deforestation is observed. The safeguard clause should be applied at an appropriate geographic level in order to cover indirect effects and potential market transfers.

This would mean that products in zones that have proven on-going deforestation (‘red zones’) should then be blacklisted and EU customs should block the imports from those regions/products. In order to be consistent with the principle that the EU shall not make any compromises on the issue of deforestation no exemptions shall be given to such products. This would require an improved system of information and transparency.

For proving such practices field inspections would be almost impossible to carry out. Therefore the unbiased monitoring of forest cover change through satellite imagery seems to be the most appropriate methodology to follow deforestation, degradation and the state of the forests. Such technologies have been developed by European enterprises such as Copernicus or Starling, used in particular by companies as part of their Zero Deforestation commitments.

The EU could accept, and even support, equivalent systems to monitor deforestation implemented by the concerned countries, if those are also based on objective and verifiable satellite imagery and open to auditing. This would represent a welcome step towards empowering countries where deforestation has been a plague to take the matter on their hands and implement the appropriate mix of control, economic, social and environmental policies to halt deforestation and forest degradation. In this context the EU could also support measures that aim at increasing agriculture productivity, which would ultimately reduce the economic and social pressure to deforestation and use of peatlands.

The EU needs to step up its game to turn words into concrete actions with effectively working measures – starting by stopping the importation of deforestation sourced products – if it wishes to honour its pledge to halt deforestation by 2020 as stated in the New York Declaration on Forests12 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Goal Number 15.2).

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1 http://terrabrasilis.dpi.inpe.br/app/dashboard/alerts/legal/amazon/aggregated/

2 FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015

3The State of the World’s Forests 2018 – Forest pathways to sustainable development. FAO (2018)

http://www.fao.org/3/I9535EN/i9535en.pdf

4https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/map/
5 “The Last Stand of the Orangutan- State of Emergency: Illegal Logging, Fire and Palm Oil in Indonesia’s National Parks http://wedocs.unep.org/xmlui/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/7524/- The%20Last%20Stand%20of%20the%20Orangutan- %20%20State%20of%20Emergency_%20Illegal%20Logging%2c%20Fire%20and%20Palm%20Oil%2 0in%20Indonesia%27s%20National%20Parks-2007756.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y
6European Commission: Report on the on the status of production expansion of relevant food and feed crops worldwide (2019) https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/report.pdf

7https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/direct-losses-from-weather-disasters- 3/assessment-2
8 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2017-0098_EN.pdf
9 Feasibility study on options to step up EU action against deforestationhttps://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/pdf/KH0418199ENN2.pdf

10 EU-Mercosur Agreement – Trade and sustainable development chapter

https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2019/july/tradoc_158166.%20Trade%20and%20Sustainable%2 0Development.pdf

11http://www.fao.org/3/I9535EN/i9535en.pdf

12 https://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Environment%20and%20Energy/Forests/New%20Yo rk%20Declaration%20on%20Forests_DAA.pdf

Wine sector: What did we miss during the just ended Summer Break?

Here below a quick “catch-up exercise” with latest news and market insights from the wine sector.

First of all, on 1 July 2019 the full text of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement (reached on 28 June 2019) was published. Wine is amongst the key agri-food products of EU export interest which would be liberalized. Furthermore, provisions covering recognition of winemaking practices, certification and labelling are included in the agreement.

On 15-19 July 2019 in Geneva, more than 600 government officials, international national experts and professionals met for the annual gathering of the World Congress of Vine and Wine 2019 to discuss and reflect on the most pressing current issues in viticulture, oenology and overall the viticultural economy.

The OIV 2019 report on the world vitivinicultural situation was also released. To note that world wine production saw a 17% increase in 2018 compared to the previous year (a total of 292 million hl). On the consumption side, overall a slight growth since 2014 has to be reported (246 milllion hl in 2018) even though in the EU it has stabilized during the last years.

Furthermore, after a 2018 record-harvest (292 million hl), recent extreme weather conditions (i.e. alternation of spring frost and summer catastrophic heat waves) impacted heavily  the 2019 harvest forecasts, notably for Italy, where a decline of 10% in comparison with 2018 has been estimated. Same goes for France – a wine output fall of an average of 12% in 2019 was predicted by the Agriculture Ministry’s Statistic Unit (AGRESTE).

In terms of wine market dynamics, the last months saw overall an increase in Australian & Chilean wine exports and a sharp slowdown in Chinese wine imports.

 

full note available on FE members area

Improve the link between Science, innovation, agriculture and food

Today, the agri-food sectors are more than ever confronted with 3 major demands from our society:

  • To provide safe and quality foodnot only to European citizens but as well to world markets,
  • To keep rural areas lively and viable. This means, first and foremost to maintain and develop a profitable farming activity in all rural areas across the EU.
  • To optimize the good management of the environmentand to fight more effectively against climate change and risks linked to wider and wider spread diseases. 

Being able to answer jointly to these three challenges is for sure a challenge itself, but a feasible one, if we accept to make effective use of science and concentrate our efforts on double performance: economic performance and environmental performance.

This is the very basic condition of any success of the EU and the EU agriculture to ensure both growth and jobs and better environment.

For more than a decade, the global productivity growth of the EU farming sector has halved. During this decade, the capital productivity of this sector has become negative. According to the EU Commission, this trend would result in a new decrease by 14% of the EU agri incomes in the next 10 years.

It is time now to reinvest in innovation and research, to reinvest in genetics and develop a concrete science-based approach in that respect.

In this framework, objectivity and transparency will be key.

To reach this objective, we need to change our attitude, to live in our time and consider what science tells us, and not what some say that science could tell.

This is true when it comes to precision and smart farming and how policies (and notably the CAP) can incentivize the move of the EU agriculture to a modern, a more eco-environmentally efficient agriculture.

This is true as well when it comes to geneticsNew breeding techniquesare promising as modern and faster extension of usual traditional breeding techniques delivering both in environment, nutrition and economy.

These New Plant-Breeding Techniques, which have emerged as the result of advances in scientific research, enable more precise and faster changes in the plant’s genome than conventional plant breeding techniques, which use chemical and radiation processes to alter the genetic characteristics of plants.

New Plant Breeding Techniques are currently in an uncertain situation regarding their legal classification, as there is urgent to decide on how these practices should be regulated and whether they (or some of them) should or shouldn’t fall within the scope of the EU GMO legislation.

As it is scientifically demonstrated that NBTs such as CRISPR-Cas9 are not GMOs, the new EP should strive to ensure its classification as a non-GMO technique.

 

FOOD CHAIN, NUTRITION AND WELLBEING.

 

The European food chain is facing a big challenge, which is to find a harmonious and positive relationship between diet and health. This is mainly due to the fact that, the EU agro food model is constantly evolving and improving, and its relationship with health issues is becoming growingly important. This is a key challenge for the future of both agriculture and food industry.

The relationship between science and innovation on one hand and agriculture and food on the other and is perceived mostly in negative terms, or at least in a quite unidirectional way – nutritionissues –, putting aside other elements as important as culture and traditions, sociology, employment and economics, internal market principles, environment, genetics, lifestyles.

Much of the discussions around the issue are quite polarized, sterile and more based in opinions than in science, which doesn’t help any progress on what can be considered the common goal: how to better integrate food and health for the benefit of consumers and society as a whole.

In order to prevent the negative effect of NCD ́s public authorities try to promote different policies and actions with a dubious impact.

If we put it into a European perspective, we have to realize that we participate in a sort of “collage” of measures, mixing European and national initiatives, in different areas, with different aims and ways, that need to be reconsidered. Examples are: national taxes, prohibition of sales, limits to advertising, traffic lights systems (U.K.) as well as French nutriscore model.

Internal market principles – the basis of European integration– have been side-linedwith direct impact on business, free circulation, competition and consumer welfare.

On the prominent role of science: improvements made in terms of food safety in Europe in the last 15 years have to be acknowledged. Both EFSA and the Commission have delivered a sound set of criteria that have created a strong consensus around the best science to inform food safety – and a comprehensive system to evaluate and manage risks.

Science is critical not only because it leads the way for improving human wellbeing, but also because evidence based science orients political action– or at least should-.

Science is far more than a single discipline. The present “nutrimania” simply puts aside other fields of knowledge like sociology, genetics, physical activity or environment, while multifactorial problems need multidisciplinary approaches. Even when it comes to nutrition focus is more on products (“good” or “bad”) than in diets itself. And as a matter of fact “ we eat food, not nutritiens”.

Having said that, the question would be how can Europe improve its decision making in order to take any political action on evidence based science?   How can we avoid science to be substituted by opinion when informing political and legal decisions?

– First of all, we need more confidence in our institutions. EFSA must continue to be seen as the reference for excellence in science and food and at the same time, it must be able to better coordinate national Agencies in his effort to align criteria and inform action.

– Another issue: misinterpretation of complex information and a great deal of news and sources makes really difficult to avoid confusion and distress in the public opinion.

– Finally, the way in which debate takes place is not the most constructive one. It seems that each stakeholder sticks to its own position being more interested in counter-arguments and defending specific interests that in finding ways to progress against NCDs through co- operation.
Today, it is urgent to open a debate with all stakeholders and get a broad agreement oncommon objectives: a better and sound healthy lifestyle in Europe, and a firm contribution from the food chain – it is crucial to understand that this is a common issue in which all the members of the chain (consumers, farmers, industry and trade) must work together and united.

At the same, it would be useful to enlarge the role of EFSA to informing the public on where the science stands on key issues. If the objective is to build confidence and a trusty and efficient European legislative framework, one of the challenges is indeed to fight relentlessly baseless « opinions ».