Despite major concerns among farmers, the EU’s proposed farm-to-fork strategy received strong support from Members of the European Parliament last week.
The policy, which the European Commission says aims to make EU food systems ‘fair, healthy and environmentally friendly’, would introduce severe restrictions on the amount of pesticides, fertilizers and antimicrobials used on European farms by 2030.
The 27 actions proposed in the strategy are as follows:
- a 50% reduction in the use and risk of pesticides (with 2020 as the base year);
- a 20% reduction in the use of fertilizers, including manure;
- a 50% reduction in sales of antimicrobials or antibiotics used in farm animals and aquaculture; and
- requiring 25% of agricultural land to be cultivated using organic practices (an increase from the current level of around 8%.)
- a 10% reduction in agricultural land used for crops.
452 Members of the European Parliament voted in favor of a report on the farm-to-fork strategy on October 19, with 170 members voting against and 76 abstaining.
While the vote gives an indication of the direction Parliament wishes to take, “it can in no way be understood as a final conclusion of the process. It is rather just a start, like opening remarks, in the different policy areas, ”says Pekka Pesonen, general secretary of Europe’s largest agricultural group, Copa-Cogeca, in the interview below.
A final result of declining crop yields and increased food imports into Europe would be the worst-case scenario, Pesonen said, speaking to RealAgriculture from Copa-Cogeca headquarters in Brussels.
“We will fight to the teeth to avoid it,” he said.
Hear Copa-Cogeca Secretary General Pekka Pesonen discuss the European Parliament vote on farm-to-fork policy and the impact it could have:
As part of this fight, Copa-Cogeca and other farm groups in Europe are urging the European Commission to publish a full report on the impact of the actions listed in the Farm to Fork proposal. To date, the most in-depth analysis has been done by the US Department of Agriculture and private industry, Pesonen says.
“We find it very difficult to accept that we impose this major political initiative of which the European Union itself refuses to examine the consequences,” he said.
“The last thing we need is to outsource our food production to third countries with a significant environmental footprint if we can’t react enough. “
In a separate press statement last week, Copa-Cogeca and more than two dozen other farm groups said there were “blind spots” in the debate over “the effects of carbon leaks, l ‘European strategic autonomy and consumer prices’.
If the proposed restrictions are implemented, farmers will need access to different tools, including alternative technologies to protect crop and livestock health, and reduced regulatory burden in other areas to compensate for crop losses. expected production, explains Pesonen.
The orientation of Europe with the Farm to Fork policy could also have important implications for farmers and agricultural exporters in Canada.
There would likely be new requirements for the sale of products in Europe, as the EU would seek to impose similar standards on imports. “We must have a level playing field for European farmers and agricultural cooperatives in order to compete with imports,” Pesonen emphasizes.
The Farm-to-Fork strategy could also influence Canada’s future agriculture and food policy, as the federal government has a habit of looking to Europe for policy ideas, especially with regard to initiatives. climate related.
While the US government has criticized the EU’s farm-to-fork approach, the Canadian government has not publicly committed to joining a “coalition for sustainable productivity growth” that the US Secretary of State for Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, promoted to counter the European approach.
Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau participated in a virtual panel with Vilsack and Mexico’s Agriculture Minister Víctor Villalobos as part of the World Prize Symposium ‘feed in Des Moines, Iowa, last week. As part of the panel discussion, Vilsack spoke about the philosophical differences between the US and the EU, referring to the Farm to Fork initiative. He also said that Canada and Mexico have been invited to join the US-led coalition of countries focused on increasing agricultural productivity.