Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

What's in the EU's new agri-food, biodiversity policy

  • At least 25 percent of agricultural land would be reserved for organic farming management (Photo: David Stewart)

The European Commission unveils its much-awaited Farm to Fork (F2F) and biodiversity strategy on Wednesday (20 May), after several postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both strategies are seen as key components of the bloc's European Green Deal.

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The F2F strategy says it will set out the "the global standard for sustainability", while the biodiversity strategy aims to "put Europe's biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030" - especially in the context of United Nations global biodiversity framework to be adopted in 2021.

"Without resilient and rich biodiversity, coupled with a fair, sustainable and regenerative food system and supply chains, an economic recovery, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, will still be precarious," NGOs said earlier this year.

Additionally, the commission is also expected to publish an evaluation of the Common Agriculture Policy reform proposed by the previous commission to see whether it is aligned with the Green Deal.

Pesticides

Over 80 NGOs and more than 300,000 European citizens have previously called on the commission to include a binding reduction target of 80 percent by 2030 for the use of all synthetic pesticides in the EU.

The commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides said earlier this year that the strategy will have a "mandatory target, with a clear legal basis" - although previous leaks have lacked targets.

However, NGOs like Greenpeace fear that targets linked to the so-called 'Harmonised Risk Indicator' will maintain Europe's "dependency on pesticides" for years to come.

The commission aims "to reduce by 50 percent the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 2030 and reduce by 50 percent the risk entailed by of high-risk pesticides by 2030," according to a draft of the biodiversity strategy.

Obesity

The commission wants to reverse obesity trends by 2030 across the EU - where more than half of the EU's adult population was overweight in 2014, according to Eurostat.

However, it remains unclear how the commission wants to achieve a transition towards "healthier and more sustainable" diets.

Animal farming in Europe accounts for about 12 to 17 percent of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions - the F2F is not likely to set targets for meat and dairy, despite those recent appeals.

Previous leaks indicate that the commission will put forward a legislative proposal to harmonise food labelling in the EU, indicating level of nutrients, sugar and others - so-called 'nutri-score scheme'.

Farming emissions

The F2F strategy is likely to propose a revision and update of the existing animal welfare legislation, but also to promote the use of more sustainable feeding products.

The strategy will also promote organic farming, as well as agro-ecology and agro-forestry.

The draft of the biodiversity strategy states that at least 25 percent of agricultural land should be reserved for organic farming management.

Additionally, studies on new genomic techniques as a way to reach sustainability in the food chain is also foreseen in draft versions of the F2F.

However, NGOs like Friends of the Earth Europe "the Farm to Fork strategy must explicitly phase-out promotion of genetically-modified crops".

'Nature restoration' grants

Next year, the commission wants to put forward legally-binding "EU nature restoration targets".

The draft of the biodiversity strategy also aims to set at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the sea under protection - but at least 10 percent will be declared "strictly protected areas".

The leak highlights that all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests should be strictly protected - and three billion new trees will be planted in the bloc by 2030.

The commission also wants that at least 25,000km of rivers will be restored into free-flowing rivers and reverse the decline in pollinators by 2030.

Trade?

"Trade policy can support and be part of the EU's ecological transition," states the leak of the biodiversity strategy, adding that trade agreements will be used to promote biodiversity protection.

While NGOs want a total ban on ivory trade, the commission will propose stricter rules this year and a revision of its action plan to tackle illegal wildlife trade in 2021.

Additionally, the strategy foresees "phasing out of subsidies harmful to biodiversity" and applying the principle of "do no harm" to all sectors.

Coronavirus threat to EU farm seasonal workers

The restrictive measures taken by many member states to respond to the coronavirus outbreak make it difficult for EU farmers and fishermen to continue their daily work - which is disrupting the agri-food sector across the continent.

Investigation

Farmers among new MEPs deciding on EU farming money

Renew Europe MEP Asger Christensen, from Denmark, earns €20,000 per month as a farmer. He became a member of the agriculture committee, which could create a conflict of interest situation.

Brussels warns EU states against backtracking on biodiversity

European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik has called on EU member states to support a package of recently-proposed biodiversity targets, amid concerns that a collection of countries led by France is seeking to water down the proposals in order to protect fishing quotas.

Livestream

Live: Join the Nordic climate debate 'Choosing Green'

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled climate negotiations, work has not stopped. The 'Choosing Green' debate will address some of the most important and most complex key areas relating to the global green transition. Live on EUobserver from 10:00 (CET).

Timmermans 'disappointed' with ongoing CAP reform

For European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, the Common Agricultural Policy has to answer to "higher expectations" on climate action, protection of biodiversity and environmental sustainability, while ensuring a fair income for all farmers.

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