Agri-Food Policy Under Pressure Before 2024 EU Elections

In this article, we tell you all you need to know about what’s coming up in Brussels this Autumn, and what you can do to help us push our politicians to make the right choice.

 

The European elections are right around the corner (June 2024), putting extra time pressure on EU food and agriculture policy. Soon, EU political groups will solely focus on campaigning, which could mean that crucial EU laws, yet to be voted on, get delayed or discarded altogether, much to the pleasure of industrial lobbies.

 

In the coming months, four key EU files will be at stake: the revision of the EU legislation on animal welfare, the new EU pesticide regulation, the EU proposal to deregulate new GMOs and the Sustainable Food Systems Law. The new GMO proposal aside, they all have the potential to completely transform our food system for the better. Only the future will tell what the new European Commission and Parliament will look like, but without any guarantee that they will support the transition towards sustainable food and agriculture, we must collectively put as much pressure as we can on our current EU decision makers to make the right choice, NOW.

In this article, we tell you all you need to know about the four abovementioned EU files, and what you can do to help us push for their adoption (or rejection in the case of new GMOs).

 

In November the European Parliament is expected to vote on  the new EU plan to halve pesticide use and risk by 2030.

Since the European Commission unveiled its much-needed proposal for a new EU pesticide regulation in June 2022, industry lobby groups and conservative policymakers have spared no effort to water it down, delay and even to get rid of it, putting the interests of the chemical industry above the interests of citizens, farmers, health and biodiversity. Civil society groups, including Slow Food, and scientists have been working hard to ensure the proposal gets adopted so that all countries will have to work towards reducing pesticide use and support farmers in the effort.

 

Pesticide use in agriculture damages biodiversity and all ecosystems it so heavily relies upon to produce food, while poisoning farmers and the general public at large. Scientific recommendations to move to pesticide-free, sustainable food production systems have been available for a long time but went largely unheard. The new EU pesticide regulation is a crucial step in getting binding targets for pesticide reduction, and it must be adopted.

 

 

Last June, Slow Food and several partners, launched an online action, allowing EU citizens to help put pressure on their decisionmakers (at EU and national level) to vote in favor of the EU pesticide regulation. The action is still ongoing and will be active until the end of the political process , to exert constant public pressure on all relevant political leaders. The fight is not over, help us win it by using our online tool (also available in French).

 

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Next September, the European Commission is expected to publish its proposal for a legal framework on sustainable food systems (aka the Sustainable Food Systems Law or SFS Law), with the aim to integrate sustainability into all food-related policies by setting EU-wide targets, common definitions and principles, and binding measures.

The proposal is expected in September or October and is one of the key pieces of Frans Timmermans’ European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy, and likely the last one to be published before the European Elections in June 2024. The proposal is expected to legally define sustainable food systems across the environmental, economic and health dimensions, set criteria to improve public procurement (i.e., food in public canteens), propose important measures to improve food environments across the EU, and set a new governance framework so that EU member states, regions and cities can better contribute together to improving food systems.

Civil society organizations, Slow Food included, food companies and EU citizens have been pushing for an ambitious proposal to be released without further delay. Last June, the EU Food Policy coalition, of which Slow Food is a board member, organized a stunt in front of the European Commission last June, to show support for the SFS Law, and present their demands for a transformation of the European food system that is beneficial for people, animals, and the planet.

The EU sits at a crossroads. One path is marked with real danger, while the other presents great opportunity. That opportunity lies in an EU-wide transition to sustainable food systems in which all citizens have access to food that is both healthy and sustainable, and where, from production to consumption, we work with our natural environment, rather than acting against it. An ambitious EU SFS Law can, and must, initiate and guide that transition.

 

 

As part of the Good Food Good Farming movement and the EU Food Policy Coalition, Slow Food will keep putting pressure on the EU Commission to publish an ambitious SFS law. You can also take part by joining the now-well-known “Good Food Good Farming Days of Action” that will take place in October. Every year, thousands of citizens and hundreds of organizations host disco soups, protests, farm visits, they join harvests, cooking events, panel discussions, film-screenings and many more events in their local communities! Why not you? Organize your own event and/or join the Good Food Good Farming protest in Brussels on November 8!

 

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Early fall, the European Commission is expected to publish its proposal for the revision of the EU rules on animal welfare.

Last April, a leaked impact assessment unveiled the Commission’s preferred measures in the forthcoming legislation, which include phasing-out of cages in farming, shortening journeys of live animals, banning mutilations, and limiting stocking density.

 

 

 

Animals’ rights must come before profit. The spread of industrial animal farming as the dominant production model, focused on selective breeding for fast growth and high yields has led to millions of mistreated farmed animals in the EU. Nevertheless, factory farming lobbies have put tremendous pressure on EU policymakers to keep the status-quo, prompting concern among civil society that the revision of the animal welfare legislation will end up watered down. In its proposal, we demand that the European Commission include a ban on cages and mutilations, a strict limitation of live-animal transport within the European Union and the implementation of an animal welfare assessment system whose parameters are animal-based, to ensure the measurement of real wellbeing of the animals.

In the run up to the publication of the EU Commission’s proposal, Slow Food will keep advocating for ambitious legislation that takes our recommendations into account and keeps corporate interests at bay. As an EU citizen, your voice matters! Do not hesitate to use social media to start a discussion on animal welfare and share your vision on what respectful and sustainable animal farming looks like. If you do not know where to start, you can always share Slow Food’s posts on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

 

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On July 5th, a worrying proposal to deregulate new GMOs (or “new genomic techniques”) in the European Union was released by the European Commission. Following the industry’s false promises, the proposal is made on unproven claims that new GMOs could contribute to sustainability although they perpetuate a model of agriculture based on monoculture and pesticides.

The proposal exempts the majority of new GMOs from existing GMO requirements, which means they will no longer be subject to risk assessment for human health and the environment, traceability throughout the food chain nor labeling for consumers.

 

 

 

We reject the European Commission’s proposal because new GM techniques have been shown to be imprecise and to lead to genetic changes that could compromise food and environmental safety, and because it is fundamental that consumers can continue to decide whether they want to eat GM food or not! We call on the European Parliament and national Environment ministers to uphold current EU rules which protect consumers and farmers’ right to choose and reject the European Commission proposal to release untested GMOs.

 

The proposal will be discussed and debated at the European Parliament and by EU Member States in the last quarter of 2023. Slow Food will keep putting pressure on EU and national stakeholders to oppose the Commission’s plans. On your side, we encourage you to write to your EU Members of the European Parliament, to use social media to put pressure on them and voice your opposition to the deregulation of new GMOs. If you do not know where to start, you can always share Slow Food’s posts on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

 

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