Political hotspot October 2021 newsletter

Sustainable Food Systems legislative framework: An initial consultation has reached its final day

26 October marked the final day for final contributions to the Commission’s inception impact assessment (roadmap) on the Sustainable Food System Framework Initiative. This initiative is expected in 2023, when the European Commission will propose a legislative framework on sustainable food systems. To shape this legislative framework, stakeholders and citizens are encouraged to reply to this roadmap. You can find IFOAM Organics Europe’s feedback here.

Why this initiative?
The Sustainable Food System Framework Initiative comes at a very special time in EU food policy. The initiative is one of the actions following up on the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, the Commission’s flagship strategy aiming to comprehensively address the challenges of sustainable food systems.

The F2F strategy states “there is an urgent need to reduce dependency on pesticides and antimicrobials, reduce excess fertilisation, increase organic farming, improve animal welfare, and reverse biodiversity loss”. Emphasising “the transition to sustainable food systems is also a huge economic opportunity”.

To address this urgent need and accelerate the transition towards more sustainable food systems, the Commission will “publish a legislative proposal for a framework for a sustainable food system”. This roadmap is the first step to the publication of this legislative proposal.

What is the aim of this initiative?
The European Commission aims to mainstream sustainability in all food-related policies and strengthen the resilience of food systems. In addition, the roadmap identifies several problems with the current food system, which it also tries to remedy, including:

  • Lack of incentives for actors of the food system to produce/place sustainable food on the EU market;
  • Negative environmental and social externalities, including health, are not reflected in the price or cost of foods – creating market distortion making unsustainable food products cheaper;
  • Consumption decisions are taken on the basis of short-term costs, disregarding long-term/real costs and impacts – due to various reasons, such as but not limited to, the affordability of sustainable foods.

And what about the roadmap on sustainable food systems itself?
In its roadmap, the Commission links conventional ways of producing and consuming food with environmental degradation and declining human health. It calls for a paradigm shift and general transformation of consumption, production, labelling, promotion and distribution systems.

To achieve this paradigm shift, some of the proposed contents for this initiative are:

  • Common definitions and general principles and requirements for sustainable food systems and foods;
  • General minimum standards to be met for foods produced or placed on the Union market and related food operations;
  • Responsibilities of food system actors;
  • Provision of information on the sustainable performance of the food (sustainable labelling); and
  • Minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement in schools and public institutions.

What has IFOAM Organics Europe replied?
IFOAM Organics Europe’s reply highlights the principles of action and measures that could allow the Sustainable Food System initiative to succeed and achieve this paradigm shift. It emphasises ensuring that organic food, which is part of the solution to face the current environmental and social crises, continues to develop.

In terms of principles, the reply highlighted, among others:

  • The need to consider food as a common good, not merely as a commodity ;
  • Ensure fair wages for farmers; and
  • Ensure policy coordination and coherence across all agri-food policies.

Regarding specific policy suggestions, IFOAM Organics Europe insists on essential issues, including the need to internalise externalities, push for pesticide reduction, the key role that sustainable public procurement (and particularly a minimum mandatory target for organic products therein) can play and the place of ‘new breeding techniques’.

Moreover, as mentioned above, the Commission has foreseen a sustainability label by 2024. While IFOAM Organics Europe is favourable to sustainability-related information for consumers, such labelling must be as comprehensive as possible and consider factors such as the impact of the use pesticides on the environment and society, respect for biodiversity, impact on soil fertility and air, and animal welfare. It must especially not undermine existing labels such as the organic label.

What are the next steps?
Yesterday marked the last day of this first phase for the Sustainable Food System Framework initiative. The public consultation for this initiative, a second stakeholder and citizens’ consultation that follows the roadmap, will take place during the first quarter of 2022, and the proposal for a legislative framework on sustainable food systems should be published during the fourth quarter of 2023.

While IFOAM Organics Europe has welcomed this initiative, these ambitious words must now be translated into action and into clear, binding and ambitious measures. The EU institutions can count on the organic movement – joined by many – to play its part to support the transition towards more sustainable food systems!

For more information on the Sustainable Food Systems Framework Initiative & the Farm to Fork Strategy and IFOAM Organics Europe’s work on this issue, please contact [email protected]. IFOAM Organics Europe members can find more information on the member extranet and background materials in the arguments database on the member extranet (main messages, arguments/FAQs, visuals & videos).

For information about what you can gain from being a member, read our membership page and contact [email protected].

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