Political Hotspot – September 2022

September is the month of the first informal meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture in Prague, Czech Republic. The Czech Presidency of the EU Council started in July and will last until the end of the year. Time to have a look at their priorities in food and agriculture.

The main priorities of the Czech Presidency are (short-term) food security and the price shocks in food, energy and fertilizer markets, which are a direct impact of Russia’s attacks and blockade of supply routes towards Europe but also the rest of the world, including Africa. In reaction to this, the EU has already implemented an action plan to build land- and river-based export routes out of Ukraine towards Europe. Already, grain exports over land are steadily increasing, including organic produce, like sunflower seeds. However, the situation remains fragile.

Despite those short-term measures, the long-term vision of the Czech presidency on addressing this food security crisis is unclear. References to the Farm to Fork strategy remain brief and the Czech Presidency criticizes the limitations associated with targets for pesticides and fertilizers. Doing so, it does not necessarily acknowledge the positive effects on soil protection and biodiversity, and therefore long-term food security that can be achieved through these targets.

Organic agriculture, nor agroecology were not on the agenda of the informal Agriculture Minister’s meeting. Instead, in its vision of “sustainability”, the Czech presidency proposes to achieve the Farm to Fork Strategy’s goals via genetic engineering. The organic sector was not invited to these conversations, while conventional sector associations were present.

Another key topic this year, also mentioned by the Czech Presidency in its agri-food priorities, is the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR), for which the European Commission published a proposal on 22 June. Read our detailed article on the SUR. The war in Ukraine and the SUR are points that will come back in the next meeting of the EU Agriculture ministers on 17-18 October – chaired by the Czech Presidency. On these topics, and other agricultural topics, Europe’s Ministers of Agriculture will need to prove that they can think in the long-term and not only in quick fixes in a world that moves from crisis to crisis.

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