The Farm to Fork Strategy: An ambition to safeguard

It is a busy time for stakeholders active on the Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy. On 19 October, the European Parliament’s Plenary voted on its own initiative report on the strategy. The Plenary approved report by the environmental (ENVI) and agriculture (AGRI) committees – with 452 votes in favour, 170 against and 76 abstentions – voting for principles, mechanisms and rules supporting the transition towards more sustainable food systems. This result was not given for granted given the strong push by certain lobby groups ahead of the vote to weaken some of the more ambitious parts of this report.

Attempts to undermine the Farm to Fork Strategy

Ahead of the vote, on 14 October, IFOAM Organics Europe signed a joint civil society statement, together with 26 more organisations calling on the EU to stand by the Farm to Fork strategy, highlighting that the “aspirational targets are a vital element of the [F2F] Strategy as they set the course for the transition towards sustainable food systems and will ensure that progress for getting there can be measured”.

This came as a response to attempts ahead of the vote attacking the F2F Strategy’s ambitions and particularly the targets of the Farm to Fork strategy. For instance, on 12 October a Euractiv event, sponsored by CropLife, titled “Farm to Fork: What the analysis and data tell us” took place. During this event, results from the Joint Research Centre report and two similar studies by the USDA and from Wageningen University were presented – the latter published with funding from CropLife Europe, CropLife International, Euroseeds, Copa Cogeca and Fertilizers Europe.

Studies are not impact assessments

The three studies – by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), USDA and Wageningen University – foresee a decrease in yields and incomes if the Farm to Fork’s targets were to be pursued.

However, these studies:

  1. Are based on modelling with limited relevance to the objectives of the F2F and do not constitute a comprehensive impact assessment; and
  2. Do not include many of the positive aspects that the F2F strategy aims to achieve, such as the reduction of food waste or the change of dietary habits.

The Commission has summarized the scope of each study, and it becomes clear that these studies have a limited scope and can therefore not provide a comprehensive analysis of the consequences of the F2F strategy. Indeed, most of the F2F actions and supportive policies are not considered, including the effects of the organic action plan, or how food waste reduction and dietary changes will impact our food system.

Moreover, none of the studies mention cost of inaction and the impact this would have on the climate and biodiversity crises. In this context, the op-ed by BEUC, IPES-Food and CEO underlines that “If we were to conduct an ‘impact assessment’ of our current food systems, assuming only small tweaks along the way to 2030 or 2050, the outcomes would surely be catastrophic. The costs of inaction on climate change, biodiversity loss and pesticide poisoning would dwarf any potential losses under the Farm to Fork strategy”.

To find out more about lobbying strategies aimed at undermining the targets of the F2F strategy, please see Le Monde’s article [in French] about the “Intense agribusiness lobbying against ‘Farm to Fork’” or DW’s article about “how big farm lobbies undermine EU’s agriculture plan”.

Using partial findings from these studies present the risk of being misleading. Other studies counterbalance the three mentioned studies, such as IDDRI’s blog post “The Farm to Fork strategy: an ambitious and realistic innovation pathway for the European food system”, highlighting that “the European Commission’s stated aim with the Farm to Fork systemic strategy is to ensure the future competitiveness and resilience of European agriculture”, in a context of “increasingly fragile” agricultural systems.

The European Parliament’s Greens/EFA also produced an interesting document, “How the Farm to Fork Strategy can Fix our Food System”, underlining how this strategy can help us make food systems more sustainable, efficient, resilient and fair, and why this is essential. The document replies to questions such as “Do synthetic pesticides help farmers secure higher revenues?” or “Is yield the only factor that influences farmers’ income?” or again “Is the current food system a threat to ecosystems? What are its hidden costs?”.

For more information on the Farm to Fork Strategy and IFOAM Organics Europe’s work on this issue, please visit our dedicated page or contact [email protected]. IFOAM Organics Europe members can find more information on the member extranet.

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

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