Organic 'from Farm to Fork'
European farming practices are influenced by a variety of European policy areas. These include the Common Agriculture Policy; legislation governing the marketing of seed and plant propagating material, water and soil use, the use of GMOs in food, feed and farming, animal health and welfare; as well as consumer related policies, such as food information and labelling. In each of these areas, IFOAM Organics Europe works with like-minded organisations to generate a legislative framework promoting environmentally positive farming practices.
With the publication of the European Green Deal in December 2019, the European Commission has launched “a new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use”. The European Green Deal “also aims to protect, conserve and enhance the EU’s natural capital, and protect the health and well-being of citizens from environment-related risks and impacts”.
The European Green Deal includes two important strategies for the organic sector: The Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy. On this page you can read more about the role of organic and IFOAM Organic Europe’s advocacy on the farm to fork strategy. To learn more about our activities on biodiversity and the EU Biodiversity strategy, continue reading on our page on biodiversity.
Food policy and Farm to Fork Strategy
In December 2019, the European Commission unveiled its European Green Deal (EGD). It aims for Europe to become the first carbon-neutral continent and is a “new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use”.
The EGD comprises several strategies, including the Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, unveiled on 20 May 2020.
According to the F2F communication, the Farm to Fork strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal. It “addresses the challenges of sustainable food systems in a comprehensive way, recognising the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet”. The integrated approach of the F2F is mentioned several times.
The strategy consists of a main communication and an annex, serving as an action plan for the F2F strategy. It recognizes that food systems are responsible for approximately 29% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that nearly 70% of all agricultural GHG emissions come from the animal sector. It explicitly states that “there is an urgent need to reduce dependency on pesticides and antimicrobials, reduce the use of fertilisers, increase organic farming, improve animal welfare, and reverse biodiversity loss”. The Farm to Fork Strategy intends leading a global transition towards competitive sustainability from farm to fork through achieving these goals:
- Ensuring food production, transport, distribution, marketing, and consumption have a neutral or positive environmental impact;
- Preserving and restoring the land and sea-based resources;
- Mitigating climate change;
- Reversing the loss of biodiversity; and
- Ensuring food security, nutrition, and public health.
To enable this transition, the strategy elaborates that:
- The Commission has devised several research & innovation programmes and other funding mechanisms supporting the objectives of the Green Deal;
- The Commission will therefore set up effective Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS); and
- The Commission will ensure tailored solutions help SMEs.
IFOAM Organics Europe’s members find a more detailed breakdown of what the Farm to Fork strategy puts forward on organic, the CAP, fertilisers, pesticides and much more on the IFOAM Organics Europe member extranet. For more information about membership, contact IFOAMEU_membership@organicseurope.bio.
Green Public Procurement
More and more institutional bodies want to reduce the environmental impact caused by public sector consumption. To do so, they are looking at Green Public Procurement (GPP) to stimulate innovation in environmental technologies, products and services.
Sourcing organically is one way institutions can greatly increase their sustainability and promote the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture and food practices. IFOAM Organics Europe advocates for organic’s recognition as sustainable alternative in public procurement. One of the ways in which we are doing this is by spreading best practices.
It is also important to identify and end barriers in EU competition law so GPP could also contribute to developing community-supported agriculture (CSA), short supply chains, and increased use of fair trade products.
In October 2019, the European Commission published new voluntary EU GPP criteria for food, catering services and vending machines. Some of the key objectives of this EU GPP criteria-set are:
- Increasing the share of organic products;
- Avoiding the consumption of fish and marine products from depleted stocks;
- Promoting an increased offer in plant-based menus;
- Avoiding food waste and improving the overall management of waste;
- Avoiding the use of single-use items;
- Reducing energy consumption in kitchens and vending machines; and
- Reducing water consumption in kitchens.
The labelling of food, including of organic food, informs consumers about the vision behind the production of a given food product. Special attention needs to be paid to ensuring consumers are not misled.
Organic provides a holistic approach to the environment, society, animal welfare and sustainability and covers wide range of qualities.
“Single issue labels”, on the other hand, focus on one topic, ignore the big picture and generate confusion about the value of labels. Unregulated labels may even be based on very low performance standards. So, from a consumer perspective, the increase of single issue food labels is not a positive development.
IFOAM Organics Europe monitors the development of different food labelling legislative initiatives in the EU with aim to:
- Harmonising development of different initiatives on origin labelling and quality logos for as wide a range of products as possible;
- Securing that the organic logo is the only eco-label for food and organic production, representing the highest standards for animal welfare; and
- Ensuring that nutritional value labelling does not mislead consumers with regard to the true nutritive quality of products.
Our reply to the public consultation on the Farm to Fork Strategy, summarises our position of what a food policy should entail.
As part of this ambition to transition agriculture towards agroecology, the Farm to Fork strategy – or any strategy aimed at making our food system more sustainable through inter alia food policies – should include quantitative targets to increase both organic land and consumption of organic products in the EU, and to reduce the use of pesticides and antibiotics.
IFOAM Organics Europe calls for:
- An EU target for 20% organic land by 2030, which is both realistic and ambitious considering that organic farming currently covers around 8% of EU land. IFOAM Organics Europe therefore welcomes the target of 25% organic land by 2030 included in the Farm to Fork strategy. To make this target achievable, it is crucial to link it to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). According to IFOAM Organics Europe, 70% of the CAP budget across the two pillars should be earmarked for environment and climate action, to allow full use of agri-environmental measures under rural development (pillar 2) and of innovative mechanisms like eco-schemes (in pillar 1); and
- An EU target of 20% of organic products in public kitchens by 2030, because a push-pull approach is needed. The example of Denmark has proven that policy has a key role to play to create a market for increased organic production, through Green Public Procurement (GPP) and promotion policies. This is an effective way to develop the whole organic production chain (retailers, traders, processors…) and to give a prominent role to local authorities in the Farm to Fork strategy.
Targets for organic land and consumption (combined with a new EU organic action plan and adequate support from the CAP) would ensure a balanced growth of both organic production and demand and develop the whole organic supply chain through a push-pull approach.
To leverage the potential of organic and agroecology to transform our food and farming systems, systemic, transdisciplinary research & innovation as well as effective advisory services are needed. Research must be conducted into organic approaches to plant health and animal production. It is essential to establish well-funded farm advisory services independent from economic interests (for examples companies selling inputs) and aimed at helping farmers to transition to agroecological production systems, which are knowledge intensive rather than input intensive.
While tax legislation on (organic) food is dealt with nationally rather than at EU level, IFOAM Organics Europe also recommends that the Farm to Fork Strategy includes taxation measures helping Member States to make organic products more affordable and using less harmful pesticides. The national context should indicate which measures would be more effective in this respect.
The EU Food Policy Coalition
IFOAM Organics Europe is part of the EU food policy coalition. This coalition was created informally in 2019 and works towards policy integration and alignment at the EU-level to facilitate the transition to sustainable food systems. It brings together civil society and organizations working towards refining and advocating for a shared vision of sustainable food systems at the EU level. Partners include NGOs from a broad spectrum working on food systems, grassroots social movements, farmers organizations, organizations of fishers, trade unions, think tanks, scientific and research groups.
We support shifts to more sustainable diet with more plant-based products, less intensive animal production, and innovative governance models for the Farm to Fork Strategy. We believe food policy at all levels should give a prominent role to civil society and local authorities.
The city of Copenhagen is using green procurement to foster sustainable diets. A combination of forward-looking green procurement policy and a determination to transform food culture are the recipe for success when it comes to increasing organic in public institutions. As of 2017, the share of organic ingredients in meals in public canteens in Copenhagen has reached 89%, and this transition has reshaped the public food system as well as the meals that are served to the citizens of Copenhagen. Read more about this initiative on euorganic2030.bio.
‘Steps to Organic’ is a Finnish voluntary programme for all private and public kitchens. Its purpose is to help increase the use of organic products as part of sustainable development. Consumers can also find restaurants that offer organic food on the programme’s website. For more information, visit euorganic2030.bio.
The work of IFOAM Organics Europe on this topic is co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). This page only reflects the views of the authors and its sole responsibility lies with IFOAM Organics Europe. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.