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Article: Kyriakides defends EU Farm to Fork Strategy against food security fears

13 May 2020 Steve Gillman

This article is taken from our IEG Policy platform dated 12/05/20.

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, defended the EU executive's new sustainable food policy against several MEPs who think it risks undermining production.

Several members of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee (AGRI) have said the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy risks policies piling up on farmers in a way that will hit their productivity. At an AGRI meeting yesterday (May 11), they demanded 'realistic' proposals with incentives rather than new requirements.

Commissioner Kyriakides, who will lead the F2F strategy, told AGRI MEPs that the EU executive is "not going to trade off food sustainability for food security" and that any legally binding target would be preceded by an impact assessment.

"Without prospering farmers, we will not ensure food security. And without a healthy planet, farmers will have nowhere to farm," the Cypriot argued.

Leaks of the F2F strategy suggest there will be targets to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and antimicrobials as well as measures to promote more sustainable fertilisers and increase organic production. There could also be a series of proposals to shift the public towards more sustainable consumption.

Kyriakides said these combined measures will be designed to allow farmers to continue to feed Europe, but warned some MEPs that change is still coming, because a food system that "is only product-oriented is not enough" to address the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Last week, (May 7), Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans also told agriculture MEPs that the EU executive will adopt the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy on May 20 to encourage a more sustainable recovery from COVID-19.

Some MEPs are still worried that the F2F strategy's ambitions will impact farmers' ability to produce food and ultimately reduce their incomes. Renew Europe's coordinator Ulrike Müller said farmers are already struggling to keep their operations running and stricter policies would make it harder to grow food and push them closer to bankruptcy.

"We need farmers and we need families that can earn money," she said, singling out the risk that ill-prepared pesticide policies could have on their productivity.

EPP's Herbert Dorfmann, who had led calls to delay the publication of the F2F strategy, argued that while the EU must think about sustainable production, the Commission "cannot decouple that from an economic discussion" or they risk driving down incomes and increasing food prices across Europe.

But Green MEP Martin Häusling criticised his colleagues for using food security arguments to weaken the F2F strategy's environmental ambition. He said Europe is currently producing and consuming too much food, which is evident with the amount the bloc wastes.

Kyriakides was also not deterred by the MEPs' food security fears, saying that the F2F strategy "is not here to penalise or punish, it is here to help us move towards more sustainable food systems", adding that the Commission will make use of all available policy tools to support farmers in the sustainable transition.

She told AGRI MEPs that the key instrument to support farmers in achieving the F2F strategy's objectives will be the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This was a reference to the proposed CAP Strategic Plans, which are the Commission's blueprint for national governments to meet different objectives set at an EU level and will need to be approved by the EU executive beforehand.

"It is very important for us to have F2F before the [next] CAP is adopted so we can influence it," Kyriakides said.

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