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Food & Ag Policy Briefing 4 July

04 August 2020

The European Commission's Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy came under attack from the US last week (July 29) when US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue criticized the strategy for undermining future trade and productivity.

The Commission's F2F Strategy, which aspires to reduce harmful pesticides by 50%, and limit unsustainable agri-food products, was described by Perdue as "extremely trade-prohibitive" and threatens to "jeopardise agricultural output" during a webinar hosted by the European Parliament's Conservative and Reformist (ECR) party group

On the same day, another transatlantic debate was causing a stir when a bipartisan group of US legislators called upon US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to remove retaliatory duties on food and drink imports from the EU.

In a letter sent to Lighthizer on July 29, the lawmakers called for a "targeted approach" to meting out sanctions on EU exports because of an ongoing civil aircraft dispute involving aerospace giant Airbus before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The lawmakers argued that the USTR should remove duties on food and drink products "as that industry is struggling during the current pandemic."

The US Senate Finance Committee also engaged in trade debate on July 29 where discussion centred around the need to keep the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an active and vital operation in the years ahead.

The US had typically done well in cases at the WTO relative to agriculture, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in particular as the world trade body has helped limit protectionism and taken action on market access. However, he expressed frustration at the WTO allowing China, the second largest economy in the world, and India, an emerging economic power, to claim developing nation status.

In the UK, lawmakers there called for the appointment of a Minister for Food Security after the COVID outbreak revealed how fragile the food system was.

In a report issued on Thursday (July 30), the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee found that the pandemic exacerbated food insecurity for millions of people, with the use of UK food banks almost doubling during lockdown, and a significant spike in demand from people with children.

In Germany, the labour minister announced plans to change the rules around slaughterhouse work. It follows outbreaks of COVID at plants that revealed the poor state of working conditions at some abbatoir operations.

In France, the Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) advised the European Commission to set strict EU limits on the carcinogenic heavy metal, cadmium, in edible seaweed used in foods such as Japanese makis and the Welsh delicacy, laverbread, as well as supplements.

ANSES spoke out after test results showed almost a quarter of edible seaweed samples analysed recently had cadmium concentrations above the maximum level of 0.5 milligram per kilogram (mg/kg) set by the French High Council for Public Health (CSHPF).

Finally, a United Nations campaign called 'ActNow' which hopes to spark greater individual action against climate change worldwide, caused controversy after it called for lower meat consumption.

In a tweet, the UN said the "meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world's biggest oil companies" and called on people to consume less animal products to prevent climate change, water depletion and deforestation.

The social media post sparked a debate among livestock stakeholders. One of the most critical voices came from Professor Frédéric Leroy from the Belgian Association of Meat Science and Technology, who said the claims being made by the UN's main social media account were "blatantly false".

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