Commission needs to comply with promised launch of sustainable food communication

The promised launch of the Communication on Sustainable Food by the European Commission, initially planned for 2013, has once again been postponed. This is a significant set back for the much-needed reevaluation of Europe’s food system, write a group of NGOs.

This opinion piece was co-authored by Slow Food International, Compassion in World Farming and Friends of the Earth Europe.

The communication is crucial in order to move to a food system that provides nutritious food, promotes a healthy diet, consumes less land and water, and rebuilds soil quality while restoring biodiversity and ecosystems and protecting animal welfare.

The initial aim of the Communication on Sustainable Food, as conveyed by the Environment directorate general, was to limit waste throughout the food supply chain, and find ways to lower the environmental impact of food production and consumption patterns. However many civil society organisations feel this is not enough and a more holistic approach is needed.

So, what are the key elements* that should be included?

Better technical knowledge on the environmental impacts of food

Knowledge about sustainable food and agriculture should be developed through meaningful inter-disciplinary networks, involving a wide range of stakeholders. Integrating local and traditional knowledge with formal scientific knowledge, and adapting institutions to be more responsive to stakeholder needs, is crucial if we are to successfully address the global and regional challenges of our food system. Agricultural research and development must explicitly address the multiple functions of agriculture.

Stimulating sustainable food production

The last Common Agricultural Policy reform did not achieve its aim of introducing strict mandatory measures to stimulate sustainable food production. Member states are now free to decide how to spend the money, and subsidies can still support harmful environmental practices. The next reform should ensure a transition towards more sustainable levels of supply and demand at a European level.

Promoting sustainable food consumption

It is now essential to develop programs and pilot programs that inform and educate consumers on food sustainability, on how to waste less and on how to eat a sustainable, healthy diet – in particular, given the massive ecological footprint of unhealthy diets, the need to eat more plants and less and better meat, dairy and fish. We need to see strong member state measures that are backed by EU wide guidance, support and initiatives that will lead to habitual behavior change.

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