Credit: Creative Commons/Bennilover

Future of food hangs in balance

Just two days before Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan publishes his vision for the future of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), food expert Olivier de Schutter is leading a call to turn the policy on its head by putting food at its core.

De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and chair of IPES-Food – a group of the world’s leading food researchers, said:

“The main problem with the CAP is that it is still an agricultural policy in name and nature. The policies governing food systems – CAP, trade, environment, health, food safety – are disconnected from one another, and too many priorities fall through the cracks.”

A draft version of Phil Hogan’s proposal for the new CAP which was leaked last month left environmental and health campaigners worried that the Commission will push for a continuation of the current system under which billions of euros in farm subsidies are dished out to EU countries with bare bones accountability over how the money is spent.

EU countries could be about to receive yet more flexibility on how they meet the policy’s environmental objectives.

40% of the EU budget is spent on the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

With mounting evidence on how successive reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy have failed to work for the environment, society or the economy, in September 2017 a group of think tanks, NGOs and farming groups came together to draw up ideas on what a different kind of food policy could look like. Today over 200 farmers, civil society groups, scientists and policymakers from the local, national and EU level are meeting in Brussels to transform these ideas into the concrete proposals needed to bring about a common food policy at a special EU Food and Farming Forum, organised by IPES-Food.

De Schutter added:

“We need a fundamental transition to sustainable food and farming systems. We need shifts in food production, processing, retail and consumption to occur at the same time. And we need a clear direction of travel at EU level. That is why we need a Common Food Policy.

A Common Food Policy must be different to the CAP in another important way – by rooting itself in new forms of participation and involving a wider range of actors. Public health campaigners in Slovenia may not see common cause with organic seed companies in Spain or community-supported agriculture networks in Germany, yet achievement of all of their goals depends on radically changing the incentives in food and farming systems, including EU-level policies.”

The Commission’s CAP proposals will kick-start a political to-and-fro between the different EU institutions and EU governments before a final decision is made on what the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will look like. These new laws will come into effect across the bloc in 2020.