The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has been the first EU institution to call for a comprehensive food policy in the EU, with the aim of nurturing healthy diets from sustainable food systems, linking agriculture to nutrition and ecosystem services, and ensuring supply chains that safeguard public health for all sections of European society. Such a policy, now reflected in the F2F strategy, should improve consistency across food-related policy areas, raise awareness of the value of food and promote sustainable food systems.
In response to the French Presidency's request for this exploratory opinion, the EESC identifies the following key levers to be used at EU level to safeguard the competitiveness of European producers, with a view to ensuring both European food security and sustainability and affordable prices for consumers:
fostering an open strategic autonomy for food security and sustainability;
developing innovative technologies and seeds to always be able to provide solutions to farmers faced with restrictions on existing tools;
ensuring broadband coverage and digitalisation as a precondition for precision farming and robotics, and supporting the investments in such sustainable techniques;
promoting and facilitating access to training on these new technologies for agricultural producers, especially for young farmers;
ensuring reciprocity of standards and a level-playing field by incorporating the Green Deal's F2F and Biodiversity strategies and their norms as global sustainability standards in all future EU trade deals and having them included in existing trade agreements and in WTO agreements;
promoting the value of food, by fostering food education among consumers, which contributes to bringing the agricultural sector closer to society;
ensuring fair prices and distribution of income along the chain, improving consumers' willingness to pay appropriate prices for food to consume less but better, and banning unfair trading practices (UTPs) through ambitious regulations;
aligning food business practices and operations with the SDGs;
ensuring the structured involvement and participation of civil society and of all stakeholders across the food supply chain, including through a European Food Policy Council – fostering cooperation rather than competition.
The EESC identifies the following key levers to help reduce dependence on inputs, including synthetic inputs, and improve the EU's protein autonomy:
the EU should support low-input practices, especially in terms of fossil fuels and pesticides and foster the production capacity of agricultural inputs in Europe;
improving the EU's protein autonomy is desirable from all points of view. Imports of soybeans from third countries can be responsible for deforestation, forest degradation and the destruction of natural ecosystems in certain producing countries. The development of legumes and pulses with high protein content in the Union would limit the use of imports and thus have a positive impact on the climate and the environment;
organising and supporting the protein sector to promote production and convince farmers, in particular through an ambitious Common Agricultural Policy (CAP);
enhancing the production of oilseed and oilseed cake; With the primary objective of food production, the valuation of oilseeds is based on the valuation of both oil and cakes, and cannot be dissociated. This makes it possible to enhance the sustainable production of food and energy.
strengthening the EU's action to protect and restore the world's forests, notably by an improvement of the current forest certification n system (PEFC, FSC) to approve products that do not contribute to deforestation;
developing short, fair and transparent supply chains and ensuring that the transition towards sustainable farming takes place with a progressive approach to preserve existing balances;
ensuring the realisation of the right to food for all, in particular for those in economic and social insecurity, and facilitating experimentation in social innovation. Food aid must remain a mandatory policy in Member States.
ensuring that food can be produced in all parts of the EU.
Finally, the EESC welcomes the "Contingency plan for ensuring food supply and food security in times of crisis" and the proposed creation of a European Food Security Crisis preparedness and response Mechanism (EFSCM), and recommends that these provisions be integrated into a comprehensive food policy. The EESC asks for an active role in the dedicated group of experts.