Food is at the centre of our lives and an integral part of the European culture. However, the food we eat, the ways we produce it and the amounts wasted have major impacts on human health, natural resources and society as a whole:
- Citizens –and children in particular– are increasingly suffering from overweight and obesity due to unhealthy diets.
- Farmers and workers do not get a fair price for their produce.
- One third of food is lost or wasted across the food chain.
- The environment is paying the bill with the dramatic effects of food production and consumption on climate change, loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution, soil degradation, etc.
The COVID-19 crisis is a wake-up call for change. It has demonstrated that getting food "from farm to fork" cannot be taken for granted and has shown the interconnectedness of actors and activities throughout the food system. Fair, resource efficient, inclusive and sustainable supply chains in the whole agriculture and food sector are needed more than ever to deliver equally for citizens, farmers, workers and business.
The EESC has been for years at the forefront of calling for a sustainable and comprehensive food policy. Such an integrated and systemic approach is essential to tackle the multiple and interconnected challenges affecting food systems; to deliver economic, environmental and socio-cultural sustainability; to ensure integration and coherence across policy areas (such as agriculture, environment, health, education, trade, economy, technology, etc.); and to promote cooperation across levels of governance.
The own-initiative opinion aims to analyse the link between current food systems and diet-related diseases; identify policies, tools and instruments that are needed to foster healthier diets both on the supply and demand side.
The Commission is proposing a targeted revision of the General Food Law Regulation coupled with the revision of eight pieces of sectoral legislation, to bring them in line with the general rules and strengthen transparency in the area of GMOs, feed additives, smoke flavourings, food contact materials, food additives, food enzymes and flavourings, plant protection products and novel foods.
The Commission's initiative follows one of the recommendations of the Agricultural Markets Task Force that the EU should legislate in the areas of UTPs for agricultural products, and responds to some of the conclusions of the 2016 EESC opinion on "A fairer food supply chain".
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - The Future of Food and Farming
The own-initiative opinion, prepared by the EESC Permanent Study Group on Sustainable Food Systems, will aim to identify existing challenges, policy inconsistencies and obstacles to a more coherent food policy approach at EU level; to provide examples of ongoing transitions to more sustainable food policies at local/regional/national level; to highlight the role of civil society in building partnerships among stakeholders across the food supply chain; and to define how a comprehensive food policy for the EU should look, including an indicative roadmap.
In the past few years, civil society has been increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of food production and consumption. At the request of the Dutch EU Presidency, the EESC is preparing an exploratory opinion on how to achieve sustainable food systems in a resource-constrained world. The opinion takes a holistic and comprehensive approach, looking at the interdependence of food production and consumption as well as fostering inter-sectoral cooperation.