Towards the UN Food Systems Summit

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Distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome you to the European Economic and Social Committee and to open today’s online hearing on “Towards the United Nations Food Systems Summit: More inclusive and fairer sustainable food systems for a wellbeing economy post-Covid 19”.

I would like to thank the President of the EESC Thematic Study Group on Sustainable Food Systems, Andreas Thurner, and of the NAT Section, Peter Schmidt, for taking this important initiative.

The subject of today's debate is very topical, as food is at the centre of our lives, and an integral part of our health, environment, economy, society and culture.

Food is also a common thread linking all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. For example, Goal 2 on "Zero Hunger" and Goal 12.3 on "Halving food waste and food losses by 2030", but also Goal 3 on "Good health and well-being", Goal 10 on “Reduced inequalities”, Goal 13 on "Climate Action" and I could go on listing basically all the SDGs. This means that we cannot achieve the Agenda 2030 on sustainable development without transforming our food systems. This year’s UN Food Systems Summit provides an important opportunity to accelerate action in this context.

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.);

-           to promote cooperation across levels of governance.

All stakeholders across the food supply chain have a role to play in the development of a comprehensive framework, so as to achieve a fair distribution along the chain.

The EESC has therefore welcomed the Commission “Farm to Fork Strategy”, published last year as an essential element of the European Green Deal. It is an important step towards a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. Turning this strategy into meaningful and timely actions is now crucial.

As repeatedly emphasised by the EESC, the European Green Deal must be a Green and Social Deal in all its components.  Fair, 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. We must put the most vulnerable actors at the centre of our attention and make sure that the "right to food" is protected at all times.

The COVID-19 crisis has successfully tested the strength and resilience of the European agri-food system, and hence proven the security of food supply in the EU. But it has also shown that getting food "from farm to fork" cannot be taken for granted.

Farmers and food system workers (in agriculture, processing and distribution) have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis and assured an uninterrupted supply of food for all European citizens. They systematically shoulder risks while retaining a low share of the value added in the food system.

The Farm to Fork Strategy and the post-Covid recovery must be seized as an opportunity to fundamentally reshape supply chain dynamics and deliver durable improvements in farmers' and food system workers’ incomes and livelihoods.

Ultimately, more sustainable, fairer and inclusive food systems must contribute to a wellbeing economy that works for people and planet, leaving no one behind.

I wish you an interesting and fruitful debate today.

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Towards the UN Food Systems Summit