Green Food Policy for Europe
Healthy and tasty food is political
One of the most precious common goods we share in Europe is the diversity of our food cultures. Green food culture policies therefore sustain this heritage. We want to enable people in their regions to preserve and enjoy healthy, tasty, and local food. But if European farmers abandoned the diversity of their own traditional plant varieties and animal breeds, if fishermen so depleted local fish stocks that traditional species were no longer available, and if consumers lost interest in knowing what they eat, this would destroy the very basis of our food culture and food security. European citizens prefer to know where their dishes come from, how animals are treated and what additives might have been mixed into their food.
Making markets work for people
Green farm, fish and food policies in Europe strive to create mutual responsibility between farmers, fishermen and consumers. Better competition rules must put an end to the concentration of market power in the food sector and strengthen regional and local markets.
Changing the rules for better food quality and ethical food production
Instead of first subsidising factory farming and then having to cover the costs of polluted water and rising health care, the most advanced sustainable methods should become the yardstick for public support. The Common Fisheries Policy should be further reformed so that subsidies are no longer available for over-fishing within and beyond the European waters and fishermen are helped with finding other means of income. Green food policy therefore demands the full integration of agricultural, environmental, public health and food quality policies. Greening the Common Agriculture Policy of the EU means focusing investments in the social and environmental infrastructure and in sustainable rural development.
Integrating policies – enforcing the precautionary principle
Green farm and food policies require the reinforcement of the precautionary principle in public food and health policy. Strict hygiene rules must be followed in slaughterhouses, meat, fish, milk or food processing and on farms, but they must be differentiated and flexibly adapted to the risks involved, the distance between producer and consumer and the shelf life needed in relation to the time between processing and final consumption. Though the European hygiene rules provide for this flexibility, they are often interpreted to fit the needs of the big industry: -large-scale concentration of processing units closing down small slaughterhouses and driving small dairy farms out of business is often the hidden agenda behind food policy.
Challenging the power of the food industry
An ever increasing share of our diets is composed of processed food. While spending less and less time in preparing our food, we ingest more and more technical additives like conserving agents, emulsifiers, taste enhancers and aromas, substances which the food industry is dependent on. Global food companies prevent farmers, fishermen and consumers from receiving or paying fair food prices. There are only about 120 food buying companies controlling food markets worldwide and they use their position to decide about the market access of farmers.
Labelling for more transparency
To enable consumers to make the right choice when buying their food and in order to build up markets for quality products, efficient inspections and controls and readable labelling are essential. The rules for protected indications of origin, which are linked to locally negotiated quality standards, should be tightened in order to prevent consumer disinformation (e.g. « regional » cheese made of imported milk). Indicating the place of origin should not be limited to fruit, vegetables, fish or beef. The organic food sector is self-regulating, and sets high standards for the control and certification of organic products, as well as developing strict rules for labelling both domestic and imported products. This independence must be safeguarded against moves by industry or government to take over these functions. The labelling of GM food should be done in a way that also eggs, meat and milk produced from GM feed can be identified by the consumers, including liability for contamination.
Balancing food and energy security
Current EU targets for the use of agro-fuels for example – misleadingly called « biofuels » -provoke unsustainable use of land, water and energy and put global food security at a serious risk. In order to avoid future conflicts on access to energy sources, water and land, Green food and energy security policies must tackle wasteful production and consumption patterns and lifestyles and press for a more balanced access to food and energy for all.
Fair trade and qualified market access
The Green concept of qualified market access, meaning social and environmental conditions and standards for market access to the EU, is urgently needed and must actively be promoted in international trade negotiations.
Investing in the future -improving food research
Research and education require new objectives and must be focussed on sustainable production on land and at sea as well as changing consumption patterns instead of biotechnological intensification. Sustainability is not an issue only of conservation of natural resources. It is a matter of a careful use and treatment of soils, water, biodiversity and other common assets. It includes also the assurance of social continuity, and of long-term viability of local economies. In order to make the new rural and urban food security policy a success, the European Union, national governments and civil society should work out a new social contract.