EU 'Code of Conduct' Pushing for a Healthier and More Sustainable Food Industry
In August, the European Commission, along with 65 companies and organizations (26 food manufacturers, 14 food retailers, one from the food service sector, 24 associations) launched an EU ‘Code of Conduct’ which aims to be a landmark of the European long-term strategic vision to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume food. The EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices is one of the first deliverables of the Farm to Fork Strategy. This strategy which is central to the Commission’s agenda to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is also at the heart of the Green Deal which maps a new, sustainable and inclusive growth strategy to boost the economy, improve people's health and quality of life, care for nature, and leave no one behind. EU 'Code of Conduct' states that they cannot make a change unless they take the rest of the world with them. This article provides detailed information of the Farm to Fork strategy goals and also describes its main action plans.
The Farm to Fork Strategy is an opportunity to improve lifestyles, health, and the environment. Referring to the Farm to Fork Strategy action plan, the transition will not happen without a shift in people’s diets. While about 20% of the food produced is wasted, obesity is also rising. In general, people's diets are not in line with national dietary recommendations, and the ‘food environment’ does not ensure that the healthy option is always the easiest one. If the diets were in line with dietary recommendations, the environmental footprint of food systems would also be significantly reduced.
The overall goals are to reduce the environmental and climate footprint of the EU food system and strengthen its resilience, ensure food security in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss and lead a global transition towards competitive sustainability from farm to fork and tapping into new opportunities.
More specifically this means:
Ensuring that the food chain, covering food production, transport, distribution, marketing and consumption, has a neutral or positive environmental impact, preserving and restoring the land, freshwater and sea-based resources on which the food system depends; helping to mitigate climate change and adapting to its impacts; protecting land, soil, water, air, plant and animal health and welfare; and reversing the loss of biodiversity;
Ensuring food security, nutrition and public health – making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, nutritious, sustainable food that upholds high standards of safety and quality, plant health, and animal health and welfare, while meeting dietary needs and food preferences; and
Preserving the affordability of food, while generating fairer economic returns in the supply chain, so that ultimately the most sustainable food also becomes the most affordable, fostering the competitiveness of the EU supply sector, promoting fair trade, creating new business opportunities, while ensuring integrity of the single market and occupational health and safety.
Farm to Fork Main Action Plans
The Commission will take additional action to reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030. This will most likely hurt the fertilizer manufacturing companies, considering the highly fragmented industry.
The Commission will also revise the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, enhance provisions on integrated pest management (IPM) and promote greater use of safe alternative ways of protecting harvests from pests and diseases. It will also facilitate the placing on the market of pesticides containing biological active substances and reinforce the environmental risk assessment of pesticides. It will act to reduce the length of the pesticide authorization process by Member States.
Also in collaboration with Member States, it is expected to develop an integrated nutrient management action plan to address nutrient pollution at source and increase the sustainability of the livestock sector. They will work to extend the application of precise fertilization techniques and sustainable agricultural practices. This will be done by means of measures which Member States will include in their CAP Strategic Plans.
An Action Plan on organic farming will be put forward. This will help Member States stimulate both supply and demand for organic products. It will ensure consumer trust and boost demand through promotion campaigns and green public procurement.
According to the Farm to Fork Strategy action plan, the commission will seek commitments from food companies and organizations to take concrete actions on health and sustainability, focusing in particular on: reformulating food products in line with guidelines for healthy, sustainable diets; reducing their environmental footprint and energy consumption by becoming more energy efficient; adapting marketing and advertising strategies taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable; ensuring that food price campaigns do not undermine citizens’ perception of the value of food; and reducing packaging in line with the new CEAP.
Finally, marketing standards will be revised to provide for the uptake and supply of sustainable agricultural, fisheries and aquaculture products and to reinforce the role of sustainability criteria taking into account the possible impact of these standards on food loss and waste. In parallel, the legislative framework on geographical indications is expected to strengthen and, where appropriate, specific sustainability criteria will be included.
In the context of general well-being, the EU will support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems, in line with the objectives of this strategy. Through its external policies, including international cooperation and trade policy, the EU will pursue the development of Green Alliances on sustainable food systems with all its partners in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of a robust and resilient food system that functions in all circumstances, and is capable of ensuring access to a sufficient supply of affordable food for citizens, making us acutely aware of the interrelations between our health, ecosystems, supply chains, consumption patterns and planetary boundaries. It is clear that we need to do much more to keep ourselves and the planet healthy.
The Commission will monitor the transition to a sustainable food system so that it operates within planetary boundaries, including progress on the targets and overall reduction of the environmental and climate footprint of the EU food system. It will collect data regularly, including on the basis of Earth observation for a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impact of all actions in this strategy on competitiveness, the environment and health. It will review this strategy by mid-2023 to assess whether the action taken is sufficient to achieve the objectives or whether additional action is necessary.