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CSOs open letter to European Commission on the Farm to Fork strategy to achieve sustainable food systems


On 12 December 2019 ActionAid and a number of other civil society organisations has written to the European Commission about the 'Farm to Fork' food strategy. The letter and accompanying papers can be read on this pageant via the download button.

Dear Executive Vice-President Timmermans,

CC Commissioners: Stella Kyriakides, Virginijus Sinkevičius and Janusz Wojciechowski 
CC Director Generals: Jerzy Bogdan Plewa, Anne Bucher and Daniel Calleja Crespo 

People in the EU have made unprecedented calls for change throughout 2019, demanding climate action, environmental protection, improved animal welfare and social justice. Food systems are pushing us across 'planetary boundaries', driving diet-related diseases and failing to deliver decent livelihoods in the EU and beyond: they are therefore at the heart of the change that citizens are demanding.

EU policies, and in particular the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), have so far failed to drive a transition towards sustainable food systems. We therefore welcome the upcoming ‘Farm to Fork’ (F2F) Strategy, which represents a crucial opportunity to provide a coherent response to societal concerns about biodiversity, climate change, health, income of all workers in the food chain, social equity and animal welfare, amongst others. 

We are concerned, however, that the European Green Deal does not reflect the urgent, systemic changes needed in our food system, nor contains concrete commitments to drive a fundamental transition.

In order to meet citizens' expectations, the F2F strategy must develop a coherent long-term vision for our food system, adopt clear and ambitious targets, implement transformative actions and create a robust monitoring and evaluation framework that includes corrective measures when targets are missed. In other words, the F2F strategy must pave the way for an integrated, sustainable EU Food Policy, and sectoral policies like the CAP must be fully aligned with its objectives and targets

Furthermore, the undersigned civil society organisations consider that the following priority objectives and actions, further elaborated in the Annex under seven key policy areas (see download below), must be included in the F2F strategy if it is to address the urgent challenges in food systems: 

  • Develop a governance and regulatory framework based on inclusive and transparent processes, which pursues policy coherence and aims at food systems transformation.
  • Drive a transition to healthy, more plant-rich diets with fewer and better animal products, by creating enabling ‘food environments’ underpinned by relevant consumption targets.
  • Introduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets for agriculture with particular attention to industrial livestock farming.
  • Reverse biodiversity loss due to intensive agricultural practices at the latest by 2030, by supporting a transition towards agroecological practices.
  • Minimise the impacts of farming on freshwater resources and ecosystems, from over-abstraction for irrigation to nutrient run-off and eutrophication.  
  • Set a legally-binding target for land degradation neutrality by 2030.
  • Set a target of at least 50% of land being managed under agroecology and organic agriculture by 2050, with ambitious targets by 2030.
  • Phase out the use of synthetic pesticides in EU agriculture, with an 80% reduction by 2030.
  • Increase the production and consumption of organic food via EU-wide and national targets. 
  • Counter the disappearance and concentration of farms in the EU, by ensuring decent livelihoods and working conditions for farmers and farm workers. 
  • Reverse the power and wealth imbalances in the food supply chain, by supporting producers and shorter and fairer supply chains. 
  • Support small-scale food producers and new entrants by developing policy measures to enable access to land.
  • Ensure a just transition by introducing specific measures to expand access to good food for all and by aligning with wider efforts to create a solidarity-based, people-centred economy, with special focus on workers in the food chain. 
  • Reduce the global ecological and social footprint of the EU’s food system through new legislative measures that reduce the demand for agro-commodities (such as soy, palm oil) and biomass linked to deforestation, ecosystem degradation and human rights violations.
  • Set targets for prevention/reduction of food waste and loss (based on maximum food waste per capita per year) and take action to minimise food waste at each point in the chain.
  • Protect food from harmful chemical residues, including agri-chemicals and leakage from food contact materials.
  • Include specific targets and present legislation to improve EU animal welfare standards and ensure animal sentience is taken into consideration in all relevant policies. 
  • Commit to phase out the use of cages in animal farming.
  • Set clear and ambitious reduction targets for antibiotic usage in animal agriculture (per class of antibiotic and animal species).

The undersigned organisations also warn against including actions which would reinforce existing production paradigms, innovation pathways and power relations, thereby distracting from the real solutions and undermining the transformative potential of the F2F Strategy, in particular:

  • The deregulation of gene editing, including through the establishment of a new legal framework for products from new genetic engineering techniques. The current Directive on genetically modified (GM) organisms is fit for purpose.
  • The excessive reliance on voluntary mechanisms, such as industry commitments or market-based measures, including carbon credit markets. Unless they are combined with mandatory requirements, such initiatives will not drive the needed change and risk crowding out more transformative measures.

In the Annex below (via the download button) you will find further suggestions for actions to underpin a F2F Strategy that is fit for purpose, and that can deliver its contribution to an ambitious European Green Deal.

Throughout this process, it is essential for the European Commission to widely engage with civil society organisations.

The signatories of this letter look forward to working closely with the Commission to further develop these proposals, and remain at your disposal to discuss them in more detail.