Social and Environmental Justice Activists React to EU Farm to Fork Strategy
By Katell Ané
The European Commission launched a new Farm to Fork strategy in an effort to reduce the social and environmental impact of the European food system. It is the newest strategy under the European Green Deal, setting sustainability targets for farmers, consumers, and policymakers.
"Farmers are under extreme pressure," Stefan de Keersmaeker, European Commission Spokesperson for Public Health and Food Safety, tells Food Tank. "But our environment and health are under pressure."
The strategy aims to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50 percent, increase the proportion of land used for organic farming to 25 percent, and reduce nutrient loss by 50 percent before 2030. It is also working to tackle food waste, loss of biodiversity, and unfair wages in the food chain.
Olivier de Schutter, Co-Chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, explains on Food Tank Live that the strategy comes after calls for a single, integrated food policy framework. After three years of advocacy, a coalition of more than 250 European organizations persuaded the newly elected European Commission to consolidate existing agricultural, health, trade, and environmental policies.
To achieve its goals, the European Commission plans to reformulate the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provides funding for farmers and rural development. The revised CAP will create eco-schemes to support farmers engaging in sustainable agricultural practices. This new system will reward precision agriculture, agroecology, carbon farming, and agroforestry, amongst other practices.
"We really believe that if we take this step…if we can set the standard, this will be a win-win situation for all involved," de Keersmaecker tells FoodTank. "What's important is that we ensure that the ensuing value is fairly distributed along the food chain so that those that really invest in this transition are actually rewarded."
But while de Keersmaekcker says the strategy marks a turning point in food systems legislation, some activists argue that it must go further.
Madeleine Coste, Policy Officer at Slow Food Europe, warns that the 50 percent pesticide reduction target is still too low.
"[We] are worried that these targets do not go far enough to trigger a much-needed radical shift to agroecological practices," Coste tells Food Tank. If member states do not help farmers transition to more sustainable practices, she explains, "bee and pollinator [species will] continue to be wiped out due to the perpetuation of a farming system based on monoculture and…chemical inputs."
Coste also fears the European Commission's focus on food waste is too narrow by accounting only for consumer and retail waste. Alongside the European Environmental Bureau and the World Wildlife Fund, Slow Food Europe advocates targeting pre-retail waste, which makes up 30-59 percent of Europe's total food waste, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Others worry about the Farm to Fork's stance on industrial animal agriculture. The European Coordination of Via Campesina (ECVC), joined by more than a dozen civil society organizations, counseled the European Commission to tackle the overconsumption of meat, dairy, and eggs.
These organizations argue that a reduction in the consumption of animal products would have a positive effect on the environment. But Pierre Maison, Coordination Committee Member of ECVC tells Food Tank, "we believe the capacity of the Farm to Fork strategy to facilitate this transition is very weak." Maison fears that the current policy environment may thwart the Farm to Fork's chances of moving Europe away from large industrial animal agriculture, and reaching its soil health and organic farming targets.
In order to meet the Farm to Fork's targets, the CAP must enhance food sovereignty by centering small farmers, according to Maison. "Without market and product regulation, farmers will not receive decent and stable revenue, which will hinder their transition towards sustainable production systems," Maison tells Food Tank.
But by re-localizing supply chains and improving the resilience of farms, he believes the Farm to Fork strategy has the potential to empower small farmers. And Maison says that while organizers have a long way to go, the strategy is an important first step.
"The transition towards sustainable food systems cannot be successfully achieved if we do it on our own," de Keersmacker tells Food Tank, "it's a fight we're in together."
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>