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.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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