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European Elections: calling for a shift towards a sustainable food system

With the European Parliamentary elections drawing closer, ProVeg, together with the umbrella organisation European Vegetarian Union (EVU), has gathered core demands for the next legislature to consider in order to reshape the European food system.

The food system must become sustainable

To date, the European food system and its agricultural policies have failed to adequately address urgent environmental, animal welfare, climate, and health issues. In particular, the current levels of production and consumption of animal-based products are unsustainable as they negatively affect the health of both humans and animals, as well as the environment, climate, and resource availability. One of the key political instruments used to steer the direction of agricultural policies in the European Union is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current EU legislature has started negotiations around a reform of CAP for after 2020, which the next Parliament, Commission, and Council will continue. Now is the time to set a new course for the European food system over the course of the coming decades.

 

Three pillars for a sustainable European food system

ProVeg International calls for a paradigm shift in food and agriculture policy, aimed at reducing livestock production and the consumption of animal-based products while at the same time boosting the production of plant-based products for human consumption. To this end, concrete targets, impactful measures, and clear timelines must be defined by EU policymakers. These must culminate in an EU-wide strategy to reduce the use of animal-based products.

Taking all this into account, ProVeg proposes ‘Three Pillars for a Sustainable European Food System’.

 

First pillar: utilise the potential of plant-based foods

The first pillar is dedicated to the recognition of the potential of plant-based foods. Plant-based foods generate less greenhouse gas emissions than animal-based foods 1 and require fewer resources 2. At the same time, their consumption is lagging behind recommended levels.3 As such, public canteens and cafeterias should offer more healthy and climate-friendly plant-based dishes.

 

Second pillar: facilitate regulatory framework for dietary change

The second pillar of a sustainable European food system should facilitate a regulatory framework for dietary change. Food labelling is a key area of improvement in this regard. The European Commission finally has to start working on the implementing act for definitions of the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ in voluntary food labelling, as requested by the Food Information Regulation since 2011.4 Furthermore, attempts at banning sales denominations for veggie alternatives that reference names of their animal product counterparts need to be defeated. Names such as ‘vegan burger’ guide consumers in their purchase decisions and convey important information about the product. Additionally, taxation policies can be used to create a favourable framework for plant-based foods. Such food items should not be disadvantaged compared to animal-based foods. On the contrary, their production and consumption should be incentivised with fiscal measures.

 

Third pillar: use CAP to ensure sustainable food production

For the third pillar, CAP must be designed to ensure sustainable food production and consumption, as well as environmental and animal protection. Around one-third of the EU’s budget is dedicated to CAP, accounting for over 350 Billion Euros (disbursed over the new CAP period 2021-2027)5 This massive amount of subsidies should be spent in accordance with sustainability and climate targets as well as the protection of public goods. Again, more support should be given to plant-based food production and the reduction of livestock numbers. Additionally, all funds that could be dedicated to eco- and climate-friendly farming under the current proposal by the Commission should be fully exhausted. Finally, civil society stakeholders should be consulted in the process of developing the agricultural framework of the EU.

ProVeg will continue to follow the political developments in the areas of foods and agriculture during the coming EU legislature. Where possible and necessary, ProVeg will seek dialogue with politicians and stakeholders to improve the political framework for plant-based diets and food production.

 

Have a look at our detailed demands for the next European Parliament and Commission here: ‘Three Pillars for a Sustainable European Food System

 

If you would like to take action and place pressure on your election candidate to take on these issues, we have written a letter that you can email to them.

References

  1. Mejia, A., H. Harwatt, K. Jaceldo-Siegl et al. (2017): Greenhouse Gas Emissions Generated by Tofu Production: A Case Study. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition.
  2. Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012): The hidden water resource use behind meat and dairy. Animal Frontiers. 2. Available at https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Hoekstra-2012-Water-Meat-Dairy_2.pdf [29.04.2019
  3. EAT (2019): Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems. Available at https://eatforum.org/content/uploads/2019/01/EAT-Lancet_Commission_Summary_Report.pdf  [29.04.2019]
  4. Art. 36 lit. 3 b) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32011R1169&from=en [30.04.2019]
  5. EU Commission (2018): EU Budget: The CAP After 2020. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/budget-may2018-modernising-cap_en.pdf [30.04.2019]

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