Hundreds of food and farming experts converged in Brussels this week to flush out what they're calling a blueprint for a Common Food Policy—a set of proposals they hope will push the European Union towards a sustainable food system.
"We need a fundamental transition to sustainable food and farming systems," said Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. "We need shifts in food production, processing, retail, and consumption to occur at the same time. And we need a clear direction of travel at EU level. That is why we need a Common Food Policy."
The massive gathering was the EU Food and Farming Forum, convened by IPES-Food, which featured De Schutter as well as key figures in the movement including Carlo Petrini, president and founder of Slow Food; documentary filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin; and Transition movement founder Rob Hopkins.
Marie Monique Robin: “You have to have good glasses on when you read a label to find out whether a product contains GMOs, but at least the information is there. For meat however we have no idea whether the animals where fed on GMOs or not” #EU3F photo credit @IPESfood pic.twitter.com/NbigD4AYJY— Slow Food (@SlowFoodHQ) May 29, 2018
Carlo Petrini “Consumer is a terrible term, we should talk instead of coproducer. Today food has only become the price and has lost all values: the environment, people, the pleasure, the conviviality” #EU3F #CommonFoodPolicy pic.twitter.com/rDdk9tR53p— Slow Food (@SlowFoodHQ) May 29, 2018
Driving the need for the new framework, organizers say, are current failed policies that: ignore soil degradation; take aim at obesity while ignoring its root causes; encourage trade in carbon-intensive practices; and fail to fully support smaller farms.
The new blueprint is meant to serve as a "plan B" to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the latest version of which will be rolled out Friday. De Schutter argues that the reformed CAP is sure to fall short, while the Common Food Policy instead offers a "way to circumvent the limitations of the CAP debate and keep sight of the bigger picture: an urgently needed transition to sustainable food and farming policies."
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"The main problem with the CAP is that it is still an agricultural policy in name and nature," De Schutter added, while it also fails to include input from "a wider range of actors."
That input, though, was highlighted during the forum, with various speakers calling for a new system based on high quality food, cooperation, food sovereignty, closing the gap between food producers and consumers, and valuing all stakeholders within the food system. Other speakers included local leaders talking about their municipalities' successes with food system change, and Paul McCartney even made an appearance via video to stress the environmental benefits of eating less meat.
"To be able to produce good food for People, peasants need their rights to be better respected. We need European states to support the Declaration on the rights of peasants at the UN Human Rights Council." @savignygenevi - ECVC CAP group #EU3F #cappost2020 pic.twitter.com/GZqH0CaNXT— Via Campesina Europe (@ECVC1) May 30, 2018
One good thing coming out of US? The doggie bag says Ghent. The city supports the design and use of doggie bags to encourage reduced food waste. Good packaging too. Ghent emphasizes that small actions can have big impact. @EATforum @IPESfood #EU3F pic.twitter.com/qOciUr0309— Fabrice DeClerck (@fadeclerck) May 29, 2018
With the forum now in the rear-view mirror, the key question now, as De Schutter asked, is What comes next?
After 2 days of incredibly constructive discussion we now have a blueprint for a #CommonFoodPolicy. What comes next ? How can the connections made today be translated into a movement that has the power to influence the #EU policy making process ? #EU3F pic.twitter.com/fRqMv14wgz— Olivier De Schutter (@DeSchutterUNSR) May 30, 2018