Greek MEP, Petros Kokkalis, participated in EURACTIV’s Virtual Conference titled:
Farm To Fork – Can it lead to a ‘gold-standard food system’ in Europe, focused on SDGs. What still needs to be done to implement the farm to fork strategy if the EU is to meet the UN SDGs?
Diego Canga Fano, Principal Adviser, DG AGRI, European Commission
Petros Kokkalis, MEP, Member of ENVI, Substitute of AGRI, Member of the European Food Forum
Arnold Puech d`Alissac, Vice-President of the Employers` Group, Member of the Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, EESC
Mary Kenny, Food Safety and Consumer Protection Officer, FAO
Timothy Cullinan, First Vice-President of COPA and President of the Irish Farmers’ Association
Dave Keating, Journalist, EURACTIV
“Before we address the ‘farm to fork strategy’, there is a lot to be done at European level, to meet the SDGs.
There’s been some progress with the inclusion of the SDGs to the European Semester, which is a really important step. At the same time, President Von Der Leyen has assigned the SDGs to two Commissioners, we still don’t know who is really the co-ordinator on the subject of achieving the SDGs.
In terms of food the food system, it is clear that we need to address not just how we produce food, how we consume it, how we are informed about it, and how we can hopefully do better in the future, given that we have to feed a lot more people, and we have to feed them better.
It is essential to implement pathways towards a more sustainable and circular agri-food systems, considering not just the production of food, but also the storage and packaging, the processing and transport, the food consumption and also the halt and recycling of food waste.
The SDGs offer a holistic solution and a pathway to break down the political silos, both in the EU and the Member-States alike. The European Green Deal is a fantastic framework to do just that, seeking very radical transformations across a number of sectors.
The Farm to Fork Strategy contributes mainly to SDG2 – No Hunger, but is affected by and contribute to all SDGs, for example those which are important for
· food and nutrition security: No Hunger (SDG2), Responsible consumption/production, ie: cutting food waste (SDG12), Good Health and well-being (SDG3)
· environmental sustainability: Clean Water (SDG6), Energy (SDG7), Climate Action (SDG13), Life below water (SDG14), Life on land (SDG15)
· economic and social development: Fight against poverty (SDG1), Gender inequality (SDG5), Decent Work and economic growth (SDG8), Inequalities (SDG10), Cities as the prime consumers (SDG11).
The tools to implement the Farm to Fork Strategy is the action plan of the Strategy and the targets set by 2030. Namely:
1. We have to increase the coherence and integration across the different EU policies. We need a single dialogue, instead of today’s myriad of parallel dialogues, where we talk in one committee about energy, in another committee about food, in another committee about employment and so forth.
2. We need to integrate governance at all levels, especially on agricultural matters in rural areas.
3. We have to align and monitor the Farm to Fork Strategy with the relevant SDGs’ targets. We need very specific targets that will be monitored by the Commission, in order to achieve these very noble and necessary goals.
As far as food policy is concerned, it is that we understand the European Green Deal as an adaptation, rather than a mitigation effort. It is true that there are a lot of emissions coming from food production activities, but it is also true that food production is severely threatened by climate change.”
On the matter of the declining number of farmers in Europe, and how can the ‘farm to fork strategy’ sustainably support farmers, Mr Kokkalis pointed out that it is a matter of food security, food policy, and rural development, “I can’t think of Europe solely made out of cities. Going back to the point of adaptation, farmers are not just the first responders, they are ‘frontline communities’ for climate change. Their livelihood is affected before anyone else’s; farms, plants, and animals cannot relocate in every change of the weather. We need to support and protect them.”
On the extra costs of sustainable farming, Mr Kokkalis drew a parallel to the covid pandemic, in terms of values, suggesting that there is room to rethink what is of true value in our societies. “The pandemic has made us reconsider the lower paying jobs that kept our societies running, the role of the state and public finance vs the self-regulating markets. In the food production sector, we can see a serious discrepancy between value and price. Farmers are not compensated on the real value of their produce. We have been dodging this discussion of necessary change towards a more plant based diet. Agro-ecology on the other hand, the move towards a European standard of 25% biological farming, translates to a more labor intensive farming, and greater value. This is where the Common Agricultural Policy needs to intervene and provide solutions, both for producers and consumers.
In his closing remarks, Petros Kokkalis returned to the point of adaptation with regards to the SDGs, as a matter of urgency. “14 out of 17 SDGs are affected by food production and consumption, and yet we have less than ten years to deliver on these SDGs by 2030.We need a radical upset on the food industry, involving all stakeholders. We need to head in the lessons of the pandemic and understand its causes if we are to become truly resilient. We need to leave behind all paradigms of the past, and join forces beyond the confines of our political silos, and build back better. Be bold. For there is no normal to return to anymore.”