The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) brought together farmers, civil society groups, scientists, and policymakers at the EU Food and Farming Forum, in Brussels.
Since 2016, IPES has been working to develop a number of policy proposals for the creation of a Common Food Policy for Europe. These proposals are intended to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which stakeholders argue is limited and disconnected from all other EU food policies.
The Forum discussed the question of how to build integrated food policies at both national and local level. Stakeholders present at the Forum argued that food policies under the current CAP and across EU Member States are severely fragmented, causing governance failures within the current food system. For example, market competitiveness is generally prioritized over social and environmental objectives. The Forum discussion centered on how many issues relating to food system governance, such as land use management, trade and export, health and labor standards, among many others, should consider their impact on each other when policies are being developed. This holistic approach to addressing key elements of the food system in an integrated policy is the objective of the Common Food Policy.
Peter Andrée from Food Secure Canada spoke about the importance of multi-level collaboration– “the key is to find a level of agreement with other stakeholders to approach the government together.” In order to change the balance of power of EU food policy development processes, participants called for a broader inclusion of constituencies, such as farmers, trade unions, consumer organizations etc. The important role of multi-sector and multi-regional cooperation for the development of integrated food policies was a recurrent theme of the Forum discussions.
The intensive two-day gathering was organized to maximize collaboration among stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds to work together to refine the proposals and present concrete recommendations. Participants were separated into 11 working groups, which followed the format of the 11 objectives of the draft Common Food Policy. These proposed objectives emerged from a collaborative effort undertaken by six working groups over the past couple of years, and were “designed to be viable as part of a mutually-reinforcing sequenced set of reforms.”
The IPES-Food secretariat implemented a participatory process that forced participants from different sectors who may have contrasting views on the issues being discussed, to come up with mutually agreed recommendations in order to fulfill the exercise of the Forum. All the recommendations elaborated over the two days were submitted to the IPES secretariat, who will finalize the report and publish it later this year.
In light of the 2019 European Parliament elections, participants at the Forum welcomed the timing of the report, since there are great expectations for the new government to make food policy a key priority. As expressed by Member of the European Parliament, Sirpa Pietikäinen, “the next commission should have a food policy, that integrates the different areas; food safety, health, environmental impact, income, social rights, fair trade, and wellbeing of animals, and of course the food needs to be affordable and delicious.”
Christof Kienel, Head of Unit of the Commission for Natural Resources of the European Committee of the Regions backed up this urgency by saying “it is crystal clear the EU has to think outside the box and go for a Common Food Policy. We need shifts in our food production, processing and consumption which also guarantees a fair and decent income for farmer. Common food policy offers a plan b for Europe – we need to align all policies on agriculture, trade, food safety, development, so we have a fully coherent approach. You have my full support.”
The Forum came to a close with Olivier De Schutter, IPES-Food co-chair and former U.N. Rapporteur on the Right to Food, commending the work and efforts of all participants, and stressing the need to continue the alliance that was built. After all, “this is the start of the beginning” of the future of sustainable food policy for Europe.