What is the EU prioritising in the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit?

Though the European Union has recently been focusing on negotiations over CAP reform, the bloc will also participate in the UN Food Systems Summit in September. What are its priorities?
calendar icon 31 May 2021
clock icon 3 minute read

The European Council released its position on the priorities of the Union vis-à-vis the United Nations Summit on Food Systems. Following the position adopted by the Council, the discussions that will take place in Rome and New York in the coming months should follow the European logic of the Farm to Fork strategy. The big question is - will other countries follow us?

While this summit has not yet taken place, its preparation has already been the subject of many debates. Proposed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the food systems summit aims to bring all the actors in the food chain to the table of negotiations in order to propose healthier, more sustainable and fairer food systems as part of the UN sustainable development goals. Discussions on the preparation of this summit have been underway for months and in many ways echo the ongoing discussions at the European level on the Farm to Fork strategy.

It is therefore not surprising to find some of the similar strengths and weaknesses in the approach proposed by the European Council. As in the European debates, the focus of the “food system” has for consequence a dilution of the farmers voices in these very global discussions. It is therefore not surprising to see the word "farmers" mentioned only twice in the document. In this context, the announcement of a consultation with all the stakeholders at EU level is more than welcome. Shouldn't it have happened already, that's another question.

Several points of the text are welcomed by Copa-Cogeca, starting with the place given to research and innovation. We also support the Council's approach to the fight against food waste, the defence of a bio-based and circular economy, the promotion of new business models and also the place given to women farmers.

However, as with the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Council's position vis-à-vis the UN Summit misses some major points. The declaration constantly talks about concrete solutions, but few concrete options are featured from a farmer perspective. Considering that at the European level we lack an impact study on the real consequences of the Farm to Fork strategy, including trade implications, how to evaluate a transposition on a global scale especially when considering food security?

Copa-Cogeca Secretary General Pekka Pesonen questions, "The Council and the European Union as a whole want to be in the leading position, but there is a risk that European agriculture will have to pay a high price if the other participants do not follow us. More than this Summit as such, the question the European farming community want to know the answer to most is what will ultimately be the follow-up mechanisms Europe will manage to impose to ensure compliance with the agreement that will be reached in New York.”

In this sense, the Council's proposal to have a specific chapter dedicated to the sustainability of food systems in our future trade agreements is a step in the right direction. But what about the agreement that will widen the gap in standards between EU farmers and international operators, EU-Mercosur agreement?

As for the strategy on Farm to Fork, the European farming sector is expecting concrete, measurable and applicable solutions able to create enthusiasm in the field and rapid adoption.

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