Euro Coop asks von der Leyen not to delay the sustainable food framework

‘Scientific evidence clearly backs the urgency of the transformation of our food system towards a more sustainable and healthier one’

Euro Coop has signed a joint open letter requesting the European Commission to publish the EU legislative Framework for Sustainable Food Systems (FSFS) before the end of its mandate.

The apex for co-op retailers in Europe expressed concern over the delay of policies related to the Green Deal. Along with its cosignatories, Euro Coop urged the Commission to “resist misguided and short-sighted calls for a regulatory pause” in its green agenda and “move ahead as planned with the publication of the FSFS proposal”.

FSFS is one of the flagship initiatives of the Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy, launched in 2020 as part of the European Green Deal. The framework would aim to promote policy coherence at the EU level and national level, mainstream sustainability in all food-related policies and strengthen the resilience of food systems.

The letter calls on the Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, to include the FSFS proposal in her State of the Union speech on 12 September, which will set out the Commission’s priorities for the remainder of its mandate.

The next European Parliament election is in June 2024, and the new parliament will elect the president of the European Commission and appoint its commissioners. Von der Leyen has not confirmed whether she will be running for a second mandate, which would require a simple majority in the European Parliament.

“The FSFS is the flagship of the Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy and a central piece of the Green Deal itself,” the letter reads. “Failing to publish this law will mean failing to deliver on the EU’s climate, environment and health goals. The EU has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55% by the end of the decade and become climate-neutral by 2050.

“Work is ongoing to set an intermediary GHG reduction target for 2040. Food businesses, retailers, farmers, consumers and policymakers need the FSFS as an enabling policy framework to empower them to play their part in the transition of the agri-food sector, which is critical to the achievement of the EU’s climate objectives. 

“Likewise, failing to prioritise the shift to healthy food environments and diets despite their known critical contribution to the prevention of non-communicable diseases will mean failing to deliver on essential health policies such as Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.” 

It adds: “Scientific evidence clearly backs the urgency of the transformation of our food system towards a more sustainable and healthier one, within planetary boundaries. The European Commission must keep environmental and social sustainability, as well as animal welfare, at the heart of the policy debate around food, agriculture and fisheries. The challenges ahead are not minor, and the cost of inaction in terms of biodiversity loss, extreme weather events, and subsequent damage to agricultural productivity, together with the surge of non-communicable diseases, is unaffordable. 

“We urge you to stand by your commitment to an environmentally and animal-friendly, fair and healthy food system as set out in the F2F Strategy and present an ambitious FSFS proposal as soon as possible,” read the letter.

The letter was signed by a number of academics and organisations, including Germinale cooperativa agricola di comunità, an agricultural co-op from Italy.

On 8 September Copa and Cogeca, the voice of agricultural co-ops and their farmers also released an open letter calling for the State of the Union speech to include “a strong message” to the farming community.

“The repeated absence of any mention of farmers, foresters and agri-cooperatives in this topical address has often disappointed our community and contributed to increasing the distance between Brussels and rural areas,” Copa and Cogeca said.

“Our position has always been consistent since the announcement of the Green Deal: we support the final objective of communications like the Farm to Fork strategy, but not a punitive approach that does not talk about concrete solutions, enablers, and financial feasibility!,” added Copa and Cogeca.

The two apexes also called on the European Union to engage to rural communities.

“Crucial issues are still on the table in this final stretch, whether it is the use of plant protection products, the place of new genomic techniques, animal welfare, the initiative on sustainable food systems or the conclusion of negotiations on the restoration of nature or industrial emissions.

“Make no mistake, today we are defining our ability to ensure Europe’s food security and its strategic autonomy while contributing to alleviating global food insecurity and our desire to see a renewal of the generations essential to maintaining our agriculture and rural areas that have confidence and faith in Europe. It is for these reasons that European agriculture and forestry cannot be left out of the State of the Union address!,” concluded the letter.