COVID-19 is no excuse to delay Farm-to-Fork, says Commissioner Kyriakides
In her introductory presentation at the online exchange of views with MEPs, the Commissioner said that the European Green Deal’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy covers priorities that cannot wait, like climate change, biodiversity loss and unsustainable consumption patterns. She stressed that the COVID-19 crisis should not be used as a pretext for delays in the publication of the Strategy, as its proposed actions are urgent for the sustainability of our planet.
“Business as usual can no longer be an option, and a strategy is needed in order to mobilise change,” she said. “We foresee legislative and non-legislative actions to improve sustainability at all parts of the food chain. This includes concrete actions in priority areas, in particular to reduce the use of antibiotics, among others.”
These commitments, which echo those she made before taking office, are important concerns among citizens. According to Commissioner Kyriakides, the Commission intends to deliver on this. The Farm-to-Fork Strategy will look at ways to improve consumer information and strengthen animal welfare rules - but this will require innovative solutions, and she was confident that all involved will cooperate to draw Europe’s talents together to find them. Strengthening the links between the different parts of the food chain, as well as reinforcing the links between policies, will be critical, she said. The CAP and the CFP are key tools to support farmers and fishermen, so she will work closely with the Commissioners for Agriculture and the Environment to ensure that the Strategy reflects this.
During the debate, MEPs Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE), Tilly Metz (Greens/EFA, LU), Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, NL) and Francisco Guerreiro (Greens/EFA, PT) raised animal welfare related concerns including antibiotic resistance, the reduction of livestock numbers, the long-distance transport of animals, a shift towards a more plant-based diet, the need for breeding restrictions to stop overproduction, the phasing out of caged farming, EU-wide labelling schemes, and the fact that animal welfare legislation does not offer enough protection, including for fish.
In her responses, Commissioner Kyriakides stressed that animal welfare policy has been a priority for her since the beginning of her mandate, and that the Commission is working on the evaluation of the EU Animal Welfare Strategy (2012-2015) which is expected to be ready by the end of the year. By then, she said, it will be clear what actions will be necessary afterwards.
She also stressed that “animal welfare is a key component of food sustainability and of the food chain, and it is not going to be left out from the Farm-to- Fork Strategy”, and that origin labelling will be one of the actions of the Strategy. Concerning the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, which will be formally submitted at the end of this year, the Commission will have six months to reply and carry out a detailed assessment of the actions that can be proposed. Finally, regarding animal transport, she agreed that more work needs to be done, and that there needs to be better implementation and monitoring of the situation.
In the months ahead, the Commission will rely on the input and expertise of stakeholders to work together on the various actions of the Strategy, which will be staged over the course of this Commission’s mandate. The Commissioner also stressed that the Strategy needs to be published soon so as to allow the shaping of the CAP before it is adopted.
Andreas Erler, Senior Political Adviser