During the Seminar Week of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, public administration expert Jeroen Candel of Wageningen University & Research will present on the Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Commission. The seminar will take place on Tuesday, 16 March. At this event, Candel will discuss the Farm to Fork Strategy with other experts from the food industry, food policy and the European Commission.
The Forum for the Future of Agriculture is the summit on European agricultural policy. From 15 until 18 March this year, it will be hosting seminars on various topics related to agricultural policy in the EU. As a public administration expert specialising in food policy, Candel was asked to give his view on three questions surrounding the Farm to Fork Strategy. He tells us more about this in the podcast of the European Landowners Organization.
Farm to Fork Strategy: a sustainable food system
The Farm to Fork Strategy is part of the Green Deal of the European Union, and this Green Deal is the European Commission's overarching plan to make the European economy more sustainable. The Farm to Fork Strategy is a plan set up in 2020 that extends the policy from the agricultural sphere to the entire food chain, from production to consumption. “Any existing problems are usually brought to the farmers,” Candel says. “But to make the food system more sustainable, the entire chain must be mobilised – including the consumer.”
Nevertheless, Candel expects that the strategy will ultimately mainly have a direct impact on agriculture. For example, the European Commission wants to reduce the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, meaning that farmers will have to switch to other forms of crop protection and fertilisation. Candel explains why this is so: “The European Union does have a strong influence on agriculture and the environment, but much less on consumer behaviour. For example, they may make labels mandatory on products, but may not determine the price of these products – that is up to the Member States themselves.”
According to Candel, the strategy is “a good first step, but still subject to a number of obstacles. For example, many European Member States and MEPs are a lot less ambitious than the Commission in translating the Farm to Fork Strategy into legislation.” Candel describes the same lack of ambitions in his October 2020 article for Nature Food, where he concludes that the success of the Farm to Fork Strategy depends, among other things, on these ambitions.
The strategy: What next?
During the seminar, Candel and his fellow speakers will dialogue on the following three questions: (1) “How can we make ‘sustainable food’ a concrete phenomenon?”; (2) “Should the Farm to Fork Strategy be translated into legislation or are there other options for making agriculture more sustainable?”; And (3) “What role can 'food democracy' play in the transformation of the food system?”. ‘Food democracy’ means that there is transparency throughout the food system, and that decisions can be made from production to consumption.
“At this event, we will look in-depth at the Farm to Fork Strategy,” emphasises Candel. “The plan exists; how can we implement it?” The Farm to Fork Strategy is currently just an agenda item with no legal status. European legislative changes are influenced by many factors, such as the political will of member states, the European Parliament, and the influence of lobbyists. This diversity of stakeholders will also be present at the seminar. Candel: “It will be a very interesting discussion with speakers from different backgrounds’”