European agri-food: the road to competitiveness, sustainability and resilience

Despite the European agri-food sector’s social, economic and environmental importance, it has been increasingly marginalised in recent years, especially by the European institutions. Many stakeholders in the EU’s agri-food sector are calling for concrete commitments from the next decision-makers to ensure this does not happen again after the next European elections.

The agri-food sector deserves a prominent place on the European political agenda. In recent years, we have witnessed the criminalisation of farmers, growers, researchers and, more generally, all those involved in the agri-food sector, who have often been unfairly blamed for the climate and health crises. This has led to the implementation of environmental policies that have hit hard at their work and investment in the sector, neglecting its fundamental role in the livelihoods of EU citizens and millions of people worldwide who depend on European agricultural products.

The climate crisis is undoubtedly a challenge for humanity, but the answer cannot be to penalise a sector that feeds the world. On the contrary, the agri-food sector deserves a prominent place on the European political agenda because it can solve sustainability problems. It is with this conviction that the COMPETERE “Think Tank” launched “I pledge“, the programmatic document “Eu Agri-food: Driving Competitiveness, Sustainability and Resilience. Strategic Policy Guide for 2024-2029”, which was sent to the candidates in the European elections to strengthen and give more value to the European Union’s agri-food supply chains.

Current policies, driven by a European Commission too often influenced by ideology and emotion, embrace environmental and health ideals without scientific basis. These policies have ignored the value of the experimental method of science and neglected the importance of balanced sustainability, which reconciles economic, social and environmental needs. The result has been counterproductive “green” policies that have worsened the socio-economic situation without significantly improving biodiversity or reducing the impact on the climate. Moreover, these policies have indirectly strengthened the economies of competing countries such as China, India, the US and some Gulf states, to the detriment of Europe. The consequences are visible: the desertification of the countryside, the closure of farms, the relocation of many food businesses outside the European Union, and consumers being forced to choose lower quality or more expensive food, often from abroad.

Some #EU #GreenPolicies have affected the #AgriFood and #investment sectors, neglecting their fundamental role in the #livelihood of millions of people. Click To Tweet

It, therefore, calls on future Members of the European Parliament and the European Commission to commit themselves to promoting and achieving ambitious goals for agriculture, business and health.

This includes increasing the productive capacity, resilience, and efficiency of European agri-food chains so that Europe can become and remain a world leader and protect its ‘key products’ through export agreements and global deals. Promote a European food security and self-sufficiency plan, eliminating waste by redistributing food for reuse in other parts of the food chain and combating all forms of counterfeiting and deception of consumers, ensuring that European agri-food excellence does not suffer from unfair competition from imitation products.

Strengthen the ability of citizens to make informed choices in favour of a balanced diet by promoting correct information and maintaining the Mediterranean diet model as the main reference for nutrition education, thanks to its proven beneficial effects on both physical and mental health. This is to promote the well-being of citizens and reduce diseases such as obesity, an invisible pandemic with very high costs for European national health systems. This is all the more important given the failure of previous policies to combat obesity, such as the use of dissuasive labelling or the artificial increase in the price of certain foods, which have not led to a more balanced diet or better nutritional education.

The revision of the #EULegislation on #AnimalWelfare should preserve #competitiveness, to avoid resorting to lower #QualityFoods. Click To Tweet

Taxes on food and drink are also regressive measures that should be discouraged, as they create new inequalities by significantly reducing the purchasing power of poorer households, ultimately reducing their ability to access quality food. For this reason, the revision of EU animal welfare legislation should also preserve competitiveness to prevent consumers from resorting to lower-quality food.

In all this, it is essential to support businesses by reducing red tape and administrative burdens, facilitating their transition to more advanced production systems, investing in research and innovation, regenerative agriculture and technologies (AI and IoT) that improve productivity and efficiency, and mitigating the impact of climate change accordingly.

Will the next public decision-maker in Brussels be willing to make such a commitment and support in a balanced and transparent way one of the most important sectors for European society, the economy and the environment? We hope so, and we join those asking to sign this “Pledge, as many actors in the European agri-food supply chains have already done.

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.