The EU has promised to learn lessons from the coronavirus pandemic by developing a new food security contingency plan.
The plan, designed to ensure a continued supply of safe, affordable and nutritious food during crises, will be put together by the Commission alongside a broader Farm to Fork Strategy.
The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make food systems fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly, and is part of the European Green Deal which sets out a roadmap to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
A statement on the European Commission website launching the strategy said: “Food systems cannot be resilient to crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic if they are not sustainable.
“We need to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers.”
The strategy is very wide-ranging, including targets to reduce the use of pesticides by 50 per cent, fertiliser by 20 per cent and sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals by 50 per cent by 2030.
Animal welfare legislation, including on transport and slaughter, is to be revised and certification and labelling on the sustainability performance of food products introduced.
A new set of ‘eco-schemes’ will be developed for farmers, offering funding to boost sustainable practices such as precision agriculture, agro-ecology and agro-forestry, while new revenue streams for sequestering carbon will also be created.
The document goes on to recommend that member states make ‘more targeted’ use of VAT rates to improve diets, by supporting organic fruit and vegetables.
There is a strong focus in the strategy on ensuring other countries move towards sustainable practices alongside the EU.
The Commission statement said: “The EU is the biggest importer and exporter of agri-food products and the largest seafood market in the world.
“The production of commodities can have negative environmental and social impacts in the countries where they are produced.
“Therefore, efforts to tighten sustainability requirements in the EU food system should be accompanied by policies which help raise standards globally, in order to avoid the externalisation and export of unsustainable practices.”
Proposals to meet this aim include examining EU rules to reduce dependency on soya grown on deforested land and reviewing import tolerances for certain plant protection products.