Towards a Common Food Policy

A Democratic Approach


Since 2016, The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) has been undertaking a collaborative process of research and reflection to identify what tools would be required to deliver sustainable food systems in Europe. The ‘Common Food Policy’ vision that emerges will offer a comprehensive and holistic plan for the EU as it considers reforming the Common Agricultural Policy and other policy frameworks.

Something unique happened a week ago in Brussels. Participants at the EU Food and Farming Forum (EU3F) did not seize power; they exercised it. 250 people came together to discuss the need for a ‘Common Food Policy’ – a food policy for the EU that is comprehensive enough to reshape the food environment; geared towards establishing sustainable food systems; and democratic.

This was participatory democracy in action. Over the course of two days, a total of 117 proposals for change were presented to the delegates. These proposals were inspired by five policy labs IPES-Food convened in Brussels, four local labs held in Freiburg, Milan, Montpellier and Turin, and collaborative work with over 30 research and civil society organisations. 

At the EU Food and Farming Farming, on 29-30 May, participants reviewed these proposals in successive rounds of roundtable discussions, bringing together delegates from a wide range of perspectives. Some proposals were set aside, because they were unable to garner sufficient support; others were broadly endorsed; many were reformulated; and some new suggestions were presented. Around 50 ‘priority’ proposals emerged from the deliberation, providing the basis for the Sustainable Food Scoreboard – the series of time-bound and interrelated actions that should be taken to move towards sustainable food systems in Europe. This Scoreboard will be completed over the coming weeks; in parallel, the proposals will be further developed into legal terms with the help of a team of specialized lawyers. The broader consensus emerging from EU3F – the diverse ideas and principles to guide food systems reform – will be captured later this year in IPES-Food’s final report on a ‘A Common Food Policy for the EU’. 

The process was as important as the outcomes of EU3F. New alliances were forged between constituencies which in the past had worked together only rarely, or not at all. Public health specialists and nutritionists met with environmental NGOs, uniting on a common interest for agroecology and low-input farming; anti-poverty groups found common cause with peasant farming organizations in demanding a fair price for producers as well as social protection to secure access to healthy diets; development NGOs and biodiversity and soil health advocates were united in their concerns about the impacts of export-led agriculture on local markets in the global South and on ecosystems in Europe.

In Brussels and at the national level, civil society groups have typically worked in ‘silos’ corresponding to different policy areas: the groups working on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have been working apart from groups working on food aid or on the reform of the FEAD (the European Fund for the Most Deprived), and neither have formed links with groups focused on consumer protection or on healthy diets, or entered into collaborations with development NGOs. However, these groups are discovering a common interest in reshaping food systems, and EU3F provided an opportunity for taking this collaboration forward – and helped to consolidate the national platforms now bringing together civil society organizations, social movements and farming groups with a shared interest in food systems reform. 

The EU3F forum was also an opportunity for representatives of a number of municipalities to meet (Brussels of course, but also Freiburg, Ghent, Milan, Montpellier and Turin), and to share experiences – confirming our conviction that the local level (of cities, regions or city-regions), has become the centre of gravity for change, at times more agile than the national or the European levels in moving towards sustainable food systems. 

A number of participants pledged to remain involved in the Common Food Policy process: in that sense, the EU3F forum was just the end of the beginning. Delegates from Montpellier proposed to convene an ambitious meeting in 2019, to accelerate collective learning across cities dedicated to improving food systems, for the sake of local economic development, of the environment, and of the health of their populations. We heard Stéphane Le Foll, the former French Agriculture Minister, call upon national governments to create a regulatory framework in support of the agroecological transition and of the relocalization of food systems. 

In line with the opinions adopted in May 2016 and December 2017, respectively on « More sustainable food systems » and on « Civil society’s contribution to the development of a comprehensive food policy in the EU », the European Economic and Social Committee shall explore the possibility of providing the space for the establishment of an EU Food Policy Council, bringing together the main actors that can unite behind the objective of moving towards sustainability. Members of the European Parliament also committed to do more, across different political groups, to promote the objective of a food policy for the EU. 

IPES-Food remains deeply committed to this agenda for reform. As an international panel of experts, IPES-Food’s role is one of facilitating dialogue between civil society, the scientific community, and policy makers, and translating the concerns of social actors into policy recommendations, on the basis of the best scientific evidence available. In addition to completing the Sustainable Food Scoreboard and the final report on a Common Food Policy, IPES-Food will seek opportunities to build on the energy of EU3F and to continue working together with all of those involved.  At the forum, you made a number of proposals as to which follow-up could be provided. These ideas shall form the basis of our future work in this area, on which we will be in touch shortly.

We would like to thank you for an inspiring two days, and for remaining involved.

Olivier De Schutter and Olivia Yambi, co-chairs of IPES-Food
Chantal Clément and Nick Jacobs, coordinators of IPES-Food

Dynamic Working Groups

Working Groups will detail and refine 6 key thematic areas of a Common Food Policy

Panels & Keynotes

Large collaborative sessions will set overarching goals and galvanize energy and enthusiasm

Sustainable Food Scoreboard

The forum will map out a path to sustainable food systems in Europe by identifying a set of inter-dependent objectives and sub-objectives, actions allowing those priorities to be met, and allocating responsibility to different actors/governance levels.


Guest Speakers, Panelists, and Working Group Leaders include:

Olivier De Schutter

Olivier De Schutter


Marie-Monique Robin

Marie-Monique Robin

Documentary filmmaker

Carlo Petrini

Carlo Petrini

Slow Food

Rob Hopkins

Rob Hopkins

Transition Movement

Peter Schmidt

Peter Schmidt


Thomas Dresel

Thomas Dresel

City of Freiburg

Maria Bottiglieri

Maria Bottiglieri

City of Turin

Peter Andrée

Peter Andrée

Carleton University

Mylène Fourcade

Mylène Fourcade

Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole

Deirdre (Dee) Woods

Deirdre (Dee) Woods

UK People's Food Policy

Joost De Jong

Joost De Jong

Dutch Transition Coalition of Food Systems

Diana Bronson

Diana Bronson

Food Secure Canada

Tine Heyse

Tine Heyse

City of Ghent

Humberto Delgado Rosa

Humberto Delgado Rosa

DG Envi - European Commission

Céline Fremault

Céline Fremault

Brussels-Capital Region


Co-creating a Common Food Policy vision


and coffee


Welcome Plenary – Introductions & Opening Remarks

Session in English/Français 

Olivier De Schutter (co-chair of IPES-Food) will present the Common Food Policy process, why a comprehensive Food Policy is needed in the EU, and what IPES-Food's role has been in this process.

Welcome by Moderator and explanation of EU3F methods and objectives


Olivier De Schutter (co-président de IPES-Food) présentera le processus vers une politique alimentaire commune, expliquera pourquoi une politique alimentaire intégrée est nécessaire dans l'UE, et le rôle que IPES a joué dans ce processus.

Les modérateurs expliqueront comment l'événement se déroulera, quelles seront les méthodes de travail.


Plenary 1 – Building Integrated Food Policies at the National Level

(Session in English/Français)

Lessons learned from Canada's National Food Policy process, the UK's People's Food Policy and the Dutch Transition Coalition

What can we learn from efforts to create integrated food policies at the national level? How did these processes take place? What were their successes and setbacks? Why adopt an integrated food policy approach at the national level?


Leçons tirées du processus de la Politique alimentaire nationale du Canada, de la 'UK People's Food Policy Process' et de la Dutch Transition Coalition.

Que pouvons-nous apprendre des efforts visant à créer des politiques alimentaires intégrées au niveau national? Comment ces processus ont-ils eu lieu? Quels ont été leurs succès et leurs échecs? Pourquoi adopter une approche intégrée pour développer une politique alimentaire au niveau national?

• Peter Andrée (Associate Professor & Associate Chair - Department of Political Science, Carleton University, Member of Food Secure Canada)
• Diana Bronson (Executive Director, Food Secure Canada)
• Joost De Jong (Dutch Transition Coalition)
• Deirdre 'Dee' Woods (Co-editor of UK People's Food Policy)


Plenary 2 – The Process Towards a Common Food Policy: How did we get here?

Session in English/Français

The leaders of the six Preparatory Working Groups to the Forum will present the main conclusions and outstanding questions resulting from their group work.

Prior to the Forum, a group of 30+ partners worked with IPES on 6 thematic areas to identify the key obstacles and opportunities to food system change. Based on a shared diagnosis of problems in food systems and the identification of key leverage points to address them, a series of concrete proposals have been advanced for building sustainable food systems under a Common Food Policy. As shared in the document sent to participants prior to the Forum, these proposals are clustered around 11 objectives, i.e. the 11 EU3F working groups which will collectively define a common food policy for Europe.


Les représentants des six groupes de travail préparatoires au Forum présenteront les principales conclusions et questions résultant de leur travail de groupe.

Avant le forum, un groupe de plus de 30 partenaires a travaillé avec IPES-Food sur 6 thématiques afin d'identifier les principaux obstacles et opportunités pour changer les systèmes alimentaires en Europe. Une série de propositions concrètes pour la construction de systèmes alimentaires durables européens ont été avancées sur base d'un diagnostic commun et de l'identification des principaux leviers d'action. Comme indiqué dans le document envoyé aux participants avant le Forum, ces propositions sont regroupées autour d'11 objectifs, à savoir les 11 groupes de travail EU3F qui définiront collectivement une politique alimentaire commune pour l'Europe.

• Nikolai Pushkarev (EPHA) - WG1: Delivering healthy & sustainable diets for all
• Pierre-Marie Aubert/Xavier Poux (IDDRI) - WG2: Rebuilding agro-ecosystems to increase resource efficiency and circularity, conserve landscapes, and address climate change
• Damien Conaré (Chaire UNESCO) - WG3: Harnessing the potential of urban food policies, city-region planning and alternative food systems
• Nick Jacobs (IPES-Food) - WG4: Designing trade & development policies the support sustainable food systems in the EU and around the world
• Marta Messa (Slow Food) - WG5: Building sustainable food livelihoods & functional supply chains
• Colin Anderson (CAWR - University of Coventry) - WG6: Ensuring accountable, participatory governance & monitoring of progress


Coffee Break


Working Group Session 1

Collective intelligence based on 11 working group discussions

Divided into working groups selected prior to the Forum, participants will have a first opportunity to define & select the types of proposals that should be included in an comprehensive food policy for the EU.

At the beginning of the session, a representative from the European Commission will contribute to the discussion by sharing insights on the level of feseability and complexity to implement each proposed policy reform (see draft proposal document sent to participants prior to the Forum).

The groups will spend the rest of the session 'sifting' through the draft proposals, by reviewing, editing and prioritizing them, as well as identifying any missing objectives.


Les participants sont répartis dans les groupes qu'ils ont précédemment sélectionnés. Les groupes travailleront en parallèle dans différentes salles, afin de façonner les différentes propositions.

Les participants auront une première opportunité de sélectionner les types de propositions à inclure dans une politique alimentaire intégrée pour l’UE. Au début de la séance, un représentant de la Commission européenne contribuera à la discussion en partageant des idées sur le niveau de fesabilité et de complexité pour mettre en œuvre chaque réforme politique proposée (voir le document préparatoire envoyé aux participants avant le forum).

Les groupes passeront le reste de la session à passer en revue les projets de proposition, en les examinant, en les révisant et en les hiérarchisant, ainsi qu'en identifiant les objectifs manquants.




Plenary 3 – Building Integrated Food Policies at the Local Level

(Session in English/Français)

What are the obstacles and opportunities to develop integrated food policies at the local level? How can the EU better support local choices? During this session, speakers will share experiences from the municipalities to allow us to better understand how local food policy can help to build more sustainable food systems, and how these policies need to be integrated at other level of governance.


Quels sont les obstacles et les opportunités pour développer des politiques alimentaires intégrées au niveau local? Comment l'UE peut-elle mieux soutenir les choix locaux? Au cours de cette session, les intervenants partageront des expériences de leurs municipalités pour nous permettre de mieux comprendre comment une politique alimentaire locale peut aider à construire des systèmes alimentaires plus durables, et comment ces politiques doivent être intégrées à d'autres niveaux de gouvernance.

• Céline Fremault (Brussels Minister for the Environment, Energy and Housing)
• Mylène Fourcade (Vice President of Montpellier Méditerranée Metropole, Déléguée of Food and Agroecology)
• Tine Heyse (Mayor for Environment, Climate, Energy and North-South, City of Ghent)
• Luc Lignon (Director of Food Policy, City of Montpellier)
• Maria Bottiglieri (Coordinator of International Cooperation and Peace Activities for the Municipality of Turin)
• Thomas Dresel (Environment Protection Authority of the City of Freiburg)

Moderator: Daniel Wathelet (President of IUFN)
with an introduction by Olivier De Schutter


Coffee Break


Working Group Session 2

Collective intelligence based on 11 working group discussions - Part 2

The participants continue to work in the respective groups. Within the 11 working groups, participants will continue the discussion by delving into a narrower series of proposals as prioritised during the morning working group session. Each group will further refine their priorities and identify potential links with other working groups.

Participants will be asked to formulate creative ideas for new policy tools or to propose additional reforms that would be needed to facilitate and reinforce the changes proposed within the clusters. At this stage, an integrated food policy for Europe will begin to emerge!


Les participants continuent à travailler dans les groupes respectifs. Au sein des 11 groupes de travail, les participants poursuivront la discussion en affinant une série de propositions plus précises, classées par ordre de priorité lors de la séance du groupe de travail du matin.

Chaque groupe affinera ses priorités et identifiera des liens potentiels avec d'autres groupes de travail Les participants seront aussi invités à formuler des réformes supplémentaires qui seraient nécessaires pour faciliter et renforcer les changements proposés au sein des groupes. A ce stade, une politique alimentaire intégrée pour l'Europe commencera à émerger!


End of Day Plenary

Session in English/Français

After the working groups discussions, all participant will gather to begin identifying synergies between different working group proposals. This is an important first step to integrate the proposals into a coherent and comrehensive food policy.


Suite aux discussions de groupe, tous les participants se réuniront pour commencer à identifier les synergies entre les propositions des différents groupes de travail. Cette première étape servira pour commencer à intégrer les propositions dans une politique alimentaire cohérente.


Dinner Reception


Public Event – « À Table! Putting Food Democracy on the Menu »

(Session in English/Français)

What are the necessary ingredients for a transition to sustainable food and farming systems in the EU?

Join Rob Hopkins (Founder of the Transition Movement), Carlo Petrini (Founder and Director of Slow Food), Marie-Monique Robin (Award-winning documentary filmmaker) and Sir Paul McCartney (by video address) for an evening of discussion and debate.

Moderator: Olivier De Schutter



with coffee


Morning Plenary – Recap of Discussions of Day 1

Session in English/Français

The Event moderators will open by providing a summary of day one. What have been the main achievements thus far? What were the main obstacles? On what do we need to focus during this last day in order to co-construct a common food policy for the EU? During this second day the participants will be asked to make clear decisions and to select and prioritise the actions needed to achieve our common objective.


Les modérateurs de l'événement commenceront par un résumé du premier jour. Quelles ont été les principales réalisations? Quels ont été les principaux obstacles? Sur quoi devons-nous nous nous concentrer pendant cette dernière journée afin de co- construire une politique alimentaire commune pour l'UE? Au cours de cette deuxième journée, les participants seront invités à prendre des décisions claires et à sélectionner et prioriser les actions nécessaires pour atteindre notre objectif commun.


Working Session in Plenary 1

(Session in English/Français)

During this session, participants will work together in plenary. Moderators will help us with different collective intelligence techniques to build a final policy proposal. It will be time to agree, to amend and to set priorities on a common food policy. Get ready to move around and to mingle during this dynamic session!


Au cours de cette séance, les participants travailleront ensemble en plénière. Les modérateurs nous aideront à travers différents outils d'intelligence collective pour construire nos propositions politiques finales. Il sera l'occasion de se mettre d'accord, de faire des derniers changements et d'établir notre politique alimentaire commune. Préparez-vous à vous déplacer et vous mélanger pendant cette première séance dynamique!


Coffee Break


Working Session in Plenary 2

Session in French/English

In plenary, participants will conclude discussions and vote on a comprehensive food policy for Europe.


En plénière, les participants concluront les discussions et voteront sur une politique alimentaire commune pour l'Europe.




Closing Plenary – Reactions and Commitments to Food Policy Scoreboard

(Session in English/Français)

Reactions from representatives from national and EU institutions on a Common Food Policy for Europe:

During this last plenary, Olivier De Schutter will present the results of the Forum. The final document will be drafted by the IPES-Food secretariat in the following months and made available to all participants to campaign for the implementation of this new food policy vision. During this final session, we will hear initial feedback from representative of different EU institutions that have participated in the process. What comes next? How can we be efficient in implementing this policies? What is needed to policy makers?


Au cours de cette dernière plénière, Olivier De Schutter présentera le résultat du Forum. Le document final sera rédigé par le secrétariat d'IPES-Food dans les mois suivants et mis à la disposition de tous les participants afin de mettre en œuvre de cette nouvelle vision d'une politique alimentaire commune.
Pendant cette derniè séance, nous recevrons quelques premières réactions de représentants des differents institutions de l'UE qui ont participé au processus. Que ce passera t-il après? Comment pouvons-nous être efficaces dans la mise en œuvre de ces politiques? Qu'est-ce qui est nécessaire aux décideurs politiques?

• Peter Schmidt, President of EESC Sustainable Development Observatory, European Economic & Social Committee
• Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of the Natural Capital Directorate, DG Envi, European Commission
• Ossi Martikainen, Chair of the NAT commission, European Committee of the Regions – tbc
• Bart Staes, MEP, European Parliament - tbc (video address)
• Annika Lillemets, Member of Parliament, Sweden



BluePoint Brussels
80 Bd. A. Reyers
1030 Brussels
T +32 (0)2 706 88 00

BluePoint Conference Center


IPES-Food can support the lodging of a limited number of participants at the Hotel Derby and Hotel Chelton near the conference venue. Please contact asap should you wish to benefit from this arrangement. All other listed hotels are suggestions.



The EU Food & Farming Forum will be held May 29-30, 2018. Registration is by invitation via email link. Please be in touch with our event team if you have not been contacted and you would like to participate.


A Public Event will be held the evening of May 29th, 2018


Public Event

Forum Materials


iPES-Food and partners have assembled a framing paper for the Forum: ‘Towards a Common Food Policy for the EU’, also available in French. This document must be read to meaningfully participate in the discussion. Discussion at the forum will be split into the following 11 working groups.

To make this event a success, iPES-Food is aiming to promote it widely. If you are interested in taking part in this communication effort, please see the Communication Toolkit.


Reorienting the mass retail & processing model towards a new sustainability baseline (Main topic: LABELLING, MAINSTREAMING)
Making healthy/sustainable choice the easiest (FOOD ENVIRONMENT)
Redesigning social policies to address root causes of food insecurity and food poverty (FOOD BANKS & FOOD AID)
Building new education, knowledge & extension paradigms for sustainable food systems (KNOWLEDGE/EDUCATION)
Taxing negative externalities/ rewarding positive externalities (EXTERNALITIES & FOOD PRICES)
Ensuring equitable access to land and sustainable land uses (LAND)
Incentivizing small-scale production, cooperative models & short supply chains (ALTERNATIVE FOOD SYSTEMS)
Towards a sustainable meat-fish-feed-protein nexus (PROTEIN)
Moving towards chemical-free supply chains (PESTICIDES/ANTIBIOTICS/EDCs)
Democratizing priority-setting & Building the foundations for integrated, multi-level, participatory policy-making (GOVERNANCE)
Ending dumping & supporting transition in developing countries (TRADE & DEVELOPMENT)



A series of Frequently Asked Questions about EU3F:


Q. In a nutshell, what is the EU Food and Farming Forum 2018?

The EU Food and Farming Forum 2018 (‘EU3F’) is a two-day event bringing together 200 food system actors from around Europe to co-develop a comprehensive set of policy proposals – a ‘Sustainable Food Scoreboard’ – for reforming European food and farming systems.

Q. How have the initial ideas been developed, and who has been involved?

The Forum is the culmination of IPES-Food’s 3-year process of research and reflection to co-construct a ‘Common Food Policy’ vision for the EU. This vision has been built through a series of multi-stakeholder Policy Labs in Brussels, a series of Local Labs in various cities around Europe, and collaborative work between IPES-Food and 30 partner organizations to build a draft ‘Sustainable Food Scoreboard’ in the run-up to the Forum. The goal is to prepare the ground for debate at the Forum, where these initial ideas will be challenged, adapted and developed by a wider range of stakeholders.

Q. Who are the other participants? Do they all agree already?

The EU Food and Farming Forum will bring together around 200 people working on food systems reform around Europe. They will include members of civil society groups, social movements, local food system initiatives, the food and farming sectors, scientists, and policymakers from the local, national and EU level. Those involved are already committed to food systems reform – but may not agree on how to get there. Participants will take part in their individual capacity, while bringing the perspectives of the organizations they represent. Participation is by invitation only, in order to ensure a balance of different actors.

Q. How will the Forum be structured?

EU3F is not a typical conference. Most of the time will be dedicated to discussion and deliberation in order to reach consensus on the reforms that are needed to build sustainable food systems in Europe. In the workshops they have selected to attend on Day 1, participants will deepen the analysis of the problems in food systems and how to solve them. The plenary sessions will bring together the progress made in different groups, seeking to address the tensions and trade-offs between different priorities. On Day 2, participants will be invited to vote directly on specific proposals via digital tools, allowing a Sustainable Food Scoreboard to emerge (see below). After the final stage of deliberation, representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and other EU institutions will address the plenary to give their response to the emerging proposals.

Q. What will be expected of me? Do I need to be an expert on all the topics being discussed?

Participants will receive the background documents (the draft ‘Sustainable Food Scoreboard’) one month before the forum, and will be expected to read them before arrival. These documents will provide the starting point for discussion, and will be recapped by the organizers at the start of Day 1. Participants will play an active role over two days of intensive deliberation, but are not expected to have technical expertise on all aspects under discussion. An overview of the deliberative methods and how to participate through the Forum will be provided at the outset of Day 1.

Q. What are the ultimate goals of the Forum?

  1. Co-constructing a ‘Sustainable Food Scoreboard’. This Scoreboard will take shape through the preparatory work currently underway and the two days of deliberation at the Forum. It will map out a path to sustainable food systems in Europe by identifying a set of inter-dependent objectives and sub-objectives, actions allowing those priorities to be met, and allocating responsibility to different actors/governance levels. The Scoreboard will also include policy indicators (monitoring the actions adopted) and outcome indicators (monitoring the results achieved).


  1. Supporting the emergence of a sustainable food movement in Europe. Public health campaigners in Slovenia may not see common cause with organic seed companies in Spain or community-supported agriculture networks in Germany. Yet achievement of all of their goals is contingent on radically changing the incentives in food and farming systems, including EU-level policies. Building shared understandings between these actors, and unifying them behind a series of policy proposals, would create a powerful voice for change. Supporting the emergence of a unified sustainable food and farming movement in Europe is both a means to building a Common Food Policy vision, and an end in itself.

Q. Do I have to endorse the final outcomes?

No. Participants will contribute to building a shared analysis – but the final outcome will not reflect anyone’s views entirely, and participants will not be asked to endorse it officially. It is hoped nonetheless that the Scoreboard will capture the consensus in the room, and will become a useful advocacy tool for many participants in their subsequent activities. Following the Forum, IPES-Food will publish the Sustainable Food Scoreboard as part of a final report on a Common Food Policy for the EU.

Q. What languages will be used at the Forum?

The plenary sessions will take place in English and French with simultaneous translation. The working groups will take place in English, but French/English translation will always be available in one of the six groups.

Q. What will it cost to attend the Forum? Can the organizers support my participation?

The Forum is being held free of charge in order to facilitate wide participation. Food and drink will be covered on both days, including the evening event on Tuesday 29th May. A small amount of funding will be available to support the participation of those unable to cover their own travel and accommodation costs, particularly members of local initiatives, social movements and farming organizations. Those wishing to request financial support should contact ASAP.

Q. Where is the Forum venue, and can I find accommodation nearby?

The Forum will be held at the BluePoint Brussels conference centre, 80 Bd. A. Reyers, 1030 Brussels. A limited number of rooms have been blocked at the Chelton and Derby hotels in close proximity to the conference centre. Participants interested in booking a room in one of these hotels should contact ASAP.

Q. Will I have a chance to share the work my organization is doing?

Participants will be able to display a limited number of materials on thematic islands in the plenary room, and will be able to engage with visitors to these islands during the coffee breaks and lunches. Space will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis: those interested in exhibiting materials should contact the organizers ASAP at


Why do we need a Common Food Policy for Europe?


Q. Food is cheap and abundant in Europe - why do we need to reform our food systems?

A. Current food and farming systems are designed to keep food prices down – but they do so at a huge cost to human health, the environment and farmers’ livelihoods. More than half of adults in the EU are now either overweight or obese, leading to a range of non- communicable diseases. Meanwhile, food systems account for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as driving rapid biodiversity loss and soil degradation. And family farms are struggling to stay in business: one out of four farms disappeared from the European landscape from 2003-2013. In other words, the cheap food model is actually very costly, and cannot be sustained.

Q. Why can’t we solve these problems with current policies? Shouldn’t we focus on reforming the CAP?

A. A whole range of policies affect Europe’s food and farming systems, but they respond to incoherent and conflicting objectives, miss out on important synergies, and allow key priorities to fall through the cracks. For example:

  • While the EU has pledged to align all policies with climate and development goals, EU trade policies continue to encourage farmers in high-emitting sectors like meat and dairy to seek new export markets.
  • A series of policies and roadmaps have been developed to tackle obesity, but they have failed to adequately address its root causes, including food production incentives that are poorly-aligned with dietary goals.
  • Protecting soils in the face of degradation and nutrient loss could deliver major environmental and health benefits, but the EU and its members states have failed to act and the proposed Soil Framework Directive remains stalled since 2006.
  • The job-creating potential of sustainable agriculture has been largely ignored in the EU’s quest to reduce unemployment and create ‘green jobs’.
  • While rural development schemes support the viability of small-scale farms, the EU’s food safety policies impose a regulatory burden that is too costly for smaller farms.

Q. What is a food policy and why does the EU need one?

A. A ‘Common Food Policy’ means an umbrella policy that aligns actions across different policy areas (e.g. agriculture, trade, environment, food safety) and different levels of governance (European, national, local) in support of building sustainable food systems. Getting there requires ambitious and coordinated shifts in food production, processing, distribution, consumption etc. Only an umbrella policy with a mandate to address the whole system can sequence these wide- ranging actions, set a clear direction of travel, and overcome short-term decision-making.

Q. Does a food policy mean shifting money away from farmers? Who would it benefit?

A. Not necessarily. A food policy would in fact allow the logic of public subsidies to be updated and re-legitimized as part of a new contract between farmers, the food industry, and society. By bringing a wider range of actors around the table, a food policy would allow alliances to be built between all of those with an interest in moving away from the current low-cost, high-externality model, and making it pay to farm sustainably (i.e. farmers, sustainable food businesses, consumer and health groups, environmental NGOs etc.).

Q. Would a Common Food Policy cost even more than the Common Agricultural Policy?

A. A food policy would reduce the total costs and inefficiencies of existing policies, and would therefore pay for itself. We currently pay three times for the food we eat: in addition to what we pay at the store, we pay agricultural subsidies to support farmers’ incomes, and we pay to compensate for the negative impacts of what is produced and consumed (in particular, healthcare costs linked to obesity and environmental damage caused by unsustainable modes of farming). The raison d’être of an integrated food policy is to bring different policies into coherence and avoid these types of costly trade-offs. A food policy would therefore prioritize sustainable practices that do not generate hidden costs (or ‘externalities’).

Q. Would a food policy give the EU more policy powers?

A. Rather than transferring new powers to the EU, a food policy would require the EU to exercise its existing powers more efficiently and deliver better results. The main purpose of a food policy is to coordinate and align actions across different policy areas and levels of governance. This means setting a clear direction of travel at EU level, while aligning policies at various levels in a way that reinforces the grassroots initiatives that are already transforming food systems around Europe.

Q. Who supports a food policy?

Integrated food policies or ‘urban food policies’ already exist in a number of cities in Europe and around the world. National food policies are also being developed in several member states. Calls for a shift towards integrated food system governance and integrated food policies at the EU level have been made by the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, party groups in the European Parliament, the European Commission’s in-house scientific advisers (the JRC, the European Environmental Agency, SCAR) and a wide range of civil society and scientific groups.

groups, environmental NGOs etc.). Rather than pitting farmers against sustainability campaigners, it would allow a sustainable food and farming movement to emerge.

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