Farm to Fork Conference – Building sustainable food systems together
15 and 16 October, the first Farm to Fork conference took place. This event was a first common platform to bring together European Stakeholders to think about a future towards sustainable food systems.
The Farm to Fork Strategy was published by the European Commission in May 2020. It is at the heart of the European Green Deal aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should:
- have a neutral or positive environmental impact
- help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impact
- reverse the loss of biodiversity
- ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food
- preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering competitiveness of the EU supply sector and promoting fair trade
Putting our food systems on a sustainable path also brings new opportunities for operators in the food value chain. New technologies and scientific discoveries, combined with increasing public awareness and demand for sustainable food, will benefit all stakeholders
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The future of our food systems
The Farm to Fork conference was hosted by the European Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, Ms. Stella Kyriakides, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski. The opening address of the Conference was given by the European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans.
Stakeholders across the food value chain, public authorities, international and civil society organisations, as well as other citizens and the interested public joined the debate on how to contribute to the implementation of a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. Stakeholder involvement on all levels is key in implementing the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and in shaping the future of food systems. The Farm to Fork conference facilitates this by creating a platform for discussion among stakeholders across the food value chain.
Starting the first day, the three Commissioners expressed the importance of the ambitious Farm to Fork strategy for acting towards sustainable food systems.
Vice President Timmermans underlined that the concrete impacts of climate change on agriculture, such as dramatic drought and catastrophic floods, show how urgent it is to change the current economic model. This is not only good for climate and environment but also for social and economic targets. Having battled cancer herself, The Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stressed the importance of healthy food in this strategy and reminded that health is a holistic concept, including humans and nature.
Health is animals, plants and human health. These are so close that we cannot look at the health perspective only from one side – Stella Kyriakides
Commissioner Wojchiecowski emphasized that general European policy on agriculture, including the Farm to Fork Strategy, wants to be better for the environment, climate and animal welfare. Additionally, it should be better for farmers as well and help protect their income.
Apart from the Commissioners, there were expert speakers on the topics of consumption and consumer perceptions. Roberto Flore from Skylab Foodlab stressed the importance of changing consumer behaviour at home and how some changes are easily made. Professor Klaus Grunert from Aarhus University showed the results of a widespread survey that indicated that consumers find a healthy and local diet important and broadly share sustainability and health values.
Our current approach to sustainability is fundamentally flawed [..] If you want to have good food, you have to care about the environment surrounding it. Revolution begins in the kitchen – Roberto Flore
The second day, which was also the World Food Day hosted a panel discussion with different stakeholders ranging from policy makers to consumer representatives. Everyone agreed that it will take all stakeholders across all sectors to move towards more sustainable food systems. This is necessary to adapt to and mitigate climate change and also reverse biodiversity decline. Farmers organisation Copa Cocega represenative Pekka Pesonen emphasised the need for funds to make such changes in agriculture.
Points on which stakeholders disagreed also came up: the role of innovation and technology, what a fair price for consumers entails and whether consumers are willing to change consumption patterns were openly debated. Many stakeholders finally asked for a thorough impact assessment before the implementation of the Farm to Fork strategy, which could delay changes that are necessary now.
From conference to the field
Of course, the Farm to Fork conference is only the beginning of the transition towards sustainable food systems. The strategy will have to be implemented in many different European sectors, throughout the value chain. In a time where many important dossiers such as the Common Agriculture Policy are revised, it is key to have this strategy at the cornerstone. Otherwise, the promises of the farm to fork strategy will remain mere words.
Why is Farm to Fork important for European Protected Areas?
The ambitions and the implementation of the F2F Strategy definitely concern the European Protected Areas.
EUROPARC strictly believes in the possibility of a good and win-win alliance between biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture and fishery sectors. For many years, EUROPARC Federation and its members has been reinforcing the dialogue with farmers in and near National and Regional Parks, as well as with the fishermen in Marine Protected Areas. Favouring those partnerships contributes to improve the status of farmers and fishermen by rewarding their effort to include nature conservation in their practices and by promoting local, nutritious and sustainable products.
The Farm to Fork Strategy recognises the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. The key mission of the Protected Areas is to guarantee healthy habitats: EUROPARC is committed to promote the key contribution that protected areas provide to human health, with the campaign of Healthy Parks, Healthy People.
More on the topic of sustainable agriculture and health can be found here: