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The EU Farm to Fork Strategy: from an ambitious start to a stalled present - and an uncertain future

An ambitious project

The European Green Deal was one of the biggest political challenges for the European Commission and its President, Ms Von Der Leyen. Back in 2019 when the new Commission started its work, the idea was to tackle climate change and environmental degradation by encouraging the switch to a more sustainable and resilient European industry in all its sectors, with the objectives for 2050 set by the Paris Agreement of 2015

One branch of the so-called ‘green revolution’ was the Farm to Fork Strategy, aimed at making food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. The main objective of the strategy was to ensure that food systems would have a neutral or positive impact on the environment, help mitigate climate change, reverse the loss of biodiversity, ensure food security through the accessibility to more nutritious, safe, and sustainable food, and promote fair revenues in the whole food supply chain for all the actors involved.

The first assessment and the crisis

EFFA, since the publication of the Farm to Fork Strategy, endorsed in general the aspirational goals of this framework and started to work together with its members to show its own commitment towards a sustainable future also for the European flavouring industry. The most important related files directly impacting the business environment of EFFA members were those related to food labelling, the sustainable use of pesticides, and the legislative initiative to provide a framework for the Sustainability of Food Systems.

Unfortunately, during this term of the European Commission – which is coming to an end at the end of 2024 – unforeseen and unprecedented crises impacted the European project for more sustainable food systems, notably the Covid-19 crisis and the adverse impacts on the food supply chain resulting from the conflict in Ukraine. These two exceptional occurrences led, to some extent, to a shift in priorities. The European Member States started to re-discuss the feasibility of the targets to be reached by 2050, the overall Green Deal strategy presented in 2019, and the situation also showed that there were unresolved questions on how the European economic and logistic systems could handle the negative externalities arising from these dramatic events.

The current situation

In fact, at the present time, the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy has lost a bit of its momentum, as the main files related to labelling (Food Information to Consumer Regulation), pesticides (revision of the Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides), and the general framework for the future of food systems (Sustainability of Food System Framework Initiative) are still under preparation, even though time is running out for the Von der Leyen’s Commission. The 2024 Commission Work Programme, published in October 2023, does not even mention any timeline for the relevant Farm to Fork legislative files to be undertaken by the end of the 2019-2024 term.

Despite these political circumstances, EFFA continued its positioning and activities related to sustainability and to carry on with its own initiatives.

EFFA signed the ‘Code of Conduct for Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices’, a voluntary industry-driven initiative launched by the European Commission to share best practices and commitment to sustainable transition (in the same way as the IFRA-IOFI Sustainability Charter, which EFFA – as an IOFI member – has been committed to since 2020). EFFA also joined the Advisory Group on Sustainability of Food Systems, a forum in which stakeholders and the European Commission (DG SANTE) are currently discussing the future of food-related legislation.

EFFA continued to participate through public consultations, position papers, and official statements calling for a science-based, gradual, and incentivized transition towards sustainability for the flavouring industry, as the risk of an ideological approach towards sustainability could be detrimental not only for the industry itself but also to the overall objectives established by the EU and its institutions. EFFA also showed support and contributed to the development and implementation of nutritious and sustainable diets, as they were defined by the dedicated Scientific Opinion published in June 2023 by DG SANTE and drafted by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors titled ‘Towards Sustainable Food Consumption’.

Next steps and the upcoming European elections

It remains to be seen what the future holds for the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. This makes it difficult to predict its impacts on the European flavouring industry.

EFFA will continue to monitor the policy developments closely and continue to contribute with its position to the relevant actors involved in the decision-making process, from the European Commission to the Parliament, and the relevant customer associations and stakeholders.

In 2024, we will also continue our dedicated series of EFFA membership webinars focused on specific elements of the Farm to Fork Strategy and its implications for the flavouring industry.

The upcoming European elections in June 2024 will be an important moment, defining the priorities of the new Commission. The only certainty is that EFFA has, with its membership and through its past and present initiatives, prepared the ground for every possible future scenario in terms of sustainability, healthy diets, and positive social impact.

Andrea Occhionero
EFFA Public Affairs Manager
17 November 2023