EU’s green food plan survives lobby push in MEPs’ votes
European Parliament vote sets EU on a track to friendlier farming and healthier food.
STRASBOURG — MEPs have thrown their support behind the EU’s plan to make food production more sustainable, resisting an intense lobbying effort by agribusiness groups to water down its greenest elements.
In a vote held Tuesday and announced Wednesday, a majority in the European Parliament supported the Farm to Fork strategy, setting the bloc on a political trajectory toward greener farming practices and healthier diets by 2030.
The report calls for Brussels to impose binding legal targets on countries to reduce the use of pesticides, fertilizers and animal antibiotics in agriculture, and demands an explicit linkage be made between the Green Deal and the bloc’s €270 billion Common Agricultural Policy.
Green-minded MEPs celebrated the result, which could have turned out very differently after agribusiness groups and EU farmers’ lobby Copa & Cogeca pressured right-leaning MEPs into proposing last-minute changes to the text, which would have gutted the strategy of its toughest environmental measures.
“We defeated all attempts from @COPACOGECA of watering the text down! This is a huge step for small scale farming and sustainable agriculture,” tweeted Thomas Waitz, an Austrian lawmaker from the Greens.
Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of Copa & Cogeca, said: “It’s quite unfortunate that the farming community has been targeted in such an important topic where millions of farmers and agriculture cooperatives are supposed to put in practice all that sustainability work that we are looking for.”
“We are committed to sustainability [but] we need to make it practical and realistic [so] that the farmers actually can implement it,” he said. The farmers’ lobbyist said there was a misconception that Copa had somehow bullied MEPs, and said his organization’s tactics were no different from environmental groups — who also launched a major assault on MEPs to secure their desired results.
In an initial round of voting on what wording to amend, some of the results proved fairly close, with many members of the center-right European People’s Party voting for contentious changes, such as removing a call for mandatory nutrition labels on food products or deleting the binding reduction targets for agrichemicals.
But a majority of MEPs ultimately rejected all efforts to change the report, bar one amendment to call on the European Commission to conduct “robust, scientific ex-ante impact assessments” on any upcoming legal proposals.
The report required compromises on all sides of the European Parliament: It was written this year between members of the Parliament’s agriculture and environment committees, which are often at odds over the balance of economic and green policies.
Anja Hazekamp, a Dutch Left MEP who was the co-author of the report, told POLITICO she was “really happy and relieved” that none of the major changes made it through.
Herbert Dorfmann, an Italian EPP lawmaker who was the other co-author, argued during a parliamentary debate that too much of the burden of the green transition was being placed on farmers, rather than consumers or the food processing industry.
Adopting the final report means MEPs also supported increasing the share of farmland being cultivated organically this decade — although the report does not contain a call to make the target of ramping up from around 8 percent to 25 percent legally binding.
Lawmakers signalled their agreement that the bloc should adopt a mandatory front-of-pack nutrition label on food products that will be harmonized across the EU.
In the vote on the overall strategy, 452 MEPs voted in favor, with 170 voting against and 76 abstentions.