GRAPE 5 – Farm to Fork caught in political crossfire

GRAPE 5 – Farm to Fork caught in political crossfire


Russia's war of aggression has heightened concern about food security. Now the EU faces a difficult balancing act between reaching crucial environmental objectives and the pressing need for "adequate" food production. In this war-driven political discourse, the food security narrative prevails, but is subject to different interpretations. Our analysis sheds light on the institutional developments around the CAP, SUR, NGTs, decarbonisation and fertilisers and draws conclusions and lessons for future EU agri-food policies, in particular the upcoming Sustainable Food System Framework (SFSF).

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GRAPE 5 – Farm to Fork caught in political crossfire

In this paper, we identify how food security concerns raised in the context of the war in Ukraine have affected political positions and narratives. The trend of promoting productivity over sustainability in the name of food security has caught on, and this is a setback on the journey to greening the EU agri-food system. To illustrate this, we present an analysis of the debates around the CAP, the fertiliser crisis, the pesticides regulation as well as the decarbonisation of the agri-food sector and the new regulatory framework for the use of New Genomic Techniques (NGTs). The concept of food security appears in the debates in contrasting forms: on the one hand, ranging from concerns about global food security to an understanding as EU food self-sufficiency/autonomy; and on the other hand, juxtaposing short-term supply concerns and long-term environmental sustainability objectives. Unpacking these different uses of the food security argument in the context of the war allows to unveil underlying needs and interests of stakeholders that point to problems in the current food systems as well as policy inconsistencies which need to be overcome. 

A shift in the EU’s institutional and political compass towards an environmentally less ambitious posture and the current dearth of a unified approach regarding the future of agriculture and food production endanger the European climate and environmental agenda. The agri-food sector urgently needs a clear vision for the entire value chain, laid down in a common framework law. For the EU to make explicit the next steps towards multidimensional (environmental, social, economic) sustainability for all actors, it needs to:

- provide a comprehensive definition of sustainable food systems,

- introduce circularity as a main overarching principle,

- ensure that sustainable solutions become the most profitable ones and are affordable,

- and establish a governance structure reflecting both the multidimensionality of sustainability and of food security.

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