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Knowledge Centre for Global Food and Nutrition Security

We support the EU global commitment to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition through a dedicated, reinforced science-policy interface and a fostered inter-policy dialogue.

Page | Last updated: 05 Dec 2023

EU Policies on "Sustainable Food Systems"

The following new European strategies provides the policy framework for supporting sustainable food systems in developing countries:

The Farm to Fork Strategy is at the heart of the Green Deal. It addresses comprehensively the challenges of sustainable food systems and recognises the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet.

The Strategy lists four main requirements for sustainable food systems:

  • Ensuring that the food chain, covering food production, transport, distribution, marketing and consumption, has a neutral or positive environmental impact;
  • Helping to mitigate climate change and adapting to its impacts;
  • Ensuring food security, nutrition and public health – making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, nutritious, sustainable food that upholds high standards of safety and quality, while meeting dietary needs and food preferences; and
  • Preserving the affordability of food, while generating fairer economic returns in the supply chain, so that ultimately the most sustainable food also becomes the most affordable.

As the production of commodities can have negative environmental and social impacts in the countries where they are produced, the Strategy recognises that the efforts to tighten sustainability requirements in the EU food system should be accompanied by policies that help raise standards globally, in order to avoid the externalisation and export of unsustainable practices (c.f. Regulation (EU) 2023/1115 to minimise global deforestation and forest degradation driven by its consumption of certain commodities).

Therefore, the Strategy announces that the EU will support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems, in line with its objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, the EU will boost cooperation to improve nutrition and to alleviate food insecurity by strengthening resilience of food systems and reducing food waste. Areas of cooperation will include: food research and innovation, with particular reference to climate change adaptation and mitigation; agro-ecology; sustainable landscape management and land governance; conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; inclusive and fair value chains; nutrition and healthy diets; prevention of and response to food crises, particularly in fragile contexts; resilience and risk preparedness; integrated pest management; plant and animal health and welfare, and food safety standards, antimicrobial resistance as well as sustainability of its coordinated humanitarian and development interventions.

The transition towards sustainable food systems in developing countries will also contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the international dimension of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the new EU Circular Economy Action Plan . In its pathway towards sustainable food systems transformation, the EU recalls and describes its commitment to support the transition to sustainable food systems at global level.

The Communication “Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa” emphasizes that the EU and Africa must join efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger and address the challenges of nutrition and food security by boosting safe and sustainable agri-food systems. A partnership on agriculture would support the development of environment-friendly agricultural practices, promote local production and integrate biodiversity concerns. This includes setting sanitary and phytosanitary standards and the protection of natural resources. Trade between the EU and Africa plays an instrumental role supporting opportunities for sustainable food systems.

Following the adoption of these policies and strategies, the European Commission has developed “a guidance note for integrating climate change and the environment in the agriculture and food systems”.

These recently adopted strategies confirm and strengthen the framework for action defined by the New European Consensus on Development , and in particular the role of sustainable agriculture and sustainable food systems for achieving the SDGs. The new European Consensus on Development emphasizes that sustainable agriculture and food systems, including sustainable fisheries, will have to address the needs of a growing global population while protecting the environment. The EU and its Member States will support agro-ecological practices and actions to reduce post-harvest losses and food waste, as well as to protect soils, conserve water resources, halt, prevent and reverse deforestation, and maintain biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. The greenhouse gas mitigation potential of sustainable agriculture and soils must be harnessed, while resilience to climate change impacts should be enhanced. The EU and its Member States will promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices, and support action to tackle illegal fishing, marine pollution and climate change impacts.

The Africa and Pacific Regional Protocols of the new partnership agreement between the EU and ACP –“Samoa Agreement”- foresee as well the necessity to transition toward sustainable food systems and stress the importance to strengthen the resilience of agri-food systems to climate and environmental risks and exogenous shocks.

The EU has adopted geographic and thematic programmes for the period 2021-2027 to address food and nutrition security and support the transition toward resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.

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