Cafè Europa - From farm to fork: European policy, local answers

In recent years, food has been gaining ground in the public debate and has become one of the pillars of the fight against climate change and also a public health issue. Agriculture and food have been the focus of the debate at Café Europa in May, with the participation of Ricard Ramon Sumoy, head of the unit attached to the Directorate General of Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission and Álvaro Porro, commissioner of Social Economy, Local Development and Food Policy of Barcelona City Council.

According to Ramon, the experience of the pandemic has served to confirm the resilience of the food supply chains which, despite the harshness of the first weeks of the pandemic, did not stop. This fact has made us more aware of the importance of a sector that, although it only occupies 2% of the population, occupies 80% of the territory and guarantees the supply of food to 100% of the population.

The European Common Agricultural Policy, better known as the CAP, has been one of the main axes of European policies since its inception. Negotiations on the new CAP between the Commission and the Member States have not yet been closed, although this is expected to happen in the coming days, and this demonstrates the interest that European agricultural policy is arousing today. Ricard Ramon emphasized the importance of green growth after the great economic crisis, and the CAP plays a very important role in this. The objectives of the European Commission, facing 2030 is the reduction of 50% of the use of pesticides and antibiotics, 20% of the use of fertilizers and the achievement of 10% of the agricultural surface with a high value for biodiversity. In addition, the new CAP also aims to ensure that 25% of the agricultural area is based on a model of organic farming (current figures are around 8%). Europe also wants to get these standards expanded to the rest of the world so that European agriculture does not lose competitiveness to other regions of the world with less demanding ecological criteria.

The European Commission has also set out to make the new CAP a redistributive role. "It can't be that 80% of the aid goes to 20% of the farmers," said Ramon. In addition, Europe also proposes that those farms that have infringed labor regulations will not be able to access European aid, a measure that, according to Ricard Ramon, does not yet have the support of all member states.

On the other hand, the role of the consumer is also essential. "It is useless to increase the area devoted to organic farming if there is no increase in demand for these products," he added. It is therefore necessary to inform the consumer about the benefits of consuming organic and local products in order to increase demand. Cities play a key role in encouraging new consumption habits. Álvaro Porro recalled the phrase that said that this issue "was not the responsibility of the cities, but of the concern." Indeed, although cities do not have the regulatory or budgetary capacity, they do play an important role in accelerating and intensifying changes on the playing field, in order to influence a real change in food culture.

Precisely, Barcelona has become the flagship of this change, with the proclamation of the city as the world capital of Sustainable Food in 2021. As Porro said “it does not make sense for Barcelona to declare a climate emergency if we do not touch the model food ”. Citizens also have a will to change, 85% of Barcelona residents would be willing to make changes to their diet to fight the climate emergency. But there is still an important distance between what we want to do and what we end up doing when we consume. In this sense, cities can play a role in facilitating these changes.

In addition, the type of food not only affects the fight against the climate emergency, but also public health. A study carried out by Barcelona City Council indicated that 12% of children are overweight. But if we focus on neighborhoods, the gap is very important, as in the most disadvantaged districts the percentage doubles, while in the more affluent areas the percentage is much lower.