On November 28, at the Committee of the Regions, the issue of food production was addressed in a comprehensive way meant to contribute to the opinion on sustainable EU food policy the CoR is drafting. France and other EU states have already adopted laws to monitor and reduce food waste, and it seems like the EU is trying to spread this practice to all its member states. But there are, of course, problems to be faced and questions to be addressed: how could an integrated EU sustainable food policy be reinforced?, how important is it to set individual “sustainability targets”?, how stakeholders can be involved to improve the governance in food policy? etc.
From a very wide angle, omitting the details, the sustainable food policy would generally be associated to eco-efficient conversion of raw materials into food, less polluting methods, and other biological practices. But sustainability is more than that. It involves creating jobs, generating growth, developing new business models, and encouraging small producers, while supporting regional value chains, and respecting the food cultural heritage. Sustainable practices should also have an impact on people’s way of perceiving food. They should believe in balanced diets, and in a healthy way of leaving, they ought to appreciate more seasonal products, and support local economy by consuming 0 km products.
As a regional focused organisation, FEDRA believes in delegating food related issues and the task of creating solutions, to the EU regions. Of course, the EU institutions should provide certain regulatory directives, but in the end and for a more effective outcome, the implementation of the food policy should fall in the hands of the regions and their citizens. Food is an asset very tightly linked to local and regional culture, rather than connected to the national or European identity, so this is why only a customised approach to a sustainable food policy will be efficient. Furthermore, education has its own role in changing behaviours and in creating responsible citizens. The European Food policy could be useful in drawing the lines to guide nations’ way of caring about the environment, but things will actually change once people learn how to appreciate local and regional producers, foods, ingredients, and encourage best practices.
At the same time, regional actors should remain regional in practice, that means that once they grow, and business expands, they should continue to serve a small audience, and not to grow to such an extent that they should resort to production means harmful for the environment. Digitalisation is the solution which provides a safe, environmentally-friendly growth of SMEs. Once they join a digital food platform, and start building their community online and expanding their networks, growth can be achieved, and the SMEs keep their identity, but gain more visibility. What changes is their influence, and the acknowledgement of their brand from just the local level, to a national or even international scale. If SMEs add digitalisation to their business processes, this will boost their image and they will become a model of originality to like-minded growth actors.
In conclusion, the European sustainable food policy means more than just laws regarding the production process, SMEs, and bio products. It stretches up to changes into people’s consuming behaviour, to a fair market, one dedicated to SMEs, to equal growth opportunities. It relies very much on regional administrations, and on responsible citizens, and less on law enforcement. For this reason, FEDRA will continue to promote regional flavours, local and regional key players, and their best-practices, namely, an EU of united regional growth actors.