TOWARD A EUROPEAN COMMON FOOD POLICY

This post was first published on the Aotearoa Food Policy Network website.The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) are pathfinders, shining a light on the deficiencies of industrial food systems and lighting the path to sustainable food systems. Their latest publication Towards a Common Food Policy for the EU is the result of  3 years of collaboration that provides a compelling roadmap for Europe with principles easily translated to the rest of the world.

VICIOUS CYCLES AND NEW PARADIGMS

Using a systems perspective, IPES-Food dissects the integration of food, consumption and  health systems that have overtime wrought havoc our environment, health, economy and society.

Five “vicious cycles” are described.

  • the failure to put sustainable farming first
  •  techno-fixes that sideline the real solutions
  • the hidden costs of cheap food
  •  the untapped potential of alternative food system initiatives
  • export orientation – a race to the bottom.

Figure 8 from the full report (page 76) illustrates connections between food production processes, policy and social and economic outcomes.

Vicious cycle 3 page 76

The report identifies five major paradigm shifts embodied in these goals, supported by a new governance structure for sustainable food systems.

1: Ensuring access to land, water and healthy soils

2: Rebuilding climate-resilient, healthy agro-ecosystems

3: Promoting sufficient, healthy and sustainable diets for all

4: Building fairer, shorter, and cleaner supply chains

5: Putting trade in the service of sustainable development.

Ipes paradigm shifts

Five objectives (page 39 of the full report)

The report also details concrete steps towards these goals. Here is a segment illustrating objective 2. Short term actions are in the outer ring with medium term actions, the inner circle. It is easy to see how most of these could translate to New Zealand.

actions

Actions to achieve sustainable food systems (page 110 of the full report)

An advantage Europeans have over us is their federal system of governance. Individual nations retain autonomy to experiment and innovate and the whole union can watch and learn. The report provides examples of some progress towards sustainable food systems in European countries.

In 2015, the Dutch government brought food policy onto the agenda of the EU Agriculture Council, and held national consultations on developing a comprehensive food policy, based on recommendations from a government-commissioned report by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy.

The French Government adopted a ‘Food Law’ in 2018, following a public consultation on food systems (États Généraux de l’Alimentation). The law establishes comprehensive objectives for achieving sustainable food systems, including ambitious targets for the provision of organic food in public canteens, reduction of plastic use, more robust legislation on animal welfare, and the separation of pesticide sales from farm advisory services.

In 2016 the Swedish Government passed a bill setting a national food strategy to underpin the country’s efforts to meet the SDGs. The Food Strategy lays out a comprehensive framework to develop a competitive and sustainable food supply chain by 2030, including safeguarding access to local and regional plant varieties, improving access to productive land and water resources, and increasing national organic food production and procurement.

In 2014, the Scottish Government published its national food and drink policy, ‘Becoming a Good Food Nation’. The policy is backed by a series of progressive and integrated reforms, including a reduction of GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, robust support for SMEs to access public procurement contracts, and provisions in Scotland’s Community Empowerment bill to improve local food growing and allotment initiatives. A UK-wide civil society process involving 150 organizations has also developed a comprehensive vision for sustainable food and farming systems in a post-Brexit context: a ‘People’s Food Policy’.

page 25 of the full report

We in New Zealand have a long way to go to embed sustainable or regenerative food systems, and the policy that will support it. The current nexus of  government policy, industry interests and our consumption patterns are a major impediment to progress, and for effective change we need to foster a vision as clear and compelling from this and other IPES-Food work.

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The Northland Food Policy Network is underway!

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These are the people that gathered at Northland Inc’s Orchard on Saturday 27 May for the inaugural meeting of the Northland Food Policy Network. Saba Issa skilfully facilitated the meeting first leading us through an exploration of why we were there. Five main motives emerged:

  • Supporting community based food systems projects, facilitated at the local level.
  • Supporting local growers and farmers ensuring the succession and growth of food production here.
  • Educating and communicating around food awareness.
  • Helping to create policy that supports sustainable food systems and fighting policy that doesn’t, from International down to whanau level.
  • Building a local network that exemplifies collaborative leadership, great engagement, communication and networking, and unity of purpose.

Policy action

We identified three policy areas to focus on, each led by sub-groups.

One group will seek questions from the network to pose to all general election candidates and disseminate the results to help voters identify the candidates who support sustainable food systems.

Sugar is the focus of a second group, who will work with health agencies and other Northland institutions to reduce the availability of sugar.

The third group will focus on supporting food producers with their first priority dealing with the advent of food safety plans to ensure that they don’t place too much burden on smaller producers.

He Kai Ora Tonu

He Kai Ora Tonu is the Māori name for the network given by Dr Benjamin Pittman. A rough translation is, vital, living, growing, healthy food in perpetuity. Ora means at once living, life, health with an inference of sustainability.

The meeting was characterised by a strong sense of shared purpose and the optimism for positive change.

A Food Policy Council for Northland?

While current sustainable food system initiatives in Northland are admirable, as yet, they remain relatively poorly connected. If this were to continue, such initiatives will remain as a counter-culture in the prevailing industrial food system. Local Food Northland believe that developing a Northland food policy council, founded democratically as a “grass-roots” initiative with the task of preparing a regional food plan and fostering greater connectivity is a desirable step toward a more sustainable food system.

Here is  an extract about food policy councils from our current research.

It is not surprising that we find strong momentum towards establishing sustainable food systems in the nation that has been at the forefront of the proliferation of fast food chains, food processing and long food chains. In 2015, The United States had 215 Food Policy Councils, with a total of 282 in North America.

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Food Policy Councils in North America

This graph (from John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future) reveals dramatic growth in Councils from 2000 to 2015. Growth appears to have plateaued, but based on its proliferation in North America is primed to expand in other locations world-wide.

Seventy eight percent of these councils are either independent grass-roots organisations or NGOs with Twenty one percent embedded in government or government funded organisations (Center for a Livable Future, 2015).

The Center for a Livable Future’s mission is “to promote research and to develop and communicate information about the complex interrelationships among diet, food production, environment, and human health” (Center for a Livable Future, 2016). The top priorities for Food Policy Councils are healthy food access, urban agriculture/food production, education, purchasing and procurements, networking and food hubs. Other interests are anti-hunger, food waste and fitness(Center for a Livable Future, 2015).

Two examples of Food Policy Councils follow – the first metropolitan and the second regional.

The Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC)

The Toronto Food Policy Council, established in 1991 is one of the oldest. The TFPC “connects diverse people from the food, farming and community sector to develop innovative policies and projects that support a health-focused food system, and provides a forum for action across the food system” (Toronto Food Policy Council, 2016).

Key documents include the Toronto Food Charter and Cultivating Food Connections, Toronto Food Strategy. The TFPC also collaborates with other organisations in Ontario to promote policy and legislation to shape a sustainable food system. Wayne Roberts (2014) uses a flywheel as a metaphor for food policy councils. They institutionalise and foster innovation providing momentum, rather than having new projects have to start unaided and poorly connected to the diversity in the food system.

Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council (PSRFPC)

The PSRFPC is much younger, established in 2010. Its vision is a “thriving, inclusive and just local and regional food system that enhances the health of: people, diverse communities, economies, and environments”(Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council, 2011). In addition to policy work, the PSRFPC has worked on farmers market viability.