Amongst the hundreds of receptions that are currently taking place in function rooms all over Brussels at the moment, a recent ‘Food for thought’ event was of particular significance to the agricultural sector.
On Sep. 23, the newly formed ‘agri-food chain coalition’ presented its vision for “unlocking the potential of agriculture and the food industry in the EU” to a room packed full of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and agri-food chain stakeholders. The significance of the event was two-fold: firstly, the emergence of a new voice in the agri- food sector, and secondly the very strong call for innovation, science and evidence-based policy making.
The ‘agri- food chain coalition’ is made up of 11 of EU’s leading agri- food associations, including COPA-COGECA and Food Drink Europe. Each association holds considerable weight in its own right. Combined, they represent serious clout in the world of EU agri-food.
And with that clout, they are calling on the EU policy makers to take on board three headline recommendations over the coming European term:
The focus on innovation in the headline recommendations certainly stands out. And it’s even more pronounced in the detail. In particular, the coalition makes the call that “agri-food policies must be geared to expanding the available toolbox of innovative approaches and tools to allow Europe to become more productive in a sustainable way” and calls for policy makers to “ensure that innovation is at the heart of EU agri- food policy making.” Further, the vision states that the “EU must support science, growth and innovation and in doing so, boost investment and consumer confidence”
Specifically on the use of science, the coalition steps out the following in their vision, calling on the EU to:
– Ensure technology and product authorisation systems are science-based, proportional, workable, efficient, cost-effective, reliable and innovation- friendly
– Develop better policy-making through an institutional common understanding of risk-benefit analysis in impact assessment relative to decision making
– Increase science and risk- benefit communication and education by competent public authorities to improve public understanding of the safety of assessed products
– Support the role of Chief Scientific Advisors at European and Member state level
Whilst it’s all carefully worded, the push for increasing the role of innovation and science, as well as the call for greater support and understanding of the role of science in ag policy, is clear. For supporters of science and evidence-based policy this is very exciting news. Hopefully, it’s a sign of an increasingly vocal stand by the industry for the need to support science. For too long the industry has taken a back seat and let NGOs and anti-campaigners perpetuate myths that have prevented us from having a realistic, balanced and rational public policy conversation about innovation, science and food.
Could this be the start of that conversation?