News - October 25, 2016

Hogan: ‘Sustainability must be foundation of our food systems’

Albert Sikkema

Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, also wants a European Food Policy. ‘We need farming to become smarter and greener, to help the sector contribute to the EU's ambitious targets on climate and sustainability’, says Hogan in an interview with Resource.

<photo: Guy Ackermans>

Wageningen UR president Louise Fresco recently proposed a EU Food Policy that not only concerns agriculture and farmers, but also issues like nature conservation, public health, environmental and consumer issues. Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, who visited Wageningen last week, agrees with her.

‘Therefore I am working together with EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas for innovation and research. By linking our policy platforms together they become stronger and better funded. The Commission is launching a document entitled 'European Research and Innovation for Food and Nutrition Security'. This document elaborates on the breadth and depth of our food systems, both local and global. It acknowledges that sustainability must be the foundation for our future strategies in this area. Our ongoing fight against climate change and environmental degradation requires our food production systems to become smarter, and greener. We have committed to being a global leader by setting ambitious targets for the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. And our agri-food sector must be empowered to lead from the front in this challenge.’

Which issues concerning food should be addressed to farmers in order to raise the societal benefits of farmers in Europe?

‘Farmers are already charged with delivering food security for all the citizens of Europe, in all weathers, 3 times per day, 365 days per year. But the way they produce food has relevance for multiple other policy areas. The Common Agricultural Policy is an economic, environmental and social policy. Climate, environment and the prosperity of rural areas are European challenges that need a European answer.’

Do you agree that food companies and retailers also have a role and say in a Common European Food Policy? Critics believe that these companies are one of the reasons why farmers have poor incomes and are marginalised as commodity producers.

‘Yes, every link of the food chain must take responsibility for ensuring that incomes are distributed fairly. I have begun this work by making the CAP simpler and fairer for farmers. I have also set up an Agrimarkets Taskforce to analyse whether we need new laws to support the position of farmers in the food chain. It should also be remembered that 20 EU Member States, such as the UK and Spain, have brought in new laws to tackle this problem.’

Which regional or environmental issues should be more prominent in the new CAP? And is it acceptable to fund regional needs and issues in a CAP to improve the social basis of the European policy?

‘Agricultural production and sustainability are not separate issues, rather they are two sides of the same coin. We need farming to become smarter and greener, to help the sector contribute to the EU's ambitious targets on climate and sustainability.’

Is revaluating food in society the central issue of a new policy? And which actors do you want to mobilise to reach that goal?

‘Consumers are more interested than ever before in the quality and safety of their food, and how that food was produced. This is as it should be, but consumers must also understand that high standards and quality can only be maintained if farmers receive a fair reward for their work. We need to reconnect all our citizens – particularly our urban friends – to the massive importance and amazing heritage of our agri-food traditions.’