News - January 11, 2017

Food is hot in The Hague

Many political parties want a minister of Food in the new cabinet. This became apparent during the New Year's cafe hosted by Schuttelaar & Partners in The Hague on 10 January.

<photo: Schuttelaar & Partners>

PvdA, CDA and ChristenUnie are strong supporters of a ministry of Food, and, during the discussion on this in Nieuwspoort, they were joined by the SP and D66. These five political parties want the next cabinet to create a food agenda with roles set aside for agriculture, healthcare (obesity), nature and the environment, animal welfare and a good distribution of income in the food chains. They believe that this can best be achieved in a new ministry. Of the parties present, only the VVD and GroenLinks were opposed to the plan.

Food councillor
Leon Meijer, the first and, up to now, the only food councillor in the Netherlands, also argues for a cohesive food policy. This councillor from Ede (ChristenUnie) presented a farmer from his region, students from a cooking school, a hospital that serves special recovery meals to reduce healthcare costs and a primary school where children care for a vegetable garden. All of these are elements of a food policy according to Meijer. 'We have to take leave of the compartmentalised government and find modern solutions,' said the councillor. 'That's why we need a new ministry to implement a cohesive food agenda.'

The municipality of Amsterdam also has a sort of food policy, reported councillor Eric van der Burg (VVD). The capital city invests in food research, in healthy food at schools and in plans of action in neighbourhoods with many overweight residents, he said. Van der Burg mentioned that the VVD is opposed to a tax on sugar and fat, but that he disagrees with this position. To fight obesity more is needed than information and quality labels because, in practice, many people consume unconsciously, the councillor explained. So we have to legally dictate that soft drinks must contain less sugar.

The political parties have divergent ideas about their ideal food production processes, ranging from large-scale production for global markets to the biological production of regional products. But it seems that everyone agrees that we have to work towards closed food cycles. Such a cyclical system is needed in order to produce enough food with less ground, waste, greenhouse gases and pollution and where manure sales are guaranteed, argued Martin Scholten, director of the Animal Sciences Group. We must quickly invest in climate-neutral agriculture in the Netherlands, Scholten added, or we will not have enough modern sustainable farmers. 'That demands a radically new way of thinking.'