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EPHA welcomes the inclusion of certain health and nutritional considerations in the European Commission’s Communication on the future of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), released yesterday. The Communication for the first time explicitly recognises that the CAP has a role to play in promoting healthier nutrition and tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Despite these references, the Communication takes a piecemeal approach to mainstreaming public health[1] and still lacks a strategy to ensure the CAP helps deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals for health and nutrition, implementing the “Health in All Policies” obligation mandated by the EU Treaties.[2]

The new Communication says little about the Commission’s delivery plan and level of ambition. In the absence of concrete measures, it fails to present a clear vision for a future-proof, coherent agricultural and food policy that can ensure public money contributes to public goods and citizens’, farmers’ and farm animals’ well-being.

Proactive approach needed to link agriculture and nutrition
Agriculture plays a key role in shaping the European food environment and other health determinants, including air quality. A proactive approach is needed to ensure agriculture’s role is fully coherent with a high level of human health protection.

Rather than only helping farmers “anticipate developments in dietary habits[3], the CAP should proactively support the production and market development of products that are lacking in European diets, such as vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts. This must go beyond today’s limited programmes to bring  fruit and vegetable into schools. It should also ensure incentives to the animal farming sector do not provide support for overproduction and overconsumption of animal products, in particular processed and red meats.

Results-based targeting

In order for the CAP to justify its 40% share of the EU budget, it is crucial that payments are better targeted to results. The Communication takes a step towards distributing payments more fairly among farmers, but remains unclear on how it intends to target support effectively and efficiently to ensure the attainment of environmental, health and climate objectives. A commitment for a progressive transition away from direct payments towards performance-based agreements is needed to signal the ambition for truly results-based payments. Any enhancement of the role of Member States would require ambitious targets to be set at the European level accompanied by strict monitoring, evaluation and compliance to show the added value of European funding.

Health Impact Assessment

The lack of a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment of European agricultural policy to date explains why incentives under the CAP are not well aligned with health needs.  EPHA calls for health to be explicitly included in the impact assessment process leading to new legislative proposals.

Concrete measures to mainstream health in the CAP are overdue. In order to justify European public funding, the policy must show that it is coherent with better health and sustainable development. EPHA looks forward to working with all stakeholders to build an agricultural and food policy which truly delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals and builds health-promoting, sustainable, economically viable and resilient agri-food systems.


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[1] For more see EPHA response to the CAP consulation https://epha.org/the-future-of-eu-agricultural-policy-i-epha-response-to-cap-consultation/. Notably, an approach to remove health-harmful subsidies in the area of tobacco production, vineyard support and product promotion is absent.

EPHA (2016) “A CAP for Healthy Living – Mainstreaming Health into the EU Common Agricultural Policy” https://epha.org/report-a-cap-for-healthy-living/

IPES-Food (2017) “Unravelling the Food-Health Nexus: Addressing practices, political economy and power relations to build healthier food systems” http://www.ipes-food.org/health

[2] Article 168 (1) Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union: “A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities.”

[3] Commission Communication “The Future of Food and Farming”, Page 24, https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/sites/agriculture/files/future-of-cap/future_of_food_and_farming_communication_en.pdf

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