At this week’s plenary meeting in Strasbourg (18-21 November 2013), the European Parliament (EP) voted on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) legislative proposals. Four reports – on Direct Payments, Single Common Market Organisation (CMO), Horizontal Measures, and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development – presented a set of demands from democratically elected representatives of EU citizens on the CAP and its direction to steer what food; where and how is to be produced; distributed and consumed in the EU (and beyond) for the years 2014-2020.

Below you will find links to the aforementioned four EP reports:

– Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing rules for Direct Payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy, rapporteur Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos (PT, S&D) – votes in favour 440, votes against 238

– Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products (Single CMO Regulation), rapporteur Michel Dantin (FR, EPP) – votes in favour 426, votes against 253.

– Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy (Horizontal Measures), rapporteur Giovanni La Via (IT, EPP) – votes in favour 500, votes against 177.

– Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), rapporteur Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos (PT, S&D) – approved.

From the beginning of EPHA work on farming policy we were advocating for it to include access to healthy diets, to improve policy coherence and to promote sustainable production and consumption as part of a coherent strategy to address inequalities in health.

Earlier this year (June 2013), the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers reached a political agreement on the general form and provisions of the debated policy. At that time, together with the European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC), EPHA issued a statement highlighting a lost opportunity to recognise public health and nutrition dimension of European farming and rural development policy.

We regretted its inability to respond to the pressing challenges of food and nutrition security, most illustriously reflected in the rising epidemic of diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Conditions like overweight and obesity, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes and cancer pose the greatest threat to health and are a major barrier to sustainable economic and inclusive growth in Europe and beyond. Diet, along with physical activity, alcohol and tobacco consumption is one of the leading modifiable risk factors for NCDs.

The provisions included in the political agreement and the reports prepared by the rapporteurs will do little to support the EU’s overall objective of promoting inclusive growth (Europe2020 strategy) by improving the nutritional health outcomes of its population, and in particular of its most disadvantages and food-excluded groups.

Despite a couple of positive issues – such as the continued support to the EU School Fruit Scheme (that most likely will be linked to the Milk Scheme, and not specifically targeting fresh products); a decline on the re-introduction of direct support to tobacco growing and processing; as well as some social and health equity objectives under the Rural Development regulation (EPHAC’s submitted amendments)- the overall evaluation of the texts remains rather grim and disappointing.

Almost three years of tough negotiations, stakeholders’ debates, studies and consultations, the reform of the agricultural policy is likely to reinforce the agro-food industry ‘status quo’: no substantial capping on big beneficiaries (boost for big, industrial, factory-like farming, likely to channel subsides to highly-intensive methods of food production), no progressive ‘greening’ (see this article on why a greener CAP means healthier food), and too much flexibility. These are just some of the concerns raised up by us and many other environmental groups.

After some more ‘digging’ in the texts put to vote, we can see that:
– The Sugar Quota regime is to end in 2017 to unclear effects feared by the public health community when sugar market liberalised. To go even farther, it is proposed to remove the 5% production quota on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS – “Isoglucose”) despite significant health concerns raised about HFCS, which allege contribution to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes. It is predicted that consumption of cereal-based sweeteners could triple to around two million tonnes from the current production at around 700,000 tonnes, or less than five percent of the total EU sugar production quota.

– A new Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) standard does not contain anymore a reference to the Commission Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Annex II of the proposed Horizontal Regulation, which lays out the rules for cross-compliance. It basically mean that, flouting the rules of policy coherence, the new CAP will not include any provisions that other parts of the European Commission are calling on. The farmers receiving CAP funding will not be encouraged, let alone obliged, to reduce their dependency on antibiotics and comply to standards for prudent use to combat a threat from a growing problem of AMR.

– New rules for support for Rural Development would not see any priority to invest and strengthen local infrastructure in public transport, water and sanitation, accessible and quality basic services of general interest – in particular primary healthcare (including health promotion and disease prevention), education and care, housing and employment services. It would also not see any need to fight poverty and social exclusion specific to rural areas.

– Iin terms of focus on research and innovation, rural development programmes would not support innovative actions promoting agro-ecological methods of food production, as well as social innovation and change, to provide for poeple’s demand for safe, healthy and nutritious food, as well as broader aspects of rural development.

– Under the common market regulation rules (Single CMO) there is no specific reference made to ensuring the new food distribution scheme would reflect its social cohesion AND food and nutritional security objectives.

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