Maintaining the food supply chain against the backdrop of increasing COVID-19 infections

Maintaining the food supply chain against the backdrop of increasing COVID-19 infections

The Commission continues to be criticised in the World Trade Organisation’s Goods Council for the EU’s increasingly stringent approach to pesticide management, which is ‘harming the livelihoods of farmers, even beyond its borders’. The negative sentiments expressed in a joint text signed in July 2019 by 16 countries – including the United States, Canada and Australia – which strongly criticised European restrictions on active substances and castigated the EU for its refusal to carry out full scientific risk assessments or to take into account the opinions of other WTO members, show no signs of subsiding.

On 27 August 2020, Polish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Joanna Kopcinska of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, tabled a written parliamentary question to the European Commission.

MEP Kopcińska enquired “how does the Commission now seek to relax some of its proposed solutions and alleviate the concerns of our international partners regarding its Farm to Fork Strategy, particularly now that food security has become an extremely important issue as Europe experiences an increase in COVID-19 infections and the Member States re-establish protective restrictions in preparation for the second wave of the disease?”

On 27 November, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides answered this question on behalf of the European Commission.

Commissioner Kyriakides stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the high level of interdependency between the Member States”. She expressed that “the internal market is an essential component of our food security and so is international trade” and “the COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the importance of bilateral and multilateral cooperation with our trading partners and within relevant international organisations”.

The Health and Food Safety Commissioner further explained that “the Farm to Fork Strategy fully acknowledges the importance of food security and takes stock of the COVID-19 experience” and “in no way the strategy intends to trade food sustainability against food security; food security constitutes an integral part of food sustainability”. She clarified that “the Farm to Fork Strategy underlines that the best way to ensure food security and address some of the dramatic impacts caused by climate change is to switch as soon as possible towards more sustainable and more resilient food systems”.

Commissioner Kyriakides highlighted that “the EU acting alone, however, cannot successfully achieve the transition towards sustainable food systems and for this reason, the EU will support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems” and “through its external policies, including international cooperation and trade policy, the EU will pursue the development of Green Alliances on sustainable food systems with all its partners in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora”.

“Finally, the Commission would also like to stress that decisions on the approval of active substances or the setting of maximum residue levels (MRLs) are taken following a comprehensive scientific assessment and Regulations adopted by the legislators” reported Commissioner Kyriakides.

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