ASAP’s opinion on an EU’s initiative for the Sustainable Food System

One of the main activities of the Farm to Fork Strategy under the European Green Deal is the Framework Initiative for the Sustainable Food System (SFS).  The Polish Association of Sustainable Agriculture “ASAP” took part in public consultations conducted by the European Commission and provided its opinion on the proposed solutions.

The aim of the SFS is to promote the sustainable EU food system and integrate the principles of sustainable development into all aspects of food-related policies. The initiative aims to develop a horizontal legal framework for a sustainable food system and to define general principles, objectives and obligations for participants in the EU food system. As announced in the strategy, the proposal on the SFS legal framework will be adopted by the Commission by the end of 2023.

The initiative was publicly consulted at the EU level. The results of the consultation will be taken into account in further work on the initiative and used in the risk assessment carried out by the European Commission.

According to “ASAP”, the initiative should be supported, as is the case with organic farming and food, by the preparation by the EC of an appropriate action plan for sustainable agriculture and sustainable food.

The most important elements that should be included in the initiative:

  1. A pan-European definition of sustainable agriculture, taking into account market standards for sustainable agricultural practices that have already been developed and applied in practice.

    Currently, there is no single definition of sustainable agriculture on the market, which makes it difficult to distinguish it from organic and conventional farming. The models available on the market (e.g. Farm Sustainability Assessment) were largely shaped by the market participants themselves and fully correspond to the principles of the European Green Deal and the interventions of the Polish Strategic Plan – such as eco-schemes or investments supporting the climate and the environment.

    Work on the definition of sustainable agriculture should include definitions already developed by agricultural organizations and agri-food market participants:
    • Definition created by the Polish Association of Sustainable Agriculture “ASAP”:
      “Sustainable agriculture is all activities limiting the impact of agriculture on the environment, enabling more efficient and environmentally friendly use of resources, e.g. soil, land, water, machinery, plant protection products, seeds, fertilizers or energy, while maintaining the profitability of agricultural production and its social acceptance.”
    • A definition developed with industrial organizations regarding sustainable livestock production:
      “Sustainable livestock production is low-emission production, taking into account the improvement of animal welfare, reducing the use of antibiotics and ensuring the economic resilience of farms.”
  1. A list of market standards currently used by all participants in the food responsibility chain, e.g.
    • Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA)
    • GLOBALG.A.P (with FSA appendix)
    • Quality Assurance for Food Products
  2. A list of agricultural practices considered sustainable, e.g.
    • Ensuring the financial stability of the farm
    • Optimal selection of cultivated plants and proper sowing
    • Crop rotation to enhance soil biodiversity
    • Building soil fertility by increasing the content of humus
    • Fertilization of plants based on fertilizer balance
    • Compliance with the principles of integrated pest management
    • Effective use of water resources
    • Possibly long maintenance of the soil under the plant cover
    • Supporting biodiversity on the farm and its surroundings
    • Ensuring animal welfare
    • Using a plow-free cultivation system
    • Striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
    • Proper waste management
    • Compliance with the law
    • Taking care of employees, their rights and safety on the farm
    • Taking actions for the social acceptance of agriculture
  3. Guidelines for clear labeling of sustainable products that come from sustainable farming and breeding.

Why is it important?

In order to ensure EU food security, integral to environment and climate protection, sustainable agriculture strengthens the resilience of the agricultural sector and optimizes agricultural production in the long term without compromising food production.

The good fit of sustainable agriculture to the needs of farmers is evidenced by the fact that many of them have already implemented sustainable farming practices on their farms. Similarly, European and Polish consumers expect sustainable food products to be available in stores – this is indicated by the report “Sustainable food in Poland” published by the company Accenture and the Polish Association of Sustainable Agriculture “ASAP” in June 2021. According to the results of the study conducted for the purposes of this report – 76% of Poles believe that food producers should use raw materials from sustainable agriculture, and 82% would like to have the sustainable agriculture products available and visible in stores.

Organic production plays an important role in the transformation of the sustainable food system, but the scale of organic production does not correspond to the ever-growing global demand for food. Sustainable agriculture provides the opportunity to produce food on a larger scale and to specialize it while respecting the climate and the environment. The sustainable production model is also economically viable for the farmers themselves. Due to the economic, environmental and climatic benefits of sustainable agriculture, it should be supported by the EU Action Plan. The requirements of sustainable agriculture can be met by far more farmers in Poland and throughout Europe than those for organic farming. As a result, the environmental and climate benefits will be enhanced by supporting this model of agriculture as well, and not just organic farming.

According to “ASAP”, defining and supporting the sustainable agriculture model at the level of creating a legal framework for a sustainable food system is crucial in achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal and securing agricultural productivity, especially bearing in mind the crisis related to the war in Ukraine.

Find out more about the EU initiative for Sustainable Food System on this page.