Farm-to-Fork: Without an impact assessment, the celebration had to be postponed!
Editorial: In the EU, an ambiguous border between the political and the technical
One is reminded of Max Weber’s work on “the scientist and the politician”. The politician provides the overall vision, the ‘scientist’ (the experts) refines the technical details. With the generalisation of trilogues, the European Union politicises everything, including what should not be politicised. This is notably the case for the reform of the CAP. The co-legislators went from one trilogue to another, or – to use the bureaucratic jargon – from one trilogue to a ‘super-trilogue’. One of the difficulties concerned GAECs 8 and 9, which are not, it will be agreed, the core of the reform. The subject, however, is essential for the maize sector because it concerns crop rotation on the plot, with an essentially technocratic vision, without taking into account the agronomic or economic realities, despite extensive documentation available. Fortunately, at the end of the final negotiation phase, the notion of plot rotation was finally relaxed. This final compromise was obtained through hard bargaining! This same attitude is frequently found in sanitary and phytosanitary issues, or in biotechnology, where the expertise of Community agencies is contested, dismissed or not taken into account for purely ideological reasons. And all of this is taking place in an inter-institutional game where the Council, Parliament and Commission take turns to adopt extremist positions, not always justified under the guise of the precautionary principle. All this is very worrying for Europe. We are becoming more defensive; we are protecting ourselves to the point of unreasonableness. The reality is that in the meantime, others are taking our markets…
Céline Duroc Permanent Delegate CEPM, General Director AGPM
JOIN DECLARATION « FARM-TO-FORK » WITHOUT AN IMPACT ASSESSMENT, THE CELEBRATION HAD TO BE POSTPONED!
At the heart of agricultural debates, the Farm-to-Fork strategy has already been the subject of numerous debates and contributions by CEPM (and the Agriculture & Progress platform).
In this respect, and since its publication in March 2020, the general objectives of the transition towards sustainable food systems that encourage the production and marketing of sustainable European agricultural and food products has been welcomed. CEPM has thus recognized the pivotal role of the European Union’s commitments to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals focused on agriculture, investment and rural sector transformation. In this sense, environmentally friendly crop protection has been at the heart of the actions of European maize producers, notably through the implementation of integrated pest management (i.e. different strategies and management practices to achieve healthy crops while minimizing the use of pesticides).
However, in order to move forward and achieve these goals, it is important to emphasize (once again) the importance of basing future decisions on solid evidence from an environmental, social and also economic point of view before setting targets.
In this context, CEPM and the Agriculture & Progress platform made a joint declaration on May 20th, during the first anniversary of the presentation of the strategy with three clear demands:
• to have a policy based on concrete data and scientific evidence, in accordance with the principles of “Better Regulation”, and not on ideology and political positions;
• to start discussing concrete technologies and tools that can generate enthusiasm for this policy project within our agricultural community; and finally
• to have the same level of ambition in the EU single market as with international trading partners who do not share our ambitions.
CEPM remains particularly committed to this issue on the eve of the vote of the European Parliament’s AGRI and ENVI Committees on June 28th.
METHANE STRATEGY: CEPM MOBILISED TO SUPPORT THE USE OF MAIZE
The Commission published the new EU methane strategy on 14 October 2020. The main objective is to combat the leakage of methane, which has a greenhouse effect 28 times greater than that of CO2. The strategy focuses on the main methane-emitting sectors in the field of energy, waste and also agriculture with livestock farming. The agricultural methanisation of livestock effluents is one of the levers considered. In order to clarify its proposals, the European Commission conducted a public consultation in early 2021 on regulatory proposals to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector. In addition to numerous questions relating to the regulatory choices for natural gas, the consultation raised the question of integrating biomethane production into the scope of this future regulation, which is rather designed by the gas and oil sectors. It also directly questioned the stakeholders on the application of reinforced criteria for the management of biomethane leakage in the Renewable Energy Directive, and the interest of replacing fossil natural gas by biomethane. CEPM took the opportunity to respond to this consultation to promote the use of maize and intermediate crops in the revision of the EU energy directives, and more generally to respond to the Green Deal’s carbon neutrality objective.
TRILOGUES ON THE FUTURE OF THE CAP: AN AGREEMENT UNDER THE PORTUGUESE PRESIDENCY
The Portuguese EU Presidency, which handed over to Slovenia on 1 July 2021, has done its utmost to reach a trilogue agreement before the end of its mandate. At the end of a final “super-trilogue” on 24 and 25 June, the European institutions managed to reach a political agreement on the future CAP, which will apply from 2023 to 2027. One of the major issues for European maize producers was the drafting of GAEC 8. Thanks to the efforts of the CEPM, the final compromise should make it possible to take account of the agronomic and economic realities of maize-growing areas, by including intermediate crops in the definition of this rotation and by emphasising, in certain soil and climate situations, the possibility of taking account of crop diversity rather than plot rotation.
AGRICULTURE & PROGRESS PLATFORM: NEW GENOMIC TECHNIQUES REQUIRE AN ADEQUATE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
As requested by the Council of Ministers, the EU Commission published just before the set deadline of 30th April 2021, the Study on the Status of New Genomic Techniques under Union Law and in light of the Court of Justice Ruling in Case C-528/16. This ruling left doubt among Member states with regard to its application. Developments in biotechnology, in combination with a lack of definitions or clarity of key terms, give rise to ambiguity in the interpretation of the legal framework some concepts, leading to regulatory uncertainty and hampers the full uptake and development of NGTs. This is fully recognised by the study, which also confirms that NGTs can contribute to achieving the ambitions of the Green Deal. The study indicates that the EU’s GMO regulatory framework, as it currently stands, does not seem fit for purpose to regulate NGTs. In follow-up to this study, the EU Commission will therefore consider possible policy instruments to make the legislation more resilient, future-proof and uniformly applied. Such a framework must be based on scientific assessment, with a clear process of evaluation and authorization, and regulatory costs in proportion to the potential markets. An adequate regulatory framework will generate a real boost for NGTs, which are so crucial for the agricultural communities in Europe to deal with climate change challenges whilst delivering safe, good quality and affordable food to Europeans. Farmers are ready to contribute to these ambitions and will be able to deal more adequately with the challenges of climate change provided they can access innovative solutions like NGTs. This was echoed at the Agriculture & Progress webinar on NGTs under the patronage of MEP Paolo de Castro in April 2021, highlighted the need to establish a clear legal distinction between GMOs and New Genomic Techniques (NGTs), and put emphasis on the need to have access to innovation through biotechnologies. Céline Duroc testified on behalf of the French maize sector. She explained that producing maize in Europe is not the same as producing it elsewhere due to a lack of access to innovative solutions. The main problem with NGTs remains uncertainty regarding access. To keep up with Green Deal ambitions, NGTs are a key tool for the maize sector: “Biotechnologies are key and have strong hopes that the EU can face environmental challenges thanks to NGTs”.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND BOARD MEETING OF CEPM
On 27th May 2020, CEPM held its annual General Assembly followed by a meeting of the board. In view of the circumstances caused by the COVD-19 pandemic, the assembly was held online. In view of this, the GA decided to allow for video-conferencing as an option for the General Assembly and the board of directors to communicate.
President Daniel PEYRAUBE welcomed participants and then Permanent Delegate Céline Duroc presented the 2020 accounts. After deliberation, the General Assembly approved the accounts for the year ended 12/31/2020 which show a balance sheet total of € 17,385 and a result of € 16,200. Furthermore, the General Assembly took note of the report on the financial situation of the association and approved the report on the management and activities of the association during the past financial year. It was decided to allocate the surplus for the 2020 financial year of 16,200 euros to reserves.
Board Meeting Insights : During the board meeting, insights were shared on the situation of the markets at both global and European scale. Worldwide, stocks were tight in the calendar year 2020/21, with a drought in Brazil balanced by increased surfaces in the USA. In Europe, the years 2020/21 and 2021/22 saw not only a decrease in EU imports, but also in surfaces in the European Union (particularly in Ukraine). Noëlle Poisson updated on developments in the CAP trialogues and presented the CEPM Action Plan, with the objectives to mobilize EU Council & MEP to change the wording of the EU regulation (GAEC 8) and to mobilize the local key ones in your country who could influence the EU debate. Céline Duroc provided an update into the newest developments concerning New Genomic Techniques, clearly explaining that NGTs are part of the solution for the future of agriculture, whilst highlighting that the regulatory framework needs to be adapted to innovation and rhythm of research. Gildas Cotton shared some new insights into the new area of carbon and carbon farming as a new driver pf policy in the European Union. The Agriculture & Progress Platform, of which CEPM is a co-founder, has discussed these issues during webinars in the last year.