The European Union’s landmark Farm to Fork strategy, published yesterday, sets in place a series of ambitious environmental targets including slashing pesticide use by 50% and making 25% of all EU farmland organic by 2030. 

Leading organic groups have welcomed the development. IFOAM EU hailed a “landmark decision that puts organic farming at the core of a transition of European agriculture towards agroecology”. The European Organic Processing and Trade Association (OPTA) said that “for all pioneers in organic…this Farm to Fork strategy is a recognition of the contribution they bring to the tables and plates across Europe”. 

The Farm to Fork strategy (and the Biodiversity Strategy, also formally adopted yesterday) forms part of initiatives that sit inside the bloc’s wider European Green Deal policy.  

Key targets include:

  • a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030.
  • a reduction of nutrient losses by at least 50% while ensuring that there is no deterioration in soil fertility. This will reduce the use of fertilisers by at least 20% by 2030.
  • a reduction by 50% of the sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 2030
  • reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030

Environment groups have expressed some surprise that that the European Commission held firm on its targets, which had come in for strong criticism from the agribusiness lobby. There were fears that the huge economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic would provide cover for a watering down of key targets. However, the Commission said that, rather, the coronavirus crisis “underlined the importance of a robust and resilient food system” and strengthened the case for a major change of direction. 

Food and farming non-profit ARC2020, said that retention of tough environmental and health targets were evidence of “a slow turning of the EU’s ship towards more sustainable agri-food and biodiversity action”. 

There is concern, however, that the bold ideas contained in Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity Strategy must be backed with financial support and, crucially, carried through into current reforms of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). IFOAM EU president, Jan Plagge, said: “…the objectives of the F2F and EU Biodiversity strategies will only be reachable if they are fully taken into account in the negotiations of the ongoing CAP reform. We must not make the mistake of using Covid-19 as an excuse to continue a backward-looking agricultural policy.”

OPTA president, Stefan Hipp, said: ‘The aim of 25% organic in 2030 is the right ambition, but it will require means to establish it. The financial support for agriculture in the EU has to be adequately transformed for organic and sustainable agriculture and production. And the market for organic products has to be enlarged and stimulated in different directions at the same time.”