Editorial Review of the Discussion Paper of the Netherlands Presidency Food of the Future “Food of the Future – The Future of Food”
Is it not interesting and important for each of us to learn what are we going to eat in the next future, what will our children and their children find on their tables, will the threatening scarcity of many products and water itself become soon the humanity’s dark reality, or probably the future food will be tasteless and even harmful, or it all will be …. guesses, guesses.
We cannot speak for everyone, but personally we are very demandive and rational when it concerns the plate with food on our table. We vote for the tasty, nutritious, seasonal and preferably locally grown food. Yes, enjoying tasty food, terrific wine, clean water, breathing fresh air – everything that has delivered the greatest paramount necessities and pleasures in our life.
No matter how desirable and essential those paramount demands are, their delivery depends on much more than just our desires. One of the ruling factors in this process belongs to the Agricultural Regulations, which especially in the current near-scarcity conditions can either preserve and develop our agricultural resources or by neglecting the necessity of decisive actions can deprive us from this human right? Let us see what the current Presidency of EU thinks about it.
From its’ inception the CAP (The Common Agricultural Policy) had been designed to be one of the major pillars of the EU Policy, both for internal and its external regulations. With the permanent changes that occur daily inside the EU and global markets, the CAP policy makers are facing lots of challenges requiring immediate attendance in order to elaborate and implement adequate changes in the CAP regulations.
The most recent fundamental, if you will, shift in the CAP was made in 2013. At that time this policy was redesigned in accordance with the newly proclaimed goals, including sustainable development of the EU agriculture, support of entrepreneurship development and jobs creations in the sector.
With the EU being simultaneously the world’s top exporter and importer of the agricultural products it is very important to timely adjust the policies to any changes. Those adjustments allow to use them in a productive way, preventing any negative effects on the economy of the Union or/and on the competitiveness of the European businesses.
Based on the Discussion Paper of the Netherlands Presidency Food of the Future “Food of the Future – The Future of Food” we will focus here on major challenges which must be addressed without any delay.
All of them are caused by the rapid global technological developments, including some revolutionary ones (like digitalization), extension of the globalization process, which results in the internationalization of the food production and distribution, deep changes in consumption (shift, for example to higher meat consumption), growing role of food safety, etc. So, to be in line with and direct these changes in favor of the EU agriculture the CAP has to be reformed in order to provide competitiveness and further successful development of the European agriculture for many years ahead.
As it is pointed out in the document we are analyzing here, the current EU Presidency is deeply concerned with the dramatic decline of the role of the traditional agricultural producers – the farmers in the food chain due to the globalization. How to regulate the inevitable process of agriculture globalization which is led and managed by the multinational companies and uninventively destroy small and medium farming all over the world for the quite understandable reasons ? The process of internationalization of agriculture with both feet stands on the growth of transportation of the agricultural products, necessity to provide with a growing number of new types of storages on the way and after arrival. On the flip side of this expansion one finds the process of destroying of traditional eating and nutritional habits of the population, growing demand of the fossil fuel, etc. In turn it caused the arousal of the protests of European consumers who are growingly interested in consumption of the locally grown products, eating seasonally and who also more and more are interested in learning everything about the conditions in which their food has been growing and produced. Sometimes consumers go as far as getting to know the farmer her/himself. We can’t agree more with Jacques Delors’ perceptive idea that we do not want to transform country-side into deserts.
So, one of the ways to address the challenges in question is to “free” European farmers from the “detailed management” of the CAP along with some subsidies in order to let them act more as entrepreneurs, to widen their independency in decision –making process, in other words to make the CAP a less regulative mechanism. Shift, as some think, should be made in favor of the CAP elective support and stimulation of their entrepreneurship activities along with the emphasis on provision of the indispensable Macro control where it is really needed.. This measure will let farmers plan their production volume and further marketing of the yields in accordance with markets’ needs. The supporting role of the CAP could be aimed at maintaining and extension of farmers activities in the countryside where they traditionally have played key part in community life and jobs creation.
Though releasing farmers from the micro management of the CAP regulations in the current internationalization conditions one should keep in mind many consequences which will accompany this process. Just on the surface one can see a vitally important problem which can be turned into the threat to the public health and whole EU agricultural resources – the Food Safety issues. The more EU market opens the higher the possibility for threats in food safety to enter the market. It concerns not only lots of harmful microorganisms and dangerous microbes but also some toxic substances like very cheap (prohibited in EU) pesticides illegally imported to EU.
It goes without saying that at the moment farmers are eager to act like real entrepreneurs they will be even more inclined to do so by looking for ways to cut their expenses (like all farmers in Canada and USA do). So some of them are and will be definitely seduced by the cheap toxic pesticides application. This fact imposes more responsibility on exercising strict CAP regulations in the area of Food Safety because the it’s negative consequences are directly connected with Public Health including the health of farmers themselves. This measure of strengthening the macro control is mandatory for safety as well as for maintaining high competitiveness of the European agriculture in the world, among the growing number of cheap producers in emerging countries.
Of course the extensive focus on the permanent development of R&D and acceleration of implementation of technological innovations into the agricultural production can provide some revolutionary changes in the productivity keeping the EU food safe and nutritious.
To be effective, flexible and up-to-date European R&D should be conducted on the coordinated basis, in this case their results and findings will be accessible not only to large scale farms in EU but also for all European small and medium farms.
This topic smoothly flows into the problem of Ecological Sustainability of agricultural production with its’ multifaceted influence on our lives. The agriculture itself is one of the greatest users and polluters of the arable lands and environment, though thanks to the EU regulations European agriculture is becoming more and friendlier towards the environment. For example, the share of greenhouse emissions in EU has been reduced from 24% in 1990 to 10% in 2014. “Climate smart agricultural technologies”, in turn are the revolutionary steps intending to change the whole agricultural production chain. This begins with production of “climate smart” crops, that extensively engages farmers in a breeding of “climate proof crops” process. The goal of these changes is apparently indicated in the name of the technologies – they should be smart, in regard to the climate changes, not causing them but preventing where it is possible climate change negative expansion.
To summarize our editorial review of “The Food For The Future – The Future Of Food” Discussion Paper of the Netherlands Presidency we must accentuate major points.
Acknowledging all the challenges European policy makers now focus on deep CAP reforms. First of all, it is connected with the switch from its deeply regulative approach to less regulation, while strengthening the macro level control and regulation of food safety. These measures should provide more space and freedom for an entrepreneurship progress in farming, making innovation an organic part of the agriculture, focusing more and more on preservation of local countryside community. These and other very important modifications will be realized on the basis of the revolutionary shifts in the whole context of the EU economy and agriculture development. They meant the movement to the next stage of the sustainability evolution which is called the Circular Economy. This paradigm opens new horizons for the CAP spreading far beyond 2020.
Speaking in very simple and pragmatic terms it means that we finally have to use not only smart technologies in production, but also very smart technologies in using the residues of the production and be smart consumers. Being supported and lead on the macro level by the EU government, and elaborated by thousands of startups and existing SMEs in agriculture on the micro level this tremendous unparalleled shift in European agriculture provides whole range of opportunities for the investors to participate and benefit from this process.