Throughout the ongoing legislative term, the emphasis was put on enhancing the environmental sustainability of the agri-food sector in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, through initiatives such as the Farm-to-Fork strategy launched in 2020. Nevertheless, this commitment has faced setbacks due to opposition from the right-wing parties and farmers protests across Europe. The European Commission has thus revised its stance on environmental initiatives, resulting in the postponement of eagerly awaited proposals, such as the framework for sustainable food systems, as well as the withdrawal of the pesticides regulation (SUR). 

With an anticipated increase in conservative and right-wing representation in the upcoming European Parliament elections, the incoming Commission will need to navigate the delicate task of ensuring the agri-food sector undergoes its sustainable transition, while overcoming polarisation and gaining political support. Right-wing parties are expected to prioritize enhancing food sovereignty and developing technological innovations for addressing climate-related risks, as outlined in the European People’s Party (EPP) political manifesto. Meanwhile, left-wing parties are likely to emphasise the need for sustainable agriculture and the transformation of the food system to ensure food security.  

We can thus anticipate a heightened level of stakeholder involvement in discussions on agri-food policy, as already seen with the launch of the Strategic Dialogue on the future of EU agriculture early 2024 by the European Commission’s President von der Leyen. The aim of the meetings was to enable stakeholders to explore ways of ensuring fair living conditions for farmers, meeting climate targets, technological innovation and promoting a prosperous future for the EU food system. In the next policy cycle, we can expect food security to take centre stage, while several voices are calling for a Vice-President for Food to send a strong political signal to tackle the transformation of the food system. New initiatives targeting the primary producers are not likely to arise, while the focus may be more directed towards other segments of the agri-food value chain. The focal point could be on players in the ‘middle of the chain’, such as processors, as shown by the recent publication by the Commission of the ‘transition pathway for a green, digital and resilient EU agri-food industrial ecosystem’. Moreover, strengthening the position of farmers in the food supply chain is expected to be a central topic. 

 Key agri-food initiatives 

  • The New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) initiative seeks to modernise regulations for plants developed through specific NGTs, aiming to streamline their adoption through more flexible rules. Currently pending adoption by the Council, it is expected to be taken up in the next legislative term. 
  • The main goal of the Sustainable use of Plant Protection Products (‘Pesticides’) Regulation (SUR) is to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030. Following its withdrawal, a new proposal based on greater stakeholder involvement could be presented during the next mandate. 
  • The Legislative framework for Sustainable Food Systems, the flagship Farm-to-Fork initiative, has not yet materialised. Its goal is to accelerate and make the transition to sustainable food systems easier, through initiatives such as a sustainability labelling framework. Its future under the next Commission remains uncertain. 
  • The Animal Welfare Package aims to update EU legislation in animal welfare for animals bred and kept for farming purposes. Its adoption has been delayed without a revised timeline from the Commission. 
  • The Revision of EU rules on food contact materials aims to ensure food safety and reduce the presence and usage of hazardous chemicals. Planned for 2023, it is still awaited. 
  • The Waste Framework Directive aims to reduce food waste through legally binding targets. The co-legislators are currently discussing it and it should be taken up by the next Commission.