The European Union is carving out the legislative framework for so-called Sustainable Food Systems (SFS). In essence, these new regulations would label and then seek to phase out what Europe considers to be the least sustainable food products.
This measure will hit European producers as much as American exports to the EU.
In a leaked document obtained by Politico Europe, the European Commission states that it intends to fight the perseverance of agricultural inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) and "unsustainable and unhealthy diets" through SFS. The minimum sustainability requirements by the EU would be based on the "do no significant harm principle" (DNSH), including "non-negotiable qualifiers" for both domestic production, exports, and imports.
The bottom line is that the European Union wants to create governing principles on what a healthy and environmentally-friendly diet looks like and makes no secret of the fact that it seeks to ban products that do not adhere to that principle.
The rules of the SFS would set a new precedent for world trade. The EU's aspirations of slowly moving to an all-but-organic food model while giving out more farm subsidies than the United States do create further trade imbalances.
The U.S. already imports more food from Europe than the reverse, resulting in a trade deficit of $24 billion in 2021. The European Commission is not just thinking of phasing out food products from the United States it deems "unsustainable" but also those foodstuffs that were treated with crop protection tools that are commonplace in the world food market.
Consider this: Europe demands that American farmers do not export goods to Europe that were treated with neonicotinoid insecticides (known as neonics), despite the fact that France had to put a three-year pause on its ban because sugar beet farmers were facing extinction.
The European Commission also adds in its document that land use is a large contributor to biodiversity loss. While that is correct, it conveniently ignores and omits that the American food system is not only more efficient but that its efficiency is also biodiversity-friendly.
When you produce more food with less agricultural and energy inputs, you lower your carbon footprint and allow forestry and wildlife to recover. Europe's plans to reduce farmland use, cut down on pesticides and fertilizers, as well as a significant subsidy boost for organic agriculture, makes it more dependent on agricultural imports — imports that it somehow also wants to pick and choose from.
The European Economic Area (which comprises the EU and its associated members) has 447 million consumers, representing a significant marketplace for American farmers. However, while America buys European produce and has made continuous attempts at a free trade deal, Europe has wanted to have its cake and eat it too.
Bill Wirtz is the senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, focusing on new technology, agriculture, trade and lifestyle regulations. He recently published "No Copy-paste: What Not to Emulate from Europe's Agriculture Regulations." Read Bill Wirtz's Reports — More Here.
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