An ambitious ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy including meat-reduction targets is needed for the EU food and agriculture industries more than ever, according to NGOs ProVeg International and the European Vegetarian Union.
The ‘Farm To Fork’ strategy, which provides a sustainable food-policy roadmap for the European Commission, was initially scheduled to be published at the end of March 2020.
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, however, it has been postponed to an undecided date later in the year, prompting calls for greater urgency from MEPs.
Animal farming is one of the top three causes of environmental problems, and is responsible for about 14.5% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the FAO.
Both the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report and the Eat Lancet Commission’s Planetary Health Diet report recommend plant-based diets as a major opportunity for mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis.
This shift is not only urgently needed for environmental reasons – it can also serve as a mitigation strategy for future zoonotic pandemics, protecting public health and the stability of life as we know it.
The link between animal farming and an increased risk of pandemics is already well-established scientifically, particularly in the case of intensive farming, where conditions are conducive to the emergence and rapid spread of diseases, such as COVID-19.
Around 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses. These include SARS, MERS, Ebola, rabies, and certain forms of influenza transmitted via birds and pigs. Whether transmitted by wild animals, as is assumed with COVID-19, or farmed animals, as is the case with avian and swine flu, these diseases all pose serious threats to individual and global health.
“The global coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak poses a health and economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. The EU must do everything in its power to lower the risk of future pandemics and protect its citizens’ health and freedoms,” said Jasmijn de Boo, International Director of ProVeg International.
“A ‘Farm To Fork’ strategy, with ambitious meat reduction targets and policies around the promotion of plant-based diets as a mitigation strategy for future zoonotic pandemics, is essential to preserving the health of people and the planet as well as the stability of economies.”
Ronja Berthold, Head of Public Affairs of the European Vegetarian Union, said: “It is crucial that the EU quickly moves forward with its sustainability initiatives such as the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy” as it needs to contribute to shaping a safer, more resilient and climate-friendly food system and help prevent future crises.”