The COVID-19 pandemic and the two-year-long war in Ukraine have demonstrated the great importance of a safe and crisis-proof food system, one that functions under all circumstances and allows citizens to have access to food in sufficient quantity and quality, and at affordable prices.

The Farm-to-Table Strategy for a Fair, Healthy and Environmentally Friendly Food System (see COM/2020/381) points to the need to create such a solution and to monitor the transition toward sustainable food systems that reduce the current environmental and climate footprint.

Field to table strategy

Published May 20, 2020. message titled Strategy From field to table for a fair, healthy and environmentally sound food system (COM/2020/381) is a comprehensive approach that addresses the challenges of sustainable food systems, improving lifestyles, health and enhancing the environment. It was prepared by the Commission for the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

In addition, the increasing occurrence of extreme events such as water shortages, droughts, flooding, floods, forest fires or the emergence of new agrophages means that the food system may be at risk, and thus should become more sustainable and resilient to various risks and crises as soon as possible.

Field to Table Strategy Objective

As pointed out in the Farm to Table strategy, food systems remain one of the main drivers of climate change and environmental degradation. Therefore, it stresses the need to urgently reduce dependence on pesticides and antimicrobials, reduce over-fertilization, strengthen organic farming, improve animal welfare, and reverse the loss of biodiversity.

Among other things, the adoption of the Commission’s proposed guidelines will force the introduction of ambitious and far-reaching measures, including new legislation to reduce water, air and soil pollution, as well as the natural environment. It is also pointed out that our consumer habits and our diet are not insignificant for the need to achieve the aforementioned goals.

EU food systems

According to estimates by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Environment. Business and Sustainability Council of 2017. food and agricultural systems linked to the Sustainable Development Goals at the global level could provide wholesome and affordable food for the world’s growing population, help restore key ecosystems and create new economic value of more than 1.8 trillion euros by 2030.

In addition, as the Field to Table strategy indicates, EU agriculture is one of the most important food systems in the world and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 1990, i.e. from 543.25 million gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 1990 to 438.99 million gigatons in 2017. However, it is still pointed out that food production, processing, retailing, packaging and transportation are major contributors to water, air and soil pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Monitoring the implementation of the objectives of the strategy From the field to the table

The Field-to-Table strategy assumes that the European Commission will regularly collect data to comprehensively assess the cumulative impact of all Field-to-Table activities on competitiveness, the environment and health. The food system sustainability model consists of:

  • 3 thematic areas: environmental, social (which includes health) and economic;
  • 13 topics;
  • 40 domains that are linked to one or more of the objectives of the Field to Table strategy.

For monitoring the sustainable management of resources and their use for the Farm-to-Table strategy, such indicators relating to water are proposed, among others:

  • agricultural water use – Water Exploitation Index Plus (WEI+);
  • Water quality – nitrates in groundwater (within the pollution domain);
  • Agricultural water use (within the water use domain);
  • irrigated area (within the domain of water consumption);
  • reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation (water re-use) (within the water use domain);
  • Water-induced soil erosion (within the soil and land domain);
  • Gross nutrient balance – nitrogen (within the soil and land domain);
  • Gross nutrient balance – phosphorus (within the soil and soil domain).

In addition, within the consumption footprint domain, the following indicators are proposed, among others:

  • eutrophication;
  • water consumption;
  • freshwater ecotoxicity;
  • climate change.

With this, the consumption footprint is assumed to be a set of 16 indicators based on life cycle assessment, which aim to quantify the environmental impact of food consumption, both at the level of the European Union and individual member states.

Farm-to-table strategy vs. the Strategic Plan of the Common Agricultural Policy

The Common Agricultural Policy(CAP), as indicated by the European Commission, is intended to be a key tool for the transformation toward a sustainable food system. That’s why the recent CAP reform focused on the sustainability of agriculture. It links CAP support to environmental, climate and food security regulations. The need to achieve the goals and monitor the results of the Farm to Table strategy is also addressed in the proposal for a regulation on CAP strategic plans.

The European Commission, under the CAP, has planned areas of intervention relating directly to water primarily in terms of the Nutrients objective and has provided for the following indicators:

  • Indicator 1 (W1): the percentage of groundwater monitoring stations where nitrate concentrations exceed 50 mg/L (relative to the average of the reference period, i.e., 2012-2015);
  • Indicator 2 (W2): gross nitrogen balance in kg/ha of utilized farmland (relative to data from the reference period, i.e., 2012-2014). This indicator is also proposed as part of the monitoring of the Farm-to-Table strategy within the soil and land domain.
  • Indicator 3 (W3): gross phosphorus balance in kg/ha of used farmland (relative to data from the reference period, i.e., 2012-2014). This indicator is also proposed as part of the monitoring of the Farm-to-Table strategy within the soil and land domain.

In the case of Poland, the figures for the reference periods are respectively: W1: 5.6 percent, W2: 48, W3: 2. However, the targets adopted for Poland with regard to the above-mentioned indicators can be found in the national CAP Strategic Plan.

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