A new report from the EU Food Policy Coalition outlines four priorities and policy recommendations that the EU’s Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) framework legislation should prioritize in order to achieve a shift towards a sustainable food system. The report builds upon previous recommendations and provides specific guidelines for the upcoming legislative framework.

The first priority highlighted in the report is the need to take a food systems approach. The SFS Law should facilitate a just, ambitious, and systemic transition to sustainable food systems that operate within the boundaries of the planet. Recognizing the complexity of the food system, the legislation should assess food sustainability by considering the entire system from production to consumption. This comprehensive approach will help identify and address the interdependencies and impacts of different aspects of the food system.

The second priority emphasized in the report is the establishment of a new governance framework for the EU food system. The SFS Law should define key terms, guiding principles, and overarching objectives for the EU food system. By binding all food-related laws and policies, including the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies (CAP and CFP), the legislation can ensure coherence and consistency across the board. Additionally, it should address power concentration in the food sector and promote food democracy by defining competence sharing among EU institutions.

The third priority outlined in the report is the development of enabling food environments. Current approaches to shifting dietary patterns have primarily relied on the “consumer responsibility narrative,” which places the burden on consumers to make sustainable choices based on improved information. However, this approach has proven ineffective and ethically questionable. The SFS Law should introduce strong EU-level measures on public and private procurement and marketing, recognizing them as key drivers of change. By incentivizing and promoting sustainable food choices, the legislation can create an environment that supports and encourages a shift towards more sustainable diets.

The fourth priority highlighted in the report is the need for strong accountability and fairness throughout the food chain. Currently, food is often treated as a commodity rather than a common good, with private interests exerting excessive influence over what is produced and sold in the EU market. This concentration of power and unsustainable trade policies obstruct the transition to sustainable food production models. The SFS Law should establish a clear regime of corporate responsibility for actors in the middle of the food chain, ensuring that they are held accountable for their actions. Additionally, the legislation should bring the EU’s food trade policy within socially and environmentally safe operating boundaries and provide robust enforcement mechanisms.

The report argues that our current food systems are placing an unsustainable burden on the planet and making us more vulnerable. Building a resilient food system that can withstand external shocks is of paramount importance. EU policies have a critical role to play in transforming our food systems for the long-term benefit of people and the planet. The SFS Law represents a crucial opportunity for the EU to demonstrate leadership by prioritizing the acceleration of this transition. The four priorities outlined in the report serve as essential building blocks for this transformation. It is imperative for policy to align with scientific evidence, listen to citizens, and address vested interests to guide our food systems in a new direction that benefits people, animals, and the planet as a whole.