Europe North to South

Author: Dorottya Kalo, Communication Trainee at REVOLVE.

On Wednesday, 10 April 2024, the Europe North to South: food system challenges and solutions event took place in Brussels, emphasizing the interconnectedness of sectors along the supply chain.  

Organized by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the event provided a platform to showcase best practices and challenges along the supply chain in connection with making our food system more environmentally, socially as well as economically just and sustainable. While at PATHWAYS we primarily focus on the European livestock sector, it is important to note that this holistic approach and mobilizing stakeholders at every stage of the food value chain is at the core of our project.

Hereby are some of the highlights from the event:

  • Tomaso Ferrando, Research Professor, Faculty of Law and Institute of Development Policy (IOB) at the University of Antwerp emphasized the importance of focusing on not only a systemic approach but also a just transition when it comes to food governance.

“We may not agree on the way forward, or where the responsibilities lie. On the basis of that, there are very different interpretations of food security.”

  • In this process of transitioning, social support and the construction of social policies are essential as well as more agreement on priorities and definitions set in connection with food security.

“We may not agree on the way forward, or where the responsibilities lie. On the basis of that, there are very different interpretations of food security.”

  • Tomaso also quoted Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winner economist whose words accentuate how food is inherently intertwined with politics.

“there is no such thing as an apolitical food problem”

A view of the "mar de plástico" in Almería, Spain. Photo: Jake Threadgould / REVOLVE
  • Ecologistas en Acción, a confederation of Spanish environmental groups, presented their advocacy project called The true price of Food, the hidden face of agribusiness. They draw attention to the negative interdependencies production systems in the South of Spain are facing to provide the rest of the Union with all-year-round fresh produce. This export-oriented and heavily industrialized model puts immense pressure on the local ecosystem. 

“People call it the “Almeria Miracle’’. It is true that it brought economic development, and that greenhouses are an efficient way to increase food production, but at what cost?’”

  • On around 36 thousand hectares, Almerías greenhouse horticulture represents 13% of GDP, as contrasted to the average agricultural GDP in Spain of 2.5%. However, the production also has a significant impact on water and waste management, not to mention workers’ rights and conditions. A feature on this topic was published by our partner, REVOLVE in 2023   
  • Juchowo Farm, an initiative discussed in AirClim’s Food for Thought report is an inspiring case of how land can be gradually revitalised with changes in agricultural practices. As the largest biodynamic farm in Europe, not only the quality of soil has improved drastically, but the holistic grazing methods in place reduced inputs on the farm level and freed resources to better engage with the local community, shorten the supply chain of certain commodities and develop a vocational development centre for disabled people.  
Maria Staniszewska presenting results achieved at the Juchowo Farm's Rural Project and ambitions for the future. Photo: Dorottya Kalo / REVOLVE
  • Public procurement and meal systems can be significant drivers in behavioral change. Whether it is initiated by introducing an internal, municipality-initiated climate tax or by redesigning the foodscape in public canteens, public-private partnerships can incentivize more sustainable food choices.

Overall, the Europe North to South: food system challenges and solutions event provided a platform for both promising initiatives and presented some serious challenges that are present in the European food system.  It highlighted the diverse solutions that people across the EU come up with to change the siloed way some tend to think of our food system – alienating consumers from the journey their food takes. It is important to emphasise the urgency of acting to mitigate the impact of agriculture on the environment as well as engage in constructive dialogue with actors who aim to keep the status quo. 

The potential outcome of disregarding diversity and the proposed simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy to water down greening requirements were well summoned upon the closing remarks of the event:  

“One-size-fits-all solutions are destined to fail’”