Supporting Alternative Food Systems - next steps in defining a Common Food Policy Vision for Europe

(3.4.2017) On Thursday March 29, policy-makers, scientists, civil society groups and food entrepreneurs came together in Brussels to share ideas on how to better support alternative food system initiatives in Europe.

The round-table meeting, convened by IPES-Food co-chair Olivier De Schutter and Anneli Jäätteenmäki MEP (ALDE – FL), was the third in a series of five ‘Policy Labs’ that IPES-Food will convene from 2016-2018 in order to develop a 'Common Food Policy' vision for Europe.

Participants at Policy Lab 3 focused on identifying the opportunities and challenges in developing alternative food system initiatives in Europe – in other words, initiatives that engage with public concerns over social justice, health, and environmental sustainability.

Participants discussed how community control and cooperation, solidarity economies, short supply chain initiatives and the power of formal and informal networks pave the way for more sustainable production and consumption habits.

Diversity – be it diversity in production, social diversity, or the ability to bring rural and urban cultures together – was identified as a key ingredient in alternative food systems, and one requiring support through a strong multi-level policy framework.

Public education, scale-adapted food safety regulations, stronger financial support for sustainable farming practices, and better access to land for young farmers were only a few of the policy priorities named to further support alternative food systems.

Leading the Common Food Policy process, IPES-Food co-chair, Olivier De Schutter, said: “Not only do alternative food system initiatives deliver public goods such as maintaining ecosystems, local culture and community traditions, they also support higher farm incomes and improve the viability of rural spaces. These initiatives play a central role in shaping the debate on how to improve the future of food systems in Europe.”

The findings of Policy Lab 3 on Alternative Food Systems will be published in an upcoming briefing note in July 2017. Drawing on meeting discussions, it will outline the tools and measures needed to support alternative food systems in Europe, as the second installment of IPES-Food’s Common Food Policy vision.

Upcoming policy labs will address the ‘Trade-Development-Environment nexus’ (Policy Lab 4 – May 2nd) and ‘Making healthy diets accessible to all’ (Policy Lab 5 – October). Over the coming months, a series of ‘Local Labs’ will also be held in different regions across the EU, allowing IPES-Food to tap into the sustainable food system initiatives and food policy processes emerging in various city-regions around Europe. The first Local Lab will take place in Turin on July 13th, and will be co-organized with the IUC-Torino.

Updates on IPES-Food’s ‘Common Food Policy’ process will be communicated via the IPES-Food newsletter.