Agri-Food Chain Coalition (AFCC)

Background

The Agri-Food Chain Coalition (AFCC) is a coalition of major trade associations representing the European Union’s agricultural and food industries. The AFCC has been very active in seeking to influence the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, including its targets for phasing out use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. 

The AFCC’s website describes the group as a “joint initiative representing 12 leading industry associations across the agri-food chain, united in their call for sustainable, solution-orientated and innovative policies that benefit the EU and beyond.”1Homepage,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition. Archived June 22, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/8xThS However, only 11 members are listed on its Members page.2Members,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition. Archived August 13, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/9RvTP 

As of December 2022, the Agri-Food Chain Coalition lists its members as:3Members,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition. Archived August 13, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/9RvTP 

  • AnimalHealthEurope
  • CEMA – European Agricultural Machinery Association
  • COCERAL – Trade association of companies that produce cereals, oilseeds, pulses, olive oil, oils and fats, animal feed, and agricultural supplies
  • COPA-COGECA – Trade association representing farmers and farmer cooperatives
  • CropLife Europe (formerly the European Crop Protection Association)
  • EFFAB – European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders
  • EuropaBio – European Association for Bioindustries
  • Euroseeds 
  • FEFAC – European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation
  • FEFANA – European Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures 
  • Fertilizers Europe

Some of these organizations – particularly COPA-COGECA, CropLife Europe, and Euroseeds – have lobbied against climate measures proposed as part of the EU Green Deal, including the target to halve pesticide use by 2030.4Daniela De Lorenzo and Rachel Sherrington. “Mapped: The Network of Powerful Agribusiness Groups Lobbying to Water Down the EU’s Sustainable Farming Targets,” DeSmog, December 9, 2021. 

AFCC has called the EU Farm to Fork Strategy’s landmark targets to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use “non-data based political targets” alongside a number of other agribusiness trade groups. The group has called for the targets to be comprehensively assessed, saying that they could lead to food supply shortages.5Farm to Fork – it is time to listen to what the data says,” CropLife Europe, Press Release. Oct 12, 2021. Archived July 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archive URL: http://archive.today/4R4P3 

The AFCC has also called for a “science-based” approach to innovation and targets that aim to reduce pesticide use in the EU.6Subject: Consultation on Farm to Fork Strategy,” AFCC letter to Stella Kyriakides. March 13, 2020. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 7Re: Joint open letter from agri-food chain organisations regarding the potential impact of the current proposal on Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products Regulation (“SUR”) on the EU agricultural value chain, considering the current socioeconomic situation in Europe,” Europatat, November 17, 2022. Archived December 14, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/UqwMD“Science-based” approaches are often contrasted with the UK and EU’s “precautionary” approach and imply weaker regulation, with governments forced to provide “a very high level of proof that a product is dangerous” before restrictions can be put in place, according to the Pesticide Action Network.8Pesticides Action Network, Sustain, and Dr. Emily Lydgate, “Toxic Trade: How trade deals threaten to weaken UK pesticide standards,” PAN UK, June 2020. Archived December 6, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Stance on Climate Change

In a 2018 publication titled “How innovation contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals,” AFCC stated that climate change and “a growing population” are “challenging the agri-food sector to meet society’s food demands while preserving the environment and natural resources.”9How innovation contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2018. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. AFCC members are “committed to addressing these challenges and are encouraging innovative solutions for a more sustainable agri-food sector,” the document stated.

In the publication, AFCC advocated for breeding crops to be “more resilient to climate change,” and stated that “genetic selection can contribute to reducing methane emissions” from the livestock industry. It also described how the European fertilizer industry was helping farmers reduce on-farm emissions by providing a “farm-level GHG emissions calculator.”   

The publication also suggested that “an easy way of reducing CO2 emissions of agricultural machines is to target individual machines and components” while also noting that “the potential for further decrease of CO2 emission [from machinery] is low and expensive.”10How innovation contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2018. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

On the AFCC website’s About page, under a section headed “safeguarding the environment,” the organization states that “innovative technologies, products and practices can help make the most efficient and sustainable use of natural resources,” which the organization claims will “improve farming’s environmental footprint.”11About,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition. Archived June 22, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/IIcAQ 

The page also states: “Social, environmental and economic sustainability is the best pathway to a more productive, resource-efficient and environmentally friendly agri-food sector.” 

AFCC has called on the EU to “include the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability in every EU policy measure” while also “ensur[ing] the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, the growth and the creation of jobs in Europe.” 

Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers have been identified as a cause of both climate change and biodiversity loss.12Pesticides and the loss of biodiversity,” Pesticide Action Network Europe. Archived November 4, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/kNBBC The Centre for International Environmental Law argues that “synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides are fossil fuels in another form, making them an underrecognized but significant driver of the climate crisis.”13Fossils, Fertilizers, and False Solutions: How Laundering Fossil Fuels in Agrochemicals Puts the Climate and the Planet at Risk,” Centre for International Environmental Law, October 2022. Archived October 7, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Stance on Farm to Fork Strategy

The AFCC opposes the EU Farm to Fork Strategy’s targets for phasing out use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, it advocates for developing new scientific and technological approaches to cutting the agriculture sector’s carbon pollution and toll on biodiversity.

January 27, 2022

In January 2022, the Agri-Food Chain Coalition and another trade association, European Livestock Voice, sponsored a Euractiv virtual conference. Titled Farm To Fork Strategy – What are the Policy Instruments Needed to Reach the Targets?” the conference’s topic was “what we still do not know about the impact of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy on farmers, consumers, and the environment. And what policy instruments will be needed to reach the targets?”14Farm To Fork Strategy – What are the Policy Instruments Needed to Reach the Targets?,” EURACTIV, January 27, 2022. Archived June 23, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/QFBTR  

The event’s description stated that a “divide” exists between agribusiness and environmental organizations because “industry wants an overall impact assessment of the Farm to Fork strategy, whereas environmental organisations believe that evaluating each measure in the strategy would be sufficient.”

Panelists included three senior EU food and agriculture officials: Deputy Director-General Clare Bury, European Parliament MEP Thomas Waitz, and European Parliament MEP Herbert Dorfman. European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) President Diana Lenzi, and David Baldock, a senior fellow in agriculture and land management at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), were also on the panel.15Farm To Fork Strategy – What are the Policy Instruments Needed to Reach the Targets?,” EURACTIV, January 27, 2022. Archived June 23, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/QFBTR 

Several panel members criticized the F2F targets. Referencing a number of industry-funded F2F impact studies16Nina Holland and Rachel Tansey. “A loud lobby for a silent spring: the pesticide industry’s toxic lobbying tactics against Farm to Fork,” Corporate Europe Observatory, December 2021. Archived March 17, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. released in early January 2022, Dorfmann said that “the Farm to Fork strategy looks at sustainability, but has a big problem that it does not look at the overall picture,” and that “we have to combine sustainability with food security.”

Dorfmann added:17Farm to Fork Strategy – What are the policy instruments needed to reach the targets?,” [59:55]. Video uploaded by user EURACTIV, January 27, 2022. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. 

“We will risk…delocalis[ing] CO2 emissions. This is a problem all over the Green Deal, if we want to achieve this 55 percent reduction target in this decade, and become climate neutral, this is a good proposal and is positive, if this does not mean the CO2 emissions go out of Europe and will be somewhere else. If they are somewhere else, for this planet it doesn’t matter, if it’s in Brussels or Beijing, it’s the same CO2.” 

On being asked how well F2F addresses the effects of climate change on farmers, CEJA’s Lenzi said:18Farm to Fork Strategy – What are the policy instruments needed to reach the targets?,” [42:29]. Video uploaded by user EURACTIV, January 27, 2022. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.  

“What really scared off the farming community to start with, was that the Farm to Fork was unfortunately presented in a very rigid way. There were targets, there were numbers, an algebra recipe that was supposed to introduce or bring farmers to be sustainable, as if they weren’t. If we told the story a bit differently, if we looked at for example the target on fertilizers saying instead, we want to improve soil health, both on the structure of soil, but also on the nutrients of soil, that could have been a different way of involving the farming community, into a positive, proactive message.” 

Lenzi added:19Farm to Fork Strategy – What are the policy instruments needed to reach the targets?,” [43:32]. Video uploaded by user EURACTIV, January 27, 2022. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

“When it comes to pesticides, which I like to call plant protection products, because that is what they are, they are instruments that farmers need in order to keep their crops and plants healthy.

“If we had talked about that also in terms of, how can we improve plant and crop health, and so this has a lot to do with farmer education, really putting farmers at the center of this process, in helping them in this transition. And to do that we most definitely need to close no doors.”

IEEP’s Baldock called out problems with the industry-sponsored studies, stating:20Farm to Fork Strategy – What are the policy instruments needed to reach the targets?,” [25:00]. Video uploaded by user EURACTIV, January 27, 2022. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. 

“It’s not that impact studies are irrelevant or useless, it’s just extremely difficult for them to capture the full range of change, so I don’t expect such doom and gloom sometimes people have assumed on the basis of some searchlights in the dark, rather than a holistic package.” 

January 27, 2022

AFCC published a joint statement from its members arguing that innovation had to be the “cornerstone” of achieving F2F’s objectives. The letter “calls on European policymakers to enable innovation as a driver of its Farm to Fork targets.”21Farm to Fork Strategy: how to reach the targets?,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, January 27, 2022. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/5PRDt

The statement outlined steps that the AFCC’s members were taking to address climate change. Grain association COCERAL stated that “safe crop protection solutions [pesticides] placed on the EU market, together with qualified advisory to farmers and growers, help meet the productivity goals under the Farm to Fork, thereby providing safe, affordable food for the EU population.” 

CropLife Europe called for “a regulatory framework that supports innovation in agriculture which will help deliver the European green and digital transformations. EU authorisation giving timely access to a variety of innovative crop protection solutions [pesticides] is the most important part of farmers’ ability to improve quality, market access and tradability of fresh produce.”

According to Fertilizers Europe, “the European fertilizer industry plays a vital role in ensuring a resilient European agriculture and in providing citizens with affordable and nutritious food. Increased nutrient use efficiency will be key to meet Europe’s ambitious goal of reducing nutrient losses while ensuring no deterioration of soil fertility.”22Farm to Fork Strategy: how to reach the targets?,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, January 27, 2022. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/5PRDt 

October 2021

The Agri-Food Chain Coalition released a joint statement with CropLife Europe and other agriculture trade groups entitled “Farm to Fork – it is time to listen to what the data says.”23Farm to Fork – it is time to listen to what the data says,” CropLife Europe, Press Release. Oct 12, 2021. Archived July 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archive URL: http://archive.today/4R4P3 The joint statement criticized the EU Farm to Fork Strategy’s targets to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use, increase organic farming, and expand the area of “non-productive land.” The statement called these policy goals “non-data based political targets,” and argued that “we must build solution-oriented policies, based on the data we have to hand, with innovation as their cornerstone.”

The joint statement was published on CropLife Europe’s website.24Farm to Fork – it is time to listen to what the data says,” CropLife Europe, Press Release. Oct 12, 2021. Archived July 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archive URL: http://archive.today/4R4P3 

The statement quoted several assessments of F2F’s impacts on the agriculture sector,  including reports or studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wageningen University and Research, the University of Kiel, the Joint Research Centre of the EU (JRC), and HFFA Research. A number of these impact assessments were funded by agribusiness companies and trade groups, including two commissioned from Wageningen by Copa-Cogeca and CropLife Europe.25Nina Holland and Rachel Tansey. “A loud lobby for a silent spring: the pesticide industry’s toxic lobbying tactics against Farm to Fork,” Corporate Europe Observatory, December 2021. Archived March 17, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

According to the joint statement, there would be “significant impacts, trade-offs and blind spots” if the European food sector pursues the F2F targets, such as “outsourcing European agricultural production, including its emissions to third countries,” or that Europe “could become a net food importer.” Citing the USDA study, the statement claimed that the F2F strategy “could lead to food insecurity for 22 million people.” Citing the other impact assessments, the document stated that the F2F’s potential impacts on trade, farmer’s incomes, and consumer prices would be “socially unjust.”26Farm to Fork – it is time to listen to what the data says,” CropLife Europe, Press Release. Oct 12, 2021. Archived July 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archive URL: http://archive.today/4R4P3 

The joint statement concluded with a call for a “comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment conducted by the European Commission [and] based on better data.”  

The studies cited in the joint statement have been widely contested, with academics27Jeroen Candel. “Framing van het onderzoek, ook in de kop, is daarmee hoogst ongelukkig. Onderzoekers erkennen weliswaar dat voordelen klimaat en biodiversiteit niet zijn meegenomen, maar daar is die hele strategie nu juist voor bedoeld.,” Tweet by @JeroenCandel, October 12, 2021. Retrieved from Twitter November 9, 2022. Archived .png on file at DeSmog. and NGOs28A loud lobby for a silent spring: The pesticide industry’s lobbying tactics against Farm to Fork.,” Corporate Europe Observatory, March 17, 2022. Archived July 26, 2022. Archive PDF: https://archive.ph/hpFb3 highlighting their limitations. For example, in October 2021, the European Commission stated:29Green Deal 2030 targets and agricultural production studies,” News Article, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, October 18, 2021. Archived July 22, 2022. Archive URL: http://archive.today/9MJmE 

“They are not able to assess the full impacts of the two strategies and predict the future. For instance, the future consumer behavioural changes, the impact of research and innovation or technological uptake in the agricultural sector have not, or partially, been taken into account.” 

According to the EU, the impact assessments cited by the AFCC and its partners did not fully account for potential benefits for the sector of the F2F targets, such as pollination from greater biodiversity, and “don’t look at the consequences when there is no action taken.”30Factsheet: Green Deal targets for 2030 and agricultural production studies,” European Commission, February 2022. Archived August 4, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Late 2021 

During this period of time, a number of influential agricultural trade groups put forward calls for additional impact studies of the EU’s Green Deal, including farmers’ association COPA-COGECA and Fertilizers Europe.31Eddy Wax. “MEPs vote on EU’s green food plan amid lobbying blitz,” Politico Europe, October 17, 2021. Archived August 4, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/6sAeB Campaigners said that such studies would not accurately account for the environmental benefits of these new policies, and criticized the food and agriculture sector for using demands for more impact studies as a tactic to “derail” the EU’s green reforms.32Nina Holland and Rachel Tansey. “A loud lobby for a silent spring: the pesticide industry’s toxic lobbying tactics against Farm to Fork,” Corporate Europe Observatory, December 2021. Archived March 17, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

June 2021

AFCC published a statement questioning whether the F2F strategy was “delivering on its promises to adequately support the food chain.”33AFCC underlines key messages regarding Innovation aspects that deliver on F2F goals,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, June 7, 2021. Archived June 23, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/pCCkD AFCC also wrote that “there is a lot of talk about innovation being the key to the sustainable transition delivered by the Farm to Fork strategy,” and asked whether there are “real mechanisms and legislative vehicles that concretely support innovation in the food chain.” 

AFCC spotlighted suggestions from its members for increased EU investment in agriculture, including “precision farming technologies and digital tools,” “biopesticides,” “specialty feed ingredients,” and “social innovation, which can help farmers bring new business models, new or improved products or ways of working.”34Agri-food chain sectors highlight innovations supporting more sustainable food systems amid call for EU framework enabling access to innovative tools and practices,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, June 14, 2021. Archived October 18, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

March 2020

AFCC Chair Jacob Hansen wrote to European Commision Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides regarding a consultation about the Farm to Fork Strategy. Hansen emphasized the importance of innovation for “achieving the targets set out in the [European] Green Deal.”35Subject: Consultation on Farm to Fork Strategy,” AFCC letter to Stella Kyriakides. March 13, 2020. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. The letter called on the commission to “adopt a balanced Farm to Fork strategy,” and outlined the AFCC’s stance on achieving a strategy that “benefit[s] the EU citizens and economy.” 

Hansen wrote that “the agriculture sector already contributes to 13 of the 17” United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but did not mention which ones or how the sector contributes.36Subject: Consultation on Farm to Fork Strategy,” AFCC letter to Stella Kyriakides. March 13, 2020. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. The letter emphasized how new technologies and innovations like satellites, digital farming, and big data were playing “a pivotal role in enabling the most efficient, sustainable and socially acceptable use of natural resources.” Hansen concluded by emphasizing the need to build an “EU legal framework to boost innovation and competitiveness of the agro-food sector.” 

Digital and precision agriculture use technologies like satellites and sensors to optimize the use of agricultural inputs like water, pesticides, and fertilizers. The potential for these approaches to reduce agriculture’s toll on the climate and biodiversity have been contested. Some within the precision agriculture industry itself have suggested that “many are overhyping the possibilities” that such technologies present.37Nathan Faleide, “Opinion: Reality vs. Hype in Precision Agriculture,” Global AgTech Initiative, July 6, 2017. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/M1tsp 

Some NGOs and scientists have argued that digital and precision practices are tailored towards input-intensive farming systems, which rely on significant quantities of agrochemicals like pesticides and fertilizers, and therefore risk maintaining the current pesticide-heavy status quo.38Agroecology vs. climate chaos: Farmers leading the battle in Asia,” GRAIN, March 10 2021. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/TJjrm Friends of the Earth argues, “Faced with global climate and biodiversity emergencies, better ‘optimization’ of existing production processes cannot possibly go far enough to meet the challenges we face.”39Mute Schimpf, “Digital Farming: Can digital farming really address the systemic causes of agriculture’s impact on the environment and society, or will it entrench them?” Friends of the Earth, February 2020. Archived November 9, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

2019

Prior to the publication of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, the AFCC released an updated position paper entitled “Food for Thought: Priorities for the EU Institutions 2019 – 2024.”40Food for Thought: Priorities for the EU institutions, 2019-2024,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2019. Archived April 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

The document called for measures in the F2F strategy for “combating climate change,” “achieving sustainable development goals,” and “providing access to innovation and smart farming.” Specific measures highlighted included: 

  • “Position research aimed to spur innovation in agri-food systems in the core of EU agricultural policy”
  • “Encourage and incentivise the further uptake of latest (bio)technology in European breeding and farming and promote precision and digital farming technologies”
  • “Build a strong and modern EU legal framework to boost innovation and competitiveness of the agri-food sector”

Promotion of “Innovation” and “Food Security”

AFCC has often supported its calls for increased investment in innovation by arguing that the EU must increase agricultural yields to ensure food security, particularly in light of climate change. 

In a 2019 update to its “Food for Thought” document, AFCC wrote that the world’s population was predicted to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, leading to concerns about food security. 

AFCC wrote:41Food for Thought: Priorities for the EU institutions, 2019-2024,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2019. Archived April 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

“Arable lands and pastures continue to decrease due to urban expansion and new infrastructure. More frequent extreme weather situations will become a major challenge for livestock and arable farming. Sufficient availability of quality food in the regions where a significant population growth is expected can only be achieved through the optimal use of resources and continuous investment in developing sustainable innovative technologies.”

In 2018, the AFCC published a paper titled “How innovation contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals.” The paper showcased initiatives undertaken by its members in response to the SDGs.42How innovation contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

In November 2018, AFCC held an event at the European Parliament “to look at the contribution of the agri-food chain to achieving the SDGs,” focusing on innovations in the sector.43Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals through innovation in the Agri-Food chain,” AFCC, Press Release, November 28, 2018. Archived July, 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. The event was hosted by MEP Eva Kaili. Speakers included Director General of CropLife Europe Jean-Philippe Azoulay (at that time known as the European Crop Protection Association), who was also the chair of AFCC at the time. Other speakers represented the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, plant breeding company KeyGene, the Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), and the European Agriculture Machinery Association (CEMA). 

During the event, CropLife Europe’s Azoulay said that “the key to [meeting the SDGs in agriculture] is a political and regulatory environment which encourages and stimulates innovation.”44Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals through innovation in the Agri-Food chain,” AFCC, Press Release, November 28, 2018. Archived July, 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

In November 2017, the AFCC held an event in Brussels titled, “Innovation is good news and crucial for resource efficiency in the European agri-food chain.”45Innovation is good news and crucial for resource efficiency in the European agri-food chain,” AFCC, Press Release. November 23, 2017. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. According to a press release about the event, AFCC “seize[ed] the opportunity…to highlight the importance of innovation in the agri-food sector. Innovation helps improve food security, drives resource efficiency and encourages sustainable agriculture.” 

MEP Czeslaw Adam Siekierski was said to have told attendees that “it is incumbent upon policymakers to create an environment where new technologies and innovation are embraced. Without these elements, European farmers will not be able to meet the global challenges of feeding a growing population while safeguarding natural resources.”46Innovation is good news and crucial for resource efficiency in the European agri-food chain,” AFCC, Press Release. November 23, 2017. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

Then AFCC chair Roxane Feller stated during the panel event: “We firmly believe that future jobs and competitiveness in the sector are dependent on our ability to do more with less.”47Innovation is good news and crucial for resource efficiency in the European agri-food chain,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, Press Release. Archived December 30, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

The organization has also held several events on innovation with MEPs.48Agri Food Chain Coalition panel debate at EXPO Milan,” The Parliament Magazine, June 18, 2015. Archived July 19, 2015. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/yojnK

Scientists and NGOs have questioned claims that increasing yields through innovation will ensure food security in the coming decades. 

Academics point out that while food production has increased year-on-year, the number of food-insecure people has also been rising. Wellesley and Benton write: “food security is an outcome not simply of sufficient production, but of the effective workings of a global system—farmers, supply chains, infrastructure, policies and finance—to ensure the fair and sustainable production and distribution of our food.”49Laura Wellesley and Tim G Benton, “Welcome to a new age of food insecurity,” The Prospect, June 16, 2022. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/PcssR 

In 2018, a study from Lancaster University found that global crop production was already sufficient to meet projected nutritional needs in 2050.50M. Berners-Lee, C. Kennelly, R. Watson, C. N. Hewitt, “Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation,” Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 2018. Archived July 28, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/pBNr6 However, the study also found that “very significant changes to the socio-economic conditions” would be required to achieve food security, including improved access to the world’s food supply and “radical changes to the dietary choices.” The study also noted: “If society continues on a ‘business-as-usual’ dietary trajectory, a 119% increase in edible crops grown will be required by 2050.” 

Scientists suggest that policy focus on greater food production is not addressing the problem of food security.51Laura Wellesley and Tim G Benton, “Welcome to a new age of food insecurity,” The Prospect, June 16, 2022. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/PcssR One study found that “the desire to raise productivity and yields has historically led to a degraded environment, reduced biodiversity and a reduction in ecosystem services, with the greatest impacts affecting the poor.”52G. M. Poppy, S. Chiotha, F. Eigenbrod, C. A. Harvey, M. Honzák, M. D. Hudson, A. Jarvis, N. J. Madise, K. Schreckenberg, C. M. Shackleton, F. Villa and T. P. Dawson. “Food security in a perfect storm: using the ecosystem services framework to increase understanding,” April 5, 2014. Archived October 7, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wDMTh

Calls for changes to regulatory approach on innovation

AFCC has long argued that “innovation,” including controversial technologies such as biotechnology and digital farming, is a better way to address environmental and climate concerns than reducing use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.53Innovation is good news and crucial for resource efficiency in the European agri-food chain,” AFCC, Press Release. November 23, 2017. Archived December 30, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 54Food for Thought: Priorities for the EU institutions, 2019-2024,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2019. Archived April 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

In 2019, demands in its Food for Thought position paper included “Ensur[ing] a science and evidence-based approach all along agri-food systems to guarantee food safety and drive innovation.”55Food for Thought: Priorities for the EU institutions, 2019-2024,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2019. Archived April 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

In 2022, it repeated the demand in its letter to Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Farm to Fork.56Subject: Consultation on Farm to Fork Strategy,” AFCC letter to Stella Kyriakides. March 13, 2020. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In 2017, during her appointment as Chair of AFCC, Roxane Feller called for “a change of mind-set to fully embed a pro-innovation attitude and consequent policy approach.”57New leadership and website for European Agri-Food Chain Coalition: Call for change of mind-set on innovation,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, January 10, 2017. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ATUlA 

Also in 2017, AFCC published a press release responding to comments made by then-EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis in support of innovation.58Agri-Food Chain Coalition: Responding to Commissioner’s call to promote science,” AFCC, press release. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. The AFCC underlined that “one of the principle objectives of [our organization] is to ensure that technology and product authorisation systems are science-based and innovation-friendly […] Our goal, when it comes to food, is to put science first and to communicate the sustainability benefits of innovation in the food chain.” 

The press release expressed concern that Europe has a “waning global position” regarding “the use of modern technology in plant or animal breeding” and suggested this could have effects on “Europe’s productivity and global competitiveness.”59Agri-Food Chain Coalition: Responding to Commissioner’s call to promote science,” AFCC, press release. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Controversial technologies

Scientists and NGOs have contested claims that the “innovations” promoted by AFCC and other members of the agribusiness sector can provide solutions to food security and climate change. 

AFCC advocates for the use of “biotechnology” and “smart farming” in its “Food for Thought” position paper.60Food for Thought: Priorities for the EU institutions, 2019-2024,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition, 2019. Archived April 19, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “climate-smart agriculture,” also known as “smart farming,” involves the use of methods and technologies to increase the efficiency of farming practices, lowering emissions and improving climate resilience.61Solomon Asfaw. “A1 Introducing Climate-Smart Agriculture,” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Archived November 9, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

According to the World Bank, climate-smart farming includes techniques like precision agriculture, which employs high-technology sensors and analytical tools to produce more targeted use of water, pesticides, and fertilizers.62CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE,” the World Bank. Archived December 18, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/IyLn5 Proponents say63CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE,” the World Bank. Archived December 18, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/IyLn5 that climate-smart farming can achieve increased productivity and resilience of crops while reducing emissions, but critics argue that “climate-smart farming” and its associated technologies could in fact maintain – or even increase – the food system’s dependence on fossil-fuel based agricultural products.64Sharon Kelly and Frances Rankin. “Investigation: How Pesticide Companies Are Marketing Themselves as a Solution to Climate Change,” DeSmog, November 18, 2020.

Agricultural think tank GRAIN argues that climate-smart agriculture is “just a rebranding and a continuation of industrial Green Revolution practices” which have contributed to climate change, and that many climate-smart approaches are suited to “large-scale mono-cropping, hi-tech investment and a chemical input system, which require big capital and centralised control.”65Agroecology vs. climate chaos: Farmers leading the battle in Asia,” GRAIN, March 10, 2021. Archived November 9, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/TJjrm 

Current agricultural practices, including input-intensive farming, are “a key driver of climate change” and “the primary driver of biodiversity loss,” according to a 2021 report published by Chatham House, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Compassion in World Farming.66Tim G. Benton, Carling Bieg, Helen Harwatt, Roshan Pudasaini and Laura Wellesley, “Food system impacts on biodiversity loss – Three levers for food system transformation in support of nature,” Chatham House, February 2021. Archived August 2, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

The use of biotechnology – including practices such as gene editing and genetic modification, which may make organisms more resistant to certain environmental conditions, including pests, chemicals, diseases and weather – is also debated.67Nicholas G. Karavolias, Wilson Horner, Modesta N. Abugu, and Sarah N. Evanega. “Application of Gene Editing for Climate Change in Agriculture,” Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, September 7, 2021. Archived November 4, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/kZlE6 

Some studies show that the adoption of genetic modifications to make crops more insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant has reduced farmers’ need to spray pesticides, thereby decreasing the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops.68Graham Brookes and Simon Barfoot. “Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996-2016: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions,” GM Crops & Food, Archived April 16, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

However, other studies suggest that weeds become more resistant, leading farmers to use additional chemicals, in larger quantities.69Caroline Newman. “Largest-Ever Study Reveals Environmental Impact of Genetically Modified Crops,” UVATODAY, September 14, 2016. Archived October 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/BAPXC

Funding

The Agri-Food Chain Coalition does not provide information about its funding on its website. As of June 23, 2022, AFCC was not listed in the EU transparency register.

Lobbying

As of June 23, 2022, AFCC was not listed in the EU transparency register. However, its members are listed, and collectively spent between 6,650,000 and 7,949,988 euros on EU lobbying in the last calendar year for which they provided information:

Key People

The current chair of the Agri-food Chain Coalition is Jacob Hansen, Director General of Fertilizers Europe. Hansen was appointed on February 20, 2019.82New leadership for the European Agri-Food Chain Coalition,” AFCC, Press Release. February 20, 2019. Archived July 20, 2022. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Former chairs of the AFCC include:

Affiliations

The Agri-Food Chain Coalition lists its members as:92Members,” Agri-Food Chain Coalition. Archived August 13, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/9RvTP 

  • AnimalHealthEurope
  • CEMA – European Agricultural Machinery Association
  • COCERAL  – Trade association of companies that produce cereals, oilseeds, pulses, olive oil, oils and fats, animal feed, and agricultural supplies
  • COPA-COGECA – Trade association representing farmers and farmer cooperatives
  • CropLife Europe (formerly the European Crop Protection Association)
  • EFFAB – European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders
  • EuropaBio  – European Association for Bioindustries
  • Euroseeds 
  • FEFAC – European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation
  • FEFANA – European Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures 

Resources

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