Labelling and promoting a socio-economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture (Executive summary)

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This policy is intended to allow the development of socio-economic & environmentally sustainable agricultural systems. This will allow the present generation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Labelling could be one effective means of communication providing assurance on the sustainability of quality, safety and reliability of the product. Implementation will ensure respect for natural resources, enhance social and human capital and be economically viable.

We recognise five principles that describe environmental sustainability:

1. Minimise the impact on climate change
2. Respect the integrity of environmental media
3. Conserve biological diversity
4. Ensure access to sufficient natural resources for this and future generations
5. Optimise land use

The following six principles define social sustainability:

1. Respect human rights
2. Respect workers' rights
3. Respect property rights
4. Maintain human capital in the labour force
5. Secure access rights for producers to the means of production
6. Treat animals well

Economic sustainability is defined as follows:

1. Farmers should be rewarded for the positive externalities of sustainable agriculture
2. Profitability of the farm
3. Farmers that pursue sustainable agriculture should be insured against the inherent risks

The labelling of such a sustainable agriculture should cover the whole food processing chain: farming, food processing and packaging. It should be consistent with existing schemes and be completed by promotion actions.

Sustainable Agriculture is much more than environmental protection and adherence to the principles. It is not just cross compliance with existing directives and initiatives. It is an overarching policy that can encompass and harmonise many of the current initiatives. Many existing labelling practices already have elements of sustainability but this policy is to be both comprehensive yet implementable through measurable indicators. Although the primary impact will be agricultural production it is also intended to encompass rural development, food processing and packaging.

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Comment the Proposal - Add your ideas of concrete sustainability criteria

Listen to the audio recording of our conference on the issue with Jan Mulder (MEP) and Michael Mann (spokesman of the European Commission, Agriculture) - Dowload the report of the conference

This document is the output of the common work of a group of 19 European professionals, gathered in Erfurt (Germany) from 28th to 31st March 2009, comprised of:

  • Anja Ĺkerlund
  • Jean-Marc Bęche
  • Giulio Benvenuti
  • Aukje Berden
  • Thorsten Breitschuh
  • Teresa Cavero
  • Frans Egberts
  • Helena Elmquist
  • Wilhelm Flatz
  • Norman Kelly
  • Lawrence King
  • Igor Matecny
  • Sorin Mierlea
  • Richard Perkins
  • Alberto Ribeiro de Almeida
  • Virgilijus Skulskis
  • Marta Stauder
  • Luigi Tozzi
  • and one anonymous participant.

The group members originate from 14 different European Union Member States (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom). They have an extensive experience in the issues of agriculture sustainability and labelling, gained at top and middle management level in the direct operation of farms, in the fertiliser and crop protection industries, farmers' unions and cooperatives (both generalist and specific to protected indications of origin), the food processing industry (both SMEs and multinationals), agricultural consultancies, certification bodies, agrarian economics academic research institutes, national government, environmental protection, international solidarity and consumers' associations.

The participants are signing the text in their capacity as citizens. The text does not represent the official position of the organisations that employ them.