In May 2020, the European Commission presented the “Farm to Fork Strategy” as well as the EU Biodiversity Strategy to achieve a more climate-friendly agricultural and food system as well as more biodiversity. The Austrian Chamber of Labour welcomes the path taken; however, measures should be socially fair and in accordance with workers’ and consumers’ demands.
The Austrian Chamber of Labour welcomes the ”Farm to Fork Strategy” and the EU Biodiversity Strategy; however, there is room for improvement. This is above all required in connection with the payout of EU funds to agriculture within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): the targets of both strategies must also be pursued by the CAP, with regard to more distributional justice concerning the allocation of subsidies, improved working conditions for harvest workers and higher environmental requirements as a condition for support measures.
Improving working conditions
For AK it is beyond dispute that the basis for sustainable food is a sustainable agricultural and food production. This also includes the comprehensive guarantee of social rights for all workers in the agricultural, food and forestry sector. In particular the Covid-crisis has shown the poor working and housing conditions under which many (seasonal) workers in these sectors suffer and the extent to which occupational health and safety has to be improved. Hence, with regard to investments as a contribution to reviving the economy, it has to be ensured that representations of workers’ interests are being comprehensively integrated.
Good and clearly understandable labelling systems
To ensure that consumers are able to make conscious decisions, they need clear and understandable information as well as good labelling systems. The improved labelling of food is welcome in principle; however, indications of source do not equal quality references. What is needed, is additional information on the sustainability of production and processing as well as higher standards for a healthy and sustainable food system with reliable minimum requirements for all products available on the market.
High safety and sustainability standards in trade agreements
The EU Commission’s intention to scrutinize the effects of trade agreements on biodiversity and to tighten the relevant provisions if required is to be welcomed. However, appropriate impact assessments have to start prior to negotiations; they have to be updated on a regular basis and not – as was the case with the EU-Mercosur Agreement – be presented only after the negotiations were complete. The AK has been criticising the toothlessness of “binding obligations” – such as adhering to the Paris Climate Agreement – without appropriate sanction mechanism within the scope of trade agreements – for many years. It is high time that the EU uses its influence within the scope of its international trade policy and supports the partner countries in a fair transition towards a more ecological way of doing business.