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Food and Agriculture

08.02.2018 - Article

Policy areas: 

  • Food and nutrition
  • Agriculture: Common Agricultural Policy and rural development
  • Consumer  health protection and food safety
  • Fishing
  • Forestry
  • Bio-based economy, sustainable agriculture and forestry
  • Animal health and welfare (AHAW):

Brief information on selected policy areas:

Food and nutrition

Over 500 million people in the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU) benefit from a diverse range of foods, uniform quality standards, protected designations of origin, and the extensive information that manufacturers are required to provide. 

All pertinent legal acts of the EU deal with the production and marketing of feed and food, and also encompass fields outside food production that are relevant to consumers. Hygiene, animal welfare, animal health and official controls on the compliance with legal requirements are essential issues in respect of the production of high-quality food. 

Common Agricultural Policy Agriculture and rural development

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been one of the most important fields of European policy since the process of European integration began. The CAP has been repeatedly adjusted to take account of changes in living conditions in Europe. Globalisation, climate change and the strengthening of rural areas will be key elements of the future CAP profile. Agriculture is a field that is subject to the conflicting interests of social and ecological responsibility and economic necessity for sustainable entrepreneurial activity.

The classic market price support for farm produce is almost a thing of the past. Agriculture is now market-orientated. Today, farmers receive direct payments that are tied to requirements in areas such as food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection.

In addition to the support provided to farmers through direct payments under the first pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy, the second main objective of the CAP is to provide attractive prospects for the rural population. The priorities of rural development support are long-term strategic goals: making the agricultural sector highly competitive, providing for the secure sustainable management of natural resources and bolstering economic strength in rural regions.

The focus, on the one hand, is on the agricultural sector taking voluntary agri-environment-climate measures. A second important area is strengthening agricultural enterprises via investment in agriculture and also in tourism, countryside stewardship and farm shops. The third area supports economic development in rural areas and local village-development projects in order to make rural areas attractive and viable and provide villages with good prospects. The fourth area is related to the LEADER strategy and involves drawing up and implementing regional development strategies with broad civic involvement. 

Consumer health protection and food safety

Good health is a precious asset for each and everybody. Consumers must be able to trust that the goods they consume or use are safe and do not pose a risk to their health.

To ensure a high level of consumer protection in the EU, European legislation and the fundamental safety requirements for products are constantly developed. For food and feed, cosmetics and other contact materials, an independent system of general and specific laws and regulations ensures that consumers are protected against health risks. 

Fisheries policy

Fish stocks and fisheries require healthy marine ecosystems. At European level, the Common Fisheries Policy opted to move towards sustainable fisheries some years ago. Sustainability in fisheries includes management and stock recovery plans for a large number of fish species and measures to fight illegal fishing. The comprehensive realignment of the EU Common Fisheries Policy continues resolutely in this direction. The step-by-step introduction of discard bans is a further major development. 

Forestry policy

The management, conservation and sustainable development of forests involves a number of different European policy areas, in particular support for rural development under CAP, environmental policy, trade policy, research policy, industrial policy, and also cooperation with developing countries. 

Bio-based economy, sustainable agriculture and forestry

In the European Union, renewable resources are playing an essential role in the structural change from an industry based on mineral oil to a bio-based industry, with opportunities for growth, innovations and employment. The agricultural and forestry sectors are increasingly serving as sources not only of nutrition for humans and animals, but also of raw materials for a sustainable, bio-based economy and industry. 

Animal health and welfare

Animal breeding and animal husbandry are important pillars of agriculture in the EU. Animal health is key to the welfare and productivity of the animals. Safe animal feed, responsible use of veterinary medicines and the effective prevention and control of animal diseases help to achieve this objective. Trade in animals, parts of animals and animal products is growing, both within the EU and with third countries. As animal-disease pathogens can be spread via animals and animal products, the importance of having an effective system of preventing animal diseases is growing at both EU and international level.

In recent years, public attention has focused increasingly on animal welfare interests. In the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009, reference was made to the fact that animals are sentient beings. In Germany, animal welfare is included as a constitutional goal in the Basic Law. The EU and its Member States must therefore also take account of the well-being of animals in all political measures in agriculture, fisheries, transport and Research.


Jürgen Weis

Head of Division for Fundamental Issues regarding the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fisheries Policy and Food and Nutrition Policy

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