Food and Agriculture

straw bales

25.02.2019, Niedersachsen, Hannover: straw balesJulian Stratenschulte/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++, © dpa

04.01.2023 - Article

The Food and Agriculture Unit covers the following policy areas:

- Food and Nutrition

- Agriculture: Common Agricultural Policy and Rural Development

- Consumer Health Protection and Food Safety

- Fisheries

- Forest policy and management

- Animal health and welfare

- Plant health and plant protection

Brief information on individual policy areas:

Food and Nutrition

More than 450 million citizens in 27 member states of the European Union (EU) benefit from a diverse range of food products, uniform quality standards, protected indications of origin and designations of origin as well as extensive information obligations of manufacturer. There are currently around ten million farms in the EU, with around 22 million people working on them on a regular basis. The EU supplies the European market with diverse and high-quality products and is a leading producer and net exporter of agricultural and food products worldwide. Thus, it has an important role for global food security.

All EU legislation consistently addresses the production and marketing of food and feed and also covers consumer-relevant areas outside food production. Issues of hygiene, animal welfare, animal health and regulatory control for compliance with legal requirements are essential for sustainably produced, safe and high-quality food.

With its holistic nutrition policy, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) supports consumers in adopting a healthy and sustainable organic diet. There is an urgent need for better framework conditions that facilitate healthy and resource-conserving nutrition. To this end, the BMEL is also developing a nutrition strategy. In addition, food waste is to be reduced.

Further information:




Common Agricultural Policy: Agriculture and Rural Development

Since the beginning of European unification, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been one of the most important areas of European policy. Agriculture is caught between the conflicting demands of social and ecological responsibility and the economic necessities of sustainable action.

In general, agriculture follows markets and social requirements. Classical support for agricultural prices is drawing to a close. Instead, farmers receive direct payments that are tied to conditions - such as environmental protection and climate change mitigation and the protection of human and plant health as well as animal welfare.

In the first pillar of the CAP (direct payments), which is designed by the federal government, specific ecological support elements have been laid down in addition to „basic income support“ for farmers from 2023 - the so-called eco-schemes. Emphasis is placed on support for small and medium-sized farms and young farmers. Furthermore, the first pillar also provides financial support for the sectoral programs fruit and vegetables, apiculture products, and wine and hops.

In the second pillar, which is designed by the federal states, area-related environmental and climate measures are supported: These include organic farming, the economic development of farms and other businesses in rural areas, and infrastructure measures. In Germany, about half of the funding serves the goal of a sustainable use of natural resources.

As part of their national strategic plans, member states must outline from 2023 how they will use CAP instruments to achieve the specific goals of the European Green Deal, particularly with regard to the farm-to-fork strategy and the biodiversity strategy.

In addition, the EU aims to focus more on the structures and interests of rural areas, for example within the framework of the EU Future Conference and the EU Rural Pact.

Further information on the CAP in general: https://www.bmel.de/EN/topics/farming/eu-agricultural-policy-and-support/CAP-main-features-implemantation-germany.html

Further information on the National Strategic Plan under the CAP: https://www.bmel.de/DE/themen/landwirtschaft/eu-agrarpolitik-und-foerderung/gap/gap-strategieplan.html

Brief overview of CAP strategic plan: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/_Landwirtschaft/EU-Agrarpolitik-Foerderung/gap-strategieplan-kurzueberblick.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=4

More information on agriculture, climate change mitigation and climate resilience:


Consumer health protection and food safety

Health is a highly individual good. Consumers must be able to trust that what they ingest or otherwise consume is safe and harmless for their health.

To ensure a high level of consumer protection in the EU, the basic safety requirements for products and European law are continuously being developed. For food and feed, food packaging and food contact materials, the protection of consumers from health hazards is ensured in an independent system of general and specific legislation.

The legal framework for food safety in the EU is one of the strictest and most comprehensive in the world. It also includes aspects of animal health, animal welfare and plant protection as well as food hygiene. There is a need to ensure that food is traceable throughout the food chain, from the farm where the food is grown to the table where consumers consume it. The Farm-to-Fork strategy takes this approach and underpins it with ongoing and new legislation, including on food labeling in the EU.

For the preparation and revision of European food safety and hygiene legislation, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) provides relevant scientific information and advice on existing and emerging risks along the food chain.

Further information on food safety:


Further information on food hygiene: https://www.bmel.de/EN/topics/consumer-protection/food-hygiene-safety/food-hygiene-safety_node.html

Further information on food labeling: https://www.bmel.de/EN/topics/food-and-nutrition/food-labelling/food-labelling_node.html

More information on preventing food waste:


Fisheries policy

Fish stocks and fisheries need healthy marine ecosystems. At the European level, the path to sustainable fisheries was consistently embarked upon several years ago with a comprehensive reorientation of the Common Fisheries Policy. A key component of the reform was the gradual introduction of discard bans and landing obligations, fully into force since January 2019.

The main fisheries policy measure to ensure sustainable stock management is the annual setting of total allowable catches (TAC) for individual fish stocks by the Fisheries Ministers of the EU Member States. In addition, there are regulations on fishing nets and the number of days vessels may spend at sea. The decisions are based on scientific recommendations from advisory bodies and fisheries biological studies. Today, multiannual plans in the North and Baltic Seas ensure that maximum sustainable yield is guaranteed when setting annual TAC in order to keep the status of the stocks healthy or help them to regenerate.

This is complemented by improved control mechanisms and effective measures to combat illegal fishing.

Further information on fisheries policy:


As a member of the EU, Germany also advocates sustainable resource management in international and regional organizations.

Further information on marine conservation:


Forest policy and management

Forests are essential to our health and well-being and to the health of our planet. They are rich in biodiversity and play an important role in combating climate change. Forests are an important „employer“ for numerous occupations and many people, especially in rural areas. Sustainable forestry produces the valuable and versatile raw material wood. In Germany, forests account for around 32 percent of the total land area, making Germany one of the most densely forested countries in the EU.

Building on the Green Deal, the EU is working on numerous strategies, directives, guidelines and other projects that can have a significant impact on national forest policy and forest management, although the competencies for forest policy lie with the member states. The Permanent Representation supports the German government in representing its interests vis-à-vis the EU Commission.

For more information on national, European and international forest policy, see: https://www.bmel.de/EN/topics/forests/forests-in-germany/forests-in-germany_node.html



Animal health and welfare

Animal breeding, animal health and animal husbandry are important pillars of EU agriculture. Animal health is essential for animal welfare and performance. Effective prevention and control of animal diseases and the responsible use of veterinary medicines contribute to this. Trade in animals, parts of animals or products thereof is steadily increasing within the EU and with third countries. As animal diseases and zoonotic agents can be spread with the animals and their products, the effective prevention of animal diseases and keeping farm animals healthy, i.e. the application of measures for a high level of biosecurity, is of very great importance at EU and international level.

In the new EU animal health legislation, which has been in application since April 21, 2021, the responsibility of business operators (livestock keepers) is strengthened and biosecurity measures are given central importance. This concerns monitoring, prevention, control, eradication and notification of animal diseases, as well as identification and registration. Also included are legal regulations on imports and movements within the EU, as well as contingency plans in the event of an outbreak of animal diseases.

Another point concerns the development of vaccination strategies, such as for avian influenza (highly pathogenic influenza).

Further information on animal health can be found at: https://www.bmel.de/EN/topics/animals/animal-health/animal-health_node.html

European legislation on animal welfare is also to be revised as part of the Farm-to-Fork strategy. Existing regulations are to be revised and regulatory gaps closed in order to ensure a high standard of animal welfare throughout the EU for the keeping, transport and slaughter of farm animals and for the commercial handling of other animals such as dogs and cats.

This area also includes EU animal breeding legislation. It regulates requirements for recognition of breeding associations and breeding companies, their breeding programs, animal breeding certificates, etc. It also makes special provisions for rare breeds of livestock. As part of the Farm-to-Fork strategy, the EU Commission has announced that it will examine options and might submit proposals for EU-wide regulations on animal welfare labeling.

The BMEL is working on mandatory animal welfare labeling for food of animal origin from Germany. With this animal husbandry labeling, the husbandry system in which the animal was kept will be recognizable to consumers. In a first step, fresh unprocessed meat from pigs will be labeled. Regulations for other animal species and products are to follow. Food from other EU member states and third countries can be labeled voluntarily.


Further information on animal welfare at:


Plant health and plant protection

Plant production in the EU and Germany is diverse: from arable farming to horticulture and fruit growing to the cultivation of wine or hops. In all areas, competitive agriculture depends on high and reliable yields. Successful plant breeding, fertilization and plant protection, inter alia, against the introduction and spread of dangerous harmful organisms are decisive factors here.

Plant protection involves a variety of measures and activities to prevent or mitigate damage to crops and ensure efficient and sustainable food production. For the vast majority of crops and fruit types, this involves plant protection measures up to and including the use of plant protection products. In line with the Farm-to-Fork strategy, the German government agreed in its coalition agreement to significantly reduce the use of pesticides and promote the development of nature-friendly and environmentally compatible alternatives. Accordingly, at EU level, Directive 2009/128/EC on compliance with the general principles of integrated plant protection is to be replaced by a regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products. This currently discussed draft for this new regulation provides, among other things, for a 50 percent reduction in the use of plant protection products.

In the area of plant health, the focus is on protection against the introduction and spread of dangerous quarantine harmful organisms of the plants. These pose a particular risk to plants and the cultivated landscape and can cause considerable damage. In view of the increasing internationalization of trade, the consequences of the climate crisis and global tourism, effective prevention against these dangerous plant diseases and pests is of increasing importance at EU and international level.

The relevant phytosanitary rules on measures to protect against plant pests are laid down uniformly in the EU in a regulation and in numerous implementing acts. These concern prevention, phytosanitary control at the time of import of plants and plant products, monitoring of the occurrence of quarantine pests, and measures to prevent their spread and eradicate them. Phytosanitary documents (phytosanitary certificates, plant passports) and registration of persons importing, transferring or exporting plants are regulated uniformly throughout the EU. Contingency plans are to be drawn up in the event of the occurrence of priority quarantine pests in the member states. Maintaining plant health in terms of a precautionary plant health system and crisis management are of high importance for sustainable production and safeguarding of plant resources in view of the climate crisis.

For more information, visit:


The unit is headed by Esther Winterhoff.

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