Press Statement by Commissioner Kyriakides following the AGRIFISH Council.

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • Today’s meeting has allowed us to have an important political discussion on files which are crucial for our common goal: the promotion of a sustainable model for our food production system.
  • A sustainable food system is the only model that is viable for the future. It is the only model that allows us to preserve our planet, ensure long term food security, and provide healthy food for our citizens.
  • Firstly, on our contribution to global sustainability. As Janusz has underlined already, we had a first discussion today at political level on the application of health and environmental standards to imported agri-food products.
  • As you know, this report was eagerly awaited by the French presidency of the Council, and today we held an important and awaited exchange on this topic.
  • This report shows very clearly that, as the third-largest importer of food in the world, the EU has a key role to play in the development of more resilient and sustainable food systems.
  • We need to promote our high-level standards also on a global stage.
  • There are several areas of action where we can play a key role to promote our standards: multilateral fora; bilateral cooperation and trade agreements, and autonomous EU measures.
  • We know for example that our citizens want the EU to do more to take into account deforestation or animal welfare for our food standards.
  • The report confirms that this is already on-going, and that more could be done, in line with WTO compliance of course.
  • Secondly, sustainable food systems are dependent on our natural resources and on us protecting our biodiversity. Business as usual is not an option, we need to urgently ensure this crucial transition.
  • A key element to do so is to reduce the effects of pesticides on our air, water and wider environment. We will soon be presenting new EU rules to change the course on the use of pesticides, as part of our commitments under the Farm to Fork Strategy.
  • I have taken note of the concerns raised today by some Member States, and underlined that our proposal will not be about banning the use of pesticides.
  • It is about making sure we make every effort to avoid their use in situations where they are not necessary, especially where there are other alternatives. In other words, we need to stop the overuse of pesticides.
  • To achieve this, we need to have measurable targets, towards which we all contribute. This is the path we need to take if we are to ensure sustainability.
  • Sustainability is key in ensuring the future health of EU agriculture and whether we like it or not we have to act now to address the long-term challenges we are facing due to climate change and loss of biodiversity.
  • Let me be clear, the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action. Food security will be severely at risk. Our citizens health will be at risk..
  • I do not think anyone would like to see this happen. Our citizens definitely don’t.
  • Thirdly, we cannot have a sustainable food production system without healthy animals.
  • This is why I had requested that we have a discussion on African Swine Fever with the ministers today. It is imperative that we act faster and more efficiently, at EU level, to tackle this major threat to our pigs and pork sector.
  • In 2021 almost 800 000 pigs died or were culled because of ASF. And the EU is not done yet with the disease, far from it, with new cases being reported. As for any outbreak: time is of essence.
  • Today, I called on all ministers to step up their awareness campaigns, to supportthe development and trials for a safe and effective vaccine.
  • Medical countermeasures are also key to tackling viruses affecting our animals.
  • With the Czech Presidency, we will organize a ministerial conference on this topic in September to which we will invite both agriculture and environment ministers, to discuss concrete ways forward.
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