A view from the European Parliament (vol.2)
While Brexit continues to dominate the political landscape, agri-food issues remain high on the European Parliament’s agenda. We have seen progress on a number of key files in recent months, in particular in the areas of the circular economy and food waste, food contact materials, country of origin labelling, and the Emissions Trading System as well as a provisional agreement on the long-awaited revision of the EU rules on official food and feed controls.
The development of a more holistic Circular Economy which focusses on the reduction, re-use and recycling of waste continues to be high on the European Parliament’s agenda further to the European Commission’s action plan which was published in December 2015. MEP Simona Bonafè has been tasked with developing the proposals on waste reduction, on behalf of the Environment and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee, which has a particular focus on packaging waste and the reduction of food waste. The draft reports propose to set targets for reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 and to increase the re-use and recycling of packaging waste to 80% by 2030. MEPs have submitted their amendments to the reports and will discuss their proposals in committee when they return after the summer recess.
ENVI committee MEPs adopted an own-initiative draft report by Christel Schaldemose on Food Contact Materials in its meeting before the summer break. In the report, MEPs called for EU measures on paper and board, varnishes and coatings, metals and alloys, and printing inks and adhesives. The report supports a possible ban on mineral oils in inks, aimed at preventing their migration into food from packaging. While the report recognises the effectiveness of the Circular Economy, it notes that there is a limit to the number of times that recycled paper and board products may be reused. The report will now be put to a vote by the entire House during the October Plenary session. Although non-legislative, the report forms the basis of the key areas on which MEPs will seek action from the European Commission.
Citing consumer interest, MEPs approved non-binding recommendations calling on the European Commission to introduce rules for mandatory country of origin labelling for various food categories, including meat, milk, single-ingredient goods and ingredients making up over 50% of a food. European food and drink manufacturers are already providing the origin of their products and their ingredients on a voluntary basis, led by market demand (including consumers' willingness to pay) and where this is feasible from an operational point of view. Mandatory country of origin labelling would have a negative impact on the competitiveness of European companies and would promote the re-nationalisation and reduced efficiency of supply across the EU. The Commission remains reluctant to introduce such legislation citing the increased costs for both industry and consumers.
The revision of the Emissions Trading System hit a slight roadblock when the rapporteur Ian Duncan, a British Conservative, tendered his resignation on the file further to the UK’s vote to leave the EU last month. However, by the popular demand of his colleagues, Mr Duncan was recently persuaded to continue in his role as rapporteur. With 670 amendments tabled to the draft report, the file was due to be concluded in the second half of 2017 under the UK Presidency of the Council. The fact that the UK is now unlikely to hold the EU Presidency in 2017 means that it is likely that the file may be delayed even further.
Looking ahead, we see that Brexit negotiations will continue to cause headaches for Europe’s policy-makers which is likely to have a subsequent knock-on effect for industry. Health and nutrition will be a priority for the Slovak Presidency as will the role of farmers in the food supply chain. Trade agreements with the US and Canada will remain high on the political agenda and we expect to see the Parliament formally adopt the proposals to revise the EU rules on official food and feed controls in January 2017.