Science communication


Farm to Fork strategy has welcome tools for closing the nutrient loops

Today the European Commission published the Farm to Fork strategy, F2F, stating key areas for the EU to work with in order to increase food security and public health and to promote sustainable production systems. The strategy is part of the new Commission’s aim to set long term goals for important policy areas and should be seen in the light of the new Green Deal.

Text: Gun Rudquist

The strategy stresses that the pace and change of the food system towards sustainability is not good enough even if progress has been made. From the Baltic Sea perspective an example of good progress is the reduction of water borne nutrient input to the sea both from waste water treatment and the agricultural system. But more must be done. Therefore, the strategy’s commitment to reducing the excess of nutrients is very welcome. F2F sets targets for reducing nutrient losses by at least 50% to 2030 and reducing the use of nutrients by 20 %. This will be achieved by implementing and enforcing the relevant environmental and climate legislation in full, by identifying with Member States the nutrient load reductions needed to achieve these goals, applying balanced fertilisation and sustainable nutrient management and by managing nitrogen and phosphorus better throughout their lifecycle. An integrated nutrient management action plan will be a key tool along with better on farm practices for handling fertilisers. 

These are all very welcome and necessary actions to combat eutrophication. The strategy would have been even stronger if more emphasis would have been put on the problem with high livestock densities in certain regions. The linkage between high livestock densities and increased risk of nutrient losses is well known. 

F2F strategy also aims at reducing the dependence on imported protein feed. This is important also from a nutrient perspective since imported feed and fertilisers hamper the possibility to close the nutrient loops. Closing the loop – in line with the principals of Circular Economy – is a necessity for combating eutrophication and enhancing the resource efficiency of agriculture. The suggested nutrient management action plan can be a key tool if criteria for balanced nutrient use is included. A demand on agriculture to have nutrient balances at farm and field level would be a simple first step.

The strategy includes fishing and aquaculture, which is a welcome recognition of the importance of the aquatic resources for food security. The strategy states that EU guidelines for sustainable aquaculture will be adopted and support directed to this sector. 

The strategy’s actual actions are listed in the Annex. Unfortunately, no hard-core actions on marine issues are included. Let’s hope that the European Parliament and/or the Council of Ministers can change this.