What Is The Farm To Fork Strategy?

by Villi Ieremia

The Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy is a European Union (EU) initiative promoting the transition of food systems towards climate neutrality, resilience against crisis, and justice [1]. This article examines F2F and presents regenerative agriculture as an exemplar of F2F in practice. Implementation difficulties and concerns are also discussed, including conceptual and legal loopholes, as well as coordination and policy acceptance challenges.

F2F sets out a plan of action for EU Member States to shift towards sustainable food systems. It recognises the need to reduce environmental externalities, the indirect negative effects, considering that agriculture accounted for 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2017 [2]. F2F’s foundations lie on a consideration for the planet, people, and prosperity. Firstly, F2F promotes environmentally sound agricultural practices, such as chemical-free and organic agriculture [1]. F2F denotes a shift away from GHG emissions while advocating for animal welfare and biodiversity restoration. Secondly, F2F is designed with people in mind, by supporting a just transition for producers that places fairness at its core, without leaving anyone behind [1]. Within F2F, food systems equate sustainability with affordability for consumers without compromising food quality. Thirdly, it attempts to tackle food waste and increasing obesity rates by advocating healthy diets [1]. Given that consumers’ preferences shift towards sustainable choices, F2F is also seen as an untapped economic opportunity for the continent’s prosperity, aspiring to set the standard for other nations and encourage policy diffusion globally [1]. F2F sets out quantifiable targets for 2030 that include a 50% reduction in pesticide use, a 20% in fertiliser use, a 25% share of organic farming, and a 50% reduction in antimicrobials purchases [3,4].

In practice, F2F is implemented using a variety of environmentally considerate agricultural practices that aim to achieve neutral or positive environmental outcomes. F2F is embedded within the European Green Deal which strives towards EU climate neutrality by 2050 [1,5]. For instance, by shifting away from agrochemical inputs, F2F encourages the adoption of natural fertilisation and pest management practices that do less environmental harm as opposed to resorting to chemicals [1]. Further, F2F advocates comprehensive soil management practices, bringing soil composition to a balance by tackling soil erosion, degradation, and nutrient pollution [1]. This can be realised with regenerative agriculture, which tackles soil-related challenges by employing intercropping, livestock production and zero tillage farming, among other practices [2,6]. Further, regenerative agriculture promotes the absorption and storage of carbon from the atmosphere into soil. This improves the soil’s water-retention capacity and fertility while simultaneously achieving carbon sequestration, improved soil health and biodiversity restoration [6]. In fact, farms employing regenerative agriculture practices may result in triple the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil [7].

F2F has suffered from scepticism and criticism despite its progressive approach. Scholars pinpoint that F2F’s definition of sustainable food systems remains fuzzy and conceptually ambiguous while an overreliance on meat and dairy products remains little acknowledged [3,8]. Undeniably, Europe’s protein transition from a meat-based to a plant-based diet requires addressing [5]. Moreover, legal loopholes prevent enforceable action as F2F is not legally binding; yet, important steps are underway, including the advancement of F2F at the European Parliament for debate and vote [3,9,10]. Additionally, calls to increase policy coherence between the F2F and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) point to the inconsistencies between the two policy tools [3]. EU research shows that F2F targets are achievable; yet, they can be exceeded if Member States fulfill their national CAP strategic plans [4]. National coordination is therefore a key challenge that will determine the strategy’s implementation success [3]. Stakeholder groups have also highlighted F2F’s strategic and operational gaps. In particular, farming bodies are critical of F2F’s unrealistic targets for farmers and its lack of pragmatic support, while agricultural lobbyists have attempted to repress its significance [9,10]. 

F2F aims to transform food value chains within the EU and beyond, from production to consumption. By advocating environmentally sound agricultural practices, a healthy and balanced diet, and sustainable farmer livelihoods, F2F is celebrated as a milestone strategy for the continent. As the first coordinated plan towards sustainable food systems, it is characterised by ambition. The EU’s delivery of F2F relies on its addressment of policy coherence, policy acceptance, and implementation challenges.


[1] European Commission, 2020, ‘Farm to Fork Strategy: For a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’, https://ec.europa.eu/food/system/files/2020-05/f2f_action-plan_2020_strategy-info_en.pdf, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.
[2] EIT Food, 2021, ‘What is the role of the Farm to Fork Strategy in achieving zero emissions?’, https://www.eitfood.eu/blog/post/what-is-the-role-of-the-farm-to-fork-strategy-in-achieving-zero-emissions, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.
[3] Schebesta H. Candel, J. J. L., 2020, ‘Game-changing potential of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy’, Nature, https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-00166-9.  
[4] WWF, 2021, ‘Farm to Fork’s targets well within reach, confirms JRC study’, WWF, https://www.wwf.eu/?4180941/Farm-to-Forks-targets-well-within-reach-confirms-JRC-study, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.
[5] Kollenda E., 2020, ‘How to deliver on the EU Farm to Fork’s protein transition objectives’, Institute for European Environmental Policy, https://ieep.eu/news/how-to-deliver-on-the-eu-farm-to-fork-s-protein-transition-objectives, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021. 
[6] Newton P. Civita N. Frankel-Goldwater L. Bartel K. Johns C., 2020, ‘What is regenerative agriculture? A review of scholar and practitioner definitions based on processes and outcomes’, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2020.577723
[7] Lewis T., 2021, ‘‘Sustainable isn’t a thing’: Why regenerative agriculture is food’s latest buzzword’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/food/2021/jul/18/sustainable-isnt-a-thing-why-regenerative-agriculture-is-foods-latest-buzzword, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.
[8] Hedberg A., 2020, ‘The Farm to Fork strategy and the inconvenient truth’, European Policy Center, https://www.epc.eu/en/Publications/The-Farm-to-Fork-Strategy-and-the-inconvenient-truth~33ac84, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.
[9] Southey F., 2021, ‘Farm to Fork strategy voted one step closer to legally binding status’, Food Navigator, https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2021/09/10/Farm-to-Fork-strategy-voted-one-step-closer-to-legally-binding-status, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.
[10] Sanchez Nicolás E., 2021, ‘MEPs back EU food reform, despite strong lobbying’, EU Observer, https://euobserver.com/climate/153291, accessed on 7th Nov. 2021.  
Categories Food & Agriculture

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