Three out of four Europeans want EU governments or regulators in Brussels to take action to lower the cost of healthy and sustainable food. At a time of rising food price inflation, 76% of people said their governments should make sustainable food affordable – and half believe that unsustainable food products should be more expensive to encourage shoppers to make healthier, more sustainable food choices.
Commissioned by the WWF, the survey also showed that four out of five Europeans believe their governments and the European Union should establish “new rules” as well as provide financial support to tip the scales in favor of sustainably produced food. In their view, governments should specifically target public restaurants, schools, grocery stores, food manufacturers and farmers, according to the WWF.
Europeans want change, but unless our governments and the European Union take action, families will continue to struggle to have healthy, sustainable food – not to mention pay for it. High inflation exposed the shortcomings of our food systems and the EU’s dependence on imported agricultural inputs.argued Julia Rideau, Agriculture and Food Systems Policy Officer at the World Wide Fund for Nature’s European Policy Office.
Promoting plant-based and local foods: the survey
According to the survey, 73% of Europeans believe that policy makers at national and EU level should take action to prevent food shortages. Stimulating the consumption of local produce and reducing food waste was one of the preferred options for achieving this.
The research also showed that a large percentage of people want the EU to get into the plant-based debate. Nearly half of the respondents, 48%, stated that the EU should “encourage people to eat less animal products”, while 46% suggested that the EU should reduce the use of farmland to produce feed. “Currently, the European Union produces more animal products than is recommended for our health and more than half of the cereal crops we grow are fed to animals,”WWF stressed.
Citizens also believe that governments must deal with the “powerful influence” of food advertising on eating habits. About half of Europeans, 57%, agree that public funds should not be used to advertise unhealthy and/or unsustainable foods, and more than a third (36%) would go so far as to ban such ads altogether. Currently, unhealthy and unfriendly diets cause 2.7 million deaths in Europe each year, according to data from the Global Nutrition Report.
Framework for sustainable food systems
The results of the survey were announced while the European Commission was working on an EU legislative framework for sustainable food systems, due to be completed in 2023. This new law, part of the farm to fork strategy, aims to integrate sustainability into all food-related policies, with Addressing the links between healthy people, healthy societies and our healthy planet.
Rideau said the EU’s sustainable food system law “is the only opportunity on the horizon to address these problems”.
“The choice that is better for our planet and our health should also be the easiest. Food is where we live and how it is produced and consumed has an enormous impact on climate and biodiversity – and citizens are becoming increasingly aware of this. Rethinking and transforming our food systems must be high on the EU policy agenda, “The policy expert concluded.
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