Macron names dependence on GMO soybeans as example of lack of food sovereignty
It's worth reading the latter half of this article to see France's President Macron's progressive views on the importance of ending France's dependence on imported GMO soybeans. He said, “France is 40% dependent on imported GMO soybeans and 60% on nitrogen fertilisers: we therefore have no real sovereignty."
Macron also voiced his desire to see glyphosate banned within three years. French campaigners and concerned citizens will attempt to ensure that it isn't simply replaced by another chemical that's as bad or worse.
Macron outlines "three battles" for French agricultural sovereignty
Food Processing Technology, 1 Feb 2018
The French agricultural sector must fight "three great battles" in order to achieve sovereignty, according to President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron said that agriculture was vital for the future of France, but conceded that the sector was at a "crossroads", with farm incomes feeling pressure due to unequal distribution of value further along the supply chain.
During a speech on the problems facing the agri-food sector, Macron claimed that "strategic orientations" and "major reorganisations" in the industry are necessary for the long-term security of food production. The three "battles" he has referenced are: the redistribution of power in the supply chain, the achievement of sovereignty in the open market, and improved environmental sustainability.
On 31 January, France’s minister for food and agriculture Stéphane Travert submitted a bill to the cabinet intending to address an apparent imbalance of power in the food supply chain.
The legislation was based on a thorough consultation between the government and the food sector resulting in a review of the food sector called "Etats Généraux de l’Alimentation" (EGA), or General States of Food. It was relaunched last year by Macron for only the second time in France’s history. The aim of the EGA is to guarantee farmers receive a fair price for their produce while at the same time increasing consumer access to healthy, sustainable and safe food.
Macron said in the speech that he would not hesitate to name and shame food brands that fail to change poor practices that results in farmers being paid an unfair price.
He also mentioned French dairy manufacturer Lactalis, highlighting the recent salmonella scandal in infant formula: “The Lactalis case reminds us that consumer safety comes first. There can be no state tolerance for operators who do not abide by the rules.”
The proposed bill would provide more support for farmers during negotiations with food brands and retailers, and allow producers to set contractual terms. Prices would be determined by market cost indicators, and farmers would also be able to engage in a new renegotiation process.
Two other significant proposals found in the bill are measures to determine retail pricing through lifting suggested prices by 10% and restricting price promotions.
The reintroduction of the EGA bill is just the first step to a more detailed plan for the food sector to 2022.
Reclaiming sovereignty in the open market
The second "great battle" regards the issue of self-sufficiency in the French food supply chain. Macron expressed his ambition to reduce France’s dependence on imported plant proteins, particularly soy and nitrogen fertilisers.
“France is 40% dependent on imported GMO soybeans and 60% on nitrogen fertilisers: we therefore have no real sovereignty,” he said.
He insisted, however, that free trade agreements would not pose a risk to agri-food producers: “We must not be afraid of this openness but organise to be the winners sector by sector.”
Macron specifically cited the Europe-Japan free trade agreement as a benefit to the agricultural sector. He states that France must also enact protective measures during the proposed free trade agreement with South American trade bloc Mercosur.
Guaranteeing food sustainability
The president’s final concern is that of environmental sustainability in food production. He identified the agricultural industry to be both a contributor to–and victim of–climate change.
The prevalence of chemical fertilisers and subsequent soil erosion poses a risk to almost 20% of French soil.
In November 2017, France flagged up a controversial debate in the European Commission over extending the practices of the pervasive weed killer glyphosate. The debate resulted in the EU extending the licence of glysophate for a reduced five year term.
In a hotly-contested vote, 65.71% of the EU population, represented by eighteen nations, were in favour of the reduced term–stumbling over the threshold of 65% required to pass legislation.
However, many European national governments, such as Germany, are contemplating their own national bans on glyphosate. Macron expressed support for a three-year deadline banning the use of the chemical in France.
He accepted that the ban would be unlikely if there are no alternative solutions, but remained hopeful that 90% of cultivated land in France is capable of replacing glyphosate. For the other 10%, the government will catalyse efforts to find working solutions though further research.