Tag: european parliament

Help us reveal the scale of Europe’s farm food waste

28th Mar 19 by Martin Bowman, Pig Idea Policy Officer and Stakeholder Coordinator

Tackling food waste on farms now has a deadline for action. Find out more about the problem of farm food waste and what you can do about it.

We have until the 4th April to stop the EU excluding the millions of tonnes of food wasted on farms from EU measurement and action. Martin Bowman, Feedback campaigner on farm food waste, explores why farms shouldn’t be sidelined – and how you can take action, in particular if you are an EU citizen outside the UK.

How much fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables which could have been eaten lie rotting in fields around the EU, or are ploughed back into the soil? According to Feedback’s research and experience working with farms, the answer can be enormous, yet so far EU governments have resisted steps to measure farm-level waste so it can be properly tackled.

WRAP recently estimated that the UK’s food waste on farms was a whopping 2.5 million tonnes of food, 20% of the food wasted in the country. But the UK, too, needs far better data if it wants to seriously tackle food waste on farms (currently it relies on informed estimates) – and whatever the UK’s future relationship with the EU, progress in Europe usually helps drives change in the UK.

Our hopes were raised last year when the EU agreed sweeping reforms to its waste legislation, with food waste policies introduced for the first time. A huge cross-European campaign called for the EU to create compulsory targets for EU countries to halve their food waste from farm to fork by 2030. Feedback worked with a coalition formed by This Is Rubbish of 67 groups from 18 EU countries and thousands of petition signatories to build momentum for EU action. But member states of the European Council blocked or watered down most of these measures. The Directive that was eventually agreed on was still a big step in the right direction – although it only called on EU countries to voluntarily commit to halve their food waste (and then, only at retail and consumer level), leaving it largely up to member states whether they take ambitious action or not. However, a significant breakthrough was the requirement on EU countries to measure and report their food waste.

Keeping it secret

Generally, whereas we know a lot about plastics and other recycling, food waste, where it occurs and what happens to it, has been shrouded in mystery. Now, from 2020 onwards, EU countries will be required to create robust data on their food waste levels in manufacturing, retail, catering and households sectors, shining a hugely useful light into the current darkness. Finally, we’ll know how much food is actually wasted, where and why.

Yet waste on farms is set to remain shrouded in darkness. The EU have just published their framework for EU countries to measure and report their food waste, and they have excluded in-field food waste. This is a disaster, given estimates put the proportion of EU food waste which occurs on farms at between 11% and 34% – between 10 and 47 million tonnes.

That’s a huge quantity of food – and the emissions, waste and soil fertility which went into producing it – which would be effectively sidelined from international action unless we convince the Commission to change track.

A problem of framing?

Again and again in the international literature on food waste, studies talk as if so-called “food loss” (a technical term for food waste at production level) is firstly only a problem in poorer countries, and secondly a problem which results solely from inadequate infrastructure like cool storage, which has technical solutions. This conveniently obscures that in rich countries there is a comparably large quantity of food waste on farms, and it is largely due to power relations between farmers and their buyers – retailers and middlemen. Feedback’s reports on UK farmers and on international farmers supplying Europe found evidence that farmers were being forced to waste food due to a mixture of cosmetic rejections of food for being the wrong size, shape or colour, unfair practices like last minute order cancellations, and fear of losing contracts in cases of undersupply leading to systemic overproduction and occasional price crashes. We’ve seen first hand through our Gleaning Network the truly stunning quantities of nutritious food that can be simply left in the field.

In short, the risks and costs of food waste are being dumped onto farmers – causing them a massive loss of money, time and resources wasting food they’ve toiled in the fields to grow. This food waste causes a huge loss of edible nutritious food – our UK study estimated that 2-4 million people could be fed their 5 a day of fruit and veg all year from the food wasted on UK farms annually. With estimates that England could run short of water in 25 years, British soil has only 100 harvests left unless degradation is reversed, and with the UN warning we have 12 years to avert disastrous levels of climate change, we need urgent action on food waste to avert catastrophe.

Time for change

Keeping Europe in the dark about farm food waste will harm EU farmers who’ll continue having the costs and risks of food waste dumped on them, prevent edible food getting to people who need it, and harm the environment. We can’t allow that to happen.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Safe Food Advocacy Europe to ask people across Europe to respond to the Commission’s consultation, to urge them not to exclude farms from EU food waste measurement and reporting.

Please take action! (Particularly if you’re an EU resident outside the UK). Click here for our guide to completing the consultation!




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The food waste champion with a blind spot on regulation to prevent food waste

22nd Oct 18 by fb_admin

If this Swedish MEP is so worried about food waste, why is she supporting supermarket pressure to block legislation to address it?

Two years ago we wrote a blog about Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, a Swedish MEP. In many ways, she’s a food waste champion with great credentials – she runs a food waste campaign in Sweden and has contributed to a report on how more efficient food chains can help tackle waste.

But it seems her activism only goes so far – two years ago she was involved in an attept to block a European Parliament declaration calling for the kind of regulation that would really help to tackle food waste: laws preventing large food businesses like supermarkets from using their market power to force farmers to waste food, for example by cancelling their orders at the last minute when they decide they can’t sell it (Feedback’s investigations of these ‘unfair trading practices’ found they were rife in both national and international supply chains). You can find out about some of the ways Unfair Trading Practices both cause food waste and undermine efforts to reduce waste through industry voluntary agreements in the research of the EU project REFRESH.

Despite the best efforts of Corazza Bildt and some of her colleagues in the European People’s Party, the 2016 vote was a landslide, with MEPs calling for action on unfair practices: as we type a draft law to outlaw many of the unfair practices which can cause huge volumes of food waste is on the brink of gong through the final rounds of negotiation by European lawmakers.

But it seems Corazza Bildt and co are at it again – this time trying to delay the progress of the law, which  could mean this law goes back on the shelf, especially with time tight before the next round of European Parliament elections.

This EU law has been welcome by food waste groups, farmers and those who are worried about unfair treatment of farmers in developing countries – the only groups resisting the law, unsurprisingly, are supermarkets and their backers in the European Parliament. We’re so close to real progress on regulating our food supply chain to protect the people who produce our food, it would be a catastrophe if momentum was undermined now.

Now’s the time for a final push to help this law over the finish line, and help farmers waste less food across Europe and beyond. We’re calling on all MEPs, including Anna Maria Corazza Bildt and her colleagues in the European People’s Party, to support this law.

You can read our article from back in 2016 below.

A public outcry sparked the European Parliament to look into investigating unfair trading practices by supermarkets, whose strong market power allows them to cause farmers to waste food. The European Parliament is debating the creation of an EU-coordinated network of national enforcement authorities to prevent unfair trading practices from occuring. Disappointingly, one European Parliament member – who is usually an ally in the fight against food waste – is blocking this much-needed legislation.

The European Parliament is drafting amendments to a report that could determine whether or not Europe will implement legislation to prevent unfair trading practices (UTPs). Previous drafts of the report have highlighted the clear correlation between unfair trading practices and the overproduction and food waste they cause. These previous drafts called for a European framework and effective legislation to prevent UTPs across Europe, acknowledging the inadequacy of voluntary frameworks like the Pan-European Supply Chain Initiative in effectively preventing these issues.

Over a million people have signed Feedback’s petition calling on national leaders to establish authorities to investigate supermarkets’ unfair treatment of suppliers to prevent good food from going to waste because of UTPs.

However, despite widespread support for such legislation, Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is actively working to block such proposals in the final round of amendments. Corazza Bildt instead wants an industry-led Supply Chain Initiative as a means for preventing UTPs, despite its track record for being ineffective in addressing UTPs and the climate of fear suppliers currently operate under.

Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt runs a food waste campaign called ‘Basta Till Matsvinnet’

Corazza Bildt continues to lead a personal campaign against food waste. The MEP was also a key contributor to a previous European report focused on developing strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU in order to avoid food waste. Given this track record, her fight against this legislation is a disappointing departure from the her previous commitments. By blocking recommendations for crucial legislation that would contribute significantly to reducing food waste in Europe’s food chain, she betrays her legacy of incisive work on the intersection of food waste and public policy.

Feedback’s research in countries as diverse as Kenya, Guatemala and the UK has demonstrated how large amounts of food is wasted as a result of unfair trading practices by European retailers. Last minute order cancellations and retrospective amendments to supply agreements often leave farmers with no secondary markets on which to sell their produce. When this happens the farmers receive no compensation and are forced to dump their produce.

Preventative legislation against UTPs would protect suppliers, in particular farmers, who currently face uncertain and risky trading conditions in order to supply products to Europe’s major retailers. Under such legislation, European retailers would risk penalties and fines for malpractice towards their suppliers, as they do under legislation empowering the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA). Crucially, the European legislation would create a level playing field across the single market to ensure that effective regulation is in place across European borders to protect suppliers and ultimately consumers as well.

Feedback are calling on Anna Maria Corazza Bildt to lead the European People’s Party in supporting legislative measures to prevent unfair trading practices in Europe by voting for an EU-coordinated network of national-level enforcers. Anna Maria Corazza Bildt has the opportunity on the 21st April to vote in favour of legislation and in doing so will be following a number of other cross-party MEPs.

To members of the European People’s Party: Preventing UTPs in Europe’s food supply chain is one of the most effective ways to curtail overproduction and the wastage of good food and finite agricultural resources. We call on you to take decisive action to support legislation to establish a EU-coordinated network of national-level enforcers to prevent unfair trading practices.

The vote on the 21st April is an opportunity for the European Parliament to stop the European Commission dragging its heels with regards to taking action against UTPs and food waste and Feedback look to the entire European Parliament to push for effective legislation.


@European citizens: want to take action? Tweet this article at MEPs from #EPP (European People’s Party) and make them know that you want a fairer food supply chain.

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European Parliament calls for action to tackle unfair trading practices

8th Jun 16 by fb_admin

More protection for farmers urged as EU resolution calls for legislation to cut down on abuse of power within the food supply chain



Yesterday morning, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a clear message to the EU Commission to take immediate action and enact  EU-wide legislation that protects farmers and food suppliers who are  mistreated by supermarkets’ unfair trading practices (“UTPs”).

The resolution (approved by 600 votes to 48) calls on the Commission to establish a network of enforcement authorities to address power imbalances in the food supply chain that generate increased risk and uncertainty for suppliers and can lead to overproduction and food waste.


Europe’s food supply chain suffers from endemic and persistent problems from UTPs, with suppliers subjected to a range of issues including delayed payments, sudden and unjustified order cancellations, forced involvement in promotions and imposed charges for fictitious services.



Feedback’s research in Kenya has shown how farmers who export their produce to Europe are forced into cycles of debt when orders are cancelled at the last minute or supply agreements are changed retrospectively. Farmers are often left with no market to sell their food to meaning they are not paid and end up wasting perfectly good produce.


The resolution comes after the Commission published a disappointing report earlier this year favouring voluntary agreements to prevent UTPs over legislative measures. In its report the Commission stated that the industry-led Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) was a sufficient measure to prevent UTPs.


The European Parliament have also criticised the Commission’s preference for the SCI, with MEPs agreeing that the voluntary initiative “cannot be used as an effective tool to combat UTPs” given that it lacks financial penalties and mechanisms to allow for confidential complaints to be made by suppliers. This issue is compounded by the fact that Tesco, despite being a member of the SCI, was recently found guilty by the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) of using unfair trading practices against suppliers and producers in an attempt to overstake its profit margins.


Suppliers currently operate in a ‘climate of fear’, too scared to speak out about against unfair trading practices, and require anonymous complaint systems such as the UK’s GCA in order to speak freely. However, the GCA currently only regulates the relationship between retailers and their direct suppliers, meaning that many suppliers are left without protection. The European Parliament recommend that the GCA should be used as a model enforcer against UTPs, but goes further by recognising that UTPs can occur across the supply chain irrespective of geographical location.


Voluntary initiatives such as the SCI and the Supermarkets Code of Practice that preceded the GCA are structurally unsuitable for preventing unfair trading practices. Legislation is necessary to effectively deter retailers from using these practices and to effectively change the behaviour or purchasers within these companies. There is clear public support for this, as a petition started by Feedback calling on national leaders to establish authorities to investigate supermarkets’ unfair treatment of suppliers received over one million signatures last year.


“Unfair trading practices exist because they are profitable in the short-term for retailers, yet in the long run they threaten the sustainability of our food system by placing additional pressures on increasingly squeezed suppliers,” said Edd Colbert, Campaign and Research Manager for Feedback, “the call for EU-wide protection against unfair trading practices is a significant step forward in the fight against food waste and Feedback join the European Parliament in demanding that the Commission takes action urgently”


Feedback have been working with allies in the European food movement to make sure unfair trading practices are recognised as a major contributor to food waste in the supply chain. As an organisation we have engaged with key policy makers in the Commission and Parliament to put this issue on their agenda to create a fairer food system for all. Read more about Feedback’s Stop Dumping campaign that aims to stop unfair trading practices that lead to good food being wasted here.

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