EU policies do not favour sustainable production or consumption - new report

Posted on September, 21 2023

The study takes a deep dive into five countries, including France, Belgium and Sweden.
A new WWF report looking into the impact of government policies on the cost of food shows that EU policies are driving meat overconsumption and neglecting sustainable and healthy food production.

Commenting on the study, Giulia Riedo, Agriculture & Sustainable Food Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office, said: "Food security has been at the center of the EU debate over the last years, and yet the report shows that decision-makers are blatantly neglecting policies that could ensure better access to healthy and sustainable food. Instead, there are still subsidies supporting harmful agricultural production and taxation putting sustainable and unsustainable food on the same footing. We need a framework law on sustainable food systems to tackle these important issues once and for all and put Europe on a path to a truly sustainable food system.”
In particular, the study shows:
  • Voluntary coupled support, a scheme under the first pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy, is driving the overconsumption of meat and dairy.
  • The EU fixed price mechanism, an EU policy whose aim is to prevent prices of products from falling to levels that are not economically viable for producers, is not ensuring the same protection for all products. For example, this mechanism does not apply to fruit, vegetables and organic food, despite their benefits for the environment and human health.
  • Our dependence and excessive use of fertilisers is driving prices up. Around 74% of EU farmland is fertilised, making the sector very vulnerable to price shocks, ultimately resulting in higher prices on the shelf  for consumers.
  • There is a lack of publicly available data and transparency on consumption and marketing policies of food retailers, which prevents necessary studies like this one from being carried out and ultimately the design of effective public policies that improve food accessibility.
With inflation levels reaching new heights in 2022, many nations including EU countries have seen no real wage growth. Paired with plummeting consumer confidence and reduced spending, many economies have been tipped into economic decline and a cost-of-living crisis. As a consequence, many households have been unable to afford even a calorie-sufficient diet. 

The European Commission’s proposal for the EU Sustainable Food Law, initially announced for late September, is envisaged to tackle the accessibility of sustainable and healthy food. However, recent media reports suggest the proposal is hanging by a thread and might not see the light of day. 

“It would be a big mistake to drop the EU Sustainable Food Systems Law. We cannot continue to face droughts and heatwaves and do nothing but pour public money into fixing the damage. How serious and irreversible does the situation need to be for the EU to take action? We need this Commission to finish the work it started and urge all actors in the food supply chain for a stronger contribution than voluntary pledges. Ursula von der Leyen must not forget that this law is a key piece of the puzzle for a fair and just transition,” concluded Giulia Riedo

For more information, please contact:
Giulia Riedo
Agriculture & Sustainable Food Policy Officer

Alejandra Morales
Senior Communications Officer, Deforestation & Food
+32 488 84 98 05


WWF-EU and WWF-UK commissioned the environmental consultancy RSK ADAS Ltd (ADAS) to undertake a desk-based review investigating the determinants of the cost of food. More specifically, a study was commissioned to identify government policies and other factors which influence the price of food.  
The price formation of food is complex and involves various factors from the production process through to the finished product on the shelf. Typically, governments avoid direct intervention in the market until the point of market failure is reached. Nonetheless, there have been policies implemented in the past decades to influence food markets to achieve desired outcomes. 
This study was conducted within the framework of WWF’s #Eat4Change Project, funded by The European Commission’s Development Education and Awareness Raising Programme (DEAR).
Existing government policies are having a detrimental impact on the price of sustainable and healthy food
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