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EU and South Asia policymakers discuss the looming global food and climate crisis in Delhi

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10 April 2023, New Delhi: The talks between the EU and 5 countries in the South Asian region was held, as part of EU-funded workshop series supporting the ‘Farm to Fork’ (F2F) Strategy put in place by the EU in the context of the wider ‘Green Deal’. Stakeholders from India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal have expressed similar concerns regarding the environmental degradation caused by agriculture and farming as well issues of food security, healthy nutrition, and food waste reduction. All agreed that holistic and long-term actions must be put in place.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine crisis, and ongoing extreme weather conditions caused by climate change have disrupted global food supply chains and communities around the world, causing a risk of food insecurity and food-related health threats such as hunger or obesity. In addition, current food production, transport, and processing methods are one of the largest contributors to global warming with 21-37% of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to food chains.

Opening the Workshop, Ms. Claire Bury, Deputy Director General for Food Sustainability Responsible for Directorates E, F, and G, DG SANTE, EU Commission- stated that, “in Europe, our citizens continue to express their concerns about the climate and biodiversity loss. Their recommendations support the sustainability policies we are developing, and the cooperative work we want to develop with the South Asian countries set out the way forward”. Dr. Koen Van Dyck, Head of Unit A5 Bilateral International Relations, DG SANTE, EU Commission- emphasized that “we have to work together, exchange information and build alliances: the need for global action is clear.” Rightfully, “we must not leave this to future generations: Food systems are a complex concept and a much bigger challenge than the green revolution in the 1950s & 60s”, urged D.r Shahidur Rashid, Director for South Asia at IFPRI in India.

This workshop allowed dialogues between the EU and four neighboring countries of India (Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh) to exchange views regarding Soil health and organic production; sustainable use of pesticides and antimicrobials; and food loss and waste. “Promoting the shift towards healthy, sustainable diets has to be done through collaboration. The food system is everyone’s business” said Mr. Atul Upadhyay, President of the Food Scientists and Technologists Association, Nepal.

Insisting on diversifying diets which can be a key driver in the change to sustainable food systems, Mr. Jamie Morrison, Senior Advisor Policy and External Relations, GAIN Bangladesh- asserted that “Data is key to identifying and prioritizing actions.”

As a recommendation, “the system in Bhutan needs to transform from subsistence farming to a commercial system where rural income is improved and increased”, insisted Mr. Karma Tshering -Chief of the Policy & Planning Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Bhutan. In Sri Lanka, the niche market of organic products should be developed not only for export but also for the domestic market: “Organic farming is happening on a small scale and we encourage those who want to do it” says Ms. Malathy Parasuraman -Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture in Sri Lanka.

Bearing in mind that as part of its Green Deal, the EU has proposed ambitious actions and commitments to transform its food systems (the Farm to Fork Strategy) into global standards for competitive sustainability, the protection of human and planetary health as well as the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain, Ms. Cristina Laso Sanz, Deputy Head of Unit A5 (Bilateral International Relations) at EC DG SANTE- closed the Workshop by reassuring that “we do not seek to impose the EU’s views and goals and the ways to achieve them; we want to build alliances. We are in this together.”

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