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Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson earlier this month gave EU ministers an overview of the work program and the issues to be debated during the Swedish presidency in the field of agriculture and fisheries.
One of the items debated was the global challenges facing agriculture. Managing the impact of agriculture on climate change - and vice-versa - and securing global food supply is considered by the EU a European problem.
The presidency said it intends to host a conference "Climate Smart Food", which will focus on climate change impacts on the whole food chain from production to consumption. No question Israeli companies and business venture should take heed and look for a way in to the European effort in this topic.
The European Council held a first exchange of views on the basis of a questionnaire seeking guidance what aspect of adaptation ministers consider the most important for their country and what area of research relating to it they consider of strategic importance. All member states participated in the discussion, which is said to be at the very top of the Swedish presidency's agenda. The need to monitor water resources, to identify crop and livestock varieties resistant both to extreme weather events and to the spreading of diseases were among the main priorities pointed out by member states. Depending on their geographical location, member states mentioned unavoidable effects such as drought or floods which would thoroughly affect their agricultural sectors and require awareness-raising as well as adaptations of husbandry, growing methods and forestry.
Over the coming decades agriculture will be influenced by climate change both globally and within the EU. Even though EU agriculture is technologically developed, its capacity to deliver food and to contribute to ecosystem services for the European society is directly dependent on climatic conditions. European farmers will need to define their strategies for production, farm management and investment in face of increasing uncertainty. Israeli products can most certainly help them at this effort. Israel is known for its innovative ideas and technologies in this area have been tackling these challenges since its creation in 1948 and before.
The European Council took note of the views expressed by the Lithuanian delegation, supported by the Belgian, Bulgarian, Czech, German, French, Greek, Irish, Latvian, Luxembourg, Hungarian, Austrian, Slovenian, Slovak and Finnish delegations who asked for an increase of export refunds for cheese, one of the EU's leading dairy exports. As usual, Europeans are trying to protect their narrow self interest on the expense of the free market. This policy usually helps to protect the local producers in the short run, but increases prices and loads an unneeded economical burden on the public in the long term for no good reason.
The European Council did not establish a qualified majority, either for or against, three proposals concerning the non-inclusion of certain active substances and the withdrawal of authorizations for plant protection products containing these substances: bifenthrin, diphenylamine and triazoxide. Israeli farmers should monitor this debate closely to make sure that their produce will not be forbidden from entering the European market. The European Commission is now entitled to finalize the decision-making procedures, in accordance with the regulatory procedure provided for in a decision of 28 June 1999 laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the EC. Active substances to be used as plant protection products are assessed and authorized at European Community level under a directive which established a harmonized framework for the authorization and placing on the market of plant protection products. The inclusion of an active substance is decided by the EC - on the basis of risk assessments carried out by the European Food Safety Authority - subject to the opinion of the experts of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. As the committee did not provide an opinion supported by the majority required on any of the three proposals, it is up to the European Council now to take the decisions.
Air Syrquin is the head of the International Department at GSCB Law Firm.