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Minister Šinko on the promotion of sustainable livestock farming and meat consumption systems

Minister Irena Šinko participated via video link in a conference entitled "Which sustainable livestock farming and meat consumption systems should the European Union promote and preserve by 2050" at the invitation of the French Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Marc Fesneau.

The event, which was held in a hybrid form in Brussels, was organised by the French livestock and meat association INTERBEV.

Minister Irena Šinko participated via video link in a conference.

Minister Šinko on the promotion of sustainable livestock farming and meat consumption systems. | Author Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food

The conference began with an interactive session with secondary students on a sustainable system for the production and consumption of beef and sheep meat in the EU and the perspective of young generations in terms of a sustainable future. The participants (representatives of EU institutions, FAO, NGOs, the veterinary sector and Members of the European Parliament) then discussed three thematic areas:

  • Getting a better grasp on meat production systems "global sustainability"– how to reconcile the main questions on meat production and consumption (greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change, protecting biodiversity and landscape, water consumption, animal welfare, the quality of life of working people, the dynamism of territories, etc.);
  • Consuming red meat better (the role of red meat in a balanced diet and the consumption of red meat now and in the future);
  • Protecting our sustainable meat production models to better advance them (the need for coherent agricultural, environmental and trade policies at the EU level).

The conference continued with an open discussion on levers to be used by co-legislators in the following months, which was followed by a panel of ministers for agriculture from Slovenia (Irena Šinko) and France (Marc Fesneau) and a video address by the Austrian Minister Norbert Totschnig.

The panel was based on the following three questions: what is the common vision of sustainable food systems at the EU level, what should sustainable farming systems of tomorrow look like and what are the conditions for a successful transition to these sustainable systems. In relation to the first question, Minster Irena Šinko stressed that is becoming clear that orientation towards sustainable systems is the only appropriate vision to ensure long-term food security in Europe and adapt to climate change and changes in lifestyle and eating habits. "Agriculture as an activity still depends on natural conditions, in particular the access to water and soil, taking into account that suitable temperature during vegetation is crucial for plant production. Agriculture is a traditional activity. New and more resilient varieties cannot be grown overnight and the selection of animals that are resilient to stress and possible diseases is a longstanding process. Development and policy makers should tackle these questions collectively and with a multidisciplinary approach. A sustainable system is crucial and it will help us achieve sustainable agriculture," concluded the Minister.

As regards sustainable farming systems of tomorrow, Minister Šinko pointed out that the European Green Deal and its strategies indicate the direction of development. "Of course, there are still major gaps in knowledge, data, technologies, resources, systemic levers and elsewhere. Considering the great importance of livestock farming in agriculture and its exposure lately, it is always necessary to present the challenges in a comprehensive manner. We should be aware that a reduction in livestock farming in some areas could lead to increased imports and thus to the "migration of the problem" to other parts of the world and an increased carbon footprint; ploughing the grassland into arable land on the plains could lead to a greater monoculture of the landscape and erosion; the abandonment of livestock farming in remote areas without alternative possibilities (hilly areas) could trigger overgrowth and permanent depopulation processes." According to the Minister, a complete abandoning of livestock farming would solve neither the problem of greenhouse gas emissions nor the drastic decline of biodiversity. The causes are also to be found elsewhere. "Animal breeding should be properly placed in a circular and sustainable food system as traditional agriculture has always been based on this. Livestock farming can also be part of the solution in sustainable and circular agriculture and mixed farms with combined crop and livestock production can be environmentally and also economically efficient in the long term."

During the discussion on the conditions for a successful transition to sustainable food systems, Minister Šinko noted that a successful transition requires a clear goal and political commitments, a gradual implementation, sufficient resources and a continuous participation of all stakeholders. She stressed some crucial activities, such as the transformation of systemic levers and the introduction of the "farm to fork" certification system, which would give the consumer a clear information about the method of production, processing and distribution of the product and its carbon footprint. "It is also important to invest in green and climate transition and in development, innovation and digitalisation, to efficiently transfer knowledge at the level of EU programmes and national levels, as well as to raise consumer awareness of food expiration dates, the carbon footprint of food, the fact that food does not belong in the trash, and the consequences of such behaviour." Minister Šinko concluded by saying that there are no easy solutions in the long term and that a great deal of effort will be required to reach the set goal. "But the agricultural policy should face this in order to prevent devastating consequences not only for livestock farming but also for the entire agriculture and food chain."