Both reports demonstrate that agriculture policies on both sides of the Atlantic do not contribute to healthier diets at the moment.
Ahead of the CAP reform in 2008, the Common Market Organisation on wine is already in discussion and the European Commission consulted interested parties on Fruits and Vegetables. EPHA responded to the latter.
The CAP affects the production of fruits and vegetables in Europe, alcohol consumption and tobacco use, which are responsible for the major part of the European disease burden.
The report follows on a first one published in 1996. The present study concludes that the same elements in four sectors (fruits and vegetables, dairy products, wine and tobacco) continue to hinder the achievement of healthier agriculture policies at EU level: CAP does not ensure a “high level of human health protection... in the definition and implementation of all Community policies and activities”, as stated by the article 152 of the Community Treaty.
In 2003, out of the 43 billion Euros used to finance the CAP, 2.2 billion Euros were used for products that are detrimental to public health.
Some of the main problems identified are the following:
Fruits and vegetables - The fruit and vegetable intake must be significantly increased. However, the EU withdrawal compensation which keep prices high (by limiting availability) is a threat to public health. The report concludes that the withdrawal compensation must come to an end and all products must be marketed at a lower price. This would result in encouraging consumption, especially in low-income households. The withdrawal and destruction of quality fruit and vegetables cost 117 million Euros every year.
Milk and dairy products - The dairy sector is one of the most subsidised and regulated sector of the CAP. All the measures aim to guarantee a higher price than the world market price, which result in a surplus. Measures to reduce the fat content of milk must be encouraged, especially via the School Milk Measure. Aided consumption of milk fat cost 460 million Euros per year.
Wine - Wine consumption is currently promoted within the CAP, and CAP subsidies have also created a surplus. Aid for the distillation of surplus wine cost 650 million Euros per year. For more information, see EPHA related articles on the reform of the Wine common market organisation.
Tobacco - Despite evidence that tobacco is harmful, tobacco subsidies in 2003 were part of the CAP scheme. Production support for tobacco farming cost 953 million Euros per year.
After having reviewed the evidence, the report put forward recommendations that would lead to substantial improvements in the CAP from a public health point of view:
Phase out all consumption aid to dairy products with a high fat content;
Limit the school milk measure to include only milk products with a low fat content;
Introduce a similar school measure for fruits and vegetables;
Redistribute agricultural subsidies so that it favours the fruit and vegetable sector and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables;
Phase out support for the promotion of wine consumption;
Improve and put a time limit on the support to farmer who wish to cease wine production;
Develop a plan to phase out tobacco subsidies.
For the past decades, U.S. farm policy has been directed toward driving down the price of a few farm commodities like corn and soybeans. In the meantime, prices for fruits and vegetables, grown with relatively little government support, have steadily increased. according to the report.
Furthermore, cheap commodities in food products fall into the dietary categories that are linked to obesity: added sugar and fats.
The reports concludes therefore that the current US farm policy has directed food industry investment into producing low-cost, processed foods high in added fats and sugars. These foodstuff are often more available and more aﬀordable than fresher, healthier choices - a conducive factor towards unhealthy diets, overweight and obesity.
In addition, it should be noted that this fact reinforces health inequalities as healthy products are not affordable for the poorers.
To make a shift towards a healthier farm policy, the report recommends:
An emphasis on the connections between public health, food and farm policy.
Support for local and regional food systems that benefit health and farmers.
Market incentives to increase healthy food consumption.
School and government procurement policies that favor healthy food.
A common farmer-public health platform for the upcoming farm bill.
EPHA related articles: