Food-system change is needed for human survival
By Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International
On 20 April, the International Plant Based Foods Working Group was launched in order to build on the ongoing shift towards eating more sustainable and healthier foods. The rise of the flexitarian consumer is unstoppable, with around 30-40% of people – and in some countries an even larger proportion – actively choosing to reduce animal consumption and eat more plant-based foods. The opportunities for new foods and cuisines are endless, and investment in the sector is exponentially increasing. This shift in consumption habits is described in detail on our website, including on the recently launched New Food Hub.
Food policy and politics
All of this is leading to changes in the market and a transformation of the food system, which is needed if we are to reverse global warming and keep the global rise in temperature below two degrees Celsius (and ideally below 1.5℃). However, the animal-agriculture sectors continue to push not for only the maintenance of the status quo but for increased funding, regulations, and other incentives that support their polluting and unsustainable forms of agriculture and food production. There are parallels with tactics used by other sectors responsible for GHG emissions, such as the fossil fuel industry.
Traditionally, the agri-industry has been a very powerful voice in national and global policy-making, tilting the balance in favour of the meat, dairy, egg, and seafood industries. With more than 70 billion land animals and at least a trillion sea animals killed for food each year globally, with the accompanying acceleration of biodiversity loss, a radical rethink of the food system is no longer an option but is now a necessity for human survival. This requires policies in a fit-for-purpose regulatory environment, together with market changes and innovations in food and agriculture.
In 2018, ProVeg started to focus on global political outreach through engagement with the United Nations at COP23 in Bonn. ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award. We have increased our UN activities in the last three-and-a-half years, and have also become successfully involved in European and national advocacy.
We call on companies and not-for-profit organisations to join national or umbrella plant-based policy platforms
Commercial and not-for-profit plant-based organisations join forces
Following ProVeg’s leading role in successfully co-founding the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF) in 2020, ProVeg co-founded the Plant-based Food Alliance UK in 2021, and is supporting the newly established Plant-based Foods Industry Association (PBFIA) in India in 2022. On 20 April 2022, the International Plant Based Foods Working Group was launched in order to bring these and similar global groups together.
ProVeg further support organisations who advocate for food policy issues similar to those encountered in the EU (e.g. the French Decree, as well as proposals in Belgium and Australia to restrict labels and wording for plant-based products in forms that are traditionally used for animal-based products – also known as ‘veggie-burger bans’). We also support dozens of organisations around the world through our Grants Programme.
Changing values, hearts, and minds
We are advocating for regulations and policies that will ensure a level playing field for plant-based foods, and remove barriers to innovation, growth, marketing, and consumer information. Much of this work involves delicate conversations, clear and persuasive communications and position statements, constructive interactions with policy-makers and, where necessary, involvement of the wider public in campaigns to halt nonsensical policy proposals that undermine the plant-based sector, sustainability, and public health.
Although specific country regulations differ, the policy issues are often similar across the world. We focus, inter alia, on the following interventions:
- Levelling the playing field for plant-based products in regulations and in terms of VAT.
- Fair and logical naming conventions for products (e.g. veggie burgers or plant-based sausages).
- Plant-based milk options in schools.
- Sustainable labelling.
- Nutrition frameworks so that consumers can make informed choices.
- Calling for more funding for research and innovation into plant-based foods.
(You can view the request for dedicated calls for proposals on plant-based products within the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023-2024 here.)
Despite the widely available evidence regarding the benefits of plant-based foods for health and the environment, it seems that policy-makers are still guided more by ‘traditional’ values and animal-farming interests than the scientific consensus. We therefore need to work together with as many like-minded organisations around the world as possible in order to change course.
ProVeg has played a key role in helping us understand the plant based network, and assisted in getting important international linkages with like-minded plant-based food alliances in the EU, USA, Canada, China, UK and other important institutions. The association with Proveg is like sister organisations working together towards the same goal in making tasty plant based foods a true revolution, the world over.
Executive Director of the PBFIA
If you would like to know more about our policy work, please get in touch with our policy team directly: [email protected]