Environment, health, agriculture & fisheries

Environment, health, agriculture & fisheries

The Socialists and Democrats have a vision for a smarter, more sustainable Europe, leaving a less polluted world for our children. We can achieve this through greater energy efficiency, a circular economy and by tackling climate change. This goes hand in hand with renewing European industries, creating new growth and new jobs.  We are fighting for a Europe where everyone has access to wholesome food and good-quality, affordable healthcare.

The need for a reliable food supply is built into the EU's treaties and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the oldest examples of European integration. We are committed to ensuring that European agriculture can provide high-quality food for all Europeans, decent jobs for those who work in the sector and a sustainable future for us all.

We are also working hard to make sure the EU's Common Fisheries Policy can continue to improve sustainability and provide healthy, high-quality food for Europeans. Responsible fishing benefits fishing communities, the environment and our dinner plates.

Every year, around 600 million tonnes of waste are thrown away in Europe, which could be reused and put back into the economy. The S&Ds are calling for ambitious EU targets and goals, and for new tools to help each country move towards a more sustainable, resource-efficient, circular economy.

A circular development model means that the value of products and resources is kept in the economy for as long as possible and the generation of waste is minimised. To achieve this transition, the S&D Group is pushing through ambitious policies to change the way we use, re-use, recycle and recover our resources.

We want to:

•    increase the recycling target for municipal waste – from households and businesses – to 70% by 2030
•    limit landfill, the most environmentally damaging disposal method, to 5% by 2030 – a  significantly more ambitious target than the Commission’s 10%
•    cut food waste in half by 2030 and tackle the current situation, where every European throws away a shocking 173kg of food per year
•    remove restrictions on food donation and guarantee clear labelling so consumers can make informed choices
•    reduce marine litter in the EU by half by 2030
•    encourage the use of bio-based packaging and increase recycling targets for packaging materials like paper, cardboard, plastics and glass to 80% by 2030
•    extend producer responsibility for all products, so that producers have to cover the entire costs of waste management for their products
•    phase out the use of toxic substances
•    prioritise waste prevention, re-use and recycling when EU funds are allocated
•    substitute ecologically sustainable alternatives for environmentally harmful or energy-intensive raw materials
•    engage actively with local and regional authorities, businesses and social economy enterprises
•    develop awareness and education campaigns on waste prevention.

The S&D Group has long championed high-quality healthcare for all EU citizens:

•    A long track record of improving health for Europeans
•    We have led the drive to harmonise healthcare across borders to ensure EU patients have the right to seek the best treatment and to safeguard the finances of national health systems.
•    We have opposed cuts in health spending in EU countries, which hit the most vulnerable hardest.
•    We have pushed to tighten EU law on fake medical products.
•    We have ensured that the EU law on organ donation and transplantation allows those waiting for donors to find matches across the EU, which is especially important for children.
•    We led the drive for a new law to make medical devices safer – from design and manufacture to authorisation and product monitoring.
•    All medical devices from plasters and hospital beds to breast implants, hip replacements and pacemakers will be covered.
•    We delivered on transparency in clinical trials to make sure the results of all medical research is public, whether positive or negative.
•    We helped stimulate medical research, especially into rare diseases, by facilitating cross-border clinical trials.
•    We want to fight anti-microbial resistance and accelerate the discovery of new life-saving medicines.

Affordable medicines

We strongly believe medicines should be made readily available and easily affordable – even for rare illnesses – in addition to being safe, effective and high quality.  Unequal access to medicines is not a new phenomenon, but the recent economic crisis has only exacerbated the problem, with increasingly high costs for medicines and shrinking public health budgets. In addition, we face growing needs and rising costs as a result of an ageing population. We will continue to fight until everyone has affordable access to medicines and treatments, no matter where they live and how much they earn.

The Socialists and Democrats have a vision for a sustainable future: our ambition is to tackle climate change and leave a less polluted world for our children – and this goes hand-in-hand with creating new growth and sustainable new jobs.

At the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December 2015 we pushed for ambitious climate targets to keep the EU at the forefront of climate action. The COP21 turned out to be a landmark moment: 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The global average increase of temperature must be kept well below 2°C and efforts will be made to limit it to 1.5°C.

21 progressive proposals for the COP 21 Paris Agreement - binding, universal and dynamic

But the fight does not end here – we have built a progressive majority in the European Parliament to demand legislation setting up ambitious and binding targets for greenhouse-gas reductions and increasing use of renewables and energy efficiency to implement the climate goals.

Every European citizen has the right to high-quality, safe food. They also have the right to know how, where, and under what conditions their food is produced, processed, packaged, labelled and sold. Food producers should also be protected from dishonest practices along the supply chain. This is why we, the S&Ds, continue to fight for better consumer protection and for more transparency around what we eat. We also want to see country-of-origin labelling for meat in processed foods and dairy products, and we want to ensure that food agreements with international partners prioritise consumer health.

•    Enhancing consumer protection

We want to ensure that all Europeans can live a healthy life, so making sure that the food we eat is safe is vital. Food scandals like the horsemeat scandal have shown the need for better consumer protection. This is why we insist on having tighter controls along the entire food-supply chain. Improved science-based risk management is key, therefore consultation and co-operation with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on GMOs and pesticides is essential.

•    GMOs

The EU has some of the world's strictest legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but as S&Ds we are still concerned that the wider health and environmental effects of importing or cultivating GMOs have not been fully taken into account. This is especially true in the case of herbicide-resistant GMOs, which can encourage the more liberal use of dangerous chemicals. That is why we have consistently objected to authorisations of GMOs and are calling for the legislative framework to be overhauled. 

•    A more transparent authorisation process for pesticides

Food safety must be guaranteed at all stages of production – from farm to fork. The S&Ds are constantly fighting to ensure that European legislation provides for a wide-ranging set of harmonised rules across all EU member states to prevent, eliminate or reduce the health risks to humans, animals and plants along the 'agri-food chain'. It is also vital that the food that reaches our table is not only certified as safe, but that the authorisation process is transparent as well. We believe that the whole authorisation process for all plant protection products in the EU must be revised in favour of more transparency, efficiency and democratic control.

•    Country-of-origin labelling for meat in processed food and for dairy products

In recent years, the Socialists and Democrats have successfully led campaigns to introduce laws for the mandatory labelling of the 'country of origin' on beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry. We are now pushing for these laws to be extended to include meat in processed food, as well as milk and dairy products. We believe that clear, honest labelling that doesn't mislead consumers is indispensable. Consumers have the right to make informed choices about the food they eat.

•    Better food agreements with international partners

Food safety goes way beyond EU borders. What we produce and consume, what we import and export, and how quality standards are applied for food-producing animals and plants, also depend on our partners’ standards and practices. It is therefore important that we monitor and continue to improve food quality and safety standards, as well as animal health and welfare in our agreements with international partners.

We want the Common Agricultural Policy to ensure not only decent standards of living for active farmers and an efficient, transparent use of public funds, but also to be aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that in an uncertain and challenging international environment, our agriculture must remain productive, sustainable and competitive. We will pursue these aims as discussion gets underway for the next phase of Europe´s agricultural and rural policy.

Our priorities:

•    Ensuring income support only goes to active farmers

Public funds must be used transparently and in the public interest. This means funding should be for specific purposes and agricultural payments granted only to active farmers who make most of their living from farming. 

•    Producing high-quality foods

Food safety and quality, from farm to fork, should be guaranteed for all European consumers. In parallel with ensuring safety and quality we need to prevent and reduce food waste along the entire food and feed chain.

•    Safeguarding security of food supply

Europe needs to be able to cope with volatile prices for food and agricultural raw materials in the international food market. We want the EU to have an enhanced role in influencing global food security and to reduce vulnerabilities arising from dependence on imports as much as possible.

•    Managing natural resources and environment sustainably

High-quality food production and supply chains must go hand in hand with our commitment to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Agricultural production should also promote the sustainable management of natural resources and well-balanced land use, as well as making its contribution to help combat climate change and maintain biodiversity in the countryside. 

•    Maintaining vibrant rural areas and communities

Rural areas are home to millions of people and they must not be reduced to vast, empty crop-production zones.  Acting to support diverse rural communities so that rural areas remain peopled by young and old in the long term is essential to Europe’s wellbeing.   The attractiveness of rural areas as places where people live, work and spend leisure time is key to them remaining productive in the long term. Healthy food comes from a diverse countryside, well tended by the people who know it and live in it.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) aims to ensure that European fisheries are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and provide EU citizens with a stable and healthy food supply.

 With a strong lead from the S&Ds, the 2013 CFP reform established new standards for fisheries and imports of fishery products. Our focus is now on putting the reform into practice, including adopting multi-annual management plans, revising technical and control measures, and developing a sustainable ‘blue growth’ agenda – aimed at creating stable resources within a healthy environment while respecting the economic and social aspects of sustainable development.

Our priorities:

•    Safeguarding resources and the marine environment

The S&Ds have pushed for sustainable levels of fishing in line with the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries. The guiding principle should be to harvest no more fish than nature can reproduce – the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ approach. In the same vein, we are committed to multi-annual management plans for a long-term approach, environmental conservation – for example by using more selective fishing gear – and a phase-out of the practice of discarding unwanted dead fish.

•    Protecting jobs and workers in the EU fisheries sector

Declining job opportunities are a persistent problem in the EU fisheries sector. To address this issue, we advocate support for family businesses and the empowerment of women and young people in the fisheries sector, including through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The profession is changing: a highly skilled workforce is becoming more important and multidisciplinary training has become a necessity. We believe that fishermen should be given incentives to continue traditional, sustainable fishing activities, as well as given support for new sustainable production methods and diversification. We want to see standardised training for professional fishermen across the EU, as well as simplified administrative and licensing procedures.

•    Supporting proactive management with all stakeholders

A region-based approach and more extensive stakeholder consultation are key to proactive governance. All stakeholders – from fishermen and consumers to scientists and NGOs – should be able to voice their views and participate in decision-making processes.  Controls on fisheries and preventing illegal and unregulated fishing are key for a successful fisheries policy and close collaboration is needed between EU countries’ authorities, the European Fisheries Control Agency and Commission.

•    Promoting higher standards in fisheries agreements

As the world’s largest market for imported fish and fishery products, the EU has the potential to have a big impact on the behaviour of other countries through commercial incentives and international trade. We must capitalise on this potential and ensure fair free trade agreements, promote sustainable fishing in third countries and guarantee that every fish and fishery product imported into the EU is produced under decent labour and human-rights standards. The S&Ds were the driving force to ensure EU fishing activities in other countries’ waters must also be sustainable in terms of the environment and regional food security, following the same objectives as fishing in EU waters.