48 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM GIANT VIEWS PUTTING INNOVATION AT THE HEART OF EUROPES AGRI-FOOD POLICY n May 2014 a group of 11 EU-level asso- ciations representing agricultural and food business interests across Europe presented their joint Vision for unlocking the potential of agriculture and food industries in the EU. The group calling itself the Agri-Food- Chain Coalition AFCC includes agricul- tural input industries such as suppliers of machinery seed fertilisers crop protection animal health feed and biotechnology-based products as well as the agricultural trade EU farmers and the European food and drink sector. Together these industries account for more than 30 million jobs and some 3.5 per cent of the EUs gross value added. The Joint Vision underlined the impor- tance of providing a secure and safe supply of food not only for EU citizens but also for those beyond Europes bordersand to do so in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. At the same time the coalition pointed to the economic weight of these sec- tors and with that their important relevance in achieving overarching EU policy goals such as higher employment and economic growth. In summary the joint vision is a common call for a more streamlined EU policy agenda that places the promotion of innovation for and in agriculture at its core in order to sus- tain healthy high-quality and affordable food production and resulting choice for consum- ers. More pointedly Europes Agri-Food Chain was calling for nothing less than an EU policy shift and it logically addressed the designated new European Commission and the freshly-elected European Parliament next to Member States governments with its call for change and action. So where are we today almost two years after the launch of the joint vision I Garlich von Essen I think it is fair to say that the initiative by and large has achieved quite a bit. First of all assembling 11 quite different EU-level industry organisations around a set of common policy objectives is a success that should not be overlooked. For the five years term of the EU institutions the AFCC defined seventeen specific policy recommendations that were submitted to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and cover the fostering of innovation jobs and productivity resource-ef- ficiency and better and smarter policymak- ing in order to ensure that innovation is at the heart of new EU agri-food policy. And indeed some progress has already been made. For example the recent decision to set up the new Scientific Advisory Mechanism SAM is an important indicator for a commit- ment to bring science back into a central role when taking new legislative action. Such a new mechanism will not only allow the Commission to take advantage of independent advice from eminent scientistsit also contains new administrative tools to scrutinize new legis- lative initiatives at an early stage which may impact on the EUs ability to innovate. This is vital for the competitiveness of our economy as a whole and specifically for the agri-food chain as it is our largest sector in terms of jobs and growth opportunities. Furthermore the designation of a special adviser on innovation is another signal that hopefully will result in concrete recommenda- tions and reports on how to best mobilise new and coordinate existing resources to stimulate and improve the innovation capacity of the EU. And last but not least there are the EUs budget with up to 3.6 billion euros ear- marked for research and development fund- ing under the EUs Horizon 2020 program and the Commissions long-term strategy for European agricultural research and innova- tion by 2020 and beyond which is supposed to act as an overall vision to keep agri-food industries thriving. The AFCC however sees a need to go beyond such individual actions. What is needed is a more fundamental change of mind-set to embed a pro-innovation attitude and con- sequent policy approach across all relevant societal groups as well as administrative and political levels. Today companies and farmers are often prevented from reaching their potential as an overly risk-averse policy approach dominates all EU-level debates and decisions. Recent examples include national opt- outs from authorisations of GM crops assessed as safe a rising number of restrictions on pes- ticides and biocides and ever-higher costs for product applications for veterinary medicines and feed and food additives due to increas- ing legal requirements compounded by strict threshold policies in the public and animal health areas. Numerous traceability and label- ling requirements not only create legal and economic burden they are often abused to stigmatise products and technologies. In many cases these policies do not address any prac- tical risk but they do delay or even prevent market access of new products. That creates crippling effects on our research capacity which is crumbling under an EU policy mantra that addresses consumer perceptions as opposed to consumer protection issues. As a consequence Europe is falling behind. This is underlined by the EUs declin- ing share of new agricultural patents as recently demonstrated by the EUs own Joint Research Centre. Just at a time when Europe is supposed to lead on climate change and other sustainability goals our research and inno- vation pipeline runs dry. The EU will fail the expectations of its citizens if it doesnt fully capitalise on technology-driven solutions avail- able to address global challenges. The AFCC shares the sense of urgency that our industries feel today. That is why we insist on the need for a truly integrated EU policy approach that favours the development of a comprehensive policy toolbox that fosters innovation across the agri-food chain allowing Europe to be more pro- ductive and more sustainable at the same time. Only then will we unlock the full potential of our innovation capacity and generate the desired benefits for farmers industries consumers and society at large. The Agri-Food Chain Coalition stands ready to work with all European institu- tions and stakeholders to ensure a competitive and sustainable Europe that turns todays chal- lenges into tomorrows opportunities. Editors Note Garlich von Essen is the secre- tary general of the European Seed Association and is currently chair of the European Agri- Food-Chain Coalition. AFCC is comprised of 11 EU-level associations from agricultural input industries such as suppliers of machinery CEMA seeds ESA fertilizers Fertilizers Europe crop protection ECPA animal health IFAH feed FEFAC and biotechnolo- gy-based products EuropaBio the agricul- tural trade COCERAL and CELCAA EU farmers COPA-COGECA and European food and drink manufacturing sector FDE.