Janez Potočnik | the case for Sustainable Food Systems

A highlight of Cork2 Rural Development Conference was the sobering presentation by Janez Potočnik  of The Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) Foundation. Potočnik   is also Co-Chair of UN International Resource Panel, Former European Commissioner for Environment, and previously of Research. Here are some takeaways.


Advocating a food systems approach, in a context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he pointed out that:

• 60% of global terrestrial biodiversity loss is related to food production, ecosystem services supporting food production are often under pressure.
• Of the total input in the form of nitrogen – and phosphorus fertilizers, only 15-20% actually reaches the consumers’ plates.
• Globally, food systems account for around 24% of the global greenhouse gas emissions

Regarding the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy, his “initial thoughts” are:

  • Sustainability of the food system is not responsibility limited to the agriculture. It can only be reached if all actors in the food chain are playing active role. It can only be reached if we integrate various policies and search for solutions beyond the agricultural remit.
  • Agricultural and environmental community: the trust has been broken and needs to be re-established. The interest of both sides should be the same – sustainable agriculture. Strong partnership (honest!) Is needed to realize the goals of both communities!
  • Strategic choice to be done: adjustment within the current structure or restructuring of the cap to a more integrated policy?
  • Strong pressure to downscale the level of EU budget funding will likely exist.
  • Agriculture community should recognise the seriousness of the problems and actively engage in necessary transition. Environmental community should recognise farmers as partners for change.
  • Farmers were in the past acting in good faith. They need and deserve public support for transition. Recognition of the need for transition would enable the necessity for financial support in the future.
  • Part of the funding could be devoted to the public support for transition (temporary funding support), while the bulk of the support should go to provision of the public goods (permanent funding support).
  • CAP adoption process needs to be re-thought in a way that the partnership among agricultural and environmental community would be strengthened.
  • All policies should be consistent with critical shifts towards resource-smart food system embedded in SDGs.


Cork 2.0 | Declaration or Requiem for Rural Europe?