“We can’t eat promises!” – The slogan of the Good Food Good Farming protest for a better food system, which took place in Brussels on November 8, 2023. The protest was the culmination of the Good Food Good Farming October Action Days, and highlighted the urgent need for transformative agri-food policies to realise key aspects of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. Wiebke Beushausen and Mia Mancini tell us more.
The constant rain on November 8 did not stop 250 people from cheerfully joining the Good Food Good Farming (GFGF) protest for better food systems. The European GFGF movement demonstrated in front of the European Parliament, urging decision-makers to deliver on their Farm to Fork commitments.
With the slogan “We can’t eat promises!”, the action highlighted the need and broad support for transformative agri-food policies as a counterweight to corporate lobbies and reactionary politicians that are currently hindering key aspects outlined in the Farm to Fork Strategy.
Marilda Dhaskali, EU Agriculture Officer at Birdlife Europe, summarised the frustration felt by many Europeans concerning the current biodiversity and climate crises: “Empty promises by our politicians will lead to empty fields. If we are serious about stopping biodiversity loss and climate change, we must take steps forward, not backwards. Europe will be on the right track if the Commission proposes its Sustainable Food Systems Law and if Members of Parliament vote for a meaningful pesticide reduction regulation.”
A video of the protest:
The protest was the culmination of a month full of Good Food Good Farming in October. In the GFGF action month 2023, people across Europe organised 90 decentralised events in 17 different countries. This included for example the congress MENUdaTIERRA in Spain (organized Asociación Vida Sana), an electoral debate on Good Food in Poland (Koalicja Żywa Ziemia) and planting an urban food forest (Communauté Slow Food Pays Catalan).
During the events, participants had the chance to write down a personal message to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on colourful postcards, sharing their demands for better food systems. In total, more than 600 people across Europe participated in the postcard action.
In a creative stage performance, GFGF delivered the postcards to six Members of the European Parliament from four political groups (Greens, S&D, Lefts and EPP) present at the protest action. A waiter welcomed the MEPs on stage to a unique dining experience: The first course consisted of an empty plate, symbolising the empty promises of EU decision-makers.
As the main course, the politicians were served a collection of postcards with the written demands, hopes and frustrations of Europeans. The moderator engaged with the MEPs individually by asking them how they liked the “menu” presented to them and what their recipes for change are. The performance provided a strong image for the underlying message: Europeans are hungry for food system change – and have enough of empty promises!
The rest of the stage program featured 11 different speakers who touched upon various failures of the current food system, including biodiversity collapse, pollinator decline, increasing food poverty, precarious working conditions for farm workers and the corporate capture of agro-industrial giants.
Following the Good Food Good Farming spirit, speakers also shared their vision for a liveable future and demanded fair price regulations, binding pesticide reduction targets and a holistic legislative approach towards sustainable food systems from EU decision-makers.
Mathieu Courgeau, dairy farmer and member of the French farmers association Confederation Paysanne, emphasised the critical need for policies to support farmers in their transition. He stated: “As farmers, we are experiencing an acceleration of climatic and economic crises. We need ambitious European policies focusing on the transition of food systems, agroecology and support for small and medium-sized farms. These are the changes that will enable farmers to meet the challenges of the coming decade.”
To comment on the aggressive lobby techniques of big agribusinesses and their close ties with conservative EU politicians, the protesters set out on a 1-km demonstration march and stopped in front of the headquarters of the agroindustry giant BASF (and BAYER´s representation just across the street).
While the chant “Pesticides are toxic – and so is this lobby!” echoed in Belliard Street, Joao Pacheco from Corporate Europe Observatory made a fiery speech and called for the democratisation of our food system. Many of the participants also brought pots and pans and joined the Samba Band from XR Belgium in making noise for better food and farming.
Upon return to Place du Luxemburg, Slow Food greeted the community of Good Food Good Farming with a bowl of soup, freshly cooked with rescued ingredients to draw attention to the problem of food waste.
The protest action was the result of a collaboration between Belgian and EU civil society organisations coordinated by Good Food Good Farming. Moreover, representatives from coalitions working on food and agriculture from Austria, Czechia, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Switzerland joined the action to show their support from the national level. As Inka Lange, Campaign lead of the German Wir haben es satt coalition put it: “Many people have come here not only from Brussels but from Madrid to Warsaw and Berlin – because food and farming unites Europe. After the EU elections next year, we expect decision makers to bring the Farm to Fork back to life.”
More pictures and videos of the Good Food Good Farming Actions 2023 are available on the GFGF website. To stay in the loop and receive invitations for future events, you can sign up for the Food for Change newsletter.