Ecosocial food policies – proposal for a new social-democratic approach

FEPS YAN series

Policy Study


How to transform the EU food system

In the run-up to the European elections in 2024, this policy study delves into the essential question of why we need to transform the EU food system and how to do it – adopting an ecosocialist perspective that serves as a basis for a new, progressive, social- democratic and ecological food policy. 

The current failure to transform the food system jeopardises human welfare and political stability. Despite its critical importance, the food system is marred by practices that harm the environment, exploit people and deepen social inequalities. The meaningful change announced by politicians with the Farm to Fork Strategy (European Commission 2020) and the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP; European Commission 2023) has yet to materialise. Growing discontent about food policies is exemplified by recent farmer protests that have reverberated through European cities. The response from national politicians to these protests, much like the environmental crisis, has been characterised by short-term concessions, political expediency, fragmentation and superficiality, rather than long-term vision, leadership and comprehensive structural change. The rise of populist parties has further complicated the situation, exploiting anti- environmental sentiment and undermining efforts to promote social justice and sustainability. 

While we need to take the fact that certain groups not only feel less heard in our political system, but are less heard, very seriously, we need to develop better truly socially just policies to counter authoritarian populist parties that undermine democratic systems and exacerbate the climate crisis and deny it. Climate and environmental policy and social policy must go hand in hand if a far-reaching sustainability transformation is to succeed. This also requires a closer look at a fairer distribution of power in our social, political and economic systems. Ecosocialism emerges as a crucial framework for addressing the interlinked challenges of environmental degradation, economic pressures and social inequalities in the EU food system.

By integrating ecosocial principles into the political discourse, social-democratic parties can offer a comprehensive vision for a more just and sustainable future, appealing both to traditional social-justice bases and to a wider electorate seeking solutions to pressing environmental and social challenges

This policy study was written as part of the FEPS Young Academic’s Network.

Karl Renner Institut
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