Full text 
Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 19 April 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. What is 'locally produced' food? (debate)
Video of the speeches

  President. − The next item is the debate on the question for oral answer to the Commission by Anna Maria Corazza Bildt on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and Evelyn Gebhardt on behalf of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament on ‘locally produced’ food (O-000046/2012 – B7-0109/2012) [2012/2610(RSP)].


  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, author.(SV) Mr President, I am sure that most of us have bought locally produced potatoes, non-transported carrots or ‘zero mile’ cheese made at the local dairy.

Many people choose locally produced produce in the belief that it is healthy and better for the environment. However, what is actually classed as locally produced? We have no common understanding of the concept, nor any common criteria.

Does it relate to distance within national borders? If a school in southern Sweden buys potatoes from Denmark 20 kilometres away, are they classed as locally produced? How about if the same school buys the potatoes within Sweden, but from 2000 kilometres away?

We need established production methods. Do all of the ingredients have to be local? Everyone currently has their own view, and there is a big risk of consumers getting confused and being misled.

Many consumers are prepared to pay more for locally produced products, but does such food always provide added value when it comes to nutrition and quality?

Many people believe, for example, that they are making climate-smart purchases when they choose meat that is locally produced. Transport pollutes the environment, but when it comes to meat in particular, we know that the production method is actually more important.

We cannot take it for granted that locally produced and locally grown products are always better for the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a responsibility to initiate the debate based on facts and, with the Commission’s help, to draw up guidelines for the concept of ‘locally produced’.

We must focus on good food for our children, the elderly and the sick. We must improve conditions for small businesses and promote thriving rural areas, while at the same time safeguarding an open and common market and avoiding unhealthy food protectionism.

This issue is particularly relevant right now when we are reviewing the rules for public procurement. What would it mean if everyone in the EU requested special rules for local procurement?

The challenge is to create balanced rules that enable local procurement without compromising free trade and fair competition. That is why I have taken the initiative and asked the Commission to clarify what is meant by the term ‘locally produced’ food.


  Evelyne Gebhardt, author. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, consumers experience a great deal of uncertainty when they go into shops and see a locally produced product. No one knows what that actually means. Does it actually come from somewhere local or is the yoghurt that is claimed to be local perhaps produced using milk that had first been transported a thousand kilometres? Is that what we as consumers want?

It is time that we clarified what is actually meant by the term ‘locally produced’. Many citizens would like to know that. This is not because they want to pursue food nationalism, but because they take protection of the climate and the environment seriously, and they say: these natural products that I am buying today do not need to come from a long distance away when they can also be produced locally, and I would prefer that. These things are important. We want clarity so that responsible citizens can also take responsible decisions. After all, what does it mean to be able to take responsible decisions? It means receiving the information that you need to formulate the decision accordingly. These are things that we need to clarify.

The Commission has, in fact, started to consider this matter. I would be very grateful, Commissioner, if you could tell us by when we can expect action to be taken by the Commission. When will we potentially also have legislative proposals on the table with which we will be able to provide citizens with an answer to these pressing questions? It is not a question of preventing products from coming from other countries. I always look forward to the delicious products from Spain that I can buy in Germany, because they cannot be produced in Germany. However, there are also products that are produced locally. It is important for us to ensure that citizens know where a product comes from, what the quality of the product is, and that there is not always a riddle associated with it in terms of how the information should be interpreted, what the quality label that they see means, and whether it actually has any value or any real meaning. This is the legal certainty that we want for our citizens.


  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Commission has been following the discussions and developments concerning local products and products that are locally produced in the Member States with a great deal of interest.

At the level of the European institutions, the discussion on local products and food production systems opened in various fora: in Parliament, the Council, and as part of the ‘quality package’ and the reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP). In its opinion of January this year on food production systems, the Committee of the Regions called for a new European instrument specifically designed to select and promote local food products.

The Commission services have taken a number of initiatives, including consulting with Member States and stakeholders in order to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding short food supply chains, a study of food short supply chains, which is under preparation, and the formation of a group of experts within the qualified advisory group to advise the Commission on short food supply chains and local products.

The Commission has also launched the ‘quality package’ and has undertaken to analyse this issue. Work has begun. If necessary, and to the extent that the participation of the European Union is justified, we will be able to launch a proposal.

Furthermore, the Commission will organise a conference entitled ‘Local agriculture and short food supply chains’ on 20 April, which should provide more answers to the questions producers and consumers have on local products. Ms Gebhardt and Ms Corraza, as you say, there is no definition of the terms ‘locally produced’ or ‘local products’ at EU level. It is, therefore, not possible to answer consumers’ questions on distance, quality, production method, ingredients and origin of products. If need be, Member States have the responsibility to define these terms. Under European legislation on the provision of food information to consumers, clear and correct information should be provided by producers and retailers in order to avoid misleading consumers.

In addition to the initiatives I have mentioned, the results of which will be taken into consideration, the Commission services are continuing to analyse the issues surrounding short food supply chains and local products. The aim is to determine the merits of the additional actions at EU level in order to meet the needs of consumers for information.

With regard to the risks concerning the operation of the internal market, any action by Member States must comply with the provisions of the Treaty including, of course, those concerning the free movement of goods and services.


  Albert Deß, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am very grateful to Ms Corazza Bildt and the other Member for the fact that this subject is on the agenda. Not everything is certain, but a hundred years ago we had almost exclusively local production, and products were brought to market in their local area.

Today, the situation is quite different. I have here an interesting announcement from the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture, which has discussed precisely what the Commissioner was just saying, namely that it is already possible to entertain regional showcases and regional origin. According to the statement, the Federal Minister for the Economy Ilse Aigner is looking to launch regional labelling in Germany at a Federal/Länder summit in April. She says that she is now going to bring forward an initial plan for a new regional showcase for food packaging. The aim would be to put in place clear and transparent labelling for regional products. The labelling is to be voluntary initially, and will aim to make the origin of the product and the most important ingredients transparent.

The results of a survey are also interesting. Seventy-nine per cent of consumers are prepared to pay more for regional foods, but only 17% feel reliably informed about the origin of regional foods. Herein lies the major problem, therefore. According to one survey, 83% of respondents in Germany already pay attention to which region a foodstuff comes from. There then follows an interesting statement: according to the Minister, there is no requirement either for a new national legal basis or for notification via the Commission in order to for such a regional showcase to be introduced. In other words, the Member States already have the latitude to act in this way. Nonetheless, the Commission needs to provide greater clarity in this area.


  Marc Tarabella, on behalf of the S&D Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, globalisation entails costs which must be taken into consideration; at the same time, it is necessary to meet the obligations governing international trade and exchange. I am therefore convinced that setting standards for what is produced locally should take into account, in particular, the kilometres separating the production site from the point of sale and the point of consumption.

I am convinced that the setting of standards should ensure that due regard is given to the costs of these external factors. A new criterion is therefore required to define what could be labelled as ‘locally produced’. This criterion should take account of socially sustainable production processes aimed at selecting local products evaluated on the basis of the behaviour of the producer and the method of working. The impact on public health and consumer safety, that is to say all the elements having a direct effect on our economy and on sustainable development, should also be taken into account.

It is important to include all these criteria in our commercial semantics. We will guarantee the development of the regional and European economy and trade. On this matter, I have also decided, at this stage, to ensure greater consistency in public procurement – in the report for which I am rapporteur in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection – by establishing a preference for local products.

Finally, I would like to say that, as regards food, it is necessary to make a distinction between origin and provenance, enable food to be labelled more clearly – this is already the case and is ongoing – and indicate, in the case of animals, where they were reared, slaughtered, consumed and sold. This is very important, because origin and provenance are two entirely different things, and the consumer must not be misled.


  Peter Jahr (PPE), blue-card question to Mr Deß. – (DE) Today we are discussing the solution, namely local agriculture – short supply chains, and that is why I have a question for Mr Deß. In the past it was common for our butchers to carry out slaughtering themselves in the local vicinity and they were able to sell the animals themselves. We have developed European hygiene legislation that means that this is no longer possible. Should we not take this opportunity to also take a look at those pieces of legislation that stand in the way of exactly what we are aiming to achieve?


  Albert Deß (PPE), Blue-card answer.(DE) Thank you for your question, Mr Jahr. The reality, Commissioner, is that the Commission, too, needs to consider whether we do not need to lay down other criteria. I had an experience a few years ago, where I had to fight in the Commission in order to help a Bavarian slaughterhouse to survive. What did the Commission official over there have to say about it? He said, ‘Well, it’s no problem if it closes, there’s another slaughterhouse 60 kilometres away in Austria.’ We cannot promote regional products with that mindset. There therefore needs to be a broad-based change of attitude so that regional products, too, can be offered. In addition, we need the Commission to reconsider a few pieces of legislation that play a part in ensuring that this is no longer possible.


  Liam Aylward, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, globally an estimated 80% of food is currently produced and marketed at local level. In the European Union, this figure is about 20%. It is clear that shortness of food supply chains is not the solution for dealing with the wider issues of guaranteeing food security and meeting the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. That said, shorter food supply chains do have an important role to play in the future CAP, and it is certain that clearer guidelines are needed without adding increased bureaucracy for farmers.

We already have a wide range of labels, such as PDO, PGI and TSG, so it is not necessarily the case that further specific labelling on this is needed. However, consumers are bombarded with so much information these days that it should at least be made clear what exactly they are buying when they buy locally-produced food.

‘Local’ is a very flexible term as it means different things, in terms of distance, to different people. The basic idea that should be kept in mind about local food is simple: local food is produced as close to home as possible. Local food integrates production, processing, distribution and consumption on a small scale, creating sustainable local economies and a strong connection between farm and table.

In a wider context, a criticism of the CAP which I come back to time and time again is that the added value of European agriculture is not fully appreciated further along the food supply chain and to a certain degree by the consumer. In this regard, locally-produced food, local markets, direct engagements with producers and on-farm business, leading to shorter distribution channels, have the potential to generate greater interaction, understanding and knowledge between consumer and producers. The future CAP must be a policy that welcomes and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among farmers in their locality and also supports efforts to increase engagement with consumers and European taxpayers.


  José Bové, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, firstly, let me make a statement of fact: our citizens increasingly want to find and consume locally produced and seasonal food, for health and quality reasons in particular.

We have to find ways to enable farmers to meet this growing demand effectively and quickly. We have to support the establishment of local infrastructure for producers, such as maintaining local abattoirs which, while guaranteeing rigorous sanitary control, facilitate the development of local short food supply chains and strengthen direct selling.

Support for local agriculture and direct selling should help producers sell their products and bring them to the attention of consumers. Stronger direct relations will enable farmers to retain more of the added-value created on their farms. Direct selling within the farm must be promoted and facilitated and support must be given to the collective actions of farmers who want to open collective points of sale enabling them to offer local consumers a wider range of products.

The Commission must facilitate the emergence, sustainability and development of systems of selling through direct delivery to consumers, such as the Associations for the Preservation of Smallholdings (AMAP) in France, which enable approximately 3 000 farmers to supply 60 000 families.

Finally, Member States must be able to add other criteria concerning, in particular, the size of the farm, the volume of production or the traditional character of the product in order to define local agriculture.


  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the ECR Group. – (PL) Mr President, in relation to Mr Bové’s statement and the previous interesting exchange of opinions between Mr Dess and Mr Jahr, I would like to say that in the report concerning animal transport, which I am currently working on and which will soon be the subject of the vote in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, I am placing a strong emphasis on the issue of local slaughterhouses, which should indeed be supported and developed. It is one of the ways of strengthening the idea of regional produce, and ensuring that such products are truly local and produced in individual regions.

Returning to our core subject, we can observe that both across the world and in Europe a process is taking place whereby traditional agricultural production based on natural methods is being displaced by industrial agriculture. An ever-increasing part of agricultural production originates from large industrial farms. Natural agriculture based on family farms applying traditional methods of production is in decline. This is a very detrimental process that leads to a reduction in the quality of food, a deterioration of animal welfare conditions, negative environmental impacts and many other undesirable consequences.

I am strongly in favour of defining local produce as goods that are produced entirely within a given region, using traditional regional production methods that are environmentally friendly and promote animal welfare. This should be the criterion used for classifying such produce as locally produced goods. I cannot imagine a situation whereby meat products originating from a large industrial animal farm - such as those present in certain regions of Poland and managed by, for example, Danish businesses – would be regarded as local produce from a particular Polish region. Such a situation should not occur.


  Jacek Włosowicz, on behalf of the EFD Group.(PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is very evident that consumers are increasingly interested in purchasing products that are designated as ‘locally produced’, ‘produced nearby’, ‘zero-mile’ or described in a similar way. It is worth drawing attention to the need to develop explanations and a proper interpretation of the meaning of the frequently used term ‘locally produced’. This is because we must ensure transparency in this area and avoid deceiving consumers. We should devise definitions and criteria for the designation of locally produced food that would be a way of ensuring that consumers will always be in a position to make free and informed choices, based on clear and correct information.

Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that following the introduction of such measures the concept of ‘locally produced’ goods does not incite food nationalism or contravene the spirit of the internal market. Thank you.


  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, this debate is very important and current. Present agricultural and trade policies have promoted models of intensive production for export, whilst laying waste to local production and small and medium-sized agriculture in countless countries.

These models are unsustainable and irrational, both environmentally and socioeconomically. They have reduced food diversity, made a number of countries more food dependant and contributed to the desertification of vast rural areas. As such, there is an urgent need to stimulate local production and consumption, thereby encouraging short supply chains, and reducing the energy flows associated with food production and distribution.

Small and medium-sized agriculture plays a very important role in this, which it is important to recognise and value. All this requires a profound change to the current CAP and its market focus. Agriculture needs to be withdrawn from the World Trade Organisation. There is a need for an agricultural policy that recognises each country’s right to production in line with its possibilities and potential, and the importance thereof.


  Diane Dodds (NI). - Mr President, with all due respect to the authors of this particular question, when I read this I thought that it symbolised everything which frustrates me about the European institutions. We have a habit in this House and in these institutions of turning ourselves inside out on the minutiae of a debate, and this question is a good example of that.

We all believe that locally-produced food is good. I buy local vegetables from my local farm shop. I buy meat from my local butcher, who actually lists in his shop where the local farms are where he buys his animals for slaughter. I see no need for the European institutions to get involved in the minutiae of this debate. I think that we can do this very well for ourselves. Of course we also have some idea of locality with the PGIs, and Northern Ireland has recently had some very good results in designating some of its very good products: Comber potatoes, Lough Neagh eels and Armagh Bramley apples.

What we should not allow this debate on local produce to do is to lead us into a situation where we have food nationalism and trade barriers, and that is the most important issue.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE). - (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, we asked you about ‘local produce’ labelling. Although there are binding European regulations protecting regional products, we are clearly lacking a definition of what can be presented as a local product, so that items imported from hundreds of kilometres away cannot be sold at popular famers' markets as local products. However, consumers are not misled only at farmers’ markets, which provide access to regional products from small farmers. I do not like the fact that Czech honey is on sale which originates from Turkey, or traditional Czech salami which originates from Poland.

We are therefore asking the Commission to propose, within the framework of its normative agenda, a definition of what can be presented and sold as a local product. This may look like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but it is not. The problem is universal throughout Europe, often affecting border areas, and tackling it through a European agreement on the definition of such labelling is therefore a good idea.

The ways of defining what is and what is not a local product may vary. It is farmers, above all, who should say, for example, if they wish to provide information on how far a product has travelled from the field to the customer, or the exact address of the place of production or other details. However, it is also possible to include other proposals for mandatory and at the same time verifiable details, which will help both buyers and inspection bodies quickly to tell where a product has come from. This will be appreciated not only by consumers, who will have certainty that products are from a given locality, but also everyone else, because it will also, among other things, reduce the number of long-haul lorries on Europe’s highways.


  Phil Prendergast (S&D). - Mr President, food that is truly local is an invaluable asset for local economies and communities. A recent economic study found that a given amount spent on food from local businesses generates more than twice that value for the local economy.

I see locally-produced food as a matter of social cohesion and environmental sustainability, and it is also quite important in terms of food security. It is clear that current labelling regimes are not satisfactory. Lax rules allow manufacturers to get away with completely misleading claims and undermine our consumers’ confidence and the right to choice.

Products with long supply chains must not be allowed to be simply labelled as having been produced at the point of packaging when, as my colleagues indicated, nearby cross-border products would actually qualify as local under a labelling regime that is sensible and accurate, at least from a geographical point of view. We need clarity and reliability. It is important to look into methods, ingredients, geography, traceability and corporate practices when doing so.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Waterford, in my own constituency of Munster in Ireland, for applying for protected geographical indication status for Waterford Blaa, which is a traditional type of bread. Up the Déise!


  James Nicholson (ECR). - Mr President, consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced, especially with regard to issues such as country of origin, animal welfare and the environmental impact of food production. In reaction to this there is a growing trend for the Commission to legislate on labelling issues. I think the Commission has a genuine desire to ensure that consumers are better informed. However, let me be very clear: legislation on issues such as country of origin labelling has resulted in some very unwelcome side effects.

The text of this oral question mentions food nationalism, which I find to be a very appropriate phrase. Unfortunately producers and other actors in the food industry in some Member States have used this as an opportunity to develop schemes which are wholly protectionist. Consumers should be aware that this practice does not benefit them as it excludes competition, possibly leading to higher prices. These actions have a particularly serious effect on the agricultural economy and the regions which border other Member States.


  Herbert Dorfmann (PPE).(DE) Mr President, it is beyond doubt that locally produced foods enjoy great popularity. However, the proportion of the total food market made up by these short-chain products should not be overestimated. This proportion remains very small. The future of European agriculture and food distribution also cannot lie in a general return to local market stalls and direct sales.

The common agricultural policy has sought, in recent years, to promote the aggregation of farmers in the form of producer organisations and thus to develop a counterweight to the increasingly concentrated food retail industry. This necessarily brings with it longer supply chains. However, it is very much the case that individual businesses do offer short chains, and that is also something that consumers want. It therefore seems to me all the more important that the abuse of this consumer desire should also be prevented. The fact is that there is not currently any definition of what ‘local production’ is, and furthermore there is also a lack of general inspections; instead there are only voluntarily organised inspections by individual groups of direct sellers.

The question also occurs to me, however, of whether it serves a purpose or indeed is possible to create European rules in this connection. The European panorama is diverse in this regard, and I think it makes more sense to leave this definition to the individual groups of suppliers, who then also communicate their rules.

There is another point that I would just like to mention. With its protection of designations of origin, the European Union has created a very clear regulatory system for geographical designations. If we were to now attempt to authorise a new parallel regional system of designations, the result would be the construction of a parallel system and the irritation of consumers. The reality then would be the advent of a new form of parochial thinking on foodstuffs. Ultimately, that is not something we need.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))


  Franz Obermayr (NI), blue-card question.(DE) I have a question for my fellow Member from the South Tyrol. You said that you do not place great value on short supply chains. My question then – and this is perhaps also of great interest to you – is whether you do not, in that case, also ascribe a significant contribution to the maintenance of the small-scale structure in the Alpine region to these small regional businesses with their short production chains. In other words, is it not precisely these direct-selling, small-scale businesses that, as a result of their ability to sell directly, also provide a survival opportunity for their businesses and their regions?

As a second point, how would you prefer your bacon? Would you rather have bacon where the final processing takes place in the Tyrol, but the meat actually comes from Belgium? Or would you rather have bacon that is exclusively produced, slaughtered and made in the Tyrol?


  Herbert Dorfmann (PPE), blue-card answer.(DE) I did not say that I am against short supply chains. In my previous working life, I built up a short supply chain of that very kind, which worked extremely well and also enjoyed great popularity. All I said was that I do not believe that we need this to be regulated at European level. When it comes to bacon – I am happy to invite you to come to South Tyrol where you will have the opportunity to taste the bacon that I prefer.


  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have revived an old debate. As much as I love bacon from South Tyrol, I have to say that bacon from the Kiskunság region of Hungary is also excellent. It would be most welcome if this debate did not serve the purpose of closing the gates of trade to each other, too. This debate, by the way, is redundant in a certain sense, because we have already had the same discussion in connection with quality policy. Let us also not forget the fact that the European Union is the world’s second largest exporter and largest importer of agricultural goods. Mr Dorfmann pointed out that local markets, local trade, and local processing have their own limitations. I, too, support them because they create jobs in agricultural regions and reduce transportation costs, but we should not delude ourselves.

It would be welcome if we could finally calculate in this House what it is that determines the actual environmental footprint of an agricultural product, because using large amounts of energy in greenhouses in the colder climate of Hungary does not necessarily have a smaller ecological footprint in vegetable production than if we were to import these goods from other continents, even if we include shipping costs. Let us renounce economic protectionism; we should support local production, but we can by no means stop global trade.


  Lara Comi (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am particularly concerned about knowing the origin of products, because I think consumers should not be left in a state of confusion, which is definitely important.

Allow me to explain: in Italy we have a food culture that everyone is well aware of and we Italians often spend the weekends touring the countryside getting to know local products. Now, can you imagine how bad it would be for an Italian to arrive at a farmhouse restaurant to see goods with a well-known retail brand being unloaded from a refrigerated lorry? Let us now imagine that these goods were produced two kilometres away from the farmhouse. At this point, the unwitting consumer would leave confused, never to return there. The manager of the farmhouse would suffer, though maintaining in good faith that he had not done anything wrong. No court would accept a claim of food fraud, because no rule has been breached.

In an economy like Europe’s, we cannot accept absurd situations like the one I have just described, because I think a regulation is needed, above all, to try and harmonise the system. In order to protect consumers and small farming and rural tourism businesses, I think we ought to provide a clear and precise definition of what local production means, which would apply across Europe. This is especially pertinent when talking about food, which is an issue particular dear to us, including in safety terms. Here it is not enough to apply by analogy the rules in force in other sectors.

If I want to sample a local cheese, it is not enough that the final major processing phase is carried out locally, and we are fighting for this in other sectors as well. Rather, the animal that provided the milk for the product must have grazed on the grass of nearby fields. It must then have been milked in situ so that the animal did not have to go through any wearying journeys and the cheese must have been produced following absolutely strict rules.

That is what we want for our consumers.


Catch-the-eye procedure


  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE).(DE) Mr President, thank you very much for the opportunity to hold this debate today – it is, after all, a very important one. It must be our objective to provide added value for consumers and, above all, for producers. I share the view that the terms ‘regionalism’ and ‘locally produced’ need to be clearly and comprehensibly defined.

The discussion is altogether more comprehensive, however. Europe needs a re-think when it comes to foods and the entire foods sector. Short supply chains are perhaps one approach in that regard. However, we also need a common path via which everyone can move towards quality, transparency and certainty in production. We need a common path that has no negative impact on the livelihoods of farmers and the food industry. For me, the cornerstones of a foodstuffs model of this kind are certainty of origin for foodstuffs, the quality of foodstuffs, diversity and regionalism. Certainty in relation to foodstuffs must be the basic prerequisite for the definition of regionalism. In other words, certainty about the origin of a foodstuff. The most important thing here is that the country of origin of a foodstuff must be clearly visible to consumers.


  Olga Sehnalová (S&D). - (CS) Mr President, the expanding supply of local produce is a specific response to the lack of confidence in the single market. Customers have doubts over the fair operation of the market and the quality of products, and they often have conflicting impressions as to the origin of products. Concern over cheating and imports of lower quality products leads customers to demand local produce which they consider more reliable in terms of quality.

It is not just a matter of whether this really is true, but there is, of course, a need to clarify just what labelling can be placed on local produce. Producers and retailers often try to adjust to local habits and offer globalised food adapted to local taste preferences. They should rather, however, contribute towards confidence in the single market by offering products of the same quality throughout the EU, where products are so labelled. In my opinion, customers would value this at least as much as the offerings of local producers, where they still exist.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). - Mr President, I think there is a little bit of romanticism around this debate on local food. I am concerned that we would dare define this issue, so please let us be cautious on this. I come from a country – Ireland – where we are massive exporters of food. We appreciate local food but we want you across the European Union to regard Irish food as local because you are our customers.

If our definition of ‘local’ is based too much on ‘near us’, I think we will destroy the internal market for food in the European Union and renationalise production to the detriment of agriculture in the Union. So I think we need to be sensitive to this issue and be very careful about what we mean. Could I also suggest that, rather than spoon-feed consumers, we let consumers take control themselves and ask questions. Perhaps that is a better way for consumers to get what they actually want.

We all know too that in terms of food production there are many ingredients and it is not possible for all of them to come from the local area.


  President. – The next speaker is Ms Kadenbach, to whom I would like to offer my very sincere congratulations on her birthday.


  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Thank you very much, Mr President. Commissioner, perhaps I can just endorse what Ms McGuinness had to say, as I view these things quite differently from the way in which you see them. I do not see this as protectionism, but as an ability and a duty to inform consumers. This is not – and I must contradict a fellow Member here – because I want to put a value on it. I am not saying that local or regional products are better. I just want to tell consumers that they can decide in an informed way whether they want a product from their own region, either because they are familiar with the conditions of production, or because they believe in having products on their dinner table that come from the local region for reasons of protecting nature and the environment.

I really do see this as a major opportunity for consumers to make informed choices to the benefit of the environment, informed choices to the benefit of jobs in the region, informed choice to the benefit of certain production methods, and I see absolutely no danger to the internal market, as I see precisely the major opportunity to make an informed choice in favour of Irish butter or Irish milk if that is what I want. However, if I want milk and cheese from the Forest Quarter of Lower Austria, then I need to know where products come from or else I cannot realise that freedom of choice.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, we are, to some extent, agreed in this House that direct selling or the promotion of local products is, or can be, beneficial both for consumers and producers. It is clear that, in areas where agriculture is structured on a small-scale basis – such as in the Alps – direct selling by farmers is, to some extent, one of the few major opportunities to secure the survival of such small-scale farm holdings. On the other hand it is also clear that, in a world where consumers have industrially mass-produced foodstuffs to consume, this offers them an opportunity to also get hold of individual, environmentally healthy, natural foodstuffs.

Unfortunately, people have the impression that up to now the European Union has, if anything, put bureaucratic obstacles in the way of such locally-produced foods holding sway or continuing to be consumed. We should therefore be preventing false labelling, in order to prevent long-distance transportation and the like. We really should come up with a definition for local products. We should appreciate the protection of designations of origin. However, we should not regulate all this from the centre at European level.


  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE).(PT) Mr President, the definition of locally produced products and, in particular, the need for these products to be marketed as such could be important for producers and consumers.

It is important to producers because it stimulates production by guaranteeing sale at a more profitable price, and to consumers because they can access fresher products, the origin and production methods of which they know better.

It is also a case of boosting the rural economy and rural life, with benefits for the European public as a whole. Let us protect and enhance local products, but let us not complicate or bureaucratise matters because otherwise we will kill them off.


  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this debate seems pretty absurd to me, since we are here discussing whether or not local production is something to be prized.

Quite obviously, it is a core value that Europe is bound to promote and hold dear. We might discuss how to achieve it, but the fact that we have got to envisage a model for promoting local and traditional production is, in my opinion, inevitable.

Local farming always fosters quality products, because fake or counterfeit products can get into distribution chains, while a local producer cannot counterfeit one of their own products, which they have a prime interest in selling. Likewise, traceability in this situation is not monitored by bureaucratic means but on a daily basis by the local producer and their customers, who trust in their local, neighbourhood producer. Moreover, the promotion of ‘zero-kilometre’ products is intrinsic to local, quality produce.

I think that this is a core value that Europe cannot but support, unless we want to turn our institution into one that talks about fakes and frauds but fails to consider the huge amount of value that is also created by practices handed down by generation upon generation, which is on its doorstep and represents a basic part of our agricultural output.


  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, regional and local produce is fortunately becoming increasingly important to consumers. Of course, this only presents a problem when everyone has a different understanding of what local produce is and when a variety of definitions and designations are used to identify the products. The question is whether ‘local’ means that the produce comes from within a few kilometres, from the same region or from the same Member State. It will be important to include in the quality package a clear, standardised definition of locally produced food. This must be based primarily on consumers’ expectations, in order to avoid misleading them.

Today I have repeatedly heard the bizarre criticism that the designation ‘locally produced food’ could result in food nationalism and goes against the spirit of the internal market, but I believe that this is simply absurd, because much of Europe’s added value comes from the variety of local and regional food producers. This variety and quality can be encouraged and protected by means of clear labelling.


  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Mr President, I would like to draw attention to a problem. Even if we agree on the definitions and criteria of locally produced food, we face one serious problem. Local products are often produced by small producers. The time and funds required to provide subsidies are so great that subsidies are unavailable in many cases. For most producers, it does not make sense to spend the energy, and subsidy policy actually penalises them. This puts them at a disadvantage, and I therefore consider such a subsidy policy to be one of the distortions of the common agricultural policy.


  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I tabled, as part of the debates on the product quality package, a number of amendments relating to the issue being discussed today. The debate then was about introducing a new European ‘Produced on my farm’ label, applicable to products sold directly from farms or in their vicinity, including at markets or via direct delivery to consumers. I think that this would be the best direction to follow in terms of coming up with a definition of local products.

With regard to criteria such as the distance from the farm to the consumer or the production methods, I think that they are irrelevant. All that matters is the direct link between the producer and consumer. Local sale schemes offer benefits to producers who can receive a higher percentage of the end price, as well as to consumers who can enjoy fresh produce at affordable prices. The potential problem of food nationalism raised by the authors of the question is a red herring. What matters is price and quality, and if local products meet these conditions, consumers will buy them.


  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, today’s debate is being held one year after the European agricultural quality policy was launched. As part of the CAP reform, this initiative supports preserving local culinary heritage in Europe. Specific regional features play a vital role in maintaining cultural diversity as a whole. Local networks and products reflect the traditions of the different areas of the European Union and support organic farming. In order to preserve this cultural resource, the definition of the term ‘locally produced food’ needs to be clarified. This debate is especially relevant in the case of food which is produced via a cross-border process. At the same time, the situation of the networks and products common to border areas is unclear. I would have liked to ask Commissioner Cioloş whether the geographical aspect will be the main element in this classification and against what reference point the distance used will be measured in granting ‘locally produced’ status.


(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)


  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, honourable Members, thank you for the debate. This clearly shows how engaged you, like many citizens, are in the issue of locally-produced food. There was a Eurobarometer survey which showed that nine out of ten respondents want to buy more locally-produced food and think that the EU should contribute to its promotion.

So this is important. However, it is very difficult to define what locally produced food is. It is also confirmed in the same Eurobarometer survey that many consumers feel a bit puzzled about this because there are so many different parameters, depending on the different countries and on the different traditions.

In order to address this, the Commission has taken five actions: consultation of Member States is going on; there is a study on its way; there is an expert group that is consulting the Commission; there is the quality package that the Commission has undertaken to look at; and there is this conference tomorrow on local agriculture and a short food supply chain. With all this and the ongoing work on the renewed CAP, I think these steps will bring more clarity on what locally produced food is.


  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Béla Glattfelder (PPE), in writing.(HU) The consumption of locally produced foodstuffs has several benefits, both for consumers and for the farmers producing them. These products offer a more reliable standard of quality for local consumers, because after all, the farmers’ own reputation is at stake, and purchase is often based in part on personal acquaintance. The products contribute to preserving the viability of the local rural economy, because revenues are used locally. Since they are sold mostly on local markets, directly by the farmers, they avoid food retailers and wholesalers who would otherwise take a disproportionate cut of the profit. What is more, local sale is also good for the environment, as the goods are not transported over hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of kilometres. This can help reduce CO2 emissions from the transport of agricultural products. One of the most important campaign promises of Fidesz was to support local small producers and local markets. The Hungarian Government has already made numerous significant achievements in this regard. According to the amendment of the public procurements act, for example, local producers must be given preference in the food procurement of schools, hospitals and other public institutions. In order to ensure the protection of local producers, however, we must define the criteria and labelling rules applicable to locally produced foodstuffs at European level.


  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) I would like to support the question put to the Commission regarding the precise definition of the concept of ‘locally produced’ food, since the ambiguities included in product information affect both consumers and producers. People are becoming increasingly aware of the wide range of choice and quality on offer and consequently take more interest in the products they purchase. Organic food and a healthy lifestyle are becoming ever more popular. For this reason, local food is highly appreciated. Consumers should therefore be able to obtain reliable information regarding the place of origin of particular products. Producers, on the other hand, are keen to get a good return for their quality, local produce. We should, therefore, accurately define the method to be used by producers to designate the point of production of their goods, so that consumers can unequivocally recognise a quality brand. Product information should be clear and refer both to the region of origin as well as to the ingredients used in the production process. This will result in an improvement of the quality of food products and in more effective communication between producers and consumers.


  Csanád Szegedi (NI), in writing.(HU) In my opinion, what fully constitutes locally produced food is food to which no artificial preservatives have been added and which is delivered to the consumer while remaining in its original natural environment. Central state support for the production of locally produced food could result in the emergence of self-sufficient regions which could greatly contribute to job creation, and due to the health benefits of the consumption of these foodstuffs would radically cut the healthcare expenses of these regions in the long term. The packaging of these goods should be required to provide an exact indication of the place of origin of both the final product and the raw material at settlement level.

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