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AM171: Europe rejects ‘plant-based censorship’ in landmark sustainability battle

The European Parliament, The European Council and The European Commission have rejected Amendment 171, the controversial food regulation challenged as an attack on sustainability by nearly half a million consumers in a petition started by ProVeg International

Leading NGOs, including Greenpeace and WWF, as well as Greta Thunberg and plant-based companies such as Upfield, Oatly, Nestle, and Alpro, joined ProVeg in a landmark sustainability battle on the grounds of ‘plant-based dairy censorship’. 

Opponents of AM171 say the decision reflects a scientific consensus that has been publicly endorsed by the IPCC, the FAO, WHO, and the EAT-Lancet Commission, all of whose recommendations make the case for an urgent shift towards plant-based diets.

In what the organisers of the petition are calling a “critical turning point for  healthy, sustainable diets in Europe”, Amendment 171 – the draft legislation that sought to impose severe new restrictions on plant-based foods, proposed by the European Parliament’s AGRI Committee – has been dropped, ahead of the EU’s super trilogues. The European Green Deal, and its sustainable-food roadmap, the Farm to Fork Strategy, represent Europe’s progressive climate priorities. However, many believe AM171 directly contradicted Europe’s own sustainability goals.  

The implications of AM171 were enormous for the dairy alternatives sector, and would have prohibited:

  • Familiar packaging formats such as a carton of plant-based milk or a block of plant-based margarine. 
  • Visual depictions of plant-based foods if they could be judged to be “evoking” or “imitating” dairy – for example, an image of a milky swirl on a package of oat drink.
  • Science-based claims that compare plant-based foods to dairy foods. 
  • Allergen information such as “does not contain milk;” 
  • Descriptive terms such as “creamy,” “buttery”, “use like cooking cream”, or “vegan alternative to yoghurt”.

Welcoming the decision, Jasmijn de Boo, vice president, ProVeg International, said: “This is a common-sense victory. Citizens, industry and experts have spoken and the EU listened. It would be absurd to censor plant-based products at the same time as telling consumers to switch to a plant-based diet. Imagine censoring electric cars or recycled paper. We applaud the EU for its clear-sightedness under immense pressure from environmentally reckless interests.

“Europe has spoken. The climate crisis is its top priority and it will not allow an anti-competitive, environmentally reckless policy, introducing a raft of new restrictions to plant-based alternatives to dairy”

“Europe has spoken. The climate crisis is its top priority and it will not allow an anti-competitive, environmentally reckless policy, introducing a raft of new restrictions to plant-based alternatives to dairy (already the most highly-restricted food category in the EU). AM171 would have set a dangerous precedent but Europe has sent a clear message to the rest of the world and chosen the planet over politics.” 

Francisco Guerreiro MEP added: “It is a shame that this amendment was even on the table in the first place. At this point, we can’t get back the precious time that was lost trying to find a compromise over this nonsensical amendment, but we can be very happy that negotiators finally came to their senses and decided to drop it. The plant-based industry is playing a vital role in the fields of environmental sustainability, human health and animal welfare and the EU must support its growth, not halt it.”

‘As a founding member of the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods, tackling anti-competitive legislation has always been top of our agenda. For the past few months, Upfield has been a vocal opponent of Amendment 171 and today’s decision to reject it is a win for the plant-based food industry and for all those people who signed the petition to pledge their support.” said Dr Jeanette Fielding, chief corporate affairs and communications officer, Upfield. 

“But the battle is not won. Justice for consumers and for our planet will only be achieved when plant-based foods are given fair treatment with animal-based foods under the law.”

Cecilia McAleavey, director of public affairs and sustainable eating at Oatly, commented: “We welcome the decision to reject amendment 171. It is essential and time-critical to focus on removing legal obstacles hindering the shift towards a sustainable food system, not introducing new ones. Science shows how important it is to shift to plant-based diets to tackle climate change and public health challenges. Given that we have only nine years to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, we all need to focus on how we can accelerate the shift and make it easier for consumers to choose plant-based options.”

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