An environmental performance model that is expected to form the basis for substantiating sustainability claims for food products in the EU favours intensive farming and penalises organic, a group of 14 NGOs has warned.
This month, the European Commission launches its much anticipated Green Claims initiative, as part of the European Green Deal. Although limited information has been published about the initiative so far, it is expected to require companies to use the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method when making environmental claims.
The development is of deep concern to the organic and agroecology food and farming communities who warn that the PEF model is unsuitable for assessing the environmental performance of agri-food products.
Now, a group of 14 NGOs – including IFOAM Organics Europe, The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, and Slow Food Europe – have submitted a joint letter to the Commission, calling on ministers to reject the PEF system.
While we welcome and support the objective of fighting greenwashing in the food sector, it is clear that the PEF as it currently stands is not suited for measuring the environmental performance of bio-based products such as food products
The NGOs point out that the product-focused PEF was designed for industrial goods and when applied to food “gives misleading results”. They say: “When it comes to agri-food products PEF is predominantly an indicator of yields, favouring the most intensive methods of production while disregarding both a number of positive elements and the negative externalities of the food production process”.
The NGOs cite egg production as an example of the way PEF would distort sustainability calculations. Since the more extensive the agriculture practice is, the worse PEF scores, it means that “eggs in cages score better than free range eggs, which in turn score better than organic eggs”.
The NGOs warn that life cycle analysis methodologies such as the PEF advantage the current intensive system of food production, the exact opposite of what is needed to support the transition to more sustainable food systems. They write: “While we welcome and support the objective of fighting greenwashing in the food sector, it is clear that the PEF as it currently stands is not suited for measuring the environmental performance of bio-based products such as food products”.