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Author: Feedback Global

International ‘Towards halving food waste in Europe’ Conference

3rd Jul 24 by Maximilian Herzog

Feedback EU presents call to action to stop biomethane rush that threatens European food waste reduction efforts

Monday, 17th of June, Eindhoven, Netherlands, 17:00 sharp. I enter the bus that will bring us to the venue of the International “Towards Halving Food Waste” Conference. And I know immediately that the next two days will be something very special. 

Why? Because the momentum could not be greater: just earlier that day, EU Ministers had agreed to, for the first time ever, introduce binding food waste reduction targets for the whole European Union – something that we had been heavily pushing for in the last few months as “Prevent Waste Coalition” with Zero Waste Europe, SAFE, EEB, and Too Good To Go. 

And because the whole world seems to sit in this bus. A professor from New Zealand. A doctoral researcher from Australia. A scientist from Greece. A Dutch expert on feed made from food surplus. And of course, Feedback EU is also on board, excited to share our work, make new contacts, get inspired, and develop new ideas for our campaigns on food waste and biomethane.  

Organising such a high-level conference, and giving room to all the different backgrounds and experiences of participants is challenging. And people taking time for more than two days, turning on their “out of office” notifications in their mailbox, and being truly focused, cannot be valued enough.  

But this is what the conference delivered.

Arrival day – Getting to know each other 

If there is one way to get people’s attention and start off a conference, it is a mind-blowing documentary. This was delivered by Kadir van Lohuizen and his World Press Photo winning project ‘Wasteland’ as well as film ‘Food for Thought’ that is currently showing on Dutch television. Whoever still thought that the Netherlands are a small country of tulips and cheese, was proven wrong this evening.  

Only 17 million people, but 11 million pigs, 4 million cows, and 100 million chickens – that is the Netherlands. 80% of Dutch tomatoes are exported. 85% of Dutch cheese is exported. And 84% of Dutch onions are exported – leading to most of the onions sold in Ivory Coast being Dutch. 

At the same time, this happens in a food system that is unjust, unsustainable and highly wasteful. More than 1/3 of all food is wasted. For many, that sounds abstract. In practise, this means that 700.000 loafs of bread are wasted in the Netherlands. Every single day. Worldwide, emissions from food waste are as high as four times the emissions of the aviation sector! 

Day 1Inspiration & Collaboration 

Photo credit: To Huidekoper

Food-feed-fuel competition. Yet another word that doesn’t really capture the absurdity of our current agricultural system. It was therefore high time for our director Frank Mechielsen to take the floor – both in a smaller breakout-session, as well as on the large plenary stage in front of 350 people – to present our work and shed light on the mislead European biomethane policies we are currently up against with our allies: 

Mislead because instead of preventing food “waste” or using food “surplus” at least for animal feed, more and more it ends up in anaerobic digesters to produce biogas, which can then be upgraded to biomethane (and be injected into the gas grid).  

Mislead because biomethane hinders the needed reduction of livestock (with manure getting a price tag for energy production) as well as causes harmful methane emissions (especially due to the additional growing of crops like maize for the biogas plant as well as methane leakage) 

And mislead because all of that comes at a high price, not only for the environment and climate, but also for taxpayer’s money in the form of subsidies.  

At the conference, we therefore had a clear call to action. EU countries need to respect the food use hierarchy and especially increase their efforts to prevent food waste. The EU must finally conduct a thorough scientific impact assessment on current biomethane policies. And until truly sustainable production and use is proven, all biomethane subsidies should be stopped! 

For our presentation and statements, we received a lot of positive feedback. Be it our discussions with the EU Commission, other civil society organisations, feed companies, or scientists – we know the current biomethane surge is wrong and dangerous, but the conference also gave us new momentum to have a more critical debate.
 

Day 2 – Food waste-free field trips 

After an eventful first day, it was time for what would make this conference even more special – practical fieldtrips. Choosing from all the options that the organizing team offered had already been a challenge. But it was worth it.  

Because sometimes you need to see it with your own eyes to fully realize the amounts of food surplus that Europe produces. Visiting companies that produce feed for animals from food surplus delivered just his. Tens of thousands of containers. Filled only with chocolate. Bread. Noodles. Rice. Whole truckloads of carrot pieces, left over as carrots are cut into unnatural round shapes before being sold in supermarkets.  

What became crystal clear is that producing feed from surplus food can only be one part of the solution. We need to produce less food leftovers in the first place. We need to redistribute it to people whenever we can. And yes, we need to reduce livestock production drastically. Becoming more circular, and closing the “loop”, that must also mean that the “loop” becomes smaller in general.  

But one thing is for sure: the bus ride of international experts dedicated to halving food waste by 2030 is going on, and already aiming for its next conference and destination this fall – Budapest! 

Coming back to Brussels and The Hague after two inspiring days, we want to use the opportunity to especially thank:

  • Toine Timmermans, director of Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling;
  • Sanne Stroosnijder, Program manager Food Loss & Waste Prevention at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, business developer at Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling, and wonderful moderator of the Food-feed-fuel session we participated in;
  • Philip den Ouden, chair of Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling, for organising and hosting this great conference!
  • To Huidekoper, thank you also for the great photos! 
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Presentation annual report 2023

1st Jul 24 by Frank Mechielsen

We further built legitimacy for our campaign asks in relation to less and better meat, targeting supermarkets, big meat and dairy companies,

In this second year of operation, we achieved a lot as Feedback EU, in close collaboration with our sister organisation Feedback Global, based in the UK. We further built legitimacy for our campaign asks in relation to less and better meat, targeting supermarkets, big meat and dairy companies, financial institutions, the Dutch government and the EU.

We further developed our campaigns on biomethane with a win at EU level at the end of last year, and on farmed fish, resulting in the publication of our Blue Empire report at the start of this year. Furthermore we achieved new funding to start new campaigns on trade justice and food sovereignty, food justice and food environment.

Our peer credibility, partnerships, networks, and coalition presence in the Netherlands and Europe continues to grow. A joint NGO position and building alliances with other stakeholders who aim for a real food system transition is necessary in these turbulent times. Loud farmer protests causing EU and Dutch policymakers to roll back the few safeguards to preserve our land and biodiversity and reduce the food emissions under the EU Green Deal. We need a fair deal that addresses the systemic issues responsible for our current unhealthy, unfair and unsustainable food system.

Feedback EU ended 2023 with a strong position for 2024 in which we will be more than doubling our funding support, from Euro 296,316 in 2023 to a projected income of Euro 771,000 in 2024 of which Euro 370,000 for sub-grants for European partners. Our team has grown from 4 to 5 staff members, one of them based in Brussels to implement our EU level advocacy. Read the complete report here.

I like to thank our team and board for the excellent work to contribute to our mission.

Frank Mechielsen,
Executive Director Feedback EU

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WHEN FISHERIES IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS FAIL TO DELIVER

24th Jun 24 by Yves Reichling

It is time to put a stop to the practice of extracting whole, wild fish in their millions to supply the global feed industry!

In a recent article, the Mauritanian Institute for Oceanography and Fisheries, French fish oil supplier Olvea and the Marine Stewardship Council use the platform of science to pursue a corporate agenda and to promote certification as a model to replicate across West Africa based on the example of a controversial Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) in Mauritania.  

In reality, the Fisheries Improvement Project the authors are seeking to justify has substantial flaws. NGOs and small-scale fishers have repeatedly denounced the initiative as ‘certifying the unsustainable’The FIP’s sponsors are principally producers of fishmeal and fish oil, as well as global feed producers such as Cargill and Skretting which supply aquaculture producers in the Global North. Recently, a report by Partner Africa, commissioned by the Global Roundtable for Marine Ingredients, highlighted numerous problems linked to the production of fishmeal and fish oil in the region including pollution from factories, loss of income and opportunities to work, and the depletion of fish stocks. 

According to the authors of the Marine Policy article, “The idea behind FIPs is to use market incentives in seafood value chains to stimulate improvements in fisheries management, which may lead to environmental improvement.” Since the inception of the FIP in 2017, sponsors of the project including Olvea have continued sourcing fishmeal and oil from factories in Mauritania as documented by the Mauritanian Society for the Commercialisation of Fisheries Products (SMCP)the CFFA, and Feedback, contributing to the problem of overfishing that the FIP is meant to solve.  

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) EAF-Nansen Programme has called the state of the once-abundant sardinella fisheries, which are targeted by the FMFO industry, “alarming” and data shows a precipitous decline in the round sardinella catch since 2018.  

Braham et al Fisheries Research 2024  

The FIP was scheduled to provide a progress report at the end of February, which it has so far failed to do. With the project set to end next year and taking into account all of the above, we cannot see this initiative as anything but a greenwashing attempt by an industry threatened by further reputational risk through their persistent extraction of fish essential to ecosystems and people’s livelihoods in a region struggling with food insecurity. The article’s authors themselves clearly outline the motivations of the industry to be part of the FIP: 

The FIP is recognised under the MarinTrust’s ‘Improver Programme’, which allows factories who are FIP participants and pass a MarinTrust factory audit to sell product ‘from the MarinTrust Improver Programme’. This is not the same as MarinTrust certified product, but nevertheless allows some direct commercial benefit (access to a higher value market), according to FIP-participating companies, and as such is an appropriate tool to anticipate the end of the FIP with the goal of having both the fishery and the suppliers MarinTrust certified. (p.3) 

Going back to the FIP’s impact and benefits to marine ecosystems and local communities, we struggle to find evidence for it in this article. We’re left with the following hypothesis, but miss references or tangible evidence: “in conclusion, a credible FIP, and other engagements with certification programmes, have provided Mauritania with a useful tool to bring together the private and public sector to address management challenges, as well as mobilising international resources which can be used in Mauritania in a flexible way. The benefits brought by engagement with certification programmes also include clear goals and a transparent and participatory ethos”. 

With little progress to show since its inception, and the ongoing depletion of target fish populations, the FIP provides a free-pass to companies aiming for high-value markets, without them needing to comply with the demanding environmental or social standards of these markets. According to the authors of the article, the problems in Mauritanian fisheries stem from weak state regulation: “Weak state regulation has failed to control capacity, and stakeholders are turning to value-chain arrangements such as industry coalitions, fishery improvement projects (FIPs) and certification to support progress towards management objectives in the face of this expansion.” 

Research by Feedback shows that fish sourced from Northwest Africa (FAO 34) to supply fish oil to the Norwegian salmon farming industry in 2020 could have provided between 2.5 million and 4 million people in the region with a year’s supply of fish sufficient to meet their nutritional needs. The small fish targeted by the FMFO industry contain key nutrients including iron, zinc, and calcium that are those most needed for children’s cognitive development and for women in West Africa, where more than half of the female population suffer from anaemia. This is happening at a time when hunger is on the rise across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and new research shows that of eight global regions, SSA is the one most severely impacted by lack of micronutrient availability 

We should not allow FMFO and feed companies to drive exploitative practices under the guise of a mere promise to improve fisheries that has for more than half a decade failed to deliver. It is time to put a stop to the practice of extracting whole, wild fish in their millions to supply the global feed industry, depriving millions of people in Africa of nutritious food and putting entire communities’ livelihoods at risk. 

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