The European Union (EU) is considering some adjustments to agricultural import practices designed to bolster global food sustainability. The European Commission recently closed the Call for Evidence on the potential for applying EU health and environmental standards to imported food and ag products. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) recently submitted comments highlighting several concerns with the idea.
In their comments, USMEF noted that applying EU standards to all imports could have negative consequences for food affordability and security. There is also a question of compliance with World Trade Organization guidelines. “Under the World Trade Organization, applying your standards or regulations to an importing country just for the sake of applying them without very clear, defined human or animal health risks is not compliant,” said USMEF Senior Director of Export Services Cheyenne McEndaffer.
The final report to be compiled by the European Commission is to assess the feasibility of applying EU standards. Adoption of the report is planned for some time in the second quarter of 2022. USMEF noted support for efforts to improve sustainability within the global food system but disagrees with the approach of imposing EU health and environmental standards on imported agricultural and agri-food products. In the comments, USMEF points out efforts of American production to improve sustainability and supports a more collaborative approach over a “one-size fits all demand as suggested by the idea of reciprocity in standards.”
“We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but that’s really dictated by voluntary and commercial practices at the farm level, as well as third party and regulatory standards at the slaughter plant level,” McEndaffer explained. “That’s really the focus of these comments, is we have two very different ways to reach similar outcomes and imposing one country or trade unions – in the case of the EU – way on other countries just doesn’t really make sense when you don’t take into consideration different geographic, climate, cultural differences across the world.”