Fighting for food

Een landbouwbouwmachine in het veld ©

Fifty years ago, around 100.000 European farmers protested against the Mansholt plan. Since then, farmers have had a say in Europe's agricultural policy. However, they were not the only ones. Alessandra Schimmel (History and Art History) wrote a blog for Prof. Liesbeth van de Grift's Vidi-project in which she enlightens the role of European consumer groups in debates around European agricultural policy.

Alessandra Schimmel
Alessandra Schimmel

The CAP and BEUC

The Mansholt plan was intended to reshape the European Economic Community’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by increasing productivity and self-sufficiency among European farmers, but farmers felt that it threatened their livelihoods, and their concerns were taken into account. The scale and complexity of the Common Agricultural Policy meant that various interests and viewpoints had to be integrated in addition to those of farmers, but they were often overlooked. European consumer groups, since the early 1960s organised in the umbrella consumer group BEUC (Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs, ‘European Bureau of Consumers’ Unions’), increasingly raised their concerns with the CAP.

The legacy of BEUC

The main problem, European consumer groups argued, was the fact that the Common Agricultural Policy had been designed as a policy for the benefit of farmers, not of consumers. They nevertheless acknowledged the importance of the CAP, but in order to represent all interests concerned, BEUC argued that the agricultural policy needed to transform from a sectoral agricultural policy into a genuine food policy. The European Commission’s current plans for the Farm to Fork strategy, a cornerstone of the European Green Deal, echoes consumer groups’ demands for a comprehensive food system instead of an agricultural policy, to create a fair and environmentally friendly food system, for everyone involved.

Consumers on the March

This blog is part of Liesbeth van de Grift's Vidi project 'Consumers on the March: Civic Activism and Political Representation in Europe, 1960s to 1990s'. This research project analyses the claims of representativeness of consumer organizations and the strategies they use to substantiate these claims, and what these organizations describe as 'consumer interest'. It highlights the inextricable intertwining of regional, national and global governance in the second half of the twentieth century.

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Read the full blog here