Brussels, 1 June 2001
INTERNET CHAT : "Food Quality in Europe - The future of agriculture, food production and food safety in the EU "
On June 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. (CET) David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, and Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural development and Fisheries, invite you to take part in a live Internet chat. Policy makers in the EU and at national level are faced nowadays with increasing consumer concern about food quality and food production. These concerns are due in part to the food safety and animal health crises we all know. But there are other, larger issues at stake. The common agricultural policy itself and the sustainability of our methods of food production are being questioned. The globalisation of markets and pressures on prices are also seen as root causes.
Animal welfare and environmental aspects of agri-food production have become matters of public concern. The challenge is to find ways to match consumer demands and expectations for good quality food with an economically viable, sustainable and safe food supply. To seek out the solutions, we need a strategic re-thinking of food production and food policy in terms of quality, safety and cost. Shifts in attitudes of both consumers and producers may be called for.
But first there are important questions to clarify. What exactly is quality? Are consumers prepared to pay the price? Are intensive farming methods really the source of all our problems? What incentives do farmers have to shift the emphasis from quantity to quality? Can advanced technology and modern production methods deliver tasty and wholesome food? Do agri-food multi-nationals give priority to the short-term pressures of the stock market and longer-term considerations of brand positioning over consumer demands? Do consumers practise what they preach? Are modern eating habits part of the problem? Can 'quality' be the subject of legislation? Is improving the quality of information available about food products part of the solution? Is it clear to consumers what official and unofficial quality labels and claims really offer, and are they reliable?
Commissioners David Byrne and Franz Fischler have called for an open debate on all these issues. They want to discuss with you, live on the Internet, how agricultural and food policy and food production methods can better respond to consumer expectations, and at what price.
The discussion will take place in the eleven official languages of the European Union. Questions may be put in any of those languages and may also be sent in advance to: Chat-Fischler-Byrne@ec.europa.eu. Questions should be as short as possible, 256 characters maximum.
For further practical information on how to take part in the chat, please see our "Joining the chat" page at http://ec.europa.eu/chat/instructions/index_en.htm.
Audiovisual journalists are invited to attend this Internet Chat with Commissioners. Please register with the office of Beate Gminder and Gregor Kreuzhuber, Breydel 6/92.