2015 was a year of significant progress on multiple fronts for French agriculture. Major agreements were signed, new and important initiatives were launched, significant programs were put in place, and new French agricultural products were approved for commerce with the United States.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the major events that marked the past year in French agriculture.
2015 year of agroecology
2015 has marked ‘’Year one of Agro-Ecology’’ in France, celebrating its incorporation into French law and promising a more sustainable future in agriculture, seeking to combine economic, environmental and social performance, to reduce the consumption of energy, water, fertilizer, pesticides and veterinary medicine, and to work with natural mechanisms instead of against them.
The “Year One of Agro-Ecology” campaign contained seven plans that address agricultural reform in a variety of important sectors:
- A simplified, amplified and more widespread Ecophyto Plan.
- Greater reduction in the use of antibiotics in farmed animals through the Eco-Antibio plan.
- The plan for Seeds and Sustainable Agriculture
- The Auto Nitrogen Fixation Energy Plan
- The 2017 Organic Ambition Plan
- The Plant Protein Plan
Agriculture played an important role in the COP 21 Paris climate summit last December, with nations proposing innovative plans to make agriculture help in the fight against climate change, like France in the 4 per 1000 Initiative outlined below. The agreement recognizes the importance of these carbon storage techniques and encourages the use of agriculture and forests in fighting global warming.
The 4 per 1000 initiative
A particular feature about farming and forestry is that both fields emit and capture greenhouse gases. Places where carbon is stored are called carbon sinks. Through increasing the capacity of carbon sinks to capture and store carbon, the impact of agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions can be transformed into a tool to use in the fight against climate change.
The 4 per 1000 Initiative, officially launched on the sidelines of the COP21 climate talks, works to accomplish this by increasing the amount of carbon captured in soils by .4% each year, which scientists say would make it possible to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2.
The 4 per 1000 Initiative is made up of a multi-partner (state and non-state actors) program of actions for better management of soil carbon and an international research and scientific cooperation program focused on ways to improve soil health.
Already more than 100 state and non-state actors have signed on to the initiative which, in addition to climate change, also tackles the issue of improving food security. This has helped to attract the support of organizations and states from both developed and less-developed parts of the world, giving the program very broad appeal.
New products imported to the United States
2015 also marked the arrival of several significant new French agricultural products being imported to the United States. Now American foodies can enjoy a wider range of French agricultural products.
In July of 2015, the United States received its first shipment of Jambon de Bayonne, known in English as the Bayonne Ham. No longer will American gastronomes and connoisseurs of charcuterie have to travel to France to delight in the world-famous meat.
Additionally, French apples and pears are now making a return to the United States after a 10-year hiatus.
Fresh Attitude week comes to the US
May 18th marked the launch of America’s first annual celebration of Fresh Attitude Week in six of the country’s largest public school districts: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando. These six districts teamed up with the French organization responsible for creating Fresh Attitude Week, the Inter-Branch Association of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (Interfel), in order to promote the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among American youth and to replicate the success Interfel’s event has enjoyed in France for the past 11 years since its inauguration. This transatlantic collaboration was the result of the visit to France of the school district representatives in October 2014 at the invitation of the French Ministry of Agriculture.
Fighting food waste
A series of actions was taken by the French government and the food industry in 2015 to help fight against food waste. One major action that took place in this area was the signing of a pact against food waste by major supermarket companies. From now on, supermarkets have agreed to donate any food that isn’t consumed to charities instead of throwing it out.
Additionally, a new bill aiming to limit food waste in the food industry as well as in the supermarkets is currently being discussed in the French Parliament.
Solutions against antibiotic resistance
The French Eco-antibio plan, in effect since 2011, continued its efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics in agriculture. In 2015, the French Ministry of Agriculture presented an analysis of possible actions to take to prevent the problem of antibiotic resistance in agriculture. The Ecoantibio program from 2011 lays out 40 steps that farmers can take to reduce the need to use antibiotics in the first place, including creating less risk for animal infections by providing more space for animals, for example. The result of all of these efforts is that France has reduced its total antibiotic use from about 1,400 metric tons in 2000 to about 700 metric tons in 2013, with the level decreasing each year.
Another part of the plan involves using alternative treatments for infections. Some of the possibilities laid out in the report include using viruses that attack certain types of bacteria but otherwise don’t harm the farm animal or creating a sort of vaccine against targeted types of bacteria, as well as other types of therapy like phytotherapy or food supplements. Also, algae has presented promising signs of efficacy against bacteria and could be used a potential new source of antibiotics.
France is taking the threat of this problem very seriously and is including it as an integral part of its public health policy going forward.
Ecophyto 2 plan presented
In October, the government unveiled its Ecophyto 2 plan which reaffirms the objective of decreasing the use of phytosanitary products by 50% in 10 years: 25% by 2020 and a further 25% by 2025.
The primary challenge is to widely spread knowledge and availability of alternative techniques and systems (biocontrol, for example).
As you can see, 2015 was quite a big year for French agriculture. Big advancements were made, particularly on the environmental front with the COP21 and related projects, but also in commerce, sanitary policy and other areas, too. Here’s to hoping that 2016 is even better.