Just Food Policy Brief - Policy recommendations for just food system transition Part 2

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The just food transition can be achieved through cooperation between all actors in the food system and firm public guidance Our food system suffers from many intertwined sustainability problems. To solve them, we need a fundamental change in the whole food system: a food transition. In order for such a transition to be fair to everyone, we need:

• Comprehensive policies that support innovation and the transition towards new sustainable practices and demolish unsustainable structures.

• To ensure that the adverse effects of the transition do not become too

severe for any population group or activities essential to food security. The fairness of a single policy measure can be improved by alleviating and compensating for its disproportionate drawbacks.

• Education and training in new fields, renewed study modules and

counselling. Third sector organisations play a key role in supporting primary producers and different population groups.

• A strategy for a sustainable and just food system

that has learned from the past, is stronger than before and has been prepared in an inclusive way, and a government report based on that strategy.

Significant emission reductions require simultaneous action on different transition pathways in the food system.

70% reduction


Achieving reduction in greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring nutritional adequacy of the Finnish diet and biodiversity of agricultural lands


Land use-driven pathway Reducing the climate impact of the food system in Finland requires extensive measures on peatlands. The most effective means of reducing emissions is to remove peatlands from cultivation, as these are responsible for almost half of the emissions in the food system.

33% reduction

Diet driven pathway

Technology driven pathway

Reducing the climate impact requires a significant reduction in the consumption of livestock products, while at the same time maintaining the carbon stock in fields. A transition to a more plant- and fish-based diet that meets energy needs would improve nutrition at the level of the whole population.

Changes in production methods and energy use will also help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the food system. New food innovations and value chains help the whole food system renew itself.

Just Food Policy Brief – Policy recommendations for just food system transition ● October 2022 ● www.justfood.fi ● @justfood-stn

Encouraging and enabling experimentation by different actors and facilitating the diffusion of climate-smart innovations

Public support for innovation must be accessible to a variety of actors, and funding must be allocated to projects that benefit society at large. By streamlining food legislation and authorisation processes, the emergence of food innovations can be promoted and their number increased. Smaller actors need support and guidance in applying for funding and permits as they are not equally well-resourced in comparison to larger companies.

In addition to individual innovations, the development of new plant-based value chains requires a holistic approach. Investments must be made both in the breeding of harvest-proof plants and in the processing of plant protein fractions. This will also improve the possibilities of primary production to take up production of new plant species and varieties. The retail sector and the food industry must guide and support consumers with different capabilities towards sustainable food choices more boldly. Product placement, assortment planning, shelf labelling, advertising, information, digital applications and product development are some of the tools that the retail sector and industry have at their disposal. Standardised labelling of environmental and health claims will help harmonise consumer communications and improve the operation of the whole food chain.

Policy measures

Responsible parties

Research, development and monitoring of climate emissions and climate-smart cultivation and production methods

Academy of Finland, universities, research institutes, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Streamlining food licensing legislation and support for small and start-up companies

EU, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finnish Food Authority, Ministry of Employment and the Economy

Developing and improving access to risk financing

Private equity funds, the Finnish Climate Fund, Finnvera, Business Finland, Finnish Industry Investment Ltd, Sitra the Finnish Innovation Fund

Development of plant protein value chains, investments in the plant breeding and the processing of plant protein fractions

Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, enterprises, Boreal, research institutes

Innovative public procurement

State administration, municipalities, enterprises

Nudging people towards more sustainable choices in shops, catering services and restaurants

Retail, catering services, restaurants

Standardisation of health and environmental labelling

EU, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of the Environment, enterprises, retail

Abandoning unsustainable modes of operation and structures, taking into account farm-specific and regional differences as well as people’s different capacities The structure and operation of the food system is influenced not only by the market, but also strongly by agricultural policy. At the moment, the agricultural subsidy system is maintaining rather than actively reforming existing production structures. Area-based subsidies encourage keeping fields cultivated and in excess of current needs. Sustained work and political pressure are needed for policy reforms in order to dispense with conflicting incentives. In order to reduce emissions from peatlands, changes are needed both in the EU’s agricultural policy and in

national policies. The cessation of the clearing of new fields on peatlands, the reduction of tillage, raising the level of groundwater, abandoning the cultivation of low-yield peatlands and the restoration, afforestation or paludicultural afforestation of some peat fields are important means of reducing emissions. Changes in the use of peat fields involve significant fairness issues, both by farm and region. For this reason, diversified policy measures are needed, taking into account regional differences. Abandoning cultivation can be started on less profitable peat fields and in Southern Finland, where the role of peatlands is less important. As the current subsidy system encourages the cultivation of peatlands, compensation for loss of income is needed for those who give up cultivation of peat fields and corresponding subsidies. For example, temporary subsidies abandoning peatland cultivation would allow the farmer to adapt to the loss of income and change the operation of the farm. The private sector

Just Food Policy Brief – Policy recommendations for just food system transition ● October 2022 ● www.justfood.fi ● @justfood-stn

could play a clearer role in the financing of emission reductions, which would extend the responsibility between the actors in the food system. New cultivation methods require training and guidance. It is important to improve the profitability of agriculture and the fair functioning of the market. Farmers perceive the prevailing market situation as unfair, as increases in production costs can only be carried forward to product prices to a limited extent. Poor profitability slows down or even prevents changes. Profitability could be improved if, for example, all actors in the food system were to contribute to the costs of agricultural climate action, or primary producers

were to be compensated for the environmental added value they generate. There is also a need to monitor the fairness of food market practices and the relative strength of the actors on it and to take action to eliminate unfair practices. Healthy and sustainable food consumption can also be encouraged through taxation. The planning of healthbased or emission-based taxation of food groups must take into account the possible social effects of rising food prices and compensate for them, if necessary, with social policy measures. One option is to reduce VAT on fresh fruit and vegetables, which would encourage the use of healthy and environmentally friendly products.

Policy measures

Responsible parties

Demolition of environmentally harmful and contradictory agricultural subsidies

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of the Environment, EU

Flexible support solutions to encourage new farming methods that take farm needs into account

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finnish Food Authority

Financial incentives to control or phase out emissions from peatlands

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, enterprises, consumers

Improving the profitability of primary production

Retail sector, food industry, producers, Food Market Ombudsman

Emission and health-based taxation of foodstuffs

Ministry of Finance

Supporting the transition, ensuring that everyone stays on board

Reducing and compensating for the drawbacks of policy measures in support of the transition is only part of the means of promoting fairness in the food system transition. The focus must also be on preventing these drawbacks and on strengthening different actors’ capacities for change. New skills will help with abandoning old practices in a fairer way.

A good example of preventive social policy is the Finnish school meal system, which can also support students’ capacities in sustainable eating. When it comes to dietary change, it is important to develop the capacities, knowledge and skills of the entire population. By monitoring the nutrition of population groups, vulnerable groups can be identified and the necessary measures, such as supplementing food, can be tailored correctly. Population group-specific information is also important in planning social and health policy measures. Diversification of the discussion around food is key to eliminating the antagonism related to dietary changes.

Policy measures

Responsible parties

Transitional periods and subsidies

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Reform of education and training in the food and agricultural sectors

Agricultural and food institutes and universities, advisory organisations, e.g. ProAgria

Finnish National Agency for Education, municipal Food education and increasing consumer readiness education services, primary schools, upper secondary schools, third sector organisations Wider integration of the environmental perspective into national nutrition recommendations

National Nutrition Council, Nordic Council of Ministers

Implementation of new nutrition recommendations to support shifts to more sustainable diets

National Nutrition Council, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, municipalities, catering services, social and health services, third sector organisations

Social security

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Social Insurance Institution (Kela)

Monitoring nutrition and health effects, risk Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finnish Institute assessment and planning further nutrition and health for Health and Welfare, Finnish Food Authority, policy measures Finnish Customs, National Nutrition Council

Just Food Policy Brief – Policy recommendations for just food system transition ● October 2022 ● www.justfood.fi ● @justfood-stn

Finland needs a strong sustainable food system strategy

A policy aimed at a just food transition needs a strong vision and more accurate information on a sustainable food system. It is important to consider the functions of the different parts of the food system together and in relation to each other. This also requires more intersectoral cooperation and assessment of the short- and long-term impacts of the policy. The principles and criteria of the just food transition are useful tools in this assessment.

Policy mixes can help alleviate the perceived unfair effects of the transition policy and improve fairness. Sustainable food security is part of overall security. Food security is ensured by a well-functioning, fair and sustainable food system supported by the welfare state’s social policy. Finland needs a strategy for a sustainable food system that has learned from the past, is stronger than before and has been prepared in an inclusive way, and a government report based on that strategy. A fair transition to a sustainable and healthy food system is at the heart of the strategy. In this respect, Finland can act as a pioneer in Europe.

Just Food Policy Brief Policy recommendations for just food system transition ● October 2022: The just food transition can be achieved through cooperation between all actors in the food system and firm public guidance Authors: Minna Kaljonen, Kaisa Karttunen, Suvi Huttunen, Teea Kortetmäki, Annika Lonkila, Jyrki Niemi, Laura Paalanen, Ari Paloviita, Jani Salminen, Marjatta Selänniemi, Liisa Valsta Layout: Satu Turtiainen, SYKE Helsinki, Finland 11/2022 ISBN 978-952-11-5532-1 (PDF)

The preparation of the strategy must be intersectoral and inclusive of the entire food system, including regional actors, consumers, organisations and vulnerable groups. The new strategy must also take a stance on the governance of the food system: which procedures would secure a better coordination and coherence between the various policies and measures. It is worth having a regional dimension to the strategy, so that the strengths and challenges of the different regions can be identified. Regional programmes help prioritise the areas of development of each region and allocate the necessary resources to skills development and employment.

As many of the challenges facing the food system are global, there is also a need for cross-border cooperation aimed at international commitments to promote a sustainable and just food transition.

More information in Finnish: Kaljonen, M., Karttunen, K., Kortetmäki, T. (toim.) 2022. Reilu ruokamurros. Polkuja kestävään ja oikeudenmukaiseen ruokajärjestelmään. Suomen ympäristökeskuksen raportteja 38/2022. (A just food system transformation. Pathways to a sustainable and fair food system. Reports of the Finnish Environment Institute 38/2022.) Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland.

www.justfood.fi @justfood-stn

The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland.

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