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Opening Remarks by Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans at the Press Conference on the Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 20 mei 2020.

Thank you very much. I am glad to be standing here with Commissioners Kyriakides and Sinkevičius as we have been working very intensively over the last couple of months on these plans. I think I speak on behalf of the three of us when I say that we are extremely proud of the result. We believe that in this period in which the world is struggling with a pandemic, we should also be thinking about how to increase our resilience, how to translate the wish for people to look after their health into concrete projects, concrete plans.

In that context, the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies are a central element of the EU's recovery plan. They are crucial for our health, for our well-being and are crucial for creating immediate business and investment opportunities so that we can restore the EU's economy as fast as possible. I also want to make clear that these strategies are not about other things. They are not about telling people what to do. They are about telling people how they can make their choices better informed, so we give them what they deserve: more sustainable food, better information and to bolster their rights to choose. Better-informed citizens are stronger citizens, creating a stronger society.

The Biodiversity Strategy is essential for boosting our resilience, preventing the emergence and spread of future diseases such as zoonoses. Because by destroying nature at an unprecedented rate, and now with around 1 million species at risk of extinction within only decades, we literally threaten our own life, our health and our well-being. As climate and biodiversity crises are fully interconnected, stopping biodiversity loss is a precondition for reaching climate neutrality. It is an economic imperative as well, as almost half of the world's GDP is linked to nature. The business case for biodiversity is compelling. Industry and companies rely on genes, on species and on ecosystem services, as critical inputs for production, especially also for medicines that are so necessary also in this pandemic. To give you an example, if we fulfil the investment needs of the Natura 2000 network, we could support as many as half a million additional jobs. Globally, conserving marine stocks could increase annual profits of the seafood industry by almost 50 billion euros. In this Biodiversity Strategy, we propose ambitious targets for 2030 and present a far-reaching EU Nature Restoration Plan. We propose, for example, to protect more land and sea, bring back pollinators and enhance biodiversity friendly farming practices, green our cities, reduce pollution, plant trees and improve the health of our forests.

The Farm to Fork Strategy builds a value of sustainability through the food chain. It presents a new approach on how we can ensure food security whilst sustainably producing and treating food, how much pesticides we use and how much pollution we cause by the overuse of fertilizers. We also aim to curb the use of antimicrobials that lead to 33 000 deaths in Europe every year. In addition, it is our responsibility to ensure that people get the relevant and right information, so they themselves can make well-informed decisions on their lifestyles. Much good has been done so far by many European farmers and fishermen and women and I want to fully acknowledge that here. They have been and will continue to be the stewards of our land and seas. Through this incredibly complicated and challenging period, they have kept us fed and have kept us supported will all what we need. With this strategy, we will support them in their role to make European food the global standard for sustainability. We estimate that at global level, sustainable food systems can create new economic value of more than 1.8 trillion euros. It is important to help the food chain with this transition as quickly as possible.

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