Farm inputs under pressure from the European food industry

Levidow, L. and Bijman, J. (2002). Farm inputs under pressure from the European food industry. Food Policy, 27(1) pp. 31–45.




The rise of own-brand labels has made retailers more vulnerable and responsive to consumer concerns. In response to widespread protest, the European food industry has sought to exclude GM ingredients and to minimize pesticide usage from their supplies. In particular, retailers have developed common practices or criteria for non-GM grain and lower-pesticide methods. This cooperative approach has several aims: to maintain consumer confidence in product quality, to establish Europe-wide supply chains which meet common or minimum standards, to make supplies interchangeable, and to avoid competition for 'non-GM' or 'low-pesticide' products defined in various ways. The consequent pressures on farm inputs go beyond national boundaries, for both companies and farmers. Overall these commercial pressures favour non-GM products which help reduce chemical pesticide sprays – e.g. pest-resistant seeds, seed treatments, or biopesticides – especially for use as components of ICM methods. There remain many difficulties in basing future products upon other novel seeds. Such constraints go beyond any statutory restrictions on GM products or pesticides. Of course, government policy still influences the use and innovation of farm inputs in Europe. Conversely, however, cooperative efforts from the food industry there provide de facto criteria which could supersede or influence government policy.

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